I’ll just preference these summer posts with an overall impression: southern Norway provides an extremely different cruising experience than our adventures on the west coast during the summers of 2015 and 2016. There, we found dramatic scenery and sparse harbors, whereas here brings to mind a Maine summer with shared anchorages and bustling towns. Case in point: we’ve seen and met more yachties in our first week in southern Norway than we did in our previous two summers combined.
Each type of cruising provides memories we hold onto, and in both, those memories remind us once again how lucky we are.
Friday – Saturday, May 19 – 20
We cast off our lines from Farsund where we landed two days prior from the Netherlands.
An added bonus came when some young cruisers, Thomas, Camilla and Michael on s/v EQUINOX, docked behind us. They left the next morning for Scotland while we spent a day getting our bearings and, what else, provisioning and laundering.
While loading the larder I kept my eye out for the baked Jesus as mentioned in a cruising guide. Because we’re in Norway’s Bible Belt, which Thomas (above) confirmed, this type of loaf appears in local bakeries. I’m not religious but tearing the head off of baked Jesus and stuffing it in my mouth may be a bit much even for me. Call it an active imagination.
The whole summer stretches ahead of us and we have no plans except possibly seeing some friends in Sweden sometime in late June. Other than that we will be lazily cruising the coast and islands of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Our ‘go-wherever-and whenever-we-want’ route means plenty of time to wait for good winds and weather, which results in a built-in safety valve. And, our cruising grounds can expand or contract based on current information we pick up from other boaters. We only have to be where we are now. The song ‘Summertime’ where the living is easy seems appropriate :) And, yes, we’re spoiled.
On Friday morning we left for Selor, a small harbor only 8 miles to the east and to our first anchorage (and anchoring) of the season. Luckily all went well and soon we were rowing the rubber ducky to shore.
We had read this island features some ruins of a medieval church and had been the king’s flagstaff (am still trying to determine what a king’s flagstaff is, so anyone who knows, please let me know).
We managed to spot some stone foundations
and ate our picnic lunch
only to hit the pot of gold when Max asked some locals exactly where the church had been located. They showed us a plaque listing the kings who had visited the island in years, and I mean YEARS, past beginning with Olaf Haraldsson (who ruled from 1016-28) (aka St. Olaf because they found his body fresh as a daisy after being buried for a year… go figure).
This couple then escorted us up a rocky knoll behind their home where we saw more stone foundations and a large wooden cross. Bingo: we found where the church was.
Back on JUANONA a small power boat headed our way with a father and his three children. We invited them aboard and he filled us in on even more history of Selor.
He pointed to the home where his mother-in-law had been raised. (Like most of Norway’s small islands, islands here have evolved from their former full-time working communities, into today’s seasonal vacation homes) He and his wife have a summer cottage on another island close by. In speaking about the ruins we had seen, he mentioned this island had also been where the Vikings wintered. He told us no diving was allowed due to the archaeological wrecks sitting below JUANONA’s hull. Max’s eyes began to shine as he casually said we should take extra care pulling up our anchor in the event something was clinging to it.
Not only Viking ships could be laying on the bottom but also merchant ships. In addition to obtaining timber for their shipbuilding, the Dutch would trade tiles for Norwegian lobsters. The going rate was one lobster, one tile. When asked by Max, our guest smilingly said he actually preferred Norwegian lobster to Maine’s.
The conversation migrated towards politics with his asking what we thought of Trump. He followed his question with ‘he’s the face of your country’ and saying all are worried about what’ll happen. He’s not the first person and, I’m certain, he’s not the last to voice those opinions to us.
After sharing some fresh pink shrimp they’d just bought off a fisherman (Max not allowed to partake due to his allergy), they boarded their boat and headed for home. As they waved good-bye both Max and I commented to one another that visits such as this family’s are what make our time in Norway so memorable.
As you can imagine we have a lot of time on our hands, and a lot of time to cook. Max is the primary chef aboard but this night I decided to create some pizzas; however, it would have helped if I’d learned some Norwegian. After making the dough and letting it rise I noticed a sweet smell coming from the mixture. Yep, I had purchased flour with sugar added to it. Great.
But, all was not lost as I decided I could still use the dough. So, I rolled it out, slapped some raisins and spice on the beige sponge ball, and called them cinnamon rolls. They weren’t the best, but surely better than sugary pizza crust topped with olives and tomato sauce.
