Definitely feeling blind (which is one of the translations for this channel’s name) as we carefully motored our way in dense fog through what is described as southern Norways most scenic cruising grounds. At one point I turned to Max and said thank god you’re familiar with this having grown up in Maine. Me, I’d drop anchor at the first possible cove and wait for the sun to come out.
Although one would think this 10-mile passageway was only made for boats the size of dinghies, the cruising guides reassure boaters that it is fine to transverse this route… as long as one followed the buoys marking the channels.
And, beautiful it was in spite of not really seeing any of it our first mile or so. But, the fog started to lift as we considered our first anchorage.
We had originally headed for an anchorage named Gamle Hellesund, but as our GPS Chart Plotter path shows, we had trouble making a decision due to not being absolutely sure the path of underwater electrical cables – that’s the last thing want to anchor on top of! (Both our chart and warning signs on shore indicate the presence of such cables, but it isn’t always clear exactly where they run across the seafloor.) After the second scouting, we decided to continue on to a different anchorage noted on a list created from guide books and other cruisers’ recommendations.
Monday-Tuesday, May 29-30
And, we were so glad we did. Described as a place to get off the beaten path, this anchorage hides around the corner from the main route through Blindleia. Some summer houses sat up nearby hillsides, but as we took the turn into a smaller cove we found ourselves alone in still and peaceful waters. The only noise being a swan couple looking for hand-outs.
The next morning the sun appeared, prompting us to find a yoga spot, which we did (on the rocks to the right of JUANONA below)
as well as one for an obnoxious selfie. I’m including it because of a t’shirt I’m wearing advertising some friends’ nephew’s music: ‘Will Overman’s Band’.
With some deep breathing and stretching behind us, we upped the anchor and continued the last few miles to the end of Blindleia.
Tuesday-Wednesday, May 30-31
A short motor-sail and we landed in another bay,
again finding ourselves the only people on the water. And, again, becoming a hopeful food source for some swans.
We took the dinghy to shore for a 30-minute walk to town known as an artists’ haunt during the summer. I understood why as we found ourselves on a curvy lane decorated with picturesque white houses and perfumed by lilacs. These lilacs remind me of Maine, and we rarely go by without getting a noseful of their lovely bouquet.
Although very few people were out and about, we managed to meet some fellow travellers: a German couple camper-vanning around Norway and an Englishman doing some landscaping while staying at a friend’s home.
We would have loved to have been anchored close by so we could have invited people aboard but knew it was a trek to get to JUANONA sitting in another cove. Off we strode only to lose our way three times, backtracking to where we remembered our route only to set off again and then retrace it again. After the third time we made it.
Never far from a road (and civilization), we still made note of ensuring we mentally marked our course more carefully next time we strode off down a path.
That evening Max performed another spider safari, yet this time he approached them in daylight with vinegar in a spray bottle. I just hope they don’t start taking revenge…
Wednesday-Thursday, May 31-June 1
Exiting Blindleia we headed for the town of Grimstad, which meant SHOWERS! :) Both for us and JUANONA whose deck was taking on a yellow tint from all the pollen floating around.
We can bathe aboard but prefer ones ashore at this time of year. Taking them aboard means either (1) wiping down the head (bathroom) after performing a contortionist act as you manage to bounce off every surface since you’re within 5 inches of every surface in the confines of JUANONA’s (and most boats’) heads…
or (2) exposing flesh not meant to be exposed at my age to the public as soap is applied to body parts while scrunched down in JUANONA’s cockpit.
So, towns generally mean clean bodies and fresh laundry, both luxuries when cruising as my sister discovered two years ago. She joined us in the Lofotens where facilities were few and far between meaning we conserved water (unsure of our next fill-up at a dock) and no guarantee of a public shower block at the next port. As one of my friend’s mom would say, ’bless her heart’ she booked her visit for exactly five days….the longest reasonable stretch to go without bathing.
I digress. Grimstad. We did our town walk noting where Henrik Ibsen worked in a pharmacy prior to becoming a famous writer…
then locating a local museum we wanted to see (Aust-Agder is the name of this region).
Whoops, opening for the summer season June 4, four days from now. Yet, some folk who worked there saw us peering through the door and said, no problem, the gift shop isn’t open but you’re welcome to look through the exhibits (!). Wow. And, this type of hospitality is more the norm than not in Norway.
For an hour or so we perused the exhibits covering Norway’s and, more specifically, this area’s history in the context of shipping.
The museum provided interesting tidbits such as how the fall of the Hanseatic League and the rise of English and Dutch trade created more markets for Norway’s fish and timber. The late 1500s/early 1600s are known as the “Dutch Era” in this part of Norway because of the close connection to the Netherlands (which explains the ‘one lobster for a tile’ we heard about earlier this summer).
The museum used a smattering of artifacts to enrich visitors’ understanding of Norway’s history. A rather startling piece of history was a chamber pot featuring Napoleon Bonaparte’s likeness. Used by the English to mock this autocrat during the Napoleonic Wars, these pots converted to porridge bowls in rural Norway–they were familiar with Bonaparte but not chamber pots.
