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On Friday 30th December, three busfuls of passengers got off at 08.00 at Harstad to take a drive through the lovely Vesterålen islands, and to meet up again with MS Trollfjord two stops further on, at Sortland at 12.30. At that time, I was due to get off there for a bus ride to Stokmarknes in order to have a decent amount of time in the Hurtigruten Museum before reboarding the boat there at 15.00. I had a late breakfast as I didn’t know that I’d get any lunch, and took away with me the means to make a cheese sandwich and an apple.

The day before we had been told we would, hopefully, pass along the Risøyrenna, the 4.8 kilometre Risøy Channel.

It had been dredged and opened in 1922 to allow the Hurtigruten ships through, giving them access to its eponymous stop, and other places on the Lofoten Islands. It was narrow, and part of a beautiful passage. The channel was 7 metres deep, our boat having a draught of 5.5.

At 10.10 we were invited up to deck 9 to observe our passage through.

When I arrived:

I missed most of the opening English introduction, but did catch that we were hovering to see whether it was going to be safe to go through, given the very strong winds. Heinz then embarked on a long spiel in German.

After a minute or so I saw and felt that the boat was making an about-turn of 180 degrees. Heinz broke into English to explain that the captain had decided that the very strong winds meant that, especially with so little difference between the boat’s draught and the depth of the channel, it would not be safe to proceed. We would go straight to Svolvær, arriving at 12.55, via Harstad, missing out Risøyrenna, Sortland, and Stokmarknes. And this also meant we would not be seeing the entrance to the beautiful Trollfjord, after which the ship was named. But here’s an account (subject to permission) I’ve just found by, apparently, a North American, of their passage through the channel in 2014 at a different time of year.

A screen map showed us to be on our way back to Harstad.

We had to go there to pick up the turned-back passengers who had left for the Vesterålen excursions, and to deposit those ‘ordinary’ passengers who were due to leave the ship at one of the three ports now being missed. They would be bussed to their destinations. Later in the afternoon it was announced we would not be calling at Svolvær, but would go straight to Bodø, missing out Stamsund as well, arriving at 22.00.

All these changes meant that the trip to the Hurtigruten museum on which I was booked would not happen, nor for others, from Svolvær, three hours of horse-riding, nor another fishing village visit, nor an evening trek.

Back at Harstad, it was time for a twilight tour around the promenade deck, 6, before I returned to my cabin and had my picnic lunch. When going round deck 6, I always started on the starboard side and worked anticlockwise.

It would appear that Harstad is flourishing economically.

The English-language daily briefing was bought forward 45 minutes, to 14.15.

The team had clearly hastily remade the ‘slide’ to amend the time of arrival, normally 02.30 the following day.

We would be crossing back over the Arctic Circle tomorrow.

Hege sought to reassure those of us who had been on the northwards journey that there would be no ice down the backs the following day, instead we would be invited to take a dose of …

That’s Heinz grinning at the anticipated ‘pleasure’.

A short presentation about life on the ship followed. It’s a good job there was no space for questions – I would have had far too many.

A film taking us around the lower decks was fascinating.

I can’t remember why I went up to deck 8, but for the Nth time I saw progress on the two jigsaws. One had been completed. I saw two people on the very final morning desperately trying to get the last 50 or so pieces in position before disembarkation.

At 16.30 an additional talk was programmed, the history of Hurtigruten, a sort-of replacement for the visit to the museum. It has been interesting to learn that ‘hurtigruten’ was sort-of lower case, an idea, an integral and essential part of Norwegian culture, less the name of a company, more a description of the journey. It means ‘express route’. It has been exploited by many companies over the years, but at its heart is Richard With’s initiative. The Hurtigruten Group finally came together in 2006. (Additional information from Wikipedia, inter alia.)

The afternoon was scattered with exchanges of emails with my French friend, Christine, I knew she would be following the ship’s progress on an interactive map, MS Trollfjord being ‘TF’, which, at the time of writing, is at the northernmost tip of Norway, on her second full trip since the one being described here. At the least Christine would be puzzled when she saw it way off the appointed route, so I kept her up to date with the various tergervisations. (There was also a mystery of a missing ship which apparently was going to be waiting for us a Bodø, but wasn’t and disappeared from the map, but that was never solved.)

Some time in the evening, it was announced that because of the extremely strong winds, the ship was now travelling more slowly, and we would not arrive at Bodø until 23.00. That was still 3.5 hours earlier than the official schedule. I have to say, other than feeling the gales up on deck 9 in the morning, I was very little aware of the winds. Perhaps the occasional need to steady oneself when walking around the ship, but that was all.

Next day would be New Year’s Eve.