A Revised Schedule.

A trip back to Norway has interrupted progress in the workshop but, that’s no bad thing – uninterrupted thinking time is a gift. If I was blindfolded, I would know that I was back in Halden, especially if (as we did) I arrived on a sunny Sunday afternoon, because the sound of V8’s and V-twins is all you can hear.

You may recall that Halden is a bit of a honey-pot for American car and motorcycle enthusiasts. This Crown Victoria outside the hotel took my eye, as did the Pontiac Bonneville parked beside it – note the Tesla charging leads on the wall.

The boot of the Bonneville could have easily accommodated 6 for dinner. We had a day to kill before the ship we’d come to load arrived so I took myself off to Fredrikstad – reportedly Northern Europe’s best preserved fortified town and only a few klicks north-west of the fix.

It didn’t disappoint, though the absence of life should have given me a clue about how successful my trip was going to be. After I’d stumped up for some not inexpensive parking, I found everything of interest closed until the following Saturday. The local museum which boasts an art gallery (though oddly, nothing on the web described its contents) was closed. The reviews I read before setting out, concentrated solely on the museum’s café. That’s slightly suspicious.

Even the largest model railway set in Scandinavia, boasting 30 trains all running at the same time was closed – very disappointing.

But the old town of Fredrikstad is certainly worth a visit if you find yourself nearby. On the way back, I stopped at Hunn.

A short walk down a forest path…

… took me to where there were 9 Iron Age stone circles. They made an impressive sight climbing up the ridge towards the trees, though I did wonder what the landscape must have been like 10,000 years ago.

Ants are quite difficult to photograph (it’s on the leaf – you can just see its shadow) because they’re generally rather busy darting to and fro. These were about three times the size of the ants that plague my kitchen for a day or two around August.

I noticed them scurrying about only when I stopped to look at a small flower I hadn’t seen before. Then, preoccupied with the day’s adventure, I missed the turn to Halden and shot across the Oslo fjord into Sweden – sans ID. As I went across the bridge, I happened to look down and saw the Nexans Skagerrak making its way to the factory – our ship was on time – excellent. The next exercise was to get back into Norway without being noticed, so I turned left and took a minor road across another bridge and of course was selected for a spot check by the big hats at the border. ‘Pass, vær så snill’.Ah, slightly tricky that one…..’ Fortunately, they soon realised that I was a thoroughly decent fellow in a bit of a muddle and I got away with a ticking-off.

I keep doing daft things like that. I used to be so organised!



There’s Always Someone….

… to spoil your day. Well, not mine fortunately, but the owner of this boat whom I presume, as it was 8.00 o’clock on a Sunday morning, was catching a bit of extra shut-eye before church parade. The yellow tag was a parking ticket issued by a rather casually dressed lady who wasn’t even wearing so much as an official hat.

We were rostered to mess on the ship for our stay in Halden, Norway, which meant that we would be in for some excellent food and the chef on the Nexans Skaggerak didn’t disappoint. I think I had the best piece of beef fillet that I’ve had in my life; so good that I had to ask how it was done. Obviously you’ve got to start with a decent piece of meat in the first place and let it come to room temperature over a 12 hour period. Add the marinade of choice – leave for another 24 hours  – and stick a temperature gauge into the centre of the fillet. Set and heat the oven to 58°C, put the meat in and wait for the gauge to come to 58°. Remove the fillet and allow it to cool to 50°; slice it up and then put it back in the oven until it again reaches 58°C. Then its ready to serve. Cracking!

It was quite a busy little fjord and one evening another cable laying ship came and parked next to us to load up. There were numerous small craft going up and down during the day; cabin-cruisers, sailing boats and I think I spotted a Riva type speed boat. It was a bit too far away to be certain but it looked and sounded right.

We worked a midday to midnight shift which fell in with the meal times on board but it was a strange sensation to wake up and have not a clue what the weather (or sense of the time of day, there being no porthole in the cabin) was until you climbed the stairs and got out on deck. Sleep is always fitful on board a working ship as the cable loading is a 24-hour operation. You tend to wake up if everything stops and there’s suddenly silence!

At the end of our stint, as no hire-cars were available, we took the train. Very clean and comfortable, reclining seats, quiet and equipped with charging sockets for all your electrical paraphernalia, the three-hour journey back to Oslo Gardermoen airport, including a change at Oslo, was a good way to see some of the countryside. Naturally, their harvest was quite a few weeks behind ours being that much further north but patches of barley and oats looked fit. The potatoes were still in bloom so they had a bit to go as well. An evening flight back to Stansted gave us time for a glass of beer and a sandwich each – £46.00! Norway is not cheap.