A second room covered some of the area’s prominent shipping families, such as Jacob Wetlesen Prebensen (1808-92) from a town only a few miles up the coast. He became one of the largest shipowners in Norway. Beginning in 1833 the family kept the business going until 1966 in spite of several bankruptcies.
The exhibit explained the evolution of Norway’s shipping insurance. Historically shippers had spread their ownership risks by purchasing smaller shares in multiple vessels. As more shippers increased their ownership in fewer vessels, they wanted to not only insure the ships but also limit liability to the cargo owners. Eventually, this led to insurers themselves spreading the risk through reinsurance.
In addition to history we found displays on nautical fundamentals, such as navigating at sea. A basic explanation defined clearly that latitude (where you are on the north-south axis) is determined by measuring the sun’s altitude at noon (when it’s at its highest). The higher the sun, the closer you are to the equator; and, for identifying your east-west axis (longitude), you need a clock to compare where you are at noon compared to mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). A one-hour difference equates to 15 degrees of longitude (1/24 of 360º). (For a wonderful quick read on the competition to invent a clock that would work at sea, check out “Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time”.)
Part of this area presented signal flags used by ships to communicate at sea.
I’d love to add some further descriptions to those flags, such as ‘I REQUIRE ASSISTANCE: I ran out of coffee and have threatened to harm my husband’ or ‘YOU ARE RUNNING INTO DANGER: I have been wearing the same clothes for a week and we are not smelling too good’, and, depending on how long I’ve been at sea, ‘I REQUIRE A PILOT: he just doesn’t know it yet; and, probably the most apt ‘I WISH TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU: is your wine any good?’ Of course, Max’s may read a bit differently…
As we finished wandering through the exhibits one gem caught my eye because of two familiar names. A painter (Christian Krohg) whose work we’d seen last year in Bergen had illustrated a poem by Henrik Ibsen, Norway’s famous playwright. The drawing is of Ibsen’s poem ‘Terje Vigen’ penned in 1861.
During the Napolenic Wars Denmark-Norway had tried to remain neutral but ended up becoming France’s ally. England retaliated by blocking Denmark’s grain delivery to Norway. In defiance and desperation during the famine years of 1807-11, some Norwegians actually rowed across the sea through the blockade in order to retrieve bags of grain. Ibsen’s fictional hero, Terje Vigen, represents one of these brave men.
Stuffed with history we thanked the museum employees who had kindly let us get an excellent preview of their summer’s exhibit.
Next morning: our much-desired showers and off again, this time to another anchorage.
Thursday – Friday, June 1-2
Some boating measurements we follow differ here than in the US, one being wind speed. Norway measures wind in meters per second while ours is in knots. Luckily, all we have to do is multiply meters by 2 and we have a rough conversion to our familiar knots.
However, we’ve found wind to generally be higher than forecasted. Such was the case when we left Grimstad for an anchorage further up the coast. At least the wind was at our back but it’s still unnerving when knowing you’ll be jibing (swinging) a full mainsail from one side to the next as you make your final turn.
Our destination, Lyngnor, is called ‘the Venice of Norway’. Spread over four islands with only two connected by a bridge, Lyngnor is a town whose 100 year-round residents mushroom to many, many more during June, July and August.
Believing the one small dock area could be crowded, we were more than happy to drop our hook in a narrow cove Nautholmene on the southern side of the island Ostre Askeroya.
With a mile+ dinghy ride from JUANONA to Lyngor we figured our electric motor could do it (considering wind, current, and speed we can get up to four miles out of the battery). But, just to be safe we ended up paddling with the wind pushing us the first .8 of a mile to town. With the motor on for the last few tenths we pulled up to the sailmaker’s pontoon where the cruising guide said to just ask permission to dock.
Seeing someone sitting outside taking a break we started talking with him. After chatting a bit, we learned he worked here in the summer then skied during the winter. I said he was in a good profession ‘cause he could use his summer trade to make kite-ski sails in the winter. He laughed and corrected us by saying he wasn’t a sailmaker but a cook. Ahh… hence the heavenly aromas emanating from the building, which turned out to be homemade fish chowder.
No cars are allowed on the islands which makes for a pleasant walk down the main path along the harbor…
where we saw accounts of the Battle of Lyngor, pitting Britain against Norway-Denmark which took place in 1811 in this small harbor. The battle effectively ended Denmark’s involvement in the Napoleonic Wars and led to their ceding rule over Norway – helping set the stage for Norway’s eventual independence.
Back to the dock and our dinghy the electric battery easily returned us to JUANONA where we took advantage of warm sun to nestle in the cockpit for some reading.
While doing so a friendly kayaker stopped for some conversation during his nightly paddle. He lives here full-time having arrived some 30 years ago. When Max asked what he did in the winter, he said a lot of reading and kayaking. Hardy souls.
After about ten minutes off he paddled on his circuit around the island.
No matter where you go, there are people around who remind us of just how wonderful it is to be floating on a boat around this country :-)