13 September 2017 | Scappoose, Oregon
Craig & Barbara
We’re back home now, in fact we’ve been home a week and are finally nearing the end of the jet lag symptoms. Time for a wrap-up about our time in Northern Europe.
I last wrote when we arrived at Suffolk Yacht Harbour on the River Orwell, near Ipswich. This is an area of England known as East Anglia, and it definitely has a different flavor from many other parts of the UK. The countryside is flat and mostly agricultural. Short rivers break up the coast there, and they seem to have vastly more water movement from the strong tides than they do from any water flowing from inland. There are plenty of historic and interesting pubs with excellent menus, both for traditional bar food and for more adventurous international dishes.
We had made arrangements in advance for a brief period of moorage at Suffolk Yacht Harbour, followed by a haul-out on the first of September and winter storage on the hard. Yet when we called to say we were arriving, they said they had no space. Ultimately, they were willing to put us at the fuel dock until another slip opened up. So we spent the morning at the fuel dock, jockeying around from time to time to allow boats to tie up to another part of the dock, or worse yet, raft alongside us, passing the fuel hose across our deck. Not the best of situations. Finally in the early afternoon a space became available between M and N docks, in a distant portion of the marina. We sailed there during a relatively high tide and secured ourselves to the portion of the dock that runs alongside the shore.
I mention the tide because we found out that night that there wasn’t enough depth on that dock to accommodate us at the very low tide. This was the lowest tide of the month, a so-called “spring” tide. During the evening we noticed the boat stopped moving. Craig flipped on the depth sounder, and it indicated a depth of 4.9 feet. Our draft (distance the keel dips below the water) is 7.1 feet. We got out onto the dock to have a look, and found that our waterline was about 8 inches above the water. Presumably the other foot and a half of the keel was dug into the mud. I found myself wondering whether we might be so stuck in the mud that suction would pull us underwater when the tide came in. (Of course that’s ridiculous!)
There are huge tides in the River Orwell, much like the inland waters of the Pacific Northwest. While we were there the tidal swing seemed to start at about 12 feet, decreasing to about 7 feet later in the month. One other effect of the huge tides was that as the tide fell, our direct line to any cell phone or wireless signals disappeared. If you wanted to have access to the internet, better wait until high tide!
We spent a busy and interesting week preparing for the haul-out. We needed to completely winterize the boat, pack our bags to go home, and fix some pesky system problems and deck leaks. We also wanted to arrange with the boatyard for work to be done during the winter, and with a local canvas shop to have our dodger (or as they call it, “spray hood”) replaced. The water system was acting up in a number of different ways, and as Craig launched into figuring out what was wrong, many different problems came to light. The water pump was the original one (dating from 2001), but there were many other problems as well. Ultimately he found out that a brass valve had quit working so even when the new pump was installed, the system was still sucking air instead of water. Craig, such a talented engineer, was able to get everything working, although there are touches that will have to be finished up next spring when we return with parts that aren’t very available (or not available at all) in Britain.
On the dock, many people stopped by and asked the usual question (“Did you sail all the way here from America?”). We met many friendly folks, including a nice couple docked adjacent to us, who supplied plenty of information about where the good pubs are, and what sights ought to be seen. We also picked up some lunches and dinners at the yacht club’s restaurant, housed in an old lightship. Food was fairly ordinary, but we certainly met some interesting people there and heard lots of good stories, advice, and (I’m sure) lies of the traditional sort. (That's a photo of the marina at dusk and the Lightship Restaurant at the top of this blog entry.)
We rented a car and refreshed our skills about driving manual transmission with the gear shift to the left of the driver, not to mention driving on the left side of the road. The roundabouts were the most challenging. We’re convinced that they are used as a low-cost alternative to traffic lights, and there seem to be unspoken rules about how to negotiate them. One big roundabout, near the container port of Felixstowe, involved negotiating stoplights at the entrance and each exit. Then there were the single-lane roads with an occasional pull-out. One of these, which we traveled regularly, appeared to be the only route for rush-hour traffic going from the SYH marina to Felixstowe. The English rush-hour drivers seemed a bit perturbed at the extremely cautious Americans…
The boat was hauled out as scheduled on September 1, with a minimum of fuss. We moved off the boat to an Airbnb place in Felixstowe. We continued to work like crazy getting the boat ready for winter storage, including plenty of trips to chandleries, hardware stores, laundries, grocery stores, etc. We’re fairly satisfied with the condition we left the boat in, although there are inevitably plenty of worries when the boat is 5000 miles away. It doesn’t help that with all the hurricane damage in Texas, Florida and the Carribean, we are seeing daily news clips of trashed sailboats.
So, what were some of our broad impressions of the summer we just spent on the boat in Northern Europe? Or put another way, is there any advice we would give to other boaters contemplating a similar trip?
First is the importance of planning. When we first conceived of this trip, “the Baltic Sea” seemed like a reasonable goal for the summer. Our primary desire was to visit Denmark, Sweden and Finland. But in addition, I contemplated going around the edges of the Baltic Sea, including Germany, Poland and the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. We thought we’d be able to visit St. Petersburg, Russia. WRONG! It is a vast area, and even the small chunk we attempted would have benefited from being smaller. Yes, you can get to many places, but don’t you want to enjoy them when you get there? For instance, we only took two “layover days” in transiting the Göta Canal, and those were the most enjoyable days of all. We should have had five or six layover days so that we could have done more than just cruise by all those lovely places.
An issue that affected our whole time there was concern about not overstaying our time in the Schengen zone. (The Schengen Treaty includes more or less the same countries as the EU, with a few additions and subtractions, most notably the UK, which is not in the Schengen zone although it still is – for now – in the EU.) Americans are allowed 90 days in the Schengen countries. There doesn’t seem to be any mechanism whatsoever for extending that period of time.
Knowing that our exit from the Schengen zone would be via the North Sea, we began to worry by mid-summer about whether we would have adverse weather in the North Sea, and how much of our Schengen zone time should be allocated to waiting for a weather window. As it turns out, we allowed 3 days for waiting in Helgoland, Germany, and that was just enough. There was bad weather (wind as much as 39 knots) which prevented us from leaving before we did. But planning for the end of our Schengen time affected our route choices and our decisions to move on sooner than we might otherwise have wanted to.
When we re-enter the Schengen zone next spring, it will be possible they will ask us for proof that we complied with the time limits in 2017. We have passport stamps for the entry, but to prove our exit we’ll have to rely on cash register receipts and our boat’s log book. There were no immigration officers on Helgoland who could have “checked us out” of the Schengen zone.
We spent much more time in marinas during the entire trip than we had expected. In part that was because there were sometimes not good places to anchor, but also there were the excellent marina facilities in so many places and there was the ease of sailing right in and tying up. Many of the bigger, more popular marinas have a young person in a dinghy who is designated as the “host” and who will direct arriving boaters to a particular dock, and who will help with the docking and tie-up in difficult wind conditions.
We have talked about the challenges of nose-to-the-dock mooring with poles or buoys to the stern in previous blogs, but we added some aids that wound up being pretty necessary. We made a fender board out of a 2x10 about 6 feet long, and it was absolutely essential in the locks. In Germany we purchased a kit of two 2” ropes to make rub rails when tied to the slotted toe rail. (All boats should have rub rails!). We sprung for an absolutely amazing device called “Hook N Moor”, a fiberglass pole that extends to 9’ and will pass a line through the eye of a mooring ball. Its mechanical sleight-of-hand is hard to believe; we wound up calling it “the machine”. Because our bow pulpit is not open in the middle like all of the European boats, we usually moored stern-to and occasionally used our fender board as a passarelle.
