It’s an unusual day when you wake up in the morning, set off on a day cruise, and end up making a two-night crossing of the North Sea to a different country. But the day Norway opened for leisure travel from Europe, we abandoned our plan to cruise Scotland’s Orkney and Shetland Islands and, instead, started across the North Sea. One of the many aspects of our Nordhavn 52 Dirona that we really appreciate is its flexibility and capability. The only preparation needed for this major plan change was to check the weather.
We’d spent the past three months in Scotland, much of it in lockdown (see Scottish Lockdown), and most recently had been moored at Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides. Our original plan for this summer was to cruise the Mediterranean, but museums and other tourist attractions didn’t seem like a great choice during the pandemic (see Navigating Uncharted Waters). So we decided instead to focus on natural beauty and less-crowded locations. Norway topped our list by that measure, with its excellent hiking and abundant sheltered anchorages (their COVID-19 tourism video “Welcome to SPACE” pretty much sums it up). Unfortunately, we initially couldn’t enter under the country’s strict COVID-19 regulations.
Near the end of our stay in Stornoway, the Scottish lockdown eased so that boaters were allowed to anchor overnight for leisure, and the Orkney and Shetland Islands were cautiously re-opening to visitors. So we planned to cruise those remote island groups for the rest of the summer. As we got underway from the Outer Hebrides to the Orkney Islands, however, Norway announced they too were relaxing their travel restrictions, allowing us to enter. Within minutes, we changed our plan of anchoring in the Orkney Islands that evening and instead started east across the North Sea to Norway. It’s nice having a boat that’s strong enough and sufficiently well-equipped to allow plan changes of that magnitude.
Norway has once again been an exceptional cruising destination, and we feel particularly fortunate to be here. On our previous cruise, in 2018, our goal was to travel the entire Norwegian west coast as far north as Tromsø, well above the Arctic Circle, visiting the highlights along the way. It’s a big country. We saw a lot, and had a phenomenally good time, but there was so much we didn’t see. This time we would still work north up the west coast from Stavanger, but at a much slower pace. The plan was to leisurely visit every waterway along the way, either in Dirona or by tender, the same way we’d explored Fiordland in New Zealand.
We spent the first three weeks of our 2020 Norwegian cruise in Ryfylkefjordane, that we’d only passed through on our previous Norwegian cruise. On those first three weeks, we didn’t cover much latitude, ending up at Haugesund only 30 miles north of Stavanger, but we traveled a total of 206 miles in Dirona and made 14 different stops. We had a wonderful time, making several view hikes, touring for miles in the tender, taking in the spectacular scenery, and stopping at many beautiful anchorages. Next up was two weeks cruising through Sunnhordland at the mouth of Hardangerfjord, before travelling the head of that fjord where we moored for a week at Odda. We’d passed through Hardangerfjord briefly on a daytrip from Bergen in our previous cruise, but this time we could really explore the area. We made several notable hikes, including one that had been on our list since the previous trip: to the famous rock formation Trolltunga. We’re now just north of Bergen, and will enjoy another month of slow cruising with a plan to return back across the North Sea to Scotland in mid-October.