My first job when I got home was to find a car to replace the Mercedes (fault-finding will continue) and I found a very nice Peugeot 407; red. That should brighten things up a bit!


The Saga….

…. of my Mercedes’ electrics has gone on since January and might well end with a perfectly good car going to the scrap heap because of an electrical fault that no one seems to be able to pin down. Even the much vaunted Mercedes ‘Star’ diagnostic machine didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, in fact it told me to replace the crankshaft position sensor despite the fact that it had already been renewed. At this point the engine was running but not so well that you’d trust it on anything but a local journey. So I borrowed a regular code reader and plugged it in to see what it had to offer. 4 faults came up: Crankshaft position sensor, camshaft position sensor, mass airflow sensor (MAF) and exhaust gas re-circulating thingummy (EGR). I replaced (or had replaced as the crankshaft sensor is all but inaccessible) everything – except the EGR which I cleaned out – and started up. The engine ran for about 2 seconds, stopped and hasn’t run since. It turns over readily enough and although fuel is getting to the injectors, it sounds like the injectors aren’t firing and consequently, no fuel is getting to the cylinders. I gave up at this point; electrics (and rulers) are just not my thing. If anyone has any ideas……

I managed to complete a stone trap – there’s a couple on order – before I was whisked off to Halden in Norway. I’d been there before a couple of years ago but hadn’t had the time to have a look round.

On this visit, my room had a slightly more interesting view than the last time (see April 2015) – every little helps.

The marina was a bit busier and, having a car, I was able to nip up to the castle (on the left of the picture) and get a handle on the layout.

The Nexans Skagerrak cable layer wasn’t due to arrive for a couple of days so we had time to kick our heels and get settled in. A bit like the other parts of Scandinavia I’ve visited, trees, granite and lakes are the staple diet and, unless you’re an outdoorsy, running, jumping, pedalling sort of person, finding something to chew on is not easy.

An interesting building in the market square….

… a charming public park,

and it looks like they’re building some sort of gallows up at the castle so I know I’m not the only one who’s finding things a bit slow.

Room With A View.

Or at least it would be if these big metal plates weren’t in the way.


Because on the other side of this wall is….

view 2

… which I’d have thought would have the edge as a selling point. I was looking forward to the breakfast run but a call came through and I was back in Norway as my fellow breakfasteers were sitting down to eggs, bacon and whatnot at Andrewsfield airfield café. The main purpose of the Sunday breakfast run was to try out the new heat shield on the Hillman’s carb and see if it made any difference so as I wasn’t going to make it, a quick trip to Framlingham on Saturday afternoon (to see a chap who’d built a wooden body in the manner of my Austin but on an Alvis 12/60 chassis) was squeezed into the schedule. I purposely came to a halt a couple of times with the engine hot and there was no sign of it fading on reapplying the throttle so, fingers crossed.

Hispano Suiza aero engine

My friend John Gaertner who builds Avro 504’s (and lots of other vintage aircraft) in Virginia is currently rebuilding a Hispano Suiza aero engine and I asked him for a picture of the tappet adjustment just to confirm the pedigree of the Morris Six and Wolseley 6/80 engines’ arrangements. The steel bar is part of a jig to assist in dismantling the mechanism.

A7 pistons

And news just in… Leon managed to lose a couple of piston skirts on the way to breakfast – young people today; I don’t know…. It’s lucky that the pins held on to the crowns which enabled him to limp home.

Apache II

The Apache II cable layer is this week’s marine interest. It’s more a floating factory than a ship; it even has a heli-pad. The cable laying end of things is quite different to the other ships I’ve been on and has the spool in the vertical plane rather than horizontal.

Apache II

I continue to be thoroughly impressed by the Health and Safety arrangements implemented by (in this case) Nexans – the cable manufacturer – and the ship’s crew; we even had to pass an exam before we got through the factory gate. I suppose I’m old enough to remember when there wasn’t (or if there was it wasn’t much in evidence) such a thing as H&S in the work environment.


There’s something oddly reminiscent of Minnesota in the architecture and to a certain extent, the landscape in this part of Norway – I haven’t been able to get quite the shot I wanted to illustrate this because I’ve always been speeding by in a taxi going to the dock – and, coincidentally, the Norwegians seem to be very keen on 50’s American cars – at least half-a-dozen were cruisin’ the town on Sunday afternoon. I asked about this and it seems they have a huge following here in Halden and there’s a meeting of 50’s and 60’s classics just about every week in the summer months.

I’ve just read that there’s nearly 1 million people of Norwegian descent in Minnesota.