Keeping occupied for 12 days
Before we left, we spent much time considering how we would keep ourselves occupied for 12 days on a slow boat to northern Norway and back. We are used to being extremely active and there was a worry about becoming bored.
Our packing list therefore included: books, an Ipod (books, music, downloaded TV programmes), Sudoku (difficult and fiendish), Times crosswords, laptop for writing the blog, binoculars for watching wildlife etc and lots of Christmas Cards for writing. There is no internet for passengers on the Lofoten and we are advised to seek cafes or libraries ashore if we want to check emails or, if we are in a port at the same time as any other member of the fleet, to nip on board that ship and use its free internet – slow but useable for emails..
We booked six excursions before we left the UK (two were cancelled during our trip due to low numbers and a third was supposed to have been cancelled but was reinstated – this is a problem common to all boats during the low season months since a larger boat does not necessarily mean more passengers)
Whilst we were not intending to get off the boat at the remaining 61 ports, we developed a simple routine which maximised our walking time ashore and therefore the number of ports at which we could get off at and stretch our legs. This routine was to be ready and waiting at the gang plank when it touched the dockside and then get off as quickly as possible, walk towards the village / town / or whatever there is to see for just under half the time we are to be docked, turn around and do a fast return to the boat. Time keeping is critical because the boat does not wait for you if you are late.
About 10 minutes before we arrive at any port, the fog horn is sounded to warn those ashore that the boat is arriving and this was our final warning to start getting dressed for shore since it took at least 10 minutes to get all of our cold weather clothes on.
Back to the land of the sun and a busy day
On paper today looked like it would be a quiet day, but it
north at 0900
turned out to be the exact opposite. There was more light when we got up than we had seen for many days. After being on deck at
south at 0900 showing the possibility of the sun
marker point for the Arctic Circle in gloomy light with a ceremonial sounding of the ship’s horn.
Next there was the formal ceremony put on by the ship’s crew to celebrate our return to the sub-polar region.
Its importance was signified by the fact that the Captain (left) also attended. We were called out in pairs, sat in chairs in front of our fellow passengers and offered the opportunity to drink
youngest) were regularly dosed with it when we were children (being post war babies). Having taken our medicine, we were
presented with our dosing spoons as souvenirs.
We were then offered the opportunity to go onto the bridge and ask whatever questions we wanted about navigation, ships operation etc.
The Lofoten is a relatively unsophisticated ship as far as cruise boats go.
The Radar equipment
Navigation requires more action by the bridge team on this ship than on others in the fleet because whilst the electronics knows the route it would like the boat to take, it does not keep the boat to it, it merely shows when it is on and off course and therefore every change in course (and there are thousands) requires action from the bridge.
The electronic chart which also shows where we have been and where we will go to unless we change course and the route they would like to take (but the equipment is not sophisticated enough to automatically follow the planned route).
So unless they change course slightly, the above chart shows that we will hit this island (we did change course slightly)
This small lever is effectively the wheel and is used to change course slightly by changing the rudder or varying the pitch of the propellers.
There is a chart room behind the bridge which also houses other equipment.
The intricacies of steering into and out of port, using an anchor as a pivot point (the boat does not have bow or stern thrusters) and navigating if all of the electronics fails was explained.
A periscope and speaking tube is not found on many ships these days. We understood that there is a magnetic compass up very high for use as a backup if the electronic systems fail. The periscope is used to enable the helmsman to see which direction we are sailing in and the speaking tube is used when calibrating the compass – they do not use a phone because that would introduce something electric near the compass and perhaps interfere with the setting.
We were pleased to see a traditional “full speed ahead” gauge (which was replicated down in the engine room). It was a privilege to see the bridge, particularly on a ship where more action is required of the team to keep us on course than on the very modern push one button and let it steer itself type ships found elsewhere.
