Back in familiar water
In theory, the circle was complete. We had visited Rugsundøy and Rugsund Handelssted with Empire earlier – last time was summer 2004.
Rugsund became the first place in Norway we had visited with Empire before we headed out on our looong voyage. Also south along the Norwegian coast we didn’t want to plan too much – neither the arrival in Rugsundøy was announced in advance. Squire Harald was surprised to find a boat at the guest pier. The harbour at Rugsundøy Handelssted is rarely a crowded place in October. When Harald discovered that it was Empire moored at the pier, he put on his biggest smile.
Captain Eivind jumped into the sea from the pier together with Harald – just to discover that also under sea level not much had happened at Rugsundøy Handelssted. 8 years had passed since last time Eivind breathed compressed air in these waters.
Something that was about to change, was the number of family members at the old trades place Rugsundøy Handelssted. Harald`s oldest daughter was expecting a baby. For some time it looked like we had to assist as midwifes during our stay, but Harald’s grandchild decided to arrive the night after our departure. The little on made it safely «ashore» without our assistance.
Rugsund Handelssted has been in the Skaar family’s possession for almost 100 years. The Skaar’s have put in lots of labor to maintain and to restore the old trading place – especially the last 20 years. During the days Empire was docked at the pier also the Captain gave a hand. Harald and Eivind almost managed to fully lay the roof of the restored “Bryggeriet” (The Brewery), before Empire headed sooth.
After a five day visit at Skaar’s, we set the course south toward Bergen – but first we took a detour to the harbor Vågen in Fjaler, to greet Eivind’s comrade Yngve. The “big” boys had lots to talk about, and the two young sailors were curious about «Yngve the sailor». Yngve probably had a clue about the thoughts rummaging in our heads, with Empire heading closer and closer towards her homeport after a long voyage. Yngve himself had been on a long sailing voyage from 2003 to 2007 – on board the yacht La Familia.
When we arrived in Bergen we really got to feel that only few weeks were left of our long sailing adventure. The day we headed in towards Bergen harbour, we also set the date for our planned arrival to Oslo Motorbåtforening in Bestumkilen, Oslo – our homeport.
In Bergen we hit «the everyday-life», as we feared it could be. Bergen is a city of both good and evil – with busy and morning sleepy people hardly looking around as they rush to work or other doings. The 1.Mate on her way to the grocery shop to buy milk for the morning coffee, was not fully adjusted to the morning rush. Busy people on their way to work or other important “everyday life” appointments bumped into Heidi, as she walked on the pavement towards the store. An almost frightened Heidi came back on board – luckily with both bread and milk. It was a little eye-opener for us, to bump so quickly into what is "everyday life" or "city life" for most land dwellers.
The autumn colored the hillsides around Bergen and the days were rather chilly. The same day we docked in Bergen the fresh water was turned off at the docks. Yet another sign that the sailing season was over for most people. Empire`s Dickinson heater kept us warm and dry – at least when below deck.
Also in Bergen we had many nice reunions – with friends and family. Some we had seen under way, but most people we had met more than eight years ago. HMSS Utstein was moored at the VSF Wharf at Nordnes. When we were invited on board the submarine, the previous submariner Eivind got stars in his eyes. HMSS Utstein participated in the movie “2 Lives”. The watch crew onboard HMSS Utstein gave us a guided tour on board the submarine, as the rest of the crew were on shore to view the movie premiere. It was not only the Captain that enjoyed the submarine visit. Also the rest of the Empire crew learned from the visit on board the operational submarine. Until this stage, Eivind had only had the opportunity to take Eirik, Marius and Heidi on board museum submarines – different places around the world.
Eirik at the helm
From Bergen we sailed in known fjords – to Sunde where the 1.Mate`s ant was payed a visit. The local newspaper had discovered that the sailing vessel moored at the dock had been on a long voyage, and sent a reporter on board for a little chat.
