We can’t start anywhere else except with the BIG STORY of the day: we caught a fish.
Some of you may not be impressed others more so. We decided to leave in good time from Henningsvaer as we had another ‘10 mile’ journey to make ('til we reached the Lofotens it was 40 to 50 mile a day min but now we are relaxing). It was a blue sky day and we rolled out the jibs. On deck on whale watch Bel saw a couple of puffins and decided that this was perfect fishing weather. Geoff was varnishing down below. Our fishing rod was purchased in Roervik and various bits of tackle along the way had been assembled except for the hook. We have been taking lessons from people: picking up tips. So with the right tackle and a 30-40m contour line and little breeze, making it easy to stop the boat, fishing commenced.
Bel had it all hanging over the side when Geoff came up suggesting the way to do it was to be about 1-2m off the bottom so Bel reels in the line and Geoff says jig like this: with him holding the rod one jig, two jig, catch a fish.
The next ten minutes were very funny: reeling in the fish; finding the camera; finding the book that tells you how to ‘dispatch’ the fish; getting the hammer; finding the sharpest knife on board and so on. You can probably imagine the scene.
Anyhow, the catch of the day was suitably treated and ended up in a couple of bin bags in the freezer until we got to port- Stamsund, a commercial fishing harbour which meant someone here would be able to give us lessons in gutting the 75cm long cod.
The guest pier is well marked and had a perfect spot for us along side a very helpful Norwegian called Finn (yes, really) who was able to give excellent lessons in gutting and also suggested cooking methods.
Next highlight of the day, a washing machine and a shore side shower here (few and far between in Lofotens) so we will be smelling fresh tomorrow. The peak of Stamsund was beckoning so we hiked up and felt like we were on top of the world. Today you could see for miles, across to the mainland and the snow capped peaks as well as south west to the end of the Lofoten chain.
For the finale, we stopped in at a tiny art gallery that turns out to be another Norwegian gem. The national museum for art has a programme where it lends out art works to smaller galleries around the country and Galleri 2 www.galleri2.no, run by Veborg & Scott Thoe has a really interesting collection of musical art entitled “The Sound of Art” which presents videos, sculptures, photography and performance art. It was tiny but incredibly impressive.
We are going to take up Veborg’s suggestion to drive out to the north of the island and take in the beaches and sights that we can’t reach by boat (not a friendly shoreline). You can “rent a wreck” at a fraction of the price of the big companies- and we have negotiated an even better rate. So with cod dinners for the next week we’ll save on supermarket costs and pay for the rental.
Will we establish a rule of thumb? He who catches supper will cook too. It worked tonight and boy was it fresh and good!!
Bonfires were alight in the distance but we didn’t manage to reach any. We took a midnight walk along to the Lofoten Cathedral and to the statue of King Oystein who was the founder of the village in the early 1200s. Tuesday morning was another sunny day so ideal for more exploration on foot to Storvaagen, an old fishing settlement with a museum filled with Nordland fishing boats.
Back in town before heading off we ducked into the local ski touring office which happened to be open. Seth who runs it is an American and has lived in the Lofotens for six years and knows the ski guides that we had on our March adventure as they all worked together for Norgesguide and two of them came to Lofoten after guiding us! His site is www.alpineguides.no.
The journey to Henningsvaer was all of 10 miles, there was enough breeze to pull out the Yankee and zip along at 6kn with a freshening N wind, we arrived in very quick time. Coming alongside we were in the company of a Swedish boat Ymer and an American called Artemis. Al and Sal from Artemis are friends with Dick & Ginger from Alchemy who we met back in Suffolk Yacht Harbour three years ago and have been in touch with regularly since. Just as we thought the world couldn’t get any smaller, the boat to tie up alongside us last was the UK flaggged, Kalula, whose crew we had met in Trondheim at the end of May. Toby and Helen with their children Freya & Hugo had sailed from south Lofoten that day. It was definitely a day of coincidences.
Henningsvaer has lots to offer for the tourist. Tons of torrfisk are drying on racks around the harbour, the Lofotens are the biggest spawning ground for cod and the specialty dried fish is exported largely to Friday fish eating countries in the southern Mediterranean. As you sail in the smell of the hanging fish is ever pervading.
The highlight of the day was Ocean Sounds. This is a volunteer group who are monitoring whales in the Lofotens as the whale population is being challenged not only by the whalers, who we saw in Skrova but also by oil exploration as they use sonar to detect deposits in the changing seabed, which confuses the whales and makes it difficult for them to find their breeding grounds and communicate with fellow whales. They are very keen to hear of sightings of whales and were interested to hear of the orca we saw at the entry to the Trondheim fjord back in late May.
