Is'nt it good, Norwegian wood?
(To see all the photo's in this post and many more click on photo gallery Norway 2018)
When I last posted, two weeks ago, we had just arrived at the beautiful little port of Lillesand on the south-east coast of Norway. It has been so hectic since then that time has just flashed by. Our schedule has centred around getting to Stavanger on the west coast by 25 June to meet Mark Coates and his wife Sandra and then reaching Bergen by 2 July, where they were scheduled to leave. Mark is the principal of Barrenjoey Marine Electrics (BME or Big Money Electrics as my brother-in-law unkindly calls them!) and he has flown over to spend a week on board on a "working holiday" whilst replacing my 10 year old navigation electronics with the latest Raymarine equipment.
I had originally planned to allow 6 days for the 170nm passage from Lillesand to Stavanger, breaking it into short hops, but the weather forecast was starting to indicate the possibility of prolonged strong NW winds during the later part of the week and through the weekend, so I decided to complete the passage in two days and get to Stavanger early.
I'm glad I did (and Karen was even gladder!) because we enjoyed almost perfectly calm conditions during the totally exposed 110nm leg from our overnight anchorage at Imsoysundet to Stavanger. The wind started to pick up just as we reached Stavanger and then blew 25 to 30 knots for the next 4 days with temperatures never getting above 13C. We found a nice sheltered anchorage close to Stavanger and settled in with the central heating turned on to wait for Mark and Sandra to arrive. Had we stuck to the original plan we would have had to endure more than 12hrs of heavy work to windward.
The next morning I consulted Dr Google to see if I could find a yard nearby capable of hauling the boat out for an hour or two and hopefully put and end to the maddening singing coming from the propellor. I struck gold on my second call finding a small boatyard only 5 miles away with a 200T slipway and a vacancy to haul me out the next morning. With that organized we launched the tinny and headed over to Stavanger for a reconnoitre with 3 prime objectives - work out where we would berth to meet Mark and Sandra on Sunday; find a good bottle shop and make a hairdressing appointment for Karen. Aside from nearly freezing to death in the icy conditions getting there and back in our tinny, our mission was quickly accomplished.
The next morning we pulled anchor and headed over to the yard in Tau to haul the boat. We were out of the water in no time and able to inspect the propellor and the rest of the stern gear. I was pleased to find that everything was in perfect order and finally be able to eliminate a nagging doubt that the noise I was hearing was something more ominous than a singing propellor.
The propellor specialists in Germany who balanced the propellor insisted they had applied an "anti-singing" edge and that the problem was the 'PropSpeed' anti-fouling applied afterwards. They sent me some sketches showing how the propellor edges should be modified in case it was necessary. It turned out the edges were profiled exactly how they recommended, so I simply took a coarse file to them to remove the anti-fouling coating confident this would fix the problem - Germans always being right of course. I am disappointed to report that Germans are after all not always right and that whilst the singing is significantly reduced it is far from gone altogether. Anyway, having removed any doubts the problem was something else (a faulty bearing for example) I can live with the residual songs and will have another go the next time the boat is scheduled for a haul out.
On Sunday morning we made the short trip round to the conveniently located but not very attractive town dock in Stavanger where Mark and Sandra moved on board. After settling in Mark suggested we make use of the last day's hire of their car and take a trip to Pulpit Rock, an iconic Norwegian landmark overlooking Lysefjorden. At 1 1/2 hrs drive each way (according to Google Maps) this seemed like a nice excursion for the afternoon despite having received a vague suggestion from a passerby at the dock that we had left it too late.
It turns out the passerby knew something that Mark, our tour leader for the day, didn't know - the rock is a 2hr walk each way from the car park! Seeing it was nearly 3pm when we got there, the girls were not wearing walking shoes and it was cold and windy we ended up having a bowl of soup in the cafe and driving back to Stavanger; Mark with his tail between his legs!
Fortunately, whilst Mark appears to be a poor tour leader he is a damn fine electrician and in any case, would NOT be setting our touring agenda from here on.
The next morning Mark and I pulled the wheelhouse apart to start installing the new Raymarine equipment I had shipped over to Germany. [Sidebar sob, sob story ..... I paid for Mark and Sandra's flights to Norway to save money! The plan was that Mark sold me the new equipment (with a generous discount) and without 10% GST in Australia because the equipment was being exported. I then arranged to have the goods imported into Germany as "Ships Goods in Transit" which would save me the 21% VAT payable if I had bought the stuff in Europe. This brilliant money saving plan turned to custard because the freight forwarders I used (a friend who will remain nameless) stuffed up and I had to pay the VAT to have the goods released by the Germans (who think they are always right). So now I have ended up paying air freight costs + 21% VAT + 2 x Return Sydney to Oslo airfares for my equipment!!! Hopefully the VAT will be reversed on appeal but that could take I am told, up to 12 months to get past the EU socialist bureaucracy in Brussels.]
The good news is that Mark is a brilliant marine electrician who knows his stuff better than any other I have come across and I had him captive on board for a week to not only install but test and commission everything during a working environment as well as work through every little electrical gremlin / anomaly I have been carrying for years. I am extraordinarily pleased with both the new equipment and the work that Mark completed during the week he has been with us. I suspect Mark was expecting less "work" and more "holiday" but hopefully the short but unbelievable Norwegian cruising experience has made it memorable and worthwhile for him and Sandra. For any readers interested in my review of the latest Raymarine equipment installed, standby for a further technical blog post specifically on this subject. If you want to learn more about why I think so highly about Mark Coates and Barrenjoey Marine Electrics, go to The All Stars page of this site.
After the first 14 hour day in Stavanger working with Mark to get the new equipment up and running we set off to spend the next 6 days working our way to Bergen - a distance of only about 100nm if you take the shortest route but easily double that if you meander around and smell the roses. We took the rose smelling route and are gobsmacked by everything! Everyone we meet is extraordinarily friendly, speaks excellent English and is genuinely interested in our story (I have invited more people on board to show them around in the last week than I have in the last 2 years!). Wonderfully sheltered and scenic anchorages are limitless (more often than not unoccupied by others) and separated by waterways perfectly sheltered from ocean swells. Every corner, rarely more than 10 minutes from the last, reveals yet another stunning new landscape. The photo set below (note drone photos!) is just a glimpse of the amazing scenery and places we have visited in the last 2 weeks.
Our route took in Lysefjorden (including a view of Pulpit Rock from below), then across to the island of Kvitsoy, Espevaer, a wonderfully isolated anchorage at Pilapollen and finally in to Bergen.
At the quaint little fishing village of Espevaer we visited the Hummerpark (Lobster Park), a covered storage pen built in a natural rock gully in 1857 to store the local lobster catch live prior to shipping (also live) to ports throughout Europe. The 'park' could hold up to 25,000 lobsters and was operational until 1959. It has now been restored by enthusiastic local volunteers who take you on a fun little tour through the storage pond on a rickety wooden raft.
We arrived in Bergen, the second largest city in Norway, on a warm sunny Sunday around midday and found that what seemed like every one who owns a boat near Bergen, had decided to take advantage of the magnificent weather and come and tie up at the town dock. We were extremely lucky to snag a spot as another boat was leaving just as we arrived. A some loud finger whistling and fine Australian vernacular from Karen helped keep the local boats vying the same spot at bay! Bergen is reported to be the rainiest town in Norway but it was bathed in sparkling sunshine under a cloudless sky for the two days we spent there and we enjoyed our visit very much.
Here we bid farewell to Mark and Sandra and have now continued north to Floro where we meet our next guest Roger and Sue in 10 days time