Yesterday marked 100 days living aboard Barba. 100 days that we’ve been co-habitating in a space about the size of a college dorm room. It’s been five of us for most of that time. And since our arrival back in Hammerfest (when Ivan left for home), four. It’s safe to say we know one another’s ways a bit by now, including whose socks and underwear those are drying next to the engine heater and who prefers what for breakfast (cinnamon and sugar porridge most often for the Norwegians and something more savory, like Snøfrisk and knekkebrød, for Dani and me). I’m pretty sure I could recognize any of the guys by scent alone at this point, dirty or clean. We’ve spent some serious time all up in each other’s business on this boat!
Terry enjoying glassy seas in Dani´s hammock on the cruise to Stetind. By Daniel Hug
For the first time since early July, we’re south of the Arctic Circle. And we celebrated our 100 days onboard with food, of course. Salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast and barbecue pork chops for dinner, finished with a digestif of Braulio liquor from Italy that Dani had squirreled away for a special occasion.
Barba at one of her finest anchorages ever, surrounded by fall foliage near Stetind. By Daniel Hug
I should qualify that I took eight nights away from the boat and the boys when my parents came to Norway to visit this month and we toured around Lofoten, so I don’t get full credit for 100 on-board sleeps yet. But it’s been 100 days since we sailed out of Stavanger and pointed Barba’s bow due north. And it’s pretty wild to think of all we have seen, done and generally absorbed into our brains and beings over those three page-flips of the calendar (some would also probably say it’s a miracle we haven’t killed each other by now).
At anchor in Tranøy, not the most sheltered harbor but a beautiful one. By Daniel Hug
I haven’t seen anything approaching an unattractive view in months. Can one overdose on natural beauty? Of course not. But we all agreed we are becoming slightly desensitized to Norway’s overwhelming good looks. We’ve been immersed in them nearly 24/7, with the constant tingle of salt air in our nostrils and a breeze – some stiffer than others – ruffling our hair. Living mostly outside in this way has surely been some kind of therapy. I don’t know what it will feel like to go back to spending the bulk of my day indoors again. To sitting in front of my computer and walking more often on concrete than earth. To not seeing the ocean sparkling and feeling it heaving – cradling us in port, pinning us starboard at sea or floating past like an oil-smooth conveyor belt every day and night.
Dinghy-eye-view of Norway´s national mountain, Stetind, in Tysfjord.By Terry Ward
At the end of every journey is when it’s natural to get all nostalgic, I know. To forget the fights (yes, there’ve been a few – though no polar bear-defense rifles were drawn) and hardships along the way and just focus on all you’re going to miss. And that’s where I am now. I’m going to miss a lot. For all there is to return home to in France including friends, a very fine shower and my ever-supportive boyfriend who was like yes, sure, go off and sail with a bunch of Vikings for four months (!), I’ll miss these men and this boat – my roomies, friends, life support system of late and floating home.
We´ve been treated to the Aurora Borealis several magical nights while sailing in these far reaches of Northern Norway. By Daniel Hug
But that’s enough getting all emotional for now. As Andreas keeps reminding us, and rightly so, we aren’t back yet. It’s easy to get lulled into the ease of the Norwegian coastline after Svalbard – shore power, fresh water running from an infinite tap (no more killing our hands doing dishes in sea water!) and the omnipresent Norwegian budget grocery store, Rema 1000, with what now seems to me like the most beautiful supply of fresh produce in the world (it’s really not, we’ve been in the Arctic after all). But I’m also keenly aware that when you let your guard down is when things can go wrong. We still have the notorious headland of Stadt to get around to the south of us. And sailing through the night now means seeing only the lights on land and boat navigational lights, unless a cloud-free sky and sun storms decide to reveal the Aurora. It’s pitch black outside now at night, and we are losing more than 7 minutes of daylight every day, or gaining more than 7 minutes of darkness. However you want to look at it.
Terry on watch leaving Stetind for points south. By Daniel Hug
Sucked into writing this blog for a few minutes during night watch, I just glanced up at the plotter and jumped up on the deck to hand-steer and change the autopilot course as the AIS showed a cargo boat called the Bulk Viking on a direct heading with us. It wasn’t a close call, but a direct heading in a relatively wide channel nonetheless. It’s 5AM and all the boys are sleeping. They’re trusting me with their lives, as we’ve all come to do. This has become normal life. Damn if I’m not going to miss being a part of this camaraderie, the sailing life.
The week on land with my parents was really great, and it was fun to share a bit of why I love Norway with them. They dropped me at the ferry in Lødingen where I took a boat back to the boat. It all felt very nautical and normal. And when I dropped down directly from the ferry dock onto Barba, bags loaded with stockfish (dried cod) and other treasures from friends in Lofoten, the guys steered her off immediately for a smooth and quick getaway.
