Tuesday, 5 June 2012


The view at anchor
Our effort to reduce the lengthy trip from Trollfjord to Tromsø into gentle 5 hour trips led to our anchoring at Helløy.  This low island and a number of even smaller ones surround a tiny bay to the north of Harstad. The gentle beauty, prolific bird life and fine diving kept us there for three days.

Brittle Star
At this point I will digress to say a bit about anchoring.  Anchors, while heavy to lift, weigh very little in comparison to the weight of a boat they are securing.  For their holding power they rely on their shape [generally plough-like] to dig into the bottom and resists further pull.  The key is that the pull must be horizontal so as not to pry the anchor out of the bottom.

The amount of chain between boat and anchor must be about three times the depth of the water or more.  While a rope of this length would pull up at a great enough angle to trip the anchor from the bottom, the weight of a thick chain causes it to hang in a catenary with the lower part of the chain lying on the bottom. The boat moves in a circle at the end of its chain as the wind shifts while the anchor is stationary in the mud or sand at the bottom of the bay.

Our problem with Helløy was the bay was too small and too deep for the needed length of chain.

Lemon Nudibranch and Urchin
The raucous sound of the resident gull colony contrasting with the gentle resonance of the cuckoo was the only sound drifting over the still waters.

One clear evening I stayed up until 2 am to watch the sun drift lower over the shore of one island, describe a low arc over another in the north and then start climbing higher again in the northeast sky.  The sun shining unendingly through the cabin windows seems a stranger concept than the simply not-quite-getting-dark that I have experienced far from the equator in earlier voyages.

Little zodiac tour boats arrived one late evening and unloaded a group of identically dressed fluorescent yellow tourists onto one of the nearby islands to watch the midnight sun. Presumably the town where they boarded had hills in the north which blocked the low sun at that late hour.

We made two dives in the cold clear water of our little bay. All the subsurface rocks were bright pink with encrusting algae. Unbelievable numbers of gaily coloured brittle stars writhed about the rocks. The occasional cute lemon nudibranch wandered about either on his personal agenda or perhaps just to add another tint to an already colour-saturated scene.  We found a large black anemone on the first dive but failed to locate him on the second dive when the photoflash had functioning batteries.  This last statement can be generalized into a rule about when you are likely to see the best stuff!

The endless sunshine means that, other than sleep-deprivation issues, it doesn’t matter when you start your “day”.  At 10 pm on day 3 the wind started to pick up.  The inadequate length of chain, closeness of the rocks and now poorer forecast combined to tell me that I would not sleep even if Mary Anne could.  I announced departure for Tromsø and off we went.

If this blog is fresh, clicking the “tracking” link will show that we are now in Tromsø where there was no room for us.  After all the wandering around the little red line on the attached map displays, Mary Anne applied her communications talent over the phone and was awarded a prime spot in the middle of town.  There is no pontoon or floating dock so we must deal with the 2 meter plus tidal range on a fixed dock!

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