Monday, 14 November 2016

Picking the worst day....

It's Saturday morning, the temperature is about -12 centigrade, and I am on my way to Son. I'm going down to the boat, and getting it ready for winter. I've arranged to meet Øyvind, who has some tarps to go over the boat, and we are going to get it ready together.

I arrived first, but Øyvind rolled in right after me. A quick hello, and we were all business. Winter preparation mode ensued.

With the boat on the hard, it was first necessary to get a ladder out. Luckily, Øyvind brought one with him. I shall have to add that to my list of things to buy for next year. (Step ladder, folding type.)

We started by removing various things from the boat. Cockpit tent frame, all the canvas from it and the spray hood, the sails, etc. Dock lines and fenders were stored in the lazarette, and sails dropped overboard. No chance of delicately handing them down.

Lifelines were next, then stanchions. After that, it was just a question of figuring out how the tent frame went together.

Thanks to the cold, i was a nasty, difficult job. But it is done now. The boat should be relatively winter proof. Time will tell.

I exchanged numbers with the nearest neighbor, Asgeir, who was also prepping his boat. I feel bad about not offering to help him, but I was so desperate to get out of the cold that I scampered away as soon as we were done.

Thanks for the help, Øyvind. I could not have done it without you!

So the boat is on the hard. What do I do now?

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Finding a marina...

Finding a marina in Norway should be pretty easy. After all, there is more coastline here than in any other country of the world. You can get various reports on how long it really is. According to a survey by, Norway's coastline is  83,281 kilometres, or 51784 miles. You might be forgiven to think that this is impossible, but with the islands, the crinkly fjords and the extreme length of the country, well, you would be wrong!

So, how do we begin?

We started by looking for slips available for rent. There are possibly several avenues to do this, but I relied on the Norwegian equivalent of Craig's list, As we bought out boat at the end of the sailing season, there were actually some options for 'bubblehavns' or slips with agitated water to stop ice forming. These were relatively cheap, but no one I spoke too did this. Those of my colleagues who owned boats had them pulled and stored on land. I figured that I would do the same.

Naturally, not knowing anything about the boating scene in Norway and having never read any forums or blogs about the same, I turned to the one potential resource that would be sure to know something. Our seller. Øyvind to the rescue!

He talked to the manager of the marina where he had been storing his boat, and arranged to have it kept there. At least for the winter. Great! One less thing to consider. So now our boat was officially lodged at Sonskilen Båthavn. They even agreed to let us have a slip the following summer. We could not have been more pleased!

As you can see, Son is nearly halfway down the coast in the Oslo fjord. It has good access to the main body of the fjord, and will allow us to explore the islands and the Swedish coast with ease.

As it is about an hour and twenty minutes drive from our house, we can get there there pretty easily. But before any of that is possible, we shall have to prepare it for winter, because, as this is Norway, WINTER IS COMING.

Make it so...

Without savings, buying a pretty big, expensive boat would normally be impossible. We did not even bother to ask the bank, or any lending company for a loan. Punitive interest rates would be hard to justify, even for a necessity, so for a luxury like our waterside 'hytte' (or, cabin in the sea), there was simply no way we could do that.

However, we did have a sizable chunk of equity in an apartment, and by refinancing part of that, we could buy the boat. Just. This was a pretty smart way to do it, since a) the interest rates for the mortgage on that property were considerably lower than a direct loan would be, and b) we rent out the apartment, and most of the increased cost to the mortgage would be paid for by the tenant.

Cool. We could afford it. Barely. Now all we had to do was the paperwork and get the money.

This process took several weeks. Luckily for us, the seller did not mind terribly. He displayed the patience of a saint. But I was sure to keep him informed of the progress, until that one fateful morning when I sent him a text message. The money arrived...

We made a date to meet at our house the next evening, and we signed the contract, did the bank transfer and shook hands. A bitter sweet moment for Øyvind. They say that there are two great days for any sailor. One is the day that they buy their boat. The other is the day they sell it. I do not think this was true in Øyvind's case. I suspect that he would have been happy to keep it. However, he had plans for the future that demanded an influx of cash, and that took precedence. But I will go on record and say that anytime he wants to come back and sail with us, he will be welcome.

But while the moment may have been bittersweet for the Øyvind, for us it was a great feeling. We now owned a boat. The only question was, where would we keep it?

Never make a snap decision...

