3 September 2016 – Exploring the Fjords with Friends

Mandal (NOR) – Bergen (NOR)

Sailing to Stavanger
“Wow, already near Egersund! We’re really moving fast!” Floris is positively surprised by our progress when he enters the cockpit and takes the shift from 7-10am. Our speed over ground is 8 knots, partially helped by the current along the Norwegian West Coast. “Yes! With this speed, we’ll easily make it to Stavanger in this weather window” says Ivar. When we left Mandal yesterday evening to pass the notorious Cape Lindesnes and get to Norway’s West Coast, we identified different options for us to stop. We thought reaching Egersund at 60 nautical miles from Mandal would be as far as we could get. We never expected to be able to reach Stavanger – 115 nm from Mandal – in this weather window. Until now, both the SW wind and the current have been somewhat stronger than we anticipated. We decide to continue, knowing that there are no safe landing spots between Egersund and the Stavanger area.

In the afternoon the wind increases to W-NW 5/6 and it starts to rain. The wind shift was in the forecast and is not a problem since we are now steering a more northeasterly course. As we enter the sound near Stavanger, the rain pours down on us. Thanks to our pilot (guidebook) we find a birth on a deserted pontoon at the small island of Langøya, not far from Stavanger. As the wood stove heats the cabin we slowly get dry and warm again. Over dinner we feel delighted about the good progress we made today.

Our next destinations are Stavanger and Bergen to research electric driving and the Sognefjord to see the world’s first electric ferry. To get there we need to head further north, but it is mostly through inshore routes. On the way we also want to explore the fjords and see a hydropower facility.

The next few days we wonder if this type of weather is typical for West Norway in mid-August. There is a lot of wind and rain, and it is rather cold. We spend time blogging and vlogging next to the wood stove. Even when there seems to be a moment of dry weather to explore our little island Langøya, we get wet again just before we make it back to the boat. Nevertheless, we love the free pontoon and shower facilities so close to Stavanger.

Exploring Oil
When the sun finally comes out, the wind is gone. We take our kayak and paddle to Stavanger to see the city. Despite the PR on the city’s website on electric driving and future renewables business models, there are only few traces of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. We also explore mooring options and visit the oil museum. It is sponsored by Statoil and has an interesting section on geology and engineering. And the oil industry has been an important contributor to the Norwegian economy since the 70’s. Today, oil exports still contribute to around a third of the country’s GDP. We come across displays stating that humanity is forecast to increase the use of oil well into the 21st century. A bit of propaganda for the visitors – as if there is no scientific evidence that we need to leave around 80% of the proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground to stay below 2 degrees of global warming, no climate change adaptation and no Paris agreement…

Later we reflect on our visit to the museum. “Actually, a museum about oil is not a bad idea after all. It’s an excellent place to showcase a dying business model such as the oil industry” says Ivar.

Hiking and sailing the Lysefjord
The next day a few knots of wind are just enough for us to sail to a well-sheltered anchorage. The entrance is very narrow and rocky, so we are glad the weather is calm. We drop the anchor between two small islands and go for a walk around one of them. It turns into a beach clean-up: we find enough plastic to fill six large trash bags. We aim to take it all on board, but our kayak is not big enough. We paddle back and forth three times!

After a clear and quiet night, the sun awakens us. It is a perfect day for a hike to the “Preikestolen”, a rock overlooking the Lysefjord. We kayak to Jørpenland and hike through beautiful forests, with its many different types of trees and millions of blueberries. After three hours we reach the parking lot and join hundreds of other tourists for the last 5km of the trail. It is worth it: the view from Preikestolen into the Lysefjord is breathtaking. When we’re back on the boat 10 hours later we realize we need to do this more often to stay in shape. But the hike was well worth the muscle pain and blisters!

Our first visitors
Even before our departure, Mirjam and Jelle promised they’d visit us in Norway. They keep their promise and arrive today in Stavanger. We welcome them at the old harbour. It is so wonderful to see them and we can’t wait to show them some of Norway. But first it’s off to the restaurant. To celebrate Mirjam’s birthday, Jelle treats all of us to a delicious dinner!

The next day we take Luci into the Lysefjord, which looked so spectacular and beautiful from Preikestolen two days ago. Less than a mile wide with steep cliffs on both sides reaching over 1000m, it is a spectacular sight. Formed by glaciers during the last ice age, we are impressed by the forces of nature that created this landscape. Today, the steep cliffs create a wind-tunnel effect, which transforms any existing wind direction into either headwind or tailwind. Luckily for us, the prevailing NW wind is tunnelled into tailwind as we head for the end of the fjord, course E-NE, so we can actually sail all the way to the end.

