Leg 3: 11-21 July Fredrikstad to Bergen, Norway
Friday, 19th July
A great trip – the combination of a great crew (probably, as this is the Baltic, the 'best crew in the world'), fantastic surroundings of both the Tall Ships and Norway, and great weather, most of the time. And good old STBV who has got us through another adventure.
I think great AT is when you get the combination right – the mix of great people who are willing to give anything a go, which in turn feeds the AT leader who has the confidence to try other things; great conditions; and good weather. The challenge is different to all, and all react differently, and the way that service personnel react as a team is the most important aspect. We are very fortunate to be able to use STBV for AT, and she has great qualities.
This team has been superb with a great sense of humour, all using their individual skills to one end, willing to try anything and genuinely interested in learning. We have sailed through some spectacular scenery, enjoyed good company, had some testing weather and small setbacks, and seen some great sights. It doesn't get much better than this.
Thursday, 18th July
Leaving our strange overnight berth, we headed back out into the wind and struggled again for several hours failing to get the angles necessary to get round the cape – we noted that one of the square riggers had actually tacked in the same spot for over 12 hours by this time – and reluctantly turned on the motor and made good ground by keeping close inshore where the swell was much smaller.
As darkness came (what little there is), we decided to take a short cut through the inner fjord from Boknasfjord to Haugesund on the main Bomnafjord fjord for getting to Leirvik and then onto Bergen, conscious of some very bad weather coming up behind us (ironically given the very frustrating Northerlies we have been experiencing). Some careful navigation in drizzly and overcast darkness got us to the start of what is a quite a wide fjord initially, falling to a couple of 100 m wide at one point, with heavy traffic piling through its protected waters.
The crew were in good heart, after yet another great meal, when I noticed the CO2 alarm indicate that it had lost power, despite the fact we were motor sailing. Then the lights went out. All except for a faint glow from the steaming light. VHF, Navionics, instruments, lights – all were gone. The service batteries had fallen below sufficient levels and despite the generator and engine charging and switching off everything, we couldn't get any more juice. As the skipper and mates conferred over the less than detailed charts with headtorches for a safe bearing (in Norway that means towards the least dangerous looking rocks…..), the helm kept on his course with a nervous comment or two, and some of the other crew looked petrified. We quickly assessed the situation, got the depth gauge and log working, some power to the compass light, got the hand held GPS up, and identified a safe (ish) course up the fjord (which winds over 12 miles). After about 4 miles, the Bosun casually mentioned that he had Navionics on his mobile phone………the rest of the night was spent navigating from buoy to buoy until we reached the open sea and daylight, and then we could navigate down to Liervik and our next port.
Arriving in the early morning we tucked into the marina and all turned in …to be woken minutes later by a loud bang, and the sight of the two powder coated Mates stumbling out of the aft cabin in their underpants surrounded by a cloud of billowing dust…..after evacuating the boat, laughing and coughing at the same time, it had transpired that the CO2 fire extinguisher had fallen off the wall and gone off, coating the cabin and occupants in fine powder. The whole cabin looked like it had been dusted for finger prints. The whole crew mucked in, and with lots of wet cloths restored sanity !
When you next charter STBV, please forgive the occasional trace of powder – she hasn't been smuggling drugs - and I apologise to the early morning commuters of the sleepy town of Leirvik who looked on in some amazement at the sight of several men in underpants and covered in powder, running out of a boat, laughing or coughing, in the centre of their town.
Berthed alongside Ocean Scout, a charity providing sailing experiences to venture scouts, the STBV crew helped them to develop the more esoteric reaches of the English vocabulary. Leirvik was another slightly surprised port where the sight of the majestic three masted Shabib Oman II reversing into its berth with small turns of its go kart steering wheel in its Star Wars equipped bridge. In fact, we didn't see many of the thirty odd sails it has neatly arraigned in its yardarms flying at any point. However, they are perfect hosts and gracious people who have really shown off their flagship.
There are plenty of other interesting tall, ships – quite a fleet of Dutch and Polish yachts, and several Norwegian. The British ships tend to be either small (us), or a bit nutty (Jolie Brise) or a bit rusty (Lord Nelson). Weather is holding off – cooler but lots of sun around.
