Follow MV Northern Exposure on  Follow MV Northern Exposure on Twitter or  Instagram @NorthrnExpo

We'll post whenever the website changes.

Sunday, July 20, 2008, in Bergen, Norway

Hi everyone. We’re back in Bergen. Last week, we were still in Eivindvik.

Sunday, we were still stuck in Eivindvik because of weather. Monday would be unpleasant and Tuesday would be worse. It seemed snug at the dock, though, and we were happy that we’d found available space. We were far from the electrical outlet, and it took our long cord, plus the extender cord we keep on board, plus a twenty-meter household cord we’d purchased at the dockside grocery store, to grab the power pacifier on land.

It wasn’t hard to while away a day or two indoors. I was reminded of rainy days at day camp, for some reason, where I’d be in the main lodge with a hundred other soggy kids and we’d draw with crayons all day. Our onboard toys are much more fun: a TV with a DVD player and stacks of movies, Internet service, and a bookcase filled with anticipation. Monday went by in no time.

The docks continued to fill with vacationers. Now the flags on the boats weren’t all from Norway, or from weekend travelers; summer holiday visitors from Germany, Finland, and Sweden were represented in our rainy harbor. Now we were constantly two or three deep with boats rafted to one another. This was probably not too unusual; the ambulance boat across the harbor from us had fenders out on its outboard side. On a boat, putting out fenders is a signal that it’s okay – and even expected – for boats to raft to you. I wondered about the usefulness of an ambulance that���s hemmed in by rafted boats when the emergency comes about. You’d have to get your rafted friends to move away before you can leave the dock. Maybe they figured that the owners would always be aboard after they’d already taken their look at the two granite crosses down the street and the empty field of democracy across town, as there’s no place else to go in Eivindvik.

Other boats took advantage of small breaks in the rain on Monday and left, but nobody moved on Tuesday morning. The winds at the dock gave us a sailing experience without traveling, rolling in waves and listening to the whooshing of thirty-knot winds and more. The rain hammered the decks over our heads. The power kept going off and then mysteriously coming back on again. We hunkered down with the heat on and all the doors closed tight, happy not to have anywhere to go. On the plus side, the weather in the past few days had definitively proven to Art that the leak in the engine room was due to rain. On the minus side, that meant that it probably wouldn’t be possible to fix it.

Mid-morning, it appeared that the ambulance boat broke free of its lines and left its spot on the quay across from us and pressed the boat that was rafted to us further into our pontoon. Art went outside with our boat neighbors and discovered that the ambulance boat wasn’t free of its lines at all. It was our pontoon that was pressing against the ambulance boat. The pontoon was attached to the quay with line, rather than chains, which would be more normal, and stronger. The wind was pushing many tons of pleasure boat into it. Whatever had been holding it on must have given in to all of the pressure, and the pontoon had decided that this was a good day to go for a short sail, towing us all along with it, and taxing the last lines that were holding us all to land.

Art and all of the other boaters dashed aboard their own vessels. He told me that we were leaving Eivindvik, which was the first I’d heard of it. We needed to ready ourselves for our departure, putting away anything that had been in use below, like my laptop, and running through our departure list of chores. There was no negotiation about leaving. The dock was unusable. The only issue was where wed go.

Art was already in his full foul-weather gear, and I came outdoors with a spring rain jacket over my jeans. He ran up and retrieved our three-part extended electrical connection. Then we recovered all of our lines, and we were free from the dock. People who hadn’t left yet were still standing on the ailing pontoon, which looked as though it would soon be swamped.

Art drove us around in circles in the harbor until I could gather up lines and fenders from the various ends of the boat. Everything was soaked and heavy. I threw the fenders and the uncoiled lines in the cockpit just to get them secure. My jeans were soaked through. I vowed to change into full foul-weather gear at my next opportunity, and I did. Then I took the helm from Art and drove us around in circles while he tried to figure out where we should go next.

It was windy and raining and a day we’d planned to stay in port to avoid the wind and the rain. Though one option was to continue on our route, even as far as Bergen, the idea of anchoring somewhere snug and nearby had lots of appeal. All of a sudden the idea of anchoring didn’t seem less safe than tying to a pontoon. We decided to look at the anchorage Art had selected as our backup if we hadn’t found space in Eivindvik. Maybe we’d anchor there and maybe we’d go on. Maybe we’d anchor there and leave later in the day for another spot. At least we had a plan.

Five minutes away from Eivindvik, I realized that we hadn’t put any money in the honesty box to pay for the last night’s dockage. On the other hand, they hadn’t exactly given us what we’d expect of a dock, an attachment to land. Another way to look at it, though: they tried to give us the pontoon to take home as a souvenir.

We motored out of the harbor to the anchorage, a tiny little place called Ramsviken. There was room only for us in there. The sea was completely calm. Though the wind blew into this anchorage, a large island stood as a goalie between us and the outside world. We put the boat together and had lunch. Then Art got a forecast. “We’re leaving.”

