Gay Caroline’s Vertue Viking Cruise

Fiona Mathieson

The written version of this Log was a Regional winner of the RYA Sail Cruising Committee’s Log Competition in 1997.

No sooner had last year’s cruise finished and the salt spray dried on our decks than we’d began to plan this years cruise to Norway. We first heard the tall ships were going to Trondheim a couple of years ago and thought it would be a nice challenge to try to go and join them. I had thought that last years preparations were hard work but this year we still had a lot to do and so little time to do it. Arthur Hancock had made a splendid job of our new covering boards and sheerstrakes but the deck fittings needed replacing, and with June’s bad weather it all took time. We had intended leaving around the 2nd July but with jobs still to do and the weather not perfect we waited and finally departed at 0700 Sat 5th July.

5th July. North Sea Crossing Blyth-BergenThere was a feeling of anticipation in the air as the North East coast finally slipped over the horizon. None of us had ever undertaken a passage of this length or distance before. There was no wind to begin with, then a NNE sprang up – on the nose!, but later went SE so we could make our intended course. It took us all 24 hours to gain our sea legs and get used to sleeping at funny times of the day.

6th July.  2 Days At Sea And Not A Pub In Sight!! Wind NW 3-4 beam reaching 5+ knots full main and genoa set, lovely sailing. Changed to no.1 jib as wind increased to a 4 -5, then later shifted WNW 4 onto our quarter. The highlight of my day was a pair of dolphins that arrived first at 1900 returning again at 2200, long enough for Peter and I to take photographs, a wonderful sight they played all around the boat and rode in the bow wave. We had lost the wind by then so were under power. A few oil rigs sighted in the distance.

7th July. I See No Ships. The NW wind returned again in the morning, but later went NE so back on the nose. This time it stayed with us though varying in strength. we were all now accustomed to the watches and were well rested. A real lack of shipping , we had prizes for any of us who spotted a vessel. E.G. 1 ship = 1 mars bar, 2 ships = 1 glass of whisky.

8th July. Land Ahoy!! Still sailing but wind playing up. Sighted land possibly Utsira of shipping forecast fame, still not much shipping.

9th July.  Day Of Arrival. At 0320 wind died – engine on. At 0820 the engine stopped due to fuel starvation. We’d fitted a new tank and hadn’t realised how deep the reservoir at the bottom is. Peter bled the system and all was OK again. A light northerly sprang up , so we started sailing. We sailed into our first fjord then dropped the sails when the wind went on the nose, and we began intricate pilotage. We arrived at Bergen Yacht Club at Kviturdspollen at 1445 BST. We lay on a visitors buoy, a very pretty place.

10th July. Day In Bergen. After a good night’s sleep and showers we went into Bergen by bus to clear customs, buy the rest of the charts for our cruise and book Peters return ticket. Took the cable car to the top of Mount Ulriken for an exhilarating view of the fjords to the north and south.

Veidvag Harbour

Veidvag Harbour

11th July. Departed Kviturdspollen. Sailed into Bergen , to fuel up and collect a new service battery as the other was past its best, then had a short sail to a tiny place called Veidvag, our first piece of “white knuckle” pilotage. We went into the inner bay which had an entrance only 4 metres wide but shelved to 5 metres – you could see the bottom it was so clear. Veidvag is pretty apart from the tatty pontoon where you lie and a derelict shore side that’s seen better days, but its completely sheltered, very quiet and free.

12th July. Veidvag – Manger. Motoring today as no wind. We decided to go to Manger as it was the only convenient place where Peter could get a bus to Bergen as unfortunately he had to leave us the next day. Manger’s simple to enter and you lie alongside the quay at the fish factory.

13th July. Manger – Jesla. Peter regrettably left us at 8am. We departed at 0915 and headed towards Jesla one of a group of islands called Budlandet. Tricky pilotage, but what a beautiful place. We met some wonderful people on a power boat that we lay alongside and were treated to lovely Norwegian cuisine. The skipper had trained at Newcastle Uni, in Marine Engineering so spoke good English. We broached our bonded stores and offered our friends a glass or two of whisky whilst we marvelled at the midnight sunset.

