Lofoten And Vesterålen, 2001

Well, Morgan’s Cloud came to Tromsø, and so did winter. We tied up at our winter berth last Saturday, October 20th, and were greeted with 6″ of snow over the next several days. Needless to say, we were hoping to have at least a week’s grace to get the boat ready for winter before the snow came.

This past week was a blur of heaters and weather-stripping, plastic sheeting and carpets, cockpit cover variations and docking line reiterations. But, as of today, the 28th, Morgan’s Cloud is as ready as we can get her. The only question remaining is, “Are we?”!

During the last two months, since our flying visit to Tromsø to set up a winter home, we completed a wonderful cruise of Lofoten and Vesterålen: two connected island groups just south of here at between 67 and 69°N. The islands are wild and high. Lofoten’s mountains are craggy black rock where hikes have a habit of turning into mountain climbing at a higher level than we are quite comfortable with. Vesterålen’s, while not flat by any stretch, are more rounded.

The sailing was limited because most of the cruise was through narrow passages and fjords with little or at least fickle winds. The exception was a memorable 60 mile spinnaker run before 15 to 20 knots of wind in rain and fog down the Vestfjord (the tongue of ocean separating Lofoten from the mainland) taking us to Røst, the central and only inhabited member of a group of barren and windblown islands at the southwest end of Lofoten’s chain of islands.

Other highlights were a sperm whale that floated lazily on the surface just 100′ from Morgan’s Cloud before giving us a spectacular close up of its flukes as he—we know it was a male since the females don’t come to the coast of Norway—commenced his terminal dive to hunt on the vertical wall of the continental shelf that is just five to twenty miles offshore of Vesterålen.

And a hike led by our friend Ted, who we originally met last summer while he was hiking solo in Greenland, up and over a pass at 1200′ with a foot of new snow underfoot, to be rewarded by an incredible panorama of mountains, and lake-filled valleys stretching off to the west with the sea behind. I say “led by Ted” since the hike over new snow up steep slopes was at a level that we would not have attempted without his considerable experience in such conditions. Not only did Ted carry the lunch, and almost everything else, but he also led, kicking steps in the snow for us laggards, earning the name “Sherpa Ted”.

Except for one week of occasional snow showers, September and most of October were lovely—the best weather we have experienced in Norway.

Everywhere we have been, Norwegians have treated us exceptionally kindly: Håkon and Greta in Reine lent us their car to get a new generator starter battery at a town 30 km away; Gerd and Charlotte invited us to spend the winter alongside their dock at a small island 8 miles outside of Tromsø; Geir and his father took us on a tour of a large fishing boat in their small fishing village of Laukvik; Asle and Unni invited us for coffee in their renovated 18th century schoolhouse, now hotel, fitting us in-between the demands of their paying guests; etc. We are confident that loneliness will not be a huge issue for us this winter!

The dark, however, may be. As of today, after daylight savings, the sun rose at 8:30am and set at 3:00pm. The thing that we had not appreciated was the effect of the sun being so close to the horizon all day; even at midday the light is long and yellow, like an evening in most places, and if there is any cloud around it gets pretty dark whatever time of day it is. Not as dark as it will be in another month though: We see the sun for the last time for two months on 21st November.

We are right in downtown Tromsø, next to a hotel; it is fairly sheltered, but definitely not like the sheltered London marina where we spent last winter. Also, we are on a wharf, not a floating dock, so with 9′ of tide at spring tides the climb will be interesting when the snow really starts to fly. All in all though, a good spot for both us and Morgan’s Cloud.

We are really looking forward to our winter above the Arctic Circle, to cross country skiing on the miles of lit trails in Tromsø, and hopefully to learning a bit more of what life is like in this great country.

The Norwegian Cruising Guide is a mine of information on sailing in Norway.

For photographs of Norway, visit our Picture gallery.

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Meet the Author

Phyllis

Phyllis has sailed over 40,000 offshore miles with John on their McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, most of it in the high latitudes, and has crossed the Atlantic three times. As a woman who came to sailing as an adult, she brings a fresh perspective to cruising, which has helped her communicate what they do in an approachable way, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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