Sunday, 17 August 2014

Big catch-up: Stavanger and the Hardangerfjord...

BIG UPDATE COMING FOLKS.....  Sorry folks.  We've been a) enjoying ourselves, b) we've not had good internet connections, and c)we forgot about the blog.  Apologies if your life has been on hold in the meantime.  OK it's Saturday morning and we've got 4 days of stories to catch up on.  Pictures will have to wait until we get a stronger 3G signal.

Blog uplate Saturday August 16

The last time we posted we were just leaving Farsund on Tuesday afternoon.  Martin said we would try and make Stavanger in about 30 hrs.  It was going to be quite rough to start with then the winds would back westerly and it calm down (a bit). well we all know how accurate Martin is with his briefings and pedictions.

First up was Blue Watch.  Very strong southerly winds and rough seas.  After we finished motoring out of the sound we had the sails up and were getting 5-6 knts.  Rain, heavy swell over the gunwales and we were all wet through within the first hour.  But the waves were very big from the stern so it made for a very uncomfortable motion.  We had all taken sea sickness pills in preparation.  At about 5pm the clew on the main sail snapped with a huge explosive bang and the sail was flapping.  All hands!  Quick as a flash Frianco and Niki were on the case.  Steered into wind and lowered the gaff, tied up the thrashing canvas and set about a repair.  The other watches were happily tucked up in their bunks resting ahead of their shifts - except Nick, Mary, Maria and Harvey who were happy to help Blue Watch.  Two hours later and the repair was done.  Blue watch stayed to reset the sails as the others tucked in - sort of - to another tasty meal from Jessica's magical hands.  Handover to a decidedly green looking Red Watch at 8pm.  Blue watch famished troughed into their food like they hadn't eaten for days despite tha heaving and pitching ship.

Overnight there was no respite.  Those trying to sleep had to have their lee cloths up and be wedged in their bunks.  The ship was really rolling now.  Doors crashing, books flying, things falling out of cupboards.  A real mess.  But we were making great speed, some 8-9 knts, which ironically was too fast.  We would arrive in Stavanger too early so Frianco had to steer a slower course to buy time.  the graveyard shift at 4am saw Blue Watch have to carry out 4 jibes and put up and take down the topsail.  By 8am we were rounding the Kvitsoy lighthouse and heading into the Stavanger Sound.

We berthed in the main Vagen area of central Stavanger at about 11am alongside two massive 10-storey high super-cruise liners.  Lines and lines of cruise tourists filling up the tour buses, but mostly taking pictures of us!

Wednesday 13th - Day 1 in Stavanger - museums
After a quick briefing most of us headed out into the old town to explore.  And that's when the reverse motion sickness kicked in.  Stationary on terra firma after 12 hours of heaving and rolling and our brains were telling us we were still moving.  Wierd.  Lovley little old town of white weatherboard cottages and cobbled lanes. Oh yeah and thousands of cruiser tourists.  The commercial district was equally pretty.  After lunch back on the boat we headed out again: venues bagged included the oil museum, the sardine canning factory museaum, the Koncerthall, the fire watch tower, the harbour museum, and the shops!  A beautiful sunny warm evening and we're all on deck for G&Ts/Fizz.  Pity the massive MSC liner Orchestre backs in to bock our view.  Evening briefing:  early start tomorrow as Martin has secured us the "value" tour to pulpit rock.  later Andy meets up with a friend Sally from 30 years ago who now lives in Norway.  She is a dinner guest for the evening.

Thursday 14th - Day 2 in Stavanger - trip to Pulpit Rock.
Early breakfast and off through the still quiet town at 7.30am to the regular 40 minute ferry to Tau. Only a handful of plucky tourists on board.  Short bus ride to the Priekestollen car park and we're off!  Both Jessica and "crazy puppy" Eddie (wannn-too) Cabin Boy are with us.  We think they have lunch.  The weather is perfect, sunny, breezy not too hot.  It's a 3.8km 300m vertical hike to the rock, and we are not alone!  Even though we're ahead of the masses, there are plenty of people on the trail.  We pass two girls sitting on a rock tally counting - by 10.30am there's already 150 up front.  We pass through lovely glades and rocky tarns on the way up.  At 2.4km we catch our first sight of the Lisjefjord stretching away up north

Pulpit Rock - a sheer drop of rectangular grey mass dropping into the fiord like a viking axe.  Nearly everyone is drawn to the edge crawling forward on their stomachs to peer over, or more nonchalently sit swinging their legs over the side.  Lots of people are gambling with their safety to take selfies.  I wonder what it would feel like if someone does fall off!  There's a tourist helicopter overhead and tour boats down below but we feel like the real thing.

