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Ona Island, Norway.

Jim takes an Arctic plunge.

Wine improves any meal.

Looking for Polar Bears, Part VI

August 29, 2009

7 58 57.5 N 2 49.7 W Deer Sound Orkney Islands

We are anchored in UK waters in a howling gale for the third day. We have been boat bound for five days. It is surprising that Arctic weather was better.

Our trip from Svalbard to the Norway mainland ended July 29th after four rough but good sailing days with the winds out of the east.

The next four days off of the Mainland were perfect. The two of us explored remote anchorages in 70 temperatures. The green of the forests and shore grasses mixed with the majestic mountains warmed us after the cold starkness of Svalbard. We could not resist staying out of the clear waters but one plunge woke us up to the need to get back to Tromso to meet Jim's two Chicago friends, Ed Bacharach and Richard Kent. They had signed on to help Jim bring Onora 500 miles south to the old capital, Trondheim while Jean traveled to New York to visit our newest grandchild, Hazel, born July 1.

Here is part of Ed's trip report:


.....So a couple of us buddies showed up. One was a thinker, sailor, and salad maker. The other was cleaner, tailor, and joke maker. They each carried a case of wine and came by separate routes to meet him where he had been left, north of the Arctic Circle in Tromso.

You would think that the north of Norway would be frigid with a furious Norwegian Sea but when we landed it was 80 degrees and sunny. The immense jagged grey mountains all around us are bathed year round by the warm waters that stream up from the Gulf of Mexico bringing only the warmth but none of the sailors.

After settling in and exploring we had a late bite before turning in. Don't tell the grandchildren but one of us had a trio of reindeer, whale, and seal meat for dinner. We left the restaurant at 11:30 just as the sun was trying to set and heard for the first, but not last time, that the Arctic Circle is that arc on a map above which there is at least one day each year that the sun doesn't set and another when it doesn't rise. We needed it dark to rest our weary heads.

The next morning early we set off. Can't really say we set sail as it was calm everywhere. We only raised a sail for about a half an hour that whole week. So we wove our way by motor in and out of islands and channels and finally settled in a breathtaking anchorage next to some flat rocks and an empty cottage. Thinking we had gotten to the end of nowhere we were surprised by the water skier that passed as we dined at 10 o'clock.

We had been merry that night with beer, wine, and whiskey but the next day our buddy, our captain, was back in his fog. It came upon us in the morning as we made the long run to the small town of Henningsvaer. The wet of the cold fog was matched by the wet of our pants when a fog horn of a ferry sounded to our starboard a few yards away. We were glad to make it into town and get some groceries but arriving at the restaurant after 10 again they would only feed us fish soup. During the night, as we slept off our stupor, some squatters landed behind us and moved us up the pier.

The routine of the trip had settled upon us. We rotated cooking, cleaning, and bar tending. We were to rotate our one hour watches, but got pretty lax until a large rock loomed in front of the boat scaring all of us as our captain jumped on the wheel and turned us around at the last minute. From then on we were on our best behavior. During quiet moments we fed puzzling questions to each other and kept the thinker busy trying to reinvent the difference between statute miles and nautical miles. We talked of our lives, our loves, and our fortunes and misfortunes.

Our captain was a quiet humble man; curious about everything and everyone. He was a warm hospitable host and made us feel at home. But he was also an indomitable maintenance man tending to his mistress. When he failed to feed her fuel, she would shut down and he would have to bleed her. When he rode her hard, she would shear off her bolts in protest. When he let other men into her private areas she would shut down her plumbing. Attention must be paid. The captain took it all in stride, but where was his other woman and was she coming back?

So we journeyed on. The night after Henningsvaer we anchored in another breathtaking inlet and broke out the dinghy for a shore visit. An interesting hike yielded one false peak after another and every fly in Norway, so we harvested some mussels, sped away from the flies, and fixed a fresh seafood dinner. We were further south now and the sun actually set. Seeing his chance the shy moon rose over the mountain ducking in and out of the clouds. We were getting accustomed to one dramatic setting after another.....

Now we were getting into fjord country and along the way we sojourned into a stunning little inlet in the middle of the afternoon. The slope under the water was as steep as the mountains and not a few feet from shore the water was 50 meters deep. That night we ended up in Hollandsfjord with a view of the magnificent Svartisen glacier. It is either the largest glacier in Europe or second. The next day a couple of us hiked most of the way to the glacier. One more night in a scenic bay and then we were on a short run to Sandnessjoen.

Along the way we passed the Arctic Circle Monument, an abstract globe along on a rocky coastline. We pulled into Sandnessjoen in the morning and had a day of recuperation. A couple of us took a ride out to the Petter Das museum and chapel. In yet another sensational setting the museum was an ultramodern structure set in a slot that had been cleanly cut through a rock hill, a most urban structure in the middle of nowhere....

While one of the buddies left the next morning, our captain was now expecting her to come back to him in few days when he pulled into Trondheim. For the buddies it was a trip of a lifetime filled with unparalleled scenery, great conversation, and more wine than the oceans can hold. We could only hope that we did something for the captain's spirits. I suspect he did more for us than we did for him but, then, that's the way he is. We know she will be back with him and sailing soon. She'd be crazy not to....


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