All marinas we visited have washers and dryers as well as showers and toilets. Many marinas have a sauna in both the men’s and women’s shower facilities. In fact saunas become more universal the closer you get to Finland. Electricity is almost always included in the very reasonable moorage fees, although we did find a couple of marinas that had coin-operated electric meters. The one in Helgoland was particularly problematic: the machine was not emptied over the weekend, and as the coin box got too full, the rejected coins were spit out the coin return slot and right into the drink.
Weather forecasting in the Baltic is excellent, with some of the best coming from Norway’s yr.no website and mobile app. (“Yr” means drizzle in Norwegian). Predictwind.com also provides great wind, wave and rain forecasts. It isn’t always possible to get a cell signal, but it’s amazingly available in most places. (The subject of cell phones, sim cards and mobile hot spots could take an entire blog post or more, and we devoted more time than was reasonable to making sure we had good connectivity. That was a safety matter, but we were also fairly interested in what was going on back home – from politics to hurricanes and wildfires.)
Well, that about wraps up the blog for 2017. We plan to return to Europe next May to continue the adventure. We’ll keep the same notification list going, but do let us know if you’d like to be taken off, or if you have friends who’d like to be put on the list. Best wishes to all!
The North Sea Again
25 August 2017 | Suffolk Yacht Harbour
Barbara & Craig/Sunny & warm
We finished our last blog post in Göteborg, the first big city we had seen in weeks. We connected up with the local Raymarine service center, and they very gamely honored our warranty on some expensive electronic instrumentation (Yay!) Quite a bit of our time in Göteborg was spent on that repair issue, but we also had a chance to explore the city a bit and spend time with Henrik, Tina and their two kids. So nice to have local friends when you're visiting a new city. The family is newly returned from 7 years in Saudi Arabia, and becoming reacquainted with the summer temperatures in a moderate northern climate. (I'm sure winter will be the real challenge for them).
In the GKSS Marina we watched the local sailing life with amusement. There was a class of 6 year olds every day, being indoctrinated in water safety, group marching and the Swedish style of boating. Teens were very fond of going swimming off the swim platform late at night, long after sunset. I know it's summer, but that looked mighty cold to me (Craig says the surface temperature may have gotten up to 68ºF!). We got laundry done in a space with the best view of any laundry room I've ever encountered. We got the refrigerator loaded up and awaited the arrival of our friend, Peter Mitchell, who had offered to help us with the passage to England. We had met Peter in Florida when we unloaded Sequoia off the Merwedegracht this past March. Peter was there helping his brother, Bob with Bob's sailboat which was also aboard the Merwedegracht.
Three big and related questions were very much on our minds: What did the weather hold for the passage to England? Would we be able to get out of the Schengen zone by our drop-dead date of August 21? What was the best route from Göteborg to England? The Schengen question probably requires the most explanation. All the nations of the EU plus a few more, but not including the UK and Ireland entered into a treaty establishing the "Schengen zone". Most non-EU citizens (including Americans) are restricted to 90 days in the Schengen zone. If you overstay your 90 days, it's not clear what the penalty is. It apparently depends upon the country and the mood of the immigration official you're dealing with. But penalties could include a ban on re-entering the Schengen zone for as much as 10 years. So we were strongly motivated to get out by the August 21 deadline. The question of course is what if awful weather prevents you from leaving? Hence our concern with weather and routing.
We considered going around the top of Denmark. We also considered going through the Limfjord which cuts across Denmark using a slow winding route. The route we finally chose was to go south, past Denmark, into Germany, and through the Kiel Canal. Having Denmark and then Germany between us and the North Sea allowed us to avoid (or at least postpone) some very windy conditions. Then we would have an opportunity to wait out any bad weather at the western end of the Kiel Canal.
Peter arrived, and we immediately cast off and headed south for a 24 hour passage. We had lovely weather with light to moderate winds, passed three different beautiful historic tall ships under full sail, and marveled at some of Denmark's beautifully engineered bridges between its islands. We stayed overnight at Nyborg and the next day continued to Holtenau at the east end of the Kiel Canal.
The next day we motored the length of the Kiel Canal to Brunsbuttel, where we had first met Cori & Jens at the beginning of the summer. There was a real traffic jam at Brunsbuttel. (Everyone poised to finish their summer cruise?) It became obvious that we would have to raft onto other boats in what was really a fairly small space. After initially rafting to a large power boat, a space on the dock became available, so we moved over. Not long after that we had three other boats rafted onto us. We took the opportunity to have a restaurant dinner at a Croatian restaurant which sounded interesting. It turned out the maître d' was Pakistani, and quite a charming fellow. Craig wanted to order a hot spicy dish, and the maître d' warned him against the particular one he selected. Turns out the maître d' was right.
The weather reports indicated some strong winds were coming in a day or two. Our choices were to wait at Brunsbuttel (a mob scene), to continue out the Elbe River to Cuxhaven (an unknown quantity), or to go 16 miles out into the "Bight of Germany" to Helgoland and be prepared to wait there. We chose to go out the Brunsbuttel lock and down the Elbe to Cuxhaven. The current flowing out of the Elbe River gave us a strong boost, and it looked like the winds would hold off for hours, so we decided to continue on to Helgoland, a tiny island 16 nm out into the North Sea.
What a different sort of place! It turns out we spent three days there, departing on the last possible day to meet the Schengen rules. In the interim there were some very strong winds and exciting looking seas outside the entrance.
Helgoland is well-known among the Germans as a duty-free zone. Everyday small cruise ships disgorge hordes of German tourists onto the island. Many come equipped with roller-bags which they pack full of liquor. The island has belonged to Denmark, England and Germany in recent history. After World War II, the Brits had the island and used it as a bombing range. Great parts of the island were obliterated, and when it was finally handed back to Germany in 1952, rebuilding had to start from scratch. The island is covered with pre-fab houses and hotels painted bright colors. There were offices selling condos, although I cannot for the life of me imagine why anyone would want to live there. The only vehicles seem to be electric, and bicycles are prohibited (!!!?) The winds are so strong that only the hardiest plants can grow there. There are lots of duty-free shops, but also curio, souvenir shops, restaurants, bakeries, jewelery stores, coffee shops - all for the tourist, apparently. Once the little cruise ships leave in the afternoon, everything shuts down. There are some nice restaurants, and we did find one where we met some other boaters who were in the harbor with us.
The responsibility for the harbor is seemingly divided between the "sea refuge" people, the local sailing club, the "marina" and the SAR (Search and Rescue) folks. Then there was some entirely separate organization that ran the toilets and showers. They charged 1 euro for using the toilet, or 2 euros if you also want to wash your hands. What kind of public health policy does that encourage?
We were tied up to the dock in the "sea refuge" section. It was designed to have rows of boats rafted to each other. We were first tied to a sailboat called the Helgoland Express which was owned and operated by a fellow who runs a sailing school based on the run between Germany and Helgoland. Two other boats were rafted outside us. The Helgoland Express left the day after we got there, and we maneuvered our way directly onto the dock. Soon after there were three boats rafted onto us. Apparently there are times when up to 12 boats are rafted together. There are 7 or 8 spots on the dock where lines of rafted-together boats anchor their rafts. The lines of boats have a hard time staying straight, so the 12th one ties onto a buoy that's out there in the marina just for that purpose. Even so, in the kinds of wind we were having, it seems like it would be very hard on a boat to have 11 other boats pressing against it. I'm sure lots of fenders are being popped when there are that many boats.
On August 20, the winds were very strong (we saw up to 39 knots on the anemometer), but some easing was predicted for the next day. We planned to leave regardless, having in mind our Schengen zone deadline. It turned out that most of the harbor emptied out on the 21st, most heading back toward Germany (having stoked up on cases of wine, liquor and beer). We headed west toward England. I was edging toward seasickness in the big seas, and Craig and Peter very kindly took over most of my duties. Fortunately the seas moderated, and by the next morning, things were much easier (and my incipient seasickness gone).