14th July. Jesla – Floro. After a morning of domestics we departed at 1445. The wind was SE 3-4, but later got up to 5. The weather was still warm but it rained on and off , at times heavy. Still finding some of the pilotage tricky, working on a 1: 50,000 scale everything looks so tiny – we get spoilt in the UK. The lead up to Floro is complex, but once inside the main channel pilotage is easy. We found the pontoon as described in the Norwegian Cruising Guide “under the Rimi 1000 sign”. The next morning we awoke to a carrier bag of fresh rolls in the cockpit, had showers in the shopping mall and spent the day shopping and visited the maritime museum.

Maloy Channel

Maloy Channel

16th July. Floro – Silda. Departed at 0915. Had to motor most of the day, had decided to go out to seaward instead of taking the narrow rocky channel through Oldersundet as local knowledge was recommended. The pilotage for the passage was easy for a change. We had a short but pleasant sail just before the Maloy channel. The entrance to Silda is easy. Silda is a beautiful island with the wonderful smell of flowers. It is also an ideal place to wait for weather to round Statt – Norway’s cape horn. Met some lovely people Norwegians and Dutch, whom we socialised with until later than intended – out came the whisky bottle yet again!

18th July. Silda-Alesund (Stattlandet). We departed at 0745, there was no wind, but once out of the lee of the islands a horrible NW swell appeared which required hand steering. Apart from the sea state our rounding of Statt had been uneventful. At 1700 a NW-4 arrived.. The sailing was wonderful once we were sheltered again 6 knots max. hull speed, such a contrast to the earlier conditions. We dropped the sails at around 2100 as the wind started to die. The entrance to Alesund is easy once the pier light is sighted against all the shore lights. Once inside the entrance we couldn’t find the supposed guest pontoon, so we lay alongside a pontoon outside a hotel . In the morning we went in to the hotel and they directed us to the inner harbour, it’s well concealed , so it’s no wonder we couldn’t find it in the dark. Although tired we spent the morning shopping as on a Saturday everything shuts by 3pm.

20th July. Day Trip To Geiranger. We’d decided today was a tourist type day. We’d heard of a round bus – ferry – bus trip using scheduled services. The bus travels from Alesund to Helleysyelt then take the ferry from Helleysyelt – Geiranger where you spend 3 hours then the bus returns to Alesund via another ferry to Linde. The ferry trip up the Geiranger fjord is a must. The scenery was spectacular. Many beautiful waterfalls and the sheer enormity of the mountains with almost vertical drops to the fjord and down to depths of over 300 metres. The summits were still snow capped and the day was hot and sunny, perfect for photography. We spent a pleasant couple of hours in Geiranger gift buying, then caught the bus back which took us up an exciting hairpin bend road, which climbed to over 1,000 ft, and at the top the bus driver allowed us to get out to take photos. Pleasantly tired we arrived back in Alesund at 9pm.

21st July. Alesund – Bud. This passage was to be a combination of exhilarating sailing followed by the unpleasantness of being caught in thick fog. We departed at 0845, there was no wind and the vis was moderate with a bit of haze and low cloud over the hills nothing unusual for Norway. At around noon we received a nice SW 3, which later altered to a NW 3-4, giving us gorgeous sailing. It didn’t last long and died around 1530. Soon after the vis started to close in. It happened very quickly. We were approaching our intended stop which had been Bjornsund but that had a very complex and difficult entrance , so we decided to abandon and go to another nearby place called Bud. We didn’t see the entrance to Bud appear until we were about 100 metres away. Thankfully, it’s simple and the visitors pontoon is just inside the northern mole. Bud is a pretty little fishing village. Once fed and watered, we did our planning for our hoped for passage to Kristiansund and turned in.

22nd July. Bud – Kristiansund. At 1145 the vis finally improved so we departed Bud. There was barely any wind to start with, so we motored for most of the day but at 1800 a NNE 3-4 arrived giving us a beautiful close reach on flat water. Simon and I were fighting for the tiller. It lasted until we turned for the lead into Kristiansund when it went abaft the beam and died as if on cue at 2000. Kristiansund is easy to enter, and the guest pontoons are off to port after going under the bridge and past the commercial quay.

23rd July. Kristiansund – Trondheim. A relatively uneventful passage with a light wind on the nose – we motored. We had intended stopping at Kongsvoll at the top of Trondheimsfjiorden, but as we arrived off the entrance at dark, decided to continue on to Trondheim. The only exciting thing to happen on that passage was altering course to avoid the QE2 which had no nav lights on. We arrived off Trondheim around 0715 and after contacting harbour control found a berth at Trondheim Seilforening at Skarsten harbour.