Along the way Jelle tries out his fishing skills. As we pass a shallow, he catches fresh mackerel, well done! Mirjam and Ivar prepare them as sashimi – delicious. We also stop at a spectacular waterfall. Floris and Mirjam jump into the kayak for a quick photo-shoot. At the end of the 20nm long Lysefjord, we moor up at a pontoon in Lysebotn, a small settlement. While we enjoy drinks we marvel at the majestic nature that we can see from the boat.

Another hike, more grand vistas
Jelle and Mirjam also like to go out on a hike, certainly after our stories of Preikestolen. The next morning we leave for Kjerag, another spectacular rock with a view towards the northern side of Lysefjord. We pass a sizeable construction site, which turns out to be related to an upgraded hydropower station set to replace the existing one at Lysebotn. As Ivar wonders how the Norwegians managed to create a road so steep onto the cliffs, the answer arrives very soon. We need to cross a tunnel more than a kilometre long! Luckily there’s not a lot of traffic, since the tunnel is quite narrow and no footpaths were created. We can’t resist picking roadside trash along our way and wonder why people throw waste from their cars while driving through nature this beautiful. Soon we also find trashed plastic bags along the road to carry the plastic bottles, cans, cigarette cases and countless other things we are picking up. When we reach the parking place at the base of the Kjerag hike after 7 km, we have already collected three full bags of trash!

The 5 km long path towards Kjerag is steep at times, but well prepared with ropes and clearly marked. When we reach the end of the trail, we can’t believe our eyes. There’s actually a queue to take a picture of a rock that hangs between cliffs. We visit another viewpoint instead and head back after lunch. The views are breathtaking again, and we can even see Luci deep down in Lysebotn! Back on the boat the sun is still out, and quite warm. No better moment to enjoy a couple of cold beers.

Sailing north to Haugesund and Bergen
When we leave Lysebotn the next day, a moderate E wind is tunnelled into a 5-25 kts tailwind. How fantastic to be able to sail out of the Lysefjord as well! We briefly stop in Flørli, a small settlement in the Lysefjord that is only accessible by boat. Already in 1918 (!) a hydropower plant was built here. The old water pipeline is still clearly visible, with next to it 4,444 wooden steps to the top of the mountain – also a popular hike in this region. The former generator building is now a museum, but is also is home to a B&B run by… a Dutchman! He’s happy to show us around the old facilities. If it weren’t for this museum, we probably would have missed the new hydropower plant. It’s completely built into the mountain and took over the water flow from the old plant in 1999. We’re impressed by this wonder of engineering, which supplies the city of Stavanger with renewable electricity. We now understand how the Nores achieved a 99% share of renewable hydropower in their national electricity mix: more than a century of pioneering, capacity building and improvement of hydropower technology.

Via a pretty anchorage near the island of Austre Amøy, we make use of the now SW wind to sail into Haugesund. Here we say farewell to Jelle and Mirjam. It was a real pleasure having you on board guys; we look forward to the next opportunity!

Another friend, the fun continues
A day later our friend Katherine arrives, our next guest. It’s film festival in town, perhaps because the father of Marilyn Monroe had a bakery shop here? We watch a festival film together before Katherine treats us to a very tasty dinner.

The following day we leave Haugesund and head for the Hardangerfjord. When the light wind almost completely dies down, and we reach a shallow area, the fishing turns into a big success! Within an hour we catch two pollock and more than 20 mackerels. That meant baked pollack for lunch, mackerel sashimi as appetizer and curry with mackerel on the anchorage. And the next days mackerel in the fish soup and mackerel pate – we tried all the different ways of preparing mackerel. All delicious!

The anchorage near Auklandsholmen is located at the right place when the wind finally dies. The next day we only make little progress further into the Hardangerfjord. The fresh SW breeze disappears when massive thunderstorms arrive. The rain is impressive and the lightning is so close, it’s actually quite scary. No gasp of wind. After drifting in the rain for two hours we decide to moor up in the town on our starboard side: Husnes.

The next days the weather varies from no wind at all to heavy winds with stormy showers, so we decide to stay in Husnes for three nights. During a hike we pick lots of berries, mostly blueberries that seem to grow everywhere in the forests here. Back in the marina we find plenty of mussels to accompany the mackerel in the fish soup. Luckily for us Katherine has just completed a cooking course, which further adds to her already impressive skills in that area. We just love the blackberry/rhubarb crumble, the blueberry pancakes and various other delicious dishes she manages to serve, containing our self-foraged, self-picked & self-fished delicacies! To add to the party, we’re able to watch House of Cards on Katherine’s Netflix account over the marina WiFi.

