NS Passage #5

Passage Prepping

Thursday – Sunday, May 11-14

Soon we would be changing our view from trees to sea water as we began preparations for our passage to Norway.

We moved JUANONA from one Friesan island to another:  Terschelling to Vlieland, six miles to the west. Last year we used Vlieland as our departure/ arrival port to/from Norway so we were familiar with the marina and town.

Unlike Terschlling’s marina where showers, drinking water, and laundry machines were included in the docking fee, Vlieland charges for everything. But, it’s worth the extra nickel-and-diming because it’s a lovely island. And, it’ll shorten our winding path through the sand banks to reach the North Sea than if we left from Terschelling. Although, those free laundry machines are calling my name…

We ended up finalizing our provisioning in bits and bobs as we waited for the winds to start blowing from the south/southwest for our beeline to Norway. While in the lively, one-street town we took advantage of just sitting with a libation and people-watching.

While in town on Saturday we discovered folk were signing up for several foot races occurring on Sunday. Hearing that they’d run along the marina’s walkways, we managed to plant ourselves on the course with our greasy lunch. Our scarfing down food while athletic people ran by felt a bit weird but, trust me, it didn’t feel so weird that we stopped eating our hamburgers…

Part of the prepping meant relieving JUANONA of the numerous spider webs that grace her facade. Thankfully, we (royal ‘we’) now have a new night-time sport:  spider hunting. Max has become quite proficient as I saw when accompanying him on one of his safaris. He offered me the opportunity to join in and crunch some but I said no thank you; so, he merrily continued on as the solo hunter.

I’m just glad he does it because we’ve seen some huge ones ready to pounce on our faces in the V-berth. Anyone who’s woken up with a swollen eyelid knows what it’s like to be bitten by one of those dangling, eight-legged anthropods. Knowing your puffy eyelid was due to a spider crawling on your face is just one Big, nasty UGH feeling.


Monday – Wednesday, May 15 – 17

Since this will be our fifth time crossing to Norway, I could say this specific passage-making is becoming routine, but that’s not the truth. In effect we don’t treat any passage as routine, with the exception of knowing (1) we’ll be on a boat in open sea with no land in sight for awhile and (2) what clothes we have on when we left will most likely be the same clothes we peel off when we land. And, yes, laundry machines are what I hunt for when in port.

To catch a good tide running out, we left before 6am and motored then sailed into the North Sea.

With a perfect wind forecast of 10 knots S/SW, later building to 20 knots, the morning ride out from Vlieland was lovely and not too cold.

Over the next three days we settled into our usual routine of cross-wording,

cooking a one-pot meal (C+C+B, recognize big blue? :)  of chili (one of Max’s specialties),

reading, listening to music, and contemplating belly buttons while staring towards the stern as JUANONA rolls with the waves.

Underlying these activities is reviewing notes on harbors, sites, etc., for our summer cruising. Thankfully, those who have explored these waters over the years have generously provided excellent information either in emails, articles published by sailing associations or cruising guides researched and written by sailors. We use all of those sources to get an idea of where we’d like to go and what to expect when we arrive.

We maintained our usual watch schedule when it’s just the two of us:  roughly three-hours on, three-hours off. But, we’re flexible, so if someone’s more awake than the other, he/she will stay up for a longer watch to let the other sleep. (I snapped a photo of the captain gently sleeping but it’s a bit blurry as didn’t want to wake him with a flash.)

I had anticipated a chilly crossing just because the temps have been in the 50s; but, we were perfectly warm with our diesel Reflex heater located in the main cabin.

Of course, if you’ve left a dock, something is bound to cause a hiccup, which is why Max had to tighten the stuffing box to reduce water leaking in.

Beginning our passage just after a full moon we were hoping for moon-lit nights, but both evenings sported cloud coverage and no–and, I mean zip/nada/zilch/NO–visibility.

Which is why the Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a boon to navigation. For me, the AIS has become the holy grail of our passage-making.

