Cruising in Norway: Betsy’s here!

KABELVAGSunday, July 19

The day started with rain as we put the final touches on getting JUANONA ready for Betsy’s 3:00 p.m. arrival at Svolvaer. Mid-morning we headed to the grocery store for the week’s provisioning only to find it’s not open on Sundays. We knew we had enough fresh food for the night’s dinner and had already decided to stay put until the next morning, so no harm done.

The short walk back to the pontoon and then back up to the restaurant’s porch to access the wifi resulted in finding out Betsy’s flight out of Chicago the night before had been cancelled. The pilot announced two hours out they were returning to O’Hare because he didn’t think it wise to fly over the Atlantic Ocean with a faulty hydraulic system. Only hope it didn’t take him two hours to figure that one out.

So, she was routed through Copenhagen where she was now waiting six hours for the flight to Bodo, missing her Sunday flight to Svolvaer but able to catch one early Monday morning, ETA 7:30 a.m.  Worried that she was going crazy after traveling since 4:00 p.m. the day before, I then realized she sounded quite content, the reason being they were serving passengers free wine and beer in the departure lounge.

With that knowledge Max and I easily adjusted the schedule for our leaving Kabelvag to late morning and emailed B we’d be checking email later as well as early Monday morning.


Monday, July 20

Yes! She’s here! Not only did she arrive in Kabelvag rested (she did have a hotel room in Bodo after arriving at midnight; she commented she must not have looked as well rested as she felt for the clerk looked at her and said he was so sorry but the bar was closed…) but also freshly showered. I had told (warned?) her that showers could be five days apart culminating in a boat shower in the cockpit or head. Evidently, she planned her stay with us based on that detail for she was leaving after five days aboard for two nights in Oslo.

The day was overcast but not particularly chilly, which seemed appropriate for Max’s christening of Betsy’s arrival to being above the Arctic Circle.

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She immediately took to the muffs and those pups didn’t come off her ears until we had stopped for the night.

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With a little wind we motor-sailed to Trollfjord, a destination Max and I had experience on the Hurtigruten just two days previous and one we wanted to share with Betsy. Although, if it wasn’t settled weather and/or we couldn’t get a space at the dock (rafted or otherwise), we’d head to another anchorage just up the way.

On our way just north of Svolvaer Max spotted a suspicious fin, then another one, then an orca! Unfortunately, we weren’t close enough to get any good photos but we did see some black bodies with white markings as well as the tall, slender spire of their tails. Wow. I had never seen one except in movies or photographs so to know they were swimming in these waters was amazing as well as a bit unnerving.

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Reaching Trollfjord we were able to raft up to two rather well-used fishing boats. Fortunately, the aroma wafted landward so we were spared fish fumes.

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A ferry entered and performed its 360 maneuver. In spite of not being an exceptionally large ship, Betsy could still see just how tight this fjord was.

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Later, we spotted another sailboat heading towards the dock and offered to have them raft with us. The boat, s/v MELINA, belonged to a Finnish couple, Ilkka and Elina, who asked us over for cocktails. We discovered he had gone to Svalbard with some friends aboard, and she had flown in and sailed back down. Once again we were charmed by the Scandinavian warmth, and we were sorry we didn’t have more time with them.

To GULLVIKATuesday, July 21

Gullvika was another spot we wanted to show B, so we woke the next morning and made preparations to leave after Elina and Ilkka headed off. Max went ashore to take pics of JUANONA

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while B and I spotted one of those jellyfish lingering by our stern and the bow of another rafter boat.

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I don’t know what it is about these beautiful viscous masses but they fascinate me in spite of not ever wanting to be treading water wherever one is floating. My face is wrinkled in grossness just imagining it. Norwegians had told me of their burning sting, and later someone called them a lion’s mane, which suited these jelly globs perfectly. A big ugh.

