Jorgen Kjaernes confesses an addiction to the ocean which is why he is never without a yacht. He says his passion for sailing started at an early age and living in a house with a private jetty at the end of the garden, just south of Oslo, Norway, didn’t help his obsession either.
“I had my first boat at the age of eight; an Optimist and then a Flipper Scow, which I raced at the local sailing club. My early days on the water however, I remember vividly, sailing alone punching through the waves out towards the open ocean. Feeling totally connected to the sea and knowing that on the other side was first England and then America. I knew that one day, I would not turn at the lighthouse as I normally did, but would carry straight on!”
Kjaernes’ obsession with sailing continued into his youth with offshore racing. His first real taste of Oysters, however, was when his father swapped his Hallberg Rassy 41 for a new Oyster 46 in 1986. That was where the fun started.
Kjaernes continued: “Three friends from school (Dan Skjelberg, Christen Agerup, and Osmund Skorge) joined me to take the boat directly from Southampton to Mallorca where she was to be moored. In 1986, 46ft was an enormous boat and the prospect of crossing the Bay of Biscay seemed a big challenge. We took exactly ten days to reach Gibraltar and two weeks to Mallorca (total of 1,628 nautical miles) in what we saw as the trip of our lifetime.”
The delivery trip with his father’s yacht was the start of new beginnings for Kjaernes because it paved the way for his own string of Scandinavian yachts including a Sweden Yacht and a Hallberg Rassy. “It was a great way of utilising the often beautiful, but very short Scandinavian summers,” said Kjaernes “but in 2012 I decided to move my base to Mallorca and I started looking for a ‘go everywhere’ yacht that I could keep in Palma. It wasn’t long before I made a decision to order my first Oyster, an Oyster 575, Chione I, which was delivered in 2014.”
After yet another fun delivery trip from Southampton to Palma with his trusted school friends, Kjaernes and his family enjoyed several years of extensive cruising on Chione I in the Mediterranean.
It was however, the announcement of the Oyster 675 in 2016 that marked the ‘end of the road’ for Chione I. Kjaernes continued: “I instantly fell completely in love with the 675 and I think it was a very good salesperson at Oyster who persuaded me [he says laughing].
“I wanted a boat as large and comfortable as possible, and a boat that was built to cross oceans. She seemed to have everything including Oyster’s exceptional attention to detail finish. Also, a trial sail proved that two people could easily operate her, which was exactly what my wife and I were looking for.
“One of the attractions of sailing for my wife and I is that we can enjoy the privacy of being alone together, so we definitely did not want a boat that needed a permanent crew. Everything about the 675 was perfect for us so we placed an order and took delivery last year (2019).”
Commenting on the difference between the 575 and the 675, Kjaernes said: “The 575 was a truly lovely boat but naturally design evolves and significant improvements had trickled through to this newer model which provided enhanced living space and better performance.
The 675 is completely different; more modern, streamlined cockpit and deck layout and generally very sleek. It also has much better access to the water off the platform, which is something that really appealed to me for family cruising.”
The sale of Chione I in late 2017 and handing her over to new owners was an emotional time for the Kjaernes family but with a brand-new boat on order, it was an exciting time too. With plenty of previous yacht-owning experience, Kjaernes was keen to have a bit of input in the design layout including adding hatch access to the lazarette from the bathing platform.
“I had some ideas I wanted to incorporate such as a remodelled chart table area to include book shelves and detailed leather work, plus steps on the cockpit coaming. The lazarette hatch opening from the platform was something I was particularly keen on. I do believe though, that the Oyster 675 layout is quite perfect, so I actually didn’t alter much at all, just tweaked it a bit.”
Chione II was launched on 28 April 2019 and preparations for her delivery trip to Palma began. One of the most exciting aspects of the trip was the fact that the same, original crew of school friends including Dan Skjelberg, Christen Agerup, Osmund Skorge, were keen to relive their last two Kjaernes family Oyster delivery trips. “I couldn’t have wished for a better crew,” said Kjaernes. “Although we’ve had plenty of family favourite days in the Mediterranean, cruising from Gibraltar Sardinia, Corsica, and the Balearics last summer, one of the most fun and memorable I can remember is the delivery trip to Palma, which began on 22 June 2019 from Southampton.
“We slipped our lines at Hamble Point, headed out past the Needles, and sailed along the Channel in the most fantastic sailing weather. We couldn’t have asked for more perfect conditions for our maiden sail because we had a good breeze and a relatively calm sea. We had the Code Zero up and were flying along at 11-13kts, and clocked up 240 miles in the 24-hour period. This was probably one of my most notable sailing experiences, not least because it was in my brand-new yacht.
After Ushant the wind completely died so we had to turn on the motor. The sea was totally flat and we could see for miles. Although the weather was not ideal for sailing, there was no shortage of entertainment. We suddenly spotted at least 10 blowing whales on the horizon. It was so exciting to see them and we feel so fortunate particularly as they passed us quite close by and they seemed very calm and relaxed.”
“The whole trip took a little less than three weeks but we stopped in northern Spain, and cruised the coast of southern Spain as well, so it was a real adventure.”
One other fond memory Kjaernes recalls on his new yacht is the occasion he took his father Nils on a cruise round Mallorca. “He was 87 and suffering from a bit of dementia, but as a sailor, he loved being on board of course.
He loved the excitement of it all, particularly one night while moored in Cala Portals on Mallorca, when the wind piped up to 35kts and we started to drag anchor into the bay.
“Can you believe my father was first on the scene, in his nightgown, and shining like a beacon in the floodlight? We were both on deck trying to tackle the situation and I remember thinking what a hilarious and surreal situation it was. It was great though as he seemed to manage well in a way because sailing was something from the past he could really relate to. It was quite a memorable night.”
Given his varied experiences aboard Chione II so far, Kjaernes was keen to point out some of the Oyster 675’s special features, the features that have made a huge difference in terms of manoeuvring and comfort.
“Having the twin rudders and the stern thrusters make a huge difference because it makes mooring up so much easier. Also, having a stern platform is fantastic. You can sit there, relax and enjoy a sundowner close to the water every evening.”
Looking ahead to 2021, Kjaernes, like most of us, is itching to get back on the water and enjoy a more normal sailing existence. One of the biggest events Kjaernes has already signed up for is the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) next November. “This will be a real family affair and the perfect way to deliver the yacht to the Caribbean for the winter. We are so looking forward to it.”
The Kjaernes family has another long-term cruising plan, which should happen in 2022. Kjaernes continued: “The aim is to sail the boat up the east coast of America to Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, then back to the Med via the UK. This will be a real test but preparations are already well underway.”
In his closing comments, Kjaernes said he would like to offer others who are thinking of commissioning a new Oyster his bit of advice: “It is very important to really listen to your project manager at Oyster and don’t have too many random ideas. I think a lot of Oyster owners who’ve had their boats for a while realise that where they took advice on yacht features/layout, these were not only practical but also well integrated into the overall design.
“Oyster’s staff, especially the project managers, have tons of experience in practical design, so listen to them and trust them, because generally they really do know best.”