The next (and last) Canal
16 August 2018
We had a very benign crossing; a gentle north easterly all the way. The North Sea is a very busy place and we passed close to six oil rigs and gas platforms, all very well lit. We felt fine on approaching Scotland and the timing was good so we decided to bypass Peterhead and carry on into the Moray Firth. Our destination was Buckie; a fishing harbour and one of the few on route with full tidal access. We were at Springs (no moon on the crossing), and most of the harbours had less than the two metres we needed for a safe entry (and exit) around low tide. Our almanac said 'yachts made welcome' and this proved to be true. We called in before entry and were directed to tie up alongside the pilot boat, where the harbourmaster was waiting to meet us and take our lines. We didn't have to worry about long lines ashore and the 4m tide, but we did have a barnacle-encrusted rusty vertical ladder to climb up- a pint and a curry were the incentive! We were very low on deisel so he ran Barrie to the garage in the morning to fill our two jerrycans.
We then left to continue west to Inverness. We knew to expect a headwind- it should have been about 12 knots but soon built to 20 knots, gusting 25. Not good! The sealock into the Caledonian Canal closed at 17.00 and by mid-afternoon it was clear we were not going to make it. Instead we headed for Inverness marina. Barrie began to arrange lines and fenders for our arrival, and noticed we were trailing a tatty nylon line astern - this would not have helped our boat speed as it was wrapped around the prop. So this morning he donned wetsuit, jumped in and hacked it off. The water was a lot colder than in Scandinavia.
We rang the lock keeper to confirm the first lock-in would be at 13.30, once there was enough rise of tide. It was only a mile to go, but what a challenging mile! We had a tight exit from our finger berth, and just as Barrie released our last mooring line the Dolphin tripper boat appeared at the entrance to the marina- I was on the helm and it was full throttle to get us out! We then faced the worst tidal rip we have ever seen, and a F5 crosswind entering the lock. But all went well, thanks to our Gota Canal experience, and we are now in Sealock Marina. We are having at least two nights here, and plan to be tourists in Inverness tomorrow. Phew!
Ready to Cross
11 August 2018 | Ramsland, Lindesnes Peninsula
We hibernated most of yesterday, and were extremely glad to be in probably the most sheltered harbour on Norway’s south coast. The ferries to Denmark were all cancelled. By 5pm the storm had passed and we walked into town under a clear blue sky for a final shop. This morning we set off for Mandal, the next town along the coast, but made good progress and decided to keep going towards Lindesnes, the most southerly headland in Norway. We are tied up just two miles from the tip, at the head of a deep bay. This is an excellent pontoon by an old fish processing station, now a museum. It closed for the season last Sunday! There is an honesty box requesting NEK100, just under £10- well worth it for such a quiet and sheltered spot. We arrived at 3pm and had two hours of frantic activity. I’ve prepped two meals for passage, and Barrie got Yarona ocean ready- bikes away, windvane steering operational, preventers ready to go. We’ve had a delicious dinner of mackerel, a gift from a local fisherman.
So tomorrow we set sail for Scotland. The forecast is good- some calms, mostly easterlies. We might go to Peterhead, or carry on to Buckie, depending on timing and how we’re feeling after 300 miles.
Killing time in Kristiansand
09 August 2018 | Kristiansand
Sunny and Breezy
We had intended to spend a day or two here, but the forecast of gale force winds from early tomorrow morning persuaded us to stay. We’ve spent two nights on the summer guest pontoon, and this morning moved into the inner harbour for better shelter- max length allowed is 45ft, so we just squeezed in.
Kristiansand is the fifth largest town in Norway, which ain't saying much! But it's very pleasant. Norway's oil bonanza appears to be well spent- we are within a short walk of an Olympic size swimming pool, a new library, and a large modern art gallery. Yesterday we had a delightful walk through hilly woods around the peninsular, past several WW2 German gun batteries.
With simple pizzas at £20 and a beer costing £10, there's no temptation to eat out. The excellent fish market however is good value and yesterday we ate well on board, with crab for lunch and monkfish for dinner, accompanied by one of our few remaining bottles of white wine.
Our neighbours in the harbour are French, Dutch and German. The sailing season appears to be over for the locals. The trees are turning, and the kids are back at school.
06 August 2018 | Near Lillisand
Today we actually had to tog up with waterproofs whilst underway, and dry clothes off in the engine room on arrival. Good practice for Scotland! It’s been another motoring day, winding our way between the skerries.
We’ve chosen an anchorage tucked into an island half way to Kristiansand, and the rain stopped soon after we arrived, just in time for lunch. Anchoring was quite a challenge as the depths are over 20 metres to quite close to shore. We nudged in until the depth sounder read 10m and let out 50m of chain, and are happy with where we settled. It’s a very sheltered and beautiful spot, with noisy sheep on the shore.