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We left this stunning fjord

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and motored-sailed in a U-shape to reach our next harbor. Along the way we spotted a sea eagle feasting on a recent catch with a hopeful crow as its audience…

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a bright yellow helicopter landing on the shoreline…

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and, an oystercatcher picking its way among the rocks.

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Securely anchored in this beautiful cove where we had earlier visited with Chris, Max got out the fishing line and both he and Betsy prompted caught some fish. A bit too small to keep but proof of a potential fish dinner if patient.

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Sure enough, Max fished from the dinghy and brought back two cod, which meant one of us had to fillet them. Since I hadn’t caught any and because Chris had left firm instructions that we weren’t suppose to ask Betsy to do the honors, I offered. Betsy mentioned, too, that catching them was one thing, touching them quite another so I knew, even if I had tried to fob the fish cleaning off to her, she would have tossed it right back at me. Rightly so as we had told Chris we’d be proving Max and I could handle a fresh fish dinner.

A dinghy ride to some rocks, one covered in barnacles, made a perfect cutting board, and I proceeded to hack the heck out of the poor fish. As I cleaned one then the other, I would glance at Max to see if he was following along so he’d know how to do it the next time. Huh. Fat chance for every time I looked up, I saw he was definitely not gazing at the intricacies of fish guts. Matter-of-fact, he was pointedly not looking as I ripped guts out and threw them to a patient gull.

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Motoring back to JUANONA we got ready to do a hike. Reading from some other cruisers’ notes about a walk to a lake, we crossed to the next cove, tied the dinghy to some rocks and headed up a short slope to a well-marked path. Within twenty minutes or so we found a beautiful lake as well as an ant’s nest, which Max couldn’t resist poking…

an exquisite wild orchid Betsy found…

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and, blueberries (we had read there were some about, and we ran into a vacationing family picking some) found on our hike.

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The day was truly picture-perfect calling for photos of our surroundings

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and yet another shot of ‘JUANONA at anchor’ (you can barely see her in the background on the left-hand side).

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Back aboard Max proved his talent as a chef and prepared an excellent fish dinner, which we devoured.

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I should mention that Max generally performs supper duty at the stove, and our “Galley Chef” Recipe book (what we call our loose collection of recipes) features tried-and-true boat meals. One of our favorites is Gail Steven’s chicken stew, which he had cooked the previous night for Betsy. When discussing possible meals for the week, he suggested chicken enchiladas, and both Betsy and I exuberantly nodded yes to that one.

However, Max made the mistake of speculating how much better the stew would have tasted using real chicken. Betsy immediately stopped nodding yes to chicken enchiladas and asked ‘ REAL chicken?’ while I immediately said ‘Eek, don’t tell her that!’

Max backtracked quickly plugging this canned fowl:  ‘but, it’s organic, no preservatives, we get it from a farm out in the midwest, we’ve been eating it on all our cruises, it’s good! honest!’.

But, no amount of praise for this tinned bird meat could persuade Betsy of its gourmet quality. She sniffed and commented she had wondered how he’d shredded it so well for the meal we’d had. And, with that,  I knew there was no hope and saw our enchilada dinner using canned chicken die a quick but painful death.

To SKROVAWednesday, July 22

Wanting to show Betsy a town the next morning we left for Skrova located close to where Max and I had anchored just over a week ago. With no docking space we ended up rafting to an old wooden sailboat. Since the owners weren’t aboard when we rafted, Max stayed on JUANONA while Betsy and I did a quick tour of the town.

Max mentioned a tunnel that connected one side of the harbor with the other, so off we went finding it less than two minutes from the pontoon where we had landed. Hard hats were hung for pedestrians to use, so we donned bright blue helmets and entered.

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Not knowing what to expect we were pleasantly surprised to find a photographic exhibit of Skrova from the 1900s shot by three photographers.