It felt good to be back at sea. The cabin was in a bit of a shambles as Andreas, Dani and Jon were still recovering from their great caving expedition near Musken. Mud-caked clothes and boots littered the deck and everyone was sprawled about exhaustedly below, living the laid-back long underwear life I’d missed when I’d been back in street clothes for the week. We debriefed on our adventures apart and made our way to Kjøpsvik for a night in port to catch up on internet, laundry and shopping.
Alfred joined us in the Barba salon in Kjøpsvik and regaled us with stories of his sailing days. By Terry Ward
Barba was quite the attraction at the small port in Kjøpsvik, where friendly locals would approach to ask about our travels and the boat. A Sami man named Alfred, originally from Musken, was impressed to hear the guys went into the cave near where he grew up (he was always warned to avoid it as a kid). And he was particularly appreciative of Barba since he’d spend the bulk of his life (he was now 75, and still sprightly) working on boats of all types. We invited him below deck for a coffee and you could see him just sink into the salon, so pleased to be back on a boat, any boat. He kept saying what a good boat Barba was as Andreas repeated his standard lines that’s he’s made the most that he can out of Barba, upgrading her for the expeditions he wants to do as much as she can stand, and that the best boat is the one you have. He’s right on both accounts. “It’s a very nice boat,” Alfred kept saying, bright blue eyes taking in Barba’s every aspect.
Sailors help sailors. Crammed into Alfred´s sedan with our shopping bags for a grocery store-run in Kjøpsvik.
Alfred had left home when he was just 14. His father told him that his use for the Sami language ended at the end of the pier in his small village. So he found work on boats, learned English and sailed everywhere from the Caribbean to Brazil, the Fiji Islands and the Suez Canal (which he swam across at one point, he said!). Sailors help sailors, and Alfred was so kind as to let us do laundry at his place and shuttle us to the grocery store and back with our heavy bags.
Dani´s crazy view while paragliding off a peak across from Stetind in Tysfjord. Barba is the white speck in the fjord, bottom left. By Daniel Hug
We left Kjøpsvik the next morning with an eye on reaching Stetind (1,392 meters/4,566 ft). Norway’s national mountain, it was voted in by the countrymen in 2002 and is located in Nordland. We could see its peak rising as a backdrop to Kjøpsvik’s tiny center, but we had to sail about 8 hours to reach the fjord end from where it’s possible to try to climb it.
Our improvised dinghy-retrieval-rope-system works well and makes it easy for the crew to come and go from Barba when they please. By Daniel Hug
Stetind looks remarkably like the Matterhorn from certain angles, an imposing lipstick-like obelisk of pure granite that’s the largest single piece of rock in Northern Europe. Anyone with a “reasonable level of fitness” (how I’ve come to label myself alongside the bionic Barba boys) can make the hike up to the Halls Fortopp, a rocky plateau southeast of the main summit at 1,313 meters (4,307 feet). I was promised incredible views over the surrounding glaciers, lakes and fjords by Andreas, who had hiked to this point before during his military days. But the guys had already decided they’d leave me there, using their climbing gear to carry on to the true summit.
Dani-eye-view, looking down at Barba in the fjord while paragliding. By Daniel Hug
Rainy weather had closed in and we had to wait it out a day at anchor in the fjord for drier conditions to arrive. Nobody wanted to be climbing sheer granite that was slick with rain, and I think the guys were happy to have an extra day to recover from the cave trip, too.
Diving in Tysfjord. Mojo (the underwater scooter), Andreas and a school of pollock with Stetind towering somewhere above the surface. By Andreas
The fjord was a beautiful place to spend some time, and from hour to hour the birches covering the lower mountain slopes sunk deeper into their hues of yellow and gold. Autumn is really heavenly in these parts. Andreas took the occasion to go for a dive alone while Jon and I went on a dinghy expedition into nearby coves and fjords, where little red hyttes lined the shore and blueberry brambles crept up the hillsides. Dani climbed a nearby peak to paraglide down, taking off at just the right moment before it started raining and the winds began shifting, landing triumphantly in a small patch of gravel in the settlement at the end of the fjord. Later, Dani and I went for our first dive together as buddies, following the shoreline and shining the torch on sea snails, urchins and other tidal zone denizens.
What appears at first like a rooftop landing is actually Dani´s red paraglider touching down in a safe gravel area just behind. By Jon Grantangen
The next morning, we were up early for a power breakfast before heading up Stetind. We followed a rushing river for quite some time then started climbing sharply upward for several hours, pulling ourselves through rocky crevices and stopping to fill our water bottles at a jade-green glacier lake. The views at the Halls Fortopp were definitely worth the climb – fjords, lakes, snowy peaks and even Lofoten on the far horizon – but as I eyed the next section to the top, I was relieved to miss out on that.
