November 11

Written by Super User.

Lofoten Islands voyage, 15th - 22nd November 2011

It's Friday 18th November 2011. We're motoring along at 7.7 knots. All the
sails are down except the main sail on the aft mast. Under nearly full sail
earlier, we'd made 5.1 knots until the wind died and the engine was needed.
We're crossing the Vestfjorden. There is a slight swell and the 101 year
old steel hull bobs gently through the peaks and troughs. On deck are an
assortment of passengers; a french couple, 2½ English couples, the odd
Englishman, an Aussie and a number of Dutch folk. The Captain and crew are
all Dutch too. Everyone's spoken English is excellent.One of the English
couples are newlyweds on honeymoon.

Tina & I will have been married two weeks tomorrow (Saturday); we are the
honeymooners. It is cold on deck and raining but it is a remarkable
waterway. There are few other vessels about. A fast fisher passed us by
about 45 minutes ago and we were investigated by a fully loaded fast RIB
who came out to see the S/V Noorderlicht under sail just before that. When
we'd first crossed this waterway on Wednesday, the swell was severe and
more than a few people were sea-sick, Tina & I included. The rain had
lashed down and it was windy, wet & cold on deck. The weather now is much
better. The S/V Noorderlicht slices easily through oily looking water. It
isn't of course, the water here is remarkably clear. As we'd motored into
Korsnes last night, I was amazed to see the bottom of the harbour clearly
with the aid of the mast head lighting.

We have been amazed daily since coming here. We were first amazed at the
mixed nationalities, having expected more English for some unknown reason.
On first seeing the ship, we were amazed by her size. On first descending
below deck, we were amazed by the size and space and how the small two
bunked cabin swallowed all our gear. They also have a wash basin, shelving,
hooks and storage. Anyone expecting QE II luxury is going to be
disappointed. As it turns out, the bunks are comfortable and the bedding
warm, maybe too warm. Facilities wise there are sufficient shared showers
and toilets (heads) for the 20 strong passenger complement and there is
food, a LOT of food. Freshly prepared daily, large breakfasts are followed
by 2 course lunches and 3 course dinners plus extras abound and it is all
excellent. Tina has already asked if we can take the cook, Sonja, home with
us? All of the crew are excellent in fact, first rate hosts who look after
us extremely well and the guide, Jan, is infectiously keen and extremely

Excursion wise, there has mainly been walking. But we couldn't have dreamed
of the places we have been. Our first walk, in the pouring rain, is to see
9000 year old petroglyphs on a rocky granite landscape. In the evening we
take a short walk into a Sami community area in Drag. Our walk the next
morning followed a short excursion aboard the Noorderlicht down
Hellemofjorden, amongst sheer granite cliffs dropping straight into the
cold black water, to Hellemobotn, another seemingly deserted Sami
settlement. The 5km walk inland revealed a rock strewn landscape,
deforested areas, wild heather & evergreen trees. We saw raging rapids and
waterfalls, evidence of hunting by the indigenous Sami population and
mountainous granite surroundings. Even as we departed the area, a low cloud
base shifted to reveal massive snow capped peaks, seemingly just for our
viewing pleasure.

From Hellemobotn, we returned to Korsnes for our third night aboard. During
the course of a conversation on GPS systems, Tina made mention of my
Geocaching hobby. I described the hobby to a few people. Tina told them I
wanted to try a cache 'nearby', a mere 4km away. Shortly before 2200 hrs
CET, myself, Tina & Barbara, the Noorderlicht's First Mate set out with
some enthusiasm for the challenge, in the rain, on a dark road, toward
Bognes. All of us in some doubt by the time we reached the hill in
darkness, we were none the less surprised to find the cache under a rocky
ridge. I deposited my final Wales Flag micro geocoin and we headed back
triumphantly. Barbara informed us on the return walk that she would be
emailing home with details of the night's adventure; I wonder how mad she
will portray us to be?

