Category Archives: 2015 06 NORWAY – North

Cruising in Norway: Mainland to Tysfjord (Gullvika to Korsnes to Ornnes)

Gullvika to Korsnes

Friday, July 3

So much for better weather. Friday’s midnight sun didn’t appear, only a gray lump in the sky, a fog bank that moved when we did, and a bit of wind right on the nose. We prepared to hoist anchor and head across to the mainland realizing it would be a day of motoring and watching the AIS for traffic as we traversed the 35 miles to Korsnes.

Of course there’s always something to add that pinch of excitement to one’s day and ours happened to be the motor failing as we were about three miles from our previous night’s anchorage.

The alternator belt had started slipping again resulting in a smell of something not right with the engine. So, our engine wizard (and thank god he knows this stuff) prepared to perform an emergency fix. As he was finishing up we noticed a Coast Guard cruiser on the AIS.

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This led to our worrying about their  thinking we HAD spotted them and were stashing our contraband wine stash. (You’re only allowed a few bottles of alcoholic beverages and Norway is very strict about the amount. No surprise considering the amount of profit they must make off of their liquor tax.) Our friends Rick and Julie of s/v BELIEVE were boarded in the Lofotens in 2013. They had told us the Coast Guard were pretty thorough, opening up lockers, looking under bunks, in short, not doing just a cursory look-see.

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Fortunately, in spite of them slowing waaaaay down and our keeping a sharp look-out for any lowering of their speed boat to head our way, they continued slowly navigating around us heading west as we quickly headed east.

Just before reaching the fjord, we slowed down to circle a prime fishing spot Max had picked out based on advice from other cruisers (it’s either where the seabed slopes steeply upward/downward or over an underwater pinnacle). The trick is to get the lures lowered rapidly enough that you bypass the little guys to reach the big ones below.

Excellent advice as Chris caught one fish, two fish…

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three fish…

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four! No, make that five! One being a whopper of a cod.

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We immediately began tossing out ideas for how to fix our fish fiesta as we headed towards Korsnes.

Pulling into the small fishing harbor, we quickly anchored. Max went below to check on the engine and other maintenance needs while I held an umbrella over Chris as he fillteted all of them. I get squeamish around blood and guts but find it’s much less so when there’s no hair on the outside. Scales and unhuman-like facade makes it much easier to watch; and, watch I did for I have a feeling I’ll be doing this after our expert fisherman leaves us.

Great dinner again… fish in three different recipes: tried and true lemon pepper; a bit of a fish fry-saute; and, the best, thanks to our friends Gwen Mac and Hugh Meredith, the remnants of the Ferides cajun peanuts’ coatings.

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Korsnes 

Independence Day, Saturday, July 4

The midnight sun actually became sunny and we awoke to a gorgeous 4th of July. Having read s/v WINGS and s/v ALCHEMY’s trips to 9,000-year-old rock drawings we dinghied to shore and began our one kilometer walk. No matter how many homes there are scattered around the harbor, these small towns feel eerily empty… almost, but not quite, as if we’re in a Stephen King novel. At the fork in the road we did see one guy working on a home renovation and asked the way to Leiknes. He pointed us in the correct direction and we continued our stroll down the main road out of town.

Although we saw hardly anyone (except in one car, which passed us), we noted some interesting signage, such as a clever mailbox, which made me think of the Wizard of Oz

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and, a classic of a gardening one, a sign I knew my mom wouldn’t have been too happy if I planted that in her garden.

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Further down the road we came to a road sign indicating where we turn onto a path. A small billboard display stood close to the path’s entrance so we knew we had reached our destination.

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It also stated the best time for viewing these animal outlines occurred when the sun was setting. Oh well, that could mean coming back in a month of so, which wasn’t going to happen; so, up a gradual, rocky hillside we climbed we reaching another sign

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and a box with a guest book, which Chris signed and we all perused discovering it went back to 2013.

The size of the artwork was amazing, as was the graceful lines depicting the environs’ animals:  swans, orca, reindeer, and moose.

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We tired to find all of them based on another sign with a photograph of the site

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as we crossed on either side squinting to capture the best angle of light against rock.

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Impressive it was, and we left thinking once again how fortunate the three of us were in seeing this display created by one or more prehistoric artists in the quiet of a Norwegian hillside.

Several cars passed us as we walked back to town, but that seemed to be the only life we saw until we espied several little girls playing on the harbor’s sandy beach patch.

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Looking more closely as we rounded the corner we saw a lone adult, presumably the dad. Sure enough after I said hello and started speaking with him (Tobias or ‘Toby’) we discovered it was the father of one of the two kids. Toby invited us for coffee and to view the little museum staged at his folks’ home just up from the beach.

