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1st Movement: Molto Adagio, con tempramento agitato soppresso.
Don’t you hate queueing? I know I do. Thursday 10th began with a splendid blast down the A14 on the bike, but came to a grinding halt on arrival at Stansted, police with machine pistols controlling the access to the departure hall. It was only 7:30am but there were people and luggage everywhere. Eric and John R arrived and, being at the back of a non-moving queue, we abandoned it in favour of the pub. After a F.E.B. for them and a mandatory Guinness for me, we all felt better, and decided to have another bash at the queue. We were still at the back (as it hadn’t moved) and we commiserated with an attractive fellow queue-er about our likely extended delay. She was off to Oslo, billed as 08:55, we to Trondheim, billed as 09:00. By 10:30 we all decided we needed another drink, so, with Line and her bags as well, we repaired once again to Flanagans Bar for further sustenance. Line’s passion was rowing: she had won a lot of medals, and regularly competed in eights, fours, pair sculls and quad sculls. Unfortunately for us, she declined the opportunity to change her destination and try rubber dinghies as well, and we eventually said goodbye as we left the airport seven hours late, all our fragile and valuable hand-baggage having been checked in at the gate.
At Trondheim we were reunited with some, but not all, of our baggage – the one item missing being the bag with the laptops in it…… you know how I love my laptop, and Eric loves his even more – there are 6,000 pieces of music on it!
The underground "AllWays" garage at the Royal Garden hotel (tel +46-90814000) once again provided us with a bargain hire car - £27 for 24 hours in a Honda jazz, and soon we were parking illegally with the best of them! Voltair turned out to be in good shape, though John R (just graduated in Agric. Science and shortly to be inducted into Dartmouth RN College) sucked his teeth a bit over the flags left flying while the ship was not under command. He immediately won the title of flag etiquette officer for the voyage, (though he’s been shirking lately). Eric (who plays trumpet), proved that a Swedish (fog-)horn can still play a fine tune, even if previous crew have unsoldered the mouthpiece, and was engaged as bugler and ships musician for the trip.
On Friday, we gassed the ship, provisioned the larder, and rolled up the sidescreens, much as Robin had before us, and after a hundred or so phone calls to numbers that didn’t answer, (and another hundred to my customer in the Czech republic who was having a torrid time trying to get ceramic bits made and sent to Marseilles), we made a futile visit back to the airport in search of the lost bag. Eventually, we fixed up for the bag to be forwarded to Sunday, dropped off the car, cast off the warps, and (what a relief) set off to the south.
Well, OK, it was the north actually, but you know what I mean. Austrått harbour at low spring tide has even less water in it than it did when Robin was there. The Norwegians occupying the outside of the flyttebrygger waved us glibly inside, and perhaps were as surprised as we were when we actually got there without going aground.
2nd Movement: Andante con raspberrio.
The castle at Austrått beckoned, but, with limited time available, we had a quick click at the wonderful painted wood carvings of the foolish virgins looking dejected on one side of the courtyard and the wise virgins opposite them, lamps flaming magnificently, but, rather than taking the full tour, decided to go on to the Fort and its 11-inch guns. Along the way we snacked on wild raspberries, while Farmer John told us about the growth cycle of the oats at the side of the road, and how to tell a fircone that has been gnawed by a squirrel from one that has been gnawed by a rabbit.
Sylvie is studying English at Trondheim Uni, and also has spent enough time on the beaches of Florida to perfect her tan. She is beautiful enough to have her frustrated suitors gnawing the fircones themselves. Just for today, our pleasure was for her to guide us around the Gneisenau turret and the subterranean fortification. Here she is, showing us the totem pole carved by the homesick German soldiers, who, judging by the carvings, clearly also had a GSOH.
We were amazed at the complexity of rooms and passages under the gun – four levels of which rotated as the gun was brought to bear, and we were allowed to climb on the turntable and whirl cranks, pull levers etc, quite unlike in a sanitised “don’t touch anything” british war museum. Sylvie even had us chasing her skimpy jeans up vertical steel ladders between the levels – and a Norwegian dad in our group was carrying a one-year old child!
We got a bit lost in the woods, looking for a short cut back to the harbour, and once we had found ourselves again and done the standard 3km walk, we attempted to diesel, but the guy who has the key wasn’t in his tent. So we attempted to beer, (at 30 NoK/0.5L – the best buy in the Trondheim region), but the guy who runs the bar wasn’t there at lunchtime. However, we raspberried adequately for the morrow’s cereal and watered to the brim. After that, there was nothing for it but to leave, so we did.
3rd Movement: Allegro accelerando, saltete, spumante!
Kristiansund boasted showers for 10 NoK, several Co-ops, a fine fishing tackle shop, a fish restaurant that looked marvellous, but didn’t dare to publish their prices, and a lot of chandlery businesses where we could have bought some more elastic for our hood, but forgot to do so. The hotel, which was to receive our bag from the airport, didn’t have it. A new instruction was given to Trondheim airport to beam our bag onwards into Tuesday.
3rd Movement: Allegro accelerando, saltete, spumante!
The previous evening, Eric passed the helm onto the skipper just in the nick of time, as we were arriving at the Gjestebrygge, on the left of the cul-de-sac inlet. Within 10 seconds, and about 2 seconds before I was about to begin our left-hand-down-a-bit manoeuvre, a large black steel bow appeared about 10 feet away, above my left ear, closely followed by several hundred tons of local ferry, presumably going off to park for the night, or else hurl itself on the rocks at the end of the inlet. Memo to self – Mirror, Indicators, Manoeuvre.
