Category Archives: 2015 07 NORWAY – North

Cruising in Norway: Heading south PART II

 

 

BOLGA

Friday, July 31 

In spite of grayness in the morning air and sky we decided to hike to the hole in the mountain and to the tipping rock, both sites noted by other cruisers as worth seeing. To ensure we understood exactly how to get there we stopped by the little grocery store where we met a woman who had graduated 20 years ago from Fordham. She had grown up on this small island but had attended college in NYC. She told us how every ten years she returned for her reunion to keep in touch with her friends. The life she must have led during her college years must have stood in stark contrast to living on a small Norwegian island close to the Arctic Circle. Wondering if any of her college friends had visited Bolga, she replied no and it would be quite a shock to their system if they did. I could understand that.

Armed with a laminated trail map she let us borrow, we set off for the short walk and hike partway around the island. New sign posts also helped us find our way to the short climb up to the hole in the mountain.

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Once again Max went a bit further while I awaited at the foot of the ladder (I’m the little white dot at the very bottom of the crack). The views were as expected:  beautiful.

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From there we walked through a pasture and along the coast reaching the tipping rock. Max acted out a muscleman routine while I filmed his prowess.

After conquering the rock, he had to sit on it.

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I tried but wasn’t as successful in terms of really getting it to bounce around, yet I had already proven my strength by hauling around a HUGE egg-shaped rock…

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and had sat on mine as well :)

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At many hikes Norway leaves a log book, and we duly recorded our names while looking and finding Dick and Ginger’s of s/v ALCHEMY from a year ago.

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And, one of my favorite was the intro to the one at the tipping rock:

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Knowing we wanted to reach Engen to see the glacier everyone raved about, we returned to JUANONA and motored-sailed during which I asked sailor man Max to pose with his sailor man boots. Why he puts up with me I don’t know, but, believe me, I’m awfully thankful.

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ENGEN

Before we left Bolga we had seen a huge cruise ship go by and, upon arrival at Engen, the same ship dwarfed the tiny dock (to the left below) as the liner sat at anchor.

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As we approached the small pontoon, some sailors beckoned us to toss them our lines (always a pleasure to have happen!), and we found ourselves in the enviable position of meeting fellow OCC’ers (Ocean Cruising Club), the Scharowski family, Markus, Sibylle, and Nicolas from Switzerland cruising the summer on their boat s/v DESPINA.

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After giving us some information about the glacier hike (Sibylle, like me, was also afraid of heights and leary of knee damage, i.e., I liked getting her input…), Max and I grabbed two of the bikes you rent using the honor system and set off. Along the way we passed hordes of cruise ship passengers, some smiling and others seemingly anxious to return to the ship. The crew, on the other hand, flashed us genuine grins to our shouted ‘hellos!” and “hi-hi’s!” (the Norwegian greeting, which I love) as we flew by.

Svartisen, or Black Glacier, is Norway’s second largest ice field composed of two glaciers, an east and west. The name comes from the oldest snow and ice, which is noticeably a lot darker than the newer.

Well, we reached the glacier and it was truly magnificent, even in the graying light in which we viewed this behemoth ice mound. Scratches from the retreating ice marked the rocks, which undulated down the hill.

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There were three paths supposedly marked in either red, white or blue. Unfortunately, we took the red as it seemed the most direct and was supposedly not too bad. Hah! I made it up to where the iron poles ended

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while Max continued on the unmarked climb to actually look down on the glacier and then walk right up to it. His photos belie the size which is far more massive than the pictures show.

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To clarify my fear of heights to the lucky ones unafraid of self-induced altitude, my trepidation comes not only of going up but also of coming down. So, my MO seems to be watching Max’s cute little butt going up and waiting for it to come back down. Hence, all the dots of moi at the bottom of the view…

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Not only did he return elated but also with glacier ice cubes, which he kindly shared :)

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Reaching the start of the road back we noticed our bikes had somehow pedaled themselves away. The idea of someone taking them was shocking for we had experienced nothing but honesty and openness during our months in Norway. All I could think of was maybe it was the group of teenagers who passed me while I was waiting for Max. About a half-mile down the road we found them on their kickstands posed for our use.

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By the time we cycled back, had our celebratory drinks with _____ year old shards, and ate a simple dinner, it was almost midnight. Another, memorable full day in beautiful Norway.

 

NORDFJORD

Saturday, August 1

We said our good-byes to the Scharowski family, wishing we were all heading in the same direction. Unfortunately, they were going north, possibly leaving their boat in Tromso for the winter. The bane of cruising, saying good-bye almost as soon as you say hello. We truly hope our boats can share another port.

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In spite of the cool temps, Max and I donned appropriate duds associated with a warmer climate as we crossed the Arctic Cirlcle on the way south to our next port.

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Unbeknownst to us a globe marked the approximation of exactly what we were commemorating; so, once that was discovered, I made poor Max stand to attention again with that in the background. At least that’s what I said was why.

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Motoring down the fjord into a small offshoot, we glided into the beautiful Nordfjord with tumbling waterfalls and a forested shoreline. The view was breathtaking.

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We anchored in a quiet spot where our friends Jon and Cindy Knowles had been the year before after they, along with ALCHEMY, had actually climbed up ONTO said glacier (!). The Knowles mentioned you could see the backside of the glacier, and we saw it playing peekaboo through some of the mist.

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There was evidence of some summer inhabitants with an improvised dock and pontoon but no life other than birds and fish and, what we discovered the next day, an occasional otter or seal (could only see a gray fuzzy head plowing through the waters leaving a slivery wake).

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As Max said it was one of the prettiest anchorages of our trip, and it was a perfect spot for our planned event the next day.

Sunday, August 2

BILLY

We left Nordfjord but not before a heartfelt ritual for a dear friend, Billy Weinschenk. He had passed away in his sleep the night of July 28th, and, knowing we couldn’t attend the gathering occurring on this Sunday, Max had fashioned a ship in Billy’s remembrance the night before.

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We read the poem Colleen’s mom was going to read at the service, one that speaks to Billy’s love of the sea, ‘The Ship’ by Charles Henry.

Then we ‘skaaled’ our friend with some cognac Smokey had given Max the Christmas before, and gave Billy a Viking burial at sea.

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He will be, and is, truly mourned by many as witnessed by the continuing outpouring of love and support being sent our friend Colleen. Here’s to a wonderful man who shared his life with humor, grace, and dignity. We know he’s undoubtedly charming those angels in heaven as we write this.

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HJARTOYA

Leaving Nordfjord we began our journey to another anchorage 50 miles away.

While motoring along we espied a Coast Guard boat coming up behind us. Remembering they had appeared to slow down when they had seen us a month or so ago on one of our legs, we made the boat shipshape in the event they boarded.

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Sure enough I heard the VHF radio crackling and the Coast Guard hailing the sailing vessel JUANONA. Fortunately, it was only a courtesy call as Max assured them we were fine.

This was the second time we’d been addressed by a country’s official patrol, the first being off the coast of England where we were actually boarded. Nothing like a government authority to make one stand to attention and to breathe a sigh of relief when any inspection was over and approval was granted. The Norwegians are looking not just for drugs and possibly immigrants but also alcohol, and we know two friends whose boat was boarded in the Lofotens. Fortunately, they didn’t have any over the legal import limit.

Eight hours later we ended the day with some wonderful sailing, and entered a narrow cove and anchored for the night. The rain kept us boat-bound but we could still appreciate the pastoral view of sheep grazing on the little island surrounding us.

 

Monday, August 3

MOYHAMNA

As we left Hjartoya Max pointed out the famed Seven Sisters eclipsed by the morning clouds. We would have loved to have seen them in better light but had to leave them in order to reach our next island at a decent hour.

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With sunny skies and a nice breeze on the quarter we sailed through skerries (scattered group of small islets) and past beautiful beaches and innumerable coves and inlets all the way to Moyhamna – one of the nicest sails of the entire summer.

This island features Torghatten mountain, the much larger and more well-known ‘hole in the mountain’. As we came up to the island Max spotted a glimmer of daylight through the mountain wall.

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We tied up at the local dock with some small motor boats located on another pontoon being our only neighbors. Leaving JUANONA we began our walk to reach Torghatten.

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This time there was a paved road right up to the short hike leading to the hole. Ah, my type of hike.

Torghatten seemed to be a popular destination with a campsite close by and cars filling the small parking lot. The climb was a short one, which opened up into a cathedral-high opening. In the first photo below there’s a guy standing below the entrance in a blue shirt, just to give you a perspective.

To me Norway is a landscape made for fairytales, and Torghatten serves as another example.Yes, this is definitely a hole in the mountain, one possibly made by a giant putting his fist through.

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You entered only to use a wooden stairway to step carefully down to the bottom

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where looking back you’re dwarfed by the light from the east

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while a vista beckons you to the west.

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We exchanged cameras with a young Swiss couple for portraits, then we made our way back passing cairns left by other visitors.

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The walk back was shorter thanks to the Swiss couple mentioned above who stopped to offer us a ride. They let us off at the road leading to the little marina.

While strolling back in summer warmth we shot photos of a yellow bumble bee in purple thistle,

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a fluffy orange, catnapping cat,

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and, a curious ewe.

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With the sun still high we took glorious refreshing showers in the cockpit and settled in the for the night.

Life was loverly in the utmost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cruising in Norway: Heading south PART I

And, so it begins. The days were getting shorter and sadly so was our time in Norway. Knowing we wanted to be far enough south to take advantage of good weather and a short passage back to the UK within the month, JUANONA’s bow pointed to lower latitudes. Some key places to visit still remained, but these stops were balanced with a focus on getting some miles under our hull.

 

INDRE VETTOYSUNDET

Saturday, July 25

After Betsy boarded the ferry for Bodo we returned to JUANONA and left for a small anchorage down the coast a bit. The day was a bit gray but still an easy motor to this cove, which, if the temperature had been truly summery and the sun out, we’d be swimming for sure.

It was a gorgeous anchorage where we were soon joined by two other boats.

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A walk up the hill and back for the JUANONA-at-anchor shots followed by a dinghy ride (with Max carefully emptying out his shoes)

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to a sailboat wearing a British flag. We figured out that the friendly couple aboard must have been paying guests to the one-answer captain standing behind them. She, the captain, didn’t seem eager to have us trolling around her boat, so we rowed back to JUANONA and left her in peace.

 

KJERRINGOY

Sunday, July 26

When we were in Tranoy, Elisabeth, the young clerk at the grocery store, told us this small town was a must-see; so, we were looking forward to our stop here.

Along the way we spotted one of the few foreign cruising boats we’v seen, with hearty waves exchanged as we noticed the Canadian flag.

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Here I learned yet another lesson on how I should NOT be handling dock lines. As the wind was blowing her off the pontoon as Max was landing, I jumped off with the bow line while leaving the spring line (mid-ship one) staged for a quick grab. Well, I got the bow line on but in grabbing the spring line I had managed to have it over, not under, the lifelines causing the lifelines to flex unnaturally. Max by this time had hopped off to handle the stern line but not before I saw his disappointed look as he turned away. Oh boy. Another fun time with Lynnie docking. But, all was well after we secured her, just lesson number 283 in what NOT to do. (Max edit: Lynnie got her  comeuppance a couple days later when I managed to hop off the boat with the stern line… oops!)