He told us it was the first time in 25 years he’d been back, having summered here when he was a child at his grandparent’s house. He now lived with is wife and two daughters in Oslo after having worked in Silicon Valley, London, and Glasgow for IT concerns. His job meant extremely long hours away from his family, so he altered his career choices, cashed out of one business, and took a different IT job in Oslo allowing him a slower lifestyle. Smart guy, and our conversation with him (his wife had left to get ice cream for the littlest one) left us hungry for more.

Before we left we asked if we could take a photo of him and his daughter who at that point had returned from the beach. Unfortunately, the sun caused them to squint but one can easily see the family resemblance even from that!

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Also, his tee-shirt was wonderful, and I wish I had gotten it into the photo better:  You can’t frighten me. I have daughters.   I’m sure at times our mom and dad felt the same way.

But, we were anxious to reach our day’s destination (of course, ‘day’ here is used loosely for it’s 24-hours of ‘day’) at Kjopsvik. This town would only be a place to take a ferry to Hellmobotn at the bottom of the fjord. From there we were hoping to hike 8.5 kilometers to the Swedish border and back. Reading several accounts from fellow cruisers we’d heard it was a spectacular hike and, more importantly to moi, not too challenging. I would have preferred to have the ‘too’ absent from the description but I figured it would be worth the minor difficulty to achieve the view at the top and to have walked to Sweden and back.

Heading back we noticed some intense green growth on the rocky cove. It reminded us of what Friends of Casco Bay are fighting in Maine–too much nitrate causing a choking growth in Maine’s waters, so we snapped a photo hoping we were in error.

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With a gorgeous day still ahead of us, we hopped aboard, pulled up anchor and began our next leg to Kjopsvik.

but, to Ornnes instead

We started our sail down the fjord to Kjopsvik. About three miles out I was below and thought I heard someone hailing a ‘sailing vessel’ on our VHF radio. Unsure if I had heard correctly I asked Max and Chris if they saw any large boat. No large ones but there were some on either side of the shore up ahead. I tried calling back, but no one answered; so, we continued. About five minutes later we saw a power boat speeding right for us.

The boat maneuvered a bit too closely to our port-side solar panel, which was sticking out to capture the direct sun rays. Max and I were able to fend it off as the driver tried to tell us something. Finally we understood:  we couldn’t go to Kjopsvik the way we were heading–from the north; we had to divert and approach it from the south side. Apparently they were laying cables across the fjord or something along those lines. That would have have been fine except there was a large island we’d have to circumnavigate adding an extra 12 miles to our sail.

It was a beautiful day and there were alternative anchorages other cruisers had raved about, such as Ornnes, so we said let’s go there. And, it was one of our best decisions and not only because it would have been a misuse of the perfect wind to sail down a fjord, enjoying the sun, the breeze, alfresco lunch, and, the first time I’ve done this in 2015, one of my favorite pastimes, sitting on deck reading under sail.

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The only event that gave us pause was seeing huge power lines dotted with orange stretching from one side of the fjord to the other.  If you look closely you can see some of the orange balls below. And, of course there were no heights mentioned on the chart.

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We all watched closely as we approached and then glided under. Depth perception goes out the window when you see the fragile wind instruments at the top of your mast approaching a wire that seems a bit too close for comfort.

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But, we had plenty of room to spare in spite of the appearance, and we were able to sail all the way down to Ornnes, a place where the Sami (Lapps) use to summer with their reindeer.

We anchored where Dick and Ginger on s/v ALCHEMY had the year before, one of the landmarks being a waterfall they could hear as they settled in for the night.

It was so amazing to be in such a beautiful anchorage and be the only boat. There were some small boats moored across the way, which must have belonged to the summer cabins dotting the cove at the opposite end, but, again, nothing stirred but a slight ripping on the water.

Not only was there one waterfall but many with one in the distance pouring off the side from the melting snow.

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We had found the perfect spot for celebrating not only the fourth of July

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but of father and son’s last few days together in Norway,

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which caused a double toast using umbrellas Judy had given me 15 years ago for just such occasions.

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At midnight we took photos of the ‘night’ then retired to our bunks all extremely aware of how lucky we are to be together in one of Mother Nature’s majestic creations.

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Cruising in Norway: Lofoten Islands (Reine to Nusfjord to Gullvika)

Nusfjord

Tuesday, June 30

Tuesday morning Max and I still couldn’t get showers (five days and counting now) so resigned ourselves to another day of ‘boating bodies’. We headed the ten miles to Nusfjord. Hugging the shore we saw the network of tunnels and highways connecting these small coastal villages, noticing the covering on some of the roads in the event of falling rocks and/or hunks of snow.

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No matter where you turned, the skyline sharply zigged and zagged vertically. I must say at times I sigh when I get snap yet another photo of the view, but I just can’t help it.

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We had read about this teensy harbor, and, frankly, whenever I see that, I typically don’t have a great deal of hope of enjoying the docking experience.