The North Sea is relatively shallow, and is full of wind farms, oil platforms and lots of ships. We stayed out of the traffic lanes, but had a lot of work dodging fishing boats, wind farms, and the various other obstacles that were out there. I was glad to have prepared food for the passage ahead of time, so there was relatively little work needed to keep the crew well-nourished.
We had originally intended to sail to Portsmouth, and put the boat there for the winter. But while in the Göta canal, we had met an English boater who persuaded us that the East Anglia area would serve our winter storage needs just as well, and at a significantly lower cost and much shorter distance from Germany. So we were headed to Suffolk Yacht Harbour on the Orwell River near Ipswich. The passage was about 300nm, about 2 days, although we had to slow down significantly so that we wouldn't arrive in the pre-dawn hours.
At the mouth of the Orwell River there is a huge container port, and the traffic control contacted us as we approached, directing us toward the path for yachts that had not been immediately obvious to us from the chart. Shortly thereafter two very large container ships exited the port, taking all available space in the deep traffic channel. We continued on to Suffolk Yacht Harbour, where we are now settled for the summer's end prep for having the boat hauled out and placed in a cradle for the winter. Our focus for the next week is cleanup, fixing some pernicious deck leaks, laundry, and making copious notes about what gear we are leaving, and what parts need to be brought back next year.
It feels good to be here, and yet we're sad that our summer's adventures are nearly over. We have logged nearly 4000nm in Sequoia and yet have not seen many of the places we once imagined that we would get to. We will share our broader impressions in the next blog.
From Göta Canal to Göteborg
10 August 2017 | Göteborg
Barbara/warm, sunny and windy
When we first arrived at Motala, the only tie-up available was along the rock quay at the south side of the marina (Gästhamn). On the plus side, there was a children's playground right there; on the negative side, it was a LONG WALK to the Gästhamn services (showers, toilets, laundry, various restaurants).
Cori decided it was an evening for laundry, and she hiked over to the laundry room carrying laundry from all four of us (!) and getting it all into the dryers before midnight. Early the next morning I did the hike to finish the laundry off, and found it to be still quite wet. These European dryers: quite high-tech I guess ("Ekologisk") but they are not vented to the outside. Since the building's fan system was out of order, the laundry room was a real sauna! I am gradually learning about the needs of these machines: in addition to the usual lint filter, there is a condenser and a tank, all three of which have to be emptied after each load. When I first arrived that morning, there was over a quart of water in the tank, all of which suggests that maybe these washers aren't very good with their spin cycle???? Then there is the dryer dial, with various choices in Swedish, including such things as Skjortor 15 and Supersnabb 40. I did my best with my "Google Translate" app, but it doesn't include words like these.
Later that morning, as some of the boats in the Gästhamn moved on, space opened up for us, and we moved the boat to the north side of the harbor. This put Finn in close proximity to a German boat (Fräulein Smilla) with children aboard. The kids were rowing around the harbor in their dinghy, and Finn was quick to join them. They rowed across the channel to where the playground equipment was, spent some time there, and rowed back and forth several time. Finally one of the Canal employees came over and told them they were endangering themselves and others with the Canal traffic going through the area, and needed to quit their dinghy play. They moved ashore, deployed little nets to catch small fish, and explored the area.
This was "crayfish week" in Motala, and Cori told us about the wild crayfish week parties she had seen in Stockholm when she was a student there. Partying like that was not our choice, but we did buy some crayfish at the local market and had a nice dinner. The evening was topped off with a viewing of Wall-E, an animated movie with very little language, so equally entertaining for Finn (who, at age 6, has not much English yet).
The next morning we headed west across Lake Vättern to Karlsborg. Lake Vättern is the first of two big central-Sweden lakes. Motala to Karlsborg is a short-distance passage (17 nautical miles), unlike the Lake Vänern passage, 64 nautical miles (an all-day trip). We arrived in Karlsborg in the early afternoon, and were able to get a side-tie berth. Later that day, Fräulein Smilla arrived and Finn was able to have another play session with the German kids. We invited the family over for a potluck dinner that evening. Cori went to the store with my ingredient list for enchiladas, and we were able to put together a nice dinner, with the table folded down to banquet mode. Lots of good conversation and a fun time for the kids.
The refrigerator/freezer has been getting crankier and crankier, with the necessity for Craig to do a lot of mechanical and electrical tweaking to make it continue on. We knew that some replacement parts had arrived in Göteborg, so we decided that I would take the train there the next day while Craig & Cori took the boat to the next stop beyond. That decision made it necessary that both stops be convenient to a bus or train line, making a one-day round trip to Göteborg relatively easy. We picked Vassbacken for the first stop after Karlsborg, which (according to Google maps) appeared to have an early morning bus connection to the train in Töreboda on the main north-south line.
On the way to Vassbacken, we passed through the highest altitude lock of the Canal at Forsvik. Forsvik was the last lock we would pass through which would take us up in elevation. After that it would be all downhill. Cori had walked ahead to have a look at the lock. She came back and warned us that the walls of the lock were not smooth stone like all previous locks. Instead, the walls were native stone, with sharp protruberances--potentially very damaging to the boat if we didn't have all the fenders positioned correctly. This lock had been blasted through with dynamite, whereas (apparently) all the previous locks had simply been dug down with picks and shovels and then lined with granite blocks.
We made it through the Forsvik lock satisfactorily, and there followed a narrow section of the canal through an alpine wilderness. This could have been a stream in the Cascades, with beautiful forests all around, an occasional patch of blooming heather, birch trees and an occasional hawk. Every so often there was a wide spot designated for boats coming in opposite directions to pass each other.
Before long we entered Lake Viken, which reminded us both of Echo Lake in the Sierras. The difference was that the channel through the lake was often bordered by wide rock walls - a former tow path for horses to take barges through the lake. We were both really taken by the beauty in this spot. There have been many beautiful stretches in the Göta Canal, but this one really tops them all. If we were ever tempted to have a summer house in Sweden, this might be where we'd look.
After Lake Viken, we went through our first "down" lock. The experience is amazingly different. On the way up, you have to work hard to hold the boat against the cascades of water coming at the boat. On the way down, the water flows out the bottom of the lock and it's not difficult to hold the boat in position, letting the line out a little at a time as the water goes down. At least that first down lock wasn't difficult...
We stopped for the night at Vassbacken as planned. Finn was thrilled when the little dog, Tuffay, showed up on his boat (actually Lennart & Linnea's boat, but who counts the adults when you're a little kid...?) Then a bit later, Fräulein Smilla with Finn's German-speaking friends arrived and Finn's joy was complete. That evening we joined up with a group of people trapping crayfish in the canal. They were having a good success and planned a big feast for the next night. They very kindly gave us a few cooked crayfish the next morning, which we enjoyed very much that evening. (See photo of Finn with those crayfish at the top of this post -- Thanks to Cornelia Kosyna for letting me use this image).
I had discovered with some dismay that Google Maps hadn't distinguished between Sunday and weekdays. The bus I thought I was going to catch to Töreboda didn't actually come on Sundays. We scrambled around and found a fellow who was willing to drive me there in the morning, and I successfully caught the train to Göteborg. Tina and daughter Emily were waiting for me with all the boat parts, and we had a nice lunch together at the botanical garden near the train station. It was nice catching up with the Olsson family's move back to Sweden from Saudi Arabia. Such an interesting life they lead! Tina helped me negotiate the Swedish Railway's customer service system and get refunds for the three extra tickets I had managed to purchase in error when the boat computer (and then the phone app) had choked the previous night.
