Every second year we have sailed the rugged west coast of Norway between Bergen and Tromso. Crew change locations vary but are chosen for ease of access via air, train and Hurtigruten ferry. They include Bodo, Svolvaer, Tromso, Trondheim and Bergen.
The area draws us back because of spectacular mountain and fjord scenery, remote villages and some surprisingly sophisticated towns. There is much to explore on land either with hiking boots or with guide-book in hand. Everywhere we go, people are welcoming and friendly – partly because it’s unusual to see foreign flagged yachts (or any yachts at all in some places).
The sailing is varied and uncrowded and we normally have views of land on every side. Topography varies from region to region – the Lofoten Islands feature iconic sharp, snow-capped peaks, sailing southward from Bodo we hope to visit the Svartisen glacier, mainland Europe’s second largest, which tumbles down to sea level, then we see big-shouldered mountains somewhat similar to those in Scotland. Further south still are the giant fjords with towering cliffs and waterfalls. The cities of Trondheim, Tromso, Alesund and Bergen are of major historical interest.
From time-to-time we find ourselves caught up in a local boat festival with music, dancing, children’s games and wall-to-wall boats (everybody in Norway seems to have one and for many on the islands it’s the family car).
Apart from Sea eagles, which are frequently seen, wildlife is generally less prevalent than the west coast of Scotland despite the effects of the Gulf Stream which continues to warm even this far north. The weather is generally warmer than the north of Britain. When the Polar High sets in we experience 24 hours of sunshine with corresponding warmth – we have sometimes found it too warm to eat in the cockpit even at 9 or 10 pm. However, if lows break through bringing cloud and showers, it can be chilly. Days are long and it’s possible to be out sailing or walking from early until late since it never gets dark. We are normally north of the Arctic Circle around mid summer. It can take some self-discipline, for those used to early sunsets, to get enough sleep.
Navigation and pilotage is made interesting in places by narrow passages through small islands and skerries. It’s possible to avoid open water passages in many areas by using the Inner Lead which runs inside the shelter of offshore islands and is almost unbroken from Bergen to Tromso. This is the route taken by the Hurtigruten which is the “post boat” (now large ferries) linking communities between Bergen and Kirkenes on the border with Russia.
Our friends Jon and Sture at Explore North (www.explorenorth.no) will take you on winter sail/ski or sail/climb trips from Bodo based on two aluminium sloops fitted out for extreme high latitude weather. Have a look at their web site, if only for the great photos.