The town itself is small but well-preserved. We were welcomed by Arthur who ran the municipal dock. He and his wife had moved to this idyllic spot after years of vacationing here from Sweden on their sailboat. They now owned a house as well as several of the holiday rorbus or cottages, which he said were frequented by family and friends quite often.

The clubhouse with the usual showers and head also had excellent wifi access as well as a washer and dryer and a sitting room with a kitchenette. Heaven for hanging out while clothes and bedding are cleaned.

Monday, July 27

We had read about the living museum and had asked Arthur about it. He told us Kjerringoy had earned the reputation of being the most important trading post in the area during the 1800s. This mercantile heritage was thanks to four people:  a father, a daughter, and the daughter’s two husbands; and, our morning destination was this museum. But, first, a treat…

The day before I had also inquired about any bakery selling cinnamon buns, whereupon Arthur smiled and told me there was an excellent one up the road. So, armed with warm and fragrant rolls, we strolled towards the museum.

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Anna Elisabeth ’s father, Christian Lorentzen Sverdrup, began the business of brokering fish in the early 1800s, buying cod and herring from Lofoten and northern fishermen, then salting/drying the fish and selling them south.  When he died in 1829 his daughter’s first husband, Jens Nicolai Ellingssen, built it up as fish profits rose.

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As the trading boomed, Kjerringoy and this merchant family created a small economic community with a ship’s chandlery, provisioning store, as well as all the services required to run a large estate (bakery, laundry, etc.). They even even hosted visiting judges for settling legal matters.

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When Ellingssen died in 1849, his widow took up the reins and continued growing the business. She eventually married a young clerk, Erasmus Zahl, who had been assisting her with the business, and Kjerringoy continued its commercial prominence, riding a boom in herring prices.

Although Zahl and his wife managed to acquire huge wealth, his later investments in other enterprises  weren’t as successful. Anna Elisabeth died in 1879 and Zahl in 1900. Yet, what they accomplished in and for this small port town is remarkable, and our time spent at this open-air museum was well worth the visit.

We wandered among the various renovated buildings after watching a well-done film introducing us to Anna Elisabeth and her life in the 1800s. I was impressed and also couldn’t imagine holding down the fort among such a male-oriented environment. Yet, she managed, partly from picking the perfect partners as well as being of such pioneering spirit.

After an hour we headed back to JUANONA following a path through the woods

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passing an unusual sculpture, more testimony to Norway’s efforts to bring art to everyone,

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and coming to a display of what made Kjerringoy such a vibrant community in the 1800s.

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Untying our lines with a lot less trauma than when we arrived, we left for our next port, a small anchorage just 13 miles away.

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OSTHOLMEN

Tuesday, July 28

After an easy motor the afternoon before, we had anchored in this remote cove and woke to a day that slowly grew into a bright blue sky.

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Again, if it had been warmer weather we would have easily considered swimming. And, later, I would gladly have traded a dip in these cold waters over what we did end up doing, which was finding our way across the ridge to the tiny port on the other side.

As my sister once said during a hike many years ago ‘you may not realize this but i stopped having fun awhile ago’. That statement summed up my experience of tramping over marshy lumps while battling pesky flies as we searched for the path to the other side of the hill.

Like the chicken crossing the road, because ‘it was there’, in my opinion, that was not a good reason to cross.

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Max later said it’s the most he’s ever heard me swear. Fortunately, I found my stomping so ludicrous all we could do was laugh, for it was a beautiful day, it was a gorgeous anchorage, and we were in Norway. Only the ‘walk’ sucked.

Back to our shore we gazed again at the pristine view and then boarded JUANONA for our next destination, Bodo, a major city in this northern part of Norway.

 

BODO

We reached it easily and found a clear spot along one of the pontoons (we had been expecting to raft most of the time at these pontoons due to July and early August being many Norwegians vacation time).

This time I was ready to perfect my docking technique, so as Max neared I hopped off with the bow line and, after securing that, focused on picking up the spring line correctly. Max Jumped off to tie the stern line only to see it slip off JUANONA. He had forgotten to cleat it to JUANONA’s stern cleat. No harm done as the weather was calm and no other boats in our way. Lesson number 284 was learned, and both this docking experience and the one in Kjerringot only reinforced that both novice and experienced sailors make mistakes.

We had two errands here, which is really why we stopped:  getting to a Net.Com store to figure out why our wifi wasn’t working; and filling our propane tanks used for cooking.

Both were accomplished with Max doing the propane and my doing the Net.Com; and, both of us had found the Vinmonopolet in the mall and both had purchased bottles of wine to atone for our docking trials.

 

BOLGA

Wednesday, July 29

With nothing left to do in the city we left for a town that Dick and Ginger on s/v ALCHEMY and Sue and Kevin on s/v ISLANDER II had said was a great place for both hiking (to a hole in the rocks) and boat facilities (laundry and showers :).

As we motored through a glassy sea

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and by picturesque coastal homes

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Max noticed (we were constantly checking transmission fluid leakage) a larger puddle than normal under the transmission.

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Fortuitously, Bolga featured a noted marine repair shop, and, once there, Max managed to find the shop just as it was closing. No problem. The daughter-in-law called the owner who immediately came to his store to help Max.

Thursday, July 30

Not only did the man help Max at the shop on Wednesday, but, in pouring rain the next day,

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he came over to JUANONA and helped Max re-tap the threads to the dipstick.

The conversation was interesting because he didn’t speak English and Max didn’t speak Norwegian; but, for some reason, the back-and-forth seemed to make sense. There is something refreshing and earnest about just carrying on as if each understands the other.

In short order, the transmission was repaired,

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and as Max followed him back to his shop, you could definitely tell who was used to the rain.

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Yet, another example of how Norwegians offer visiting yachts amazingly warm welcomes. And, another reason why we’ll miss this country when we leave.

Cruising in Norway: Betsy’s here!

KABELVAGSunday, July 19

The day started with rain as we put the final touches on getting JUANONA ready for Betsy’s 3:00 p.m. arrival at Svolvaer. Mid-morning we headed to the grocery store for the week’s provisioning only to find it’s not open on Sundays. We knew we had enough fresh food for the night’s dinner and had already decided to stay put until the next morning, so no harm done.

The short walk back to the pontoon and then back up to the restaurant’s porch to access the wifi resulted in finding out Betsy’s flight out of Chicago the night before had been cancelled. The pilot announced two hours out they were returning to O’Hare because he didn’t think it wise to fly over the Atlantic Ocean with a faulty hydraulic system. Only hope it didn’t take him two hours to figure that one out.

So, she was routed through Copenhagen where she was now waiting six hours for the flight to Bodo, missing her Sunday flight to Svolvaer but able to catch one early Monday morning, ETA 7:30 a.m.  Worried that she was going crazy after traveling since 4:00 p.m. the day before, I then realized she sounded quite content, the reason being they were serving passengers free wine and beer in the departure lounge.

With that knowledge Max and I easily adjusted the schedule for our leaving Kabelvag to late morning and emailed B we’d be checking email later as well as early Monday morning.

To TROLLFJORD

Monday, July 20

Yes! She’s here! Not only did she arrive in Kabelvag rested (she did have a hotel room in Bodo after arriving at midnight; she commented she must not have looked as well rested as she felt for the clerk looked at her and said he was so sorry but the bar was closed…) but also freshly showered. I had told (warned?) her that showers could be five days apart culminating in a boat shower in the cockpit or head. Evidently, she planned her stay with us based on that detail for she was leaving after five days aboard for two nights in Oslo.

The day was overcast but not particularly chilly, which seemed appropriate for Max’s christening of Betsy’s arrival to being above the Arctic Circle.

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She immediately took to the muffs and those pups didn’t come off her ears until we had stopped for the night.

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With a little wind we motor-sailed to Trollfjord, a destination Max and I had experience on the Hurtigruten just two days previous and one we wanted to share with Betsy. Although, if it wasn’t settled weather and/or we couldn’t get a space at the dock (rafted or otherwise), we’d head to another anchorage just up the way.

On our way just north of Svolvaer Max spotted a suspicious fin, then another one, then an orca! Unfortunately, we weren’t close enough to get any good photos but we did see some black bodies with white markings as well as the tall, slender spire of their tails. Wow. I had never seen one except in movies or photographs so to know they were swimming in these waters was amazing as well as a bit unnerving.

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Reaching Trollfjord we were able to raft up to two rather well-used fishing boats. Fortunately, the aroma wafted landward so we were spared fish fumes.

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A ferry entered and performed its 360 maneuver. In spite of not being an exceptionally large ship, Betsy could still see just how tight this fjord was.

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Later, we spotted another sailboat heading towards the dock and offered to have them raft with us. The boat, s/v MELINA, belonged to a Finnish couple, Ilkka and Elina, who asked us over for cocktails. We discovered he had gone to Svalbard with some friends aboard, and she had flown in and sailed back down. Once again we were charmed by the Scandinavian warmth, and we were sorry we didn’t have more time with them.

To GULLVIKATuesday, July 21

Gullvika was another spot we wanted to show B, so we woke the next morning and made preparations to leave after Elina and Ilkka headed off. Max went ashore to take pics of JUANONA

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while B and I spotted one of those jellyfish lingering by our stern and the bow of another rafter boat.

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I don’t know what it is about these beautiful viscous masses but they fascinate me in spite of not ever wanting to be treading water wherever one is floating. My face is wrinkled in grossness just imagining it. Norwegians had told me of their burning sting, and later someone called them a lion’s mane, which suited these jelly globs perfectly. A big ugh.

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We left this stunning fjord

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and motored-sailed in a U-shape to reach our next harbor. Along the way we spotted a sea eagle feasting on a recent catch with a hopeful crow as its audience…

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a bright yellow helicopter landing on the shoreline…

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and, an oystercatcher picking its way among the rocks.

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Securely anchored in this beautiful cove where we had earlier visited with Chris, Max got out the fishing line and both he and Betsy prompted caught some fish. A bit too small to keep but proof of a potential fish dinner if patient.

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Sure enough, Max fished from the dinghy and brought back two cod, which meant one of us had to fillet them. Since I hadn’t caught any and because Chris had left firm instructions that we weren’t suppose to ask Betsy to do the honors, I offered. Betsy mentioned, too, that catching them was one thing, touching them quite another so I knew, even if I had tried to fob the fish cleaning off to her, she would have tossed it right back at me. Rightly so as we had told Chris we’d be proving Max and I could handle a fresh fish dinner.

A dinghy ride to some rocks, one covered in barnacles, made a perfect cutting board, and I proceeded to hack the heck out of the poor fish. As I cleaned one then the other, I would glance at Max to see if he was following along so he’d know how to do it the next time. Huh. Fat chance for every time I looked up, I saw he was definitely not gazing at the intricacies of fish guts. Matter-of-fact, he was pointedly not looking as I ripped guts out and threw them to a patient gull.

