The First Push North
Checking in on night four of our great expedition north, and already that celebratory moment sailing out of Barba’s homeport in Stavanger (and the admittedly stressful preparations leading up to it) feels like ages ago…
Time’s flown by, as I imagine it will continue to do. We’ve been getting used to life at sea and the jarring rhythm of middle-of-the-night watches (made less jarring, of course, by the fact that it’s never dark and sunset pretty much melts immediately back into sunrise).
We’re getting used to some of the handy upgrades on Barba, including new electronics that let us see other ships around us and – a fun thing – let us identify who they are and where they’re going. And we’re getting used to each other, too, and the idea of this small island in the ocean we’ll be sharing and calling home. When we pick up Ivan in a few days in Trondheim is when the reality of crew life will really start to set in, I imagine. Anyway, I like these personalities and am sure the joy will be as much in the journey as in finally setting foot on Svalbard in July.
I’m already dubbing this expedition the Norwegian Pride Tour. Yesterday I overhead Andreas and Jon, our Norwegian crew members, confirming to one another that they could never live anywhere else. The conversation, overlooking some pretty impressive coastal mountains, went something like “Could you ever leave Norway?” “No.” Me neither.” “Never.”
Norway is always easy on the eyes. But the scenery just gets better the farther north we sail. What started with wide channels north of Stavanger lined with stately homes as well as oil rigs and massive supply ships has morphed into more imposing mountain scenery near Florø and clustered fishing villages on the shore.
Peaks still covered with snow loom on the eastern horizon and islands that look carved by the Viking god Thor himself jut straight up from the ocean. We spent our first anchorage night on the car-free island of Batalden, a little paradise just west of Florø with a scattering of simple wooden houses in a quiet cove and a family of cute towheaded kids cleaning fresh-caught pollock. Barba’s crew is an energetic one, so up the island’s peak we went for views of that wide, wide ocean we’re heading out on, cresting with whitecaps and looking very imposing, indeed.
This morning we went for a dive in the harbor at Batalden so we could test out our new drysuits. I am still getting used to diving in a drysuit but it’s getting easier, and what an awesome feeling to surface warm and dry in Norway after a dive as opposed to shivering and miserable in a wetsuit, as I’ve gotten used to here.
Kelp waved from a sandy bottom littered with one of the greatest of Norwegian treats, kamskjell – scallops as big as your palm that can be scooped up en masse with the help of Mojo, the onboard dive scooter, to speed the collecting-process along.
The winds were strong from the north so we took the occasion to hoist up the sails for a roaring ride to our current port, Kalvåg, pop. 500, another idyllic harbor lined with colorful boat houses and old herring salt warehouses. We cooked up the scallops and enjoyed them outside in the cockpit, with a sinking sun that threw everything around us into brilliant color and made the juicy little guys taste even better.
Tomorrow we set off for Stat, known as the Cape Horn of Norway, for its challenging weather conditions. May fair winds be with us.