The Physics of Gravity and Momentum, Ep. 206

It was easy for the guy at the controls. All he had to do was push a little joy stick on his remote control and our boat would descend from the giant travelift’s slings into the water. These Europeans are pretty good with their automation and control systems. It was up to us now to apply our skills – technical and otherwise – to the task of sailing Sea Rose south. As luck would have it, we had a blue sky day to enjoy the scenic snow-capped mountains of Tromsø.

Tromsø exit – Sea Rose underway from the dock!

Our newfound friend from Alta, Tommy, had kept our pen flowing fast as he rattled off a long list of recommended harbors in our direction, one of which had the enticing name of Hamn i Senja. The island of Senja had intrigued us last Fall, apart from the rain, the cold, and a date for haul-out fast approaching we would have surely visited. This time, we had the weather on our side. Fifty nautical miles of curving between stunning mountain peaks, with the waters nearly all to ourselves, brought us to our destination. Senja, with a limiting two dimensional map view, looks like an amoeba born with a generous helping of fingers. In real life, each of those fingers were the boundaries between deep fjords and rocky cliffs chasing vertically to the sky. That third dimension was going to be an important factor this week.

The island of fingers – Senja
Enroute to Senja – a respectable first day on the water

Hamn i Senja was, like so many other harbors in Northern Norway, tied to the fishing industry. But fishing can be a fickle undertaking. The harbor pivoted to a fish market business, before a wholesale re-incarnation as a boutique resort property. Evidently it was uneconomical to simply sell people the fish. If you lodged them, served them exquisite fishy delights in the restaurant, and capped it off with a hot tub and sauna overlooking the midnight sea and sun (and the northern lights in the winter), you could eke out a profit. A few kroner from vagabond sailors staying overnight at the dock helped a bit too.

Hamn i Senja
Sugar Peak, here we come!

Springtime is also a perfect time to catch wildlife in their element before summer travelers trample over their terrain. We were surprised to see several reindeer cross our path, with their new antlers just coming into being.

Reindeer intersection

Beyond the fingers of Senja, we found a uniquely low-lying island area by the name of Meloyvær, unique as in every other harbor here seems to be nestled in the embrace of towering mountains. A few locals were heading out to fish as we walked off the dock, and we exchanged the kind of pleasantries you find in an area remote from tourists – we greeted them in English, they made some kind of endearing comment in Norwegian, and we both pretended to understand the other as we continued on our missions. For us, the mission was a long walk on an attractively flat dirt road where the geese (and their excrement) clearly out numbered the human population. Meloyvær is not only special for its elevation just about sea level, but for its many sandy beaches tucked into little coves all around the islets, connected by single lane bridges. The water is so clear, one would not be faulted for thinking they had been teleported to the Caribbean were it not for the snow-capped peaks in the distance.

White sand beaches a-plenty on Meloyvær
The oh-so-common red painted fisherman’s shed
The Caribbean of Norway

It was time to chase down another hot tip from Tommy, the harbor of Stø. Properly pronounced, it seems like you are about to complete a word, but can’t quite get there. “St-ERRR”, and you want to dig deep in your gut for that ‘ERRR’ part. It means ‘slipway’ in Norwegian, the traditional apparatus by which to haul and launch larger boats. And as we arrived into Stø after our third day of light wind motoring (Uggh!), we had the option to anchor in the outer harbor. After our previous days of being on a dock, we took up the option without a second thought. It was important that our dinghy and outboard get put through their paces and not be left without a purpose! There were no other pleasure boats here, nor did it look like they worked hard to attract them, with commercial fishing being the main enterprise. We landed the dinghy at a community wharf at a tide level requiring us to climb 10 feet up a ladder to the dock’s deck, with our hiking packs and poles and lock and cable and line, to secure ourselves before another hike. Tommy had promised this hike – called Dronningruta – was not to be missed. The conundrum was that according to our research, it would take roughly 6 hours, and we were putting boots on terra firma at 5:30pm. But if we were going to leverage the midnight sun, this seemed like the most opportune time and place to do it. It would be trail mix, fruit and water for dinner!

The trail climbed steep immediately out of the harbor, past an immense NATO coastal radar complex, and then into the wild and rugged beyond, along the jagged ridgelines and peaks that we had seen so many of from down at sea level. I am always amazed that, after an hour of this kind of hiking, you look down at the world below you and feel like an airline passenger peeking out at the faint glimpses of life in the tiny civilizations back on earth. Back in Tromsø, we had searched without success to find crampons or spikes to use in case we ran into snow while hiking in this transitional Spring period. On our way to multiple peaks pushing 500m high, we crossed several snow fields, carefully digging our boots in deep so that we didn’t end up slipping and rolling down the steep slopes of tundra. Crossing one long traverse – a slope so steep I was comparing it to a double-black diamond run we had found at Revelstoke over the winter – one misstep and not much would stop you from ending up in the lake hundreds of meters down below. Regular evidence of rock slides crossing the path were a steady reminder to remain focused. For the cherry on top, right before we dropped elevation back to sea level, the trail crossed an even steeper section, this time laid out with chain and rope to hold on to as we took each step with considerable thought and planning. We have done a lot of challenging hiking in Norway and beyond. I think this was the most technical and risky, all at a time of day we would normally be comfortably asleep in bed!

The coastal return path, happily back at water level from the excitement of Dronningruta!

Back at the boat, it was a PB&J late night snack as we swapped stories of our favorite and scariest parts of this adventurous evening jaunt.

We awoke the next morning to heavy fog, but with it a light breeze from a favorable direction, which turned into a workable 15 knot wind. We rolled out the jib for our first sail after three days of constant motoring. What more, another boat was taunting us from astern, with their sails up and headed in the same direction…it was time for an informal competition! As the wind eased a bit, we switched to our larger Code 0 sail and gybed closer into shore. As the light level began to drop into the evening, I expected the wind to die off as well, but we got bursts of freshies, keeping our sail full and our diesel engine – with its noise and smell – out of the lineup. Our competition was slightly further behind, until we both gave up for the lack of wind and started to motor. Ahead of us was the stunning Lofoten peninsula, our destination for the next week of sightseeing. Here before us was a long line of craggy peaks stretching from far to our port to far to our starboard. We settled into an anchorage just inside the peninsula. To our shock and delight, super heated winds were blowing off the land, increasing the air temperature by at least 30 degrees F,. Although we had left our Caribbean-teaser of an island group behind, here was the air temperature to match it. We quickly rustled up two glasses of wine and sat out on the foredeck, in awe at this blessing of exceptional weather and the scenery full of geological giants encircling us.

Storøya, on the Lofoten peninsula – and this is how we dress in ‘warm’ winds!!

6 Replies to “The Physics of Gravity and Momentum, Ep. 206”

    1. Thanks very much Ted! And have a look at our YouTube channel near the end of the month as the first of two videos of our time together in the fjords will be coming out! Take care.

  1. Hey just wanted to give you a brief heads up andlet you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading properlyI’m not sure why but I think its a linking issueI’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both showthe same results

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