He didn’t like the wind direction for the strong winds we’d get overnight. He also didn’t like being in a place that was so snug that you’d be crashing into rocks before you even realized that your anchor was dragging. Scandinavians, incidentally, almost never anchor out. We assume that they’re uncomfortable with the safety of, essentially, the one shackle that holds your anchor to your boat, or the one weakest link of chain, or the rocks that line each and every harbor. Or it might just be the marina fees that are only about the cost of a cup of coffee and a gallon of gas.

We pulled up the anchor and headed back out. This time we were able to sail, and the sun came out. Art left a few rolls in the jib, as there wasn’t any rush to go six miles, and we ambled to our second anchorage of the day, a place called Vikingvågen. The sky stayed bright while we put everything away and got settled in. This harbor was a little too big, Papa Bear, but we were committed for the day. We set an anchor alarm on our navigation instruments because the overnight winds would be high.

There wasn’t a reason to rush underway in the morning, since we only expected to go to Fedje, another port with a restaurant, a few shops, and not a whole lot else, and it wasn’t far. But the winds were strong and from a good direction, and Art found another harbor that would take most of the day and make good use of the winds. We covered ourselves in foul-weather gear. In the driest part of the day, it was never going to be sunny.

Indeed, the winds were so good that our speed was in the nine-knot range, higher under sail that it would ever get with our 180-horsepower engine. Again, we managed to sail most of the day. I wasn’t much help on deck, so I stayed below, out of sight of the sea.

We passed Fedje without even checking it, and headed to Isdalsto, which, as we understood it, was a restaurant with a dock just north of Bergen. The wind died about an hour before we arrived there. The restaurant was there, as were two long pontoons. But a few small powerboats and one sailboat were so strategically sprinkled about the dock that we simply wouldn’t fit anywhere at all. We had to move on.

By now, it was raining hard and very foggy and I could see that Art was no longer having any fun at this. I was certain that there would be space in Bergen this time around, as we’d been silly enough to arrive just ahead of National Day on our last visit. We entered the harbor, past the Cunard Queen Victoria and two other cruise ships, and saw the guest docks. They were three deep with boats. We’d never find a spot.

Art called the harbormaster, who directed us to a commercial spot, with no promises. We might get kicked off at any moment by a boat that had a real reason to be there. We took it. Somewhere across the channel, we heard the blaring of a rock band, but we paid little attention to it.

We decided to take a walk and eat dinner out at a place we’d liked a lot when we were there weeks earlier. We’d eaten every meal aboard for several days, when we’d given up on Eivindvik. Our café didn’t let us down, and we continued our walk around Bergen’s large harbor. The waterfront bars were packed, and Art began to notice a trend. Everyone was wearing black. In fact, everyone was wearing a black tee shirt. Then the pieces fit together. The rock band we heard when we were docking. It was noisy. It was discordant.

It was Metallica. We’d arrived again on a special day in Bergen (though, as Art pointed out, the yachts in the harbor were probably not filled with Metallica fans.) We’d docked while they were doing their sound check in the stadium. And we’d get the opportunity to hear the whole concert from the comfort of our own home, at a volume that we could handle.

We walked to the market and it rained again. The concert was in an outdoor stadium. Bergen gets almost 300 days of rain a year, so people are prepared. Apparently even Metallica stoners. The city became a sea of black tee shirts covered by clear plastic ponchos.

Back at the boat, we listened to the concert and realized that neither of us knows a single Metallica recording. This didn’t surprise me. Someday, someone will turn this very popular music into something that you’d hear in an elevator, although I have no idea how. And somehow, we went to sleep to the strains of heavy-metal rock.

After a morning trip to the supermarket, Art was standing outside with two harbor representatives, and I knew that we were being booted from our spot on the commercial dock. Three small powerboats sharing the dock with us had suddenly sprung to life, though we hadn’t seen anyone aboard yet since the time we’d come in the day before. We called the harbormaster for advice, and he sent us to the space we’d occupied when we’d visited earlier in the season on the other side of the channel. The concert had been only about a block or two from this spot, and we were relieved that he hadn’t found this place for us any earlier.

Our new space wasn’t far from the Rosenkrantz Tower (16th century) and Håkon’s Hall (13th century.) Combined, these buildings form Bergenhus, or Bergen Castle, with crenellated walls on the tower and the residence’s stair-stepped façade that’s common in northern Europe.

We tied up in front of a fishing boat with three crew members, and as soon as we came into the dock, they prepared to leave. One of the crew was still wearing his Metallica tee shirt. After they left, we backed into the space they’d vacated and got settled in. We’d be in Bergen for days. The forecast through the weekend was terrible. But Bergen is a great place to be stuck. It’s the second-largest city in Norway, and many of the buildings, from the Hanseatic League era, retain an old-world charm.

Bergen also offers us a variety of restaurants and shops, coffeehouses, and entertainment. We’d had a long visit our last time around, because we’d traveled three hundred miles in our first four days of travel. At the time, we had just learned in Stavanger that Bodø was still getting snowstorms, and we thought that it was smart to slow down a little. Even with a four-day visit to Bergen, we still made it to Bodø about two weeks before we had expected to arrive.