Crew Blog -Gnr Karl Martin
The Tall Ships Races has been an incredible experience! It has brought me many new skills from being able to man the helm of a yacht to being able to build a gingerbread house at sea. Frederiksted is where our leg started, whilst we were there for the first few days there was a big event which included a crew BBQ, and a chance to have a look around the town and other ships competing in the race. Whilst we were sailing, we visited Arundel to refuel and had the opportunity to take a swim in a local pool. The next couple days we were on the water for two days of travel on our way to Liervic. Whilst were in Leirvic we took a day to rest and administrate ourselves. From there we set sail to a fjord where we set anchor for lunch and a swim in the fresh glacier water, which was rather refreshing however the jelly fish were not a pretty sight to say the least. Then we progressed further into the Fjord where we dropped anchor for the night. Then early in the morning we set sail and arrived in our final destination of Bergen. Through out the whole event we had amazing weather, we ate well, and we had some really good banter amongst use – which was ideal as many of us didn't really know each other too well before the event.
Wednesday, 17th July
A fantastic day – great winds, plenty of challenging navigation and some great anchoring.
We got out of Leirvik early and headed off around into Languenen Fjord where we quickly hoisted the Gunner spinnaker and blasted down the fjord, STBV showing her legs as we weaved and jybed down the winding high sided fjord with the wind funnelled and changing from bend to bend. We found a very, very small anchorage at the back of a winding channel of small inner steep side and deep mini lakes where we had lunch and a swim in glorious sunshine, accompanied by a slightly incredulous Ocean Scout. The frenzied wavings of a few locals as we weaved through one creek and past their small wooden cottage seemed quite a break from the reticence we had experienced amongst the Norwegians to date, until we released they were shouting 'STAY ON THE RIGHT'….. Much bargaining for the return of Ocean Scouts boarding ladder – then their fender, and then their lines -involving cake and biscuits ransomes, confirmed their view that we were quite mad. It's been great seeing the young venture scouts enjoying their adventure and the 32 Regt RA crew have been very amusing and welcoming to them. I just hope that they don't ask their parents what some of the more strange utterances heard from the STBV crew mean……….
After a break, we then blasted across the next fjord with STBV really enjoying a lovely beam reach with 15kts of wind. Our chosen anchorage for the night was the smaller of two 'pools' part of a very narrow inlet on Lysoya island (the home of Ole Bulls, famous Norwegian violinist…….) in the stunning surroundings of Korsfjorden. The chart and almanac indicated a 10m gap of more than 2.4 m deep leading into a pool of between 4 and 7m deep and about 60 metres by 40 metres wide. To test the approach, we dropped off a recce team (Alex 'Cowes Boy' Flockhart and Olly 'Chef' Tonks) to leadline the gap. As we watched them drift in trying to get the outboard started (they didn't..), we tentatively edged in to the larger and open outer pool to check the rock rings for stern to anchoring. As we did, a HR352 motored in past us, handbraked turned as the Mate threw the anchor and chain off the bow, reversed up to the wall, grabbed a rope, tied the stern on and then stopped, all with a G&T in hand.
Slightly less brazenly we sedately cruised in, gracefully swung around, the shore based recce team got their rope and then paddled out to meet us, as we slowly reversed up in what looked like shallow water but was in fact very deep (STBVs depth gauge had by this time got so confused that it gave up)……and the rope was too short. There followed a command task demonstration involving two bits of rope, two men in a dinghy, a fender and an onlooking Norwegian barely controlling his mirth, and a Ocean Scouts's crew watching and 'learning'. After some debate the two ropes were linked and we were on. The location was glorious, the sun dipping down in front of us (at 1030…). We didn't try the inner pool - although our Norwegian neighbour said 'lots of his friends had done it'…...I decided that abandoning STBV as a permanent memorial in a small pool in Norway on Ole Bulls island was probably not in the long term RAYC hull plan.
A beautiful – although slightly mosquito infested – evening was spent in good company, with another brilliant meal – seasoned beef joint with fried vegetables, asparagus and a garlic and tomato jus – served by Olly Tonks, our resident chef. I have very rarely eaten with such enjoyment on AT – my last trip being almost entirely composed of last minute meals with little thought (or taste). This trip has been a culinary revelation and as with the rest of the wonderful crew from 32 Regt RA, a great example of teamwork. A new standard in AT. Our last night before heading into Bergen.