This nautical instrument allows us to see any boat traffic within a specified distance (we generally set the plotting range at a radius of 12 nautical miles when offshore). Any boats entering into our range will appear on our AIS screen noting the vessel’s speed, rotation degrees per minute, size, course, location, and what is truly wonderful:  the closest point of approach (CPA) to a specific boat and the timing of that point of approach (TCPA):

Additionally, we can contact the other ship’s pilot house by calling their Maritime Mobile Service Identity number (MMSI), a direct line listed on the AIS. On this trip we did so twice, with one of our calls resulting in our changing course for 15 minutes to provide more distance between JUANONA and a fishing boat dragging nets.

During our passage we navigated through several shipping lanes, which brings me to another electronic gizmo to which I also give thanks:  our GPS Chart Plotter. This plotter includes area charts (easily changed with a SIM card for various destinations)  with our GPS location overlaid on those charts.

For instance, we’re supposed to cross shipping lanes at a 90º angle. Our Chart Plotter shows our track across those lanes allowing us to quickly adjust our course as needed (black arrow is where we are with the red line showing our direct bearing or course to Norway).

By early Wednesday morning the wind petered out as forecasted. With 38 miles to go on this 293-mile passage, we added the engine to our energy equation and approached Norway’s SW coast, six hours later… but not without experiencing heavy fog for most of those six hours:

Luckily our GPS Chart Plotter provides an overlay of radar (indicated by those red splotches below that we later found out were due to a thunder and lightening storm). We, therefore, can pick up boats (such as small recreational vessels who don’t use AIS) as well as showing buoys and the outline of the shoreline.

But, what would happen if our chart plotter and AIS equipment failed? Good question.

As a back-up to our plotter, we’ve downloaded an app on Max’s iPad that provides almost the same information. Frankly, around here there are so many rocks, being able to scroll in to highlight an area makes digital charting really valuable (as the photo below shows in our foggy entrance to Norway).

And, if that fails, we have paper charts. I actually enjoy using printed charts for long passages because there’s nothing like marking your progress with little x’es along the way anticipating the last “x” when you arrive. With this being only a three-day passage and with all the equipment behaving, I just checked our miles to destination on the plotter and divided it by our speed to get an idea of when we might arrive.

By 12:30 we were tying up to the local quay and planning a foray into Farsund for fresh provisions and good wifi access…

…only to discover a lot of folk running around in some traditional costumes called “bunad”. Look at how gorgeous these clothes are:

Come to find out May 17 is the national holiday celebrating the signing of their constitution in 1814.

Instead of a military parade the procession through the streets is comprised of all ages. Children in particular are festive revelers on this day, no doubt looking forward to the traditional  meal of hot dogs and ice cream.

Arriving back to JUANONA we noticed another boat had come in, s/v EQUINOX with two Norwegians and one Swede aboard. Within an hour all five of us were on JUANONA discussing their upcoming plans. Their next stop is Scotland, as they continue to work their way down to the Canaries to reach St. Lucia in the Caribbean by the end of this year. They reminded us of our nephew Iain and his wife Sarah who, too, have planned some cruising time this summer after making arrangements with their companies. Great energy and spirits in all of them.

Having Camilia, Thomas, and Michael aboard was a wonderful welcome to Norway, similar to other times when we met Gunnar and Elisabeth in Os last year and Kjetil in Alesund in 2015. There’s something magical about meeting folks like them, a reminder of how sharing time with others is one of the main reasons we’re doing what we’re doing.

And, just to give a shout-out:  Michael owns a great cafe on an island called Styrso (near Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden), called Öbergska, which we’re definitely planning to visit during our summer cruising.

As I finish this passage-posting rain falls gently on JUANONA’s deck while we savor freshly brewed java in our v-berth and wifi-graze the news sites.

A perfect start to our summer cruising with one more ‘chore’ left to confirm completion of our NS #5 passage :)


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