Our summer voyage was to sail to the Lofoten Islands in Santosa, a 55ft ketch lovingly built over 14 years by her owner Steve. Steve had spared no expense to make Santosa a very comfortable boat, with every conceivable labour-saving device. My personal favourite was one of those instant hot water taps you find in posh kitchens, giving us a constant supply of hot drinks, a must for any Arctic journey. Santosa’s first major voyage started from her home base in Southampton. The plan was to cross the North Sea and make Stavanger the first port of call. Having had an uneventful sail/motor up the English Channel, we rounded the corner from Dover into the chaos of the North Sea, a series of traffic separation schemes, wind farms, and gas fields. As we made our way north, it became evident that the weather forecast was less than accurate, and as the wind picked up to 45 knots, the decision was made to make for a safe haven, Den Helder in Holland. Once the weather blew through, we set sail again for Norway, arriving on a calm sunny evening. After negotiating our way through the numerous islands and intricate maze of rocks and skerries we finally tied up alongside the beautiful Stavanger town quay. Santosa had coped well with her first gale and a North Sea crossing.
Our journey from Stavanger to Bergen planned to follow the advice of an accommodating Tourist Information lady who suggested that we take the Hurtigruten ferry route through the Fjords. This invaluable advice not only kept us inshore and out of the bitter North Sea, but it also provided a great opportunity for plenty of dramatic photos. Bergen, a charming city, is a mix of old and new. It’s a lively cosmopolitan city with areas of traditional buildings, the most impressive of which is the Bryggen, a fascinating labyrinth of rickety wooden structures housing shops, bars, and restaurants. The oldest restaurant serves a beautiful Norwegian food, including sardines, cod tongues, and, somewhat controversially, whale meat. These wooden buildings have a wonderful smell, which I later discovered was a mix of tar and brown cod liver oil used for preserving the wood. Apparently, the slight tilt to the buildings resulted from an explosion on a Dutch munitions ship in 1944. Despite its rather violent history, Bryggen has survived as one of Norway’s most quintessential city waterfronts.
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