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Norwegian cruising tips

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Photos by Aimée Colón

Cruising in Norwary

Local Perspectives

A hometown crew gives a Norwegian charter a personal touch.

Norway’s vast expanses of coastline are only speckled with homes, making it no surprise that the country has one of the lowest population densities in the world: just 16 people per square kilometer. And with fewer than 100 towns having a population of more than 5,000, the country provides endless opportunities to discover (or feel like you’ve discovered) a new cove, bay, or inlet. It’s a trait that’s thrilling but also can be a little intimidating.

A local crew can make the discovery process a lot easier by planning a cruise that uncovers all the gems the landscape has to offer, serving regional cuisine made with local ingredients, and explaining the legends and myths behind your destinations. And the most personal way to begin such a trip is to start at the yacht’s private dock just outside Stavanger, Norway’s third largest city.

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Capt. Arlid Lofthus and Geraldine Gitsham, a charter broker from Camper & Nicholsons, arrived in a black Mercedes to pick up PMY’s creative director Aimée Colón and me at our hotel; our luggage was transported in a black Range Rover by deckhand and engineer Jan Lofthus. To be honest, we’d expected a drive down to the city marina lasting 15 minutes. Instead, we turned out of the city and began a 40-minute drive through the thinly populated countryside. As the road wound around a lake and farm we encountered a traffic jam (two other cars on the road) en route to our destination, Anne Viking’s hometown of Lauvvik.

Docked at the private pier was Anne Viking, a 2004 85-foot Princess. In a country where neighbors are few and far between, the two-story white house behind her stood starkly alone with its dock. We quickly boarded, cast off lines, and set off into the day’s mist toward Lysefjord.

We’d barely entered the fjord when the captain pointed out the Pothole, a geological oddity formed at about the same time as the rest of the fjord when the passing glacier drilled one rock into another. The resulting indentation is barely two feet deep, but when filled with water the perfectly round divot looks like an entrance to the center of the earth.  In the warmer months, tour ships hire mermaids to sun themselves on its rocky edge.  

As we continued into the fjord, the gray stony cliffs around us began to rise—300, 400, and finally 1,000 feet, up into the day’s mist and matching sky. Off the port side we spotted a small crevasse accessible through a narrow pass. Arlid said this small roofless cave was where petty criminals would go to escape capture. When the authorities followed, the miscreants would scale the cliffs and arm themselves with rocks and other projectiles. A flannel-clad mannequin had been hung to commemorate this bit of history. 

The cove was just slightly larger than Anne Viking, something I realized as the captain put the yacht into a delicate 180-degree pirouette so we could exit. This maneuver also highlighted an oddity of yachting in these fjords. Unlike most bodies of water where the bottom gently slopes away from the shore, the fjord walls drop straight down below the surface, sometimes reaching depths as low as their cliffs are high. The cove was 80 feet deep where we were but quickly dropped off to 1,300 feet as we passed back into the main waterway.

With plenty of water next to the cliffs, our captain was able to edge Anne Viking right up to our next (and most adorable) stop. A small grassy patch bordered by the cliffs on three sides and water on the fourth made the perfect lea for three goats. Chef Bjorn Hettervik had been working on our forthcoming lunch but quickly appeared with the remnants of a loaf of bread. The goats were familiar with the feedings and made their way down their angled pen so Aimée and I could lob bread to them.

Only Preikestolen, the Pulpit Rock, remained at the end of the fjord. Its flat top soars 1,982 feet over the water and is a popular hiking destination for tourists and a BASE-jumping site for the insane. Having reached the fjord’s dead end, Anne Viking turned toward the mouth as Aimée, Geraldine, and I sat down to our first meal and what turned into a culinary lesson.

Stewardess Grete Lofthus had prepared the indoor dining table, and no sooner than she’d filled our glasses with a gewürztraminer than Bjorn arrived with our first course of shrimp tossed in herb butter with piles of bread and salted butter. Our main course came with a seafood tutorial. The salmon was from Norway’s northwest coast, Bjorn said. “There are only four hours between sea and package.” He served it with a lobster sauce and a Norwegian aquavit reduction.

Salmon dinner

I admitted I didn’t know what aquavit was.

Hettervik was shocked, went to the galley, and returned with a bottle of Gilde. “The best,” he said and explained it was named after a type of Viking party. Suffice to say I wouldn’t survive such a Viking party. 

Anne Viking headed next to Borgøy, a tiny island with a year-round population of 13. Bjorn has a house there but our tour guide for the island was Aashild Hettervik (no known relationship to Bjorn), the owner, with her husband, of Borgøy Notservice and Sjohusferie, a restaurant and conference center. She offered us kranzen, a circular almond cake that she described as “cooked marzipan,” with coffee and a serving of the property’s recent history. Since 1995, the couple has updated it with six new cabins in the clean, spare Scandinavian style. Tucked in among the trees, each tiny house had its own personality and large windows for the perfect view. As we neared the end of the tour, chef Bjorn sailed past on his bike, returning from his home on the island.

The night’s dinner again reflected Bjorn’s obvious love for local foods. Before dinner we started with savory hors d’oeuvres of moose, a six-year-aged Jarlsburg cheese, and champagne. Our first course offered both cold and warm smoked salmon with traditional sides of eggs, local goat cheese, and pepper sauce; our second continued the rich and earthy flavors as Bjorn presented veal with Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes in butter.

With no cars on Borgøy, the night was silent, as Geraldine, Aimée, and I conversed in the saloon after dinner. But under the influence of the fresh air and rich foods, we soon headed down to our cabins to turn in.

See a Photo gallery of our trip.

Whiskey Falls

In the morning, Aimée and I rose early to see a bit more of the island. We assumed it would be easy since it had just one intersection. We just happened to choose the wrong road. A couple of times.

But with the sun finally beginning to make its first appearance and the only sound the crunching of gravel underfoot, the morning’s walk was an excellent way to work up an appetite for the breakfast spread waiting for us back aboard Anne Viking. There were tomatoes, herring, pineapple, caramelized goat cheese, an omelet, thick-cut bacon, cheese, and bread made by Aashild served with the delicious salted butter. The meal was timed perfectly to keep us dry from the morning’s downpour.

We soon pushed off, said goodbye to Borgøy, and headed toward Stavanger. Just as we cruised through a narrow pass with houses on one side and schoolchildren waiting for the boat-bus to pick them up on the other side, the sun broke through the clouds and we relocated to the flying bridge, where Grete brought us blankets. But the warmth didn’t last long, and the rain soon returned and drove us back into the saloon. 

We had one meal left before the end, and it was the most rustic one yet. For lunch, Bjorn served reindeer leg “smoked in a sauna” with a beet and onion salad and two Norwegian cheeses: Kraftbar, which translates to “strong man” and reflects its flavor, and Knudenost, a regional goat cheese made by “one old guy” and served with a balsamic vinaigrette. 

As it was with the rest of the trip, the timing at the end was impeccable. The conclusion of our meal came just as Anne Viking docked near the petroleum museum honoring Stavanger’s main industry, and Aimée and I disembarked into the city, joining the bustle of its streets to find our way home. 

Diana Mares, Camper & Nicholsons
(561) 655-2121. 

This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.