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Leg 1 - 2016, Update 1

May 20, 2016, 1730 hrs, 59.29 N, 00 15 W, Log: 192,762 miles
Baro: 1005.2, Cabin Temp: 66 F (without the furnace on!), Cockpit: 59 F, Sea Water: 49.6F
Beam reaching under full sail at 7.5 kts in 13 kt SW winds with slight seas
North Sea, 250 miles east of Bergen

WE LOVE ORKNEY!

Our six days between Legs 0 and 1 were spent in Kirkwall where we enjoyed the community swimming pool and two very special days anchored off Balfour Castle on Shapinsay Island, 3.5 miles away from the bustle of little Kirkwall.

Without exception the Orkadians we met were friendly and very proud of their island group. Ken, one of the two guys who looks after the visiting yachts at Kirkwall Marina related that his family has been farming on Shapinsay since 1647 and that he, like his father simply walked away from the farm, turning it over to his son at a certain age. He told us how they take blood tests of their cattle to see what minerals need to be added to their feed and how he and his neighbors raised 125,000 British Pounds to build the historical museum located in the old sail loft above the former blacksmith’s workshop which is now a lovely café.

Since arriving back aboard in late March I’d noticed our Frigoboat fridge had been struggling. We replaced the thermostat in Sweden but that didn’t solve the issue. From reading the manufactures diagnostic suggestions I determined there must be a lack of refrigerant. On Monday when we returned to Kirkwall from Shapinsay I called around thinking there was probably little chance in finding an available technician before Leg 1 crew were arrived the next day. I soon discovered only one company in Orkney that does refrigeration repairs.

We were in the Tesco supermarket completing our final fruit and veg shop when I finally reached the technician on the phone. It was a difficult connection and I was having trouble understanding his Scottish English, but I thought he said he was currently in Tesco’s. Sure enough, he was in the same aisle, repairing a freezer. An hour later young Nick came aboard and within 30 minutes he’d topped up the refrigerant. Our fridge is now working perfectly instead of the compressor running continuously with the box getting warmer by the day. We were Nick’s second-ever paid customer (Tesco was his first) following his return from a three-year refrigeration course in Glasgow, paid for entirely by his employer.

At our 4-6 pm safety orientation I gave incoming crew a challenge: research and find a safe anchorage for the following night. They spread charts, tide and current tables and cruising guides out over dinner at the nearby Kirkwall Hotel and chose Eday Island, which was also my unspoken first choice. After they joined Tuesday noon we set sail after lunch for Eday Island, 17 miles north. We were looking for protection from the forecasted strong NE shifting to SE winds for that night and the next day and found a beautiful crescent-shaped bay with a dune sand beach bay which gave us a secure anchorage.


John gives crew instructions on deploying and setting the anchor

Here's our amazing Leg 1 crew: Lisa, Martin, Julie, Rick, Ken and Michael

Lisa, 43
I’m a disaffected lawyer seeking world travel. Following about 15 years of fun times in the big city of Chicago, it was time to turn the page to a new chapter. I had always fostered a dream of seeing the world - all of it - and what better way than by sailboat? So, I gave myself five years to get my ducks in a row. Now my house is sold, the boat is purchased and I just need to learn how to live and sail full time on a sailboat! That’s where Mahina Expeditions comes in. I had sailed mainly on Lake Michigan, both on my Hunter 34 and as crew on racing boats, so I was eager to get some ocean sailing under my belt, as well as learning how all the systems work. Hopefully, this next year I’ll be happily cruising, starting in the Caribbean aboard my 46’ Amel Santorin!

Martin, 53
After a busy career in medical research and advertising, I quit my job and with John Neal’s help found and purchased a Hylas 54. I grew up sailing Dart catamarans on the Solent, UK, but after moving to NYC 30 years ago I barely touched a sail or sheet. My partner John and I just spent six months cruising the Abacos and Exumas, but I needed to push up the theoretical and practical learning curve before crossing big oceans. What better way to do so than aboard Mahina Tiare off the lovely and challenging Orkney and Norwegian coasts? See more at www.sailinggenevieve.com.

Julie, 38
I am a systems engineer in the medical device industry in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I initially learned to sail with my father, then came back to sailing about five years ago. I’ve taken classes in Scotland and Turkey and sail MC-Scows with the Twin Cities Sailing Club. I joined this expedition to learn more about the cruising life and to visit a beautiful part of the world, Norway, in a unique way.