05 August 2018
We’re treating ourselves and Yarona to a couple of nights in a marina. This is Arendal, one of the largest towns on this stretch of coast. It’s pleasant enough, with a long history of shipbuilding. The white building in the picture is the tallest wooden building in Norway, built for a wealthy merchant in 1815. Moving on to the present, there’s a huge oil platform round the corner, towed in for maintenance. The holiday trade here doesn’t appear to be based on weekend breaks, as nearly everything is closed today, and even the ferries to the islands don’t run!
Norway has really strict Sunday shopping laws. Only small stores can open, so some supermarkets get round this by just opening a corner of the store for basics- very odd, but useful for us today. Just milk, eggs, bread- ship’s stores should last us to Peterhead!
Welcome to Norway!
04 August 2018 | Lyngor
Sunny and Windy
A forecast of a slight break in wind strength, backing to SW, helped us decide to head across to Norway, and we left on Thursday at 3pm after a good lunch. We thought if we headed NW rather than directly across we might be able to sail, but the wind remained stubbornly due W, so we motorsailed at 20 degrees off the wind for the whole 90 mile passage- not comfortable, but manageable. We passed on dinner! It's a myth that Hallberg Rassys don't slam to windward.
We are now hopping down the coast, aiming for about 20 miles a day. There's no rush, as there is no sign of a favourable wind for the passage across the North Sea. We have dozens of anchorages to choose from. This coast is delightful, with good depths and wider passages between the islands, and much less busy than Sweden.
It’s just too busy!
01 August 2018
We're itching to get across to Norway, but it looks as if it could be a few days before we have a favourable wind. So we’re hopping up the west coast of Sweden, which at least means that when we do cross it will be at a narrower part of the Skagerrak, giving us a 60 mile passage.
This is the famous Bohuslän Coast, and I'm sure it's absolutely delightful out of season. But at present it seems as if every family in Gothenburg has a yacht or a fast motorboat, and they're all out on the water. Twenty miles following the leads through the islands and dodging yachts today felt like forty in open water. But we are in yet another delightful sheltered anchorage for the night, and tomorrow's planned hop is a mere twelve miles. There’s loads of food on board, so we’ve not felt any desire to go into the busy towns and packed marinas that we’ve viewed through the binoculars. We're very close to Orust, home of Hallberg Rassy and where Yarona was built.
A bridge too far
30 July 2018 | Björkö
Yesterday we were in the first lock operation of the day, and all went well with no drama until mid afternoon, when we reached the busy Gota Alv Bridge just before the city. We then heard a conversation in English between a German sailor and bridge control: 'the bridge will not open because of the heat; we may be able to open it after tomorrow's rush hour'. I called up on VHF to say we too had a mast over 19m, and was told to call for an update at 09.00.
Nowhere on that industrial stretch of river bank looked very inviting, but we tied up on a newly renovated wharfe next to some marine service units and had a quiet night on board. It was not the sort of neighbourhood you would want to explore. This morning I called up at 08.50 to be told the bridge would be opening at 09.00! We've never untied the mooring lines as fast, and made it through behind the German yacht. The crane in the photo is building the new bridge! Just beyond the bridge was a tempting berth outside the Opera House where another Hallberg Rassy was tied up despite the 'no mooring' signs. We felt we were owed a favour by the City, so we moored up behind them and hit the town. Being a Monday, the galleries and museums were closed, so we had no guilt in just drinking coffee and visiting yet more interior design shops.
We were back on board in time to make it out to the archipelago. The way through the islands was easy- just follow my leader. It's been very busy during daylight hours, but we have a calm anchorage all to ourselves now the sun has set.
It’s not exactly Panama
28 July 2018
The Trollhätte Canal is a different proposition to the Gota. Only about 10k of its 80k length is actually a canal, the rest is the wide Gota Alm river. Further, commercial ships use the canal, about ten a day like this monster, carrying timber. It’s known as a Vollernmax, designed To just fit in the locks. The canal sections bypass rapids in the river. We are tied up for the night near Trollhätten in a small basin just above the staircase of four locks, deep enough to swallow yacht masts. Parallel to the modern locks are two other flights, built in 1800 and 1860, so it’s been an interesting area to explore. In the spirit of the Romantic poets, the landscape is truly sublime.
We haven’t decided yet whether to stop in Gothenburg tomorrow or continue out to the islands. The marina in the city is small and likely to be packed despite costing about £70 a night, which is a bit of a disincentive! We may have to wait for several bridge openings so the timing is hard to predict.
