The Most Dangerous Thing On A Boat

Long gone are the days when sailors could drift with the wind and the tide, without worrying about the demands of bureaucracy. It’s now a rare country that doesn’t impose limits on how long foreign sailors can stay, with the added requirement in some jurisdictions (the U.S. for example) to phone in whenever you move to a new harbour.

Sadly, Norway’s sailing permit regulation (though it’s not yet being enforced as written) increases the bureaucratic demands by requiring sailors to provide a list of harbours/anchorages and a schedule upon entry into Norway, with changes only allowed in an emergency and with a phone call to the police.

This sort of regulation is disheartening in two ways. First, some of our most treasured cruising experiences came about because someone said, “You have to go to this great anchorage that hardly anyone knows about” or “You must visit this charming little harbour”, and, on the spur of the moment, we did. Second is the stress and possible danger caused by being forced to sail to a specific harbour/anchorage despite the weather or harbour conditions because it’s the next stop on the itinerary. As they say, the most dangerous thing on a boat is a calendar, especially when the events on the calendar are mandated by government regulations.

If you feel as we do, please comment on the post we have written on this issue on the Norwegian Cruising Guide website. We will pass all comments on to the Norwegian Department of Immigration in the hopes that we can convince them to rewrite this regulation so it will encourage foreign sailors to visit Norway, rather than scare them away.

{ 10 comments… add one }

  • RLW July 31, 2010, 9:41 am

    One has to wonder just how many tourists would visit Norway (or any country) if folks were required to visit on a rigid preplanned itinerary set in stone upon arrival and spontaneous side trips were the fodder of a bureaucratic two step…

    That said, There is also the factor that boats with sails tend to need a certain flexibility in travel plans both as a practical and safety factor as a given destination may not be practical under certain weather conditions or unsafe. Something dealing with bureaucrats here in the Caribbean it becomes obvious they simply do not understand.

    Fact is one of the first nautical superstitions I learned was deeply based in fact is you never, ever put down in the log that you are sailing to someplace as that most certainly will have you winding up someplace else…You always sail towards!

    Truth be told if this becomes an enforced situation in Norway I expect I won’t be sailing towards Norway in the future even though we do plan to sail towards Europe next crossing window…

  • Andrew Fennymore-White August 1, 2010, 6:50 am

    Hello Phylis,
    Your post is an interesting one. We spent a fortnight in Norway around the Tromso region two years ago in a locally chartered yacht. To be expected to pre plan and then stick to such a rigid plan is so typical of a bureaucrat who has no concept of sailing or a cruising lifestyle. On a more practical note, we could not receive English weather forecasts, so on cruise we had little forward plan of the weather. In most anchorages there was zero or poor VHF and Mobile phone signal so even informing the Police would prove impractical. Next year when we launch our new yacht we were planning to spend half the summer and the winter/spring of 2012 in Norwegian waters- but perhaps we are not welcome after all? I will await your updates with interest. Andy

  • Capt JavaJohn August 1, 2010, 8:18 am

    Having such requirements as these imposed on foreign vessels visiting Norway is not only impratical, it can be downright dangerous or deadly. The factors of wind, weather, current, and tide can make a particular harbor or anchorage dangerous to visit.To list all the places you are GOING to visit along with the dates and I would assume times and be expected to adhere to it, is next to impossible.
    However, this being said, should I ever fly into Oslo on vacation and have to file a plan on everywhere I plan to walk to? Would the government require me to call ahead before I reached my destination? Or to make matters easier provide me with a tour guide to accompany me? If it is the latter, I can only hope it’s a blue eyed, blond, bikini model.

  • Jon Amtrup August 1, 2010, 8:39 am

    There is no reason to worry about being caught up in red tape when visiting Norway.
    A clarification from the Norwegian Customs to the Royal Cruising Club May on May 4th reads:
    “You can, as a tourist or a person who has temporary residence, bring a sailing boat in to Norway free of all duties. The definition of “temporary resident” is the same as bringing a car into Norway”.
    So please visit and sail in to every harbor or anchorage you like. And we have a lot of them.
    I can guarantee that there won’t be police, customs or state agents of any sort sitting there waiting for you to show your papers. If such a law should be enforced for tourists (car, boat, cycling, kayak, hiking etc) in any country it would 1. ruin tourism in the long run and 2. require tens of thousands of new government officials.
    I don’t see any of it happening.

  • Phyllis August 1, 2010, 9:04 am

    Thank you to everyone for your comments.

    I totally agree with Jon that there will most likely be no problem for foreign sailors when they enter Norway (as we heard from most sailors who went to Norway this season). And we have nothing but good to say about the Norwegian Customs and Immigration officials that we’ve dealt with over the years, including the Immigration officer I have been in contact with over this issue.

