Lofoten Week No. 2

Started our second of two week-long cruises in northern Norway yesterday. Polar Bear has been chartered for the week by a pair of families from Poland, and all 12 guests arrived on board over the course of the afternoon. Boogie did his introductory speech explaining safety procedures and welcoming the visitors, and we were off on the 13-mile motor to Mannbåer, site of our first-night anchorage out with last week’s Scottish guests.

We motored because there wasn’t a breath of wind as we made our way north from Bodø. Not even a puff. The Vestfjord waters were an unbroken sheet of black glass. The air was warm despite a mostly-overcast layer of clouds and it was a quick run.

After we anchored, a light breeze picked up from the south — onshore for this particular anchorage. That meant that if we dragged the anchor at all, we’d be in danger of winding up on the nearby shore. So we would indeed be posting anchor watches for the overnight period in spite of Boogie’s earlier expectations that such watches would be unnecessary. And with just four crew — Boogie, Marlies, me and Mike, leader of last week’s Scots and a kayak/fishing guide — that meant hour-and-a-half stints between 11pm and our 5am departure. Mike took the first watch; he was going to be up for a bit anyway, cleaning the cod he’d helped the guests catch upon our arrival. I lined up for the second watch and turned in for a little less than two hours of sleep.

I woke at 12:30am to the sound of voices. Several of the Polish men were still awake, chatting and having a few drinks around the table in the saloon of the boat. So much for my peace and quiet, I feared, but the last of them turned in at about 10 past 1, thank goodness. And the wind has remained out of the south, though very light, so the watch was indeed necessary. We have 8.3 meters of water according to the depth gauge and I’m on until 2am.

Hoo boy. This could wind up being a tiring week. I may have had a hard time understanding what the Scots were saying, but there’s no danger of me following even a single word of the Polish flying around the boat now. Or of getting to be as comfortable and friendly with these guests as I wound up with the Scots. The adults in this group are off on their own trip with little interest in being part of what makes the boat operate. Instead, they constantly smoke cigarettes on the foredeck and were drinking before we’d even left the dock (alcohol while we’re underway is definitely not allowed). Meanwhile, of the four kids (ranging in age from 8 to 15), two are shy to the point of being mute while the other two are just very quiet. All of the guests perked up when they started catching some good-sized cod just minutes after settling into the cove here at Mannbåen, but other than that, they do what they want, when they want — safety protocols (and courtesy) be damned.

The plan as of last evening is to depart this cove around 5am and head for a fjord north of Eidet, the place we wound up the last trip with the Scots. We’ll get there mid-morning and get the group out kayaking, fishing, hiking, and will spend Sunday night on the hook there. We’ll get up Monday morning and head across the Vestfjord directly to Nusfjord and Lofoten. The forecast is for light winds, but we’re still looking for well-protected areas where these beginning kayakers can be safe; more open waters such as those we took the Scots to would be dangerous and could even prevent these guests from kayaking at all. We’ll hop from place to place until Thursday or Friday morning, when we have to be back in Bodø in order to make airline connections.

Polar Bear is already operating more smoothly than last week, simply due to the departure of Boy Wonder and Mr. KIA Crewman. Sure, we still get the amusing bickering between Boogie and Marlies — they’ll get a post to themselves at some point: their back-and-forth badgering calls to mind, well, a married couple; indeed, they sound like a couple who’ve been married for decades, not a mere 11 months — but there’s a clear chain of command and not several would-be captains. Mike is great fun and chips in with everything; he was completely in his element when we arrived, helping the anglers young and old get lines out and fish in. He was especially helpful and encouraging with the kids, and their faces lit up like neon when he’d help them catch some very nice cod — but he still enabled them to have the accomplishment and pride of doing the actual work.

So here we go: another week with a full boat. Exacerbating the close quarters is a profound language gap and an aloof (even standoffish) attitude from the guests. Should be educational for all involved…

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