Exploring the breathtaking scenery of the Norwegian Fjords, our skipper Matt on the 16-day voyage – Norway Sailing Adventure to the Fjords and Back trip shares photos and gives his account of this incredible trip onboard the Challenger 72 yacht.
Sunday, 11th June, 2023, 0900
Day 2: 246 miles logged, 390 miles to Norway
Woken up 0620, although I think my subconscious had told me it was nearly morning. Bacon smells in the air will do that. 3 and a bit hour’s sleep, awake and ready for action. Well restored from a busy 2 days so far, this is our first morning of being truly on passage with a few days of just sailing to look forward to.
The story so far: our crew joined at 10:00 on Saturday, and we spent the morning getting to know each other and showing everyone the way around the boat. Left the berth at 1500 and headed over to the fuel pontoon, administered 1300-odd litres to a very thirsty Challenger 3. Permission to depart, slipped the fuel berth and out of Portsmouth to the east.
A rapid first main host, with some strong hoisting work. Followed promptly by a Yankee 3 and a staysail. A headsail change from #3 to #2 and reefs out when the promised 25 knots turned out to be nearer 15. Undaunted by easterlies we made an overnight passage to Dover. Under sail until 0800, when with dying wind and needing to make better time we dropped the headsails and engine on for the last 30 miles or so to Dover.
Arrived 1200, rapid runs ashore for showers. Chicken wraps for lunch, water topped off, go, go, go. Slipped 1430 as planned (the log records 1445 but not bad all the same)
To discover more easterlies. Ok fine. Push around the corner under engine, negotiate the Goodwin shoals via Kellet Gut and dodge traffic. Probably not a good time to be tacking to and fro. Lined ourselves up with the Sunk Traffic Separation Scheme (don’t blame me, I didn’t name it), got the sails up and engine off at 2000. Cruising at an easy 5-6 knots in lightish winds which helpfully veered round from the north east to the east.
So now we’re gently close reaching towards the north, 020 degrees compass, 8 knots over ground with a bit of tide assist. Gas installations to dodge, cleaning jobs to do, and Starboard watch are on till 1300. Veg soup for lunch. All is good!
Day 2 as it happened:
- Port watch, apparently on tiptoe, changed Yankee 2 to Yankee 1, shook 2 reefs. Starboard watch entirely oblivious. Skipper slept through. We may have been tired.
- Bacon eaten. Tea drunk.
- 1010 wind died. Engine on. Staysail down.
- 1015 bird arrived. Female thrush. Fed and watered on foredeck. Named Vera and added to watch system. Heads brief given but unfortunately she did not seem to understand.
- 1140 Engine off sailing again. Homemade vegetable soup being prepared for lunch.
- Bird has flown. Much sadness. Noticed we are at midpoint of our total miles to Norway: 314 miles logged; 313 miles to run to waypoint off Stavanger.
- 1730 Wind dies. Engine on. Dinner on. Crew hopefully not too bamboozled by multiple recipe briefs. Smells alright.
- 1900 Dinner delicious. Crew ignored briefings and did their own thing with great skill. Crew reminded at evening brief of the criticality of correct counting when heaving on the handle of the heads pump.
- Beautiful evening. Minor sanitation issue resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned. Wind arrived, engine off and making 7 knots.
Monday, 12th June, 0530
It took a while to arrive, but the moonrise this morning didn’t disappoint – A 36% orangy pink crescent rose above a thin sliver of cloud on our starboard beam.
Two or three ships spotted but most briefly and at long range – one came across in front of us at a mile range to give us something to monitor for a while. Wind is ideal for steady northwards progress and the twilight glow remained throughout just swinging from the west to the east overnight.
Dolphins, and another visit from a bird, this time a sparrow. Sunshine, a force 4 on the beam and we’re turning in 9 to 10 knots. We’re expecting the wind to ease into the evening, so likely we’ll be engine on for the final 12 hours or so of our passage. Sparked up the generator to top up batteries. Just 146 miles to run to our waypoint off Stavanger, so looking good for arrival daytime on Tuesday.
Day 3: 406 miles logged, 222 miles to Norway
Another dry and bright morning with the wind easing round to have a bit of South in it. Fully main, Y1 and stay sail and the boat is making nearly 9 knots. Time to make porridge in an hour or so and wake the next team. According to our charts we have briefly entered German waters, and the next round of gas / oil installations are 40 miles ahead of us so there’s not much to look at except sea, sky and horizon.