After a couple of hours we set off back down, and stop en route for lunch which luckily Jessica, our cook, has carried on her back. The group settles down by a lake and we have some wine and quiche, salad, meats etc.  Eddy, cabin boy, goes off rock climbing so as punishment his rucksac is filled with rocks for the journey down.  We have to dissipate his energy somehow!  Off again and the rain starts which makes the clamber down a little slippy but we all get back to base safe and sound to wait for the bus.  First casualty of the trip is Richard who gets a wasp brushed into his face by someone nearby and is robustly stung on the bridge of his nose.  Fortunately Marion has a tube of bite cream in the depths of her rucksac and and comes to the rescue.  The journey back to Stavanger goes without incident, and develops into a beautiful sunny evening spent on deck with  admiring glances from passers by.  A bottle of bubbly is cracked open to celebrate the exam results of two of our absent teenagers and excited phone calls are made.

At 1800 it's time for the ship to move again as Martin has to release the berth for another vessel.  We set sail north-westwards for a few hours before dropping anchor in a secluded bay and having our evening meal.  Jana one of our intrepid crew suggests a swim off the boat, but the rest of us whimp out at plunging into the inky black water and declare we'll do it in the morning.  Eddy not wanting to be upstaged decided to rig a makeshift swing from which he can perform like a circus sealion in front of his audience.  We all think he is daft - but not as daft as Dave who lets him use his GoPro to video the whole thing!
.......Sinderella, the village pantomine is put on for entertainment......

Friday 15th August
Morning comes, the rope ladder is put over the side and three of us take the plunge.  Wow it takes your breath away!  Eddy is swinging off the ropes again and Jana is doing laps round the ship. Everyone else comes on deck to watch before breakfast.  All aboard and we set sail again. We're aiming to get beyone Haugersund on the way to the fiords but the winds are not being kind to us, yet again a fierce headwind so we have to motor.  We reach another bay near xxxxx some 16km south of Haugersund by mid afternoon before dropping both anchors.  Janna competently crews the dinghy and ferries us ashore to explore the little marina/village.  No village to be found but we walk round the headlands and through a wood.  A small group decide to get a taxi to Haugersund and a have a fish meal out.  The rest of us eat stuffed cabbage - actually delicious.  Big news - a mackerel is caught by our Captain Martin in this bay within seconds of casting his line, much to the annoyance of Mandy who has a only caught a duck so far..  First fish of the voyage - where are they all?  Mandy, Raynee and Nick persevere with their lines...
Scrabble, Canasta, and Sequences keep everyone entertained during the evening along with a very scary movie - Perfect Storm!

At the evening briefing Martin says we will leave at 4am.  No need for watches.  We should get a long way into Hardangerfjord.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Heading out soon

Update at 10am on Tuesday 12th August

After another long lie in and breakfast at 0900, Martin tells us we are going to head out at 1400.  The winds have abated and enough.  However the bad news is that the waves are still "big" so it will be rough.  Next stop Stavanger.  Possibly 36hrs sailing.  Ooh er...

As Farsund as you can get....

Blog update Monday  11th August

Hello to everyone who is following us and special thanks to those who have commented.  Cheers to you!  We've had requests for more photos and I'll do what I can but we're having to ration our Internet usage abit, and photos take up a lot of bytes....

Change of plan.  Marten decided than we needed to leave Arendal fairly quickly to try to get ahead of the storm.  So the plan was to leave at midnight on Saturday night. Everyone went quiet. White watch would start first  (Maria, Richard,Mary, Harvey, Roz and Tony).  It would be a long night.  As soon as we got out of the sound we hit the strong southerly winds and high seas.  When Blue watch came on watch at 4am the sea state was huge!  Everyone queasy.   The plan was to sail for 36 hours and get to Stavanger up the strongest Head winds meant we were only making 2-3knts with the engine on at full tilt and a few sails up.  So basically we were only going at walking pace.  Another change of plan.  We needed to find a harbour quickly and moor up.  So we look at Farsund on the very southerly tip of Norway.  We do a jibe at about 1700 and make 335 deg. Farsund isn't in the Lonely Planet and the crew haven't been there before so no one knows what to expect.  Marten can't get anyone on the radio either so we just head in gingerly through rocky outcrops to what turns out to be a lovely little fishing village full of white, blue and red clapboard houses - and some fabulous second homes.  When we get in a crowd of locals come and watch.  We just fit on the Quay next to a massive tugboat.  Marten declares we'll be here for at least 24hrs so we might as well make ourselves at home.  Overnight a massive gale blows in but we're safely tied up and snug in our bunks.  Breakfast at 8.30am so a lie in and all watches off.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Stuck in Arendal..