I returned north by train, arriving in Lyrestad, as planned, at about 5 pm. Sequoia had just pulled in there. Craig and Cori had some horrifying stories about what had transpired since leaving Vassbacken that morning. The winds were quite strong and gusty, and with only two able-bodied adults aboard, they were unable to control the boat as it entered one of the locks, intending to tie up to the port wall. Despite their efforts, and the efforts of several people ashore, the boat blew across the lock and slammed into the rock wall on the starboard side. All the fenders were deployed on the port side, so our starboard hull now has more battle scars than it did before. I'm quite glad I was not there to witness these events, although perhaps I could have made a difference? More hands? Not surprisingly, Craig and Cori were exhausted and after our dinner of crayfish, we all went off to bed.
Cori and Finn had planned to finish their time with us the next day at Lyrestad, taking the same train south to Göteborg that I had taken north. But after consideration of the day's difficulties and the forecast for more strong winds, Cori decided to stay with us to the end of the canal at Sjötorp. We were very grateful that she had the flexibility to change their trip and help us out for that last bit. Cori is, without a doubt, far stronger and more flexible than I am, and we have been very grateful for her help.
As we continued west from Lyrestad, the day was windy, but not as bad as the previous day. One of the lessons learned is that locks situated in valleys or forests are generally out of the wind, but locks in flat agricultural areas can have strong side winds affecting the handling of boats in locks. It appeared that most of the locks that day would be protected by forests. (During this trip we have made a lot of use of Google Earth, or satellite view, as well as Google images, to get a sense of what a place looks like before we get there. Now we were using it to scope out the forests and fields adjacent to locks.) We navigated several locks successfully, but we also had to wait about an hour for traffic coming the other way. It was a good chance to wander along the tow path, notice the wildflowers and ripening berries, and see a few charming Swedish summer homes, as well as watch some other poor fools navigate the locks.
We arrived at Sjötorp without incident, had a nice lunch together, and then saw Cori and Finn off on the bus for a long journey home to Prague.
Craig and I decided to continue on out of the Göta canal and into Lake Vänern, finding an anchorage for the night. Thus we could get an early start on the 64 miles across the lake to the entrance of the Trollhätte Canal. The last lock was very windy, so I got a taste of Craig and Cori's experiences of the previous day. But we made it, without damage and headed to the island of Torsö, where we were able to find an anchorage for the night.
As much as I have loved the passage through the Göta canal, I felt a real sense of liberation to be in open water again. I have often said that the scariest part of sailing is the docking. In terms of boat maneuvering, we had just completed 58 locks, and each involved at least one docking. So in retrospect, it's no surprise to find that open water was liberating.
There is a group of islands in Lake Vänern, just a few miles from Sjötorp. We found an anchorage there and spent a quiet evening doing boat chores, reading and just enjoying the solitude. The next day we crossed Lake Vänern and entered the Trollhätte Canal. We had made good time crossing the lake, so we began the journey down the canal, passing through one lock and then continuing to the city of Trollhätten, where we found a tie-up for the night. This canal is quite different from the Göta Canal - for one thing, there is still commercial cargo traffic in the Trollhätte Canal, not just pleasure boats and passenger tours as in the Göta Canal. So the locks are bigger and the canal is wider. At the City of Trollhätten, they have preserved sections of predecessor canals - the original locks were built in 1800, there were 1830-ish locks that are much like the Göta Canal's locks, and there are, of course, the most modern 1918 locks.
The next morning we prepared to lock through the remaining big locks of the Trollhätte Canal. The locks open for pleasure boats at 9 am, but they insisted on waiting until about 9:40 so that three other sailboats could catch up and go through the lock with us. The rain started at 9 am on the dot, and continued unrelenting for the next four hours. I will tell you that when you are handling sopping wet lines through four lockages, the best foul weather gear in the world will not keep the water from running down your sleeves (as you reach up to grab a line) and then across the back of your neck. We should have been wearing wet suits!
The five sailboats were together all day, jockeying for position in the locks, helping each other out with tie-up difficulties, and waiting for bridges together. With all the delays, we didn't get into our slip in Göteborg until about 8 pm. There was 15 knots of wind, so we experienced considerable difficulty getting Sequoia secured in her pole berth. (Have I mentioned that I HATE pole berths?)
But here we are, in a very friendly place. The third boat this summer we've seen with an American flag is across the dock from us (a Swedish/American dual citizen who lives here but chooses to fly his American flag). We've had interesting conversations with him about politics, boats and cruising. A number of other people have come by with friendly greetings.
Today begins repair work on a few equipment problems as well as the planning and preparations to put the boat up on the hard for the winter. In between time we hope to find a few hours to see Göteborg and our former exchange student, Henrik who lives near here with his family.
03 August 2017 | Motala, Sweden
Barbara/cloudy but warm
Wow, I’ve let 10 days go by since our last blog post, and so much has happened. We are now about half way across Sweden (traveling east to west), using the Göta Canal and the network of central Sweden lakes. Last time I wrote, we were entering the Stockholm archipelago – such a distance and such a change of scenery from then to now!
Our first stop in the archipelago was Stämmarsund, a small harbor with space for perhaps three boats. By the evening, there were 7 or 8 boats – 4 or 5 of them were rafted together, like the petals of a daisy around the end of the dock. Right next to the public dock was the ferry dock. We watched the ferry come and go at least twice during that afternoon and evening. The passengers stand on the concrete quay, rotate a sign to indicate they want to board, and the ferry noses right up to the quay, stopping no more than 30 seconds for the passengers to board through an opening in the bow of the boat.
A fellow from one of the other boats told Craig that the harbormaster was up in the yellow house, where there is also a restaurant. Fern and I decided to go up, pay for moorage, and find out about the restaurant. It turned out we missed the part of the description where the fellow had pointed the direction of “the yellow house”. So yellow is one of the favorite Swedish colors for summer houses (second only to red). We could see one yellow house from the dock, so we headed to it. The path was somewhat overgrown (I was thinking this is unlikely for a restaurant) but we headed to the front door, which was standing open. A dog started barking at us, and the dog awoke the woman who was asleep in the living room. Needless to say, this was not the harbormaster. However, she pointed south toward what she said was “the yellow house.”
It turns out of course that there were three yellow houses in a row, and the harbormaster/restaurant was in the third one. Fortunately Fern and I decided to keep walking until we saw the restaurant sign.
That evening we all headed up to the restaurant for dinner. It was a simple menu, but of course at breathtakingly high prices. We arrived there at about the same time as a party of about 30 (family reunion?) Fortunately it turned out they had pre-ordered so there wasn’t the crush on the kitchen we had feared.
The next day we decided to head for Sandhamn which was a good location for Mark and Fern to catch a ferry back to Stockholm to continue with the land portion of their European trip. The book said that there are 350 guest berths at Sandhamn, so it seemed like we ought to be able to find space. Of course it turned out that the reason there are 350 berths is because there is that much demand. We arrived at midday, and there were about 8 boats circling around the narrow approach channel. There was a young man in a gästhamn dinghy, attempting to find slips for all the boats. In the wind it was a lot of work to avoid the other boats. The young man, clearly quite desperate, finally assigned us a slip. As we’ve experienced in the past, there is an expectation that every sailboat our size will have bow thrusters. We do not. Therefore, getting to the assigned slip was an impossibility. We all looked at each other and agreed to go on and find another island with a ferry connection to the mainland.
