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Life's journey has been varied. As a 30 year career soldier its been geographically, emotionally and intellectually nomadic, at times exciting, sometimes frustrating, its had highs and lows and it has challenged me, sometimes beyond what I thought possible. On the whole I have been lucky. I've developed a reputation for being unconventional, even unorthodox. I've made mistakes, plenty of them. Success and failure have left their marks. I've been able to develop my passions and interests. From the office to the trench, from ocean sailing to Antarctic exploration, from the philosophies of Kurt Hahn to the lyrics of Tom Lewis, and much more besides and between. Now I want to share them.

I am trying to bring meaning and sense to these experiences, learning from the past so as to signpost the future, not just mine but anyone else who might benefit vicariously. This blog, set in Shetland sailing aboard "Swan", a 100 year old ex herring drifter delivering youth development and sail training opportunities for young people, is a living reflection on that journey.

To share it read on . . . .

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Norway Part 2


There were two interesting points en route to our anchorage.  Firstly a chart that would not accept WGS840 GPS data and secondly a high speed reverse as we approached a 19 M high cable with our 22M mast.  WGS840 is the commonly used model of an assumed centre of the earth from which Lat & Long from GPS satellite are derived, however unless a paper chart is using the same model then positions cannot be directly plotted.  This effectively negates the GPS (unless its recalibrated to chart datum) and forces the adoption of tried and tested navigation methods. 

Our chosen anchorage was well sheltered and after a little instruction allowed the use of the inflatable by trainees.  By concurrently giving them freedoms and limitations this safely confers responsibility on them and allows for a certain amount of peer led enjoyment and learning without those “fuddy duddies” of the afterguard.  There was much bravado about a morning swim but overnight this evaporated.  We took the opportunity to take our MOB training to another level.  This included the recovery of an unconscious casualty, represented by “FRED” (Fire and Rescue Exercise Dummy).  MOB is often seen as a technical sailing skill to bring the boat back to a floating fender that is recovered by boat hook and often at a speed that would be totally unrealistic and dangerous to a real person.  Additionally recovery to the deck is seldom practiced and talked about fleetingly as difficult.  People also forget that once recovered to the deck both casualty and rescuers are still potentially someway from a successful outcome, first aid and getting someone below may still be problematic.
 
  So after conducting an exercise in rigging “handy billies” and rescue strops, we ran a short exercise to recover an unconscious casualty from the water to the deck by placing Fred in the scramble net and rolling him up the side and on to the deck.  In line with the total drill we then practiced drinking a reviving cup of coffee. 
 
 
After coffee break we rigged a footrope to the bowsprit and gave people the opportunity to go out to the end.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
On conclusion we packed up and left the anchorage.  This required two concurrent jobs, recovering the inflatable from the water and shortening anchor.  Both are lengthy jobs and I was pleasantly surprise by the way the two watches worked to complete both in well under my estimated time.  It was in fact a highlight for me and left me wondering why it was not always the case.  However life is often a series of compromises and the next one for me was the selection of Jopeland as the next destination, primarily because it has a ten pin bowling alley – something that Shetland does not (whose the winner?).  Although arriving late I agreed to play bowls and much to my disappointment held my own in the match.  A planned barbeque on a nearby island was cancelled when “rain stopped play”.

The following morning we headed back to Skudeneshaven for the festival.  Scott ran the passage and boat as an exercise in preparation for his “day skipper” course.  He handed over to me only at the entrance to the harbour.  By now over 300 boats were in the harbour for the festival.  What followed was the most challenging alongside mooring I have ever done

 
It went well for two reasons; firstly because I was able to go and look at it in a Norwegian work boat, so had a clear idea of what we were facing and was able to brief people and prepare properly and secondly because the crew excelled and performed far beyond my expectations and anything I could have asked for.  The result was a performance that personified the ability of a group of individuals to act a s a collective team and achieve something extraordinary. 


The next two days were spent at Skudeneshaven festivale.  The festival would not have been my choice of how to spend either my own time nor that of the expedition.  That said of course it’s not about me and we did some great things, such as sending trainees aloft on the bosun’s chair. 




 
 
Additionally we made new friends and true to form Swan attracts attention and admirers where ever she goes. Once again they performed outstandingly as we firstly prepared and then manoeuvred out through the crowded port but having done so they appeared to lose interest and went back into passenger mode.  A consequence of the friendships we had fostered was to be given a contact at the museum and hence the privilege of mooring alongside the village. One trainee had identified a Viking museum and settlement reconstruction at Avaldsnes and when we slipped on Sunday morning this was our destination. 
 
long house outside and in
 
Avaldsnes was an ancient centre of power on the west coast of Norway and is believed to have been named after the legendary King Augvald, King Harald chose Avaldsnes for his main royal estate in about 870 making it the oldest royal seat in Norway and in 953 King Haakon fought the sons of his half brother, King Eirik Bloodaxe and in the wake of victory unite the kingdom of Norway.  

What followed was a most interesting afternoon combining re-enactment and exhibitions recording the creation of Norway at the end of the Viking era and the transition from Pagan Gods to Christianity. 


During leadership through The Atlantic I had sailed from Antigua to Bermuda and then up the Eastern Seaboard through Boston Halifax and St Johns before arriving in Greenland, Iceland and hence Norway.  In the West Indies and North Americas I had been struck by how the British influences, values and attitudes had been exported and instrumental in shaping the “New World” and are still very disenable.  Further North the influence was Scandinavian (or is it Nordic?) and the Viking influence is as disenable there as the British one further south.  Suddenly I could also see how the same Viking influence had shaped parts of that British influence.  Here in Shetland the two influence again meet and are evident.

From Avaldsnes we headed to and overnighted in Haugesund, our last stop in Mainland Norway.  Next morning I was able to make quick but interesting visits to two museums in the town befor meeting my own deadline to be back on the boat and prepare to slip for a final visit to the Island of Utsira. It’s a delightful island with a small population in a tightknit community of fisher and farming folk leaving an on the surface idyllic lifestyle but in reality I suspect a hardy one.   Time precluded a long stay and after only 5 hours ashore and supper, we slipped with our curiosity satisfied as to the nature of an island that has not just one but two shipping forcast areas named after it. 

North Utsera
 

Utsera Central
 
 
North Utsera
 
The just over two hundred mile return crossing was considerably kinder to Swan and crew than our outward leg.  It wasn't only Fred who perked up . . .
 
 


 
 
 
 
and although we needed a reef it gave time for reflection and consideration of the experience whilst we took in the view. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In my next missive I will reflect on the trip and share my thoughts on its highs and lows.

 

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