The pilot book did warn us not to be concerned about how narrow and tiny the harbor looked–that boats can get in and tie up. We poked JUANONA in and saw our friends on STAYER with another boat rafted to them.

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They all beckoned us in waving us to become the third rafted boat. At first we thought we’d be better off going along the north side of the pontoon perpendicular to their pontoon but then decided to heed their welcoming arm waves and rafted next to them. Marie Joseph and Yelp (sp?) also from The Netherlands on their lovely boat helped us tie our lines to theirs and let us know it was absolutely no problem for us to traipse across their deck. We had read rafting was extremely common in Norway, and Maaike and Douwe had also confirmed this. Yet, I must admit I was so conscious of our shoes trekking land dirt across these pristine decks that I opted for removing boots and socks and to go barefoot when crossing.

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Nusfjord is a town purchased by a private company and converted into a living museum. This picturesque fishing village was a bit Disneyish in its set-up with a small cod fishing museum, sawmill (lumber had been cut from the forest on the other side of the waterway and then floated to this village), and red cabins rented out to vacationers. In spite of feeling a bit odd knowing one had to pay to enter this town,

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the people working at the reception and information building, the general store, the fuel pump, frankly, at every place here, were extremely friendly and helpful. I was beginning to realize Norway could be giving lessons on hospitality.

Checking out the offerings, once again Max and I realized we would have to go showerless unless we used JUANONA’s spray hose below in the head. (A few years ago Max had cleverly outfitted the boat with two on-demand hot water spray hoses–one in the head, the other in the cockpit–that work extremely well; I just hate using them due to always wanting to conserve water.) We decided to do so and both of us smelled much sweeter for it.

Max and Chris topped up our diesel by doing jerry jug lugging using our dinghy to transport the fuel to avoid carrying across our neighbors’ decks.

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A quiet afternoon and night included planning our next port of call, Gullvika, 40 miles northeast, in order to see another heralded anchorage as per our friends Gus and Helen Wilson on s/v WINGS, and Dick and Ginger on s/v ALCHEMY (Thanks to Max’s research over the previous two years we had copies of these folks’ cruising logs and articles as well as other friends’ information we had gathered this past year.)

Scratch the ‘quiet’ night for we were serenaded by raucus seagulls who nested all over this harbor. The sound reminded me of Sao Jorge and the Cory Shearwaters  who swooped and cried over the marina until almost midnight when miraculously the birds would settle down. Just as boats pretty much had to squeeze into Nusfjord so, too, for the gulls. Looking around I noticed nests crammed above doors, along roof edges, even some precariously perched on a small ledge just inside the harbor. What a place not to have ear plugs.

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Gullvika

Wednesday, July 1, to Friday, July 3

After getting help at the reception & information desk for my sister’s transport from Bodo to Slvovar later this month, I stopped by Maaike and Douwe’s boat to say good-bye. They, too, noticed the bird ‘song’ during the night and were heading just ten miles north to a small anchorage to wait out the forecasted rain the next few days.

With a bright sky and dead-calm seas, we left Nusfjord for Gullvika with s/v STAYER close behind. Out in the open we noticed boats perusing the water with fishing rods. Figuring it was a good place to try for dinner, Chris through the line over board as we saw Douwe doing the same.

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About 15 minutes later with no nibbles and knowing we had some miles to go to our next port, we decided to continue motoring. Along the way we checked AIS to ensure we weren’t on any collision course with any ferries coming our way (unlike in the U.S. all commercial vessels have the right of way, whether you’re under sail or not; this means it was up to us to get out of the path of all ferries, barges, tankers, freighters, cruiser liners, and business fishing boats.) While doing so, I’d check to see if any were named CSL Rhine or CSL Trimnes, ships our friend Rod Jones of CSL knew the captains. He said the captains would know Rod and would also be sure to give us room. (Rod is aware of my fear of being hit by a cargo ship!)

After an uneventful but peaceful motoring, we arrived at a beautiful and still anchorage seven hours later.

As we got the anchor ready to drop, both Chris and I gazed at what soon became a very shallow-looking bottom. Quickly letting Max know it didn’t seem very deep, he assured us the depth was okay. Sure enough as we glided over the green-hued water…

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the bottom dropped away and we set the anchor in wonderful sand (always great to see that versus hearing the anchor rumble over rocks).

This anchorage was a perfect place to land with the typical I-can’t-stop-taking-pics opportunities.

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We had read that Gus and Helen had caught a cod within ten minutes of anchoring here. It took us a bit longer, in spite of all us trying (Max and I after Chris had landed one),

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but, alas, only one small cod was caught (a delicious tease of what a tasty dinner a large one of those promised), so I made pizza and we settled down to another quiet night.

Thursday, July 2, we awoke to the pitter patter of rain, which meant a bunch of reading, writing, planning, and antsyness (me) occurred below. Max tried fishing again (no luck) and I hopped out on deck to just get out into the air. I lackadasically sprayed Simple Green (enviro-friendly, overall cleaner) and wiped down the deck with one of our beat-up sponges. I accomplished swishing rain water around and managed to give the appearance of being productive.