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Motoring back to JUANONA we got ready to do a hike. Reading from some other cruisers’ notes about a walk to a lake, we crossed to the next cove, tied the dinghy to some rocks and headed up a short slope to a well-marked path. Within twenty minutes or so we found a beautiful lake as well as an ant’s nest, which Max couldn’t resist poking…

an exquisite wild orchid Betsy found…

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and, blueberries (we had read there were some about, and we ran into a vacationing family picking some) found on our hike.

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The day was truly picture-perfect calling for photos of our surroundings

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and yet another shot of ‘JUANONA at anchor’ (you can barely see her in the background on the left-hand side).

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Back aboard Max proved his talent as a chef and prepared an excellent fish dinner, which we devoured.

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I should mention that Max generally performs supper duty at the stove, and our “Galley Chef” Recipe book (what we call our loose collection of recipes) features tried-and-true boat meals. One of our favorites is Gail Steven’s chicken stew, which he had cooked the previous night for Betsy. When discussing possible meals for the week, he suggested chicken enchiladas, and both Betsy and I exuberantly nodded yes to that one.

However, Max made the mistake of speculating how much better the stew would have tasted using real chicken. Betsy immediately stopped nodding yes to chicken enchiladas and asked ‘ REAL chicken?’ while I immediately said ‘Eek, don’t tell her that!’

Max backtracked quickly plugging this canned fowl:  ‘but, it’s organic, no preservatives, we get it from a farm out in the midwest, we’ve been eating it on all our cruises, it’s good! honest!’.

But, no amount of praise for this tinned bird meat could persuade Betsy of its gourmet quality. She sniffed and commented she had wondered how he’d shredded it so well for the meal we’d had. And, with that,  I knew there was no hope and saw our enchilada dinner using canned chicken die a quick but painful death.

To SKROVAWednesday, July 22

Wanting to show Betsy a town the next morning we left for Skrova located close to where Max and I had anchored just over a week ago. With no docking space we ended up rafting to an old wooden sailboat. Since the owners weren’t aboard when we rafted, Max stayed on JUANONA while Betsy and I did a quick tour of the town.

Max mentioned a tunnel that connected one side of the harbor with the other, so off we went finding it less than two minutes from the pontoon where we had landed. Hard hats were hung for pedestrians to use, so we donned bright blue helmets and entered.

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Not knowing what to expect we were pleasantly surprised to find a photographic exhibit of Skrova from the 1900s shot by three photographers.

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The rock walls displayed the lives of previous residents going about their daily tasks. Here was another example of Norway’s investment in art, and it was stunning. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves:

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One however begs for the notice to Max that no matter how much I enjoy sailing please don’t purchase a rocking chair for me to use in later years aboard JUANONA for I sincerely doubt it would recoup the value of that particular investment:

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Once through the tunnel we walked to the main part of town consisting of homes, a small seafood plant, a general store, cafe (not open just yet), and gallery. And, some homey touches, such as the pink-antler garden hose holder and a sleepy cat guarding the wood stash.

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And, a manhole cover for Ellen.

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Another outdoor photo exhibit greeted us as we strolled back to JUANONA

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as well as a fish-drying rack with the ground dusted by remnants of salt from the previous stock.

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Returning to JUANONA we saw Max chatting with the neighboring crew.

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Turned out the boat had two owners both living in Stamsund, a Lofoten town 50 miles south of Skrova; and, both guys were named Jan Erik, which made it easier to remember once the impromptu gathering started. One had his family aboard, Mona, a yoga instructor, and their two children, warm and rambunctious Osker (13) and demure and graceful Nora (11).

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The other Jan Erik, who was technician for a puppeteer company (had to tell him about our Y polar bear puppet whom Wayne had christened Yamaca), was going solo as his wife and two older children weren’t aboard.

As JUANONA and our neighbors’ sailboats (theirs being a wooden replica of a boat we had seen a photo of in the tunnel, s/v SKROVA), happily nestled against one another, we sat in one cockpit then moved to another. Our Norwegian hosts pulled out the country’s drink akvavit, to which both Max and I remembered being introduced by our friend Peter Shiras along with some of his homemade gravlax. Both are an acquired taste, something along the likes of that Scottish ‘meat’ surprise, haggis.

While Osker climbed the mast and Nora sailed through her bos’n chair

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we then pulled out the gin and shared one of our preferred tastes.

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Every now and then I’d see Max eyeing the kids and, sure enough, soon Jan Erik was helping to hoist him skyward where Max performed his own acrobatic stunts.

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Don’t tell me you’re surprised, but Osker seemed a bit skeptical of this adult trying his hand at kids’ play.

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Mona, who was an exchange student her HS senior year in Ohio, helped us figure out why our wifi wasn’t working (the Norwegian website said we had used it all) as well as enlightened me as to why all the red paint for houses, particularly the rorbu or fishing cabins fringing town coastlines. Evidently, in the order of price:  red paint cost the least followed by the ochre color followed by white; so, if you saw a white house or building it typically belonged to the most prominent merchant or town leader.

Every now and then a ferry would come in causing Osker, and then the rest of us, to test if we could get passengers to wave back. With the exuberance of Osker, our success rate was 100% for no one could ignore his athletic arm motions.

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As a late dinner-time approached they suggesting going to the town’s one cafe. We (royal we, aka Max) had already started our supper awhile ago. We offered our dinghy to cross to the other side (faster than walking through the tunnel), and Mona, Jan Erik and Nora set off while the other Jan Erik and Osker took to the road.

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Within thirty minutes the dinghy was back with Nora announcing the cafe closed 15 minutes early because they ran out of food. Not having them join us was a missed opportunity, which only made our earlier time spent with them that much more precious. Next time we’d insist they stay for it’s not as if we don’t have plenty of provisions stashed on JUANONA.

 

To HELNESSUND, Thursday, July 23

Since Betsy needed to catch a flight out of Bodo, we had scouted out possible departure points. She was hoping for a ferry versus flying, and we found a convenient stopover back on the mainland roughly 20 miles across.

We left fairly early, quietly un-rafting from our friends’ boat. As we slipped away Mona poked her head out of their bow cabin and gave a huge wave. We returned it only wishing we’d be meeting up with them in another port. More often than not this feeling of instant camaraderie helps offset the hole I carry from missing my friends and family. Thankfully, we’ve met people along the way who offer new friendships, ones we grab onto and cherish.

During the four-hour crossing the day slipped into some on-the-spot napping

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until Max spotted a spray, then excitedly shouted ‘a whale!’ Sure enough a spout of breath crystalized as we watched a whale linger on the surface. Not wanting to upset it, we turned off the engine and ghosted closer. Within three minutes it decided to dive. We kept staring not wanting to leave the moment. And, I know I’m not alone when I say we all felt blessed by mother nature to experience a moment so close to such a magnificent presence.

Hmmm… orcas, feeding sea eagle, and now a whale. Betsy, we realized, was an animal magnet.

Landing in Helenssund we tied up to the guest pontoon with the assistance of a motor boater who welcomed us to the club house. He quickly gave us a rundown of where it was (in the small parking lot), what was available (showers, laundry, and kitchen!), and how to pay (honor system like almost all of these guest pontoons). With that he waved good-bye as he and his wife checked out an engine repair.

Several loads of laundry (and, if you look closely you’ll see M’s and B’s hands raised  acknowledging their delight in lounging under laundry; hey, at least it’s clean :)),

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a walk to the one store, and showers (however, Betsy was holding off until the day before leaving) left us feeling refreshed.

Even better than that, and that’s saying a lot coming from moi, laundry queen Lynnie, there was a GRILL! Finally! s’mores could morph from dreams into reality, something I’d been hankering for since we left Maine in 2014. Betsy and I set off for the general store to purchase charcoal for the next night’s dinner and hamburger. She may have even been more excited than me for she’d agree to eat almost anything to escape knoshing on another dinner of canned chicken.

The store was still open and we picked up some fresh provisions (we already had all the other ingredients aboard), then retraced the short walk back to JUANONA. An early dinner and bedtime meant we were refreshed for the next day’s hike described by some cruisers as just a mile or so down from Henessund.

Friday, July 24

Well, the mile or so turned out to be three miles, at least to the hike and a stunning beach, passing by sod-covered cabins and a flower-bedecked cemetery.

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We discovered it was further than we thought when Max asked two young women who were packing up a car. They offered to take us to the start of the hike, which we readily accepted, and during the ride the driver told us she worked for the local municipality. Having moved here from Oslo, she promotes the local area trying to attract new residents. It would have been interesting to have a longer discussion for we wondered what jobs were available once people came. She did mention they had housing issues, which made me wonder what speculation in the real estate along this coast involved.

She dropped us off ensuring we’d be able to hitch a ride home if we walked back to the main road.

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We walked to the first ridge for the view,

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not venturing further due to cloud coverage at the top (good excuse :). Then headed back down to walk to the beach. Checking our bearings we asked a man working in his garden. He pointed us in the right direction then asked us how we liked the hike, saying there was a communal cabin (we espied it amidst birch trees)

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that was fully stocked and often available for use (a young family he said, were in it now). He added the beach rated as one of the most spectacular in all of Norway, echoing many others’ opinions, especially locally.

At the beach there was a display board and looking at it we noticed a guy in the photographs looked familiar. Hah! it turned out to be the one who’d kindly given us directions.

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The short boardwalk through the dunes opened up to a vista definitely worth its descriptor. We imagined what it would have been like with the sun shining. How divine to think of being here then considering how lovely it was without sunny warmth.

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Starting down the country lane to the main road

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I stopped to ask some mothers’ permission to take pics of their kids feeding the baby lambs, a literal example of the grass is always greener on the other side as the sheep noshed the offered food rather than the mound of cut-grass on their own side.

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After many cars passing us going the opposite direction and taking the opportunity to snap more photos

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one came along with two more young women  who picked us up. They were two friends visiting the parents of one of them, and the one who had grown up here told us how this area was a beautiful part of Norway and mentioned the festival that was occurring up and down this part of the coast. Unfortunately, none of the events were within walking distance of JUANONA, but we thanked her for the information. With people such as the ones we met in the past six hours as ambassadors, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about a large bump in population, at least tourist-wise.

Back at the club house

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we lit the charcoal watching it burn to the right ashy-red coals while we played another round of Oh Hell (B proving her strategic smarts translated well to this card game). Our grilled hot dogs with actual buns tasted wonderfully of home while even Max enjoyed the s’mores (evidence is the white marshmallow fluff on his face :)

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coming up with a technique of placing a piece of chocolate in the pre-toasted marshmallow.

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Like pancakes, a feast of s’mores cures me of that craving for quite awhile. But, oh, was it so worth the stuffed stomach.

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Staturday, July 25

We set the alarm to ensure we wouldn’t miss the ferry. Not being able to reserve a ticket and seeing the large number of folk who took it yesterday, Betsy wanted to be early to the ticket office. Having tried the previous day to buy a ticket for the 8:50 a.m. one (the only one heading to Bodo), we peered in the window of what appeared to serve as a cafe/Tourist Information office.

A young guy helping paint the attached hotel next door (which was attached to the grocery store which was attached to the fishing store which was attached to the service station… it was one long building, which fortunately wasn’t attached to any fish processing plant) approached us saying he ran the cafe but couldn’t open it because he had to paint when the weather was good.

