Monday, September 22nd, 2008
Steaming through fjords of Norway
We could figure out why there are so many pretty veteran steamships along the coast of Norway. You can get anywhere by boat and you can’t get anywhere without one. Picton Castle sailed from Kopervik at the crack of dawn and we had been advised to take the inside route up the many winding fjords for Bergen where we would meet up with a great assembly of the some of the worlds large sailing ships. The day came in clear and cool with a brisk northerly wind. Springing away from the dock we passed on our usual long blast of the horn. The village was asleep and we would let them continue to snooze.
While a mariner naturally needs to pay attention all the time and particularly while piloting close to shore, navigating the fjords of Norway is pretty straight forward. The high rocky sides are pretty steep so, basically, if you are not scraping the rocks above the surface, you probably are not in serious danger of going aground. This, of course, is not a fail safe plan but it is close to a general rule of thumb.
Northerly we steered along the sea side of the coast for a few hours and then we steered the Picton Castle inside again. Along this inside route is a vast marine thoroughfare for ships and shipping, a bit narrow at times thus favouring small motor ships over sail. We wound our way around until we found ourselves off the entrance to Bergen. A number of the other ships were already in port so we sailed ever so slowly past them all and quite close until we made our berth at the head of the harbour next to the Second World War Memorial and not far from the fish market.
Bergen is known for rain but we mostly had lovely sunny weather. The harbour is small so all these ships quite fill it up. Again we found old buildings and shops and pubs dating back to the 1200s and 1300s. The fish market is something else, selling all manner of salmon, cod, shrimp and crab but also seal meat and whale meat. Chibley went walkabout, we thought, and was gone a few days but with help from the local media we got her back. It seems that she was chowing on a cheeseburger next to the fish market and this young couple decided to take her home. She has a bunch of tags identifying her as a ships cat but these got overlooked. After what was nothing less than a media blitz some friend of the couple got word to them that this cat was being missed and they brought her down to the ship and, no kidding, there was rejoicing throughout the city of Bergen. Talk of the town she was.
There are a lot of crew activities at these Tall Ships festivals. Tug of war, sharpshooting, church, various social mixers and sometimes pulling boat races. We had not entered the pulling boat races for some reason, but as they were starting right from our wharf Lynsey got a gang together towards the end of the afternoon-long competition – I am happy to report that even with a missing oar the Picton Castle pulling boat team smoked them all. Satisfying that is. There was also a Sea Chantey competition, this we did not do so well at to be sure. Our gang did a good job at the crew parade; what they lacked in military precision they more than made up for with joie de vivre and stellar examples of interpretive dance with flags of many nations.
We had wonderful get-togethers onboard with Norwegian crew from Picton Castle‘s Norwegian freighting days. Most of them took particular pleasure in seeing the engine room in such fine shape and all painted up. All Tall Ships events must have their Tall Ships Parade and this one was no different. After a captains’ meeting on who goes where and when, we all took off to circle the fjord before sailing out into the North Sea.