Home->Reviews->Name of Current Page

Floating Low to Lofoten

Martin Edge
Great Britain 2012

This is the story of a somewhat angry Scot's journey to Lofoten Norway in his Vancouver 27. The man has a lot of gripes with the world but he also has a well-honed sense of the ridiculous, and he knows his sailing as well. Put these elements together, and you get a very funny and engrossing book.

To give you a sense of what I'm talking about, here is his account of the seller of duty-free booze seller he met in the town of Lerwick, Shetland Islands:

Lerwick seems basically to be run by a bloke called Bert. His principal source of income seems to be selling booze to Norwegians. His modus operandum is to appear in a van at the guest pontoon in the harbour and enquire whether you might be leaving the European Union. If you reply shiftily that you might possibly be heading for Norway, he offers to fill your boat to the gunwales with duty free booze and fags. And this is not your old fashioned 20% off airport duty free. I’m talking a pound a packet for fags and whisky at £3.50 a litre. Suitably loaded up you then head off into the sunset promising that yes, honestly, you are going to Norway, honest. You might, of course, if you were of a dishonest bent, simply nip back home to Port Edgar or somewhere with a year’s supply of cheap hooch, but I know you’re a law abiding citizen.

Even if you do go to Norway – and the large majority of Bert’s customers are Norwegian – there is absolutely no correlation between the amount of ‘duty free’ he will sell and the amount Norwegians are allowed to import. Incredibly, this fantastic dodge seems to be legal, at least at the UK end.

When I was there four Norwegian lads in a scruffy yacht had arrived from Bergen at six am. At midday they started drinking. They woke me with loud music at 6.30 the next morning. They finally hit the sack about 7.30 am after boozing for a solid nineteen and a half hours. At one p.m. the same day they sailed back to Norway. Happily they wouldn’t have been hung over. They would still have been absolutely pissed.

The author could see a good thing in front of him, and as he and his crew motorsailed out of the harbor a few days later...

...we noticed that there was a good 6 inches of water in the ‘self-draining’ – or in this instance self-filling – cockpit. She was certainly floating well below the official waterline. I suggested that this might have something to do with the number of pies consumed by the crew over the years. The crew, in their turn, pointed out that it might have something to do with the 450 cans and 250 bottles of beer, 40 litres of spirits and 30 bottles of wine on board. Laughing hysterically at the idea that we should jettison some of these bare essential supplies, I considered briefly what we could get rid of. Perhaps all the water, a spare anchor or one of the crew.

Now I won't pretend that the whole book maintains this level, but there are plenty of good passages, along with important bits on Scottish culture that you need to know. For example, the vernacular for coitus interruptus is "getting off at Clachnaharry". It seems Clachnaharry is the last stop on the train line before Inverness...

I obtained my copy of this book at no cost. Mr. Edge was so incensed over an obscure American tax regulation that he decided to give the book away rather than charge for it and pay the tax. Perhaps he found that the tax is due regardless, because the book now retails for $2.35 on Smashwords - digital edition, and the purchase price covers a copy in each of several formats. It's worth every cent of it, no matter how much tax Mr. Edge may have to pay.

Floating Low to Lofoten

His other books, also available at Smashwords, Scaggerak and Back and A Gigantic Whinge on the Celtic Fringe, are fine reads too.