Considering his place wasn’t open except Thursdays 2p-6p. and Saturdays 10a-3p it was a bit of a puzzle regarding painting-while-the-sun-shined approach. I was finding myself in the literal world of metaphors. But, he was quite cute and very friendly so it was also quite fine just looking at him talk. He also assured Betsy it shouldn’t be a problem getting a reserved ticket tomorrow as Friday was the busy day.

I don’t know who nudged whom after realizing he’d stopped talking and it was time to go, but we did manage to leave.

Anyhow, Saturday morning we managed to be there before the guy opened the ticket office. Betsy got her reservation hearing that payment was made aboard the ferry.

Thirty minutes later the ferry sped in (there’s a reason it’s called the fast boat), loaded up the passengers (giving us a photo-op with B),

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took off, only to reverse itself and speed back in. A passenger had forgotten his backpack and there were some packages also needing loading.

Imagine another public transportation vehicle doing that? Goes along with never hearing honking horns on the road and the easy pace many Norwegians bring to their life. Very refreshing and very enviable.

But, before had Betsy boarded, Max took one last photograph of my sister and me. I think it says it all. Not only did she survive being showerless for five days, lived in a small space,

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and ate canned chicken but also experienced the vagaries of cruising life. She left peonies, some of hers, mom’s, and my favorite flowers, along with the thistle she picked

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and Missy’s travel mug that Missy gave me two years ago when I was visiting B in Cincinnati.

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She’s a trooper, but I’ve known that for a long, long time.

Love you, sis.

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Cruising in Norway: Tromso

TROMSO

Wednesday, July 15

Knowing now the correct bus time for the Lofoten Express (versus local ones), we made sure we reached the stop way ahead of scheduled departure time. Also hearing there was no toilet aboard, I knew only a few sips of water would pass my lips for the next nine hours.

A young Swiss traveller joined us as we waited. She had recently quit her engineering job and was exploring Scandinavia for the summer knowing she had marketable skills for finding another job back home. We mentioned we had missed the bus the day before while it was in sight no less. She told us the Swiss actually are so use to exact arrivals and departures they complain if a train is even one minute late. No wonder they’re known for their time pieces.

Within at least ten minutes of stated time, the bus comes to the stop and we all hop on. A lot of seats were taken by windows so we headed to the back and stretched out, unpacking our picnic breakfast, snacks and lunch (by now you must realize we rarely go anywhere without food!), but, boy did I miss my coffee fix.

Our backpacks were stowed in the luggage compartment and I told Max I forgot to take the camera out of his for the bus ride. He looked at me and said, ‘The camera? I didn’t pack it in mine.’ I replied that he had done so yesterday. Then comprehension dawned slowly as we simultaneously remembered we had taken it out for our day exploration in Svolvaer. Dang! Heading to Tromso and NO CAMERA. I knew then my lack of coffee is a very, very bad idea. At least we had Max’s iPad. I resigned myself to no photographs and settled in for the first half of our journey to Bjervik where we had a five-minute transfer for the next four hours to Tromso.

I also adjusted my attitude regarding being camera-less. At times having one requires constantly looking for the best photo-op. In the midst of happily snapping pictures my mind is also registering that I’m experiencing a second-hand view because I’m always behind the lens. In short, I’m not truly ‘in the present moment’ front and center.

Frankly, being camera-less made me appreciate not feeling obligated to document the moment but rather sit back and just absorb it. I must admit, though, I still missed the camera, and, I’m certain Max also missed my missing the camera since I would point and ask if he could snap an iPad shot… often.

After eight hours of winding roads, going through tunnels, and gazing at mountain-embraced waterways we crossed the bridge, one our brother-in-law Craig had passed under with his grandfather in 1972 aboard the TS HAMBURG (later sold to the Russians and renamed MAXIM GORKY), onto the island city of Tromso.

From small towns and quiet anchorages, we now were in a city of 70,000.

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We headed towards the Tourist Information (TI) office only to find it so crowded we decided to go directly to our hotel (the one good thing from missing our Tuesday bus was we had booked a room for the first night). Although this is a city it’s extremely easy to find one’s way, especially since many of the hotels are clustered in the center.

I must say we’ve been happily surprised to find hotel rates really reasonable. Of course there are the REALLY nice ones, but then there are the economical ones that are cropping up to serve the growing population of backpackers and budget travelers like ourselves. Our hotel was City Living Hotel, and when we checked in the young man said we’d been upgraded to an apartment versus a small room with a fridge. An apartment?! We asked if we could reserve it for the next two nights knowing we might need to cancel one of them if we decided to do a day trip to Spitzbergen/Svalbard (Chris said he had noticed a way to see it for only $200 and sent us the link.). No problem, he said just let him know before tomorrow afternoon what our plans were.

We turned to pick up our bags only to notice something scurrying from under the garbage bins sitting beside the entrance door just outside. Chattering among us stopped only to be broken by Max commenting on what a cute little… and he quickly said ‘mouse’. I said that was not a mouse. We pivoted toward the desk clerk who announced he’d already called pest control and was waiting for them to appear. I mentioned it was a city and rats are found all over. With that, we took our bags and headed out, avoiding the bins where the cute little rat just left and thinking, ‘TripAdvisor DID give this an excellent rating, TripAdvisor DID give this an excellent rating….’.

And, when we reached our hotel apartment, our mantra paid off. I hadn’t had this much room in a long while! Counter space to actually cut on without first doing a spatial calculation on which ingredients get shifted to which side? A shower that doesn’t explode all over the head so you end up spending as much time wiping it down as you did when you got it wet? Beds where eight limbs aren’t boxing for stretching rights? Changing space that allows for a two-foot stance versus a one-foot balancing act? Use of a laundry area FOR FREE if needed? Clean, bright, and quiet? And, all less than the hostel price for two?! Pinch me for I thought I was in heaven. Rats be damned.

Still a bit stunned with our initial view, we stowed our belongings and found a grocery store for our breakfasts, picnic lunches, and dinners.

After a fairly early supper and bedtime, we were woken by the phone ringing at 11:30p. The desk clerk had been mistaken. There were no rooms available the next night, but he recommended two just down the street. Okay. So much for too good to be true. But, the next hotel, Comfort Express, was just as clean and friendly but much more basic. However, I must say the Norwegians don’t stint on wonderfully, pressurized hot showers or uncluttered, sparkling rooms. And, always, the welcome is warm and helpful information provided. We reserved for two nights knowing, again, we could cancel the third by afternoon if need be.

Thursday, July 16

After checking into our new hotel we did some research only to find that the $200 for Svalbard was the boat ride once you arrived (again, too good to be true, which we had thought all along but had to check); yet, we were happy to have more time in Tromso than the one day if we had managed to go further north.

At the TI another extremely helpful young woman provided us with several options for returning to Tromso:  we could take a bus back (FYI:  there was a toilet aboard after, although, at another stop along the way all the women availed themselves of a building’s restroom, and the driver does wait); fast boat to Harstad, then bus to Svolvaer; the Hurtigruten.

Considering all the choices along with timing and fares, we selected saving one night’s hotel cost and taking the Hurtigruten beginning at 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning. We weren’t required to take a cabin (she told us we could sleep in comfortable chairs), so we opted out of that. I did notice a reasonable buffet breakfast, and I told Max we should get that. Afterall, not knowing just how comfortable we’d be sleeping in chairs after boarding at 1:30 in the morning, I definitely wanted a good stream of hot coffee and food. Plus, we could make sandwiches for later. Even better, there was a hot tub aboard we could use. I’m always up for a hot bath.

After getting tickets for our return as well as for Thursday’s midnight concert at Ishavskatedralen (the Arctic Ocean Cathedral or Tromsdalen Church) and armed with museum information, we began our 30-minute walk to the Tromso Museum at the University. Right in town we noticed some brass plaques embedded in the sidewalk. They were exactly like the ones we saw in Germany last fall, and they offered a sombre moment to an otherwise easy and light-filled walk.

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I also noticed a great manhole cover for our friend Ellen.

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The walk was easy and I enjoyed seeing where people live as well as spotting some humungous weeds almost taller than Max.

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In addition to the natural science exhibits, the museum had an excellent display of Sami (Laplander) culture, featuring many artifacts from the early days to the current political situation. Basically, the Sami, who call their land and nation Sapmi, were a nomadic people. Herding reindeer across the upper regions of Norway, Finland, Sweden and the Kola Peninsula, they managed a self-sustaining lifestyle using the reindeer for food (milk and meat), clothing, and tools. After WWII the small population scattered across the top part of the Scandinavian countries began to coalesce into a political nation through shared interest and culture.

A keystone was the conflict over the damming of the Alta River in Finmark during the 1970-80s when many Norwegians joined with the Sami to fight the dam’s construction. They didn’t succeed in stopping it but the protesting helped build a stronger national identify among the Sami. This led to an amendment to Norway’s 1814 constitution giving the Sami’s limited self-rule. The first Sami parliament was held in Karasjok. Sixteen years later in 2005 a controversial ruling transferred state-owned land (basically, 95% of Finnmark County) to a private landowner governed by a six-person board, three representatives appointed by the Sami Parliament and three appointed by Finnmark County Council. In short, it recognized that Sami hold land rights due to their long history associated with the area.

Leaving the Tromso Museum we set off for our second one, the Polaria, which proclaimed to have an excellent IMax-Type film of Svalbard and an aquarium.

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Sitting outside eating our lunch we noticed a lot of young families going in and coming out. That should have been our clue. Unlike the one we had just left, the Polaria was void of any exhibit we felt, as adults, worth the cost of the ticket. However, the film was beautiful, so I take half of that statement back.

Back outside we decided to visit a 1939 boat that was included in our Tromso Museum ticket (the ticket also covered admittance to the Polar Museum, which we’d see on Friday). Taking advantage of a statue of Helmer Hanssen, one of Roald Amundsen’s fellow explorers to the South Pole, I asked Max to pose for a shot. This guy actually asked Amundsen to go ahead of him when they were approaching the exact location of the pole so Amundsen would be the first to reach it. That’s what I call being a good sport.

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Now, that was definitely worth seeing. The ship was called MV POLSTJERNA;

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and, not only did the included audio guide give us an idea of just how life aboard a sealing ship was but the photographic display of polar explorations on the bottom floor was wonderful.

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Details, such as why you don’t want to cut off those silly-looking fringes on your anorak (keeps the seal hide from curling upward, thus maintaining one’s body heat), fascinate me. Not only is it interesting in its own right but also demonstrates how something so simple can make a huge difference in how well-prepared one is for a polar expedition.

I also appreciated the dry sense of humor displayed in large quotes throughout the exhibits, such as this one of Helmer Hanssen’s.

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Exiting we left with an increased interest in tomorrow’s Polar Museum visit.

After deciding on salads for dinner from a local grocery store’s salad bar, we picnicked outside then returned to our hotel until it was time to walk over the bridge to our late-night concert at the cathedral.

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The walk across was chilly but didn’t really require the long johns we’d added to our outfits. Once there we waited with a growing group of concert goers until the door opened at 11:00 p.m.