When the skies clear we head for Bergen. Via the very narrow and beautiful passage near Stussvik we enter the Bjørnafjord. As we approach Bergen, we decide to not enter Norway’s second largest city yet, but visit Strusshamn instead. This cosy little harbour is located on an island just north of Bergen, and the harbour fees are collected with honesty boxes.

Life is full of surprises in Bergen
The following sunny Sunday morning we sail into Bergen and find a mooring in the old harbour, close to Bryggen. This part of town dates from the 17th century and is built in wood! A well-renovated and beautiful spot to be, albeit quite touristic. Speaking of which: we decide to be typical tourists ourselves the rest of the day, by walking around town, taking the trail up to the nearby mountain, and riding the funicular back to town. Katherine treats us again for a lovely dinner, this time in a traditional Norwegian restaurant in Bryggen. Unfortunately it’s also our last dinner together since Katherine has stretched her holiday to the max and needs to get back to Amsterdam the next day.

One of the oldest buildings in Bergen is the Hakonshallen, located only a few hundred meters from our berth. It was built in the 13th century by King Hakon, at a time when Bergen was the capital of Norway. All of this we learn as we visit the site the next day. On our way back to the boat Katherine takes a sanitary stop at the Radisson Blue hotel on the harbour front. “Hey guys, did you know there’s a climate conference going on in there”? She asks when she’s back. Eh no… We head for the registration desk, introduce ourselves and ask if there’s an opportunity for us to join the conference as visitors. The friendly staff promises us they’ll check and let us now the next morning.

Then it’s time to say goodbye to Katherine, who takes a bus to the airport. We’ll miss you dear “stowaway”, after a week on-board you really have become one of the crew! During the rest of the afternoon we give another interview to Dutch BNR radio and do more research into electric driving in Bergen. The weather forecast for the coming days is very wet and windy, so we decide to stay in Bergen for the time being.

When we return to the Radisson hotel the next morning, we’re granted “Press” badges to the Bergen international climate change adaptation conference. We meet some interesting people and learn the latest insights directly from the scientists and policy makers. How interesting that Copenhagen also features in the program as a case study of good practice in climate change adaptation. Many thanks to the organizing Bjerknessenteret for having us around for two days!

Testing electric transport ourselves
A visit to the electric ferry in Sognefjord is still high on our to-do list while in Norway. The wind won’t get us there, so we look into driving there in an electric vehicle instead. Our first try: car sharing. Impossible unfortunately, because we don’t have a Norwegian ID, insurance and driving license. So we look into renting an electric car, but none are available. Then Ivar has a brilliant idea: “Let’s try to arrange a test drive!”. We reach out to Volkswagen, Nissan and Tesla since we spotted their electric cars most frequently in Bergen. The people from Tesla are first to respond, and willing to lend us one of their cars for two days once we explain our mission. Wow, that allows for us to test the entire system and drive up to Sognefjord to visit the “Ampere”, the world’s first electric ferry!

The next day we pack our bags and head to the local Tesla dealer. The friendly staff explains the car to us, does some final charging and hands us the keys. Impressed by their trust, we drive away and are immediately thrilled by the silence and power of this state-of-the art car. We have booked an AirBnB near Flåm, around 200km from Bergen. It is the first time since our departure that we won’t spend the night onboard Luci! With a 400 kilometre reach when fully charged we easily get to our destination. We “fill her up” at a Tesla charging station close to our B&B, a so-called “supercharger”. When the dashboard screen indicates a loading current of 90kW we realize how “super” that is indeed. It equals 90 of the electric kettles we have on board all plugged in at once. 30 minutes later we’re fully charged again… for free! How extraordinary.

The next day we enjoy the scenic roads around the Sognefjord and arrive at Lavik. From here the fully electric ferry “Ampere” departs. What a great moment to drive the Tesla on-board the Ampere! The ferry moves silently across the fjord, powered by on-board batteries and charged at its docks. When we drive back to Bergen, we realize the future of transport arrived already! Here in Norway, the electric transport revolution that is fully powered by renewable energy has clearly started. Read more about electric transport and check out the video on this sustainable solution.

Leaving Scandinavia
The heavy rains and strong winds in Bergen reminds us that the summer is coming to an end. We want to stay ahead of the winter and follow the geese to the South. When there’s a weather window on September 3rd we leave Scandinavia after three months, of which we spent five weeks in Norway. We’ll miss lovely Norway. We’ll miss the very friendly people we’ve met. We’ll miss the astonishing beauty of nature. We’ll miss the “we-bite-at-anything-mackerels”. When we set course for Shetland and see the Norwegian coast slowly disappear behind us, we look back at a great summer with many interesting sustainable solutions. And we also look forward to new adventures and discoveries at the other side of the North Sea!

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