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Narvik

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

6th March, 2014

We had sailed through the night from Alta, heading south passed Tromso at 7:00pm that previous evening, and then continuing through the night towards Lodingen Pilot Station which is situated at the head of the Lofoten islands. We turned eastwards and proceeded towards Narvik. I always enjoy nights on the bridge, as we sail past all these houses, knowing that all are sleeping soundly as we pass by. You see the odd lorry driving through the night taking much needed stores around the country, but on the whole, Norway sleeps!

As we approached the berth I could see this was going to be a challenge. The wind was gusting up to 40 knots off the berth and as we approached, the port tugs were trying to push a large Bulk Carrier alongside so we had to wait until it was all secured and we could use the tug. I took the ship and manoeuvred the ship as close as possible in the howling wind and had instructed the Officers fore and Aft to make sure they got lines ashore smartly. We have these compressed air guns which can fire the heaving lines quite a distance so as we got near the berth, I could hear the banging of the guns going off as the Officers followed my orders. At one point the wind was so strong, even with the ships power and a large tug pushing we were still be driven off the berth. Anyhow we persevered and soon we were alongside and getting all the ropes out to secure the ship. The wind was funnelling down the valley and the katabatic effect causing the wind to accelerate. Anyway we were all fast for 8:30am.

Narvik lies 140 miles inside the Arctic Circle. Its history as a settlement began in the Stone Age; here Vikings were also known to have lived. Spectacular scenery can be seen in this port of call especially on the Ofotbanen railway excursion taking you to the Swedish border. With the temperature getting much warmer, it was quite pleasant for those strolling off independently today despite the strong winds we experienced. Sadly the cable cars weren’t operating today because of the wind however most still went on tour with the majority choosing the 26 mile train journey taking you from Narvik to Riksgransen, a place which lies just half a mile inside the Swedish border. Interestingly the main purpose of the railway is to transport iron ore from Sweden to Narvik. This export trade and some fishing are its economic mainstays.

There was also excellent feedback from the City sightseeing and War History museum today. Starting the tour from the comfort of a coach, whilst learning about Narvik’s fascinating war history from a local guide was enjoyed by all. For those who had free time during their excursion, souvenirs were of course a priority. A couple of groups on the polar zoo wildlife park trip I’m led to believe were lucky enough to be able to see one of their rather large brown bears. Normally in hibernation he had obviously spotted all our Saga guests coming in their uniformed red coats. Being taken around by a local guide who could talk about each of the animals, such as lynx, reindeer, moose, musk oxen and Artic foxes just to name a few.

Departing at 5.30pm, Saga Sapphire soon prepared to set sail towards our next port of call, being Alesund Norway with an approximate distance of 460 nautical miles to travel. The wind was all over the place but thankfully departure was much less eventful than arrival. They do say an airline pilot earns his money when he has a difficult landing. Today was my turn to earn my pennies!!

I had warned the passengers before sailing that we were going to be experiencing high winds through the night so to be prepared and we secured the ship down for sea. Through in the main show lounge this evening we were entertained by the dynamic west end star Philippa Healey. Later on in the evening Scott Unsworth a member of the resident Explosive Productions cast performed a selection of swing and musical theatre songs upstairs in the drawing room. As the evening progressed the swells increased which saw many retiring to their cabins early. For those hardy sailors Martin Orbidans our cocktail pianist continued to play late into the early hours in the Cooper’s bar, whilst the Perfect Mood Duo serenaded upstairs.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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