Chronicle of an out-of-the-box cruise (among the spectacular fjords of Lofoten)

Marco Zanini is an avid reader of ours who often embarks on “unconventional” cruises and sends us detailed reports. This time he tells us about his boating vacation to the Lofoten Islands (the Norwegian archipelago stretching northeast between Nordland and Troms counties). His report is detailed and full of useful advice if you too would like to embark on this adventure, exploring breathtaking views and beautiful fjords by boat. Without ever taking off your oilskin, even in June.


The Great North has always been a very strong call.

By chance at the beginning of 2018 through Facebook my friend Angelo Viviani contacts me to ask me I don’t really remember what, and in between chats he invites me to participate in a week of sailing in Lofoten that he is organizing for the first week of June. The decision practically was immediate; I convince my wife to follow me and it is done, I proceed with the payment of my rental fee. In a few days the crew is formed and we are all set.

The navigation area that Marco explored.

I have several months to document. Angelo, and his friend Mauro Bona already had an idea, being that they were the originators. However, I bought the ever-present imRay pilot of the British Admiralty (see photo), a fairly comprehensive English text. Excellent guide and sailing plan that the guys from the Caprera sailing center published where they describe their experience made a few years ago.
It’s February and I need to hurry and buy plane tickets. I find with our trusted friends from the agency who specialize in unconventional destinations, a Lufthansa flight leaving from Bologna; a bit of a layover, perhaps too many (Bologna-Frankfurt-Oslo-Bodo-Svolvaer), however with 4 flights and a 4 a.m. wake-up call we can arrive in Svolvaer by late afternoon. It is certainly not behind the house and not even that popular as a place. Angelo and the others from Malpensa will have to spend a night in Bodo and on the way back as well.

The departure date is approaching, and for this occasion I could not fail to have a decent camera. I had stopped taking photographs seriously for 10 years with the arrival of digital SLRs, now it was time to make up my mind. I make up my mind and buy a Canon EOS5 Mark IV body for the modest sum of almost 3,000 euros, the lenses I already had from the time I was taking professional photos for the underwater and travel industry.

5/31/2018 – WE’RE GOING
We’re off, it’s the morning of May 31, 2018, pleasant trip, we took heavy winter gear, trying to contain everything in two huge backpacks, we ship the luggage directly to Svolvaer. I am concerned being that we have less than 30 minutes for the Bodo Svolvaer connecting flight, and I don’t know if the bags will arrive, we are counting on the size of the airport which I assume is not Frankfurt.

It’s 30 degrees in Oslo, wouldn’t we have patched our clothes? We land in Bodo and there a rush boarding awaits us being only with a 20-minute connecting flight. Embarkation is very quick the twin-engine plane of about 20 seats is waiting for us and you get on like a bus choosing a seat wherever you want. Spectacular 20-minute low-altitude flight where from above we can admire the entire sunlit archipelago (which we will not see again for 4 days). We land, sunny day strong wind, not cold but not that hot either. Microscopic airport, cabs are not available, we ask around and finally someone very kind and merciful calls us a cab that will take us to the center which is about ten kilometers or less away (for the modest sum of about forty euros). Also in the cab with us were a couple of compatriot runners who had come all the way there to do a mountain running competition. While waiting for the cab, through booking I instantly book a room in a downtown hotel. We settle in the hotel, waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive the next day to embark.

After a shower we decide to visit the town and go to find the charter boarding (not the easiest undertaking since they have a dock not at the port but in an area of their own). We finally find it we recognize it by people disembarking and cleaning. After the tour is over, we go to dinner where we already realize the cost of living , and then to sleep.

1/6/2018 – WHAT AN EXPENSE!
Finally after a sleepless night in the light seeping through the curtains of the room we get up check out and go straight after a quick breakfast to the boarding house to wait for the others. Full crew, boarding in the afternoon.

There are six of us: the two of us, Angelo Viviani and Cristina Guglielmi (his lady) Mauro Bona and Fabio Capelletti, Angelo’s photographer friend who is not a sailor but an excellent companion.

It must be said that Norwegians are very good people but not very expansive nor used to tourism. We ask where we can place the duffel bags so we can go to the galley. In fact, we had to make do by keeping two people planting stuff (probably unnecessary, who would you want stealing the duffel bags!) on the road and the rest at the supermarket doing grocery shopping.

The operation took a couple of hours with Angelo’s detailed list to be followed scrupulously, the problem lay in the shortage of affordable fresh vegetables and quality food. We pay a total of more than 400 euros for a paltry cart that will not be enough for the entire week (to think that two weeks later with half the groceries I filled up on Sardinian culinary specialties and fresh vegetables by filling two carts in Cagliari).

