Thursday-Saturday, May 25-27
After three nights tied to a pontoon both we and JUANONA yearned for another anchorage. Mandal had provided the perfect location for provisioning, walking, catching up via the Internet, and conversing with others; but, dropping the hook in a secluded cove surrounded by mom nature offers a welcome balance to the hustle and busyness of towns and cities.
Carefully sailing through the numerous islands and rocks of the channels we saw the bridge that we had heard could be a close fit for our mast. We rolled in the jib and carefully approached it with my asking Max ‘that guy said we’d be okay, right?’ and Max replying ‘yes, we should have a foot or two to spare’. Meaning our 18.3 meter (60 ft) mast will slide right under the 19 meter bridge. Hope we go under the highest section.
I won’t say we held our breaths but our lungs did pause for a bit as we looked at our instrument-topped mast as we came to…
began to glide under…
and made it out the other side unscathed,
easily passing under the double power lines right after.
With clear sailing ahead we passed friendly boaters who returned our waves whole-heartedly, a universal norm on the water here.
In addition to having more boaters, southern Norway’s shoreline and islands feature many more homes than the country’s northwest coast. I marvel at the Norwegians’ ability to adapt a modern, manmade structure to its environment. As JUANONA sailed past we’d espy a roof/wall/window peeping out from its cozy stone nest.
More traditional cottages also claim seaside views, some appearing to become an island themselves.
In just a few miles Udvar or Uvar* gave us the perfect anchoring spot. A few summer cottages sat on one side of the island, but didn’t preclude a feeling of remoteness.
* There are two official Norwegian languages: Bokmal or book language, strongly influenced by Danish rule, and Nynorsk or country language, spoken language retaining the rural dialects (Sami is the largest, minority-spoken language). The result is typically two different names for the same place, which can make our locating a specific harbor or town a guessing game; and, we’ve forsaken the need to pronounce and often resort to just spelling the names when discussing been us.
After hiking to the top of some rocks overlooking the harbor
we picked our way back following sheep paths to our dinghy where we found some folk enjoying a picnic. Not surprisingly since today (Thursday) was a holiday, which meant locals, too, headed to their island retreats.
When we asked what everyone was celebrating, they tried to explain, beginning with it was due to a religious event (makes sense considering we were in Bible country) then started pantomiming with their arms waving upward. Like charades we began tossing out answers. We got close when we answered with a question ‘Jesus went up?’. They smiled and said yes! And, my childhood induction into a Christian religion finally hit on the correct event: Ascension Day.
They then said in other parts of Norway people could use this as a flex holiday but here it was observed on the original –well, original for modern times– date.
These picnickers were from Oslo but had a place a short boat ride away. One was a sailor who gave us some excellent advice for visiting Oslo, which was duly noted. We would have liked to have had them aboard but timing didn’t work out.
Continuing back to the pontoon where our dinghy was tied up we met more boaters out enjoying the sun. They kindly provided even more information, one critical item being a forecasted unfavorable change in the wind direction and speed. Fortunately, our Rockna 55# anchor provides good insurance for just such an occasion.
The next morning we took advantage of the available dock and did some beginners’ yoga-ing and where, thankfully, Max didn’t take this photo from behind. (Gail, I know you’d be shocked to see me bending into downward dog but I’ve actually gotten to tolerate it if not quite like it).
We couldn’t ask for a better location: clean and level space; beautiful weather; and no one really able to see us!
OLAFSSON & HELGOYA
With a bit looser bodies we sailed for our next island, just a few miles away. You approach it via a narrow opening
that widens into a lovely bay, one with white sand and wooden pontoons and piers.
The guide book mentioned this harbor bracketed by the islands Olafsson and Helgoya as a popular spot.The place was hopping with motor boats tied to the docks and rocks along with a few sailboats (FYI: a lot of Norwegians prefer using mounted rings to tie alongside rocks, which means more space for those like us who prefer to anchor).
Our photos don’t show it but picnickers, young swimmers, and folk relishing one of the first warm days of the season created a summer ambiance. After the tranquility of our previous anchorages this lively scene provided a glimpse of what our upcoming cruising would resemble.
Part of the attraction of this anchorage sat atop Helgoya, and we headed for it once we got JUANONA settled.
During their occupation of Norway the Germans used this island as part of their southern defense from Allied attacks. Construction on the Ny-Hellesund coastal fort began in 1942. Russian POWs and Norwegian workers performed most of the hard labor, digging tunnels and building gun sites by hand. Initially ferried from the mainland, later 40 prisoners ended up living in a hut where they could grow some vegetables and raise rabbits to supplement their subsistence diet.
By 1943 over 150 soldiers inhabited this fort manning field canons, anti-aircraft guns, radar, and searchlights. We walked over and through some of the stone bunkers and gun ports restored by the local municipalities.
Seeing these relics of war felt odd agains the beauty of the day and light-heartedness of us visitors. A reminder of how quickly we can forget.
A short dinghy ride took us out and about with our ending up on the sandy beach. Thankfully, a fellow boater lounging with his wife along the rocks asked if we’d seen the man statue on the beach. Man statue? No, where was it. He indicated all we needed to do was to stroll to the other side of the island and there we’d find the sculpture.
We did and what a wonderful shock it was to see this stone man crawling out of the ocean. As Max said it appeared more like the birthing of a half-man-half-fish. We later read this provocative sculpture’s is called “Innadvendt stranding” or Inadvertent stranding. Personally I prefer Max’s interpretation.
