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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.

Bika, Nordic Visitor
The Suddenly Longer Sailboat
January 29, 2015

eading south for the winter means different things to different sailors. Locals sail south (seeking warmth) to the Bahamas. But if you’re from Norway, “south for the winter” might mean… right here.

Oriental has become home for two Norwegians for this cold season. Nina Kristin Nilsen and her husband Henrik Nor-Hansen are visiting in their 28-foot cutter, “Bika”.

bika heard 28 sailboat nina kristin nilsen henrik nor hansen
Nina and Henrik aboard Bika. Joining them for tea and tangerines is the ship’s cat Estren.
bika heard 28 sailboat nina kristin nilsen henrik nor hansen
Bika. The bowsprit – in its raised position – is between the mast and the bow.

The vessel’s short mast, plumb bow and outboard rudder speak to its work boat heritage. Pointing skyward on the foredeck, like a second mast, is a varnished spar.

That’s not a mast on Bika’s bow. It’s a folding bowsprit. When deployed, it juts 13 feet ahead of the vessel’s bow. “Suddenly,” says Nina, “it’s like we have a 41-foot sailboat.”

But it isn’t a 40 footer. The handsome vessel is 28 feet, a small vessel for most cruisers, but for this couple, it’s their “big boat.” Prior to Bika, Nina and Henrik had cruised for ten years on a Contessa 26. Aboard that 26-foot sailboat they explored both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They planned to sell the boat in Australia. She sold sooner than expected, in Fiji.

bika heard 28 sailboat nina kristin nilsen henrik nor hansen interior
Bika’s layout is as traditional below as it is above decks. The galley is to starboard, the nav station to port and the main cabin occupies the rest of the open space. A double berth is in the forward compartment. There’s one major difference between Bika and the couple’s last boat. Henrik says, “for the first time in 10 years, I can stand up.”
bika heard 28 sailboat nina kristin nilsen henrik nor hansen tea bag
A place for everything: Nina and Henrik prefer drinking tea instead of coffee. The wrapped tea bags are stored in this fabric pouch. Nina says, “it’s made of silk. I call it the Mother of All Tea Bags. She’s so big but I can store lots of tea in it that I can’t store in boxes.”

Nina and Henrik found Bika in Port Dalhousie, Ontario.

“She’d been stored a while,” says Nina, “It was raining the day we first looked at her. She was leaking like crazy.” Still, they’d been looking for a larger boat and she fit the bill. They bought her in January 2014. They spent the next 3-1/2 months getting her in shape – mostly to stop the leaking. After launching, they made their way to the Hudson River, through New York City and out in to the Atlantic, making landfall in Norfolk.

They made it to North Carolina where they decided that Oriental, not Florida, is where they wanted to spend the winter. Here, they plan to rebuild Bika’s cockpit before heading back north in spring.

bika heard 28 sailboat nina kristin nilsen henrik nor hansen
Bika at her relaunching in Port Dalhousie, Ontario. Nina says the vessel is named after bica, the slang term for espresso in Portugal. Like the coffee, “she is small and strong.” (Nina Kristin Nilsen/Henrik Nor-Hansen photo)

Bika is a Heard 28, a design based on the Falmouth oyster dredge, a traditional sailing work boat. She was was built by the Heard family in Falmouth, England in 1998. Her hull is of heavily laid up fiberglass. The decks, cabin house, cockpit, mast, and boom are wood. She weighs 17,000 pounds.

Henrik says, “if you look at this hull, you need many square feet of sail to push it through the water.” Bika’s large, four-sided gaff main sail provides most of the power. The jib flown from the vessel’s bow adds more.

For light winds even more sail area comes in handy. This is where the long bowsprit comes in. It’s another place to hank a sail.

bika heard 28 sailboat nina kristin nilsen henrik nor hansen
Bika under full press of canvas. (Jola Drolst photo)
Henrik says, “these boats traditionally flew a small storm jib on the end of the bowsprit. When the wind got too strong for that, they take that in. After that you would probably heave-to.” Heaving the vessel to is a technique of keeping the stationary at sea. It allows the boat to ride out rough weather.

While the long bowsprit is fine for adding extra power to the hull, it can get in the way. Nina and Henrik are living aboard Bika at Ray’s Creekside Marina on Smith Creek. The varnished spar, when lowered, stretches across the dock.

bika heard 28 sailboat nina kristin nilsen henrik nor hansen
Come docking time, especially if going in bow first, it helps to have the ‘sprit raised.
bika heard 28 sailboat nina kristin nilsen henrik nor hansen
A galvanized windlass and bowsprit fitting (wrapped with lines) are bolted to Bika’s foredeck. The end of the bowsprit fits in to the steel fitting. It pivots on a large metal pin. This acts as a hinge, allowing the sprit to be folded…
bika heard 28 sailboat nina kristin nilsen henrik nor hansen
….up out of the way.
bika heard 28 sailboat nina kristin nilsen henrik nor hansen sprit against sky
Viewed from below, the bowsprit appears to have as much rigging as the mast

Bika is the couple’s first gaff rigged boat. Their last boat had a more contemporary, three-sided Bermudan sail plan. Gaff rigs and bowsprits, like Bika’s, stand out among contemporary cruising boats. Nina and Henrik are adapting.

Henrik says, “this is a whole different style of sailing for us. Modern boats are designed for speed. This one is not. It is strong. It is heavy. This one is designed to take a beating in heavy weather. It’s a whole new aspect of sailing for us.”

bika heard 28 sailboat nina kristin nilsen henrik nor hansen
Gaffer technology: Bika’s gaff rigged main sail has two wood spars – the boom and the lighter gaff, at the top of the sail. Here, the gaff where it meets the mast. The curved leather piece is called the saddle. It slides up and down the mast, providing a large, shaped surface that won’t dig in to the soft wood mast. It can be lubricated with lanolin to reduce friction.
bika heard 28 sailboat nina kristin nilsen henrik nor hansen
Cat technology: Estern is the ship’s cat. Henrik says, “we love our cat. But not at 5 in the morning when she wants to go out. She is persistent – like a leaf of grass that goes through asphalt.” To keep those last hours of sleep intact, he built Estren this cat door. He says, “it’s not for offshore.”

Nina and Henrik powered their last boat with a small outboard engine. When it died, they sailed without. This appealed them, especially traversing large of the Pacific under sail power alone.

While Bika has an inboard engine, her crew hopes to sail her as much as possible. It’s the pace of life they seek.

“When the wind dies, you just stay out – wait,” say Henrik. “You have to be patient. You have to stand still. Nature comes to your boat. You see the dorado that comes to your fishing line. You see the little fish coming to the shadow of your boat. We have good memories of being becalmed. When the wind comes back, sometimes you get a gale. That’s also something interesting.”

As well as being voyaging sailors, this is a literary couple. Henrik has written four books of poems and three novels. Nina has translated Farley Mowatt’s “The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float” – the story of the author’s adventure aboard a Newfoundland fishing schooner – to Norwegian.

Nina and Henrik look forward to resuming their voyage. They plan to point her bowsprit north by spring. Nina says, “the Chesapeake is where we’ll do our sailing.” “We want to sail to Nova Scotia,” says Henrik. Given how many sea miles they put on their last boat, they’re probably both right.

Posted Thursday January 29, 2015 by Bernie Harberts

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