24th – 26th July. Tall Ships In Trondheim  We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Trondheim. The yacht club were also having their regatta so held a BBQ every night. What a wonderful bunch of people they were. The commodore and other members made us very welcome. We spent Friday 25th looking around the tall ships and paid a visit to Sir Winston Churchill to obtain some weather info for our return passage. On the day of the parade of sail, we decided to leave before the 1400 start time so we slipped around 1230 and headed towards our chosen o/n stop Brekstad. The tall ships caught us up around 1600 as we were beating down the fjord. There were a few hairy moments when other pleasure craft, particularly power boats who weren’t keeping a look out and nearly ran into us. Eventually the pleasure boats tailed off, but we continued to see a number of tall ship entries. Unfortunately it had been predominately a parade of motor due to the head wind. We arrived in Brekstad at around midnight, and tied up to “Hartlepool Renaissance”

28th July. Brekstad – Ringberget. We got up around 0630 and as we were having breakfast Hartlepool Renaissance’s crew gradually emerged. We chatted to them and they seemed a friendly bunch of people who were quite interested to hear that we’d come from Blyth. We slipped at around 0730 and half an hour later H.R passed us. There was no wind to begin with but later on a breeze on the nose again!! We had hoped to reach Kristiansund that day but as the sea state built we decided to go for Ringberget and what a great decision that was. A lovely place where we quietly lay to a mooring buoy.

29th July. Ringberget – KristiansundWe departed at 0925 after a restful night. The wind was again on the nose and at times gusty. It was to be quite a long passage with the weather deteriorating at nightfall. It seemed to rain every time I came on watch and Simon looked smug as he went down below. We arrived in K/sund at 0530 and spent the next day and a half preparing for our North Sea crossing.

30th-31st July. Kristiansund – Lerwick Shetland – North Sea Crossing DAY 1-2 30/7/97. We left with what seemed to be a good forecast. There was a low over Iceland that was causing me some concern, but that was filling and was around 1003 by the time we departed. Our own barometer read 1016 and was steady and there was a high building over Scandinavia. We departed Kristiansund at 17:00 BST. The first few hours pilotage back through the Hustadvika channel and parallel along the Norwegian coast. The wind was again on the nose to begin with, then died the next morning and we were to remain motoring for the next 24 hours.

1st August. A light southerly sprang up at 07:00 and we could actually sail in the right direction for a change. We had both been getting ample rest, doing 3 on 3 off with the autopilot steering some of the time. At 11:00 the wind began to build, and went S/SE, gusting around 5-6. The forecast for Viking had been for SE 4-5 occ 6. An hour later second reef in the main, we now had to hand steer, so change to 2 on 2 off watches. At 17:00 we went to the third reef and our storm jib, as it was now a full gale. Simon went below for his rest and within the hour I had to call him up as GC’s gunnels were spending more time under the water than I liked. We decided then the only sensible option was to heave-to. The boat hove-to very well but it was a horrible motion and I preferred to sit in the cockpit until it rained then I went below and lay down all standing. At around 20:30 there was a loud crash on-deck, and we both leapt up into the cockpit to see that everything was still intact. Fortunately it was, we reckon, the gales “grand finale”, as almost immediately after it seemed to die down, and at 21:00 we let draw again. By now w e were both quite tired, the wind continued to die down so we began shaking out reefs. We began also to discover the first of our equipment problems. The main GPS set had got wet and decided to lock onto the log page. I had a hand/held so nothing much to worry about there. The next thing to go was the autopilot. It too had got wet, that was more of as blow as it meant handsteering for the rest of the passage. The wind continued to drop until we were wearing full main and masthead jib., but it was back on the nose!! It stayed with us until 1600 3rd August.

3rd August  Started motoring at 16:00. I suggested to Simon that he check the oil, but as the sea was lumpy and he checked it in Kristiansund he decided not to. I had gone below around 02:00 for much needed rest and at 02:30 Simon called me to say he was stopping the engine as the low oil light had come on. I was quickly on deck and a hatch inspection revealed that the dipstick had jumped out of the engine and what a mess!!!!! We didn’t have enough oil to refill it and also didn’t know if any damage had been caused, so unable to use the engine we started to sail. Fortunately a light Westerly had sprung up on the nose again !! We hoisted full main and masthead jib. Our problems weren’t over as we began to get low battery signals on the GPS. We tested the batteries and discovered they were low so switched off non essential equipment. Due to our low batteries we had difficulty contacting Lerwick harbour to say we were coming in under sail. We managed to speak to the coastguard who relayed a message for us. The wind was in the right direction for coming in under sail, but as it was getting gusty to make things easier, we dropped the jib and put two reefs on the main. Once through the narrow entrance we headed up and I got a line ashore to the waiting harbourmaster, and we tied up along side a 50ft Dutch yacht, who we learned had been in the same gale as us. The first thing on our minds was breakfast, showers, and sleep.