Ken, 41
I work as an independent software consultant in the airline industry in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. I have limited sailing experience, starting with a Competent Crew course taken in Marmaris, Turkey while on vacation in 2013. Julie and I liked that so much that we took an RYA Day Skipper correspondence course over the winter of 2013-2014 and an on-the-water course in Scotland in 2014. I joined this expedition to understand whether passage making and cruising might be something for us to consider in the future. (Julie and Ken are keen backpackers, kayakers and campers and find living aboard and traveling by sailboat luxurious compared to camping. They are also keen musicians, having met in a choral group while attending Marquette University. They are so keen on music that they printed and brought sing-along songbooks for the expedition!)

Rick, 63
I’m a cardiac surgeon and state senator from Tennessee with charter experience in the South Pacific, Pacific Northwest and the Chesapeake. The new skills developed during this three weeks of challenging high-latitude sailing in Norway will allow me to extend my cruising experience.

Michael, 67
I am a recently-retired orthopedic surgeon of Norwegian heritage. I have sailed in the Great Lakes and East Coast for 30 years, primarily racing, having completed 12 Chicago-Mac races plus national and world championship regattas, but I had never experienced open ocean offshore sailing. Since first stepping onto a sailboat I had dreamed of sailing to my ancestral home in Norway, and on MT my dream was realized. I now plan to sail my Najad 332 across the Atlantic to Norway and back.


Tom happily discussing weather and tides with crew.

Wednesday the winds and seas were impressive, gusting to 35 with large seas rolling in from the North Sea. We decided to leave our anchorage and first motorsailed with triple-reefed main, towards tiny Pierowall Harbour which we visited on Leg 0. Upon rounding Stranger Head we eased sheets and surfed at up to 8 kts. Expecting gale conditions Tom Grendall, the former island ferry captain, now Pierowall’s piermaster helped tie us up bow to wind on the visitor’s float. He's a wealth of information regarding the nearby tide rips and quickly-changing weather and called Orkney Vessel Traffic System for a detailed local forecast along with relaying his favorite source for regional weather, www.yr.no.

Although the nearest wi-fi was a good hike away at the Pierowall Hotel, Lisa found that if she stood on the pier she could very slowly download www.windyty.com on her T-Mobile phone which provided detailed three-hourly graphic weather charts.

Thursday morning Amanda and I ran along the windward beach until we found the extensive new archeological dig we’d read about and crew went for long hikes in between classes covering liferaft and Lifesling deployment, engine room orientation and intro to marine weather. At the peak of the frontal passage we recorded a steady 32 kts, gusting 36 and the seas broke over the outer pier ahead of us making for bumpy conditions aboard at high tide.


Julie enjoying the challenge of mastering a noon site underway

From our various weather sources we determined that around 0100 Friday the frontal passage should occur with winds drop from 30 to 15 and switch from E (the direction we want to sail) to SW. We set our alarms and woke at 0200 to dark drizzle and 18 kts but by 0300 first light occurred, the wind dropped, and the rain eased. We then quickly set sail on a mighty broad reach for Bergen, Norway. Our course took us within two miles of Fair Isle later in the morning and although we’d have love to visit the impending SE gales forecasted for Saturday afternoon saw us shaking out reefs to keep our boat speed as high as possible.

Friday night we had our hands full passing through two very active oil fields. Tankers, freighters and fishing boats were interspersed with brightly lit oil rigs and it was excellent training for crew with continual use of radar, chart plotter, and plotting positions by hand on the latest paper charts. Amazingly, every vessel we passed and each oil rig was transmitting full AIS information. The oil rigs each had a standby rescue ship continuously circling their platforms and we twice had to radio them to ensure sufficient clearance.


One of the many North Sea oil rigs

Lisa takes the midship lookout for elusive shipping as the fog closes in

At 0800 Saturday Martin was ecstatic, having sighted orca whales. All day the wind continued to build until by 1800 we were recording a solid 26 kts, gusting 34. Down to only a triple-reefed main we had excellent speed for a short while, in drizzly, foggy conditions, as we eased sheets to steer toward the entrance of the twisting channels leading to Bergen.