When the rain took a break the three of us hopped in the dinghy and rowed ashore where Max and Chris grabbed some photos from above. I, with my everlasting fear of heights and slippery slopes, stayed behind. (I’m the white dot in the middle.)

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The views even from where I was standing were magnificent, especially that water color; but, Max’s showed the cove at its best:

If you minused the snow, we could be in some South Pacific island from photos I’ve seen from there.

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This is looking out toward the way we entered.

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And, this is looking out again, but to the mainland 11 miles across. Tomorrow our destination is bit further north and into Tysfjord where we’ll explore more coves and towns.

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Hopefully weather will improve. But, at least the day allowed us another glorious glimpse of Norway’s coast.

Cruising in Norway: Lofoten Islands (Reine)

Reine

Sunday, June 28, to Friday, July 2

Reine appears to be a connecting point for all these outdoorsy Norwegians. When we landed early Sunday morning and starting looking for the necessities (fuel, showers, wifi), it felt like a ghost town. Then, a bus arrived and the place started hopping with kayakers, hikers, divers, and boaters. It was as if someone opened up a box and all these folk dressed in the latest outdoor gear jumped out and started populating the earth. I must say Norwegians are extremely fit and active. It’s no wonder they’re so good on cross-country skis. Of course, they could be so fit because they’re so good on cross-country skis.

Either way WE weren’t feeling particularly spry. Still wearing our long johns and gear from several days due to no showers found, we located an information office, which happened to be the local hotel reception area.

A nice young man welcomed us, gave us a brochure on what we could do in the Lofotens, told us we could use wifi, and provided information on how to get to a town across the bay (via a ferry) to see several note-worthy beaches. He also pointed us to the dive shop that offers various aqua adventures, both under and above water, and where the woman rents out showers, a washer, and a dryer (the latter two we, for once, didn’t need).

Heading back to the boat, we passed the economy’s staple here:  dried cod. When we had entered we had seen the drying racks and the ubiquitous red cabins lining the harbor’s periphery.

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Now, walking back to JUANONA we saw these eerie bodies ogling us with dead eyes and gaping jaws seemingly haphazardly stacked and mashed against the two-story windows.

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Looking around we saw (and smelled) the odiferous bodies waiting to join their desiccated kin in the huge storage sheds.

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Here they awaited the next phase of their journey, which entailed bundling into burlap bags

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for transporting to a large export market.

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many (if not all) of the fish heads go to Nigeria

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while the bodies find their way to Portugal, Spain, and Italy…

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where, when reconstituted, are cooked and served for someone’s palate other than mine.

Thinking I’d have either cod dreams or cod nightmares, we went below to sleep off the previous 20-hour passage from Sanna.

An hour or so later I noticed two sets of legs standing next to our port-side window. Sticking my head up I met Douwer and Maeika, owners of a gorgeous aluminum boat docked at the end of the pontoon. Over the next few days we were fortunate to spend some time with this Dutch couple who were on their ‘shake-down’ cruise (meaning their first cruise of their 65-foot boat) since launching her last year. With 30 years of sailing and several boats previous, they had carefully customized this boat design over two-and-a-half years, and, boy, she a lovely design both above and below. If I had a condominium, this is what I’d want it to look like! Airy, sparse but warm, functional and extremely welcoming, s/v STAYER was a dream boat.

When I first saw them and their boat I couldn’t help but exclaim ‘you two are the only ones handling her?!’ And, of course, the answer was a quiet ‘yes’. I knew, too, however they managed, this team managed it well.

Monday morning we headed to the ferry that would drop us off at Vindstad for the easy mile or so walk to the beach our friends Rick and Julie off of s/v BELIEVE and Gus and Helen on WINGS had described as a gem. On the short hop over, we met three young woman, and, as usual, it was fascinating to hear how they happened to be in Norway. One, in transition from working for the Federal Reserve Board in Chicago (I asked if she had met Janet Yellen, and she said the woman was warm, sociable, and, of course, very intelligent) to getting a finance job in investment or banking in NYC, was visiting a friend who was a musician picking up gigs when she could with Norwegian bands (she played either the cello or viola, which reminded me of our friend Helen who plays the latter although not aboard her boat!). The third was from Hong Kong who was working freelance as a translator. It was the latter who was going to the same beach we were, so we invited her to walk with us.

She was on a two-year working holiday with a British Visa. Over the course of six hours I discovered a lot about her past travels, political views, and adventurous spirit. This young woman appeared to be the most implacable individual I have ever met. I believe you could set her down in any perilous situation and she would calmly and confidently proceed to find a way out.

