Sakte Fart: Hungry Viking Descendants in the North Sea

“If we keep going that way, we will get to England”, Lars said as he steered the small boat and pointed out across the North Sea. I nodded and asked, “Should we go there and raid them? It is traditional, isn’t it?” After some thought, Lars answered “Not today. We only have a chocolate bar and one bottle of water. Perhaps next time.” He was right of course. Proper planning is an important part of any successful military endeavor.

We’d started out our day by driving to Sture, to Lars’ family cabin. It’s a small place, and he and his siblings have been fixing it up for the last few years. The important part, though, is the boat and the boathouse. As is typical in Norway, down the hill from the house is a little red outbuilding big enough to fit a small boat. Maybe more than one if it’s very small (canoe sized or a little larger) and can be put on a rack. Before we got down to the boathouse, Lars Bjarne kindly went through the clothes closet in the house to find me some warmer things. My sweater would not be enough. Before long, I had on a fleece, a thick and waterproof underjacket and then another jacket that was a combination life-vest and warm coat. Then I got a neck warmer, some gloves and two hats – one on top of another. We brought along a pair of over-pants just in case I got cold even though they were for someone much taller than me. We planned to take the boat over to a restaurant for lunch so we didn’t pack more than the water and the chocolate.

Down the craggy, steep hillside we went to the boathouse. Lars Bjarne reeled in the boat from its mooring, and away we went. It was a very pretty day, though it was a little windy. Lars was worried about the chop we would encounter on the sea and thought we’d better not get too far into it. He was also worried, it turned out, about how well I would handle a small boat and big waves. He didn’t know that my grandfather had gotten me used to that many years ago. I tried to tell him, but I think he thought I was underestimating the strength of the North Sea. It seems he’d had this trouble with out-of-towners before. We went through the local bywaters out to the sea, going past pretty homes and little boats along the way. As we were leaving the main channel and going to the sea, I noticed many signs behind us reading “Sakte Fart”. I am sure you can think up some alternate meanings, but this translates into “Slow Down” in Norwegian.

The waves were moderate but in our little 19 foot boat they seemed pretty high. Lars is a very good pilot and knew how to choose his path through them so we would not get splashed or tossed. After the worst of it, we got to a milder place. The water was open and deep so he opened up the throttle and we began to bounce over the waves. He kept looking over to see if I was nervous but after I grinned and said “Whee!”, he smiled and went faster. We kept on at speed until the water got shallow and caution was indicated. That’s right, we were forced to Sakte Fart.

There were plenty of fishermen in very small boats and even a kayaker out on the water as we got further inland. I learned that the fishing vacation is a popular pastime, and the Germans in particular like to come up to the Norwegian coast in an RV or a big wagon full of fishing gear. They stay the week and fish the whole time, freezing their catch and taking it home in big Styrofoam coolers. Lars seemed to think that many of the guys in orange vests and small boats were on vacation. To me, this seemed more like work than a vacation, but what do I know? We also passed several fish farms. I asked Lars Bjarne if we could get closer so that I could take a good picture of their green nets and distinctive yellow buoys. He told me actually, no we could not, because if you get within 50 meters of the nets, they assume you are about to poach their fish (!). I am not sure what happens to poachers, but it seemed like Lars thought it was bad. Poaching from a fish farm by boat had never even occurred to me. I am so naïve. I wonder if it happens often?

We were getting hungry so we began looking for the turning to the restaurant. But try as we might, we couldn’t find it. What to do? The bluffs were high and there was no way to know what was inside without going in and looking at every channel, and there were a lot of them. Uh oh. And had we brought a chart? No, of course not. Good thing we left England alone after all. We ate our chocolate bar, realizing it could be our last meal, and decided it was safer to head for home rather than get lost. We went past the Statoil refinery (it was much cleaner and nicer looking than any US refinery, that’s for sure), and found the right path back. Whew.

We made landfall after an hour or two on the water, tired and hungry. We clambered out of the boat, tidied up, took off all our layers and got in the car. The chocolate bar was beginning to wear off and we had fish waiting at home. By the time we got back to Bergen, we were so hungry we barely spoke but we got out the food and got to work. Lars Bjarne cleaned the grill and got out necessary serving ware, I got the food ready and we had a big salmon and shrimp lunch on the table in 20 minutes. Marianne would have been proud!

When Marianne did come home the next day, she was not proud. She was pleased we’d made at least one good meal, but shook her head at both of us when she heard that we’d let the kids have hot dogs for dinner at the end of that day. Despite the fish lunch, we had disappointed her. No one else seemed upset about it, but the lady has standards. In fact, her standards are so high that I felt like I’d won the food lottery. She’d been visiting Trondheim and brought home all manner of delicacies, including a beautiful brie-like cheese that is so special that the Queen of Norway herself orders it. We also had several kinds of dried meats and fruits and anything else that could be transported by plane without going bad. We had tea and a delicious ginger-carrot cake with Lars Bjarne’s mother, and we went to see her lovely apartment and go over the old family pictures. I saw my great-grandmother’s photo on the wall, taken when she was young and had her first baby on her lap. After that, Marianne got out the good stuff listed above and we commenced to have the best late night snack ever. We had some good girl talk after everyone had gone to bed, and then, sadly it was early to rise the next day and out to the airport. Next stop, Toronto.

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