The inside was simple and stunning, just what one would expect of a church whose roof was built to symbolize how the snow and Northern Lights brighten up Tromo’s winter months. The church was consecrated in 1965 with a soaring (75-ft) stained-glass window forming the wall behind the alter.

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At 11:30 p.m. a startling rich soprano voice launched into a Norwegian folk song accompanied by a haunting saxophone and piano music. Talk about goose-bump music. For the next thirty minutes Norwegian tunes, both traditional and modern, riveted us along with the other 30 or so attendees. We asked about a CD but none were sold so we knew a hunt for one would be on during our Norwegian travels.

The walk back seemed both shorter and warmer, and we reached our hotel before 1:00 a.m. filled with yet another reason why wintering in Tromso would be beautiful.

Friday, July 17

In the morning our day was dedicated to the Polar Museum and locating the Tromso branch of the Redingselskapet (the RS), the Norwegian volunteer, sea rescue service. After getting hot water down in the lobby for our instant coffee (which Max then brought back up to our room), we struck out for our next museum tour.

The Polar Museum was our favorite Tromso Museum with its wealth of information covering Norway’s polar explorations. In a small red building this museum packed with artifacts provided detailed explanations of living above the Arctic Circle on Svalbard and of voyages by Fritjof Nansen (1861-1930) and Roald Amundsen (1872-1928). Nansen, after being the first to cross Greenland in 1888, tried to then reach the North Pole by drifting with the polar ice in 1893, then on skis. It didn’t work, but he along with Hjalmar Johansen did survive several winters and set the record of being the furthest north at latitude 86º 4’ N.

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in 1905 Amundsen accomplished another polar goal:  completing the North West Passage after three years in the ice up there. Six years later he reached the South Pole on December 14th, 34 days prior to the English explorer Robert Scott. Furthermore, Amundsen and his companions lived while Scott and his fellow explorers tragically died on the return journey within 11 miles from provisions and shelter.

The stories of these polar expeditions fascinated me, but more so Max who took a bit longer in his travels through the cramped but well-documented rooms. What was interesting to me was reading about some of the folk who lived in the arctic such as the first female, Manny Woldstad (1893-1959). She hunted alongside her hunting partner, and later with her two sons. She also happened to have been Tromso’s first taxi driver in the 1920s using her own car. Quite the woman but not a life I’d appreciate living.

Right around the corner from the Polar Museum we found the RS. Although it was vacation month we were extremely fortunate to find Adine Wenner, a young woman who had just started working there six weeks prior. As the one holding down the fort she went out of her way helping us navigate the website and payment options for this service. During the time we were camped out in her office she told us how she had previously worked on a tall ship, s/v SORLANDET, first as a volunteer and then as paid crew. SORLANDET is the oldest of Norway’s three tall ships and the oldest one in the world still sailing fully rigged. Alesund was one of the hosting ports this summer, and we wish we could have seen them there.

With the end of must-see sight-seeing we repaired back to our hotel to hang out in the lobby until time to leave for the Hurtigruten. We made a quick foray to the grocery store for our salad, picnicking on a street bench where Max shot a well-deserved payback of me with my mouth full of food.

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then returned only to find the lobby beginning to fill up with young kids from all over the world. Inquiring at the front desk we discovered these kids were representing their countries (Italy, Turkey, etc.) at the 7th European Open & Youth Bridge Championship. Evidently, Tromso hosts many of these types of competitions (an International Chess Tournament was recently held here). Pretty amazing for a relatively small city.

By 11:30 p.m. we headed for the dock for our trip on the Hurtigruten ship, the TROLLFJORD.

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We boarded, checked in, then proceeded to scout out possible sleeping areas.

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Trying several we finally landed on the second to the top floor, deck 8, with gorgeous views 3/4’s of the way around. Here was our ‘cabin’.

Max went off and surprised me with an offer of a G&T. Hell, yes, I’ll take one of those. And, with that we toasted our good fortune of being on such a ship.

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One hour later we joined others, who, like us, had declined cabins. For the next six hours, we flopped like dead fish on comfortably padded benches while snoring sounds echoed throughout this glorious lounge.

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We couldn’t believe they’d let us do this! All Max and I could think of was of those who paid a hefty price for a beautiful cabin only to find us hobos snuffling, snoring and yawning while sprawled all across prime seating areas. (Later we found out the company does make one take a cabin if they’re boarding before 10:30 p.m.; however, since this ferry service began as a simple water bus, its mission of serving the coastal folk means it also retains its very reasonable approach to passengers hitching a ride between ports.)

Around 8:00 a.m. I woke him up with coffee. We had splurged on our first-ever restaurant meal purchased in Norway since we landed a month ago in Alesund. We grazed and munched our way through breakfast into making excellent sandwiches for a snack later on.

We hot tubbed it with cheap suits we had quickly purchased in Tromso for the occasion. We asked a mother and her two daughters to take our photo with the snow-capped mountains in the background while we did the same of them.

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We had shriveled enough so we hopped out to eat our sandwiches, one of which (mine) had a bit more altitude thanks to stuffing it full of more ham and cheese than Max’s.

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Prior to our landing in Svolvaer the ship entered one of the spectacular fjords, which our ship happened to be named after:  Trollfjord. It’s one a lot of ferries enter because it’s a short fjord (unlike the one Max, Chris and I took from Alesund up to Geiranger) and narrow. The width causes a lot of oohs and aahhs by passengers as a ferry our size manages to turn around. At one point if looks less than three yards to each side of the fjord.

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Prior to landing we saw a map of the coast and used it to point out just how far JUANONA had sailed since landing June 19th in Alesund. (Tromso is a bit further north than my right hand, which is on Svolvaer where we left JUANONA.

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Back on land we tried finding both a bus back to Kabelvag and, when that looked unlikely, starting hunting for a cab. That, too, didn’t seem to be happening, so we asked directions to the main road and starting walking. When we arrived at the tunnel entrance, we stuck out our thumbs. No luck so we just kept on walking. Finally about halfway to Kabelvag this car stopped and offered us a ride. The driver was a Somalian whose family had immigrated in 1991. He couldn’t have been friendlier during the short time we spent together. As Max noted, people who’ve had to struggle to just have the basics that many take for granted are the ones most likely to have the most empathy.

Reaching the dock we saw JUANONA survived our absence just fine. Now, getting ready for Betsy’s arrival!

Cruising in Norway: Back to Lofoten Islands (Lilie Molle and around Svolvaer)

Sunday, July 12

We had another lazy morning then upped anchor with Max retrieving the stern one using the dinghy and my using the blessed windlass (motorized winch) to haul up our own anchor. With a good-bye wave to the family playing on the cove’s beach we headed towards another anchorage placing us just five miles from where we’d meet up with my sister Betsy who was flying in July 19th. She was flying into Svolvaer, which is located on the largest of the Lofoten Islands, Austvagoy.

We motor-sailed the 15 miles across back to the Lofoten Islands, landing in an cove on Lille Molla with an imposing mountain face and that luscious seagreen water.

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Another sea eagle soared as we came in to anchor close to another white-sand beach. This was obviously a popular destination for boaters as we saw quite a few excursion ribs (rubber boats) performing drive-bys during our stay here. Always one to wave, we received reciprocating ones back, then off on the  tourist-filled boat they’d go.

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We decided to try fishing from the dinghy to let Chris know that at least we were attempting something he did effortlessly. We headed off with Max bringing the trusty iPad and its chart app for locating a fishing spot.

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Along the way we spotted starfish starting up at us through the teal water.

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The water colors and rippling reflections surrounded our motion and, once again, I thought of all of our painterly friends and how wonderful it’d be to see their capture of nature’s watery art.

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While jigging the line we discussed dinner alternatives, a sure sign of ‘we won’t be doing this for long.’

After 30 minutes of motoring around and trying to keep the hooks from attacking our rubber boat (which would not be good), we gave up sheepishly knowing Chris would still be out there trying. Hummus and cole slaw it would be. At least we got another shot of ‘JUANONA at anchor in Norway’.

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We explored the beach then waved to a family-filled boat motoring by. It changed course and came right towards us, then smilingly asked if we, by chance, had any matches. That we did and gave them a box. Their destination was the beach, and, if they were having s’mores, I would have been right over there. Unfortunately no wafting aromas of charcoaled marshmallows, oozing melting chocolate, and crunchy graham crackers. Just writing this makes me want them more so I better stop.

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The power boat left and drifted back towards Svolvaer while we spotted a curious towing arrangement. Not knowing why all we could do was shoot a photo and marvel at how it looked like Goldilocks’ bear family with papa bear followed by mama, kid, and a baby bear.

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After watching a lone kayaker beach his craft and set up his tent we headed below, had a fish-less dinner, and went to bed.

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Monday, July 13

The next morning we upped anchor, along with a gigantic strand of kelp and headed for my salvation:  a washing machine and dryer.

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Ahh… the joys of clean clothes, bathing towels, dish towels, and bedding. The only problem is getting them to that state.

Fortunately, Kevin and Sue mentioned a great laundry place just around the corner from Kabelvag called Ny_____. It was a hotel set up in the rorbu style (traditional Norwegian fishing cabins usually painted a barn-red) with some pontoons. We arrived in the morning and from noon through to 22:30 I managed to do six loads (one twice because the road didn’t come out the first time).

By now I was familiar with some of the wash cycle times in Europe. Some could go for almost two hours per load. Thankfully, there are many of them and, I have to confess, I used the express timing for the last two.

One of the reasons it required over ten hours was, as in all of the places we’ve landed in England last summer, there is only one washer and one dryer in each facility. Back in Lowestoft prior to leaving for Norway I was fortunate and found a laundramat, a rare creature it seems in many small towns nowadays.

Anyhow, several other people would come to check out the laundry area where I had parked myself and dismal mountain of dirty paraphernalia, and I felt bad for hogging my newly found jewel of household appliances. Subsequently, I kept offering to let them go next. Poor Max wisely kept his distance as I would head back and forth from JUANONA to the laundry room muttering under my breath not so many nice words.

I wanted to finish this task in one day because we had decided to do a road trip to Tromso. After hearing about this northern city form Siv and Roar in Tranoy, Kevin and Sue in Straumhamn, and Chris who had taken a bus up from Kjopsvik, we really wanted to visit Tromso. We had checked out buses and found we could get there in eight hours starting with a bus stop in Kabelvag, one kilometer up the road from Nyvagar.

While laundry was going Max had used the opportunity to empty out the storage area under the v-berth. Our backpacks were airing in the sunshine and that night we packed for our road trip. Both of us were looking forward to an off-the-boat excursion.

Tuesday, July 14

Up early and, after checking email ever so slowly (signals not always great around here), we walked to the bus stop, stopping to take photos of some flowers and gardens along the way. Lots of lupine both in gardens and growing wild. In our later land-walking down town streets and along country lanes we stopped and smelled still-blooming lilacs, but this morning it was lupine that caught my eyes.

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Using the information from the hotel clerk on bus stops and timing, we rounded the bend and caught sight of a slumbering bus way ahead patiently waiting at the main road’s little kiosk. But, it was too early for our Lofoten Express.