Tuesday, 13th June, 0700
Awake! Last minute checks on the pilotage planning for our arrival into Stavanger. Porridge and toast for breakfast very well received. Motored through most of the night as the wind eased, we have a glassy calm this morning.
1200 (UK time): Arrived Stavanger! Lunchtime
Wednesday, 14th June
Alongside in Stavanger all day. Party ran ashore to climb to Pulpit Rock. Another smaller, less adventurous party stayed to explore Stavanger, including zipping around on rental scooters. Sunshine and little wind. Dinner out J
Thursday, 15th June
A relaxed 9am start saw us gently motoring from Stavanger, watching a giant Aida cruise ship pull in as we departed. Timed that right! So we negotiated the islands north of Stavanger intent on Lysefjord. Sadly having to go the long way around as our mast just won’t fit under the bridges across the shorter route.
On the way down we reconnoitred a couple of possible stopping points, an anchorage not far from Stavanger and one further along. We called in to have a look at Florli along the way, home of the 4,444 step staircase recommended to us by a cyclist we met in Stavanger. Then on to Lysebotn. The marina proved too shallow for us to get in, so we snuck onto the ferry’s waiting pontoon. Stunning fjord scenery all the way along, including spotting a little lost goat and her kid.
Finished the day with swimming, a bit of kayaking for some, and a home-cooked veggie curry.
Friday, 16th June
Having reconnoitred Florli yesterday we made a short motor passage back. Moored about 10:30 bows to, some creativity required to get 72 feet of boat moored and secured all around. Shore parties dispatched to climb the hill via routes of their choice.
Returned to the boat by about 30m. Got under way and found ourselves a late evening anchorage tucked behind one of the islands near Stavanger. Inflated the dinghy on the way, but by the time we arrived found that the passion for going ashore had waned (to be fair it was 2030 and we were tired!). Boat dinner and a sleep.
Saturday, 17th June
Off to our last intended Norway visit, Skudeneshavn. Thick fog on the way over meant our duck call (AKA fog horn) was worked hard, as were our stalwart lookouts. Skippers dreams of sailing part of the way quashed by flat calm, we crept by early afternoon into a lovely and very tiny little marina. Much spectator enjoyment as we backed in and moored without incident. Afternoon spent exploring the very quaint, very white town. More intrepid elements hired a stand-up paddleboard to explore the area around the harbour. Dinner ashore for some, others took advantage of a local takeaway van. Future visits should note: the sauna in the marina is bookable in advance, but unfortunately very popular so we missed out.
Sunday, 18th June
Back to Stavanger. Moored by lunchtime. Cleaned boat ready for our return. Final vestiges of Vera poo expunged. Taxi to airport to check out of Schengen, oh joy. Dinner ashore.
Monday, 19th June
Crew changes complete. Slipped 1030. Light airs but more hoped for. Y2 and full main, various reefs in and out once the wind arrived from about 1700.
Tuesday, 20th June
On passage. Excitement at around midnight as our total miles so far get into 4 figures, the big 1,000. Celebrated with biscuits.
Wednesday, 21st June, 1515
Off the NE corner of England. Vicinity of Norwich or Great Yarmouth. The ocean suddenly gets busier here as shoals to the west squish near to a traffic separation scheme to the east. We’re sailing in about 7 knots of true wind coming from pretty much where we want to go, zigging and zagging between one and the other. Speed made good is not high, but we’ll keep doing it because the weather forecast says this evening it’s going to ease away to nothing for a few hours and we’ll be motoring. 369m logged this return passage, 273 to go.
Update 1830. Dinner ready and the oncoming watch being fed. Wind easing and tide against means during the last 4 hours we’ve probably made good only 15 miles towards our destination, if that. Ch3 sadly is just not great at upwind in the light stuff and our tacking angles are horrendous. So, engine on, headsails away and the boat is handed over to port watch for a sunset motor cruise southwards.
- Oil rigs everywhere!
Thursday, 22nd June
A busy day’s pilotage finds us well on our way towards Beachy Head at 2100. Starboard watch are slumbering, the engine is thrumming and on deck the sun is setting over the top of a tanker that’s passing us in the TSS. We have 35 miles of motoring to the end of the Traffic Separation Scheme, maybe 5 or 6 hours. Once we exit the TSS in the early morning we’re hoping for a last hurrah of sailing before we park up in Portsmouth early afternoon and tidy the boat before a final meal ashore for those who don’t have to rush off.
Take part in the 2024 Norway Sailing Adventure to the Fjords and Back – Dates to be confirmed soon.