Fjords and Islands
Posted on the 4th September at 11:00 a.m.
A blog from a week of cruising in Fjord Norway
We got out of Bergen as quickly as possible after the change-over on Saturday, for all its nordic medieval beauty, the city marina has poor facilities and constant ferry traffic that make it a pretty undesirable place to spend a night. Instead we motored south, into the wind and the rain for about 15 miles to find a secluded anchorage amongst a small group of islands. We were all preparing ourselves for a week of pretty tough weather as the journey there had been nothing but grim, so you can imagine our surprise when we woke up to clear skies and sunshine the next morning. On Sunday we put in a pretty long day of exploring. The conditions in Fjord Norway produce a fairly predictable wind pattern of not much until early afternoon and then a steadily building sea breeze, so we spent the morning motoring and stopped off at a creepy abandoned hotel complex to BBQ some burgers for lunch.
The whole area felt like the set of a horror film but we escaped our expedition into the pitch black restaurant cellars without any of the crew being hacked to death by Scandi-thriller-escque murderers. From there we motored a few more miles East and after lunch the weather hit "T-shirts and shorts sailing" levels which meant that a few of the crew were keen for a swim. We dropped anchor in a truly stunning land-locked harbour with mountains rising straight out of calm waters on almost every side. Jordan, Jannes and Pete managed a total of 10 seconds in the glacial melt waters before giving up - but they claim it was worth it. Once they'd downed a few cups of coffee to get warm again we upped anchor and motored into Hardangfjord. The collection of smaller Fjords would be the area where we spent the rest of the week.
Just as we emerged into the majestic scenery of the Fjord, the aforementioned sea breeze reached the point where we could sail. With 10 miles, straight downwind, left for the day there as only one thing to do really. After a quick lesson on socking and gybing, the asymmetric kite was launched and we spent the next couple of hours gybing our way downwind at 6 knots. Once we arrived in Rosendal there was unanimous agreement amongst the crew that those few hours were some of the best hours of sailing any of us had ever had, cruising downwind through this incredible country with the sun still in the sky and the crew working like a slick machine was a fantastic feeling. We didn't think it could get much better, but we were wrong.
In Rosendal we met up with another group from CUYC who had failed to get on our trip (mostly affiliate and senior members) and had chartered their own boat, a Dufour 42 called Sjarm (Norwegian for Charm, pronounced S-yarm). The two crews spent the evening around an open fire on the shores of the fjord catching up, comparing boats and listening to the sound of waterfalls in the distance.
We spent a few hours the next morning exploring Rosendal where there's a Rose Garden and old manor house, then we topped up on beer and set sail further up the Fjord. The geography of the Fjord meant that the lighter sea breeze was funneled up behind us and we immediately were able to get the kite up again. We had 30 miles to cover and we sailed for 28 of them. I have to give the crew so much credit for their attitude, whilst they weren't all experience sailors, they were all keen to give something new a go and all learned the peculiarities of efficient downwind sailing with a asymmetric very quickly. Going downwind we were lucky to be sailing with the good weather, we could see spots of grey cloud coming and going around us, but none of them ever interrupted our sunshine. We had at least 6 hours of glorious, champagne-sailing conditions which carried us all the way up to Norheimsund.
We planned to take Tuesday completely off sailing and in the morning hiked a couple of miles to the famous waterfall near Norheim. Personally this is one of the most epic, awesome (in the original sense) sights I've ever seen - a 100 foot tall waterfall, so loud you can hear it from miles away and with a walkway built behind the fall into the cliffs. We walked up and around it, soaked in the scenery and then stopped for ice cream (yes, it was so hot in Norway that we stopped for ice cream). We were all on such a high from the previous day of sailing that none of us could resist the temptation of getting out on the water again and so we set out at about midday to sail further up the Fjord. On the way East we enjoyed a BBQ and a bit more swimming, then a few more hours of mind-blowingly-beautiful-perfect-sailing conditions-spinnaker-sailing. We spent the evening in glorious sunshine at the tip of the fjord, looking down it's 2 20 mile long forks, mountains and glaciers visible in the distance.
We rose early on Wednesday as we needed a big day to make it back to Bergen orn schedule for the end of the week. We motored in the early morning and had originally planned a pretty much non-stop day, but we were derailed by a surpise encountered with an enormous waterfall on the shoreline. I'm running out of adjectives now, but this one was twice as tall and twice as wide as the one before and, although we could only watch from the water, we were in awe. In fact we saw so many sights like this that the crew created the Cambridge Waterfall Index to give a comparative measure (some might say we had too may physicists on the boat....). From there we took a short detour to Sunndal, a hamlet described by the pilot book as simply "pop. 70 people, PO and shops, good scenery" - they must have run out of adjectives too because in reality this tiny settlement was nestled in a steep glacial valley with a huge ice flow disappearing into the distance behind it. We couldn't resist a quick hike ashore to get a better view.
After we left Sunndal the sea breeze had kicked i and we had 12 miles or so to cover upwind. With the options of an early finish or an evening of upwind sailing I was impressed that crew unanimously opted for the sailing and we blast upwind at over 7 knots with full sail with the sun slowly setting around us. Everyone who wanted to had a go on the helm, competing for a steady wind angle and good boat speed, it was impressive that our little crew had some great natural helms in it. With the warm glow of a satisfying evening where we sailed on to anchor behind beautiful islands, all on board agreed that it was a day that would stay with us for years to come.
The next day we were returned to reality slightly, our outside breakfast was interrupted by light drizzle and we began motoring back towards Bergen again. We tried to stop in the middle of the day for some provisions and showers, but the only real option was an ugly industrial town which turned out to only have one working shower. It took until 4pm for the whole crew to be ready to leave again, and spirits where the lowest they'd been for days. We set off for an overnight anchorage which the pilot book could only describe as "secluded bay with narrow entry, room for one boat only", this turned out to be yet another understatement. Neither I nor Jordan have ever anchored a boat in a more beautiful place, an almost entirely cut off lagoon with an entry only a little wider than Skylark. We rowed ashore to explore the island which turned out to be a national reserve on the former home of violinist Ole Bull, we found his peculiar house and hiked to the top of the island on seashell paved paths to watch the sun set over Skylark.
On Friday we had the sunshine back all day were able to get the kite up once more to sail almost all the way back to Bergen. We had lunch and went for a swim amongst and archipelago of tiny islands with wooden cabins and private jetties then finished the day in Strusshamn, the old quarantine port for Bergen. We arrived too late to top up our beer supplies, but instead managed to improvise an apple crumble on board and source some custard. We had time to wash all the fabrics on board and air all the kit, Skylark has been really well but I'm sure she appreciated the TLC.
Finally on Saturday we motored over to Bergen in the early morning, picked up on the outside of a 4 boat raft and packed up. Everyone on board had had the best week of sailing possible. We were lucky to get such fantastic weather and I was extremely lucky to have a crew who could learn quickly, work hard, sail well and banter even better.