As was becoming our custom, we left at the crack of noon. It was a full sail day, with a 10-knot breeze abaft the beam. As we bore away around the various islands, the wind went further aft and the jib became useless, so we rigged the spinnaker and pole and had a fine broad reach along the coast.
Ona had been planned as the destination for the day, and we decided to reach it by boldly sailing across the exposed bay of Hustadvika (splitting infinitives along the way) and approaching Ona via the northern entrance, so we didn’t have to dead-run down the inshore channel. As time went by our speed picked up. Soon we were getting 13 knots of wind and a boat speed of 6. Wave-height about 5 feet. Then it became 15 wind and 7 boat, wave-height 6 feet….. getting into dangerous territory now! The spinnaker was brought down successfully behind the mainsail and we continued on mainsail and mizzen, with one less breakfast aboard than had been consumed. The mizzen was reefed to reduce weather helm, and then, with harnesses now issued, JR & JK reefed the main as we hit 20 knots of wind and 7.5 boatspeed. The waves increased in size and JR’s tum became progressively worse. Eventually, we needed the main down, so JK did a solo act on the cabin top in the 30-knot breeze, as Eric turned into the wind a bit, sending up a 10-gallon shower of white water that soaked him from head to toe – undoing all the good the 10-NoK shower had done in the morning!
Reaching the point where we were due to make our turn to the south to run down between the rocks north of Ona, the sea was white with breaking crests in all directions – the crests breaking on rocks hurling themselves upwards as well as sideways. I don’t think we would have done that quite narrow northern passage without GPS – there were other clues and Vardes etc to take bearings on, but I wouldn’t have felt safe on these alone in the quite bad sea conditions. We had a few waves hopping on board from the port side as we came through the channel. Quite how they find their way into the toolbox locker (after filling Eric’s shoes) I don’t know, but once there, they head directly for all the non-stainless items and corrode them quite thoroughly.
By 9pm the sun was out (along with the whisky), the dinner was on and the kittiwakes nesting all around the tiny harbour were crying their final duet of the day with their partners and to the world in general. As the last mouthfuls of soppa di spaghetti con pesce slipped down, Olaf, from the Jeanneau behind us, a mini Aegeia of a similar vintage, (who had been for a 10km run when I met him at the top of the gangway – quite a feat on Ona, which, even with causeway-joined Husøy included, is only 2km long) and 17-year old daughter Bite came on board for a beer and some conversation, and, once they had left, it didn’t take many hands of Black Maria before John R was nodding and it was duvet time.
4th Movement: Lente, alla Pescadore
Breakfast was even later than usual the next day and then we did the island tour. We patronised the post office, open 10:30 till 12 on alternate days, buying some lovely ripe pears, postcards and peanuts. Then Anna, at “Blue and Brown” ceramics gave me a tour of her workshop, discussed glazes and scritura techniques, told me how the island had changed over the thirty years she had lived there (her husband’s family goes back generations, even to when the ‘fiskevær’ existed – a semi-feudal society where the fishermen sold all their fish to the landlord, from whom they rented their houses and boats and from whose store they bought all their provisions and fishing equipment). She also told me about the water pipeline that brings water to Ona from Harøya, along with wind-generated electricity, and with a trade in children going to school flowing the other way. I pointed her at Port Isaac Pottery’s website for some ideas to add to her own, and bought a pot with a recipe for a dip to go with lobster and prawns on it. Now all we need is the lobster….. (plentiful around Ona, by all accounts, but illegal to bring up as a diver). Then we did the big sandy beach at the south end, the immaculate graveyard next door to it (many headstones to , and back to the lighthouse, it’s lamp and glass newly cleaned by the lamp-cleaning man who came in with the ferry in a smart grey Mercedes van.
The run to Ålesund was a slow, relaxed affair, jib and mizzen slipping us silently down the channel, and permitting skippers to take beef sandwiches and lettøl on the foredeck, with a snooze in the intermittent shade of the wafting jib for afters. Middle ranks were performing duties on the helmsman’s chair, playing prodme-twistme with two Garmins and George. Other ranks were busy helping the weeds on our lines return to the sea while assisting the mackerel into our bucket. This was very successful and, though we couldn’t persuade a nice cod to join them there, a fine mackerel bake with onions, garlic, ginger and a few thai spices was conjured up once we were alongside in the city. Eric emerged triumphant from the Hotel Bryggen – the long lost bag held aloft – and returned to Voltair with alacrity to a joyous reunion and an Extra Gold 6.5% beer.
5th Movement: Passacaglia con moto, ma sensa molto brio
The last couple of days we have been mainly relying on Perkins to do the work, since Puff seems to have gone on holiday. Last night was spent at anchor in a small harbour called Stadvågen half way around the “Wolf’s Head” – I guess you could say that means in its mouth. JK did a dive and scrubbed and scraped away most of the green weed that has been slowing us down recently. He nearly got a nice plaice but was too slow to grab it, and too squeamish to stab it! We thought, by overnighting half-way around, we might see some spectacular breaking waves today, if not yesterday. But this morning, it’s also a sleeping giant, long swells from the north humping up a bit and sloshing against its ankles, but nothing much to write home about. Overcast skies with an occasional shower, and much brighter this afternoon, permitting us a short sail to our destination of...
We have now made it to Floro, past the spectacular Hornellen (2500ft almost vertically above us) that Robin wrote about so eloquently on the way up north. We went straight to the floating pub, bobbing on the harbour a few yards away, and caught up with Manfred and Heidi from Libra, the German yacht with which Robin traded whisky for oil a week or so ago. Being now better stocked with oil than whisky, we attempted a reverse deal, but without success. Well, fancy that!
Best wishes from Eric, John K and John R.