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Continuing on we reached the stop and waited. And, waited some more. Waited even more.

After checking and rethinking the info we realized that WAS the bus. Arghhhh! (No comment on IF there hadn’t been any stopping for flower pictures we would have caught the bus…)

A re-think. We pushed our departure to the next day and decided to visit Svolvaer (5 km away) today instead.

We checked out a possible berth in Kabelvag (more conveniently located to meeting Betsy) and decided to bring JUANONA around.

Back aboard we offloaded our packs and motored to Kabelvag. With JUANONA secure we walked across the town square to catch the local bus to Svolvaer, which is informally regarded as the capital of the Lofotens.

Right next to the bus stop in Svolvaer was the WWII museum created by one passionate individual’s fascination with Norway’s history between 1939 and 1945. Stepping through the doorway we were assaulted with memorabilia stuffed into four small rooms, from tiny medals to full-size dummies. I have to admit looking at umpteen military uniforms, guns, and other WWII curios doesn’t always capture my attention. Yet, there were three reasons why I lingered so long in a museum I would typically pretend to peruse then hightail it to seek open space in fresh air.

The first: the curator’s great sense of humor.

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The second: several unique artifacts that did cause one to pause, ones that Kevin had told us about–paintings by Hitler and items found in that infamous bunker, Eva Braun’s purse and Hitler’s magnifying glass.

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Evidently the sicko Hitler absolutely adored Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”. (Makes me ill to think of such an evil person enjoying a children’s fairy tale.) So, not only was there a painting on display that had been framed, but also four cartoon characters hidden underneath it including one of Pinnochio. If you look carefully you can see the “AH” in the lower corner of one of the painting

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A newspaper article provided proof of this artwork’s provenance:

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The third, and this is only after I loaded the day’s photos onto my laptop: in its mustily displayed items, the museum really does steep one in what it must have been like living in Norway during the German occupation. Only through such cluttered miscellany…

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and documented tales of local heroes and heroines…

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did I obtain an appreciation for how much the museum’s owner provided this walk through time.

But, that was only some days later when I actually looked at the photos. In the moment of being there I felt an hour was more than enough time to wind my way through the stuffed display cases. Case in point, we were leaving, actually, one of my toes had already been placed through the open door to the great outside, when Max asked the ticket-taker/owner (?) what other artifacts would be of interest. A silent scream of ‘WHAT?! don’t ask HIM! we’ll be here for-EVER! OMG, OMG, OMG’ went off in my head.

Fortunately, the guy only mentioned one other (the enigma machine, which, thank any god above, we HAD already seen) for this could have led to an intensive, exhaustive guided tour, one where I’d have to probably do a pretend-fainting spell to escape.

By this time I was out the door and just strolled gulping air as Max wandered just a bit more in the museum. He finally exited and we parked ourselves on a bench and enjoyed our lunch, providing me yet another opportunity of catching Max in action :)

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Once he was out we visited the Tourist Information to retrieve information about Redningsselskapet, Norways’s rescue association for boaters. It’s a volunteer organization and not only could it come in handy if needed but also a very worthwhile organization to support. Other cruisers had mentioned the value of joining, and with a leaking transmission and hearing about fishing lines fouling props, we heartedly seconded that belief.

We found their bunkhouse, vessel and some volunteers (two of whom, I believe, we interrupted something…) but couldn’t join. They said we could do it online (we had missed the opportunity in Alesund) or via phone.

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We had tried online as well as calling with no success. Figuring we had another chance in Tromso, we headed back to the bus stop.

Along the way we checked several local businesses about possible anchorages next to the airport where we could pick up Betsy on Sunday. A very helpful young man at the kayaking adventure store said he didn’t know of any safe ones but offered to help with bus schedules. He spent fifteen minutes getting us the correct info (we knew now to double-ask to ensure understanding of where to stand and at what time).

Armed with a local’s knowledge of transportation, we left for the bus stop only to recognize Elisabeth from Tranoy. She was enjoying an al fresco lunch with her parents. Amazing to run into one of the very few people we had met here.

Seeing their aromatic plates of sizzling steaks and buttery baked potatoes growing cold, we left before we embarrassed ourselves by attacking their plates.

Streaks of sun lifted the misty fog revealing one of the most famous natural landmarks outside of Svolvaer, Svolvaergeita (the goat’s horns). If you look at upper middle portion of the photo below you can just about make out the faint outline of two rock columns appearing through the sky’s grayness.

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Believe it or not, people with JUMP from one horn to the other. I say ‘people’ when in reality those foolhardy folk must be mountain goats themselves. Just writing this makes my palms sweat.

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Waiting for the bus back to Kabelvag is a lesson in patience. Of course it doesn’t help that we don’t speak Norwegian; yet, bus schedules still seem to serve only as gentle reminders of when this type of land vessel would be passing through one’s neck of the woods. This time-keeping actually makes sense for one bus will typically wait for another to ensure connections are made. And, there are plenty of causes for delay, such as the loading up of 25 French teenage hikers with their leaders and all of their equipment (which happened when we were finally on board waiting to leave).

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On the way back we got dropped off at the town’s famous landmark, a large timber-framed church (biggest wooden building north of Trondheim) known as the Lofoten Cathedral. Consecrated in 1989, this church served the growing population of fisherman who received preferential treatment in the seating arrangements (the church could fit 1,200).

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This area was the place to be if you were a cod fisherman. Kabelvag located in then then-called Vagan region is the oldest fishing village in the Lofotens thanks to the exporting of stockfish to the Mediterranean as early 1000 C.E. This area became so powerful it even had its own laws and currency until 1282 when the King abolished Vagan’s independent-standing. The Black Death in the 1300s reduced Vagan to a poverty-stricken village until it recaptured its commercial strength and urban population. By the late 1800s it even had four newspapers published for the area, a testament to the popularity of this area. Plus, the medieval market, the Vagastvne Meeting, had been revived in 1882 and continued until right before WWII.

Still in use today, the church featured portraits of vicars from an earlier time. I have to say most of them looked like the last person one would expect any type of human kindness to seep from their pores. Yet, I realize this is how people were posed way back when, not necessarily a reflection of their true personality. Still.

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Besides portraits of former vicars in the area, Max located a thermometer with the disturbing characteristic of almost having as many marks for below 0º C as for above.

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Walking to the town square we passed a small marina where two guys were working on a small wooden fishing boat.

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The sound emanating from the engine was the Tonk-Tonk just as author David Howarth described in his book THE SHETLAND BUS. Almost too surreal after just being in that WWII museum.

Approaching the pontoon where JUANONA was docked we saw two more sailboats, one rafted to us and the other alongside the opposite pontoon. We introduced ourselves to the Norwegian owner on the rafting one who was there with his family and the Welsh couple sitting on the other side.

Later we asked the Welsh couple if they knew our friend Martin Smith whom we had met last summer in the Azores (they didn’t and said there aren’t a lot of sailors in their part of Wales). When they saw us going to and from the restaurant with our laptop and iPad, they kindly offered to let us share their booster (it increases the strength of any wifi signal, such as the free wifi offered by the restaurant’s owners). If we hadn’t been leaving early the next morning we would have asked them over, but, as it were, we’d miss the bus once and were determined we wouldn’t be doing that a second time. Trust me.

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With everything packed from the day before, we set the alarm for our earlier rising the next morning. Tromso or bust!

Curising in Norway: Mainland on the Hamaroy peninsula: Straumhamn

Straumhamn

Friday, July 10

We had an easy motor just down the coast a bit from Tranoy, snapping a shot of the art work and the lighthouse from the day before.

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Part of the enjoyment of the morning was thanks to some of those cinnamon buns from Sif and Roar. The night before they came by and offered us their last two of these precious finds. And, savor them we did.

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In a few hours we reached an anchorage described by our Maine friends Jon and Cindy Knowles on s/v ABRACADABRA as stunning, a sentiment echoed by Gus and Helen Wilson on s/v WINGS.

They were so right about the beauty of this spot overseen by jutting mountains and sea eagles (I saw six circling the waters as we turned into this bay).

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The scenery was a combo of movie sets switching from a “Jurassic Park” other-worldliness to a “South Pacific” paradise.

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Later, when in the dinghy puttering around yet-another-drop-dead-gorgeous Norwegian anchorage, much to Max’s dismay, a tune came to my head. I kept (trying) to sing the first few bars of the song, which, I believe, is from the musical “South Pacific” mentioned above? Our friends Sue and Don would know this proclivity as it happens when the four of us get together and launch in the ‘Rawhide’ soundtrack, a lot of the lyrics being ‘get ’em up, move ’em out’ repeated over and over.

Perched in the dinghy bow once again I felt moved to bellow, and the words ‘Bali Highhhhhh-IGH’ would come forcefully out my lungs accompanied by an ‘oh no’ from the stern. However, my notes drowned out the displeasure from aft, as my eyes swept back and forth around this bay.

But, back to the anchoring…

There were basically three places to anchor, all requiring at least two anchors out or lines tied to shore (which in Norway is so common you’ll often find steel rods sticking out of rocks for that purpose). Knowing Norway’s holiday season had begun in earnest (generally the month of July and into August) we had prepared ourselves for doing a sail-in and a sail-out if all spots were taken.

As we entered we saw a power boat in the starboard cove and thought we might not be able to anchor there.

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Looking further down the bay we saw more boats; but, Max thought we could anchor behind that small boat in the cove. Always being sensitive to not treading on someone else’s idyllic spot, we waved to the couple on the boat. They appeared fine with our being neighbors, so we proceeded setting both a bow and stern anchor to keep us from swinging around too much in this narrow cove.

Max rowed ashore and took some beautiful photos of the pristine anchorage into which JUANONA happily settled basking in the summer light.

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And, my favorite of his great shots…

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Gus and Helen had mentioned a lake where you could portage your dinghy across a short stretch then ride across the lake to a hike. With a packed lunch and swimsuits we set off down the bay. A gushing stream from the lake greeted us as we dinghied through a very shallow entrance into a deep pool of water where we tied up to scout out the location.

From the gushing stream into the salt water cove…

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to the tranquility of a calm fresh water lake.

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Low tide made the thought of carrying the dinghy up and over rocks dressed with seaweed seem pretty unappealing. Knowing we had tomorrow with a morning high tide we decided to just enjoy the fresh water (yes! another dip),

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lunch,

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the view,

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and the sun.

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Back on JUANONA Max noticed the view out of our porthole to the rocks, a proximity that was unnervingly close but fine considering our well-set anchors and the light winds.

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He also noticed another sensation, that of a fellow picnicker crawling around his midriff. Luckily the pinchers didn’t bite.

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Saturday, July 11

I woke early, and while making coffee saw someone else considering breakfast. The photos aren’t too clear but I managed to take one before it swooped off for better hunting.

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The still morning’s mist was still rising as I went out on deck, testing to see if it was warm enough for java outside (I retreated back to below-deck warmth.).

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I’ve mentioned the wonders of cruising in the midnight sun, and one of the tasks we don’t have to do while here is turn on our anchor light (when at anchor a white light at the mast top is suppose to glow) or evening running lights. Which means it’s also something I don’t have to remember to do because, normally, I don’t remember to do so until I’m reaching over to switch on the propane for coffee.

