Friday, July 8
After our stop at Utstein Kloster, we leisurely motor-sailed down a beautiful waterway called the Mastrafjorden to meet up with Paul whom we had surprisingly connected with in Skudneshavn two weeks earlier. Approaching the harbor to Norway’s 4th-largest city we spotted the oil rig we’d seen walking across the water a few days prior. Yes, believe it or not (and, at first I didn’t when Max exclaimed it was moving) this behemoth mechanical contraption can self-propel by virtue of the two underwater pods it floats upon, and travels at a surprisingly high speed.
Not really a surprise to see it sitting in Stavanger’s waters considering this city became the base for Statoil, Norway’s ticket to prosperity beginning over four decades ago. And, there’s a stunning museum documenting this Norwegian fortune.
There’s actually a marina in front of the Norse Oljemueum Museum (Petroleum Museum); and, it was our rendezvous point with Paul;
but, checking out the docking we found it a bit too tight for JUANONA due to the holiday boaters. Paul said the Stavanger Sailing Club across the harbor was a good alternative, so we motored over and located a perfect spot for our weekend visit.
And, from that point forward we were in the hands of our gracious host. Whisking us to his house, we had a delicious dinner of sea trout (which I had mistakenly thought was salmon and was just as delectable), baked potatoes (a rarity for us due to amount of propane it takes to cook them) and asparagus. Then, a Maine campfire treat
marshmallows! The first of our summer season :)
Due to the hour we ended up staying at Paul’s where I had also been tempted to catch up on laundry after he suggested we bring it with us.
Saturday, July 9
The sun shined in a warm blue sky and we were off to a tour of Stavanger. Like many of the cities we’ve visited in Norway, Stavanger existed as a fishing village, eventually building a cathedral in the early 12th-century. In 1425 the king Eric III (1381/82-1459) made Stavanger a market town, a designation benefiting the local populace through monopolistic trading privileges and the government by providing an easy way to capture taxes on goods and services, while building a population center for defense. Yet, it wasn’t until herring flooded the offshore waters in the 19th-century that this town began its climb to wealth.
But the real ride to riches began with striking oil in 1969, prompted by the discovery of gas ten years earlier at Groningen. The Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) became the Fort Knox for this country as more oil was found in subsequent drilling, the first being Ekofisk, the largest offshore oil field at that time, discovered by Phillips Petroleum.
One of the smartest moves of Norway was proclaiming that the King – basically, the government – was in charge of the natural resources. In 1972 Statoil came into existence, with the country as its sole owner. Another strategy was the contractual agreement that Norway would own 50% of each production license awarded to individual companies.
But, it can be difficult to handle an explosion of immediate riches, and, not surprisingly, Norway suffered from this ‘boom’ mentality; yet, they learned from their mistakes, and in 1990 the country established the Government Pension Fund. In 1996 the fund’s first deposit ($200 million) was paid into its coffers, growing to what now is $870 billion, the world’s largest sovereign fund. The purpose is to provide financial security for current and future generations even when the oil runs dry. Such a wise decision that sadly, oh-so-few countries even contemplate. (Interestingly, this year Saudi Arabia announced a $2 trillion investment in a similar fund to wean its country off of oil dependence by 2020. I wonder how transparent management will be of that fund.)
To gain an overview of this vital Norwegian industry we began our tour at the Norse Oljemuseum. Paul, being a geologist, became our expert guide. He obviously was a frequent visitor to the Museum since he was greeted by name by the staff with one of them being his pupil in the Master’s program he teaches at the local university.
As we wove our way through numerous exhibits, we learned about the various drill bits used
(some looking like a sci-fi creature that chased Sigourney Weaver in ALIENS),
the coatings of pipes (one of Paul’s recommendations),
the various platforms pumping the oil – some sitting on the seabed
and some floating,
even seeing how men actually worked in a bubble waaaaay below the surface (no, thank you very much).
However, one of the more interesting exhibits featured the evolution of non-corrupt use of all this money pouring in, the sovereign fund mentioned earlier. Not only is it the world’s largest but also the most transparent. If only other governments would use this model. Dream on.
The fund may have seen its peak years because the government actually withdrew monies for the first time in 2016. And, thanks to pressure from environmental groups the directors also began divesting the fund of coal companies this year based on a 2014 strategy. Another decision was to use some of the fund for environmental investments.
After lunch we completed our tour with a walk-through of a simulated oil platform complete with a marvelous invention of an effective and low-cost escape tube, which I was tempted to try but didn’t want to get stuck in.
The next stop was another small harbor where the herring fishery dominated in the 1800s; and, we also spotted random imprints of some Noble Peace Prize-winners’ feet (this guy, a social activist, ‘pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance’). A bit more impressive than those of stars’ hands in Hollywood.
Right on this plaza stood the Domkirken or cathedral whose first bishop was an Englishman from Winchester in the 1100s.