We know there is a group of orcas off the Lofotens as they have had numerous sightings of them in the last few days and are hoping we’ll be lucky as we travel in their direction. Apparently there are about fourteen in the pod. Keep your fingers crossed!
The early morning fishing vessel that came into Skrova was full of farmed salmon: they are vacuumed out by a super duper industrial sized machine direct into the factory, fish are gutted and then move smoothly along the conveyor belt for packing. All of this was visible through the windows of the factory and very interesting to observe. The lorries that had been parked up all night, from Russia and Latvia, were waiting to drive off with the catch of the day. We feel we are getting closer and closer to catching our own.
The detour of the day was perfect: who would resist visiting Trollsforden? It is the narrowest fjord, at 100m wide, and by all accounts quite spectacular. We were motoring quite happily, noted a lone yellow buoy which would indicate fishing activity (all fish farms have many yellow buoys so are very easy to identify). Check the chart, no fish farm charted and no sign of any more marks but another check of the chart. Then a change in sound, which always puts you on full alert, so pulled back the throttle and stopped. Engine stalled and we weren’t going anywhere.
In the distance was a work boat which started towards us after a few minutes. It turns out they work for the fisheries whose factory we were getting an education in farmed fish from and they were in the process of removing the nets, and marks for the farm that was in that spot. They were great guys who came alongside with all sorts of amazing equipment including an underwater camera that showed the mess of wayward line that had caught on our prop. This needed a diver but after a quick phone call it became clear that we needed to get back into Svolvaer for any help.
Having freed us from the lines, we were towed back and gently brought alongside in one of the main piers. Ulla, one of the two on board said our diver would be with us in minutes. Next boat to appear was driven by the NSSR, which if you aren’t familiar with their name is the Norwegian lifeboat service, they drive humungous boats so even at low speed they are pretty powerful. This is where our diver, Toby, was coming from.
Once suited up and in the water he was down under Onegin in no time and retrieved the snarled fishing lines. He also checked the state of the prop and p-bracket with thumbs up. We were able to start the engine, go forward and reverse without any problem. You can’t imagine how relieved we were. The next question was, how much would this cost?
Ulla delivered the news: it’s ok, we have covered this as it was our fault.
We have decided that the good trolls must have been looking out for us and that we were never meant to go into Trollfjorden. After a fairly challenging day, we are now tied up alongside Praestenbrygga in Kabelvaag enjoying the evening sun on deck. Tonight is Norwegian midsummer, so we will try and find a bonfire, which will be lit in honour of the midnight sun and breath a sigh of relief.
Kjerringoy is a must see place. It is a former trading post at its height, between 1810 to 1880, being the main link for fish trade between the Nordland County and Bergen. The buildings are amazingly well preserved and well worth a visit with artifacts intact. Many large trading ships will have passed through. There is also a gallery featuring the works of Karl Erik Harr who illustrated the books of Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Knut Hamson. The work of Harr is reminiscent of the Group of Seven. The gallery had just opened a new exhibit of works by his brother – so there has been plenty to see.
As well as cultural events, a Saturday in June is never complete without a wedding or in this case two! The community was out in full force and the church very busy. The setting for the wedding photos was the trading post as it is just across from the church so we saw brides and grooms in their splendour and the hotel by the harbour was hosting the party!!
A stay in harbour is rounded off by visiting fellow yachtsmen, in this case Jon and Annie on Harmony, who are sailing south having done the Lofoten trip. We had lots to share and will be sending info about where to winter in Sweden in return for their experiences in Scotland.
The prospect of lighter wind and clear skies got us up and away by 8.30am. Not a cloud in the sky, it was a perfect time to leave. Some slightly challenging nav through islands and skerries got us to the open water of Vestfjorden by about 2pm: the day was punctuated with various questions and observations: “does that cable really go across our route, it’s not charted? How high is it? 23m: that’s a lucky thing. If you look out of the boat you’ll see the sand bar I’m talking about!! The puffins are in pairs. If it was 10 degrees warmer we could be in the Bahamas with these beaches & clear azure water, except its quite flat there...”
With 15kn of breeze from the north, we had one reef in, the yankee and staysail out: we were moving along at a steady 7kn, perfect for reaching Skrova by 4.30pm.
It is Sunday and there is no-one around, something we have noticed in many communities. This place is a whaling centre and has been for years. The fishery is next to our pontoon so perhaps tomorrow it will spring to life. The Norwegians no longer do their whaling outside of domestic waters and it has been part of their livelihood for years. We are unsure what we will see here on Monday.