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The rock walls displayed the lives of previous residents going about their daily tasks. Here was another example of Norway’s investment in art, and it was stunning. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves:

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One however begs for the notice to Max that no matter how much I enjoy sailing please don’t purchase a rocking chair for me to use in later years aboard JUANONA for I sincerely doubt it would recoup the value of that particular investment:

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Once through the tunnel we walked to the main part of town consisting of homes, a small seafood plant, a general store, cafe (not open just yet), and gallery. And, some homey touches, such as the pink-antler garden hose holder and a sleepy cat guarding the wood stash.

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And, a manhole cover for Ellen.

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Another outdoor photo exhibit greeted us as we strolled back to JUANONA

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as well as a fish-drying rack with the ground dusted by remnants of salt from the previous stock.

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Returning to JUANONA we saw Max chatting with the neighboring crew.

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Turned out the boat had two owners both living in Stamsund, a Lofoten town 50 miles south of Skrova; and, both guys were named Jan Erik, which made it easier to remember once the impromptu gathering started. One had his family aboard, Mona, a yoga instructor, and their two children, warm and rambunctious Osker (13) and demure and graceful Nora (11).

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The other Jan Erik, who was technician for a puppeteer company (had to tell him about our Y polar bear puppet whom Wayne had christened Yamaca), was going solo as his wife and two older children weren’t aboard.

As JUANONA and our neighbors’ sailboats (theirs being a wooden replica of a boat we had seen a photo of in the tunnel, s/v SKROVA), happily nestled against one another, we sat in one cockpit then moved to another. Our Norwegian hosts pulled out the country’s drink akvavit, to which both Max and I remembered being introduced by our friend Peter Shiras along with some of his homemade gravlax. Both are an acquired taste, something along the likes of that Scottish ‘meat’ surprise, haggis.

While Osker climbed the mast and Nora sailed through her bos’n chair

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we then pulled out the gin and shared one of our preferred tastes.

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Every now and then I’d see Max eyeing the kids and, sure enough, soon Jan Erik was helping to hoist him skyward where Max performed his own acrobatic stunts.

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Don’t tell me you’re surprised, but Osker seemed a bit skeptical of this adult trying his hand at kids’ play.

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Mona, who was an exchange student her HS senior year in Ohio, helped us figure out why our wifi wasn’t working (the Norwegian website said we had used it all) as well as enlightened me as to why all the red paint for houses, particularly the rorbu or fishing cabins fringing town coastlines. Evidently, in the order of price:  red paint cost the least followed by the ochre color followed by white; so, if you saw a white house or building it typically belonged to the most prominent merchant or town leader.

Every now and then a ferry would come in causing Osker, and then the rest of us, to test if we could get passengers to wave back. With the exuberance of Osker, our success rate was 100% for no one could ignore his athletic arm motions.

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As a late dinner-time approached they suggesting going to the town’s one cafe. We (royal we, aka Max) had already started our supper awhile ago. We offered our dinghy to cross to the other side (faster than walking through the tunnel), and Mona, Jan Erik and Nora set off while the other Jan Erik and Osker took to the road.

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Within thirty minutes the dinghy was back with Nora announcing the cafe closed 15 minutes early because they ran out of food. Not having them join us was a missed opportunity, which only made our earlier time spent with them that much more precious. Next time we’d insist they stay for it’s not as if we don’t have plenty of provisions stashed on JUANONA.


To HELNESSUND, Thursday, July 23

Since Betsy needed to catch a flight out of Bodo, we had scouted out possible departure points. She was hoping for a ferry versus flying, and we found a convenient stopover back on the mainland roughly 20 miles across.

We left fairly early, quietly un-rafting from our friends’ boat. As we slipped away Mona poked her head out of their bow cabin and gave a huge wave. We returned it only wishing we’d be meeting up with them in another port. More often than not this feeling of instant camaraderie helps offset the hole I carry from missing my friends and family. Thankfully, we’ve met people along the way who offer new friendships, ones we grab onto and cherish.

