Starting with our departure from Inverness Marina on Thursday 17th August, this turned out to be no ordinary passage.
With 80 nm ahead of us to reach the busy fishing port of Fraserburgh in a day sail, and slipping lines just before daybreak, we plugged the current through the narrows between the Chanonry Point Lighthouse to port and the fortress of Fort George to starboard. Similar to the Devon coastline and so different from the Scottish west coast with its cuillins and munros, we sailed past Lossiemouth, Banff, Macduff, and finally to ‘FB’ where a hammerhead pontoon had been reserved for us in the small Marina amongst assorted fishing vessels. Why Fraserbrough? To take delivery of the boom vang that had been under repair in Falmouth (long story) and we’d had couriered to Scotland. It was also a good way to break down the North Sea crossing.
The day started fine and ended dry but cool. We had made good time though motor sailed most of the way. Not so the following morning! It rained solidly and blew the whole day. A very bleak place in no sunshine even in August – hard to imagine in winter. Going ashore for a few provisions involved donning full wet weather gear and boots!
As predicted Saturday dawned with not a cloud in the sky and a westerly wind. The Fraserbrough world looked brighter. Good time to leave on the 400nm passage to Sweden – 3 days at sea.
Day 1 was lovely sailing weather, but we stowed the mainsail, and sailed under genoa alone – sunshine, a puffin on the water, a pod of dolphins swimming with us for hours and a superb sunset. We also spotted 5 floating wind turbines, that were not shown on Navionics, so passed the info on to Navionics, who have now updated their North Sea chart, and expressed their thanks. However, the BP Forties Oilfield was shown – the brightly lit platforms an amazing sight at night!
Day 2 was grey, rainy and boisterous. 30kn winds, rolly, heavy seas with 3m swell and unpleasant outside. Thankfully the Wauquiez pilot saloon came into its own again – with all round visibility we can run watches from below, only needing to venture into the cockpit to trim sails. So we were ‘inside’ for Day 2, watching waves crashing over the deck and into the cockpit.
Day 3 though bright, brought with it little or no easing of breeze until the afternoon. We could see the Norwegian coastline all day about 20nm to our north, with Kristiansand to port. Towards evening the wind died and we relaxed a little with another glorious sunset to the west. Now in the Skagerrak we looked forward to a pleasant last night at sea with about 100 nm to run.
An ominous dark sky developed. In the distance, it lit up at regular intervals – sheet lightning followed by bright forks hitting the sea. Call us paranoid, but having been subjected to three strikes, we were on our guard! Radar on, we watched, changed course away from the lightning, then quickly decided our best and safest option was to motor back out to sea and run before the storm. (Even our friends Ingemar and Ann-Britt could see it from their summer house on the hill in Ulebergshamn!) After an hour, it had subsided, but on turning back onto our heading for Sweden, not only was the wind at 26kn, but was on the nose too and we were making 3.5kn at 2000 rpm!
Another discussion followed – again a ‘no brainer’ – to alter course with the wind on our beam for 40nm which would take us to ….
So totally unscheduled, we arrived off Kristiansand at breakfast time to be met by Customs in a rib! All very friendly, but they did come on board to check our passports, ship’s papers and to have a look around. After a passage though, the interior below decks is never in a fit state to receive visitors!
We finally went alongside at the visitors’ marina in perfect weather to plan a short stay in The Land of the Midnight Sun.