In the afternoon we are handed over the boat and go through a detailed check-in. Angelo for check-in is number one check the seals on the toilet pump as well.

The boat is a 40-foot Delphia , well equipped and in excellent condition. In the boarding package, we also asked for sheets/quilt and towels which I recommend in order to decrease the volume of bags, for the cost of 25 euros per person.

Sprayhood all over the cockpit that allows you to sail as we will see even in heavy water snow and even hail. Equipment is total, charting, radar, good water capacity, Webasto heater, two comfortable bathrooms where we will take hot showers throughout the vacation.

It is now past 7 p.m. and having finished arranging all the materials we finally set off. Direction Henningsvaer, about ten miles from Svolvaer, a village nestled in a group of islets and rocks, protected on all quadrants. Meanwhile, the weather is no longer what it was the day before, ominous clouds everywhere, a few drops.

Right away it is clear that the whole canopy is indispensable, at best you sail with the sides open to let air in. Obvious that maneuvers are slightly more brigorous especially those at the boom and the adjustment of the mainsail leech, requiring acrobatics at the expense of safety.

From the exit of the Svolvaer Canal, where we are greeted by a statue placed at the entrance, which is very impressive, we proceed south in a sustained wind of 20 knots, perfect for reaching Henningsvaer just for late dinner.

Navigation in these waters is not complicated, however, it requires some care and appreciation of the currents, which can be very impetuous with sigizial tides especially in the passage of the mythical Maelstrom south of Moskenesoya , a very dangerous place mentioned in the stories of Verne and Edgar Allan Poe (descent into the Maelstrom).

We relied on ImRay’s pilot charts and the Navionics mapping now installed on the tablets and phones of half the crew. Basically the onboard chartplotter (in the cockpit a Raymarine and another in charting) acted as a backup and screen for the radar, which fortunately never required use.

Arriving in the vicinity of Henningsvaer, great care is required, as with the other landings, since all of the foothills can only be reached through a maze of shallow outcropping reefs and mede signs. Navionics has always done its job very well.

Upon reaching the marina you realize (here as in the other moorings) that the docks are for only a few boats (max 4) and that if you really have a hard time you have to tie up to the pilings by keeping track of the tide (loose lines just enough to go along with the level) and finding a spot with a ladder to take you up.

Fortunately, sailing in these waters is not crowded, and we quite easily find a place on the dock for a fee (here in this port you pay via an app from your cell phone and you enable the electricity and water column).

It is about 9 p.m. light always and we are getting ready for a dinner party. First dinner among us who do not know each other all, and immediately we see the fellowship and harmony of this crew, which is not always easy to find; in particular it is immediately denoted that we are all people accustomed to sailing and some small inconveniences , odd times for dinner, various inconveniences, etc. , do not create any problems for us.

Between chats, after dinner and some planning for the next day, we are at bedtime: it is 3 a.m. and daylight. Nice bazza the Arctic summer, it allows you, of course adapting to the rhythms, to be able to manage navigations in the best possible way.

Woke up late I don’t remember what time, had breakfast and a nice tour around the village. Nice to see, you meet very few people and mainly those you see are tourists. The walk alternates between clouds, rain and something like snow. You get used to it quickly, with oilskins on, boots and winter clothes you don’t suffer the cold and nothing bothers you anymore.

In the afternoon we return to the wharf and have lunch (so to speak since it is already past 2 p.m. and we set sail for the next port: southbound Lofoten, stopping in Sorvagen). The weather is decidedly bad (the weather forecast gave little hope), fairly tense wind: we leave with one hand, 20-25 knots, the boat is very stable, overcast and threatening skies, alternating with showers of water, some snow and even hail.

In the cockpit we are comfortable sailing with the side openings open but everything else in the cover protects us very well. If you go outside the cockpit it is less fun, the perceived temperature is below zero; I remember going to caulk the mainsail meolo without gloves and the feeling after a few minutes outside was quite reduced.

The weather forecast gives for the next day lousy weather, so we decide to opt for a two-night stopover which will then allow us to visit on foot Reine and A° which is pronounced O or something like that. In this village the E10 state road ends beyond by motorized land vehicles you do not go.

The sailing continues stiff wind broad-straight upwind, which forces us to do a series of edging and although the course is not very long (about 32 miles) it becomes 40 with edging but the going is brisk and we are happy to proceed.

