“Goodnight, Denmark!” I bid farewell knowing the next day we’d arrive on the southern coast of Norway. I didn’t know exactly where, some waypoints on our chart indicated safe entryways through the rock smattered coastline, but our first landfall depended entirely on how well Detour would sail upwind as the forecast predicted we’d arrive along with a building westerly. The overnight sail was magnificent with a delicate south wind behind us and a cloudless, starry sky above. Navigating through shipping lanes around Skagen, this bustling northernmost point of Denmark has a reputation for being trecherous, we were thankful to have taken advantage of good weather.
Norway greeted us the next afternoon, rocks sprouting from the sea. Brian and I both kept weary eyes on the charts to double check whether the little plus signs (+) indicating rocks posed hazardous or not; some awash, some always submerged, some submerged yet only a few meters below the water’s surface. The entrance we’d selected was not difficult, it was well marked and wide, and within minutes we were rounding a small, rocky island to enter a cove in which to anchor. The cove was smaller than anticipated. We plopped the anchor into the water dead center with plenty of swing room, Detour now taking up the entire cove or so it felt having just come off the open ocean. It was not a channel. We were not blocking anything, and neither the two men ashore nor the one driving into the cove in a small fishing boat batted an eye at our arrival. The cove was lined with houses perched atop the rocks; wooden homes, cheerfully painted red or white, each with a small, associated dock hugging the cliffs below. There were several small power boats moored at the docks. “It’s just adorable!” I gawked, wondering which houses were permanent homes and which were brought to life only during summer months. We ate, then tucked ourselves into bed for a recovery 12-hour sleep.
It’s been eight days since we arrived on Norway’s southern coast. We’ve meandered along the inner lead, protected from the open ocean while traveling leisurely 3-5 miles per day between the mainland and hundreds of islands. The passages through the inner lead are well marked with guideposts, lighthouses, and “sea cairns” which I’ve termed the stone towers called varde that mark isolated hazards. Varde are essentially cairns that mark the way through the islands at sea just as cairns guide a trail through the mountains; they have a little flag atop to indicate which direction or side to pass. It is important to pre-plan the passage with a few waypoints to avoid getting lost, because if either of us zoom in or zoom out on the chart the route becomes lost without waypoints (no magenta line in Norway) and then at the next red post we have no idea whether we are turning into the open-looking clearing or continuing straight ahead toward the dead-end looking rock wall (sometimes dead-end looking rock walls are deceiving and a large open area will suddenly appear or a turn will occur just prior to smashing into the rocks). Of course also important to check the route for overhead cables or bridges to ensure clearance heights are sufficient thereby reducing the need to panic when a cable or bridge is spotted directly ahead or ’round a corner (usually not a corner actually being rounded). For a good taste of this new navigating, we first ventured into the inner lead known as the Blind Leia; a name to instill doom and to challenge even the saltiest sailor, so it seemed from the guidebook description (oh those guidebooks), the Blind Leia was charming, sickeningly scenic, and worth every moment.
Eight anchorages during our first eight days, each spectacular and each to our own. Norway is gushing with anchorages; it is cruisers’ heaven. There is a cove to protect from any direction the wind may threaten, some are nearly landlocked aside from their narrow entrances. Detour floats atop the water motionlessly, giving us a spin every once in a while to ensure a panoramic view of our little paradise. We’ve nestled our noses between the pages of a good book, sunshine warming our faces. We’ve completed several dinghy circumnavigations. We’ve dined on freshly harvested oysters and scallops (oysters so large I had to steam them for fear any attempt at slurping those raw babies down would cause instant choking; they were properly eaten with a knife and fork!). We’ve hiked across troll forests; rolly, bumpy fields strewn with moss covered rocks which have inspired at least one outbreak of song “…let it go, let it go, don’t hold it back anymore!” from our mental library of Disney’s well taught Scandinavian history. We’ve scrambled down rock faces to land on secluded, tiny, white sand beaches. If this is what week #1 has to offer, I’d say we are in for a spectacular summer!