The history about Hemmingodden

Our vision for Hemmingodden is to be a place filled with life, warmth and great experiences! A place where activity harmonizes with peace, safety and satisfaction. Hemmingodden will give you memories for life and a strong desire to return! We want to be something more than just run of the mill accommodation, and provide something more than what is usually associated with  “rorbu” accommodation  in Lofoten.

The people, their smiles and the warm hosts are our most important building blocks to succeed in creating a good experience. We want to be welcoming and accommodating, thus complementing our wonderful surroundings and facilities.

We will share our knowledge, be pleasant and service-minded. The host with a glint in his eya will spread joy and harmony among guests, staff and locals visiting Hemmingodden. If this is your experience with us, then we have done what we set out to do!

The story

Oluf Nilsen (b. 1919) grew up with his grandparents in Kobbosen between Ballstad and Gravdal. He became independent early on and wanted to become a full-time fisherman. At that time, it was common to combine fishing in the winter with farming the rest of the year. Oluf bought his first boat at the age of 16. In 1975 he bought M / K “Grunnbøen” together with his son Harald. This was his fifth boat.  After many years as a fishermen, always delivering their fish to the fish buyer, they wanted to make themselves independent of the buyers and to develop their own business. In 1980, they began to explore the possibilities.

The squire of Ballstad, Jentoft, offered to sell them Hemmingodden, a small headland on Ballstadøya (the island of Ballstad), in return Oluf and Harald would deliver the catch they would not be using themselves to the squire’s company, Rolf Jentoft AS. This seemed like a relatively good deal, so in 1981 they bought the property.

At that time there were many “rorbuer” (fishermen’s cabins)  placed around the headland. A number of these cabins between what we today call “Kokkbua” and “Brygga” were about to collapse, and there was a large stone mound where the driveway into Hemmingodden is today.

On top of the mound there were several rorbuer  including the “Hemmeligbua” (the “secret cabin), which is what the children called it. These rorbuer were all  demolished with the exception of the “Garnsjåen”, which was moved to Hattvika. The cabin know as “Spøkelsesbua” (the haunted cabin) by the children, is the present day “Langbua” and is still there. We are now planning to move this cabin to a more central position on the property in order to create a new reception and bar with casual dining.

The stone mound was demolished and racks for drying fish were erected. Eventually more ground was needed for the fish production. The extension to the pier was built in 1994, with a new “egnerbu” (cabin for baiting the hooks on longline) and a separate saltery where they could salt fish and roe.

The fish production was mostly handled by Harald and Oluf, but when needed it, they received good help from the children and their friends. Many children and teens from Ballstad had their first work experience while helping Oluf and Harald.

Oluf and Harald were highly skilled, so the dried stockfish they produced was of excellent quality! Oluf prided himself in delivering a good quality product, so he cleaned every single fish by hand, so that it would be able to dry properly. It was possible to do this a the time due to the limited volume of the catch.

Trond-Ketil took a year off from school in 1988 and worked with his father and his grandfather on the fish farm. He received the fish, prepared it for hanging and hung it. In addition he threaded and hung the fish heads on the racks. Real hard “Lofot” work which gave him excellent work experience for later in life.

Anne, Oluf’s wife and Trond-Ketil’s grandmother, worked as a cook for the crew. She made sure the fisherman received good home cooked meals every day. The crew worked long days. When they finally landed the fish, it had to be gutted, prepared and delivered. Some of the catch also went to feeding the hungry men, whose dinners consisted largely of different types of fish – both fresh and salted. Wednesdays, however,  were reserved for meat dishes, and on Saturdays the crew mostly feasted on Anne’s delicious pancakes. Dessert usually consisted of “melkesuppe” – a milky soup-like pudding with rice grits, macaroni or sago. The crew  were always well fed. Important for weary fisherman! After the day’s work and dinner they headed home to relax and sleep a little – before they were to return at 4am for a new working day. A hard life!

Anne and Oluf often took responsibility for the young boys on their first trip out as fisherman up the coast to Finmark – often no older than 15.  The boy’s parents were not always happy about their children’s wish to join the fisherman, but when they could be with Anne and Oluf, they usually approved. They trusted Anne and Oluf and knew that they were experienced and kind people, and that they were going to take good care of the boys.

Lotte, Harald’s wife and Trond-Ketils mother, ran the rental of the “rorbuer” (fishing cabins) for many years. At that time, the rorbuer didn’t have names, but numbers on the doors. Lotte prided herself in making sure the guests enjoyed themselves at Hemmingodden, and she did not like taking a high price for the rentals. If they were fully booked it was not uncommon for her to offer guests accommodation in her private residence. She had guests from many countries and even though she could  only speak a little English,  they always managed to communicate with  sign language or body language and a good laugh.

Lotte stepped in as cook when Anne retired. When Harald took over the operation of the boat – “Grunnbøen”, Lotte often joined as cook when they went fishing off the coast of Finnmark.

When the boat went north, the families of the crew always stood on the quay, waved goodbye and wished them well. The children used to play and balance on the quayside, and worried mothers shouted at them to get them to to come off the edge, but to no avail.

None of them knew for certain when or if the fisherman would return, so a sensitive and solemn farewell was taken each time, laced with the hope that they would catch lots of fish and make good money. This would come in handy for newly established homes and families.

Unfortunately, at that time, accidents often occurred with boats and crews out at sea, but fortunately we have not experienced any major accidents. Everyone has returned from fishing trips in good order and this always made for wonderful homecomings!

It is funny to think that the children of Ballstad actually were given time off school when their fathers came home from fishing in Finnmark. It was very big day when they arrived home, and there were always gifts to be given. It was like Christmas Eve! Gifts, a day off school, and you got to be with your father again – nothing could beat that!

After spending 20 years in  banking Trond-Ketil has now returned to Ballstad – as fisherman and developer of  Hemmingodden. It is great to come home and work  as father and son on both sides of the business and this somehow feels as though the family has now come full circle.