While sailing we decide where to stop, being that the port of Sorvagen is not the largest and there is a risk of not finding a place given also the time of arrival, so we also take as an alternative the port of Moskenesvagen that is wider (from the nautical chart at least) and more promising.

Reaching the entrance to the pier lights we enter, following us we find tenders driven by children, where the oldest must have been 10 years old, having fun racing each other in the roadstead.

It is already 10 p.m. and the fatigue and impatience can be felt, we take a reconnaissance tour of the whole roadstead but it does not look very promising. We would have to dock at the piles of pilings, and there do not seem to be many facilities. We have to stay a couple of nights and water and light is needed, or at least hopefully. We decline!

We decide to continue on to Sorvagen. We are at the entrance to the small marina, it’s already 11 p.m., it’s quite full, we opt to put in at the English side just behind the harbor wall, but the owner of a large New Zealand iron barge I think, invites us to go to the end of the bay reassuring us that there is enough bottom and there we have a dock equipped for 4 boats .

Absurd maneuvering between tunneling and cursing, being that we have to squeeze between the rocks and another boat, however it’s all okay at 11:30 p.m. on the dot we are moored and can shower and then eat and fuck around. After dinner around 2 a.m. we decide to take a walk and then go to sleep. At past 3 o’clock we finally go to sleep, the country seems deserted raining water and icy stuff; we are sealed with the Webasto on idle we sleep really well, the curtains have been “upgraded” and the outside light does not disturb sleep.

3/6/2018 – IN PAUSE
Fairly late in the morning around 9 a.m. we get up, have breakfast and plan for the day. We will spend the day touring the town and its surroundings, with a return for lunch in the afternoon and another tour. Beautiful to see is the stockfish dryer and the view of the bay that contrasts with the town’s soccer field. The weather has worsened we return to the boat, get some rest and finally have dinner at a more southern European time. We decide to stay for the next day as well since a worsening of the weather is coming.

Fairly late in the morning around 9 a.m. we get up, I prepare eggs and bacon, toast jam and local cheese for everyone, while making the day’s program. Walk a few miles to the quaint little port of A° where the stockfish museum resides. Fortunately, it is not raining hard and the showers are short with flashes of clear weather as well. Walking through this archipelago is quite as pleasant as sailing through it. You always meet few people and mostly tourists and almost never locals, the houses have large windows where you see the inside, but you hardly see anyone, sometimes it might look creepy.

We arrive at the stockfish museum, greeted by the owner who speaks perfect Italian! Even a signpost on the road is written in Italian-very strange. Doubt is quickly dispelled, the gentleman is the former importer in Italy of stockfish. He guided us through the museum, which is really of extreme interest, and between tools he told us the story of his life, whose fortune comes precisely from this trade.

From the visit we understood many things especially about the price of the product, which we judged to be quite high for a “mummified” and not exactly inviting cod.

Among many things, interesting to know that the waste products especially the heads are sold to black Africa, especially Nigeria, from which they extract delicious food (for them), and the remaining waste is turned into food flours.

We return from visiting A° and in the late afternoon have a quick lunch and then go to visit Reine, which is about 10 km away by land. On foot is unthinkable given the bad weather. We ask for transportation. It fits only a bus and cab. We will lean toward the bus, which fortunately was passing by in minutes.

To Reine we ask for the return: at 10 p.m.! Apparently, since early afternoon you have to wait 5 hours for a bus. We will opt for a cab; the problem will be finding it.

We tour the very beautiful and deserted country. Amazing scenery, the bad weather after an hour gives a moment’s respite, we meet very few people and fortunately an open bar/restaurant where we decide to stop and have a warm drink. Then we will ask about the cab.

We stay for more than an hour at the bar, prices as always high but still okay, we notice that locals, few in number, arrive at this hour to dine. It is 5 p.m.

The bar calls us a cab, a van for that matter, and calmly arrives to pick us up. The driver is a huge 20-year-old “Viking,” he picks us up and without much pleasantries takes us back to the boat. He must have uttered ten words in all. The cost I do not remember but proportionally divided by 6 was not high.

We have a leisurely dinner and decide for the next day, we would like to leave not too late so that we can head on the Maelstrom and then moor at Nusfjord.

Wake up by 6 a.m., quick breakfast, departure. We are going to make the passage of the mythical Maelstorm , Moskstraumen (‘current of Mosken’) and then turn back and moor in Nusfjord. Fair wind about 15 knots, all ahead, rain and low threatening clouds frame the passage that is about ten miles away.

