Back in Norway...
We were very excited after the fantastic sail from Iceland across the Norwegian Sea, north of Lofoten and Vesterålen in Malangen fjord toward Tromsø. But - it was also sad to be back in Norwegian water, after so many years on an incredible voyage living the dream.
When we discovered Johanna riding her bicycle dockside Tromsø Harbour, preparing to catch Empire`s lines, tears were not far away. Wilhelm - whos signed on board in Reykjavik - had a big smile on his face, taking pictures of the 1th Mate and Captain not knowing whether they should cry or laugh. Eirik and Marius did not really catch what was going on, except that it was something unusual at this port of call. Both Eirik and Marius knew Johanna from earlier...
Docked in Tromsø
Safely moored to the visitor`s pier in Tromsø Harbour, friends and unknown people appeared on the dock to welcome us "back home”. It was overwhelming to receive all the positive feedback from strangers that had followed the voyage by our web pages and/or through our articles in the magazine “Seilas” – positive feedback we got to hear more of, as we sailed further south along the Norwegian coast.
The days in Tromsø passed quickly. Hans Olaf and Sidsel opened their home downtown Tromsø. Lovely fish soup was served the first evening, and friends from our landlife in Norway and from our sailing life on tour showed up. We were invited to dinner at Johanna’s place, did a trip to Martin’s cottage at Kvaløya and had dinner at Nina & Thomas` house. It was fantastic days and lovely reunion with many friends.
We also had time for sightseeing around Tromsø with local guides. We just had to see Tromsø from above. The cabelcar took us to Storsteinen and a panoramic view from 421 meters above sea-level. It’s always attractive to climb a hill or a mountain after days at sea.
In addition to the social days Eivind did a little bit of “work” – rig inspection of the standing rig on board Hans Olaf’s yacht – before sailing south.
The temptation became too big after departing Tromsø. The previous Norwegian naval submarine base Olavsvern is positioned just south of Tromsø. Of course we had to sail by. Years ago Eivind worked on board the Norwegian submarines. Lots of time was then spent on land at the now previous naval base. The guard that came running quayside Olavsvern was probably wondering what we were doing, as we backed Empire as close to the submarine tunnel entrance as we dared. He was obviously not happy, shouting and waving angryly with his arms, but we did get some nice pictures…
Since we sailed by Olavsvern we did not catch the tide south through Rystraumen. Instead we experienced a heavy northerly current. We barely managed to sail through. With the engine running on full speed navigating through the countercurrents close to shore we finally made it.
Safely through the tidal current Rystraumen we sighted the passengership ”Hurtigruten Nord Norge” a bit south. Last time we met “her” was in Patagonia, Chile, in 2007. In Chile we had a long chat with the captain onboard Nord Norge over the VHF-radio, both being Norwegians in foreign water. When we called the ship on the VHF radio this time, the meeting far south in Patagonia was unknown to the radio officer. But - when the ship a few minutes later came within close range, Nord Norge blew the whistle loudly for several seconds. We took it as a sign of officers on bridge finally recognizing Empire, after overhearing the conversation on the VHF radio – we greeted by taking the flag down and up again. It’s strange what an unexpected meeting in foreign waters can lead to! Well – it was probably a bit strange to be back in Norway after many years underway…
The first stop on the sail south the Norwegian coast was Engenes at Andørja, before we suddenly were “short of time”. Eivind had come up with the good? idea that ”someone” might have use of him at the Oslo Floating Boat Show - and it was only a few days until opening day. Soon after departure Engenes the ”Boat Show deal” was “signed”, and we sailed the quickest route towards Stø on the north side of Langøy, Vesterålen.
Heidi has relatives on Langøy. Dockside in Stø family and friends were waiting. In addition Heidi’s parents had decided to fly up north to welcome us.
For the Captain the family reunion was rather short since he briefly met Heidi’s parents when they arrived in Harstad – himself travelling in the opposite direction to the airport, bound for Oslo and “Oslo Floating Boat Show”.
No friends in Oslo knew that Eivind was sneaking towards the capital to work at the boat show. There were several very nice reunions and lots of surprised faces as Eivind was “discovered” at Lunde Båt’s (the Norwegian Bavaria dealer`s) stand.
Before we sat of on the long sailing adventure 3rd of July 2005, Eivind was employed as service manager at Lunde Båt. For Eivind the boat show was an abrupt transition to possible everyday life…
Also Eirik, Marius and Heidi arrived by plane to Oslo for a short visit. Saturday when the boat show was still on, the rest of the Empire family arrived in Oslo to celebrate Eivind’s father’s 75th birthday. Except from Eivind’s father none of the guests knew that we would show up. When Eivind’s nephew Sindre opened the door and realized that it was uncle Eivind arriving the party, he shouted “uncle is back home”. We had to think back to the story of Pippi Longstocking, when her father came home from America…
For a few days we got to experience ”everyday life” in Oslo. What probably saved us from the sudden exposure - was the certainty that Empire was waiting at the pier in Stø!
Beautiful Northern Norway
Empire stayed safely inside the brakewaters at Stø on Langøy a few more days after the crew returned from Oslo. Relaxing days in the family house a short distance from Stø harbour was necessary to get back in business after hectic days in Oslo. We also had time to visit friends and family in Vesterålen and Harstad before we headed south.
First stop was Sortland - still on Langøy, a bit south of Stø. We tied up “downtown” Sortland - in Torghuken. From Sortland we continued south through Raftsundet. We also did a quick sail in to the famous Trollfjorden, before heading south of Svolvær westward to Henningsvær.