We arrived here last night at 1.30am.  Looked  really pretty in the still evening air and clear moonlight.  This morning we toured the town and discovered some lovely houses in the old town, the 1909 railway station (trains to Stavanger take 5hr 27 min and cost 628 N.Kr, in case you wanted to know). A few people went to the island of Merdo in the estuary and visited the museum there.  Then the storm blew in. They say it's the tail end of hurricane Bertha.  Lashing it down.  Crew out in it tying down the foresails.  Rumours are that we might get underway at midnight.  Everyone in the saloon playing cards, games, reading or sleeping.  Meanwhile Maria (Miss Kitty) and Godfried spend 900 Near buying us all 14Gb on  data card so we can log in and catch up with the latest cute cat photos on Facebook, or to upload this log....

Day 2 and 36 hours sailing.....

Blog update Friday 8 August 0800
 It's Friday morning and we have been underway for almost 24 hours. We are now near the northwest tip of Denmark and about 5 miles off the coast heading 015deg and making 5knots. We are currently motoring as we are too close hauled to make our desired heading completely under sail. Yesterday afternoon we started the watch system. There are three watches of 6, 6 and 5 people. Watches run from 2pm to 8pm, 8pm to midnight, midnight to 4am, 4am to 8am then 8am to 2pm, and so on. It was a much quieter ship than last night as people were either on deck, sleeping , playing backgammon (Tingey 5 - Godfried nil) or relaxing. Overnight the sea was calm and the moon was out. There were clear skies, plenty of stars to spot, and tales to be told as we huddled around the wheelhouse taking turns to helm. Steering on such a big ship is no easy matter with 9 sails up! The overnight slot was a bit tough on the first day, but then we did say we wanted to get stuck in. Morning broke to clear warm sunny skies. Half of us are now sleeping so breakfast is very quiet. White watch are back on deck sunning themselves and why not.

Blog update Friday 8 August 1000
 Marion decides to do a bit of washing. Like you do. Ann is practicing her guitar and everyone else is either asleep or reading. Ship on autopilot. So where to hang the wet clothes? Eddie asks if Marion would like to go up the mast, and I guess she thinks it's a transaction thing. OK why not. So in the harness, swings on to the the gunwale and up the rigging she goes. The readers have to put their books down to watch this. "Your missus is more intrepid than you Ghani. Haha" Richard was quick to point out. In 2 minutes Marion is on the platform 28m above the deck and admiring the view. The rest of us are getting vertigo just craning our necks to see. Coming down appears to be harder. Eddie then asks if anyone else wants to go up and suddenly everyone has gone. Except Dave "tigger" Hampson-Ghani. He can't not go now that Marion has beat him to it. So on with the harness and now the head-cam GoPro gear and away he goes like a little 12 year old. "Slow down, not so fast" calls out Mary as if that would make any difference. Dave draws blood on the rigging and threatens to splatter the sail. Typical, can't do anything simple like climb up the rigging with out making a drama of it.

Blog update Friday 8 August 2100
Skipper Martin reports at midday that there is an intense low coming up from the south and it really would be a good idea to try and out run it as there are 40 knot winds on the front. So we head 015deg and decide we can'can't make Sweden. Crossing the Skaggerat we loose sight of land as we cross the Norwegian trench (which is 400m deep in places). Robyn says it's a breeze which can sometimes be an awful crossing. Raynee is still dragging a line in the vain hope of catching something. After a morning lecture on meteorology from Marten where we learnt the basics of the Coriolis effect though the analogy of cannonballs and balistics, we had a teach in from Nikki on knots. Some of needed the story of the rabbit and the tree to do a bowline, whilst others used the drunkard and the pub. Guess who that was. Dead flat calm sea in the afternoon made for a very comfortable crossing. Land sighted at 1700. Supper at 1930 followed by a beautiful sunset. Due alongside at Arundel at about midnight. Apparently there's a festival in town this weekend.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Ship's crew assembled

So the adventure begins.  On Wednesday 6th August 2014 we all arrived in Esbjerg. The main group, David & Ann, Maria & Richard, Roz & Tony, Robyn & Andy, Godfried and Christine arrived from Stansted after a stupidly early 3.30am start.  Mandy flew in from Heathrow via Aberdeen (eh?),  Nick & Raynee were already here having driven from Kent in their camper van and Harvey & Mary, Dave & Marion arrived by train from Copenhagen (really uber cool & hip).

The wine consignment arrived by truck as we did, and we met the crew:  skipper Martin, first mate Frianko, cook Jessica and crew Eddie, Jana, Niki.  Cabins allocated , bags unpacked, rooms double checked, toilets tested and showers savoured.  Wonderful welcome on board and a lovely convivial evening as the sun set over the workaday port.  Tomorrow after taking provisions we'll head off north.  The winds are south/southwesterly which will take us nicely north towards Norway.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Esbjerg harbour

And here is the Oosterschelde on Saturday 2 August seemingly doing a trip round the harbour and back.