|Early Purple on charter in Norway|
|Crewed Yacht Charter Reviews|
Norway’s fjord country is not a typical charter destination, which is why the owners of the 62-foot Swan sailing yacht Early Purple were so excited to base their boat there.
Capt. Charles Houal maneuvers our Swan 62, Early Purple, past the bulbous bow of an oil tanker tied up near the ferry dock. It’s one of at least a half-dozen behemoths sharing the harbor with pleasure boats tonight, like a collective welcome mat announcing Norway’s status as Europe’s leading oil and natural gas producer. Mate Arnaud Tallemet and chef Aurore Brin scamper on deck, and soon we’re tucked in just like the big boys.
Our lines look like the thinnest pull of dental floss next to the commercial-grade monsters, but no matter. We’ll share the cleats for the night—that is, what little of night there will be. This is the city of Bergen, Norway’s second largest after the capital of Oslo. We’re about 400 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It is early August, and the Earth’s axis is tilted just so. The sun will be back up in about four hours. It doesn’t so much set here as wink at its forced insomniacs between fleeting moments of dusk and dawn.
The heart of Norway’s fjord country, with Bergen as its base, is not your typical charter destination. I find myself here by sheer luck of timing and the yacht owner’s personal cruising schedule (which will be the parameters for you, too, if you want to charter in Scandinavia, where the season is so short and the location so far from the popular Western Mediterranean that only a handful o
f international charter yachts visit each summer). Early Purple’s owners are preparing for a 200-mile cruise up Norway’s west coast, where the yacht will sail through the fjords at Viking-friendly latitudes north of the one that crosses Juneau, Alaska. They arrive in a week, which gives the crew time to squeeze in a quick charter with me.
It will be only the third charter that Early Purple has performed since the owners took possession of the 2002 build in 2006.
“Charter has not been the priority for this boat,” Houal tells me, rifling off the list of destinations the owners have sailed during the previous three years. There’s his own hometown of Brittany, France, followed by the Côte d’Azur, Corsica, Italy, the Caribbean, Cuba, and Scotland. “Beginning in winter 2009-10, we plan to pick up our charter schedule more than in the past. We will start in Sint Maarten and then move during the summer of 2010 to someplace new. Maybe South America. Maybe the South Pacific.”
Traipsing the globe aboard the beautifully maintained Early Purple seems to be Houal’s natural calling. He came aboard with the new owners, whose first yachting experience was a charter he performed for them aboard another Swan 62 in the Caribbean. They stole him away to show them the world, as opposed to frequenting the harbors from Antigua to Antibes that become home bases for so many other charter yachts. The cruising style requires an attitude and skill set that not all skippers possess. Houal and Early Purple’s crew arrived in Norway just a few days before I did. None of us speaks the language, we don’t yet have a proper chart, and we’re all doing mental calculations to determine the equivalent worth of a kroner. Even still, Houal is ready to explore. And I feel perfectly comfortable going with him. He simply embodies that level of trust.
How amazing it would be to explore not just Norway, but any waters aboard a well-appointed charter yacht like Early Purple, bringing comfort and solitude and fine dining along for the journey.
Early Purple is a 62-foot Swan sailing yacht, a well-known model among charter clients who enjoy real sailing in addition to creature comforts. Her master suite, which I enjoyed, is all the way aft with a queen-size bed. There also are two cabins with double beds forward, and each of the three guest cabins has its own en suite bathroom.
Though she was built in 2002 and is thus older than some other Swan sailing yachts on the charter market, Early Purple looked to be in very good condition during my stay. She felt comfortable and well maintained, with a classic décor that will never go out of style.
Capt. Charles Houal is the heart of the charter operation, and he runs it the way he would run the
yacht were the owners onboard. That means late starts in the mornings, all the sailing you want, and even sailing lessons if you desire them.
His mate changed between the time of my charter and the publication of this article, so ask a reputable charter broker about the current crew onboard.
Aurore Brin serves flavorful meals that are prepared with local ingredients in mind. In Norway, that means a good bit of fish such as salmon and halibut, in addition to salads made with local produce. Her meals always felt healthy and filling, but never ostentatious or over-the-top.
Early Purple takes six guests in three cabins, all of which are comfortable and of a standard size for a monohull sailing yacht in this size range.
This part of Norway, with glaciers as a backdrop, looks almost lake-like. It is as if nature crossed the wilds of coastal Maine with the summer bungalows of New York’s Lake Placid. I see no bars, no restaurants, and little development beyond family homes. Each has a boat house, most painted barn red, mustard yellow, or worn white. Kids leap from short bridges into the chilly water below, or cruise from home to home in runabouts that provide the same kind of freedom that T-Birds bring teenagers on Midwestern Main Streets. Mussels lump atop the seafloor like piles of dirty laundry. It’s a place that civilization has found, but mercifully not yet conquered.
Norway’s sky-scraping fjords are also impressive, so much so that they lure some 300 cruise ships into Bergen each year. I cruised as far north as Osterfjorden and the village of Vikanes, and it was enough for me to sense what the cruising farther north would be like. The view on either side of the boat is not unlike Alaska, only with the blue-white-black palette replaced by olive-brown-gray. Hardy, green-leafed trees climb into the clouds while the water dives some 2,000 feet beneath the boat’s keel. An occasional waterfall trickles into view. It’s absolutely stunning.
Our Charter Details
Our charter was in 2009 (why this matters to you)
Our onboard expert was CharterWave Editor Kim Kavin
The boat’s base rate was €14,000 for six guests with three crew
Charter brokers who cruised with us: None (why this matters to you)