I have just been out on deck. We left Skarberget shortly after 1100 hrs
CET, motored out into Vestfjorden, sailed for a bit, motored a little more
but have now been under full sail for about 2 hours. The engine is off and
the generator is running.The temperature on deck is 5.5*°*C and we are
making 5½ knots. We are heading south with 115m under the keel. It is quiet
with only the swish of the hull cutting through the water to disturb the
ears. Some of the passengers have come up on deck at the suggestion of a
possible Northern Lights sighting. Millions of stars are visible in great
clear patches in the cloudy sky. The Northern Lights, our raison d'etre for
this trip, have so far elluded us, prevailing weather conditions failing to
shift the low persistent cloud. All things considered, you would think the
trip the trip would have been a washout. But we have so far been to and
seen amazing places, experienced fantastic hospitality aboard a unique
vessel and been treated to a visual feast of moutains, sea eagles, icy
fjords, colourful sun rises and sun sets. We have only been aboard for 3
days so far and have another 3 to go, what else could possibly be in store
for us?

Monday 21st November 2011. We are back in Lødingen, our starting point for
this amazing experience. Tomorrow we disembark for home. What else was in
store for us? We saw & photographed the Northern Lights. We climbed rocky
peaks, saw amazing sun drenched & snow capped mountains. We walked more, we
sailed more. Jan, our guide for the trip, kept us informed and entertained,
during daylight and evening hours. And on this, our final night aboard, the
crew of the S/V Noorderlicht treated us as royalty, served us a sumptuous
final candle lit feast. And we didn't even have to clear the dishes for
this one. Both Tina & I have had the most amazing honeymoon. We couldn't
have imagined such an experience, nor expected all of the hospitality for
what we paid; in terms of value for money, we have been very pleasantly
surprised and have already said that we will return for a Spitsbergen trip.

Warmest Regards
Sean & Tina Thomas

The Lofoten trips are the last trips of this year. We had all sorts of weather, from absolutely no wind to storm and everything in between. How our guests experienced it, you can read below.

Lofoten cruise from November 22th to 29th 2011

We, a group of 20 French speaking people, boarded on the Noorderlicht at Lodingen for our week discovering the Lofoten in autumnal conditions, as well as experimenting a new way of navigating in the islands. Being north of the polar circle, we had also the chance to see the northern lights.

At first from Lodingen to Korsnes, we put up the sails navigating along the coast thanks to 20 knots wind. We could see sea eagles and cormorans on cliffs along the way.
The next day, route to Leiknes where we could see rock drawings of 9000 years old and then during the night, some wonderful northern lights. The goal of the trip was already a success.
Then, the weather forecast decided of the rest of the navigation from storms to more kindly meteorological conditions. Skrova, Svolvaer, Henningsvaer, Kabelvaag, the Trollfjord, Tranoy, were all the harbours and places that we appreciated during the week.

We could experience the professional way in which the captain and the crew dealt with the weather and sea conditions, going from one safe anchor place to another.
On board, the crew was so kind to share with us the boat life. The cooking was also highly appreciated with homemade fresh bread, daily made soups and a large variety of dishes.
We enjoyed the cocooning on board of the Noorderlicht.

We would like thank the crew for sharing with us such good moments during this sailing in this such fantastic place that are the Lofoten.


Below a report of Bennie Postma, one of the crewmembers during our crossing from Spitsbergen to Norway.
The departure from Longyearbyen was on Monday 31 October. The weather forecast promised us favourable winds. We left Isfjorden under sail and under the illumination of the aurora borealis. Early Saterday morning we safely arrived at Tromso.

Use Google translator to translate

Reisverslag van een bemanningslid van de zeilschoener "Noorderlicht", tijdens de overtocht van Spitsbergen via Tromso naar Harstad.

Vertrek maandag 31.10.11 om 16.00 uur. De crew bestaat uit 4 vrouwen en 4 mannen. De kapitein en mede-eigenaar Gert Ritzema heeft na een korte uitleg over weersverwachting, vertrek e.d. de wacht ingedeeld. Aan boord zijn 3 stuurlieden, 4 maten en niet te vergeten een kokkin. De wachttijden: stuurlui 3 uur op en 6 uur af en voor de maten (waaronder ikzelf) 3 uur op en 9 uur af.

Na het verlaten van de haven in Longyearbyen op Spitsbergen wordt na enige tijd zeil gezet bij een matig windje uit het noorden. Het is nog licht en het uitzicht op het berglandschap van Spitsbergen is geweldig. De windverwachting voor de komende 2 á 3 dagen is noordelijk en daarna zuid. Voor de oversteek is deze voorspelling prima.

Dinsdag 01.11.11. Koud weer, - 10 graden, maar de wind mee. Later de koers gewijzigd naar 170 graden dus werd er gegijpt. 's Nachts verscheen het noorderlicht in verschillende vormen en lichtsterktes, dat was heel bijzonder.