Sunday, May 21
The next day we pulled up anchor (no valuable artifacts attached) and headed to our next spot in Hille. First, though, we rounded Lindesnes, the southern-most tip of Norway, one known for dangerous winds and currents. They advise to stay two miles offshore when sailing past here on a windy day. During the regular sailing season the Norwegian lifeboat service will even escort boats around this treacherous headland.
Even with no wind and flat seas JUANONA started rolling mightily, enough to set one of our pans flying around down below (hence, the big bang in the following video):
When we pulled into a small cove on Hille, we knew we’d found another lovely anchorage.
It’s easy to get ashore around here with plenty of rocks to climb up on and a terrain that’s not too steep and graced with low foliage easy to walk on and through. At the top we snapped our ubiquitous portrait of JUANONA.
A few summer homes shared the cove with us but were empty. We took the opportunity to wander around one being constructed. It looked like a perfect home to be perched on this island.
With a few photos of mother nature’s art and some wildflowers for the dinghy we rowed back to JUANONA.
Monday – Thursday, May 22 – 25
Our distance between stops around here amounts to only a matter of five to ten miles versus the typical 30 to 50, and in just an hour we reached Mandal, a town sitting at the mouth of the Mandal river known for its salmon run. We’re just a few weeks too early for the salmon, which is too bad as you can fish right off the bridge in town with a license. Whenever I hear about salmon I think of our friend Carol E.’s aversion to it after subsisting on that pink-fleshed fish, and only that fish, during some of her early days in Alaska. For us, it’s still a real treat.
But, salmon aren’t the only reason for Mandal’s popularity. This place easily mixes the old with the new. The town boasts white wooden houses and a lovely crooked road serving as the main downtown area, now a car-free zone.
Across from the convenient gjesthavn (marina) a modern pedestrian bridge arches over the river from the promenade to a community/arts building where the library and tourist information coexist with a state-of-the-art cinema, concert hall, and music school.
A sculpture called ‘Mandalitten’ (citizen of Mandal by Sigurd Nome) represents the town’s wealth with salmon in his pockets, white bread in his hat and eggs in his shoes. I’m not quite sure what the white bread and eggs mean, but the salmon I do get. Additionally, a rich timber trade (such as oak for building ships and its bark for tanning hides and preserving nets) and lobstering contributed to Mandal’s economy in the 1700s.
We had picked up a walking guide at the Tourist Information office so during the few days we stayed in Mandal we checked out buildings and climbed to the top for a view of the harbor (and JUANONA, of course). (She’s off to the far right at the end of a dock.)
Several artists came from Mandal, one being Amaldus Nielsen (1838-1932) whose most famous painting is “Morning in New Hellesund”. He’s noted as one of the first open-air painters in Norway and as a transitional painter between national romanticism and naturalism.
Adolph Tidemand (1814-1876) is another with his best known painting “Haugianerne” hanging in Dusseldorf, Germany (the artist’s residence since 1837). It features the lay minister Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771-1820) who was arrested and fined multiple times for his evangelical meetings.
Another son of Mandal is the famous sculptor, Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943), whose sculptures decorate the Vigeland Park in Oslo, over 200 of them! Gustav had signed an agreement with the city in 1921. If they agreed to build a studio, residence and future museum he’d donate all of his works to the city. Lucky Oslo!
We found two of his sculptures in Mandal: one of his friend Amaldus Nielsen mentioned above…
and one of a Viking warrior-poet, Egill Skallagrimsson (roughly, 904-995 C.E.).
Egill wrote poetry and was considered one of the foremost poets of his time. He wrote scaldic poetry, which praises not only prominent people such as kings but also the poet himself. The commemoration of famous folk and the inflated auto-bios from these poets, specifically from Egill, provide a fascinating view into the Norse culture. For instance, this poet wrote of how at age six he was laughed at by the other kids during a game. Egill got an axe and killed the other kid. His dad wasn’t pleased but his mom proudly stated he had the makings of a real Viking.
Peers have described him as physically ugly and with a wild temperament (you think?). Other descriptors, such as “…became deaf, often lost his balance, went blind, suffered from chronically cold feet, endured headaches and experienced bouts of lethargy” as per Scientific American January 1995 issue–lead historians and scientists to believe he suffered from Paget’s disease, a bone disorder causing disformity and affecting behavior.
