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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 . . . .

Friday, 23 August 2013

Fjords


As Maloy slipped astern, the fjords stretch out ahead and with the weather looking considerably kinder than it had 8 hours earlier we set about a gentle exploration.  As navigator I do have the advantage of studying the charts and am thus better informed than those who don’t look at them.  Or at least I should be!  Initially we headed inland with no fixed idea of a destination other than to admire the scenery of Nordfjord.   By unanimous agreement our eye was drawn to the impressive face of Hornelen, billed as Northern Europe’s highest sea cliffs.  The cliffs sit on the point of the fjord and opposite is a small channel to the village of Rugsund.  Although there were a number of possible routes, it seemed to me that the most appealing was one through that little channel as this would allow us to approach the Cliffs head on rather than simply following the coast line around to them.   People were already surprised by the narrowness of gap through which coastal traffic was passing but a characteristic of the fjords is that they are steep to and (normally) very deep. 


However and despite assurance from the chart I did have to hold my nerve as we entered the channel.  It can’t have been more than 25 foot wide at its narrowest and Swan’s beam is 18 feet.  There was less than 3 feet under the keel but that’s fairly normal for the sand banks, saltmarsh creeks and swatchways of my home waters.   Now you might remember from an earlier blog that I had asked to update our UK charts.  Sadly this did not extend to The Norwegian charts but I have now added the necessary chart correction!!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We had no option to turn round and reverse the channel. 
 
 
After a little bit of dithering largely caused by trying to accommodate everyone’s “wants” but confirmed by a heavy downpour we put alongside the little village of Rugsund itself.  It proved to be a good choice and despite the lack of facilities (which I now know exist) we enjoyed a first night in Norway and alongside.  I slept soundly.

 
 

 
 
The following morning we selected another route and motored round to the other side of the bridge and enjoyed the view we had hoped for the previous evening. 
 
 
We continued via a circuitous route to the old fishing village of Kalvag.  The only wall long and deep enough to take us was by the pub!  Oh well it would have been rude not to have visited. 
 
That night we ate ashore and whilst expensive ( a fact when in Scandinavia) it was excellent.  The pub occupied the site of a former herring processing plant and wharf.  The current building is not original but had originally stood in Bergen before being deconstructed and resurrected on the site of the beyond repair warehouse.

 
Kalvag then and now

 

 
 
 
 
 
From Kaslvag we headed down to Florø (see previous blog) before going on to overnight in the small village of Stavang.  Here we met a most delightful German lady and her children.  Her parents live in Stavang and she takes a holiday there every year.  She had hoped that her sons would have been exhausted by their long day walk but the allure of the Swan lying on the quayside brought them to life.  We did the tour of the “Swan” in a mixture of English that she then repeated in German as I have to admit that what little German I once knew is now lost to memory.  Hundreds of people have visited Swan this year alone and had the short tour and history that is standard but this conversation was easy and it was one of those chance encounters that was ephemeral and memorable.  After I had retired to bed but others were still up, the boys returned with a bottle of white port.  A very generous gift that was drunk with much delight a few nights later.

Our days settled into something of a pattern as we generally headed south made a lunch time stop for a leg stretch and explore and then headed away late afternoon to find a night time berth.  So it was that we met Hitra in Askvoll before taking the impressive channel to Hardbakke (more of which on a separate post). From Hardbakke we retraced our route through the 8 mile channel to avoid the this time known about low bridge and headed to the old trading post of Skjerjehan.  Were it not for the significant investment of a local man who became one of Norway’s wealthiest salmon farmers, this would be a an old run down packing shed living testament to the changing pattern of trade and fishing and telling a tale of centralisation and industrialisation.  Instead it is now a small marina and a sensitively converted packing house into a bar.  We had it appears just missed a festival weekend of traditional boats and thus bar stocks were lower than normal.  We were also treated to a view of an old passenger coastal steamer returning to Bergen. 


This seemed to focus thoughts on whether we too should aim there.  A spectrum of opinion; some more drawn to the scenery of the fjords and some to the “big lights”.  In the end though we made Bergen and moored in the old harbour not far from the fish market and opposite Byggern, the well preserved Hanseatic trading site.  This was our last port of call before departing for Lerwick (and more of that later).

 
 
 

 
 
 
Bergen is often described as the prettiest town in Norway and it certainly combines a thriving commercial port with a booming tourist industry and a history that is preserved alongside the modern town and of course for music lovers it is inextricably linked with Grieg.


 
The influence of fishing is everywhere
 
 
So what impressions.  Well firstly there is the extraordinary beauty of the fjords but I must also confess to sometimes feeling like the coach driver and tour guide on a package holiday rather than the skipper of a sail training vessel.  There was seldom time to relax and get to experience places and in the pace of life and it’s easy for one fjord, village, pier, view, mountain to blend into the next so that one is no longer inspired by it but becomes immune even blasé about it.  I suppose that in some ways it might be like a taster menu at a restaurant, great to get an overall impression but not quite sufficient to allow a full savouring of the dish and slightly rushed into savouring the next before the enjoyment of the last has subsided. However it was a fantastic experience and adds to my own learning and experience.

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