On this visit, we had time in hand again, with three or four hundred miles to go and about five weeks to do it. There was an added incentive to stay – rain day in and day out for a week, and strong winds on Saturday and Sunday.

For lunch, we returned to a pub we’d liked on our last visit, and wandered up and down pedestrian shopping streets, not looking for anything in particular. We stopped for coffee at a café near the theater, and saw a matinee of the movie Mamma Mia, which had just opened in Norway. Giddy with the notion that we were finally in a place where there were things to do, we bought tickets for a performance at a theater the following night.

A seventy-foot powerboat at the guest harbor had the name “Modest” emblazoned on its stern. I thought that an unforgivable yet delicious contradiction. The larger, yet more well-mannered Mylin IV was on the dock across from us, in the spot that had been occupied by the tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl, which was now travelling around Europe in a flotilla of tall ships. The 200-foot superyacht Mylin is owned by the Carnival Cruise Lines family, and I’m almost positive that I walked by it dozens of times when I went to the gym in Fort Lauderdale last winter.

Bergen was starting to feel very familiar to me, and I knew that my perspective had changed when I remarked to Art about the weather. I pointed to a café with an outdoor, covered patio and suggested that we have our coffee there. It hadn’t rained in a while, I said, and if it started again, the cover would protect us….”It’s such a nice day”, I said. Art looked at me as if I were a stranger, wondering why I’d want to sit outdoors. None of the streets had dried from the constant drizzle and it was about fifty-four degrees outside (about 12° Celsius.) Not only was this not exactly a real summer day, if the weather was like this in Fort Lauderdale in January, we’d find excuses not to go outdoors at all.

A Swedish boater we’d met in Svolvær stopped by to say hello when he saw our boat. As he was alone, between crew visits, we invited him for dinner the following night. Now I had some errands to do.

The next day, we came across a large mall on the pedestrian shopping street, and its lowest level was a gourmet shop that we hadn’t seen before. It was one of the fewer-than-100 days that Bergen doesn’t see any rain. Street performers were happy to see the crowds along the pedestrian streets. A grizzled hippie played his guitar with his youthful musical partner whom I hoped was his daughter. Blond, dewy teenaged girls claimed various corners of the shopping street, each playing a violin or a flute, one in a karaoke session with the soundtrack from “The Sound of Music”. She would miss her violin cue for the melody of “How do you solve a problem like Maria” and make the sort of face you’d expect if she’d just been told that she had to eat her vegetables. One performer juggled three balls with one hand diffidently while using his cell phone with the other.

Between galley interludes, we rode the funicular to the 1000-foot summit (320 meters) that overlooks Bergen. The original version of this funicular was built in the early twentieth century and opened in 1918. The cable cars then were made of oiled teak, with partially open sides. It’s a single track with a few exceptions, and the cars occasionally drift off of their cables to wait on the sidelines for a free path to continue their journey. The view from the top was enchanting. Bergen’s architecture, from this distance, made it look like a village inhabited entirely by elves.

In the evening, after dinner, we joined our Swedish friend and headed to the Logen Theater to see a performance called Tongue Tango. Yes, we are in Scandinavia. No, it was not porn. Tongue, in this case, undoubtedly referred to the Babel of languages that participated in this performance.

The troupe consisted of five performers. There was a tango team and three musicians, a bass, a violin, and what Art called a “squeeze box”, like an accordion that has undergone liposuction. The lead actor (and creator) played that. Many styles of music were possible with that combination of instruments, and the musicians used them in every way imaginable. The bass and squeeze-box also served as percussion. The violinist played the strings with a bow and in pizzicato. She stroked the violin’s bridge with the bow, creating a grating sound that I last heard from Grandmaster Flash. There were classical violin pieces, smooth jazz, jarring modern sounds, and blue-grass fiddling. She spent her non-playing time peeling broken strings off of the bow, or swapping out instruments. Her right arm muscles reminded me of Venus and Serena Williams.

The tango was fluid, athletic, and emotional. There was poetry, and song, and farce.

The Tourist Office had assured us that we didn’t need to speak Norwegian to enjoy the show. While that was technically true, we would have liked it a lot more if we understood what the lead actor was saying. He played half a dozen characters from around the world, German, Italian, Japanese, French, American. It all sounded like language, in the way Kevin Kline sounded like an Italian in A Fish Called Wanda. All of these characters were speaking in strong accents, but in Norwegian. Though we thought that the experience was enjoyable, we’d have had a better time if we understood more of what they were saying.

We capped off our evening at a bar on the waterfront at Bryggen. By the time we got back to the boat, it was nearly midnight, and nearly dark. I hadn’t seen darkness for months. The next day, and the next, we slowed down our pace, saw another movie (the Irish film Once), and dodged raindrops.

I expect we’ll be slowing down from here on out. Hope that all of you are having fun. We miss you all. Keep writing to us.

Love, Karen (and Art)