PC 229 500 miles to Oslo

If you are a Netflix fan you may have watched ‘Occupied’, a very interesting drama set in the future about a partial occupation of Norway by Russia.  (Note 1) There was some good coverage of the beautiful city of Oslo and I was reminded of my many trips there, but one in particular, approaching from the sea.

Sailing up in Scotland Aged 9

Regular readers will know that I have enjoyed many years of offshore sailing, clocking up some 15,000 miles since 1969. (See PC 106 (Sept 2017) Sailing in The Baltic and PC 161 (Sept 2019) The Atlantic) Some voyages are naturally more memorable than others and so it is with my 500 mile Oslo trip in August 1974. I was based in Sennelager near Paderborn in Germany and chartered the Royal Artillery Yacht Club’s yacht St Barbara II (St B II) for a fortnight. (Note 2)

Crew Kiel to Oslo

Arriving at the British Kiel Yacht Club on the outskirts of Kiel, we were met by the bosun, a likeable and competent Bombardier on secondment to the club.  “You’ll have plenty of storage for your trip as the engine is out for maintenance and we are awaiting spares.”  St B II was a 42ft Rebel and I had sailed her a number of times, so wasn’t particularly fazed by this news, except in relation to the provision of electricity. A yacht’s engine was useful for charging batteries which, inter alia, powered the navigation lights essential for night passages. It was also useful for manoeuvring in tight marina berths, particularly in a 40ft plus yacht.

The outward trip in red, the return in green

The crew numbered seven, 3of whom knew how to sail, so the trip was a mixture of training and sightseeing. Slipping the BKYC jetty on the Friday morning we sailed north up the Little Belt between the Danish mainland and the island of Fyn and into the harbour of Middlefart (Yes! Really!). From there a short hop to the university city of Aarhus (Note 3).


We did a little sightseeing while recharging the yacht’s batteries and then set sail, north up the coast, passing Skagen on the tip of Denmark, so loved by international artists for the purity of its light. The sea north of Denmark marks the exit of the fresh water of the Baltic, from the Kattegat into the Skagerrak and then into the North Sea. I didn’t want to sail the majestic Oslo Fjord at night as I had no means of getting out of trouble without an engine, so drifted into Hortens on the west coast of the fjord for an overnight stop and essential battery charging. The wind tends to funnel down the fjord so it was hard work beating northwards, but in daylight the following morning it was a wonderful experience, as sheer mountainsides close in from both sides, waterfalls tumble down, wind shifts are numerous and the water is extremely deep. Eventually we tied up alongside in the marina in Dronningen on the west of the city, did some sightseeing and welcomed a new crew from Germany.


On Sunday 25th we sail south, this time goose-winged (Note 3), feeling very small as the mountains dwarf the yacht. Our initial destination is Marstrand, just north of Gottenburg on the Swedish west coast. The town is Sweden’s equivalent of Cowes on the Isle of Wight here in England and the focus of international racing festivals.

Marstrand, Sweden

From the chart and from the various sailing guides I had interrogated there were two ways in ….. and the southerly one looked more interesting – I wished I had listened to the little voice in my head ‘play safe’. This approach required lining up a transit and sailing that exact bearing.

Lining up a transit of rocks and a lighthouse, sailing a course of 42°

Why? Well, the west coast is strewn with rocks and the transit took us between two large patches. It was blowing about Force 4-5 from the north, the wind was abeam and this made for fast sailing. Having lined up the transit we committed ourselves, knowing that we couldn’t deviate much from the line; the sea surged over some rocks visible on the bow to both port and to starboard but there was space between! The guides had described it as easy; my heart started beating faster than normal and I remember asking the mate what he thought, was this sensible … or not!

In Marstrand our arrival created some local interest and it wasn’t long before the jetty was crowded with onlookers. One particular chap and I struck up a good report and I invited him on board for a drink. Invariably we talked about the prohibitive cost of alcohol in Sweden and he told me that most Swedes brewed their own. “I use an old bath in a shed.” Olav said. “So how do you know when it’s ready to drink?” I asked. He held up his fingers; one was missing its tip. “I dip my fingers in; too strong and this is the result!”

From Marstrand we sailed south into the channel between the Danish island of Zeeland and the Swedish mainland, passing the twin castles of Helsingør, used by Shakespeare as Hamlet’s Elsinore, and Helsingborg at the northern narrows.


As we approached the outskirts of Copenhagen what wind there had been vanished and we drifted. Fortunately we were spotted by Stan Townsend, a British retired engineer officer and well-known Baltic sailor. A tow was proffered and gladly accepted and we made it to a marina just north of the city. Judging when to let go the tow so that you have sufficient way to make a berth is tricky, for yachts without engines have no brakes!

After some sightseeing in the city we slipped the marina moorings and made our way south, down the west coast of Zealand and into Stubbekøbing.

Stubbekøbing’s marina is new!

Black Jack, the yacht’s mate, was responsible for taking St B II into this rather commercial harbour. Good practice for him I thought …….. until we found ourselves heading towards a fishing boat tied up alongside the quay too fast and emergency manoeuvres were required! 

The Army called this ‘Adventure Training’; for me an absolute delight!

Richard 7th May 2021


Note 1 Norway is not part of the EU and this drama has been mirrored this week in a stand-off between French fishermen and the State of Jersey, part of The Channel Islands, over fishing licences. A French minister threatened to cut off the island’s electricity supplies, 98% of which come from EDF a French energy company!

Note 2 We covered 1050 miles and spent 45 hours sailing at night, between Thursday 15 August – 4th September 1974.

Note 3 The Danish TV series Dicte was based in this city

Note 4 With the mainsail set to one side and the foresail to the other, only possible with the wind well aft of the beam, the sailing term is goose-winging.

3 thoughts on “PC 229 500 miles to Oslo

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