I’ve mentioned Leon Schultz in several previous posts (here and here). Leon is an RYA Yacht Master Ocean Instructor as well as a boat-refit consultant. We thought it would be a good idea to do a week-long “coaching cruise” with Leon to learn big-boat handling. He often does “getting started as a cruiser” courses for couples who are ready to buy a new or larger boat, but perhaps want to try manoeuvres under the guidance of an experienced instructor.
We had never handled a boat longer than 42 feet, or heavier than 9 tonnes and needed to prepare ourselves for our new boat (55 feet and 23 tonnes). Leon’s boat, Regina Laska, has a hull length of over 48 feet and displaces about 17 tonnes. It has a similar hull structure and keel to our future boat. Perfect!
We set off on the 1st of May, a beautiful but chilly day on the island of Orust, Sweden. Our week-long cruise would take us directly over to Norway at around the same latitude. It’s normally not a great idea to start off with a day-long passage on open waters (seasickness!) but we had a weather window that would enable a lovely reach over to our first anchorage on the southern coast of Norway.
We both already knew how to sail, so the coaching didn’t cover that — what we did learn on the first day was how to think like a cruiser instead of a “week-end and holidays sailor”. Things like being kind to your sails and equipment, the virtues of continuous maintenance and checking your equipment every day.
We also had the chance to get to know and use the Furuno constellation of electronics Leon has on his boat. We found his Navnet 14-inch chart plotter was easy to use, and easy to see, even with sunglasses and from an angle.
Leon had integrated a bottom-discriminating sounder. This echo sounder, while not essential, is nice to have when anchoring up, especially in the evening when you just want to get it done without trying 20 different spots. It scans the bottom and tells you if the bottom is sand, mud, rock or gravel. You still have to test if your anchor is holding by backing down on it as you normally would — it’s just nice be be able to pass up the spots where the sounder shows rock or gravel. It certainly came in handy on our first night. We arrived at our anchorage at around 22.00. The skies were not completely dark, but we didn’t have a lot of light. As soon as the bottom discriminator showed us mud instead of rock, we lowered the anchor. And it held, first try! We were hungry so Leon, an excellent cook, got down to preparing dinner for us.
The sun greeted us with it’s full force the next day. After a leisurely Swedish breakfast in the saloon (it was still quite cold), we were off for another day of sailing the beautiful south coast of Norway.
Our goal for today was to reach the anchorage of Olavsundet (Ny Hellesund) early enough to have a walk on the islands and have a sauna. Yes, Leon has a steam sauna on his boat! You can buy one yourself – Båtsystem in Sweden makes them. You need to install the “steamer” so that that tube comes out in the cockpit, and you hang up the vinyl sauna tent at the helmsman’s end of the cockpit. It got really hot in there, despite the outside temperature of around 6° C.
The island of Helgøya at the anchorage provides some breathtaking views of the sea and the anchorage – it’s worth the dingy ride to shore.
The sun continued to shine — what fantastic luck we were having as Norway is not famous for entire weeks of sun. Perhaps it’s the microclimate in the south? We weighed anchor with the goal of reaching Farsund – our first stop at a marina and an opportunity to practice big boat handling under motor.
The wind had turned to a westerly direction so we had to decide weather we’d motor for awhile or tack down the coast. We were here to sail, so of course we said, “we’ll tack!” The wind speed had increased as well to a steady 25-29 knots with gusts up to 38. It was a sporty and wet voyage with both sails reefed.
At lunchtime, we hove-to, to be able to use the galley in a safer way. We were far enough away from the coast and not near the shipping lanes. As it was quite cold (about 8°C) and very windy we wanted a warm lunch and decided to make some fish soup. Regina Laska heaves-to perfectly and we noticed the famous “slick” the hull and keel makes on the windward side of the boat. After two bowls of hot soup and a cup of coffee, we were really to take on the Cape of Lindesnes.
The Cape of Lindesnes is called the “Norwegian Cape Horn” because in hard weather, it’s a bit of a challenge. There’s a Gulf Stream current that comes up to the north coast of Denmark, hits Sweden and then goes back out west via the south coast of Norway. It was about 3 knots in speed and meeting 25-29 knots of westerly wind to the east of the Cape when we were there.
It’s also where the Skagerrak and North Sea meet, causing strange localised currents. Finally, this part of the coast rises from a depth of about 200 meters to 20-30 meters near the coast, creating the energy to form big waves. The area around Lindesnes, especially the stretch between Lindesnes and Lista, is known as a ships’ graveyard. Sorry there are no photos, but it was far too wet and rough to take out my camera!