I loved how the sculptor created such an image. I could visualize this creature trying to leave the sea as it heaved itself onto the shore, exhausted by the effort of transitioning from water to land. I felt as if someone had given me a gift. To me, this art was magical.
While gazing at the stone fish-man a live fish-man emerged from the sea. Carrying a bounty of speared fish he went from horizontal to vertical, rising from the ocean and casually strolling by. I wonder if the sculptor breathed a sad sigh as he saw one of his brethren exit the watery home so comfortably. Can you tell my imagination was in full gear?
Although we managed to get a shot of JUANONA appearing fairly solo,
this wasn’t the case. And, with such a large pod of boats it wasn’t unusual to see the occasional youngster at the helm of a dinghy zipping around the bay. Such was the case as we enjoyed the evening sun in the cockpit. A little girl joyously rev’ed her engine as she did doughnuts around JUANONA and another sailboat. We waved and said how wonderful it is to see young kids handling boats on their own.
Well, that was what we thought for the first hour. By the second hour of her using JUANONA like a racing buoy we were hoping she’d run out of gas; and, as dinner time came about I have to admit our thoughts were even less charitable, more like where the hell were her parents.
Then she stopped! Sighs of relief and laughing at our old-fogy attitudes, feeling a bit chagrin at wanting to squelch the youngster’s exuberant boating.
That was our thinking until an hour later after she evidently had eaten her supper and was up for more of her boating activity with JUANONA, now the sole sailboat anchored in the middle, once again being the buoy. It was then that Max got out of the v-berth, stepped into the cockpit and just stared quizzically at her as she merrily roared by.
Within five minutes the zooming sputtered to a dull put-put and peace came to all.
Saturday-Monday, May 27-29
Time for another civilization stop, this time in Kristiansand, the fifth largest town in Norway. Named for, you guessed it, King Christian IV who founded the city in 1621.
As we approached the town we noticed a lot of activity at the gjestehavn. Nearing the pontoons we saw lots of tents and people milling about. Kristiansand was hosting a boat show and the brilliant weather had attracted a crowd.
Not spotting any place to tie up alongside I looked at Max with resignation realizing our time had come to perform the, to me, unnatural act of a med-mooring.
For most European boaters, it’s second-nature for this type of docking allows more boats to tie up with minimal pontoons than when you tie up to a dock alongside (length-wise) like we did in Mandal or to individual finger pontoons or pilings like our winter berth in Hoorn.
This mooring means you enter bow-first or stern-first to the dock while dropping an anchor or grabbing a mooring ball off your bow/stern to keep your boat hanging perpendicular to the dock. I’ll never forget our first med-mooring. It occurred in Gibraltar 2003. See? Nothing like anxiety to indent a memory into one’s being…
Since then we’ve executed others but, if you haven’t practiced it often, it’s not the most fun thing to do with a sailboat.
But, we accomplished it thanks to some guys who must have seen my face and got off their boat to tie our bow line ashore. Thank god for other boaters who offer to catch lines!
Our trusted rubber ducky became our gangplank to and from the shore.
With that behind us we entered into the spirit of a boat show as we wandered through the milling crowd then exited in search of a grocery store.
The town is a mix of old and new, some of the ‘new’ represented by lively and refreshing fountains spritzing the air.
and during our stay we strolled through the old part called Posebyen from the French word reposer, to rest (French was the language of the military back then). As a fortress and garrison town soldiers billeted in private homes still in use and meticulously kept by the current home owners.
Statues provided some history, one of a female who actually had a name and had clothes on: Camilla Collett (1813-1895), considered Norway’s first feminist.
Another of a pilot, Obertst Bernt Balchen (1899-1973), a Norwegian aviator whose Arctic expertise helped the allies during WWII in Scandinavia and Europe. He became a US citizen and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, which explains why he’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
We ended our self-guided tour at Christiansholm Festooning, an imposing fortress next to the marina. Constructed in 1667 under the auspices of the city’s founder, Christian IV, this round circular building served as protection from the frequent squirmishes during those days.
Like most powerful people, this guy also ensured his brand was all over the place, hence the cannon decorations…
Skipping to present day I have to mention a young man whose interesting boat sat across the dock from us.
James, a Canadian, lost his drilling job when the price of oil fell. Having moved to Stavanger he decided to purchase a boat and enter the charter business. He had picked it up in Oslo and was making his way back to his home port but had run into engine trouble.
While he’s relaying his history of woes thought bubbles pop out of our heads, the dominant one being: ‘it’s only the engine you’re having problems with?’”. Especially when he said you could see daylight through some of the hull that he was trying to caulk.
He then proceeded to tell us his first charter was in Stavanger over 200 miles away) on Thursday (four days hence). Like a lot of boats we met going from east to west, James was awaiting a good wind and weather forecast before attempting to round Lindesnes, the southern most point of Norway and a potentially dangerous headland.
He reminded us of a guy named Nick whom we met on a small towns dock in Portugal. For five years he had been living on a rusting tugboat using electricity and water for no charge. He was incensed when told the town was going to start charging $5/day for dockage fees.
Over the next few days we engaged in interesting conversations with Nick, first on JUANONA, then on his boat. On one occasion he kindly served us tea, which I pretended to sip as I noticed cockroaches scuttling up and down the cabin’s walls. And, the best? He was eagerly anticipating a young female who’d answered his ad seeking a crew member. He was hoping a romance would ensue. I would love to know how that turned out.
By now we were satiated with urban living and turned JUANONA towards what many Norwegians considered some of the most beautiful cruising grounds of their country.