Woensdag 02.11.11. Zelfde omstandigheden als gisteren, het draaien van de wind liet op zich wachten. De windkracht was onvoldoende om het schip minder te laten slingeren. Om de windverwachting van 9 beaufort te ontwijken heeft Gert besloten de motor bij te zetten bij deze matige wind, maar het schip blijft nogal slingeren bij een verwarde zeegang. De temperatuur nog net onder nul en zo nu en dan wat sneeuw. Het navigeren van het schip vind ik mooi met de middelen die hier aan boord zijn. Je bevindingen bespreek je dan met de stuurman met wie je wacht loopt.

Donderdag 03.11.11. Het lijkt beter de gaan met het weer. De zonsopgang was bijzonder mooi.

Er komt meer wind. Om 10.30 uur wordt zeil gezet en dit gaat goed. Het is een hele klus met al die vallen en schoten. De motor wordt gestopt. De snelheid 7/8 knopen en een geweldig uitzicht.

De zee bouwt op, maar het schip redt zich er mee. Jammer dat de windrichting niet naar zw of z gaat. Gert besluit dan ook een andere fjordingang te nemen, want die is onder deze koers wel te bezeilen.

Vrijdag 04.11.11. Regelmatig word ik wakker vanwege slagzij en vreemde geluiden. Door de hoge zeegang is het schip zeer beweeglijk. Vanwege windrichting en koers worden de schoten aangehaald. Schip, wind en bemanning; dit is de combinatie waar je het voor doet. In de avond wordt het schoenertopzeil weggehaald en om 18:00 uur de rest van de zeilen, uitgezonderd het grootzeil. Deze blijft staan tegen het slingeren. De motor bij voor de laatste mijlen.
Voor onze kokkin heb ik grote bewondering, hoe zij onder bepaalde omstandigheden ons toch van eten en drinken voorziet. Tijdens de laatste wacht van 21.00 tot 24.00 uur komen wij bij de ingang van de fjord. Het is genieten van een prachtig maanlicht, bovendien was de zeegang nu beduidend minder vanwege hoger wal. Om 22.00 uur liepen we binnen en nu hebben we nog 5 uur te gaan door de fjord naar Tromso.

Zaterdag 05.11.11. Ongeveer 03.15 uur opgestaan voor het laatste stukje. Dit was voor mij herkenbaar van vorig jaar. Om 4.00 uur aangelegd. Gert stelde voor een biertje te nemen op de mooie en veilige overtocht van 635 mijl. Iedereen was positief over dit voorstel en na een paar drankjes buiten zijn we naar het dekhuis gegaan. Het was "super" gezellig. Om 07.30 uur te kooi gegaan en om 14.30 uur opgestaan. Na een korte wandeling en later een bakje koffie aan boord, voelde ik mij een weer stuk beter! s Avonds met z'n allen uit eten en daarna nog wat drinken op de wal.

Maandag 07.11.11. Het weer is grijs, regen en wind, maar niet koud 10 graden. Twee bemanningsleden zijn gisteren van boord gegaan en wij gaan verhalen om water te tanken. We gaan onder een brug door (40 meter hoog) en als je die nadert lijkt het net of het schip er niet onderdoor kan. De hoogte van het schip is 35 meter, het kan dus makkelijk.

12.00 uur vertrekken we richting Harstad, afstand ongeveer 80 mijl. Gert gaat dit doen in 2 dagen vanwege het weerbericht. Er wordt harde wind verwacht tegen de avond. We gaan naar een aanlegsteiger halverwege bij Gibostad. We varen op de motor, want we hebben de wind tegen. Wat een prachtig gezicht dat varen in de fjorden. De huizen langs de oevers op verschillende niveaus en op de hoge toppen ligt sneeuw. Na ongeveer 25 mijl krijgen we nog even wat er is beloofd, een zware bui met dikke wind, maar gelukkig weinig golven.

17.00 uur bestemming bij Gibostad bereikt. Heerlijk gegeten en later een kaartje gelegd.

Dinsdag 08.11.11. Vertrek 8.30 uit Gibostad met mooi weer en weinig wind. Het is nog ongeveer 7,5 uur varen. De vaartijd wordt verdeelt in drieën. Mijn laatste wacht gaat in, maar dit is geen straf, wat een uitzicht. Op sommige plaatsen is de fjord wel 4/5 km breed en de diepte varieert van 12 tot wel 70/80 meter.