During the hike to the beach she mentioned her recent experiences,

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one of my favorite being her farm stay in Scotland. While fixing dinner for the other volunteer workers she was called to help a ewe give birth (they were there to help during the lambing season). She delivered a black one and a white one; and, because she assisted in the birth she got to name them. She promptly pronounced them Soya Sauce and Tofu because, as she said, she had been in the midst of cooking a Chinese dinner when called to help. Got to love it.

Another stay was in northern Scotland where she worked picking out good mussels from bad ones as they came down the conveyor belt. One of the redeeming factors of that boring work was she got to eat them (the ‘okay’ ones).

Our conversation turned to politics, which I broached carefully. She immediately gave me the low-down on the Umbrella Revolution.

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I won’t say much here other than it was extremely eye-opening and informative. I will say that she had a hearty appetite, which caused me to wonder how on earth she stayed so fit!

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With more than an hour to go [the beach was lovely

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but not a whole heck of a lot to do considering it was definitely not swimming weather (or water)], we walked back (in the far distance is Reine)…

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passing summer homes such as the one below where two friends enjoyed the afternoon sun….

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to the lone cafe situated above the road to the dock. Max discovered that a doctor from the Tromso area (further north) was running it. She had moved there for summers in 1990 after visiting with friends. A limited BUT an affordable menu attracted us

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(we all had something to drink)

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as well as the other beach-goers who trickled in as we all waited for the ferry. Some of those tried the warm, yeasty waffles, which were tempting but none of us indulged.

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Because of a passenger limit of 63, we decided to head down to the dock to ensure our place in line.

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Having been there-done that at Bunes Beach we were eager to return to Reine. Plus, we were looking forward to meeting up with Maieka and Douwer later.

There are always nature photo opportunities in this country. The water colors around Norway are almost as mesmerizing as the landscape, which means you may be seeing a lot (too many) of those. Note:  no color correction was done on the photo below.

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Back in Reine our friend left for her next adventure:  a five-hour boating excursion to some mystery cave. Chris decided to hike up the mountain for the photo op, and Max and I tried to take showers with no luck (the woman running them wasn’t open).

Spending time with Maieka and Douwer we discovered a similar philosophy of life and enjoyment of traveling. As we said our good-byes we hoped to meet up with them during our time in Norway; and, if not here, then in the Netherlands.

Returning to JUANONA Chris was the lucky one who’d been able to take a shower after his hike up and back the mountain, which he said was stupendous. And, looking at his photos, we definitely had to agree. Hmmm…. maybe a return trip here is warranted :) But, for now, other destinations beckon.

Cruising Norway: Mainland via outer islands to Lofoten Islands (Alesund to Reine)

to Lovund

Tuesday, June 23

Leaving Alesund the sky became gray and misty but still absolutely camera-worthy.

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Facing light northerlies (which meant they’d be right on our nose), we passed fishing boats, Coast Guard patrol, ferries, and cruise ships who were also sailing through the inside passage heading north.

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As promised, we saw evidence of Midsummer night’s bonfires, and that midnight sun converted overnights to over-day passages.

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The next day was also a day of blue glass with just teasing ripples ruffling the surface, so, more motoring…

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while JUANONA quickly took on her passage look.

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There are a lot of rainbows around here, and we passed one on this passage.

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The island of Lovund appeared out of the mist or mizzle as the Brits say.

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We anchored in their outer harbor and prepped for dinghying ashore with Chris modeling our compliance with Norway’s boating safety.

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Rowing to the community dock (for some reason Max likes to keep our electric motor unused) we scouted out showers, groceries, wifi, the puffins’ cliff (which we didn’t visit because of time and we’d seen them in the Farne Islands… remember the head wounds? :), and laundry. The showers and laundry were available via the honor payment system so we paid for and enjoyed three hot showers and decided to do laundry the next day.

That night we pulled out our first Oh Hell game of our 2015 cruise, and I promptly lost both games. Nothing unusual for me.

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Friday morning we again rowed ashore. I say ‘we’ but it’s really Max and Chris doing all the work while I stand like a big bow sprit. Laundry was unloaded and, after fiddling with the washing machine knobs all in Norwegian, we finally got the water to run into the machine and hopefully mix with the soap.

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Taking turns, we each visited the lovely hotel where the staff said absolutely no problem using their wifi. Max and I stopped at the grocery store, which seemed really substantial for such a small village, where he purchased a sandwich and immediately attracted an unwelcome following.

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to Sanna

Friday, June 26

With winds favorable we decided to leave for another group of islands, the Traena Archipelago.  Only ten or so miles from Lovund was Sanna, an island that Chris said hosted a music festival in early July. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be able to attend it, but we could anchor in a stunning cove then hike a bit around the island.

It was the typical warm-weather sailing here in Norway,

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which means we always look forward to reaching our next anchorage and heat below.