We looked at charts, guides and the ferry schedule, and settled on the island of Namdö where there were several good anchoring possibilities, plus a good ferry connection. There was lots of traffic through the islands, but only a few boats anchored at Namdö. We passed by the ferry landing to make sure it would be possible to land Mark and Fern there (it would be), and then found a nice anchorage nearby. We settled in, had a nice dinner on the boat and watched what would be Mark & Fern’s last session with one of the “Jeeves and Wooster” episodes we’ve been watching.
The next morning we were able to dock at Namdöböte at a ferry landing much like the one we had seen at Stämmarsund. Mark and Fern reported to us later that morning that they had successfully caught the ferry and were heading toward the land-based attractions they had lined up for the rest of their Baltic trip.
We headed toward Nynäshamn (we had stopped there on the way north) and once again enjoyed the smoked salmon dinner at one of their shoreside restaurants. From there it was on to Oxelösund, one day away from the entrance to the Göta canal. Oxelösund is a town that is quite industrialized, without some of the historical sites and tourist attractions that draw the crowds in other places. So the marina tries extra hard, with high quality facilities (best laundry we’ve seen so far) and some services not offered elsewhere (bikes to borrow for free and a free bus to the center of town). All at a lower price than most other marinas. We had heard about the nice Oxelösund facilities from another boater in Nynäshamn, so obviously word of their low prices and nice facilities is spreading.
Cori Kosyna and her 6 year old son Finn came to us by train and bus in Oxelösund. They would spend the next 12 days with us, including much of the transit of the Göta canal. We pushed off the next morning, and were at Mem, entrance to the canal, by midday. After registering and receiving our tags, stickers and access cards, we entered the first lock. Cori and Finn have been through the Göta canal before, so they were able to offer good advice about how to do it. We’ve been learning gradually; we’ve now done 37 locks and are getting a bit better at it.
The first section of the canal, from Mem to Söderköping included only three locks over the space of three miles. The lock tenders are enthusiastic young people, all in yellow shirts, dark blue shorts and life vests, shoulder radios and carrying a bright orange control for their particular lock. Many are experienced and can offer good advice to newbie lock users like us. Others are learning on the job.
Söderköping is a delightful town up against a cliff. The canal runs along the base of the cliff, and the town lies to the south. There are charming old streets and squares and a medieval church with a separate wooden bell tower standing alongside. We found a restaurant in the main square that was charming and made delicious food. After he ate, Finn ran laps around the square. I guess he doesn’t get enough exercise on the boat! After dinner we found an old fashioned Swedish phone booth (no longer equipped with any phone). Craig and Finn pantomimed phone calls in the booth (see photo accompanying this blog post).
The canal is seemingly the main attraction for the thousands of tourists who come by bus and car to the town. At first we tied up at one end of town where the only tourist traffic was the walkers who wanted to hike a section of the canal’s tow path. But later we moved to a better berth nearer the center of town, and those thousands of tourists walked right past our boat. At least a hundred of them asked if we had sailed all the way from America. (Perhaps I exaggerate, but not by much.)
We hiked up the cliff on the south side of Söderköping – 305 steps up to the viewpoint, which did indeed offer a spectacular view. We considered standing in line for an ice cream cone at the famous stand (the attendant at the gas dock in Oxelösund had told us we must do that – “best thing in Söderköping”), and obviously hundreds of tourists had heard similar advice because the line was more than a block long. The owner of one of the restaurants in town came around to each boat to talk up the tapas, gins and tonics at his restaurant. The owner of another restaurant – who turned out to be an American who had last operated a restaurant in Everett, Washington – came around to find out about the American boat (we still have seen only two other boats with an American flag). His visit was very timely, because we had just discovered that our refrigerator/freezer had seemingly bit the dust, and he was able to offer us advice about refrigeration technicians in the area, as well as a good helping of ice out of his restaurant’s ice machine.
Cori, Finn and I set out for the grocery store to see if anyone was selling block ice (they weren’t) or even several bags of cube ice (which we did find). By the next morning, Craig was able to determine that the source of the problem was a faulty relay, and eventually he was able to devise a work-around that involves removing or replacing the fuse several times a day and occasionally hitting the control box. (Craig’s a very clever engineer. I don’t ask, I just do. It seems to work.) We now have some replacement relays coming, thanks to Chip Gardes who found them on Craig’s electronics bench at home and is mailing them to us, c/o Henrik & Tina Olsson, whom we we will be visiting in Göteborg about a week from now. (Long supply pipeline!) (Henrik and Tina are also serving as our maildrop for some rigging parts from England, a shower repair kit from the US – via our son, Ian and former exchange student Jürg Buschor – and more relays from Poland.) (Thanks to everyone assisting our supply pipeline!)
Nick, the American restaurant owner in Söderköping who helped us with the ice, warned that there would be loud reggae music from his canal-front restaurant that night. He said that usually, on reggae nights, people are 10 or 20 deep in a circle around the restaurant, which would likely put them all the way back across the boardwalk to our boat. Fortunately there weren’t quite as many listeners as he had predicted, and things did quiet down by 11 pm. (The reggae musicians were quite good, by the way.)
We continued along the canal, transiting locks and bridges. We began to see dates carved into the stone lip of the lock – at first we saw 1826, then as we traveled westward the dates were earlier and earlier. Yesterday we saw 1818. (We have learned that the canal was constructed from west to east, hence the earlier dates on the western side.) Somehow I find these date stones to be so impressive – to think that something constructed 200 years ago, a fairly sophisticated infrastructure, is still in use, by us, today.
There are many bridges along the route. Some are major roads, and others are little-used byways. When we approach each bridge, there is a traffic light telling us whether to stop (blinking red; they don’t see us yet) or slow way down (blinking red and white – they have seen us but are not ready for us) or go (green). They watch the bridges through cameras and we only rarely see an actual bridge tender. But nearly every bridge, and nearly every lock has a lock tender or bridge tender’s house, usually well-maintained and charming, with the name of the lock or bridge prominently displayed on the house. We asked one of the lock tenders whether she got to live in the house. Her response: “I wish!”
The day we left Söderköping, one of the lock tenders told us there was a nice place to pull over for lunch, just after a bridge up the way called Snöfvelstorp (I can’t say that name without laughing!) We decided to do that, but before we got to the wall, we were aground. The keel was sunk deep into the muddy bottom. We looked over at the bridge tender’s booth, and amazingly enough there was movement in there. Cori said the guy was legs in the air, standing on his head or doing yoga poses perhaps. Once we saw the top part of him we started waving. He came over and offered his sympathy. He radioed back along the path we had come and found a boat willing to give us a tow. We decided to have lunch anyway, 4 feet away from the wall, stuck in the mud. After lunch, Craig made a new effort to break us loose with the motor at full throttle, and was finally successful. The boat willing to tow us was just coming into sight and we struck up a friendship with those folks after that.
As we continued up the canal, subsequent lock tenders knew us as the American boat that had gone aground at Snöfvelstorp. We did learn that this section of the canal is suffering from low water this year. One lock tender told us that in the six weeks she had been on the job she had experienced only 20 minutes of rain. They were no longer allowing the big passenger tour boats to transit that portion of the canal. We didn’t see any of the tour boats, in fact, until we got to Borensburg, where two of them were docked and taking on passengers. They are impressively huge, with at least three decks. It was hard for us to imagine how they could get through the locks, although we have now seen that they do.
The most famous flight of locks on the Göta canal is the set of 7 consecutive locks called Bergs Slussen. The set of locks is approached from Lake Roxen and can be seen from a long distance away, stepping up the hill. It is here that we found about the true athletic nature of transiting locks. They assign boats to ascend together based on how they will best fit into a lock. Our particular group consisted of Sequoia, a smaller sailboat and a small Gota canal charter boat. The charter boat was being rented by a Norwegian family including two small children who had become good friends of Finn’s. They did not share a common language but they had fun dipping nets for fish in the canal and running up and down the docks laughing hilariously.