After an hour the wind starts to drop, then a hole of sunshine, and then clouds water and frozen stuff. We are on the Maelstrom, it is 8 a.m., a slight current is already denoted, we go mostly by motor, and it doesn’t seem the situation is that challenging, after all, the tide is at the quadratures with a very low coefficient.

We won’t end up like the character in Poe’s tale or even the Nautilus in Verne’s tale! We are at the far end of the archipelago, turn the bow and take the road back. We will sail to Nusfjord, which is about 20 miles away.

Fairly dull sailing, the wind has definitely dropped, we take turns at the helm , we proceed more by motor than by sail. Meanwhile, a hole of sunshine among the clouds peeps through. With the sunshine these islands become beautiful, although in bad weather there are glimpses of unique drama. We take pictures all the time. In the distance a splash on the sea, an orca is swimming about half a mile from us .

We arrive at past 12 noon in Nusfjord, places to moor in the beautiful inlet few. Some are leaving the pier warning us to stand by that they will leave our place. In the meantime, we set up on stilts.

Finally the place becomes free, fairly tight maneuvering but we manage to put ourselves on the floating dock. We are in one of the most beautiful places in Lofoten (in my opinion the most beautiful).

Finally sunshine and you can go walking after lunch. The inlet to the left of the bay is spectacular , a starplumbed rock determines its entrance. On the rocks seabirds have nested. The mooring seems to be free, which is not bad, although so far it has always paid very little compared to the prices we are used to in Italy.

We spend the whole afternoon walking, there is also a well-stocked store with tourist items. We also decide to go grocery shopping, since the galley is scarce, find that minimum and pay the maximum.

Above our berth is a rock that if you climb on it takes you to a breathtaking view of the entire bay. On display is the old winch, now disused, used by fishermen to hoist their catch and process it in the factory in front, now turned into a museum. The day passed, the sun often peeped through the clouds and warmed us for several hours of the day.

We have dinner and, as always, decide on the next day’s stage. Scheduled before the return trip is Trollfjord north of Svolvaer. The planning is meticulous, the next day’s leg will be long and especially with little wind. We decide on an early departure and arrive in Kavelbag for the afternoon with a stop and visit.

6:20 a.m. Departure heading for Kavelbag about 30 miles, little wind as expected, around 8 a.m. it strengthens just that tad that allows us to turn off the engine. We proceed very calmly and there is also time to read a book, chat and talk shit, photos galore , we are often out to take pictures, calm sea and the weather allows for some group shots on the bow, some sunshine alternating with clouds.

We are in front of Kavelbag that it is past noon, exploration of the bay and we decide to put in at the bottom on the galling pier taking into account the draft and tide that are really at the limit on the pier. 1 p.m. We are docked and can have lunch, we have a nice walk and visit to the aquarium .

We are finishing the galley and Angelo very “fussyly” calculates to arrive to return the boat with the minimum of food.

We visit the village aquarium, which is very nice with the local ecosystem displayed. We spend an hour or so at the bar drinking hot chocolate, return to the boat for dinner and go to bed early being that the next day’s stop will be Trollfjord, some 30 miles away.

Departure 6 a.m., pleasant sailing, little wind, sometimes sunny. We arrive at the entrance to this magnificent fjord, motor in to the bottom where there is the outlet of an electric generator that brings water from a penstock up the mountain. We moor at the power company’s pier and prepare to make the walking trip. We would like to reach the lake by following the pipeline.

Meanwhile, several boats full of tourists and a couple of lifeboats from a cruise ship arrive. They visit the gulf from the boat without going ashore. We go for our ride, trail not the best, lots of mud and rain that never leaves us even though sometimes the sun appears. We don’t get to the lake because of really annoying mud.

After the tour we eat something and proceed to return to Svolvaer to return the boat the next morning. I always return with sunshine and very little wind: however, it is quite warm and it is pleasant to stay on the bow, obviously with a oilskin. Beautiful snow-capped mountains set the scene for the return .

By 6 p.m. we are in the port of Svolvaer to get diesel fuel. Not easy to find the distributor: on departure we were not there, the charter mooring being elsewhere, however at the end of the bay we find the DIY distributor. Done diesel we have 5 miles of circling around several islets to get to the charter pier. It is after 8 p.m. and the vacation is almost over. Dinner to finish the galley and to sleep.

6 o’clock alarm. By 8 o’clock one must leave the boat. A ladies team waits outside with vacuum cleaners and paraphernalia to clean up. Our flight will be in the afternoon. We call a cab to take us downtown and they kindly keep our bags in storage at their place. At about 3 p.m. we will be taken to the airport for the return trip.

Marco Zanini



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