Rear Commodore Hugh Woodsend knows Norway well. He’s been there countless times. He’s buzzed about the mountains at zero feet and performed air displays as a development test pilot in command of an F104 Starfighter or F16; he’s made yacht or gin palace deliveries; and he’s enjoyed cruises there after yacht races.
This year, in March, he let someone else take the strain when he and his wife went on a sea excursion from Dover to Alta in the north and back, calling at many of the ports along the way. The boat was Fred Olsen Line’s 23,000 ton Braemar – quite a small ship by modern liner standards, but luxurious. They were extremely well watered, fed and entertained.
Hugh being Hugh he was no idle passenger but kept a keen professional watch on everything – by eye, ear, vhf, AIS, chart plotter and (several) cameras. He observed, commented on and recorded the voyage both from a passenger’s perspective and from the perspective of a man who holds a commercial licence himself, for vessels up to 2000 tons. He’s made a film of the whole trip and he dived in and out of this throughout the talk.
Hugh interspersed clips from the film with comments, pictures, chartplotter screen grabs, and the sounds of their cruise liner as it navigated (mostly but not always with ease) the tricky fjords and coastline of Norway. Norway has a long coastline, of 1000 miles or so – and a very long history, which included a long period in the Kalmar Union in which Denmark, Sweden (then including parts of Finland) and Norway all operated under a common monarch. And then there was a “Swexit” in the 16 C….
The omnipresent trolls tried hard to mar the trip but only, as it turned out, provided some excitements. Weather was good on the whole but winds of 30-40kts were common, with one interesting moment when the ship was caught in irons in high winds, and unable to turn in Bodo harbour.
They sailed through amazing snow-covered fjords, one of which was home to the Tirpitz battleship in WW2 where it was damaged by midget submarines. In Alta they visited the Ice Hotel, the 18th year this has been built, each year from scratch, and the following day had great fun husky dog sledding through the magical scenery. On the way southwards they travelled on the Rauma railway up to Borli, one of the world’s most scenic railways. They took in the “Arctic Circle Stone”, the mountain range known as the “Seven Sisters”; and the mountain with a with a hole in it at Torghatten.
The return voyage from Stavanger to Dover was in almost perfect conditions…. the trolls sleeping, no doubt.
Will they return to Norway? The 2018 trip is already booked. Will Hugh return for another talk to us? We hope so!