The smaller sailboat was skippered by a man with limited experience and his completely inexperienced partner. I cannot catalog for you all the mistakes they made, although some of them did get corrected as we worked our way up the flight of locks. The challenge in the locks is that water from the upper lock gate comes furiously at the boat from several directions. The boats are jostled around and are constantly in danger of banging into each other and into the walls of the lock. Each boat is supposed to have lines run to rings on the lock edge to control the boat’s movement. Sometimes the boat is too heavy to control manually and winches must be used. (We always use winches on Sequoia’s lock lines, but Sequoia is one of the larger and heavier boats on the canal). The lock master and the skipper of a boat don’t necessarily agree as to how a boat should be handled. The skipper of one boat certainly does not agree with how the boat next to him is being handled. The inexperienced skipper in the small sailboat next to us certainly did not agree with how we were handling our boat, and he didn’t hesitate to let us know.
So in addition to the physical work of handling the lines to control the boat’s motion, there is the emotional work of dealing with the people on the adjacent boats. When you go through a flight of seven locks, you repeat the same experience seven times. The boats leave each lock and enter the next one in exactly the same order, with none of the previous lock’s problems solved. We arrived at the top of the seven locks absolutely wrung out. Then our fender board got caught in a lock gate, snapped off, and we left it floating in the lock. Fortunately, those very nice Norwegian folk in the Göta Canal charter boat were able to capture the wounded fender board and give it back to us.
We found a berth in the basin at the top of the locks and spent the rest of the day unwinding. We even decided to get a late start in the morning, giving Craig a chance to repair the fender board so we could continue to use it to protect our boat from the stone walls of the locks.
Well the late start was a mistake! The basin at the top of the Bergs Slussar turned out to be home base for at least two passenger tour boats. The tour boats have some sort of god-like priority over any other boat. They make a reservation for a particular time slot in a lock (something we can’t do), and everybody get out of their way! We got in line for the next two double locks (four locks total) at 11 am, and we didn’t move into the first lock until at least 2 pm. After getting out of the fourth lock they told us we’d have to wait at a dock alongside the canal because the fifth lock (a mile ahead) had priority passenger boats coming and going. We were to move to the next dock as soon as it become available when the boats at that dock finally moved into the lock. It was an opportunity for all of us to go swimming and cool down from the heat of the day.
By the time we got out of the next lock, it was 5:15 pm. The lock tender told us that there was an opening bridge at Ljung 45 minutes ahead. They close the whole system down at 6 pm, so we had to find a place to tie up for the night before the Ljung bridge. The one designated marina we passed had no space, and then there were miles and miles of beautiful canal with nowhere to tie up. We finally pulled in to a dock shortly before the Ljung bridge and spent the night there. Whew. Another exhausting day: 5 locks, 7 hours, and only four miles. We could have walked it much faster!
We were accompanied through that day by a Swedish boat named Vera-Linnea. Aboard that boat was a small dog named Tuffay (I’m sure that’s NOT the spelling). The owners, Lennart and Linnea, explained that Tuffay means “tough guy” in Swedish. Finn became best friends with Tuffay, running him all around the locks on a leash, throwing things for him to retrieve and cuddling or petting him. Finn was quite distraught each time Tuffay’s boat appeared to go off in a different direction or at a different time. But we always ended up together, cooperating pretty well on our lock-throughs (the two boats are big enough that there is no room for a third boat in the lock).
Vera-Linnea also tied up at the dock before the Ljung bridge, and Finn was able to get in some good dog time. The dock apparently belonged to a “Musiehut” or big museum, which may have housed nautical stuff or farm equipment – hard to tell. Signs proclaimed “free entrance” and “cafe” but everything was closed when we were there. That evening was a gorgeous sunset – a peaceful ending to our short-distance day.
We are now in Motala, and have decreed for ourselves a day of rest. We’ll see what there is to see here, stock the refrigerator (still limping along), and get our communications with the outside world (including this blog post) done.
With apologies for this extra-long blog post, we wish you the best, and hope your summer is as fun and interesting as ours!
23 July 2017 | Stämmarsund, Sweden
Barbara/warm and sunny
This morning we sailed back from the Åland Islands toward the Stockholm archipelago in Sweden. We had a great time in Åland, accompanied by Mark Downing and Fern Elledge, friends from Portland who came over for this part of our trip.
Five days ago, we left Stockholm, dodging cruise ships, ferries and hot-doggers to wind our way through the intricate channels that weave out from Stockholm for miles before reaching the Baltic Sea. Mark was looking for castles, so we enjoyed the views of Vaxholm Castle midway through our trip. Shortly after that the interesting sight was several granite islands with skeletons of dead trees and a very large colony of big black birds. We wondered what may have killed the trees and what kind of bird was inhabiting them, but we have no answers as yet.
We were headed for an anchorage Craig had picked out of one of the cruising guides for the Stockholm archipelago. Unfortunately about 15 other boats were headed for the same place. We got ourselves satisfactorily anchored, but someone else came in and anchored too close, and Craig wasn’t happy with that, so we pulled the anchor up and moved 50 feet to another location. It was a warm sunny afternoon, and we spent a few hours in individual pursuits: reading, napping, painting (Mark) and playing cello (me). At about 5:00 in the afternoon, Fern noticed that we were getting closer to the rocks and we decided the anchor was dragging. Unfortunately, before we could do anything about it, we were solidly aground on an underwater rock. A Dutch boater yelled, unhelpfully, “There’s a rock over there...” (He apparently didn’t realize we were already aground). We looked around for another boater with a dinghy who might be able to help us kedge out a second anchor. We did find a Swedish fellow, interrupting his dinner prep, and he came right over in his dinghy. He and Mark carried our big Fortress anchor out about 200 feet and dropped it into the water. He managed to get Mark back to Sequoia just as his timer went off, signaling his boiling pasta was now ready.
Using the windlass, we pulled on the Fortress anchor’s line and managed to get the boat turned 90 degrees, but that was it. We weren’t moving any further. And in the Baltic Sea there is no tide, so we can’t expect the water to come in and lift us off. We finally concluded we needed some professional help, and another boater provided us with a phone number for the Sea Rescue service. While we were waiting for them to come, Craig decided to pull in our main anchor (the one that had originally dragged). Amazingly, doing that somehow pulled us off the rock. We talked to Sea Rescue again and told them we didn’t need their help after all. We motored carefully out of the crowded anchorage and decided to find a dock to tie up for the night.
A mile or so further on, we found the Hogmarsö guest harbor, described in the cruising guide as having all the necessary facilities. It was dusk when we got there, so we just tied up, got our dinner, and went to bed, figuring we’d check in and pay for the moorage in the morning. The dock had the smallest mooring rings we’d ever seen, and you would seriously doubt your safety if the wind blew very hard. No electricity on the docks, although obviously there once had been electricity – you could see the old wires and junction boxes dangling down in the water. Probably the strangest thing about the harbor was the collection of weird boats tied up there. Number one in that collection was a giant metal Chinese-style dragon at the bow of a three-story building mounted on a big barge, and labeled as some sort of Asian restaurant. It was obvious from its state of disrepair that it was not an operating business, but I must say, arriving at the harbor with the dragon looming out of the dusk was somewhat bizarre.
The next morning I found a fellow ashore who explained that this was a boatyard, primarily repairing old working boats, although he himself was a sail rigger who used the space. He said the owner of the shipyard (if we had questions) was a man named Hasse. (Our sailmaker at home is Carol Hasse of Port Townsend sails – wondering if that’s a common last name, or perhaps they’re related?) The harbor has no guest facilities except for the old docks, and there is no charge for tying up. They were hoping we would patronize their restaurant, little cafe and grocery store. None of those were open yet, and we were anxious to get on our way to Åland.
