Sun God 2 .... Norse Gods 12
Updated: Oct 2, 2018
(To see all the photos in this post and many more click here)
For as long as I can remember, my good friend David, who joined us in Bodø along with Tony and 'Aunty Pam' for two weeks cruising Vestfjorden and the Lofoten Islands, has declared himself to be the 'Sun God' and guaranteed good weather for anyone who invites him to join them on their holiday travels. Well, the Norse gods have knocked this dubious claim clean out of the park. During his two weeks on board, David managed to deliver just 2 sunny days whereas the Norse gods managed to deliver rain (at times torrential) on the remaining 12 days and two gales. Not only did they shatter David's self serving delusion but they also put paid to the view I put forward in an earlier blog that Norwegians just like to tell visitors how bad the weather usually is to shore up their psyche of being a nation of rugged tough nuts. As the last two weeks have shown it really can be atrocious!
Notwithstanding the less than perfect weather we managed to find enough dry patches to maintain a full agenda of outdoor activities and enjoyed the 'down time' with some memorable games of 500 (a card game popular in Australia based vaguely on the rules of Bridge), more of Karen's magnificent cooking and an occasional drink or two! We could not have done this without the unbelievably detailed and accurate weather forecasts provided by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute via their app 'YR' and Norway's equally unbelievable mobile data coverage. Forecasts are provided in hourly intervals up to 2 days out and in 6 hourly intervals for the following 8 days for pretty much every single city/town/village/hamlet in the country and the mobile data coverage seems to cover every single nook and cranny in the country no matter how remote. Almost without fail the forecasts accurately predicted the next dry/sunny period when a hike would be possible or the next wind event when a snug anchorage should be sought. I have never experienced weather forecasts as detailed, location specific and accurate as those provide by 'YR'.
Our route started and finished in Bodø, (where David, Tony and Aunty Pam joined us) and headed north on the eastern 'mainland' side of Vestfjorden and then across to the Lofoten Islands which form the western side of Vestfjorden. Everything I have read suggested that the Lofoten Islands provide the most most spectacular scenery in northern Norway and despite the less than perfect weather they did not disappoint. We had been told by locals that they never visit the islands during the peak summer months (June / July) because they are overrun by tourists and judging by the still substantial numbers of American and German accents to be heard in late August it is clear this remote part of the world has been well and truely 'discovered'. The mainland side of Vestfjorden on the other hand is, in my opinion, equally spectacular and definitely far less 'discovered'. We had planned to visit a place called Hellemobotn at the far end of Tysfjorden (on the mainland side - see map above) and do a hike to the Swedish border reputed to be one of the most spectacular hikes in all of Norway but unfortunately the rotten weather put a stop to that plan.
One of the highlights of this section of our trip was our 2 night stay at Straumhamn - probably the most spectacular anchorage we have experienced in all of Norway. 'Sun God' David claimed a rare win over his Norse gods adversaries on day 1 and arranged a warm cloudless day and and an absolutely extraordinary sunset. Putting David up against the Norse gods is however a bit like putting the Wallabies up against the All Blacks and unperturbed by their uncharacteristic loss the Norse team took charge again the next day and turned the rain back on ...... but 'YR' came to the rescue and we managed to fit in a memorable 5 hour hike nevertheless.
As a result of Vestfjord being the world's richest cod grounds, the character and culture of the Lofoten (and adjoining Vesteralen) Islands is dominated by the cod fishing industry . Arctic cod spawn in Vestfjord and then leave for the Barents Sea only to return each year to spawn again in their birthplace. Lofotfisket (the Lofoten fishery) dates back to Stone Age times and there are remains of Viking settlements scattered throughout the area. Cod fishing takes place from January to April when hundreds of boats arrive to haul in an abundant catch. The fish are hung on racks and dried in the sun and wind (as they have been for thousands of years) until early June when it is sorted and sold as 'stockfish' primarily to traditional markets in Italy and Nigeria (who would have guessed!)
Karen and I have eaten stockfish now on a number of occasions with very mixed results. At its best (Bryggerikaia in Bodø, where the dried fish arrives 'paper thin' and is then soaked for 4 days prior to cooking and served in a creamy sauce with bacon) it is a delightful seafood variation and to its worst (Lofotmat in Henningsvaer, Tripadvisor #1 restaurant, where the 'chef' smothered reconstituted cardboard with the smelliest cheese on the planet and called it 'stokfisk au gratin') making it unimaginable how anyone ever decided that hanging fish on a rack in the ice, wind and sun for 6 months prior to serving was a good idea!
We saw the little photo above mounted on the wall in a small hotel in Henningsvaer and were stunned by the intensity of the fishing industry in days gone by. Henningsvaer is a delightful and well preserved fishing village know as 'Venice of the North' and one of the most appealing villages we have visited in Norway but one can only begin to imagine the colour and throb of the community in those heady days! We look forward to coming back here in February for a short mid winter cruise to experience the buzz of the cod fishing season and this majestic landscape covered in snow - hopefully all under the glow of the northern lights.
That pretty much wraps up this season's cruising. We are back in Bodø now and bedding Ada down for a long cold winter! She will spend the winter in the water because (a) that's where she belongs! and (b) despite being well north of the Arctic Circle the water here never freezes. The warm Gulf Stream works its way all the way up from the Caribbean and keeps the entire Norwegian coast ice free throughout winter and the temperatures remarkably mild - apparently the temperature on Xmas Day last year was a balmy 7 deg C! I have arranged for a local gentleman who is the captain of a heritage fishing vessel 'Faxsen' based in Bodø to keep an eye on the boat, check mooring lines and inspect on board periodically to make sure everything is OK. Nevertheless there are many precautions we need to take to ensure the boat and its equipment are not damaged by the extremely cold temperatures that can and do occur - the most important being to ensure that the boat's heating system is working properly to keep temperatures on board above freezing throughout the winter. As a safeguard I now have 3 temperature probes on board connected via WiFi to the internet so that I can monitor the situation on board from home.
I will leave you with my latest photo / video production featuring the amazing Aunty Pam celebrating her 69th birthday with a gutsy swim at latitude 69 deg N and a stunning display of her latest Victoria's Secret lingerie!