A fire destroyed the cathedral in 1272 resulting in a rebuild with additions throughout the centuries
with a magnificently pulpit carved and painted in the North German baroque style by Andrew Smith, a Scottish immigrant in the 1658, reminding me of the one we saw at Utstien Kloster.
Along the walls were wealthy families’ memorials. The one below illustrates how the artist managed to portray each person as an individual, versus all having the same expressions; and, he had a lot of opportunity considering this guy and his wife had over 16 kids.
(I had to laugh when I clicked on this photo in my photo program… :)
A short trip up the hill took us to a street that could have been from a small country village yet existed in the middle of an urban landscape. This was where those involved in the herring industry had lived and worked, and now is part of Stavanger’s historical preservation.
We had been driving around in Paul’s electric car, which was fascinating to see how easy it was to plug in for recharging at parking spots.
There’s a huge incentive to drive these cars: no 100% excise tax on the purchase like other vehicles have; free parking regardless of where you’re parked in Norway; and, no tolls (although on ferries you pay for the passengers). Plus, there’s a good infrastructure of charging stations (Paul’s needs to do so every 100-150 miles). With a pledge to ban all gas-powered vehicles by 2025 this country already has managed to migrate 25% of drivers to Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PEVs), which included hybrids (PHEVs).
Norway is also encouraging people to cycle more, and we saw evidence of that infrastructure off of a bike path. In the background behind the first tree you can just make out a digital sign that informs passing cyclists of his/her speed and other stats. In the foreground is a great little mechanical shop for emergency bike repairs.
But, the purpose of this stop wasn’t the biking but the 1983 monument honoring the Battle of Hafrsfjord fought and won by Hakon Harfagre (Harold the Fair Hair) in 890 (some say 872), uniting three different districts under one king. These bronze swords stood approximately 30-feet tall, which you can’t necessary tell from this photo; but, as Paul indicated, this was a much more dramatic view.
With a brief stop at an early settlement of Stavanger dating from the iron age we headed back to Paul’s for a meal Max cooked and an early bedtime in preparation for Sunday’s hike.
Sunday, July 10
Up and out we left for Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock, a hike we had been planning on doing since landing in this part of Norway. Along the way we stopped at the small dock where Paul keeps his boat (about 30-40 minutes from his home)
then continued via ferry where both Paul and I thought one of the attendants looked a heck of lot like Christopher Lloyd in the movie BACK TO THE FUTURE.
Arriving at our destination amidst the carloads and busloads of other hikers and visitors we found ourselves in a drenching rain storm. Thankfully a lodge served up excellent coffee as we waited out the deluge.
However, it never cleared up
so we decided to shelved the hiking plans and opted for a leisurely drive back to Stavanger. Fine by me considering the thought of being so high up with practically a 2,000-ft drop straight to the fjord below makes my palms sweat, especially with a bunch of other hikers crowding the path to/from and the ‘pulpit’ being a slab with no guard rails as one of the numerous tourist photos shows:
On our drive Paul introduced us to some beautiful lakes nestied in Norway’s mountain valleys, scenic and serene pools of water just begging for some quiet perusing via a small boat or, in today’s weather, sitting in a cabin with a cozy fire.
We also enjoyed hearing about the geological formation of this magnificent country. Bringing to mind our friend Joanne who’s also a geologist, Paul would recount the stories these rocks tell; and, like Joanne, being a natural teacher, Paul’s explanations were fascinating. I tried to retain as much as possible with Max, I believe, being the better student.
Regardless of the history in the rocks, the fjord and landscape were spectacular; and, Paul kindly took a picture of us enjoying the day and company.
Returning to Stavanger we invited Paul for a sleep-over aboard JUANONA as well as joining us for dinner with a fellow Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) member, Eoin Robson, who also served as the OCC port captain for Stavanger. (FYI: For anyone who’s planning on/doing/done some blue water boating OCC is a wonderful organization.)
Having met Eoin at the OCC annual meeting in England last spring we looked forward to having him aboard. His story of applying for the British Royal Navy made my stomach ache from so much laughing. Just as an example, during one of the initial interviews (there are numerous steps one has to go through in order to join this military branch) he was asked by the interviewer about his family household–how many, their ages and occupation.
Well, when Eoin got to the last family member, his over-100-year-old grandmother, he was a bit startled when the interviewer asked one of the absolutely stupidiest questions I’ve heard, and I realize no question is supposedly stupid, but I have to say this one comes might close: ‘And, what, may I ask, is her occupation?’
Just writing this I have to laugh imaging Eoin’s expression hearing those words uttered by what should be an intelligent person. After realizing that, yes, he had heard correctly, Eoin responded ‘retired’. :)
Monday, July 11
Next morning Paul left saying he’d see us in Tanager, only a 25-minute drive from Stavanger and a wee bit longer by boat. We found a spot at the marina where another sailor helped us dock, did a quick provisioning stop, then had Paul stop in for dinner.
It was another early night for the next day we were off to another adventure with a hint given below… :)