During the four-hour crossing the day slipped into some on-the-spot napping

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until Max spotted a spray, then excitedly shouted ‘a whale!’ Sure enough a spout of breath crystalized as we watched a whale linger on the surface. Not wanting to upset it, we turned off the engine and ghosted closer. Within three minutes it decided to dive. We kept staring not wanting to leave the moment. And, I know I’m not alone when I say we all felt blessed by mother nature to experience a moment so close to such a magnificent presence.

Hmmm… orcas, feeding sea eagle, and now a whale. Betsy, we realized, was an animal magnet.

Landing in Helenssund we tied up to the guest pontoon with the assistance of a motor boater who welcomed us to the club house. He quickly gave us a rundown of where it was (in the small parking lot), what was available (showers, laundry, and kitchen!), and how to pay (honor system like almost all of these guest pontoons). With that he waved good-bye as he and his wife checked out an engine repair.

Several loads of laundry (and, if you look closely you’ll see M’s and B’s hands raised  acknowledging their delight in lounging under laundry; hey, at least it’s clean :)),

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a walk to the one store, and showers (however, Betsy was holding off until the day before leaving) left us feeling refreshed.

Even better than that, and that’s saying a lot coming from moi, laundry queen Lynnie, there was a GRILL! Finally! s’mores could morph from dreams into reality, something I’d been hankering for since we left Maine in 2014. Betsy and I set off for the general store to purchase charcoal for the next night’s dinner and hamburger. She may have even been more excited than me for she’d agree to eat almost anything to escape knoshing on another dinner of canned chicken.

The store was still open and we picked up some fresh provisions (we already had all the other ingredients aboard), then retraced the short walk back to JUANONA. An early dinner and bedtime meant we were refreshed for the next day’s hike described by some cruisers as just a mile or so down from Henessund.

Friday, July 24

Well, the mile or so turned out to be three miles, at least to the hike and a stunning beach, passing by sod-covered cabins and a flower-bedecked cemetery.

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We discovered it was further than we thought when Max asked two young women who were packing up a car. They offered to take us to the start of the hike, which we readily accepted, and during the ride the driver told us she worked for the local municipality. Having moved here from Oslo, she promotes the local area trying to attract new residents. It would have been interesting to have a longer discussion for we wondered what jobs were available once people came. She did mention they had housing issues, which made me wonder what speculation in the real estate along this coast involved.

She dropped us off ensuring we’d be able to hitch a ride home if we walked back to the main road.

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We walked to the first ridge for the view,

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not venturing further due to cloud coverage at the top (good excuse :). Then headed back down to walk to the beach. Checking our bearings we asked a man working in his garden. He pointed us in the right direction then asked us how we liked the hike, saying there was a communal cabin (we espied it amidst birch trees)

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that was fully stocked and often available for use (a young family he said, were in it now). He added the beach rated as one of the most spectacular in all of Norway, echoing many others’ opinions, especially locally.

At the beach there was a display board and looking at it we noticed a guy in the photographs looked familiar. Hah! it turned out to be the one who’d kindly given us directions.

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The short boardwalk through the dunes opened up to a vista definitely worth its descriptor. We imagined what it would have been like with the sun shining. How divine to think of being here then considering how lovely it was without sunny warmth.

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Starting down the country lane to the main road

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I stopped to ask some mothers’ permission to take pics of their kids feeding the baby lambs, a literal example of the grass is always greener on the other side as the sheep noshed the offered food rather than the mound of cut-grass on their own side.

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After many cars passing us going the opposite direction and taking the opportunity to snap more photos

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one came along with two more young women  who picked us up. They were two friends visiting the parents of one of them, and the one who had grown up here told us how this area was a beautiful part of Norway and mentioned the festival that was occurring up and down this part of the coast. Unfortunately, none of the events were within walking distance of JUANONA, but we thanked her for the information. With people such as the ones we met in the past six hours as ambassadors, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about a large bump in population, at least tourist-wise.