Crew Blog – LCpl Armour
Norway has been a great experience for me. I have sailed twice previously round the solent so knew what was in store but this far exceeded my expectations. The expedition kicked off to a great start as we had a couple of days along side where we went through the relevant health and safety point, familiarisation of the yacht and specific lessons which we would then put into practise when we set off. We also attended a bbq put on for crew members which was a good opportunity to introduce ourselves and socialise with other crew members. Sailing was quite challenging at some points fighting against the wind and working through the night on shifts but we managed to reach arandal which was a welcome sight. The highlight for me was mooring up in a cove on the fjords where we were able to have a swim and take the dingy ashore to explore some little islands.
Tuesday, 16th July
We set out from Arendal early, with a race organised with Ocean Scout, Challenge Wales, Rona II and HMNLC Urania, from the lighthouse outside the islands of Arendal. Low winds initially gave way to strong winds – right on the nose – and some rough seas for the first time, testing the novices who rose to the occasion (frequently but with smiles) as we tried to battle our way around the coast. Frustratingly the winds started dropping and with our simple rig, we couldn't get enough way to keep going in the right direction so had to drop out of the race. Although the other boats, even with more sail area also couldn't get enough wind. We tried all forms of motor sailing, and with the fast realisation that we might need more fuel to get around the cape, I looked for a local fuel stop. A last few hours and blow of winds and some angry waves and spray convinced me that smashing STBV for several more hours into the waves without making any headway, wasn't a good idea. Choosing one of the many islands, we headed for what was described in the almanac as a small harbour – they weren't joking ! A narrow inlet between two groups of huts and holiday cottages on two islands, no more than a B road wide, but still with very deep water, led us to a small jetty – with a fuel pump, shop and bar within a horseshoe throwing distance. The shop was closed – we tend to forget that in the near perpetual daylight, ordinary Norwegians are not at work at 1130 at night – and the bar (a small desk with two tables) – closed as we nudged STBV next his door. In fact, the very few locals tended to look at us without acknowledgment, at which the crew commented that it was like many of the horror films that I clearly haven't seen.
The find of a clean toilet by our team recce op – Olly – and the gurgling of some very expensive diesel as the UELs face whitened – made it a perfect stop amongst beautiful islands. We had another of our fantastic evening meals (more about that later) and settled down for a good night's sleep where we were moored. A fisherman driving past at full speed, blasting out 'Africa' by Tonto, at full volume, only added to the bizarreness. I can report that we all survived the night, despite the misgivings of Tom ' Private Jones' Armour.
Crew Blog - Gnr Oren Whibley
Upon landing my first impression was complete surprise, I was expecting cold winds with a lot of rain but it was closer to a British summer. This had only on down side, the coach journey down was horrendously warm. The constant sun, apart from our last day, meant we were able to fully enjoy the Norwegian fjords. This included venturing ashore with the dingy as well as swimming and diving of the boat.
This trip has been a real eye opener into the world of sailing, I couldn't believe the sheer amount of people attending the tall ships events throughout the cruise as well as the generosity and kindness of the local people.
I would defiantly recommend this trip to anyone regardless of sailing experience as it has been enjoyable from start to finish.
Monday, 15th July
Great departure from Frederikstad amongst cheering crowds lining the river and Fjord, boats all around us and the stately tall ships in front and behind us. Quite a spectacle and not quite the same as our normal departure from a port. The crew waved fondly at least one month's pay packet spent on enjoying the pleasures of Fredrikstad, so their tears were all the more poignant. We were settling down to a gentle cruise on the Fjord to the open sea in some growing wind, which was raising expectations, but the familiar sound of the First Mate (Ed) 'blowing off' indicated that we might have a problem. One of the many buntings had effectively become a top of the mast free flying flag with halyard attached……2nd Mate, as the lightest, was quickly hauled to the top to rescue, his feat of derring do drawing gasps of amazement from the crowds on shore, and clearly beating the massed pipes and drums of the Shabbab Oman II for spectacle, before we quietly fell back into line of the convoy. We may not have a real TS, and it wasn't all the crew lining the yard arms, but the acrobatics were quite impressive.