Not wanting to miss high tide, we retraced our ride down to the end of the bay where we portaged the dinghy over to the lake.

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Then motored across to another sandy beach, pulled the dinghy up

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and wandered first one way (no path but big hoof prints)

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then the other. ’The other’ was where we found posted signs pointing to two different paths. We opted for the one we thought would take us to a view of the Lofotens and set off.

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By now we knew paths could be squishy and wet and muddy. Our selection was all three, but we came prepared (for once) with our water sandals. For an hour we squelched our way around the lake and then headed inland a bit hearing both a cuckoo (which felt a bit out of place, to me, who associated them with German clocks, not the wilderness) and a calf of some sort crying for its mom (and her answering every now and then).

The spongy moss covered most of the territory, and I saw where one rock lost part of its hairy toupee.

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After an hour of walking up and down a wet trail while checking out vantage points whenever we saw a rocky clearing, we realized the other trail must have been the correct one, so we turned back, got to the dinghy and said ‘enough’. That’ll teach us for not having Norwegian hiking maps.

Back along the beach we spied evidence of campers, whether they were Sami (Lapps) or just vacationeers we had not idea except they had set up a pretty decent cooking arrangement.

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We motored back across the lake, hauled the dinghy back to the salt water cove and headed towards JUANONA. As we came around the rock we saw ISLANDER II, the sail boat that had come into Tranoy a few days ago.

Seeing Kevin aboard, we dinghied over and he and Sue invited us aboard.

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These were the folk who had left their boat in Tromso for the winter and were back for another summer of cruising Norway. When explaining about the lake and trails, Kevin said he had downloaded all the Norwegian trails on his iPad and kindly showed us the app. If only we’d been so bright. We immediately saw which path we should have taken. Furthermore there was that other, smaller lake Max had mentioned reading about, and, if we had known how close we were to its location, we probably would have explored that and possibly seen some elk (most likely the callings of the mom and kid we heard).

Seeing the afternoon slip by, we told Sue and Kevin to come on by if they’e out and about in their dinghy (they are very conservative on fuel usage, so they row everywhere, which, depending on the wind direction, can mean you get quite a lot of exercise). But, several hours later we hear a knock on the hull, and they had arrived!

We enjoyed several hours exchanging anchorage ideas and hearing about their sailing travels. They’d actually first been here in the mid- to late 1980s and shared some of their discoveries of favorite spots. Plus, Sue had kept notes on where one could find good showers and/or washer-dryer. This knowledge alone was like gold to me. We have been creating our own mountain in the aft berth, and the altitude of unwashed bedding and clothing has slowly taken on a slope of 45 degrees. A washer and dryer was just what I needed to find.

With just subtle changes to the light it’s difficult to discern the time, so it’s not unusual to think it’s early afternoon only to find out it’s much later. Sue and Kevin decided it was time to leave and began their row back. As Kevin said when Sue settled in for her turn to row, she always seems to pick the right wind direction for her spot at the oars. Sure enough, the breeze would help them to their end of the bay. We hope to see them again when we start heading south later this month.

Later that evening with sun still bright (9-ish) we saw another power boat come in. This time it was a family of five, three of them being small children. The parents’ testing out their anchoring was watched through a porthole by Max to ensure neither of our boats got too close. After what seemed like a half hour, they were finally content with their spot and had tied to shore with an anchor used at their bow. Max found out (via hailing them from the deck) they were from south of Tromso (that city keeps popping up) and enjoying a summer holiday.

It seemed we were getting enough signs about why we should go to this city, so, with that, we began thinking perhaps a quick road trip might be in order.

But, first, back to the other side of this waterway tomorrow…

Cruising in Norway: Mainland on the Hamaroya peninsula (Korsnes to Tranoy)

Korsnes 

Monday, July 6

After our early morning exit from Ornnes we continued motoring up to Kornes, our original destination from two days ago from which we were, luckily, diverted. Arriving we tied up to quite the pontoon rig requiring a jury-rigged dinghy as our stepping stone to the other floating pontoons that had smaller gaps between them.

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Max and I headed to shore with a provisioning list and questions, some of which I was pretty certain I knew the answer to having read several write-ups on this port (showers? no. laundry? are you kidding? water? perhaps, if you want to carry it in jugs…). The prime inquiries were:  what is the ferry schedule to Hellmobotn and what was the bus service to Narvik (Chris’ link to another bus to Tromso, his ultimate destination for a few days or so).

A really nice guy at the marina store at the top of the dock gave us some information and said to double-check ferry schedules with the office on the opposite side of the pontoons. We did and he quickly set us straight that there wasn’t any convenient ferry service to Hellemobotn (ran Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mid-afternoon, with a pick-up early evening IF you hailed them down, which, I guess, means jumping and shouting from the shore). Hmmm. With that we set off to climb the short distance to the main part of town in search of the grocery store. Finding it we loaded up on our now typical goods:  tomatoes; carrots; cabbage (for slaw only); apples and bananas (for our breakfast yogurt mix); eggs; ham (for lunches); cheese (for lunches and hors d’ouerves); paper towels; limes (a luxury we feel we deserve sometimes); lime juice (if possible); tonic (depending on price). And some of the prices, even for Norway, felt a bit out of whack, which we reasoned was due to being a one-industry town (cement factory) with high wages.

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During the walk up and back we said hello to the few people we ran across who responded likewise, but, still the town felt pretty lifeless. Yet, the people with whom we had any extended conversations were extremely helpful and always hospitable. Again, Norway could offer hospitality lessons.

Back down the hill to the dock, Max checked with the ferry-schedule guy about hiring someone to take us the 23 miles down to Hellmobotn in a small motorboat. He said he could get someone to do so at 6,000 NOK (Norwegian Kroners). Each way.

No, thank you very much for your quote but we will kindly decline with regret, and with that Max quickly walked out of his office and shared the answer with me.

Converting it in our heads, we mentally gulped when we realized that meant $900 each way… $1,800 round trip?!

So, then Max found someone on the pontoons who offered the use of his small boat. The boat owner then asked Max his weight (great, a question all women enjoy answering). Max told him it’d be the two of us and his son who weighed about the same as Max. Looking at both of us and doing HIS calculations he realized we wouldn’t be able to get there and back without buying gas somewhere; and, there was nowhere to buy it down there. I decided not to ask if it was just because of our weight; and, we walked the pontoons, dinghy, pontoon, and hopped aboard JUANONA to share the information with Chris.

Not being ready to forfeit our opportunity for this dream hike, Max decided to scout out any other possible boat owner willing to be hired. One boater with whom Max discussed options said we should just anchor down there. When Max expressed concerns regarding the anchoring depth and the winds whistling down the steep slopes (something all cruising guides and cruiser notes warn about) this man had the best quote: ‘you sailed all the way across the Atlantic, and you’re worried about anchoring in Hellmobotn?”… Well, when you put it that way, we figured he might have a point. So, we tossed that into our decision-making.

We discussed sailing down there today, hiking the next day (Tuesday), sailing back to Kjopsvik (Wednesday), and Chris taking the bus on Thursday to points north.

Initially Chris said he’d do whatever we wanted to; but, sensing a slight hesitation, we made sure to let him know we could go either way and whatever worked best for him was fine for us. Chris, having been with us for four weeks was ready to continue his adventure via land, so regretfully he said his preference was to get on the road in order to try to catch up with some of his good friends, such as Wilma in The Netherlands with whom he taught in Doha, Qatar, the school year 2012-13.

The decision was made and Max and Chris headed back to the store to pick up something better for dinner than boat meals (although, they are good ones thanks to Max’s chef abilities and Chris’ fishing expertise!) while I stowed the earlier provisions.

That night we had our last few games of OH HELL for awhile (until we get Betsy aboard), and we presented Chris with his own deck inscribed with memories of his summer cruising in Norway aboard JUANONA.

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We had been playing with a similar deck, which memorialized Chris’ first overnight aboard JUANONA in the summer of 2000 when the three of us played OH HELL. At that time Max made the unfortunate comment that he was feeling particularly victorious. Never one to like boasting, I said if he didn’t win then he’d have to jump into the cold Maine anchorage. Can I tell you it was a sweet moment when he had to do so? :)  Since then, the three of us have been careful not to comment on how victorious one of us may be feeling playing this capricious game.

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 to Tranoy…no, change of plans

Tuesday, July 7

A sad moment when we had to put Chris aboard that bus. He’d been a wonderful crewmate.. He also was the only one to-date who had caught, filleted, and fed us wonderful fresh Norwegian fish. We promised we would carry on the tradition, somehow. But, I have the feeling it won’t be as delectable without him.

The bus stop was only across the street from the dock, so Max and I quickly returned, untied and left for Tranoy, an artistic community just 20 miles to the south and down the coast a bit from Tysfjord.

The motor-sail (we unfurled the jib whenever the wind angle was ≥ 30 degrees, which wasn’t often) out of the fjord allowed me to peruse the surroundings, not the least being clouds doing their own unfurling of the landscape as they rushed down slopes

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while some placidly capped the mountaintops.

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And we passed a fish farm, which one sees pretty much everyone.

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At one point the depth finder looked like it had gone on the blitz only for us to discover it doesn’t register when it’s over 2,000 feet deep.

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Looking forward to being in such a lovely town, our hopes were dashed when we pulled in and saw the docks were full. With a stiff breeze blowing we didn’t want to try to tie up on the windward side of the only available pontoon (it’s hard getting one’s boat off of a dock when the wind keeps it blown onto it, especially a sailboat that only has a propeller in the back/stern as oppose to one that may also have one in the front, a bow thruster). So, we quickly changed course after circling to see if a wooden power boat on the leeward side of the pontoon was going to leave. When they unloaded the baby stroller we decided chances weren’t good they’d be leaving anytime soon.

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But, once again, a forced diversion landed us in yet another beautiful cove with summer cottages and boats dotted around. It was windy, which made anchoring always fun, and it was doubly so when we began dragging after the first try. Up we pulled it, then found another spot to lower it (all in fairly deep water). This time it bit and we thankfully began to relax for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

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When below we spotted a boat named Karaline II on AIS. Thinking that was the wooden power boat we kept checking to see if they were leaving. By late afternoon it didn’t look good, so we knew we’d be staying in this cove for the night. Not that we minded for it was gorgeous in the water color,

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the majestic framing by the mountains (which, frankly, you have regardless of where you are in this area),

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and the colorful houses, including one with the sod roof.

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Tranoy

Wednesday, July 8

The next morning we waited for the lighter, forecasted winds then tried our luck again at Tranoy knowing we could easily find another anchorage if the town’s pontoons were still full.

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Miraculously, there was space exactly where that motor boat had been the day before. We had been watching the wrong boat on AIS. We headed for our docking and a welcoming guy offered to hop off his boat and catch our lines. I can’t emphasize how wonderful it is to have helping hands like that. I’ll never forget letting a good friend down when he was docking his and his partner’s beautiful 53’ boat in really stiff winds. The pontoon looked far below and  my ability to jump on a slippery dock not good. And, this is with two strong men handling two other lines aboard. Fortunately, nothing happened untoward except my resolution never to hesitate to make that jump.

