|'Enterprise' Classic Yacht|
tHE cRUISING lIFE
The mainland of Denmark, the Jylland peninsula, has a split personality. The west coast is windswept sand dunes and shallow coastal sand banks that take the full fury of North Sea storms in the winter but are incredibly beautiful on a summer’s day with vast numbers of sea birds; whereas the central and eastern area is a green pastoral land.
Across the north of Jylland is an inland passage to the North Sea called Limfjord. We thought that for our 2009 cruise we would take this, apparently tranquil, passage to the North Sea and then across to Scotland. The season was to work out quite differently.
The full details of what actually happened can be seen by following this link to Google Earth, Northern Denmark & Norway make sure that you have the ‘Temporary Places’ check box ticked when it is open. Clicking on the yellow push pins will open the log book entries.
The first leg was from Århus up the east coast to Hals and then through Limfjord to the east coast port of Thyborøn.
After completing the winter maintenance we set sail around the east coast by way of Ebeltoft & Grenå, entering the Limfjord at Hals.
At first the passage was as we expected but as we progressed westwards the passage became shallower and a strong west wind was always blowing. Now shallow waters and strong winds always mean big waves, so as the channel widened out the waves grew bigger turning our tranquil passage into quite a challenge, shipping lots of water over the deck for there was a storm in the North Sea. It was pretty countryside but we hardly had time to observe it!
At Thyborøn we agonised most of the next day about launching into our 3 day passage to Scotland as the storm, though subsiding was a long way from having completely passed. We had a strong crew of 6 persons, 3 of whom had planes booked back to Canada in a few days and the weather was forecast to gradually improve. So I made the classic mistake of making a decision based on deadlines rather than weather and then rationalised it. So at 17:30 we set off in high spirits for Scotland.
The seas were big, not more than expected, but 4 hours later 3 crew members were down with seasickness. The seas were too big to use the auto-helm so we settled into hand steering which was much more demanding of the remaining crew. As the night came on the wind built from the west so we had to change course to Northwest to keep sailing and found that the waves knocked us further off course. By morning we were well north of our desired track, so tacked to get back southwards, but on that tack we were being driven east. It was a long night during which the cabin table broke loose and had to be tied down. The first mate was thrown into the chart table and got a black eye. By early morning one of the crew had recovered sufficiently to take a watch and by noon the wind had backed sufficiently to tack again. Finally we were making good progress in the direction that we wanted to go but the seas were still big and lumpy. From this point we knew that the weather would only improve and we started to calculate our arrival time in Scotland. Then during the midnight watch of the second night a mainstay brass turn-buckle broke. After the initial crash there was an eerie silence. We were dragging the mast, sails and rigging over the side with stanchions and lifelines torn away. The mast was pounding the hull like a battering ram but it was far too dangerous in the dark to go on deck to cut it free. We could afford to wait for daylight because we had a steel hull. All the debris over the side acted like a sea anchor but it also tended to put us broadside to the waves, so we started the engine to keep us bow on. That lasted about 20 minutes before the rigging fouled the prop so that was the end of that.
In response to our relayed distress call an oceanographic research vessel, the G.O. Sars, found us at 02:30. To see her approaching with searchlights sweeping the sea was a memorable moment. She stood weather guard on us until the coastguard cutter arrived at 10:30 and took us in tow. It was a rough 14 hr tow in those seas at 6 knots.
In the morning we had time to reflect, celebrate and look around the charming town of Egersund. We had made the newspapers and people came to look at us. A deep sea trawler fleet is based here, the so called ‘factory ships’ that are at sea for months and go to the farthest corners of the North Atlantic so there is a long tradition of sea faring history here.
The next 3 months were what we called the Norwegian interlude. We were determined to turn it into a positive experience and, looking back on it, it was great. After fixing up the insurance and putting the repairs into the good hands of Eigerøy Båt og Motor AS, we moved into a holiday cabin on nearby Eigerøy and walked and cycled in the area.
We also explored the modern, bustling city of Stavanger where we experienced our first ‘flash mob’. Through social media the word goes out to meet in a certain location in a couple of hours and we happened to be in the spot when hundreds of people suddenly arrived, a ghetto blaster got going with action songs, like ‘YMCA’, and everyone joined in. After an hour it is all over as if nothing had happened. It was apparently quite the rage that year.
On another occasion we travelled up Lysefjorden then up switchbacks and a spiral tunnel to the ice fields.
This area is home to Europe’s southernmost population of wild reindeer. Several ancient trails dating back to the Stone Age pass through this area. Then we went down to the coastal road with its extensive tunnels, cliff hanging roads and picturesque fishing ports.
In this harsh environment it is not difficult to picture the isolation in former times when transportation and sustenance depended on the sea. When the sea was rough you stayed put and went hungry if you could not trap wild animals.