Gustav’s statue represents a curse Egill placed on King Erik Bloodaxe. I won’t go into the tale but let me just say I would not want to give Egill any reason to not like me.
Unfortunately, the local museum featuring some of these artists’ work remains closed until the start of the official summer season (June). But, the outdoor sculptures made up the lack of indoor museum gazing. Norway manages to adorn many of their towns and cities with this beautiful and intriguing three-dimensional art form.
In strolling through the town we located one of our favorite lunches (Turkish doners made here, we found out, by a Christian Iraqi whose family fled Iraq 30 years ago and now resides in Canada and the US in addition to Norway). We ended up going back for more donors on our last day and found a perfect spot with a view for chowing down: Andorsengarden.
Mathias Knutzen built the home in 1801-05. Unfortunately, the Napoleonic Wars bankrupted him resulting in the merchant Gulow Anderson buying the home. His two granddaughters bequeathed it to the city in 1953. Now the home of the Mandal Museum where, if it’d been opened, we would have seen the above artists’ paintings.
And, whenever manhole covers appear at our feet, we need to snap a pic for Ellen :)
Along the pontoon we met other boaters as well as a couple of ‘small world’ meetings:
We discovered the neighboring Dutch boat was from Hoorn, Netherlands. Not only from Hoorn but Marleen and Jan Willem’s home is right next to the marina where we wintered. We ended up sharing cocktails along with some nuts that our friend Deborah steered me to at Hoorn’s Saturday market. Nothing like home away from home.
Then we met some Scotts off a boat further down the pontoon. Come to find out Kyla and John are off s/v SULA. Their excellent blog of the Lofotens, along with two other wonderful postings, was one of our go-to references the summer of 2015. Nice to have the opportunity to thank them in person for their great cruising notes. As you can see from our bookshelf we have an array of books, guides, and notes for cruising, both on land and sea:
The next morning we met a Norwegian couple who had just purchased their boat north of Alesund and were taking her home to just outside Oslo. When I asked when they started they replied ‘March.’ My eyebrows touched my hairline and they said their cruising season starts mid-March and goes until mid-October. They would have been home by now but they hit something (submerged log?) three days out and then had to wait six weeks for parts and repairs. On the North Sea in March… in Norway… Talk about hardy folk…
The gjesthavn offers a really efficient mode for checking in and using the facility: a self-serve kiosk. We’d run across one of these last summer in Rosendal. That one stumped us at first (being all in Norwegian); yet, now we knew what to expect. Plus, the machine offered English as one of its languages for directions (German is the other language we typically see translated from Norwegian).
We inserted our credit card and selected berthing fee and facility usage. It spit out our sticker for JUANONA and a card to access the facility for showers and laundry (both requiring inserting the card). When you’re ready to check out, you then insert your marina card and are charged for what you’ve used. Below is the displayed price list (traveling off-season provides a hefty discount due to fewer services provided).
The showers were 5 Norwegian Kroner (NOK). When I first inserted the card it started blinking and I quickly immersed myself in the hot water spray. Thinking I’d have at least three minutes (what it was in Vlieland for 3 euros), I casually glanced over to see time left. 36 seconds?! No, couldn’t be but yes, could be as the water changed from hot to cold and spray to dribble. At first I thought what a rip off then remembered 5 NOK is less than a buck… I was equating NOK with EUROs. I inserted the card and finished my shower with hot water.
Wherever we go we suss out free wifi. (The marina doesn’t really offer it until summer season cranks up, so we visited the library across the river as well as the grocery store right behind us). I confess I am an Internet Junkie. Having wifi access brings home to our boat. We connect with family and friends and discover what’s going on in the world. When you can’t read the newspaper or have access to English speaking radio and TV, wifi is a luxury and a necessity.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate disconnecting. But, that’s the norm for us; so, if there’s an opportunity to get emails or read the news, we’ll take it. Which is why you’ll find us sitting outside a grocery store hitch-hiking onto their free service.
After catching up on the news, we untied our lines and headed out. With temps forecasted in the 60s and blue skies overhead, our summer cruising had just begun. Didn’t I tell you we were spoiled? :)