5th Jul 2006 - 19th Aug 2006 - Scotland, Scandinavia etc 2006
Mous'le's Nordic Saga
Our story continues with us in the now sunlit basin at Corpach Sea Lock Â– the grass and fences are still dripping from the recent shower and Ben Nevis is hiding under a cloud.
It is now the 6th of July and is the day that she and us will begin the next part of our journey towards the Northlands of Scandinavia. But first Â– we have to wait for the passage of a giant (in Caledonian Canal terms) cruise liner. The Lord of the Glens is designed to fit the locks in the canal with a foot of room on each side and about three feet fore and aft. She takes some time to pass up through the basin and we are advised to Â“give her a wee bit time tae get well aheadÂ”!
So after lunch it is time to cast off and head up the canal to Â‘NeptuneÂ’s StaircaseÂ’ an automated flight of eight locks that takes about ninety minutes to negotiate. The lock staff chatted away as MousÂ’le was led, as if on a lead, from lock to lock. At least she followed docilely at heel unlike the many dogs we saw who were being exercised along the towpath.
After tying up to the quayside in the top basin we decided to cycle into Fort William to go shopping for some provisions and a collapsible fishing rod. (at the time of writing it has onlycaught seaweed!) It was a painless journey which took us past the River Lochy and Inverlochy Castle ruins just outside Fort William. Unfortunately the trip left some rather achy muscles in its wake.
The next morning we set off bright and early to motor up the canal to Loch Lochy the first of the several lochs that make up much of its length. We had barely travelled three miles when the engine died to a stop. There we were drifting in the canal, unable to sail as there was no wind and unable to contact the canal authoritiesÂ by radio. We dropped anchor and after a few minutes managed to bleed the engine and restart it. Meanwhile Penny had been vigorously exercising her aching legs by inflating our dinghy just in case we needed to tow Mous'le back to Banavie.
Over night we tied up to a pontoon right at the end of Loch Lochy and dawn brought calm sunny weather.
Over the next week we progressed in stages, taking our time as we did not have to be in Inverness until the end of the third week in July. We spent four days at Fort Augustus Â– a picturesque town built around another flight of locks and well provided with pubs. We met the skipper of the Lord of the Glens in one, drinking with one of the lock staff and learned about the fun and challenges of driving such a monster through the canal.
It was time to move again and we set off up Loch Ness. Unfortunately the only monsters we saw were the earthworks for a new multi-million pound hydro-electric scheme being built in the hills to the south of Fort Augustus. There was a decent breeze from astern and we were able to use our Twistle to good effect, averaging over six knots to Castle Urquart.
That night we tied up at Dochgarroch lock about three miles from Inverness and met a man from Cowes who was working on a large luxury charter barge. It was to turn out that he was the brother of one of our friends ex girlfriends and we shared a lot of mutual acquaintances. Through him, we were invited to a barbecue at the local lock-keeperÂ’s (Donald John) house. He was a friendly easy going man with a dry highland sense of humour. We spent four days at Dochgarroch in temperatures of 35+degrees before moving on into Inverness.
While waiting at Muirtown Locks, the last staircase of locks we got into conversation with a German skipper of a Gaff ketch from Bremen Â– She was a hundred yrs old and had been restored to sailing rig about twenty years ago. We were allowed a tour and she is beautifully fitted out, complete with separate navigation cabin with its own companionway form the deck and a beer bar on deck with a tap for the beer and a fully functional beer glass sink with scrubbers! We were offered (and accepted) a glass before we had to leave to lock down to Seaport Marina where we were to await the arrival of a new member of crew, our neighbour in Cowes, Alastair Gittos, who was joining us for the trip to Norway.
Due to it's late arrival on the Saturday night his plane was four hours late leaving Southampton, then was diverted to Glasgow where he had to be bussed to Edinburgh and stay overnight before catching the train for Inverness. He has re-christened his airline Â‘MaybeÂ’ rather than Â‘FlybeÂ’. We set off soon after his arrival and motor-sailed out of the Inverness Firth. As we left the firth, we met two dolphins doing tricks for a crowd of onlookers on the beach Â– wonderful to watch.
On through the night we sailed and then as the wind died, motored. We had to pull into Fraserburgh to top up with fuel for the passage across the North sea to Lindesnes and then Mandal in Norway. The weather was kind, and we progressed under engine for about twenty-four hours before a twelve knots SE wind allowed us to sail for the rest of the crossing.Â We passedÂ a seriesÂ ofÂ oilfieldsÂ with familiar names, often heard but till now never seen;Â names like Fortes, Ekofisk,Â BuzzardÂ andÂ theÂ like.Â EventuallyÂ outÂ ofÂ the dawning sky of our thirdÂ day at sea the coast ofÂ Norway separatedÂ itselfÂ from the clouds and settledÂ on the sea Â– a comforting under indicator of impending arrival. After rounding Lindesnes we took an inshore passage through the skaargard Â– that area of rocks and islands that guards much of NorwayÂ’s coast. The leads and channels are narrow tortuous and navigation was made much easier by our Raymarine E80 in the cockpit at the helm with it's Navionics chart which proved extremely accurate then and in the weeks that followed.
We threaded our way through the rocks and skerries to Mandal where we made our first landfall in Norway, Our attempt to present documents at the local police station was met with a grin and a wave of the hand Â– Â“You are welcome. Go away, there is nothing to do!Â”
From there we moved on towards Kristiansand again following a maze of inshore channels, which separated larger islands often inhabited by the red or white wooden houses which characterise this region. There are no beaches just rocks falling vertically in natural quays that allow alongside mooring. Every house has at least one boat tied up outside and the waters are as busy as Calshot Reach on a busy Sunday in the summer. The area has, however, an aura of peace about it which defies the noise of the many power craft that pass by.
All too soon we were approaching Kristiansand Harbour and our first attempt at a bows on mooring with a buoy at the stern. All passed reasonably smoothly and we were tied up and eating supper by nine oÂ’clock. After re-provisioning and a look round the town, we began to cast off our lines in order to refuel before setting off north towards Oslofjord. Unfortunately another yacht decided to moor in the space next to us and as he attached his stern line to the same buoy as we were moored to, his metal long handled snap shackle gripped our looped line in its jaws rendering us unable to free ourselves. He was reluctant to release his line so we were forced to put a member of crew on our bathing platform and close up to the buoy to enable us to free our selves. In the force four to five wind this was no simple task. We managed it however and avoided any collisions. After the refuelling we set off across the fjord passing a Norwegian submarine returning to port.
Re-entering the skaargard was a relief as the wind had increased to a steady twenty-five knots and the shelter of the skerries gave us flat water. Sailing in the skerries is difficult and dangerous because of the speed some power boats travel at and the winds are at best fickle being bent here and there by the channels and islands. As a result we proceeded under engine for the bulk of our trip to Tonsberg. The area is justifiably popular amongst Norwegians who come here in droves. However we still managed to find two idyllic anchorages, on our own and well sheltered. In both we had to moor bow and stern anchors as there was no swinging room. In one we tied to a ring set in a rock and the other we used our kedge anchor off the stern. Both anchorages offered fresh mussels for supper and swimming opportunities in water that was about 23 degrees and the air that was 35+ degrees ! Heavenly!
We passed Arendal and Larvik then after clearing the entrance to Sandefjord, we turned north to Tonsberg. This was to be home for the next two weeks or so while we explored Oslo and then returned to Scotland for ten days holiday!!
|12th Aug 2006 Viking Longboat, Oslo|
|In one of many interesting museums in Oslo|
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