We had about 8 miles more to go through the islands before we reached the Baltic Sea proper, then about 40 miles across the Gulf of Bothnia to reach Mariehamn, the capital of Åland. (Åland is a semi-autonomous part of Finland, but most of the people in this group of islands speak Swedish.) There was a brisk wind and we had a very nice sail all the way into the Mariehamn harbor. A young man in the guest harbor dinghy came out to greet us, and told us the only spot available was an upwind space at the north end of the harbor. The mooring method here is getting a line strung through a buoy on the way into the space and then slowing down enough to not crash into the dock. Even worse, each buoy in this marina was shared by 2 or 3 boats. In the strong winds, given our inexperience with this mooring method, we elected to find an anchorage instead.
The young man in the dinghy directed us to the nearest good anchorage, and we were able to settle successfully there. The anchorage was just across from the monstrous landing area for ferries and cruise ships. These ferries, which are as big as a cruise ship, use the space between the anchorage and the dock as a turning basin. Several times during the evening and night we heard the rumble of big engines, relatively close by, and we looked out the ports to see the giant ferries spinning half a circle.
The next morning the winds were gone, and we easily moved to the marina. Many boats leave marinas early in the morning, and in the crowded days of the high season, that’s the best time to come in. We found a space next to a Finnish-flagged boat. The owner came over to catch our lines, and afterwards told us that he and his family were just in the process of moving back to Finland after three years in Salt Lake City. They were living on their boat while waiting for the shipping container with all their possessions to arrive. While living in the states, they had come back to Finland every summer to go sailing, but otherwise enjoyed their time in the States very much.
As always, we met many interesting people on the docks. A bright red boat was named Red Roo, and turned out to be Australian. The couple had traveled to France, bought the boat there, and were sailing it home over a period of several years. This is their year to be in the Baltic.
The Mariehamn marina is called ÅSS (pronounced “Oss”) which which stands for Åland Sailing Club. Their club is very active, with several classes of dinghy racing every day and big parties on weekends. The facilities are very nice (including saunas adjacent to the shower rooms). Quite obviously the income from the summer boating visitors helps fund their operations.
Mariehamn the town is quite different from other Scandinavian cities we have visited. The streets are wide and tree-lined, calling to mind some Midwest American cities. Many of the houses appear to be 100 to 150 years old, with stone foundations. The favored colors seem to be red, yellow or grey. We walked toward the grocery store, getting waylaid by a cafe in a historic church’s community hall. The shy but charming young man tending the tables was primarily serving Fika, with excellent coffee and sumptuous pastries, but we were also able to get sandwiches and call it lunch. The hall itself was interesting, heavily protected from winter weather with a radiator under each window, thick walls and old fashioned double-paned windows (no vacuum between the panes, simply two separate windows separated by about 3 inches of air).
We rented a car that afternoon, and headed to the northwest corner of the island, a town called Eckerö. The Lonely Planet advised that a particular restaurant there, overlooking a harbor, was a good bet. It turned out that the harbor was jam-packed with visiting yachts, and they were all in the restaurant. There was an estimated 1½ hour wait for seating. We walked around the interesting marina, which consisted of a boardwalk pinned to the glaciated granite rocks of the shoreline, with an endless row of boats tied to stern buoys, nosed up to the boardwalk. In appearance the inlet was more like a mountain lake, with short-needled pines and huckleberry-type shrubs above the rocks.
We could see another restaurant in the distance, across the water, so we drove up there and found the “Bistro” of what was called a “Resort and Conference Center”, but appeared to actually be an elegant campground. It had the feel of a summer camp, with a white sand beach in front of the Bistro, people swimming with inflatable pool toys and small boats available for patrons’ use. We ordered pizza and salads and enjoyed looking out at the beautiful scenery.
The next morning we packed a lunch and set out for Kastelhamn, Åland’s only castle. Castles are always fun to visit, and there appear to be many different methods and degrees of restoration. This one was nice, in part because it had lots of signs in English, and in part because it clearly described the different periods of the castle’s use and how the structure changed over the centuries. There were guides taking groups around, but none speaking English. We learned about Swedish, Finnish and Russian history, and about witch trials that had taken place there in the early seventeenth century.
After we had our picnic lunch, we toured Jan Karls-gården, an open air museum of historic buildings from around Åland. (See photo at the top of this blog article). There were three windmills (“pole mills”), and the brochure explained that historically every farm had a windmill. There was also a “splash mill” set up to operate a grain grinding operation using just the water from a small creek. We saw farm houses for different levels of wealth, stables, a sauna, a boathouse and a foundry. We learned more about the midsommar pole which we have seen in several places. Typically they are as tall as a civic flagpole, and have a sun, a circle of sailboats sailing around the pole, a puppet figure who flaps his arms, cross beams with colorful crowns of fabric and a network of (now-brown) greenery. All these elements are symbolic of prosperity, fertility, favorable winds, and I’m sure other elements I’ve forgotten already. Apparently the midsommar poles are erected on the eve of the summer solstice and stay in place until just before midsommar the following year.
We returned the rental car, and did our laundry that night and planned to depart yesterday morning. Before our departure I walked to buy a few more groceries, and just above the marina saw the start of an American car show. The Scandinavians generally, and perhaps the Ålanders in particular seem to love American cars from the fifties. All this summer we have seen here and there gigantic tail-finned Cadillacs and other American luxury car brands (especially convertibles) plying the streets, especially on the weekends. There had seemed to be more than a few here in Åland, including an Edsel parked on the street above the marina. For this show, they had 30 or 40 old American cars lined up. You could see them all, plus buy souvenirs in the booths, for 5 euros. I certainly didn’t want to pay for that, but it was interesting looking from afar. Somewhat distressingly, some of the booths were decorated with big Confederate flags. Perhaps they have no idea.
I bypassed the grocery store for the Saturday morning farmers market and picked up a big box of wild blueberries. The young man tending that booth said the berries had been picked the day before in forestland near the Castle we had visited.
We headed for the southernmost anchorage in the Åland archipelago, Rödhamn. We elected to anchor away from the crowded dock, and managed to find a place in a little bay with no other boats. On shore we could see there was a nice sauna and above it a summer house. Toward the end of the day some people arrived in a small boat, tied up to a dock on the other side of the sauna and proceeded to split wood, kindle a fire for the sauna, draw buckets of water out of the bay and set out chairs on the deck. They went up to the summer house for a bit, presumably waiting for the sauna to heat up, and we went below for our own dinner of Mexican/Swedish enchiladas.
This morning we pulled up the anchor at Rödhamn and sailed gently across the Gulf of Bothnia back toward Sweden. It’s been a delightful interlude in our trip, and I’m definitely adding Åland to the list of places I’d like to come back to sometime.
18 July 2017 | Navishamn Marina, Stockholm, Sweden
Barbara/warm, sunny and windy
The time is passing so quickly, and there are many places we wanted to go, but just not enough time to make them happen. We are in Stockholm now, and it's clear that one could spend several weeks here and just begin to scratch the surface. But today we are leaving, heading for the Åland Islands in Finland.