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In addition to the music festival, this island had some hikes, which took us up our cove (Lovund Island is center-left in the background),

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through spongy paths (honestly, it felt like walking on a pillow with all the moss and vegetation covering the stones)

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where ebony slugs greased the paths (Chris provided the perspective here).

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We wanted to see two special features of this island: Kirkhellaen, the church cave, which served as the music festival’s natural amphitheater and the tunnel that runs through one of the peaks.

The cave was our first stop and it was HUGE.

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A sign provided some history beginning with bone and stone age residents.

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And, the sound was magnificent, so, of course, we had to test it out…

as well as take some background shots that conveyed our privilege of experiencing this landscape.

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From there we continued around to the north side of the island and the hike up to the ridge where the tunnel was. I started it but my fear of heights quickly took over, and I watched as Max and Chris finished the climb…

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And, later I saw the photo ops from the top, such as our anchorage…

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the little fishing town of Sanna…

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the fish farms located on the next island over…

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and the spectacular view looking back east from whence we came.

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Chris did walk through the tunnel, which was totally black. Max ventured in about 25 feet, then backtracked to meet up with me at the bottom.

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Speaking with some Norwegians heading up the same trail, I discovered I could have reached the top by taking the tunnel from the other side. Goes to show how much trail maps would help :)

But, it was so nice just sitting on a rock and not doing anything but soaking up the views and sounds. At one point I saw a sea eagle soaring to altitude. This island was known for these majestic birds. The first and last time I had seen them was at the International Center of Birds of Prey in England (they’re the ones Max tried to mimic), so to see one in its natural habitat was awe-full.

Dinghying (i.e., rowing) back to JUANONA we took the obligatory beauty shots of boat in scenic cove, then prepped for our 20-hour passage to Reine in the Lofottens.

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to Reine

Saturday, June 27

As we exited our previous night’s anchorage we wanted to test our fishing acumen. Friends, including Kjetil, informed us that it was dead easy, almost with fish jumping into your boat. So, in Amble we had purchased a fishing line complete with wormy hooks and a weight. All we had to do was float over a rise in the seabed and toss out our line.

Chris did the honors and within 30 seconds caught a fish.

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All of us were a bit stunned, but when he plopped the lin back in again, bam! And, pulled up…

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four more!

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The first and last time we actually caught fish aboard JUANONA was on our 2003 passage to the Caribbean from the Canaries. Thanks to our crew member, Steve Keener, we savored fresh MahiMahi several times and, boy, was that delicious. We were definitely anticipating another tasty dinner.

But, we weren’t the only ones looking forward to some fresh fish. As soon as Chris began filleting them,

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we had uninvited company starting with one…

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growing to a small crowd…

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then a patient armada,

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and ending with at least 50, the lucky ones grabbing the discarded heads and tails as Chris tossed them overboard.

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The Lofotens represent the most northern cruising Max and I would do aboard JUANONA this summer. Max, who had sailed to Labrador aboard Fin Perry’s boat in 2013, alerted us to our crossing the Arctic Circle on this passage, so we kept a lookout on the GPS as we neared and then passed over that navigation point.

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Knowing we were going to do so, Max and I had bought some typical Norwegian ‘oilies’ when we were on the Hurtigruten a week ago as keepsakes of this special occasion.

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Then Max announced he had some special mementos in honor of King Neptune to document Chris’ and my Arctic Circle crossing,

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and he proceeded to dude us up with gloves and ear muffs to keep us warm, and a lei to fondly remember the warm climes we had voluntarily left far behind.

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As the hours flowed into the bright night, we licked our lips over moistly baked fish (we don’t know what kind except they were great tasting) compliments of Chef Chris.

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Sunday, June 28

After another easy passage, and a short one, we passed islands with their changing light

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and motored-sailed into our first stop in the Lofotens,

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Reine. Another adventure in the offing :)

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Spectacular Alesund

I knew the scenery was going to be spectacular in Norway but the people we’ve met are even more so, beginning Friday morning after our 10:00 p.m. arrival Thursday night at the town quay.

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With a knock on our hull Frank Cormer, Alesund’s OCC Port Captain and member of Alesund Yacht Club, warmly welcomed us to his home town. He provided some excellent information such as how to correctly pronounce where we landed (say Alesund with “A” as an “O”). He then described the lay of the land, which is always a gift when arriving by boat.

He also gave us an important tip regarding flags. Norwegians are extremely proud of their flag. Residents lower the Norwegian flag at 9:00 p.m. every night. This also applies to our USA flag when flying off the stern (our courtesy flag, the flag of whatever country we’re in and which is hoisted mid-ship, isn’t affected, only your country’s flag). Good to know as we’re sensitive to ensuring we abide by a country’s code.

