Milebuilding Passages – Bodo to Bergen

After a fantastic summer season in the Lofoten Islands, we have just started to make our way south towards the UK. At this time of the year our sailing changes from day sailing and exploring to milebuilding trips. These provide the opportunity to mix coastal cruising with short offshore passage making. These trips are ideal to get a taste of round the clock watchkeeping and night sailing without being too far from land.

We were a bit of an international crew for our sail from Bodo to Bergen. Jackie and Michael from Switzerland who had previously sailed with us day sailing in Spain, Adapia and Mario from Italy who had previously sailed with us day sailing in Iceland, and Jonathan, who keeps his own boat on the west coast of Wales. All were new to long passages and overnight sailing and looking forward to the experience.

In 10 days we clocked up 734 miles in bite sized chunks! 2 passages each lasting 2 nights and 300 miles. The remainder of the miles coastal day sailing, and including a detour to the glistening glacier at Svartissen.

Our route from Bodo to Bergen takes us around Statt headland, Norway’s answer to Portland Bill. The pilot book is full of warnings about not rounding the headland in bad weather, and so when we received a forecast for SW8 and 9 we decided that we had to divert and wait out the gale. As the forecast went up to SW10, we realised that we had a long wait; it was third day lucky before we were off again.

Our delay meant we approached Bergen in the dark, through the very busy traffic lanes and we were all kept on our toes keeping track of the lights of other ships amongst the many sectored lights and oil terminals. Great practice and experience for those new to sailing in the dark.

The tiny harbour in the centre of Bergen was buzzing when we arrived, and continued to get busier. A-ha, Norway’s biggest pop band were playing live in the city centre, and by 5pm on Saturday night, boats were rafted 5 deep all along the harbour wall – we couldn’t have left if we’d wanted to.

The weather has now settled down and we are about to set off on our next sail, the 400nm passage across the Norwegian sea to Scotland, followed by a cruise through the Hebrides and Irish Sea on our way back to Plymouth. After Plymouth, we continue with milebuilding passages and coastal cruising right up until December.

Across the Bay of Biscay early October, along the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal late October, Southern Spain to Madeira in November and finally Madeira to Lanzarote the first week of December. If you wonder what passage sailing and watchkeeping are all about, why not come along and give it a try.

Intricate Navigation

6 weeks ago, we had an unavoidable cancellation, leaving us with a potentially empty boat for our last Lofoten Islands trip.  We reduced the price and sent e mails out to all and sundry to see if we could fill it.  Thanks to all who helped pass the message on the grapevine as we did indeed fill the boat and have just had another great week.

We were joined by three couples, including a friend of Richards sister, who had passed the e mail around at work!  Rebecca had not sailed before, but was keen to come and give it a try and afterwards wrote in our guest book

Thank you so much for a really lovely holiday and a wonderful introduction to sailing.  You took us to some beautiful spots and let us learn at our own pace which was really appreciated.  Felt very looked after and thoroughly enjoyed your company’

We had another great week, sailing 194 miles in 6 days.  The sun shone a lot, but for the first time this season we had fog.  Sunday morning with thick fog all around us we could do nothing but sit in the anchorage and wait for it to clear.

Perfect opportunity for a bit of fishing and Simon and Joel were up to the task.  2 hours later, and just as the fog cleared we had enough fish for dinner.  The fog was replaced by brilliant sunshine and mirror glassy seas.  We had a good distance to cover, to get us within reach of Bodo so we decided to go for some intricate navigation and take a short cut through the rocks!  Not something you would try under sail.

As Richard navigated us around some very tight bends, I tried to capture the rocks and islands on camera, with no great success.  At one stage we felt that we could reach out and touch both sides.

Our short cut took us to Helnessund, new to us and not very clear in the pilot book what we would find when we got there.  As we approached and passed the harbour, we realised that the pontoons were far too small for us, and the anchorage was going to be right in the way of the passing traffic – not ideal.  We continued on for a further 3 miles around the corner and found another idyllic new anchorage with white sandy beaches and water warm enough to swim in.

During the week we noticed that the nights are drawing in and for the first time this season we saw that the lighthouses were flashing.  At 11 at night we had to  put the cabin lights on to read, and one night we even needed the ‘anchor light’ on.

Guess it is time to check out our navigation lights, put batteries in the torches, and get used to watches in the dark.  The Norwegians are very fond of their sectored lights and we are looking forward to using these to guide the way through the rocks!  These are shown in colour on the chart making them exceptionally easy to use.

Our destination this next trip is Bergen, 400 miles south – Perhaps we will see the northern lights!