Martin:
“LAND HO Norway” was called at 2030 and by 0130 Sunday we were looking for a place to tie up in lovely Bergen. Being a Saturday night, the place was rockin’ with all of the city-front dock space filled so we ended up tying behind an office building, but with a great view of the town quay. Later that morning we slipped our lines and crossed the harbor to raft up next to a friendly Swedish yacht and crew headed off for showers and to explore. There was a wonderful fish and local food market (complete with whale and reindeer) a collection of vintage Volkswagens and a multiple baptism in the fine church with the congregation in full Norwegian traditional garb. We ogled the lovely tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl but no one managed to make it to the leprosy museum. Reports were that the local smoked herring and aquavit were quite good!


Amanda and I ran halfway the mountain side for a great view of Bergen

MT moored to the wall beside the historic trading district of Bryggen

Crew upon leaving Bergen excited to be exploring more of Norway

Before it was time to set sail for the tiny (and much quieter) Fedje Island, 35 miles north. The fog came in waves, hiding oil support vessels, ferries and a cruise ship which gave crew excellent experience using AIS and making frequent course changes to stay clear. We had less than ¼ mile visibility as we entered the channel to Fedje, only to get five blasts (collision imminent!) from an invisible and oncoming ferry. Ken was on the helm and very carefully nosed MT out of the channel, into the shallows while crew visually called the depth and distance to the rocks. As the large ferry materialized it appeared to be just squeaking through the narrow channel, practically brushing the channel marks on either side.


Lisa keeps watch as we ghost through fog in search of a berth in Fedje.

A scenic evening view of the village on Fedje

The following day’s fresh northerly headwinds saw us motorsailing 60 miles to Floro.

Julie:
We needed to wait for a better weather window for rounding the notorious Statt Peninsula and crew jointly chose Kalvag which Lonely Planet describes as a “picture-postcard perfect preserved fishing village”. After Amanda taught rig inspection we left Floro and motored seven miles to Kalvag. We found an empty guest dock in front of Knutholmen restaurant (www.knutholmen.no) and a trail that led up the hill behind the village to some spectacular views of the village and surrounding landscape. On our climb up the hill, Ken and I crossed a small creek with a very muddy white Labrador happily laying in the creek and drinking the water. His owner and we had a good laugh about it, even with the language barrier. Others in our group lost the trail and ended up going over a fence and through a very friendly woman’s backyard to get back. Svein, the proud owner of the restaurant and docks gave us a tour of his fishing and boating themed restaurant that is almost like a museum inside.


MT docked in Kalvag

It’s worth the short hike up the hill for a great view of Kalvag

Martin strikes a pose at the Knutholmen restaurant bar with staff and owner Svein


We pushed on a further seven miles that afternoon to Silda, a small island with another attractive guest dock.

Wednesday morning the wind direction improved and we paused long enough for everyone to complete a Lifesling overboard rescue maneuver, but only with wads of newspaper, as we couldn’t convince anyone to jump in to make the maneuver more realistic! We then stopped for lunch and a look-around at Maloy; a very prosperous and busy little port. At this, and nearly every place we stopped, the local boating club provided docks for visiting yachts – free for day visits, and very modest charges of approximately US$15-20 for overnight moorage, frequently including electricity. At their very tidy clubhouse we found restrooms, showers and laundry, with an honesty box for payment.

Sadly, the Silda school has closed down and is only used for showers and laundry for visiting boaters. After completing our Diesel Maintenance class and an oil change, we all enjoyed hikes in the brilliant sunny weather to the NW corner of the island where we could check out the weather at nearby Statt Peninsula.

Thursday the gale force winds off Statt had diminished allowing us to motorsail around the notorious headland then ease sheets for a great sail to Alesund; the art nouveau city known as the Venice of Norway.

Lisa:
What a magical town! We pulled in just short of the tiny inner harbor in a fantastic location. The restaurant options looked tempting, so we decided to take a chance on XL Diner, conveniently located just steps from our berth. We all enjoyed bacalao five different ways with pesto bacalao being the favorite.


The next morning provided an opportunity to run up the 457 steps to the lookout for fabulous views.

MT and crew exploring Alesund’s inner harbor

By this time, because of previous weather delays we needed to make some miles north so we went nearly non-stop for 36 hours, threading our way through inside channels, mostly under sail with a cloudless sky. We stopped for a couple hours in Rorvik for dinner, showers and a walk before setting off again and for the first time it never got dark. At 0300 we sailed and motored through Bronnoysund a town that straddles either side of the busy channel and kids were still out partying and jumping into the water. All night long we had traffic and were passed and were passed by 100’ – 200’ vessels mainly servicing the many salmon farms in the area.