After we’d rested, it was down to the task of sorting out our problems. We went into the local chandlery where the manager, Bob Wilson, was exceptionally helpful, suggesting places to get things fixed and offering to run us around with the alternator and the batteries. By Wednesday we had most things repaired apart from the autopilot and GPS. with the engine cleaned and everything reconnected, our hearts were in our mouths as we turned the key – she fired first time! Great sighs of joy and relief all round. Problems fixed we intended to leave on Thursday 07/08 but we awoke to thick fog. It lifted around lunchtime so we attempted to leave, only to turn back after a couple of hours, as out of Bressay Sound there was an awful swell, wind on the nose and vis. was back down to 200 mtrs. On Friday the vis was just the same, thick fog ! We decided to have a holiday day in Lerwick and visited the museum.

9-10th August. Lerwick – Kirkwall  After all the excitement of the North Sea crossing this was quite an uneventful passage. We had a W/NW 3 so managed to sail until it dropped at 20:30. The vis had cleared and it was a lovely starry night, and we were visited briefly by dolphins again. We arrived in Kirkwall at 09:00 10/08.

East of the Pentland Skerries

East of the Pentland Skerries

11th August Kirkwall – Peterhead. Mike came to join us for the rest of our passages back to Blyth. We had carefully worked out our tides and departed at 12:10. We motored out of Shapinsay Sound, as we had a wind over tide situation. Once out of the sound we started to sail. Our next tidal gate was crossing the Pentland Firth. We took the recommended passage, sailing East of Pentland Skerries. This was another “quiet ” passage. Mike was gradually finding his sea legs, and we were appreciating his presence, as it meant we had more rest and felt we had regained an autohelm. There was an abundance of wildlife around, Mike and I had my birdbook in the cockpit. I was to experience another exciting encounter, a whale came and swam alongside the boat. It was difficult to see how big he was, but Simon and I reckoned he was at least half a boat length. By morning we were again motoring and by the time we reached Peterhead we were again in thick fog. We couldn’t see the piers until we were about a cable from the entrance. Once inside the vis wasn’t too bad and we soon found our way into the marina. Once tied up we had showers and found a local pub which did exceptionally good food. We did our passage planning to Eyemouth, and planned to leave around 16:00 if the fog would let us. As it turned out the vis was to remain bad, so after deciding to call it a day we had a walk along the harbour side. The atmosphere was buzzing, lots of boats arriving to unload the days catch, work going on in the dry dock, and it all gave one the opinion that the fishing industry is anything but in decline. After we had filled our cups of knowledge, we sought to fill our cups (glasses) of a different kind! We finally found a hotel which also had a TV, as Mike and I had a desire to see Newcastle play their game against NK Croatia Zagreb. After eating and enjoying the game we returned to the boat and decided to leave on the morning tide, weather permitting.

14 August. Peterhead -Eyemouth -Blyth. When we awoke the vis was about 2 miles so we departed at 07:00, there was no wind so we had to motor until 20:00. Yet another quiet passage spent spotting wildlife. We saw another whale but a long way off. We arrived in Eyemouth at 08:10 in time for breakfast. We then had a nap and met Mike’s wife Fiona and daughter Catherine, who was joining us for the passage back to Blyth. We all had lunch in the Ship Inn, which was very good, then Catherine got her kit aboard and we made ready and left at 15:30. Once clear of Eyemouth, we hoisted full main and genoa, and what beautiful sailing 5+ knots W 4. Unfortunately it didn’t last long so at 21:00 we were motoring. We passed the Farnes just before dark, but there was little wildlife around except for one seal and a few puffins. I’d hoped a dolphin would put in an appearance, so that Catherine would have the chance to see one. This was a pleasant passage but a sad one as we knew our voyage would soon be over. Blyth’s light was soon blinking at us and by 05:20 we were tied up. we fetched the car and went home for baths, breakfast and bed, planning to return later to savour lunch and a pint of Guinness in the House Yacht.