At this stage the engine was running most of the time underway. Nature up north is powerful and beautiful with peaks around on nearly all sides – but there was not much wind for sailing these days.
We felt that we had saved some of the most beautiful parts for last! Towards Trollfjorden the landscape showed itself from its best side - in sunny and colorful autumn costume.
We arrived safely in Henningsvær, in good time before the predicted storm. Tied up at the quay outside Hovde Maritim, we were safely moored as the wind strengthened. The people at Hovde Maritim welcomed us – as Bavaria dealer in Northern Norway, the people at Hovde and Eivind knew each other almost as previous colleague.
The best for last
The Norwegian coast is extremely beautiful! Fjords and mountains are mighty. And we were on our way back to Oslo to w o r k…???
From Henningsvær we headed toward Kjerringøy. In Tromsø our friend Mr. Brox gave us the key to his fishermans hut at Kjerringøy. He meant that we probably would need some vacation by the time we arrived in Kjerringøy. He was probably a bit right, the thought of heading back to Oslo “for good” was exhausting.
After lovely days relaxing at Kjerringøy we continued south. First stop was Bodø. Also in Bodø we met family we hadn’t seen for a long time. Tove and Finn from the Norwegian sailboat Xanadu - we got to know them when we were in the Pacific Ocean – greeted us as we docked downtown Bodø. Tove and Finn also took us to the Airplane Museum, to the Tourist Hut and to the world’s strongest tidal current Saltstraumen. In addition they invited to a great birthday dinner on the day of Eivind`s birthday. Eivind on his side was finally able to do a bit of mechanic work on other people’s yachts. When we were in Bodø, the Captain managed to get Xanadu’s new engine hoisted on board Xanadu. It was about time – the engine had been waiting on shore for a few years.
From Bodø the voyage continued to Sørfugløy on Fugløy island, before sailing via Holandsfjorden and Nordfjorden to Klokkergården on Rødøy island. Later we continued via Melfjorden and Nordfjorden (a different Nordfjord than the first one...) to Selsøyvik Handelstad on Litle Selsøy island.
We were about to go for a walk on shore after the days sail, when Tone welcomed us to Selsøyvik. Suddenly we found our self at the honorable café – with the bishop and his entourage of Episcopal visitation. Very interesting for us – and several new acquaintances.
Just as we threw off from Selsøyvik the Hurtigruten passenger ship "Midnattsol" came southward through the narrow sound. With all sails up, we followed – course set for Sandnessjøen. Finally we were able to enjoy beautiful fjord sailing in a nice easterly breeze.
We did not see much of the infamous Norwegian autumn weather during the voyage south – luckily. Too little wind was rather the ordinary - except for the one day when we were moored in Henningsvær.
In Sandnessjøen we met Helge. With his family, Helge planned for a long voyage, departure set to 2014 – and we met the French solo sailor Gerome who had fallen in love with Norway, now with “homeport” - in Sandnessjøen.
Further south we visited Brønnøysund Yachtclub’s outport at Straumøy island - beautifully situated near the open sea, sheltered behind a few small islets - with a few floating docks and a tiny children’s playground. For Empire’s small sailors the playground was the highlight of the day.
From Straumøy island we arrived after a night’s sail in Skipnes on Skarsøya island just south of the entrance to the Trondheims Fjord. Peder (Eivind’s son) visiting his grandparents during the autumn holydays, took the lines as Empire came to the pier.
In the footprints of the adventurer Ragnar Thorseth
After our meeting in Australia with adventurer Ragnar Thorseth it was great fun to arrive Håholmen island. Ragnar’s little paradise in the small fishing village is today hotel and conference center – where the remains of Ragnar’s viking ship Saga Siglar and other of the adventurer’s ships and belongings has a central place.
The staff gave us a tour of the facilities. We soon experienced that we knew more about Ragnar's adventures and bravado than the staff. We did not get much new information during the guided tour…
From the highest point on Håholmen island the view is magnificent. Westward we could see straight out to the big ocean. Looking east we could see the famous Atlanterhavs bridge not far away. With a few self brought coins hidden in the ground, we arranged a treasure hunt. Both Eirik and Marius found their nice little treasures...
Notorious peace of water
Again the wind was absent, as Empire sailed across the notorious bay of Hustadvika. We took the opportunity of the calm weather and sailed directly to the city of Ålesund.
Also in Ålesund we experienced several lovely reunions. This time with Silje – one of Heidi’s friends from the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. We also enjoyed a visit to the Atlanterhavsparken Aquarium and to Fjellstua Café, with its great view over the jugend city – in addition to lovely company.
When we Monday departed Ålesund, it was in strong wind straight on the nose. Rain was pouring down. It was a long time since Empire experienced “that much” wind. We made it a short sail - across the fjord to Fosnavåg.
Next morning we woke up after the first frosty night so far (only outside the boat…). Course was again set southwards. In a breeze next to nothing we motored westward to sea, before rounding the notorious headland of Stadt in bumpy old sea from southwest. We also motored across the bay of Sildegapet, before sailing further south and east of Vågsøy Island. After passing Måløy we turned port and headed eastward in Nordfjorden – and suddenly Empire were back in familiar water. Water where Empire previously had been sailing! When we came alongside the floating dock at Rugsund Handelssted – an old trade station at Rugsundøy island – we were excited to find out if Harald and his family were home. The summer of 2004 – the summer before we set of on our looong voyage – was last time Empire docked at the same place at Harald’s pier. In theory, the circle was complete...