Later, those that wanted to went down into the engine room
(hot and oily) and clambered up and down all of the ladders etc. The engine is the original 1963 7 cylinder 2 stroke
diesel engine which was installed when the ship was built.
Apparently the engine can be operated as a 4 cylinder
or a 3 cylinder engine if needs be (servicing or breakages).
There are three electricity generators but because of the increasing electrical demands made these days, one of the original generators was recently replaced with a modern one (green) which is sufficiently powerful on its own to meet the total load and therefore the two old ones are kept as spares.
The engine room “full speed ahead” repeater
and down in the very bottom of the ship was the prop shaft. The engine uses about 400 tons of fuel oil over its 5000 km trip.
Late in the afternoon, one of the engineers came to teach us the art of sailors knots- proficient is not a word I would use to describe our skills post instruction but it was good fun.
The knot instructor and the tasks
A perfect sheet bend
a perfect bowline hitch
His and Hers sheet bends
Apart from these activities, there were also numerous ports
visited today. The third port of the day was Nesna which is probably the only port we have visited where the terminal is painted in traditional Norwegian colours. Nesna is
a very small village (950 inhabitants) in a most beautiful
area of Norway but typical of the small isolated places we call at where the daily boat (one in each direction) is a lifeline. It is famous for its felt shoes and not much else.
and as it did so, we saw an example of a mirage out at sea where the islands in front of us appeared to be floating due to thermal changes in the water.
Further south we passed the Helgelandsbrua (Helgelands Bridge) near Sandnessjoen is one of the pride and joys of the local inhabitants in that it is graceful and 395m between the pillars. The town itself is a typical small one shopping street town of 7500 inhabitants.
The main street is nothing special,
the busiest shop in the high street was the one selling Christmas decorations – they seemed just to have had a large delivery and hence everyone was shopping there with their children (it was a Saturday morning) and stocking up for Christmas.
There were a number of very pleasant (this one undergoing significant restoration) buildings,
this one dates from 1923 in a very traditional severe style (now a pub belonging to the Dolly Dimples chain)
this large substantial wood built house
but what struck us most was that throughout the town were quite a large number of unusual statues – why we do not know but they were all very nice to see.
Just after we left Sandnessjoen’s port, we passed the 568m mountain of Hestmannen which is (according to myth), the petrified remains of a wayward troll prince. The story has it that Hestmannen was overcome with lust after seeing the beautiful Lekamøya bathing naked with the seven daughters of the troll king Sulitjelma and galloped south to abduct her, sending the panicked girls fleeing. As dawn broke, the seven were turned to stone, becoming the Seven Sisters mountain range.
The seven sisters are shown on the above chart as the line of seven black triangles and the picture above is taken from a position towards the bottom of the chart looking up the line of the sisters.
And shortly after we pass the last of the sisters on a very calm sea in an absolutely freezing wind, the sun sets (as it now has a right to do) although it was not up very long.
I think that for me, this stretch of coast with its magic combination of mountains and light was the best section of the whole 5000km we have seen on this trip.
Further south we cruise (in the dark) past the rocky dome of Torghatten, which is pierced right through by a hole about 20 metres in breadth. The mythical explanation is that after failing to catch Lekamøya, the petulant Hestmannen decided to shoot her instead. Fortunately, a benevolent troll king threw his hat between the two, which stopped the arrow and was petrified into Torghatten mountain.
Dinner was advertised as the Captain’s Dinner – it was
nearly as normal except that all of the key members of the crew were present and we were told what a good group we had been and we told them what a good crew they had been then we toasted each other – we had Glug and because of the very strict alcohol policy applying to the crew (none ever whilst on board) they had a fruit punch.
This is a vegetable wrap, the alternative had fish in it.
Pepper Steak etc
A stuffed pepper with a sliced roast potatoes with swede on top plus assorted quick fried vegetables served on the same pepper sauce as the meat eaters.
Desert was the Chef’s Bomb Surprise which was a sort of
baked alaska ice cream cake with a firework in it.