Back at the club house

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we lit the charcoal watching it burn to the right ashy-red coals while we played another round of Oh Hell (B proving her strategic smarts translated well to this card game). Our grilled hot dogs with actual buns tasted wonderfully of home while even Max enjoyed the s’mores (evidence is the white marshmallow fluff on his face :)

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coming up with a technique of placing a piece of chocolate in the pre-toasted marshmallow.

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Like pancakes, a feast of s’mores cures me of that craving for quite awhile. But, oh, was it so worth the stuffed stomach.

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Staturday, July 25

We set the alarm to ensure we wouldn’t miss the ferry. Not being able to reserve a ticket and seeing the large number of folk who took it yesterday, Betsy wanted to be early to the ticket office. Having tried the previous day to buy a ticket for the 8:50 a.m. one (the only one heading to Bodo), we peered in the window of what appeared to serve as a cafe/Tourist Information office.

A young guy helping paint the attached hotel next door (which was attached to the grocery store which was attached to the fishing store which was attached to the service station… it was one long building, which fortunately wasn’t attached to any fish processing plant) approached us saying he ran the cafe but couldn’t open it because he had to paint when the weather was good.

Considering his place wasn’t open except Thursdays 2p-6p. and Saturdays 10a-3p it was a bit of a puzzle regarding painting-while-the-sun-shined approach. I was finding myself in the literal world of metaphors. But, he was quite cute and very friendly so it was also quite fine just looking at him talk. He also assured Betsy it shouldn’t be a problem getting a reserved ticket tomorrow as Friday was the busy day.

I don’t know who nudged whom after realizing he’d stopped talking and it was time to go, but we did manage to leave.

Anyhow, Saturday morning we managed to be there before the guy opened the ticket office. Betsy got her reservation hearing that payment was made aboard the ferry.

Thirty minutes later the ferry sped in (there’s a reason it’s called the fast boat), loaded up the passengers (giving us a photo-op with B),

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took off, only to reverse itself and speed back in. A passenger had forgotten his backpack and there were some packages also needing loading.

Imagine another public transportation vehicle doing that? Goes along with never hearing honking horns on the road and the easy pace many Norwegians bring to their life. Very refreshing and very enviable.

But, before had Betsy boarded, Max took one last photograph of my sister and me. I think it says it all. Not only did she survive being showerless for five days, lived in a small space,

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and ate canned chicken but also experienced the vagaries of cruising life. She left peonies, some of hers, mom’s, and my favorite flowers, along with the thistle she picked

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and Missy’s travel mug that Missy gave me two years ago when I was visiting B in Cincinnati.

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She’s a trooper, but I’ve known that for a long, long time.

Love you, sis.

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9 thoughts on “Cruising in Norway: Betsy’s here!

  1. cmwil

    Nice write-up, Lynnie. As usual, I felt as though I were there with you all. You may not like jellyfish but one of your photos is a real beauty. As for cleaning fish, all I can say is you must be missing fresh food! Turning into a real pioneer woman! We’ve been playing rounds of Oh Hell here at the lake. Fun summer game. Have you tried 31 yet? That’s also fun.

    1. margaretlynnie

      So, how’s that OH HELL score card going? :) I usually end up last but every once in a while do make it to the top, but that’s rare. And, will check out ’31’ game. And, speaking of write-ups, your NEPAL one is great to read :) xox

  2. Mona Sveum

    Hi there! I finally found your blog… have been looking for you on Instagram..?…
    So nice to be reading about our encounter in Skrova :) and about the next days of your trips. It was so much fun to meet you there, and I know we´ll be seing each other again sometime! Just like you say, it is really special when you meet people for the first time, and it feels like you already knew them :) You are very welcome to Stamsund on your next travel (or maybe for spending some time during the winter) – you might even get to try out yoga at Lofoten Yogastudio :)
    Wishing you a continuously safe journey and all the best.
    Love from Mona, Jan Erik (x2) and the kids
    PS: we just got a new family member, so now we have an 11 week old English/Irish setter puppy in the house – his name is Balder :)