Lastly,  he connected us with Kjetil Poppe, a co-member of Alesund Yacht Club. Kjetil (who also graciously gave us a pronunciation lesson on with how to say his name:  it’s like ‘kettle’ but replace the ‘k’ with ’sch’) not only came by to welcome us but also offered to take us to  the club the next night for the Summer Solstice celebration. It was a BYO-BBQ with a view of what is said to be the largest bonfire in the world:  a pyre of pallets carefully built by hand then set afire. And, when he heard we had a small electric outboard with limited range, he offered to tow us to the club (it’s on their own small island) so we’d have enough juice to return. He laughed when we asked about any issue returning at night. He gently reminded us it’s not going to get truly dark. Oh, right, we’re in Norway! :)

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While on the boat Friday early evening a replica of a Viking merchant ship pulled up behind us. Offering to help with the lines, Max started a conversation with the helmsman, Per. In discovering he had been involved with a BBC documentary on sailing to the Arctic, Max said we knew someone who was on the boat, Dean Plager. Lo and behold, Per knew him well. We took a photo and sent it to Dean saying Per says hi.

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Saturday morning we finished doing typical cruising errands (laundry, groceries, showers, filling water tanks, and tourist information, including booking a day trip to the UNESCO-listed Geiranger fjord on MS LOFOTEN, one of the famous Hurtigrutens) and proceeded to climb the 418 steps to a hotel overlooking the city and harbor. Chris had scoped it out before and agreed with others who had mentioned it was worth every step.

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Saying hi to everyone we passed (my mother said I would talk to a fence post), a fellow climber said ‘are you from the states?’. Well, that began a conversation, which led to our meeting Steve, a fellow traveller hailing from Arizona. He was exploring Scandinavia for the summer while staying in hostels. After inviting him to drop by JUANONA we continued heading to the top where the view, indeed, was lovely. Of course, having warm, sunny weather helped.

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JUANONA is on a pontoon close to the mast you see poking up in the bottom left-hand side.

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And, you can spot the towering pyre in the photo below, and beyond that peninsula is the island of the Alesund Yacht Club .

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Returning to JUANONA later that afternoon we saw a note from Steve who said he’d come by later, which he did; and, we realized, like with Kjetil, we were fortunate to have him aboard. During the conversation we discovered Steve had journeyed to numerous places beginning in his early twenties, He’d even written a book recounting one of his earlier adventures, ALONE IN AFRICA, with a whimsical subtitle:  A WIFE-HUNTING SAFARI. The latter speaks to his deciding to look for Mrs. Right versus waiting for her to find him.

Steve continues to travel on a shoestring yet is extravagant with his generosity, which we discovered the times we were with him.

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Soon it was time for our Summer Solstice evening with Kjetil. And, what a wonderful night that was! He towed us over and introduced us to fellow club members grilling summer fare while looking out at a spectacular vista.

I should mention that Norway takes their boating seriously, and that includes safety measures. We had noticed everyone wearing life vests so we asked Kjetil if it was required. He said yes, and then proceeded to let us borrow one he had just received in appreciation for running the regatta that day. Another example of his generosity. With our life vests on and our dinghy happily trailing behind us, we set off for this gem of a clubhouse.

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In the clubhouse Max noticed all of the burgees hanging up and asked if they’d like one of OBYC’s. They said better yet, they’d give us one of theirs in exchange, and Kjetil said he’d bring their burgee to JUANONA the next evening on his way home.

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During the grilling we noticed sheep, and Kjetil explained they served as lawn mowers for the island. My type of mowing.

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After dinner the four of us hopped into Kjetil’s boat along with our towed dinghy, which, at this point, was like taking a dog for a walk since Kjetil kindly took us not only to the club, but also back to JUANONA.

We floated amidst the growing number of boats filled with folk like us enjoying the evening sun in anticipation of a big fireball. The three of us felt pretty special sharing the longest day of the year in such an unforgettable situation. I mean, to be in Norway, the land of the midnight sun, watching a huge bonfire with a fellow sailor, well, it was spectacular.

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For our friend John Arndt’s Summer Sailstice we posed with the 2014 flag, last raised in Faja Grande, Azores, with Ricardo (Dick Stevens).

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Not only were there lots of boaters but also a drone capturing the midnight burn.

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It still wasn’t dark when we returned close to midnight.

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Sunday we had asked Steve and Kjetil for dinner; Kjetil couldn’t join us for dinner but would stop by for drinks and then dinner Monday night. Steve could come Sunday but not Monday. Our social plans were set, and we were thankful we’d be able to have more time with these new-found friends.

But, first it was the Hurtigruten trip up the fjord and back. This ferry service originated in 1893 thanks to Richard With, the one man (the only one) who accepted the government’s offer to establish a regular coastal route. Hurtigruten translates to ‘fast window’ or ‘fast route’, and With proved it was possible with his inaugural journey of 67 hours from Trondheim to Hammerfest, arriving 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Since then, other boats joined under the Hurtigruten banner, becoming the fastest and most reliable transportation to Norway’s most remote parts regardless of the weather.