    However, there are three things to consider:
    1. The reason we found out about this regulation is that an Australian sailor was told by an Immigration Department official that she needed to apply for this permit 2 months prior to entering Norway (wrongly, in fact, as she doesn’t need a visa and so didn’t need to apply 2 months in advance).
    2. UDI (the Department of Immigration) is planning to rewrite this legislation in August/September and were under the impression that sailors were happy with the wording as it stands. Obviously, we’re not, and hopefully our comments will persuade UDI to rewrite the regulation in such a way that it encourages sailors to visit Norway.
    3. If a regulation is on the books, it will be enforced by some officer, at some time. Take for example what happened to an American friend of ours in Canada. He wanted to spend longer than 6 months in Canada on his boat, asked a Customs officer if he needed to contact anyone else about it, and was told no. So he stayed a year, returned to the States, leaving his boat in Canada. Then, when he tried to re-enter Canada, was told by Immigration that he’d overstayed his welcome the previous visit, and was deported. He’s now considered a criminal in Canada who broke Immigration law. Leaving the wording of the Circular as it is without expressing our concerns to UDI, and just saying that it will be all right, is opening the door to this kind of confusion, with the inevitable negative consequences for the sailor.

  • Henrik Johnsen August 10, 2010, 5:58 am

    Norway has a visa exemption agreement that makes nationals from countries with exemption agreements able to stay in Norway for up to 90 days. Persons exempted from the visa requirement who wish to sail for recreation in Norwegian waters must have a sailing permit. As a main rule this permit is issued by the Norwegian police upon arrival in an authorized port.
    The exemption agreements are with the following countries:
    (Some of these countries are also covered by the Schengen Agreement.)
    A: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria
    B: Belgium, Bermuda (BDTC passport), Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria
    C: Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic
    D: Denmark
    E: El Salvador, Estonia
    F: Finland, France
    G: Germany, Greece, Guatemala
    H: Honduras, Hong Kong (SAR passports and BNO pasports), Hungary
    I: Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy
    J: Japan
    K: Republic of Korea
    L: Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg
    M: Macau (SAR passport), Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro
    N: The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua
    P: Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal
    R: Romania
    S: San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
    U: The UK, Uruguay, the USA
    V: The Vatican City State, Venezuela

    • Kobus August 12, 2015, 10:57 am

      It is quite emotional to see your country so high up on the unwanted list. I am from South Africa and out of 51 countries, that can travel Visa free to destinations abroad, we are in position 42. I cannot say we do not deserve this position, we have proven ourselves to misbehave severely, sighting our national airline as an example. I doubt we are welcome even on Guantanamo Bay or Alcatraz. Encouraging though is that the Caribbean and Mexican Gulf region seem to be very welcoming. North America and Canada does not like the idea of us visiting their region while in Europe, Kosovo and Ireland seem ok with us visiting.
      In Asia, South Africans can visit Georgia, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand without a visa.
      South Africans will be granted a visa on arrival in: Armenia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Korea, and Timor-Leste.
      In the Middle East, South Africans do not need a visa to visit Israel and Jordan. Oman and Turkey will grant visas on arrival.
      For Oceania, no visa is required when visiting the Cook Islands, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
      Ok, perhaps there are enough places to go but how we would have enjoyed sailing to exotic destinations such as Iceland, Norway, Greenland, Chili’s South Georgia etc.
      The travel gene is a yearning desire to do just that, freely and impulsively. It is a pity we cannot all roam our globe at will.

  • simon tomsett August 6, 2012, 4:24 pm

    This is such a shame to hear… especially as I always considered Norway to be proud of their seafaring heritage. After all, would the Vikings have put up with such nonsense. In most places in Norway, fulfilling such a requirement would indeed be impractical as well as outright dangerous. The Skipper of a yacht is responsible to his ship and his crew first, not to petty and meddlesome bureaucracy, devised and influenced by people sitting comfortably behind an office desk..
    Anyway, what really, is the point of this, other than taking ten steps back in the rights and freedoms of the individual.

  • Hoftman Guzman June 21, 2014, 12:30 pm

    Hi John!

    Quick question: Is a season in the Baltic Sea, sailing between the inhabited larger ports (not too north), something you would want to do in an Adventure 40?

    Thanks for you feedback!

    • John June 22, 2014, 7:36 am

      Hi Hoftman,

      Absolutely. Although I have never sailed in the Baltic I’m pretty sure the summer climate is no colder than say Maine in the USA.

      And anyway, I would be happy to take an Adventure 40 to Arctic Norway, or even the west coast of Svalbard, as long as a small drip feed heater had been installed.


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