Let me back up a little bit. I last wrote when we were in Västervik, surrounded by reminders that Björn Ulvaeus (ABBA) was a beloved local hero. We left there headed for an island anchorage to be determined. It was a lovely passage through the Swedish southern archipelago. This could be the San Juans or the Canadian Gulf Islands. Great swaths of glaciated granite push up from the water, topped with twisted trees or sometimes whole forests. In the San Juans the red-barked trees are madrona (arbutus); here they are a variety of pine. Most of the boats (whether sail or motor) will nose right up to the granite shore, throw out a stern anchor a short distance, and then tie on to a tree or ring on shore. You climb off the bow right onto the shore, so you don't need a dinghy. There are no tides to speak of here, and this is just the way it is done. But Craig tends to worry about whether the anchor is sufficiently set, and what happens if a wind comes up from the stern and pushes you right onto shore. So I think there's no risk we'll ever do the "nosing up to the shore" thing. We'll anchor out and inflate our dinghy when and if there is a need.
While in Västervik we had managed to acquire a cruising guide to the southern archipelago. This is not the one the sardonic British cruiser/writer had referred to as "the Bible", but it does have excellent chartlets and aerial (drone?) photos of all possible anchorages on sunny days. It is breathtakingly expensive, but having gotten ourselves here, we decided to bite the bullet and buy the guide. All the descriptions, of course are in Swedish. I've downloaded the Google Translate app for Swedish, and in theory you can point your phone's camera at a page of Swedish, and it will show you the page translated into English. But Google Translate certainly hasn't heard of most nautical words, and what tends to come up is a lot of gibberish. (I have found it useful, though for translating labels on packages of food in the grocery store - "Cold smoked salmon" - YES!!)
But I digress - Using the new book, we chose an anchorage named Gubbö kupa. It was very much like many Pacific Northwest anchorages, a horseshoe bay protected from three sides, and room for a lot of boats. We were fortunate there was only one other boat that wanted to anchor. We spent a quiet evening there, enjoyed another beautiful sunset and slept well, before setting off again in the morning for Nynäshamn.
The Finns who had given us some destination advice back in Västervik had been enthusiastic about Nynäshamn. We found it to be a mixed bag. The pleasure boat harbor is right next to the ferry landings. There seem to be three or four monstrous ferries that land there regularly. There are acres of concrete lanes for cars and trucks to wait for transport to Gotland and other destinations. All the people waiting for ferries wander into the area next to the marina, where dozens of small shops are deployed to catch their attention. Plenty of ice cream stands and hamburger spots. Next to the docks is a walkway thronged by sunburned tourists eating cotton candy and towing tired children. But on the plus side we found an excellent "Smokehouse" restaurant featuring some of the best smoked salmon we've had in quite some time. We liked the meal so much that we went next door to their shop and bought a couple of big pieces to put in the refrigerator.
I walked up into town and found a phone store that was finally able to sell us the necessary sim card and top-up voucher to enable us to download podcasts, keep up with the latest news (oh horrors!) and watch Steven Colbert. Not to mention catching up on email or facebook and posting to our blog!
We ended up tied to a very long dock (very far from the showers) which proved to be a good promenade destination for people waiting for ferries. Many people walked by and asked the usual question, "Did you sail all the way here?" I got into conversation with one Finnish fellow who wanted me to know, in no uncertain terms, that he thought Michelle Obama should run for President next time, and that she'd be sure to win. I told him I was pretty sure she didn't want to do that, and that even if she did, it might be a very ugly contest with no certain outcome. He didn't believe me.
From Nynäshamn it was two days to Stockholm. We anchored the first night at a lovely anchorage near Dalarö, where we were all alone but for one sailboat nosed up to one of the shores. Again we watched a peaceful sunset. I can never resist taking photographs. Back home the sunsets come and go pretty quickly, but here they last forever. I run up to take the first picture, and it keeps getting better and better. It's a good thing I'm not wasting film, but only electrons.
As we approached Stockholm, the channels got narrower and more complex (more rocks and other things to avoid) and the traffic got heavier. We began to see more and more small ferries. We passed an old stone fort in the middle of a channel, which was just opposite an island of dead trees covered with thousands of big birds. It felt as though there must be a story involving the fort, the dead trees and the birds. Perhaps an Ingmar Bergman film?
The entry to Stockholm was through a narrow channel called Baggensstaket. The entrance is invisible until you're on top of it. It swings into a narrow, relatively shallow channel lined with sailing clubs and millionaire homes. Big elaborately decorated houses have little matching boat houses. The gardens are gorgeous. The channel passes an extensive park that turns out to be a cemetery. A ferry full of tourists seems to command the entire channel, and we veer off into a wider spot to let him pass. After some time the channel widens out into a lake and then narrows again. The cliffs on either side are higher and the docks have long staircases going up to the elaborate houses. The wealth on display is frankly jaw-dropping.
Finally we exit into the main channel, and there the traffic is thick and requires a lot of attention. We had debated about which marina to enter, and as it turns out we headed into the first of the close-to-downtown marinas, called Navishamn. The harbormaster came out to meet us in his dinghy and then, before getting or giving any information, raced off, saying "follow me." The slip he led us to was impossible to enter without bow-thrusters (which we don't have) and we quickly cut away. There were no other available slips, so we opted for an outside side-tie. Everyone warned us it would be awful. The waves from passing ships, ferries and hot rodders were enormous, so it was a very rocky place to tie up. The boat would slam up against the dock, squeezing up a fountain of water that would splash across the dock and all over the boat. We put up with it for the afternoon, and in the evening things calmed down. The next morning we were able to get into a slip further back towards the shore. It's still pretty rocky, but better than that first afternoon.
Across the big channel here is the sea wall where the giant cruise ships tie up. They are three-at-a-time, each of them carrying thousands of tourists. They stay only a day or less, and the next day are replaced by new ones. We are here on the island of Djurgården, with dozens of museums within walking distance. A tram runs by the gate of the marina and takes us to the downtown of a newer part of the city, and to ferry, bus and train connections to all other parts of Stockholm.
Here in the marina there are more nationalities than we have seen in most other places. Plenty of boats, of course, from Sweden, Finland and Germany, but here we saw our first American boat (other than ourselves). We also saw boats from Poland and Spain, and one flying the Welsh flag. On the hill above the marina (just on the other side of the tram stop) is the very large Italian embassy. We've had many conversations with the folks who stop by and ask whether we sailed all the way here from Oregon. An American woman and her Swedish husband stopped by and offered much helpful advice about where we might find a good boatyard in the Gothenburg area, should we decide to winter the boat over in that area.
Last night a Finnish single-hander ("Uka" --spelled Yka) came in to the dock and Craig helped him with the lines. Uka came over after he had settled, and joined us in the cheese course of our dinner. (We've been collecting different cheeses as we travel, and sometimes we'll start dinner with a taste test of the latest acquisitions.) Uka had lots of good advice to offer about our next destination, the Åland islands. He says the people there speak Swedish, and would rather be part of Sweden, but due to long-standing political reluctance, remain a part of Finland. They've been allowed, though, to have their own semi-autonomous zone, along with a different flag.
The day after we arrived in Stockholm we were joined by friends Mark Downing and Fern Elledge. With them we have explored many interesting sights in Stockholm, including the old city in Gamla Stan, the Vasa museum and the Skansen historical park. We took a small but crowded ferry across the water to Gamla Stan, the very oldest part of the city. There are wonderful narrow alleys, 17th century buildings of an amazing variety, with beautiful and sometimes odd architectural details. Lots of restaurants spill onto the narrow streets with outside seating. Many stores and galleries look tempting, but most were closed. We happened upon a band concert in front of the Nobel museum and spent a delightful few minutes listening. Yesterday we went to the Saluhall, a public market, for supplies. It's delightful, upscale, and full of small trendy restaurants. We bought some take-out and sat in a big church yard, watching the people. Stockholm is a wonderful city, and one could easily spend weeks here. But prices are high and other destinations beckon, so we are headed northeast today to the Finnish islands of Åland.
Best wishes to all!
Craig & Barbara Johnston