Before even arriving in Lofoten, we witnessed spectacular views over scattered islands fringed by turquoise waters as we came to land in Svolvaer. Disembarking, we made our way to Henningsvaer, a quaint but vibrant fishing village and home to HMS GASSTEN.
A refurbished Swedish minesweeper once used to search the fjords for explosives, HMS GASSTEN fits seamlessly into her surroundings. Nestled amongst a wealth of traditional fishing vessels, her rugged exterior belies a refined interior. Arriving onboard, we met the crew including Captain Jamie Milne, whose knowledge of Lofoten’s extensive and rugged coastline is rivalled only by his intricate knowledge of the vessel he runs.
Making the most of a bright weather window, we were quick to head out for a climb up Festvågtind, a mist-shrouded mountain that rises directly from the sea below. After a mix of walking and scrambling, we made it to the top of the mountain in time for the clouds to part allowing breathtaking views over the archipelago stretching in every direction.
Strolling through Henningsvaer, we arrived back at HMS GASSTEN with just enough time for a quick change. We were then whisked away to a private island for a spectacular dinner in a glass dome under the ethereal glow of the midnight sun. Warmed by a roaring wood burner, we were treated to a locally sourced feast prepared and presented by our vessel’s talented chef. Returning to our floating home, we cruised to a sheltered anchorage for the night.
Under steely grey Norwegian skies, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast to fortify us for the morning’s activity: a visit to a local sauna with stunning views over the water. Plunging into the Arctic Sea to cool off, our morning was both relaxing and revitalising. Crossing the archipelago, we set off on an exploration of the rugged coastline on stocky Icelandic ponies. Wrapped up warm, our journey took us across white sand beaches, alongside Lofoten’s famous links course, and beneath large racks used to dry one of Norway’s biggest exports, fish.
Returning to HMS GASSTEN, we set sail to Trollfjord. This spectacular fjord boasts steep, snow-capped mountains that reach over 1,000m scattered with verdant greenery and waterfalls that tumble into the waters below. In this silent, secluded spot we anchored for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Upon waking, we were unable to resist diving off HMS GASSTEN’s hull for an invigorating swim in the perfect stillness of the Arctic Sea before leaving Trollfjord. Over breakfast we began our picturesque journey to the island of Skrova during which we spotted a breaching whale and a wealth of diverse seabirds. Arriving in the charming harbour of Skrova, we were met with a day of bright sunshine and perfect blue skies. Leaving GASSTEN behind, we set off to explore the so-called “Hawaii of the North” in sea kayaks. Paddling through glittering turquoise waters banked by mountains that descend to white sand beaches, it was easy to see how this area earned its title. Pulling into a deserted island beach we sat on the soft white sand and enjoyed our wild lunch warmed by the sun.
Rested and revived, we then set off to climb Skrova’s highest mountain in the company of our onboard chef. As we climbed the mountain slope, we were treated to a foraging lesson from Simon, who pointed out some of Norway’s rarest and most sought-after ingredients growing in abundance along the edges of the path. Stopping every now and then to pick berries, shrubs and leaves, we wound our way up the mountain to a sweeping view over the turquoise-fringed islands surrounding Skrova.
Our anchorage for the evening lay at the base of a steep mountain in absolute seclusion. After a final Arctic dip, we were treated to a delicious last supper created with the fruits of our foraging. Returning in the morning to Henningsvaer, a family of orcas began escorting our vessel for the final stage of our crossing, a heartwarming ending to a truly thrilling journey through Lofoten.