Leaving Sunde there was finally some wind. In fog and drizzle we sailed towards Haugesund. A passerby stopped helpfully to take the rope as Empire closed in on the quay in Smedasundet downtown Haugesund. He glanced widely when he noticed the little one at the helm. Eirik aged 3½ helmed The Ship by his own hands toward the quay, the Captain taking care of the gear and the throttle. Admittedly, Eirik had to take a penalty loop to dock Empire since the first attempt had slightly too good clearance to the dock. It was a proud and highly concentrated sailor that on the second attempt approached the dock.
We departed Haugesund the 21. of October. Sailing south Smeasundet it was time for celebration with birthday cake in the cockpit. 2 years earlier Marius was born – in Yamba, New South Wales, Australia. During his two first years of life Marius managed to sail 22 000 nautical miles. At the age of 2, he had sailed in the Pacific Ocean, across the Indian Ocean and across both the southern and the northern Atlantic Ocean. Sailed distance is equivalent with a little bit more than the distance around the globe at Equator. Not bad for a 2 year old boy!
From Malaysia to Stavanger
It felt almost like summer when we arrived in Stavanger. Even the Captain considered taking of the long underwear – long underwear had become more or less standard dress code since we left NewYork and sailed north along the east coast of the USA half a year earlier.
It was plenty of mooring space in Vågen, downtown Stavanger. We were looking forward to meet friends also here – friends we got to know underway and friends we knew from before.
Geann, now studying and working in the oil metropole of Stavanger, we met first time in Malaysia when teaching a sailing course for friends we met in Puteri Harbour. ”Sailing course part 1” took place when Eirik was 8 months old and we were underway north toward Thailand. ”Sail course part 2” was not planned, but was naturally arranged when we surprisingly sailed south back toward Australia 5 months later. This time with a pregnant 1.Mate - sailor number two “in the oven”.
It was fun to meet Geann again - in Norway, and it was interesting to hear of her new everyday life in «our» country – a quiet different life than the one she left behind in Malaysia. Lots of things are good in Norway, but Geann found that it wasn’t only easy to adapt to the system in a new country. Busy land dwelling Norwegians are probably not always the easiest people to get to know. She found the way of living and thinking in Norway different than at home. Regular working days in Norway was also different than she was used to in Malaysia. In Malaysia 12hour long work days was considered as quiet normal.
2 weeks left
From Vågen we sailed the short distance across to Grasholmen, to visit the live-aboard Sverre Erik in s/y Vagabond Virgin. We met when sailing in the Pacific Ocean in 2007-2008. Sverre Erik sailed a shorter route back toward Norway than Empire, and had already lived several years onboard Vagabond Virgin in Stavanger when we came alongside. Maybe the fact that Sverre Erik still lived in his yacht kept the hunger for adventure away?
Also Eivind`s friend Kjartan came for a visit onboard Empire in Stavanger. He even brought with him some dear meat hunted by himself for Empire`s stores – just so that we could get a real taste of our «home country». It tasted well, too, when the dear a few days later found its way to our stomachs.
From Stavanger we headed south, passing Jærens Rev and Lista in calm weather, before heading in toward Farsund. Ligthouse navigation in the dark gave navigational training in the fjord. Farsund welcomed us with blinking blue lights and sirens. Luckily it was not Empire or her crew that had done anything wrong. The police cars had disappeared to other errands by the time Empire docked around 0200.
Hometown of Pirate Sabeltann
From Farsund Empire took us toward Auglandsbukta just outside Kristiansand. We got to know our sailing friends Anne and Jørgen along the European coast in 2005. Anne and Jørgen had not only settled in Kristiansand, they had also given birth to two beautiful girls. It was a very nice reunion also in Kristiansand. It was almost as it was only a short time since we last were together, even though it was actually more than 6½ years since last time we met – in the Caribbean.