Out of the islands, we quickly hoisted all sail and STBV picked up her skirts and started moving through the field, with some cheeky weaving in and out of the other yachts, largely due to our learner helm. Navigation around the numerous rocks, lighthouses, beacons and strange navigational marks, saw us safely out to sea by early evening and we had a good close hauled sail until the early hours of the morning when the winds died out, the sea becoming glassy, and a slight land fog came out. The few hours of semi darkness were quickly through and we motored down a long Fjord to Arendal after some more careful navigation through the rocky entrance. Lovely Norwegian lodges lined the sides, each with their own mooring, ever so neat lawns and gardens making a perfect picture.
Arendal has the feeling of a 'slightly surprised' port which suddenly has some of the largest tall ships in the world moored alongside. As we were the first in, because we took the short cut through the Fjord, we took the prime slot, and with our neighbours and sailing 'buddies' (Ocean Scout, skippered by Paul Molyneaux for the previous leg), Urania (the RNLN 60ft schooner – note earlier comments about lack of RN TS….), Challenge Wales (67ft), we were quickly shunted around the corner into the Marina to make room for the proper TS…
Crew have done well – bit of overnight sailing that just about qualifies for night sails, and another port that has looked after us very well. As we failed to make sure that we have enough gas – and the previous legs didn't resupply (!)– we may be on hard tack fairly shortly, but I am assured that dry tortillas and cold tinned beans are quite nice.
Crew Blog: Cpl Tonks
The tall ships race 2019 is the first time I have ever sailed; the experience is one I will never forget. Commencing with a few days in port at Frederiksted learning basic skills and how to conduct myself around the vessel. After this initial training we ventured out on a journey towards Bergen, stopping a few times to regain our effectiveness. The first time we reached out into open water was slightly intimidating, however the instructors, our watch leaders filled myself with confidence with their knowledge and skillset when leading us on watch. The location of the trip was fantastic, with excellent scenery and friendly locals. The experience is one I have enjoyed thoroughly and would look forward to another greatly.
Sunday, 14th July
We arrived to a well sorted STBV, with the two Bosuns having fixed the running repairs, berthed with the smaller TS Yachts in the centre of Fredrikstad, between the Glomma and Vestirelva River flowing into the Northern Skaggerak at the bottom of Oslo Fjord. The in port phase between legs is a time for major events at the hosting port, with large numbers of tourists and locals visiting the array of incredible Tall Ships, from the majestic Shabab Oman II, to the slightly shabby and 'hippy' barques and gaff sailors. There is real feeling of energy and youth focus amongst the Tall Ships, with a focused on healthy living, experiences and team work. Parades, games, social events and ships tours show off each yacht with the Brazilian, Mexican and Omani TS vying for best TS. A sea food evening with the great and good of Fredrikstad, and lunch on the Omani flagship have been highlights, but the crew certainly enjoyed the crew party, and are now officially broke thanks to Norway prices.
The Norwegians have been superb and generous hosts and this phase, in a medieval walled city with beautiful surroundings has been particularly spectacular. The sheer scale (and cost?) of the Tall Ships on display, right in the centre of town, is an eye opener in these times – the preservation of such ships is a real credit to the Netherlands especially, but all the Baltic states especially, who have a real passion and support for these great yachts. The efforts of Mexico, Oman and Brazil to get their beautiful Tall Ships, with immaculately turned out crews, to Norway is in itself some feat.
The crew from 32 Regt RA, were expecting a grizzled skipper and a yacht in some small port with weather to match – they got the grizzled skipper, but the port has more than lived up to expectations, with hot sunny weather, and after to days of enforced R&R we are all looking forward to getting to sea. We first have to navigate a strong flowing river with a narrow entrance into the main flow out to the islands and the sea, alongside some 70 other boats, including the largest tall ships in the world as a Parade of Sail through the city centre. STBV is officially the smallest, but we have paired up with similar size (70ft and below) for the cruise in company to Arendal some 70nm away – the first sail for most of the crew.