Back to this morning, the jump wasn’t bad at all, but, thanks to this kind man offering to catch our lines, I didn’t have to jump with both the bow line and the spring (a line placed amidship that helps keep the boat centered in its spot on the dock) in my hands.

Once we’d docked we thanked the man who introduced himself as Roar and who was here with his partner, Sif. Through later conversations we discovered they were from Tromso, had just begun their ten-day holiday, and loved Tranoy (this was their third visit in three consecutive years).

We stopped by to invite them for cocktails and met Sif. They gave us the lay of the land including the news there was a spectacular bakery where that morning Roar ensured he was there at its 11:00 a.m. opening to purchase its famous cinnamon buns. So, off we headed to the grocery store and to check out that bakery.

At the grocery store we met a lovely young woman, Elisabeth, who said they had free wifi in response to our question of any place offering such nearby. She also said help yourself to coffee. And, when we asked how much she said well, some people will leave 5 NOK in the jar there on the table but it wasn’t necessary. Were we in the right place or what?

She then gave us a map indicating the artwork that was sprinkled around the town and what had been publicized in everything we’d read about this sleepy little summer town. We had noted one art gallery was closed, and we hoped that wasn’t the one offering showers and laundry noted in the cruising guide. Elisabeth suggested checking the other gallery further up the road, which we’d do then return to purchase coffee and use the wifi.

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The second art gallery was owned by a stylish woman with beautiful gray hair, purple leather jacket and big smile.

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However, her response to our shower and laundry questions was ‘Oh that difficult boat living. All those stinky people!’ said with a carefree laugh. Well, those who know me can imagine the thought bubble growing above my head with that comment…such as retreating, rubbing my already-dirty body with dried cod, and returning with a huge smile myself asking to see their most expensive painting.

Fortunately, I kept my tongue and asked if we could peruse the gallery. She said of course, and we did so soon accompanied by a nice young man, Karsten (sp?), who described the two main artists’ work.

One of the artists’ work was particularly intriguing. HIs name is Frank Brunner who received his MFA at Yale in the early 2000’s and whose reputation as an artist was growing, not only in Norway but internationally. He paints and also does lithography and his work juxtaposes a snapshot of realism with his perception of that realism reflected in water, be it a stream, waterfall, or puddle. One in particular caught my interest,

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which surprised me as I’m not one who truly understands modern-ish art; yet, I kept being drawn to this one. When Max asked the number next to it, which corresponded to the price list, I realized it was a dream and we began to leave. Karsten kindly offered us a complimentary expresso, and we said perhaps we’d be back the next day.

Back on JUANONA after checking emails and surfing the net, we got ready for Sif and Roar’s visit.

Once again, my feeling that the scenery in Norway is spectacular but the people even more so was proven true. Beginning with Alesund, we feel we have made some life-long friends, and, because we haven’t run into a lot of folk, it makes our time with those we have even more special. Roar and Sif were no exception; and, over drinks that night we learned how Sif had begun and was running an extremely successful youth program in Tromso (www.tvibit.net), and Roar was a community real estate developer who has an amazing musical talent (singing and playing the guitar; Roar Dons Band on FB). Furthermore both are modest about their accomplishments.

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As Sif and Roar explained Tromso has been called the Paris of the North being 186 miles inside the Arctic Circle. This arctic city earned its cosmopolitan nickname from the area’s vibrancy thanks to the early Viking settlement growing into a large commercial port since the 1400s. Explorers, Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) and Roald Amundsen (1872-1928,) set off from this northern seaport adding to Norway’s polar achievements. Tromso also features the world’s northernmost university, which opened in 1972.

Sounded like a great place to visit. When Max and I expressed interest saying winter would probably be a good time due to being off-season, both Sif and Roar laughed and said actually winter was the high season (!). Noting our perplexed looks they explained Japanese tourism had risen over the years due to a belief that sleeping under the northern lights would begat a son; therefore, hotels, restaurants and other entrepreneurs had increased prices and, I’m sure, innovative ways to attract those interested couples.

Having spent time with them and learning more about Tromso and our limited knowledge of Alesund, I could see wintering in Norway aboard JUANONA. Who would have thought that? Not me, certainly!

A joyous three hours were spent sharing tales and Roar’s promise the next day that he wouldn’t mind us stopping by to hear some of his music. He graciously said his philosophy is, if you want to play music, then play it. Our friend Carter would most likely agree with that one :)

Thursday, July 9

The next morning, after helping a sailboat pull in (paying forward Roar’s pontoon welcome), we stopped by KAROLINE II and spent a beautiful hour listening to Roar’s music (on FaceBook at Roar Dons Band) with coffee and continuing conversation with him and Sif. He had his first concert in years this past May and received enough encouragement (probably much more than ‘enough’!) to think of doing another. At one point we discussed favorite artists. They both mentioned Paul Simon, and Sif told us how Paul Simon had quickly composed the last verse of “Bridge over troubled water” in the studio to finish off the song. When I said “Kathy’s Song” was one of my favorites, Roar adeptly began picking out the intro and launched into a beautiful version. What a glorious way to greet the morning. And, thankfully, neither Sif nor Roar minded two, unwashed, uncombed cruisers aboard. At least I had managed to brush my teeth.

We returned and prepared for our stroll around town and picking up a few provisions with wifi surfing.

Walking around using the map Elisabeth had given us and checking the one posted in town, we located the outdoor sculptures (one for almost every year since the early 2000s) and copies of the paintings currently exhibited in the gallery.

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As we found the outdoor sculptures…

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at some we had to form similar poses.

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(I love the wings.)

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Luckily, unlike one back in 2003 that Max mimicked, these had clothes on….

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We kept thinking how our artist friends–Ellen (Sinclair), Bobbi (Gunn), Kathryn (Davis), Traci (Sumner), Tracy (Bell), Brad (McFadden), and Jessyca (Broekman), among others–would LOVE this place. Having enjoyed Ellen and Bobbi’s times with us on Orr’s, we thought how this town could really use an artist colony like that on Maine’s Monhegan Island. There were plenty of tourists, which was great to see, but, surprisingly, no easels and their painterly owners standing out and about. What a fabulous business opportunity. Plus, there’s a spa (!), which, with that bakery,

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says:  what more does one need? :)

The map took us to a small cove,

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then in faded yellow poka dots and arrows

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led us to a grassy hill hemmed by rocks begging for sun bathers.

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But, coming around the corner we saw a stunning display that pushed any thought of lallygagging aside.

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And introducing us to this outdoor gallery was my dream picture. Was this a sign?!

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Not really, but the gallery space (prints of the two artists’ work were mounted on foam core and then placed on the rock walls) was perfect! I’ve always thought if I were a designer I’d figure out how to bring the outdoors in. Well, here was the occasion of the indoors heading out. I loved it.

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Amidst these works of art I found a new favorite, one that obviously had sold out of the gallery.

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How can anyone not be moved by art in any and all forms? Whether I agree with the artist’s imagery or not, I still respect the process. This was, indeed, one of my favorite galleries.

We continue to follow the dots as they painted a path along the large, sloping stones sliding into the sea. I spotted little tubby spots and thought of our friend Anne and how she and I would have loved it if those natural baths were filled with hot fresh water. Living on boats you do miss hot tubs, and she and I often express shared dreams of being some place offering bath tubs.

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Heading back to the main street we passed Karston as he was entering the gallery. I yelled a hello and he smiled and asked if any decision on that painting. I said not yet. He said I hope to see you back with a genuine grin. I said ‘me, too!’  Yet, turning away I knew the memory of seeing both of those pieces of art hanging outdoors in Norway would be the best ‘purchase’ we could ever make.

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We ended up heading a short distance out of town passing a townscape that we both said could have been one of Maine’s.

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Hearing a yelping sound walking down to the road, we zeroed in on a solitary bird. Not having any idea what kind but liking the look of it, I figured I could always ask our friend Jayne what it is (it’s standing in an open marshy spot):

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We ended up at a lighthouse where Gus and Helen aboard s/v WINGS mentioned catching a view of the entire Lofotens stretching north to south when looking west from our vantage point on the mainland.

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I did my own ‘life imitating art’ although not as great as some, for sure!

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On our way back we met up with Sue and Kevin off ISLANDER 2, the 32’ Vancouver sailboat that arrived earlier in the morning. They were from Cowes on the Isle of Wright. It was their second season in Norway having wintered their boat in Tromso and they adored Norway. Their second winter will be in Trondheim, and they’d be coming back for a week or ten days at a time like the previous winter to check on their boat and do minor repair jobs.  Later that day when Kevin came aboard with charts to share some of their favorite ports and anchorages he said they had loved their time spent in Tromso. Sue had even dog sledded (!), and not as a passenger but as a driver. Whetted our appetite even more for a winter here.

We stopped at the store to check email, pick up some hot dogs (Betsy, we can promise you those! :), and say good-bye to Elisabeth. She suggested another stopover when we told her our plans were to eventually head south. When we asked her to write the town down, Max looked at it and exclaimed, ‘that’s exactly where we’ll be stopping!’. She said her brother lived there and she was headed there for a weekend visit. Evidently, it was similar to Tranoy. We had yet another place to look forward to during our cruising of Norway.

We paid for our two nights (200 NOK or roughly $30/night, which isn’t bad considering some of the UK marina prices) using their honor system that is refreshingly employed more often than not.

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I had to take a pic of the pontoon’s rigging as Max had commented the day before he’d never seen a trailer hitch used this way.

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And, we got a bonus as we saw Sif and Roar coming in from a dinghy excursion. We will miss them like we do Kjetil and Steve and other friends we’ve met along our way.

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At the dock we had noticed the night before a beautiful rowboat tied between us and the next pontoon. Sif and Roar told us the rower had been featured in a coastal TV special earlier in the summer. The guy had gone through some health issues and to help him gain his strength back set himself a goal of rowing the whole coast of Norway. Max noticed the guy was leaving, so we quickly got our camera out and also exchanged a few words. He said he would be leaving the harbor Monday, so he must have just been getting some exercise. I told Max we had passed him the day before on our initial walk into town. ‘He was that Viking-looking man, remember?’ Evidently he was noteworthy enough for Max to also recall, for he had been an exceptionally strong and big guy.

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As I mentioned earlier, Kevin kindly stopped by then left for a fresh fish dinner, and we had an early dinner (early for our Norwegian time schedule) and early night to bed. But, I want to be sure to show you the midnight sun from the night before when bed time was usually 11:30 p.m. or later.

Here’s the sun at 9:16 p.m. :

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Here it is at 10:52 p.m., an hour before midnight:

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And, one facing northeast.

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Pretty cool :)

We sleep with eyeshades since our v-berth’s hatch doesn’t block the light. We had been placing a sailbag anchored down with blue boat cushions as a make-shift shade but have gotten lazy about doing so and now pretty much just snap on the eyeshades (gratis of airliners) and catch zzzz’s.

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Next, Straumhamn, eight miles down the mainland and offering three amazing anchorages if there’s room. Have we said enough how much we’re loving this country and its people? :)