At 2200 BST on 2 June, Atlantis moored safely at Svolvaer: capital of the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway. We shall be here for less than 24 hours before making our way onwards for the final leg north. Before arrival, we had been looking forward for some time to witnessing the spectacular coastline the islands are famous for as we approached our first landfall for five days. Sadly, despite hitherto enjoying a day of almost unbroken sunshine, it was not to be!
One of the world's finest panoramic vistas!
Svolvaer, the capital of the Lofoten group of islands seems a happy little place and the folk we've met have had a particularly welcoming attitude. We are typing this in the foyer of the town's main hotel where they had no qualms about letting us use the internet freely despite being non-residents. It allows us to give the Inmarsat terminal a rest for a day - it has been working flat out for the last day re-downloading electronic charts after the gremlins, or norwegian goblins perhaps, got into the onboard computer system. A gamechanger therefore. (PS We do have paper charts too in case anyone is worried all our navigational eggs are in one basket!)
In persistent drizzle we conducted the other normal chores of arrival: shopping for fresh food, shower, reporting to the harbour authorities, laundry etc - not necessarily in that order. Even officialdom has been easy and efficient. The weather nevertheless contributes to a slightly bleak drabness and one cannot help feeling there is something of the 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' about this remote outpost. If the weather would lift, we understand the backdrop is normally starkly beautiful. Maybe it will clear before we depart?
Later today (it's now the 3rd June) we shall move Atlantis to the fuel dock, embark as much diesel and water as we can possibly squeeze into the tanks - it now potentially has to last us for a month or more - and prepare once again for departure. From here our route takes us almost due north through the Raftsund; a deep cut which divides the Lofoten islands and where we shall take a short diversion to visit one of Norway's finest fjords. The Trollsfjord is at times is only 100 metres wide between 300 metre cliffs - it should be spectacular despite the dreary weather.
Once clear of the Lofoten group, we shall sail north. Almost literally as far as we can. Svalbard currently marks the southern limit of Arctic closely packed ice but the ice charts, which we monitor daily, show that it is thinning fast and the time of our arrival should coincide exactly with sufficent of the thaw to allow us to explore further north as we intend. Our passage to Longyearbyen on Spitzbergen is likely to take 5 days in a predominantly strong south-westerly wind. There's a term for a fresh breeze which blows on the beam thus requiring no tacking or trimming of the sails. A 'soldier's wind' (T'will take a sailing vessel somewhere without requiring much nautical ability). How appropriate in so many respects!
For Svolvaer pilotage notes and hints click 'Read Full Post'.
Chart: Norwegian Chart Series 73
Entry from the south is straightforward past the prominent statue. Fish drying racks fill the starboard bank (keep upwind of them to avoid the smell!)
All fuel facilities (Statoil in Marina Pollen and Esso in fishing boat service area) are to the north of the town bridge (16m clearance). The alternative route from Town Quay to Marina Pollen outside the breakwater should not be attempted in strong southerly winds. Statoil is in the far southwesterly corner of the marina - look for the roadside garage - that is also the fuel pontoon (3.5m). Speak to the cashier at the filling station to start the pump.
Marina Pollen has limited spaces for visitors. Town quay has three pontoons or lie alongside the wall. The outer pontoon has least depth (1.7m), inner pontoons and wall have more (to 3.5m). A soundings chart is posted on the noticeboard at the head of the gangway to pontoons. Shorepower is provided on pontoons; vessels lying against the wall may plug into sockets at the base of lampposts.
Harbourmasters office is at the Harbour control building alongside the cruise ship terminal - from the Town Quay turn left out of the square past the Second World War museum. Top floor last office on the left. He will sell an access card (10Kr) to the Town Quay service building which has showers, toilet, washing machine and tumbledryer. Post cards no longer required in the box provided before departure.
Lefotenpost in the main square sells norwegian charts (don't be deceived by its appearance as a tourist shop), the otherwise well stocked chandler at the north end of town quay does not. The police station is directly opposite the harbour office. Two good supermarkets lie two blocks away from Town Quay albeit fresh meat choice is somewhat limited.