Goodbye Gota Canal
23 July 2018 | Sjötorp
....and goodbye Jane and Jimmie. Our hardworking crew left yesterday, leaving us to go downhill on our own. Fortunately this has proven to be much easier than going up. We managed 16 locks today without any drama. We are now in the small marina in the unpronounceable Sjötorp, with just three locks to go tomorrow to drop down to Lake Vänern, the largest in Europe. Hopefully we will be able to sail, although yet again the forecast wind isn't favourable. We plan to take two or three days to get across, anchoring at islands on the way. And then it's the commercial Trollhätten canal to Goternberg and the sea.
The Swedes on the motorboat behind us are having a lively evening with much laughter- not something we've heard much of the past few weeks. They aren't the most joyous nation we've met in the years we've been sailing around.
After a cloudy day yesterday, today has been sunny and hot hot hot. It's not only Britain that's enjoying a record-breaking summer. The canal has been a fascinating experience, quite unique, especially with a 20m mast, and the scenery has been lovely.
A Tight Fit
17 July 2018 | Motala
Still very hot
Yarona is at the back of the photo, with a small yacht about to squeeze down the side of us. Once in the first lock of the morning, you generally keep with the same group for the day, so we hope for a calm and friendly bunch who know what their doing! Jane took this shot; her job is to slip our lines over the rings ashore, before she finds some shade to hide in.
Barrie went for a run along the canal early yesterday morning. It took him twenty minutes to reach the next marina; it took us three hours in Yarona, and eight locks! At one stage we were looking down onto a large lake to starboard, quite surreal. Despite setting off before 8am, we were given permission to exceed the 5mph speed limit so as to reach Motala for the last railway bridge opening at 6pm.
This is quite a large town on lake Vättern, the first of the large lakes, at 90m above sea level. We had a unanimous vote for a day off!
Yarona’s going Up in the World
15 July 2018 | Berg
Yarona has almost certainly never been as high. We are tied up in the basin at Berg, at the top of this flight of seven locks. Jane and Jimmy joined us two days ago. Barrie and I were on our own for the first two locks at the entrance to the Gota Canal, and were very glad of their arrival- it's hard work, especially in 85 degrees!
The Gota Canal has a short summer season and is manned by students, who must be selected for their calm nature and diplomacy. We came up the staircase with another yacht and two motor boats, and it was a bit of a tight fit. As with many things in life, once we had a system worked out, it got easier. 22 locks done, 36 to go. That gets us to the huge Lake Vänern in the centre of Sweden.
Tarn Hows on Steroids
11 July 2018 | Lilla Rimmö
Hot and Sunny
Leaving the anchorage was easy this morning; we followed our inward track,stored on the chart plotter. Then it was just a case of following one of the 'leads' north. These are suggested routes shown by a line on the chart, a solid line for the major routes, the A roads, and a dotted line for the B roads. Ours today felt like the M1! Half the population of Stockholm seemed to be heading south. The Route was well buoyed, there wasn't enough wind to sail, and the only minor challenge was choosing the correct route.
The islands are low granite and covered in mixed woodland, with a few summer cottages glimpsed through the trees. The landscape reminded us very much of Tarn Hows, and we motored through it for fifteen miles. This isn't Yarona's natural environment; the best boat for round here is either about 32' or a kayak!
We left the hordes behind once we turned west towards the entrance to the Göta Canal. We've anchored just off the lead, and plan an early start tomorrow for the remaining ten miles to Mem, and the first lock. Hopefully we will be the only boat at anchor here tonight.
Anchored in the Archipelago
10 July 2018 | Lilla Kalvholmen
The deisel leak is better, but not cured, and our friends Jane and Jimmy are bring out a new injector pump when they join us on Friday. This was half the price of one from Volvo Penta in Sweden. So we are glad to be sailing again, and are heading north to our rendevous at the start of the Göta Canal.
Yesterday we decided to head out to sea rather than wind our way close to the coast between the islands. We didn't have rocks to worry about, but we did suffer the notorious Baltic short chop as the wind increased from the north east. Apparently the chop is steeper in fresher water. We felt like a pair of nodding dogs on the back shelf of a car. After three hours of this, we were glad to tuck into the islands for a peaceful anchorage. The entrance was narrow but deep; 20 metres under the keel with low isolated rocks just feet away. We crawled in at tick-over speed, and anchored in 10 metres. The smaller boats drop a stern anchor and tie their bow to bolts in the rock face. We are much happier to be swinging free, and will launch the dinghy this afternoon to explore ashore.