Since we had decided to head to Norway numerous people had told us of these marvelous ferries (ones I called hurly-gurlies since the correct pronunciation was beyond me); and, we were looking forward to relaxing with someone else at the helm.

We walked to the ferry terminal and then watched as first the bow, then the stern was pulled in for an exchange of passengers. It did look like it listed a bit to starboard, which Max said must be all the folk standing on that side. And, when it docked there was a crowd along the railing. Must admit the debarking and lading of passengers didn’t look too efficient as people crowded to the front but it worked; and, soon we were on our way on a beautiful summer day.

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As we were checking in at reception below deck, we were standing next to a couple whom we discovered were from Seattle. Yes, once again I couldn’t keep quiet (I could feel Max mentally roll his eyes) and did the ‘do you know?’ questions (we know several folk living there now, K and John Robinson and Don Kohlmann). When I mentioned K, she looked a bit stunned. They had been in a painting class together and the woman shared a studio with a good friend of K’s. One more example of six degrees of separation.

Once on deck, the ferry steadily plied the waters as we passed striking green hillsides staggering up to sharp snow-covered pinnacles.

Other ferries, fast ones and otherwise, traversed from one side to the other, connecting small towns along the fjord.

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We spotted small farms on slanted land and wondered if, at times, the inhabitants just craved a piece of flatness.

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The captain would announce key interest points, two being small towns nestled in coves. Interestingly, one manufactures furniture, such as the stressless chair, which is shipped worldwide, and the other was responsible for most of the pizza consumed in Norway.

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Picture snapping was constant…

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of tumbling waterfalls…

mountain profiles…

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cottages, both traditional and modern…

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one another…

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the colorful mishmash of passengers…

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of rock graffiti…

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of the end of the fjord…

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and, of Max’s viking underwear, which he purchased at 50% off. Almost, but not quite, a rival to the Ellen underwear we received last Christmas.

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But, his best find was an unlimited mug of coffee for $5. He said if we bought a cup, there were free refills as long as we were on the boat (since this was a boat with cabins for 180, some passengers had booked for the week’s voyage versus our day tripping). I said, sure, I’d love a cup, so off he goes only to return saying it was actually $50. Our financial guru casually had forgotten a crucial zero. Fortunately, the kind woman at the register backed out that transaction.

Lunch was our usual picnic, along with a $5 cup of shared coffee. Traci and Smokey might recognize the bag :)

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It was four hours up and four hours back, with the last bit being buzzed by jet skiers. This form of water recreation had only just been allowed, and three skiers zipped and zoomed by us as they jumped the waves. Every now and then you’d see one check out if any passengers were watching him.

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On the way back to JUANONA we stopped off at one of the hostels to confirm Steve’s arrival for dinner and then headed home. We also found a troll.

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Kjetil stopped by and we documented the exchange of burgees (the AS one is proudly hanging aboard JUANONA until we can place it at OBYC).

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Steve arrived and conversation flowed.

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Kjetil took his leave promising to return for dinner Monday night. A delicious salmon dinner prepared by Chris fed our appetites and the discussion ranging from the benefits of travels to the challenges facing teachers. With the sky still bright, dinner ended and we said our good-byes to Steve asking him to please keep in touch. Like Kjetil he truly felt like a gift.

Another lovely day dawned on Monday. Frank, our kind greeter, came by to see if he could help us with anything, and that included an offer to drive me to their marina to do laundry. Always appreciated! We were okay at this point, although laundry is the bane of my existence when living aboard. There is a public WC which featured a washer, dryer and showers, but the facility was always iffy:  either the washer wasn’t working or, the more recent event, the door to enter (costs over $1 just to get into the facility) was out of order. Can’t say I’m impressed. However, the Tourist Information managed to get the washer fixed within 24 hours when I told them it was broken the first time. That was impressive!

Our itineraries were comprised of a day of just wandering and checking out a museum or two in this lovely town. A major fire January 23 reduced 85% of the dwellings to embers. Unbelievably only one person died but most of the residents were left homeless. Within three years, thanks to their fellow Norwegians, international aid, and Germany’ Kaiser Wilhelm II (he use to vacation here), it was rebuilt in the style of art nouveau.

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Kjetil arrived with an excellent bottle of Italian wine, and we learned even more how well-versed this lovely Norwegian is on a broad range of topics. He also provided another Norwegian pronunciation lesson on Hurtigruten.

Another promise was exacted to make sure he stayed in touch for we didn’t want to lose contact with this new-found friend.

On Tuesday we hauled the dinghy aboard, filled the water tanks, and went in search of showers, locating some at the caravan parking lot. By 2:00 p.m. we departed Alesund hoping we will make a return stop when heading back to the UK in August.

We had expected to find spectacular scenery, and we did; yet, it was the gifts of friendship that truly were the most spectacular at Alesund. A definite Ja! for that.