Never make a snap decision when it comes to boats. Remember, use your head, not your heart. That being said, once Anna whispered that she wanted the boat, I went straight into negotiation mode. The boat was more than I had wanted, expected, or even dared to dream of, but if Anna wanted it, I was sure as hell going to get it. For a good price.

Øyvind gamely engaged me in a duel of words as we discussed the potential selling price of his boat. I made an offer, and he refused, informing me that he had other people interested. A classic ploy, but this time it might even be true. He was out on the boat only hours before with another buyer. But was that buyer serious? I challenged Øyvind to call his 'interested party,' and find out just how interested he really was.

The conversation went something like this..

"Hi. This is Øyvind. You came to see my boat...Yes, that's right. I have another couple here interested in the boat. They made an offer. Are you willing to meet their offer? Are you interested in the boat? Ah, I see. Okay, thanks. No problem. Bye."

As I suspected, the other party was not serious. Interested does not mean ready to buy. So Øyvind and I haggled for a bit, then settled on a price. It was much closer to the asking price than I would have liked, but to be honest, if he had not budged, I would have paid the full amount happily. I too wanted the boat desperately. We shook hands, and the deal was made.

We were going to buy a Beneteau Clipper 311.

We found a nice one. Now what?

We found a sailboat in a marina about 75 minutes drive from our house. Even though the price was quite a lot more than I wanted to spend, I thought it would be a good exercise to see how the other half live, so to speak. Also, it looked really good online. I was curious if it would it look as good in real life.

We arranged with the owner to go down on the weekend and have a look. As luck would have it, he was planning to show it to someone else, so we timed our arrival to coincide with their departure.

All went well.

We found the marina, we found the boat, and we went aboard. I say that as if it were easy, but there was a little trouble on my side. Stepping up from the pier with too tight jeans and stiff knees made boarding difficult, and the seller, a kindly gentleman named Øyvind, quickly hung a strange looking donut shaped fender over the side.

"It's a step," he explained.

I am not too proud to accept help, even if the help in question comes in the form of a rubber ring which looks like it might serve double duty as a hemorrhoids cushion.

So, tentatively, I stepped aboard, then helped my wife haul our four year old daughter over the lifelines. The side decks were a little narrow, but I was used to that. I had previously had a 30 foot sailboat, and one learns how to walk on narrow surfaces.

We made our way to the cockpit, and I was impressed. Very neat, very clean. Very roomy.

Actual hemorrhoid cushion
The seller told us lots of stuff about the boat, but I did not take much of it in, since a) I was playing out my sailing fantasy in my mind, and was too busy with images of sunsets and splashing spray, and b) he was speaking fast Norwegian, which would have demanded too much of my CPU processing power to translate on the fly.

I hoped that Anna was paying more attention, since I was now behind the wheel, surveying the distant horizon with a noble look on my face. (Or at least, that is how I imagined I looked.)

After some prodding, they got me away from the wheel and the binnacle and we went below. The interior was much like any sailboat, with the typical galley, and chart table and saloon table, etc. It looked good, and there was very little evidence of actual use. I liked it, but I was sure we could not afford it, since it was way outside our price range.

And it was then that the miracle happened. All my birthdays and Christmases came at once. Anna fell in love with the boat and wanted to buy it.

Winter is here...let's buy a boat

One day, I tried to convince my wife to let me buy a boat in the Caribbean. I used all my persuasive arts, but sadly to no avail. Convinced that I would never have the chance to live the dream, I fell into a funk.

But then something she said struck me. She simply did not want to leave Norway. And why should she? It is a great place to live and work, and it has some wonderful things to offer. Not, it has to be said, a great deal of warm weather, but if you can get past that issue, there are amazing opportunities here.

So I began to think. Maybe my dream of getting back onto the water need not die. What if I bought a boat in Norway? And the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.

Once again I broached the subject, fully expecting a similar denial from she who must be obeyed. But to my utter astonishment, she was enthusiastic. Suspecting a trick of some kind, I showed her some boats for sale locally, and she was dismissive of them.

Aha! I knew it. She was not really interested at all. She just wanted to placate me, then shoot me down.

I was wrong. She simply did not want something that needed a lot of work. She wanted new. She wanted shiny.

Who am I to argue? I started looking at more expensive boats. Suddenly, it seemed as if my dream could very well be realised. But with winter coming, what was the point? As soon as it gets cold, no one actually sails. Do they?

But I would not be deterred. We looked at more boats online, then we started to look at them in marinas. We went aboard, and pushed and prodded and pulled things. But nothing seemed to fit the bill...