The 17th May is Norway’s National Day. The whole community gets involved in the parades and national costumes abound which, we were told, are past down in families for generations; it was an exciting experience for us in Egersund. National pride in their modern, progressive state, which a hundred years ago was a country of fishermen and subsistence farming, was evident everywhere.
Finally after 3 months of this interlude the boat was better than new, as we had taken the opportunity to make major overhauls, but we still had to travel as a motor boat to Stavanger, a 60 nm open sea journey, to have the new mast and sails installed. So began the next stage of our sailing season.
A keeled yacht without its mast and sails is unbalanced and tends to act like a pendulum, rolling a lot in cross seas. So we were a little apprehensive about the passage to Stavanger. As it turned out the rolling was not too bad and it was the torrential rain that bothered us more. After the new mast and sails were installed they had to be modified so we took the boat on the short trip to a sail maker in Sandnes. This turned out to be a very interesting trip as we were invited to a house party with some of his friends at Oltedal where we experienced great Norwegian hospitality and an insight into the way of life. Since the hostess managed a large salmon farm in a nearby fjord we were given a personal tour of the farm. The high technology involved in the operation was a real surprise.
We sailed around the area testing the new mast and sails before we were ready to move on. One of our excursions was to ancient monastery, Utstein Kloster, where we heard that there was a choral concert being given. The island of Utstein seemed very remote to hold a concert but we later found out that there was a bridge so it was not as inaccessible as we thought. We tied up at the dock, had cocktails at the hotel, and then walked a couple of kilometres to the monastery to listen to an elegant concert. It was all a bit surreal.
We decided that it was now so late in the season that we should go back to Denmark for the winter, stopping at Egersund for some adjustments to be done in the boat yard. So on the 2nd August we started back the way that we had come, but this time we would go back down the Norwegian coast before crossing to Hirtshals in Denmark. Once again it was not to be.
On the 20 August, offshore and approaching the southernmost point of Norway, the new mast suddenly broke in two places, one a metre above the deck and the other at the cross trees. This time however it was at 11:35 on a good sea, with little or no collateral damage. We felt like old hands at this situation and immediately secured the rigging from fouling the prop. Then we motored into the nearest port, Flekkefjord, dragging the debris. Being a Saturday afternoon, we were quite a sensation when we arrived in the centre of town.
In typical Norwegian style, the local yacht club immediately put together a working party to sort out the mess and salvage the sails and what is more invited us to their homes for meals and showers. We were really touched by this spontaneous kindness.
This time the liability mess was much more complicated, we only knew that it certainly was not ours, and we determined to not hang around while it was sorted out. So we decided to explore the Norwegian coast eastwards, as a motor boat. This meant that we would take as many inner passages as possible and by so doing we discovered some glorious hidden places but the navigation was tricky in these ‘skerries’. If you can imagine a pepper pot sprinkling rocks in the water, some of which show above the surface but most are just below; then those are ‘skerries’ and there or lots of them along this coast. Our first step was Forsund, a picturesque town behind skerries. However, we quickly learned our first lesson about navigating in the skerries. Never try to take a short cut!
We realised that we had missed branching off the main channel but since the secondary channel was parallel to the main one and in plain view for a while, rather than going back we thought that we would cut across to get back on track. Big mistake!
We found ourselves in a maze of semi-submerged and submerged rocks and had to retrace our path, greatly humbled.
Because we did not have a mast we were able to take an inside passage to Mandal that used a recently opened canal which had been built to save motor boats from having to navigate the notorious Cape Lindesnes.
The leg to Kristiansand passes through the Hellesund passage which contains a very special place. It is an enclosed basin that is entered through a cleft in the rock which is only slightly wider than the width of the boat, you would not know it was there without a chart and even then you can sail right by. It is quite eerie to sail the boat into this narrow cleft and see markings on the walls made by sailors years ago.
We had hoped to stop here for lunch but the mooring rings were all taken and it was too deep to anchor, so we pushed on along this fascinating route to Kristiansand.
We had hoped that by the time we reached this town the fight over who was liable to replace our mast would have been resolved and if it was the mast supplier then we would have sailed on to Oslo. But nothing had been resolved so we decided to sail back to Stavanger while the weather was good and leave the boat there for the winter. Naively assuming that the matter would be resolved in the near future and the work could be done in time for the next season.
So a fabulous year of adventure, exploring and fascinating cruising ended on a bit of a sour note.
For other Cruising blogs see the Archive links in the sidebar at the top of this page.
Other blogs of interest are The Retirement Dream and How to Live Your Dream
David Phillips and his wife June have sailed the European and UK coasts for 30 years, the last 14 in Enterprise. It has been a continual exploration , inspiration and growth of experience. They would not have missed a minute.
It is a symbiotic relationship, you look after her and she looks after you and takes you into a fascinating world that is otherwise inaccessible. Ill health finally forced them to sell her.
On 2 September 2017 she was sold. They hope that she will bring the same life changing experiences to the new owners as she brought to them.