Everyone sharess in researching and planning our track

Amanda’s splicing class is always a favorite

Sunday morning provided a lot of sail trim practice in sunny and warm conditions and by 1320 we’d tied up in Lovund; another small fishing community with an unmistakable conical shape famous for thousands of puffins which return every spring to nest. After dinner we all hiked up the mountain to view a sky full of returning puffins. They would fly around overhead in numerous circles before eventually landing at their rocky nest openings ready to feed their young.


Entering the harbor on Lovund

Happily docked with bright sunshine and looking forward to hiking

Evening view from our puffin viewing site

The sun shone brightly on Monday but held little wind, so we motorsailed the 38 miles to Hollandfjord and the magnificent Svartisen Glacier.

Ken:
The highlight of the expedition for me was the afternoon and night we spent at the Svartisen Glacier. We motored to the pontoon under clear blue skies and unseasonably warm weather wearing shorts and t-shirts and sharing the anchorage with the Danish sail-training three masted square-rigger Georg Stage.


Georg Stage and Svartisen Glacier.


Julie at the glacier.


Julie and I rented bikes (self-service with 40+unattended bikes to choose from on the dock and an honesty box for payment) and rode the 4 km to the glacier trail.



After a nice dinner and sing-along aboard I stepped out on deck to see my favorite sight of the trip – mirror smooth water with the mountains and glacier reflected in the fjord - all this at 9:30 pm with the sun still high in the sky. Breathtaking!

Tuesday we had a 43-mile passage to Bodo, a fairly large city where our search for a place to refill our US propane tank proved fruitless, so we carried on a further 12 miles to Kjerringoy, yet another picture-postcard cod fishing village, part of which has been turned into a museum.


Passing a traditional Norwegian Viking vessel

Crew stumbled upon a choir practice in the 1883 village church where the young people dressed in traditional Norwegian costume, tried to instruct them in how to join in.

We departed at 0700 on Wednesday for a great sail to the Lofoten Islands, 50 miles to the west.

After our April talks at Oslofjord Maritime Museum, Nils Holmen introduced himself and recommended we stop at Nusfjord; an historic abandoned cod fishing village that he had purchased a few years ago and turned into a resort. We were completely amazed at the work that has been done restoring the cod liver oil plant and fish landing, drying and packing operation. We found a place to moor with just enough depth at low tide and although the resort had just started its summer season, most of the buildings were open. We enjoyed wandering around, seeing the exhibits and learning about the very challenging conditions the men had to cope with while fishing offshore in open boats during the snowy winters with no sun for several months.


Realizing that we’d hit bottom at our original Nusfjord berth we endeavor to change docks in windy beam on conditions

Safely moored in Nusfjord

Thursday we sailed to Leknes, a place Michael has dreamed of returning to for decades.

Michael:


The museum includes a reconstruction of the largest (82 meters long) Viking Jarl’s longhouse ever discovered.

Though not as picturesque nor quaint as some of our other stops on this voyage, the small port of Leknes was for me the most special. Leknes is the access point to the Lofotr Viking Museum near Borg, and also to the small community of Liland, my ancestral home.

The longhouse was found by chance when a farmer’s plough struck the stone foundations.

The longhouse has been carefully reconstructed and other buildings near the site have been excavated as well. Many artefacts are on display. Activities of daily Viking life are demonstrated by historically correct costumed guides.

Walking to Liland and visiting the cemetery of my ancestors was an opportunity for which I am deeply thankful.

From Leknes we sailed to Henningsvaer, a much larger and still active cod fishing and drying base. Although there were only a few laid-up fishing vessels in the long, narrow harbor, we learned that during the winter during cod fishing season the harbor is often so packed that one can walk from boat to boat completely across the harbor.


Amanda under the extensive Hennigsvaer cod drying racks

We had a surprise visit from our old cruising friend Gry who greeted us with freshly baked bread

Friday we sailed to Kabelvag, hiking out to yet another historic fishing settlement, this one called The Lofoten Museum, www.lofotmuseet.no. We learned that this was the center of the codfish trade until about 1400 AD and was the first chartered town in North Norway. The squire owned the land and built and rented out over 100 cabins to fishermen who were bound to sell their catch to hime. The squire’s home, built in 1815 was an interesting part of the museum, as were the boathouse, old country store and blacksmith’s shop.


