Maybe not the best call

By |Published On: September 25, 2023|Categories: Europe, Norway|1142 words|2 Comments|

(Note: this time no photos because of weather)


All the way down the Norwegian coast, literally from the Arctic to the very south, a distance of at least 1,000nm, we had been dodging gales and heavy weather. Our time had been spent pouring over weather forecasts to find the gap in the storms that would allow us to dash through to the next port. This was even more important when we were traversing the shallow and rocky coastal ‘danger zones’. We had already crossed half dozen of these areas, all of them twice in fact, and had managed each time to pick relatively benign conditions, with the help of the wonder-app Barentswatch. Sometimes this meant waiting until well after a gale had passed to minimise the chance of uncomfortable (or even dangerous) bølgevarsel, i.e. swell and wave action (which, of course, includes the ‘infamous’ krysende bølgers).

Earlier in the week we had snuck out of Skudnesshavn to make the dash to Stavanger while the winds had dropped to 20kt following a gale. Our gamble had been that the big swells would only be around the harbour entrance and that the forecast 2m swell would be what we’d have to contend with beyond this. We were proven correct. As we came out of the narrow cleft in the rock that makes for the harbour entrance, we ran straight into 4.5m waves that felt almost surf (they weren’t). After half a mile, however, we got out of the shallows and into those more reasonable 2m seas and turned onto a broad reach. Much easier.

Similarly, the trip from Stavanger to Egersund was a long slog from 0600 to 2000, with areas of uncomfortable wave (washing machine?) action after a two-day gale and, of course and in contrast to the forecast, wind on the forward quarter the whole time. This was, however, one of the few days that we were able to keep the sails up the whole day! And, even with two reefs in, we made good distance and a maximum recorded speed of 8.7kn. Yeeha!


So this was the sort of wager we made when we departed Egersund at 1800 hours that night, after sitting out another two-day gale in the harbour – it won’t be fun close-in but once we’re well off in deep water it’ll be fine. At different points in life we all make decisions that turn out to be bad calls. Sometimes its because we rush in without putting enough thought into whatever matter is at hand, other times we think it through based on the information we have and still get it wrong. This particular night was an example of the latter, though arguably we might have also erred on the mild side of bold rather than cautious.

It was dark, very dark. The moon hadn’t yet risen and, even when it did, it would struggle to shine through the thick, sullen clouds. I could barely see beyond the bow in the gloom. A strong wind blasted in whipping nasty gusts of stinging rain into my face. Under me the boat see-sawed and the bow leapt skywards as she heaved up steep, unseen waves before pivoting and tumbling down into the black of their backsides. In the darkness these waves were only visible when the navigation lights on the bow dipped close enough to shine up through them or when their crests blew white up ahead. Either way, by the time they could be seen they were already upon us and the time to react has passed. Maddeningly at any point in this rise and fall a cross-swell could sweep in completely unseen and toss the boat awkwardly and hard down on her side. This was a complete washing machine experience and it wasn’t much fun at all.

Yuma though seemed unperturbed and took it all in her stride. She felt solid and, though she wasn’t making much headway, she just kept plodding along slowly putting miles underneath her keel. Her apparent ease with the conditions rubbed off on us, the conditions began to feel tediously busy and energetic rather than a cause for concern.

In this area, there were few skerries and islands to reflect waves and, initially at least, there were long sandy beaches to soak up rather than reflect the waves. Furthermore, the pilot books describe the Lista coastline as possibly Norway’s most dangerous stretch of coast and suggests keeping at least 0.2-0.5nm offshore. Our plan then was to push out as quickly possible into deep water well offshore where conditions should be as forecast, 14kt winds and 1-2m swells. Well, conditions certainly were worse in close to the coast but outside, well into the deep water, well they weren’t hugely better. The seas were less confused for sure, but still the waves were 3m, sometimes more and coming out of the darkness from different directions at unpredictable intervals. Yuma would surf down the face of one wave only to be thrown on her chines by another wave coming beam on, and then begin the steep climb up the face of another wave rushing in from ahead. White sprays of water flicked skywards as waves collided around us. Happily the winds were just a little over 20kt, though gusting much higher. Without any other options the plan was to continue WSW until we had passed Lista where we could make a call as to whether we would continue to Thyburon in Denmark or cut back in to Farsund in Norway.


Slowly we approached the Lista light tossing and plunging over the dark, unseen seas. A series of large freighters passed us from astern and ahead simultaneously, all of them kindly altering course just enough to give us plenty of room, obviously taking pity on us, or at least realising that we weren’t going to be able to get out of their way quickly. We passed the Lista light at about midnight and soon afterwards Frederieke came up and took over the watch while I, exhausted, went below to sleep. And sleep I did, despite the fact that my bed was rocking and rolling, leaping and diving the whole time.

At 0400 I awoke for my watch to find everything calm. Dead eerily calm. There had either been a dramatic improvement in the conditions, or a decision had been made about our destination and that decision was not to continue to Denmark. I came up to find us swathed in a thick drizzle and heading in between the islands, skerries and rocks that guard the entrance to Farsund. Frederieke had decided that continuing on was just going to be tiresome so Farsund it was. Good call.

(Note: header photo of Yuma in Farsund).


  1. Caro Imming April 23, 2024 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Ik word al misselijk als ik het lees. Bewonder jullie!

  2. Jim April 26, 2024 at 6:13 am - Reply

    What a fabulous journey. It’s been great to catch up on last year’s travels.

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