The magical waterways of Blindleia

Joint Venture – Norway 1997

Brian Lowrie

Joint Venture in Mandal

Joint Venture in Mandal

A quick North Sea Race time of just over two days to Mandal left us plenty of time to demolish the duty free, explore the town and relax in the sunshine. However we only had one week, and we were anxious to explore the Norwegian Coast. Our North Sea crew was joined by Fiona and David who flew out, and we soon headed East to Christiansand – a days sail. We had heard of Blindleia, an inland waterway further East, and we were able to purchase a set of suitable charts at a bookshop.

Kristiansand is a pretty, clean Norwegian port. There are two marinas and we lay close to Kvaerner Innovation, the Whitbread 60 now racing around the world. The next morning we headed east again toward Blindleia, and after 15 miles the inside passage proper began with the narrow gap inside Ulvo. There are literally thousands of Islands to seawards with narrow gaps, some of them only 10 metres wide.

Chart of Joint Venture's Cruise

Chart of Joint Venture’s cruise

The navigation is detailed but not difficult – it looks a nightmare and is not for the faint hearted, but you soon realise that there are no tides, virtually no current, the buoys are green and red like ours, the rocks have perches on them, and most significant course changes have a pretty lighthouse with sectored lights.

The weather in Norway was superb – vital for seven of us cruising in a 29ft racing boat with one gaz stove and an untried porta-potti. The Norwegians told us that there is always fine weather in the summer and the 1 rainy day they had had this year was normal.

We cruised for three days in the Blindleia, working our way up to Lillesand, we could have spent three weeks and still found new passages and anchorages, each night tying alongside the rock face. The Norwegians were most friendly, always a wave, and at night invited us into their holiday homes. This is the holiday coast for Norwegians, each inlet having a sprinkling of timber homes built into the rock, all with a jetty or decking, and a motorboat, or a traditional double ender.

Most of the land is wooded, and we enjoyed walks in the national park under ancient oak forests and at night slept under the stars. The water temperature was 22 degrees – the same as the Med – and we swam several times a day. The fishing was good too.

Overnight moorings on a rock

Overnight moorings on a rock

Lillesand is another pretty port, and we were able to refuel, provision and listen to a daytime jazz festival, while lying to a pontoon in the centre of town, but it was hosting an international powerboat festival, and we were soon driven away by the unbelievable noise.

More beautiful islands and scenery, and the next day we were in Grimstad, and it was time for Anne and I to pack a bag and catch the bus to the airport at Kristiansand for the flight home.

Joint Venture with Tom, Coll, Fiona and David cruised back to Mandal and safely back to Blyth. Blindleia is a superb cruising area, similar to the west coast of Scotland, but warmer and without the tides. If you ever get the chance to cruise there, you can borrow my charts.