Terry, Andreas and Jon making the first three-hour hike up Stetind through groves of birch trees at the mountain´s base. By Daniel Hug
Dani, our onboard climbing guru, leading Jon and Andreas to the start of the Stetind summit. By Terry Ward
A narrow ridge accessed by a sharp climb down was what the guys would be scaling to the top, and I saw them slip into deep-concentration mode. Dani, team rock-climbing leader, was whistling a jaunty tune while preparing his ropes. But I could see that our ocean-going captain had something approaching wariness if not quite fear in his eyes. “Dani, is everything looking good to you?” Andreas asked. “Ja, ja,” confirmed Dani, whistling as he worked as Jon and Andreas went into quiet prep mode. I didn’t have the stomach to watch the guys shimmy up the granite spine – not to mention complete the technical “finger hold” section where they’d be essentially dangling by a string over a 1,400-meter sheer drop. So I bid them farewell at that point, the winds growing colder, and started the long walk back down to the fjord.
Daniel traversing the finger-hold section on Stetind while Andreas awaits his turn. By Jon Grantangen
Some words from Andreas on the guys´ Stetind summit-push:
I had been to Stetind 15 years ago, without the gear and experience to climb it. Standing there this time – with the gear but still without the proper climbing experience – was quite a feeling. Fortunately, I could rely on Daniel to lead the way as well as Jon to secure my safe ascent (and equally important descent). At one point, I found myself hanging by my fingers with a vertical drop of several hundred meters below my feet. Admittedly, I was a bit scared. But getting out of our comfort zone is of course what fuels the Barba endeavors. Fortunately, Daniel was there to secure me. And after a strenuous climb we made it to the top of the mother of all mountains in Norway. Daniel later said to me that my experience climbing this last section of Stetind was probably like his first time sailing and meeting the furious ocean. At the top, we had the most stunning view. And the icing on the cake was seeing Barba moored 1,400 meters under our feet. The only slight disappointment was that we had to carry our paragliders back down again from the foretop. Strong winds prevented us from what surely would have been a spectacular take-off, but we can´t have it all I guess. Not this time, anyway. Stetind was nevertheless a spectacular climb. And the 15-year-old dream I’d had of standing on the top was fulfilled with the help of my Barba family, Daniel, Terry and Jon.
Roping in for the long descent from Stetind´s rocky spine. By Daniel Hug
He’s emotional, our captain. After Stetind we pretty much bee-lined it to Bodø, with a brief stop in Tranøy, home to a cool outdoor sculpture gallery on yet another ruggedly beautiful stretch of coast. In Bodø, we rewarded ourselves at a Thai restaurant and spent a chill night before pushing south again. Near Bodø, we made a stop at the world’s strongest tidal current, Saltstraumen, hoping to dive it. The current can reach speeds of up to 20 knots in this spot where water that´s some 610 meters deep (2,000 feet) inside the fjord suddenly rises to just 26 meters (85 feet), bringing all sorts of plankton and fish life with it. But conditions were far too wild on this day since the much-hyped ”Super Blood Harvest Moon” was rising. We managed to have a good time white water rafting with Barba in the currents, Andreas at the helm as she flew along at 12 knots and got semi-sucked into the whirling eddies. The people fishing onshore were surely expecting to see a tragedy unfold but it all went swimmingly. And we filmed what undoubtedly would have been epic drone footage if we hadn’t ended up sacrificing our little flying friend to the ocean gods when trying to get it back home to the boat. She had a good run, at least, our drone that made it to 81 degrees North! Needless to say, nobody was tempted to dive into the Saltstraumen to try to save our footage and gear.
A triumphant Daniel atop Stetind, with the Lofoten Islands visible on the far horizon. By Andreas
Now there’s just a week ahead of us till we plan/hope to be back in Stavanger. We’ve been at the mercy of fall storms the past few days, fitting in a few long sails between sheltering in port while winds howl around us up to 50 knots. And we’re not back yet, of course. There’s still the foreboding Stadt headland to get around and hundreds of miles of coastline to cover to our south. Our last week of sailing is setting up to be as exciting as any we’ve had up to this point.
Jon and Andreas hoofing it over the rocky terrain on Stetind. By Daniel Hug
Andreas catching his breath in a rocky crevice after the finger-hold traverse on Stetind. By Daniel Hug
View from the top of Stetind, with Barba visible as a white dot in the lower left corner. By Daniel Hug
Jon relaxing for a moment during the hard-earned rappel down Stetind´s upper slopes. By Daniel Hug
Barba riding the world´s strongest tidal current and cruising through eddies at Saltstraumen. By Daniel Hug
The crew enjoying a wild ride at Saltstraumen, the world´s strongest tidal current, where Barba was pulled along at speeds up to 12 knots. By Daniel Hug