Aankomst Harstad om 16.00 uur. De laatste avond gezellig aan boord doorgebracht.

Woensdag 09.11.11. Vandaag terug naar huis. 7.30 uur ontbijt, daarna afscheid genomen van de 3 achterblijvers Gert, Barbara en Sonja. Schippers, maatjes nogmaals bedankt en tot ziens!!

Bennie Postma

The last Spitsbergen trip of this year. With only a few hours of light a day we travelled with our guests to Krossfjorden and back.


Three days out already, and the crew is starting to settle to the vagaries of a motley passenger list. The captain is smiling with a rod of iron. There's no way that he'll 'sail' under power for eight hours just to see an ice-front.The chef-d'expédition,yellow-jacketed, says no,no, I think not like that (we're all foreigners here). Ten kilometres at 2 knots there, and back again, uses more of the crew's mental energy than of the imported diesel fuel. Resources of a global crisis are measured in many ways.
Yesterday the vastly experienced passengers disembarked for the n-th time to trek to nowhere, or, at the very most, somewhere to take a blue, blue photograph of another flat fjord surrounded by whiteness with a blue tinge and shingle with a dark, crunchy texture.
The birds have gone, a solo seal peeks up through the flat waters, puffs and disappears, reassured perhaps that the world of perpetual night still draws nigh, and that the multi-coloured animals with their throbbing rubber duck are mere images seen through a salty glass darkly. No threat. No self-respecting great white bear would ever deign to sport such hunting gear.
The multi-coloured group follows its discoursing host. Glaciers, moraines, ancient movements of primordial times reflected in a lifetime's learning are gently expelled into the arctic air to glance off aimless ears and mingle with idle chit-chat.
The chit-chat is in fact no idle cuckoo. It resembles an over-enthusiastic budgerigar, trilling a serious nonsense of society and its oft-inconsistent concerns. By this febrile means each tiny being reorders its position relative to its mates, dominant, submissive, cajoling, retiring but always effectively
maintaining its true position in a society that is as changeless as mud, of which there is little here in the hard-pressed, hard-frozen wastes.
And then, half a three hour day later, we hauled out onto a be-hutted beach, a besotted fumbling of cameras and gloves and the occasional extending pole, a marker for the inevitably long-distant top of the world, and an aid to varicose trekking.
The hut, opened and with two guttering candles lit by the sacrificial lamb, is typical.
Such a typical shed, genetically named as of the trapper family (if family can ever be singular) is preserved and maintained for touristical purposes.
'Touristical' is the novel description of the new tourist attraction, a shade of Mickey and Minnie to be taken with a cruise ship or a casino in lower climes. 'Touristical' describes something that reflects the original to a deemed-ignorant paying guest.
'Touristical' also implies the authenticity of whale blubber illumination when a light-emitting diode would be more appropriate to a 21st century hunter-camper.
Whence came the sacrificial lamb, and from what deep mystery did his code name surge? Behold the man with the gun, un-cocked and un-cocky, striding diligently into the jaws of the frigid gloom to take prisoner the hot breath of the predator, slay the dragon, assure the trembling that he can and will scare the fur off anything and everything threatening.
Behold a true gentleman, older than the rest of us put together, a gentle figure moving unconcernedly along a traceless track, like an ice bear with no thought other than its level of hunger, well sated for now.
The gentleman with the gun, drawing the ice fire, firing a wick or two of welcome, and to the memory that has long since faded away. The trapper's hut, a box ticked, an idea passed by on the way, an attraction too far, perhaps.
And the captain nudges the floating brash, slides along the calved icebergs, suffers the timid climbers scrambling from pneumatic bliss to sail-boat heaven, and smiles warmly with his backbone of iron.
He would be alone, trapper-style, with the knowledge of the ancient mariner tucked firmly beneath his belt.
We would be like him if we could, albeit for just a moment, a few days, a week.
It will never happen. We'll never be alone on his mountain, in his sea, in his world.
But we'll have our own, it seems, and, like the ice bear on this trip, we'll be there but unseen, ardours cooled by the faded green shimmer of a northern light. To each his destiny.

Noorderlicht. Northern light. Cold as a dream.

Christopher Watts 2011