Our friend Bjørnar, that had visited us several times on tour – and also was crew on board Empire the first time we met Anne and Jørgen in 2005 – also came to Kristiansand to visit one more time before Empire would moore in her homeport.
When we set the course form Auglandsbukta it was with ice scraping along the hull. The night`s frost had created a thin layer of ice across the bay. Also sailing north in Blindleia we several places had to break ice. It felt good that Empire had experience form colder water!
On our way toward Risør we heared a call for Empire on the VHF radio. Not knowing that we had friends out sailing at this time of the year, we were a bit surprised. It was Rikki on his way westwards to deliver a yacht in Stavanger calling. We both headed towards Risør for a rendezvous. Safely moored longside Risør harbour and with dinner ready, we took the lines as Rikki came alongside. With a few centimeters of snow on deck, we even managed a short snowball war before dinner was served.
Heidi’s brother Øyvind and his wife Sadie travelled by car to Risør. They were both heading of for a longer voyage by air, car and motorbike to Asia and Australia. We appreciated them taking the detour to Risør, since they would be leaving by plane before Empire`s planned arrival in Oslo.
The end is closing in…
From Risør we headed northeast and in Vestfjorden, through Vrengensundet and in to Mågerø Marina. Again we were expecting «old friends» for a visit on board. This time it was Lisbeth and Vegar from the yacht Pomona..
Eivind met Lisbeth and Vegar for the first time in Farsund during a summer sailing. That was in the year of 2000 and Lisbeth and Vegar had set the departure for their long voyage to 2003. Lisbeth and Vegar sailed away as planned.
Next time we met was in Puteri Harbour i Malaysia – in 2009!!! Since then we met many times. Last was in Hout Bay in Souht Africa around New Years 2011/2012. Since Pomona choose a different route north than Empire, Lisbeth and Vegar arrived Norway in June, a few months before Empire arrived in Tromsø.
Also Mats and his wife dropped by to say hello when Empire was moored in Mågerø. Mats was “The boss” at the time Eivind served on board the submarines. It was lovely reunions also in Mågerø. It is amazing how little time has to say, when meeting again after many years!
To be sure to arrive in time to the announced 12 o`clock arrival in Oslo Motorbåtforening, we made a last stop at Fische Marine (now Frydenbø Marine) on our way in the Oslofjord. With the short distance from Fische to Oslo Motorbåtforening remaining, it was pretty easy to calculate the arrival the next day.
In the morning Saturday 3rd November before throwing off, several Fische employees showed up on the quay. Many of them good friends that we hadn`t seen for several years. Lovely reunions also at Fische`s quay.
The last leg, from Fische in the Oslofjord, was by motor. North of Søndre Langåra island a RIB came up from behind and passed in high speed. We didn`t realize that it was Eivind`s brother Morten and several family members on both sides in the RIB, until the RIB turned around and put up the big Norwegian flag. It was a happy reunion with wet eyes, before all crew gathered in Empire and the RIB was taken on a line behind.
South of Gåsungene also other yachts showed up, with friends and known people on board. With the course set for Oslo Motorbåtforening in Bestumkilen, all vessels pulled in on a line behind Empire bound for her homeport.
Help – we are back home!
We were excited when Oslo Motorbåtforening`s floating pontoons became visible in the northern end of Bestumkilen. On the outer end of the piers, we recognized a few faces. Further in on the piers we could see even more people. We were pretty anxious these last minutes underway towards our homeport – for the first time in exactly 7 years and 4 months.
At 1200 precisely, Saturday 3. November 2012 Empire arrived in Oslo Motorbåtforening! Tears dripping and hugs to everyone as lines were tied to the pier. It was amazing to get a reception like this – but it was also with mixed feelings we set our feet on the pier. We knew that a fantastic voyage had come to an end!
THANK YOU A THOUSAND TIMES EMPIRE - FOR THE FANTATIC EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE GIVEN US AND FOR TAKING US SAFELY ACROSS THE BIG OCEANS!