We were so interested in this historic ferry service that on Saturday, after cruising Trollfjord we stopped at Stokmarkness where a historic Hurtigruten Museum includes a 1952 vintage ferry ship which has been winched ashore and turned into a fascinating museum.

We spent Friday afternoon and night in Svolvaer, the capital of the Lofoten Islands. When the northbound Hurtigruten ferry pulled into town Lisa and Martin found that visitors are allowed visitors to tour the ship at each stop so Rick joined Amanda and I for a wander around after the southbound ship arrived. Next time we’ll bring our swimmers for a dip in the top deck hot tub!

Every day, all year long, even during the three months of darkness during the polar winter, one Hurtigruten ferry leaves Bergen, in the middle of Norway, and another leaves Hammerfest, at the Norway-Russian border. Each voyage takes five days, stopping to deliver mail and supplies at dozens of large and small places. This fast ferry service originally started in 1883 by the government is still the lifeline for many distant villages and towns up and down the coast.

Saturday night we anchored out in Risoyhamn, a tiny and quiet village. The further north we’ve gotten, the more snow and glaciers has been visible on the many surrounding mountains. Amanda taught going aloft Sunday before we set off on a great broad reach for Finsness, a busy little place that was our last night before arriving in Tromso yesterday afternoon.


The Galerider drogue demo completed our instruction

We’d heard that the small marina in front of the Scandic Hotel had been removed last year and that visitor’s moorage was restricted to a few not very good or near choices, so what a pleasant surprise it was to find a gorgeous new and much larger marina, EMPTY and only completed a week ago!


Crew chose Fiskekompaniet restaurant, directly ashore from the new marina Mahina Tiare and we enjoyed an exceptional meal utilizing local seafood.

Impressions of coastal Norway: This was our fifth passage up or down this coast and we’re still amazed at how, at least every couple miles or so, there seems to be a small farm along the shoreline frequently with a fishing boat moored nearby. The coastal region is quickly, but carefully developing with new infrastructure including bridges, ports, bridges, tunnels, ferry service, schools, hotels, fish farms, shore side apartments and condos. We’re amazed at how many new small-boat harbors with substantial breakwaters and visitor mooring pontoons we found, even in very small villages with just a handful of homes or farms. Inevitably we would find a map of the island or area at the dock head with history of the area and frequently toilets, showers and laundry for visiting boaters. And along with fantastic scenery crew often commented about the always-positive and friendly locals and how helpful they were.

This morning when crew had packed and were saying goodbyes, we all reflected on what a great adventure this leg had been, and how well everyone had worked together and helped each other out. I was particularly grateful for the high level of interest in researching which channels to take and where to stop each night. Never did anyone sit out a class or lose the plot and everyone was really focused and dedicated to learning all aspects of shipboard life in particular docking, sail trim, navigating and weather. A special thanks also to Lisa’s continual windyty updates using her T-Mobile phone.

Impressions of coastal Norway: This was our fifth passage up or down this coast and we’re still amazed at how, at least every couple miles or so, there seems to be a small farm along the shoreline frequently with a fishing boat moored nearby. The coastal region is quickly, but carefully developing with new infrastructure including bridges, ports, bridges, tunnels, ferry service, schools, hotels, fish farms, shore side apartments and condos. We’re amazed at how many new small-boat harbors with substantial breakwaters and visitor mooring pontoons we found, even in very small villages with just a handful of homes or farms. Inevitably we would find a map of the island or area at the dock head with history of the area and frequently toilets, showers and laundry for visiting boaters. And along with fantastic scenery crew often commented about the always-positive and friendly locals and how helpful they were.

Resources used for Leg 1, Orkney, Scotland to Tromso, Norway:

Weather:
YR.NO: NRK Met Institute – Norwegian government weather site which we think must use the EC forecast model. Incredibly accurate and helpful!
WINDYTY.COM: Worldwide GRIB forecast charts utilizing US GFS computer model.

Cruising Guides:
Norwegian Cruising Guide, 7th edition, Volume 3 covering from Kristiansund to Russian border, Phyllis Nickel & John Harries, Attainable Adventure Cruising, Ltd.
Norway – RCC Pilotage Foundation, Judy Lomax, 2nd edition.

Charts:
British Admiralty: 1954, 2182C
Norwegian: 307, 308, 309, 310, 321
Imray: C68

Electronic Charts:
Navionics running on Raymarine MFD
C-Map running on Rose Point Coastal Explorer on PC


Leg 1 Itinerary

itinerary

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