04 July 2018 | Västervik
The engine has developed a small deisel leak from the injector pump. Not desperate, and Barrie thinks it is just a matter of replacing some O-Rings. So yesterday we headed back across the sound to the nearest Volvo Penta service centre in Västervik. The wind was still from the north but had reduced to a respectable F4, and we had a fast tippy-tippy sail until it faded completely mid-afternoon.
The town looks very pleasant and the weather is much improved, so although this wasn't on our agenda, things could be worse. The engineer is coming down later this morning, so Barrie has passed the time constructively by baking a cake.
We hope to be away and anchored in an isolated bay out in the archipelago before Saturday's match!
01 July 2018 | Visby
Bright and Breezy. Cold north wind.
Today is the first day of Almedal Week, and its on our doorstep! To quote from the website: ‘Almedalsveckan is Sweden’s, perhaps even the world’s, largest open political venue. Through democracy and openness, the week aims to give everyone who wants to debate social issues the opportunity to do so’. Statistics: 8 days, one for each political party; 40,000 visitors; 4,062 official events; 2,500+ unofficial events.
And this is in a town that feels like Whitby. There were three yachts on the breakwater when we arrived on Thursday, and now there are over thirty, many with owners and crew who are ‘working’, including our neighbours. It feels like a party to which we haven’t been invited! But we plan to wander over to the town later.
Windy in Visby
29 June 2018 | Visby
Cold and Windy
As expected, we're probably here for a few days looking at the forecast. The irony is we motored across yesterday as there wasn't enough wind to sail. We left the anchorage at 6am, and the wind started to blow about 20 minutes before we arrived. We were met at the entrance to the harbour by a member of the marina staff in a rib, and he directed us to take a stern buoy onto the breakwater as the marina basin was full. We have a Lithuanian yacht next to us, the first we've seen- I had to look up their ensign on my App. The wind turned north overnight and reached gale force, waking us both up. The shelter isn't bad but it's got rather choppy!
Visby is lovely, a Hanseatic League city and a UNESCO world heritage site. It's the first hilly place we've been to in Sweden, and this morning we enjoyed a three mile walk around the walls.
Back at anchor
27 June 2018
Öland is very long, very narrow, very flat, and rather boring. The main thing it has going for it is a wealth of Viking remains from 10,000 years ago, including these burial mounds on a stretch of limestone by the shore.
Yesterday the harbourmaster came down to the port, to extract dues from us and about ten mobile homes. So once we arrived back from our cycle to town, we filled up with water and left and motored out half a mile to anchor in the huge bay, just to one side of the dredged entrance channel. Tomorrow we are leaving early for a long passage to Visby on Gotland. It sounds a much more interesting place which is as well. We could be there a while, as the forecast is for very strong wind for a few days.
Tied up- eventually
25 June 2018 | Grankullaviken, Öland
The photo is of last night's beautiful sunset. We were in a pleasant anchorage between rocky islets at the start of the east coast archipelago, and planned to stay a while. But our weak data signal died completely- maybe overwhelmed by the Sweden-Germany match? This morning we therefore decided to move about four miles to an anchorage closer to a small town. Call us shallow, but peace and isolation has its limits!
We were nudging our way in when the depth dropped off suddenly and the rocks got too close, and seemed to be in a slightly different place to where they were shown on our chart. So we lost our nerve and beat a hasty retreat. We decided instead to blast 15 miles across the sound to Öland. Sailing as close to the wind as we could manage took us to a small marina, but the only suitable alongside berth was taken up by a huge motor yacht. Again, another quick reverse was called for. We headed north, reading up on our options on the way.
But third time lucky. We are in an abandoned ferry port at the northern tip of the island, tied bows-to the dock and held off by a stern bouy- the pick up manoeuvre went much better this time. There's a shower block nearby for a mobile home site but we don't have the entrance code, and there's no self-service payment machine so it appears to be free! We may stay a couple of nights.
22 June 2018 | Kalmar, still
The replacement rudder sensor arrived at the local chandlery yesterday, and Barrie spent the day installing it. Hopefully we can now return to lazy sailing, letting the autohelm do most of the work. We have also discovered my problems with berthing here were because the gear selector cable had snapped as I approached the pontoon too fast and slammed the boat into reverse, so replacing that was Barrie's job for today. Our mantra when things break is now 'but at least it didn't happen in Cuba!' There is a free sauna in this marina, and Barrie has a regular 16.30 slot booked, his reward for a hard day's work.
Yesterday was wet, windy and cold, the worst day we've had since leaving Ipswich, so being delayed here was no big deal. Today is a national holiday in Sweden, the closest Friday to midsummer- they call it Midsummer Eve, and for many it is the start of their long summer break. Any parties must be going on in back gardens, because it's a ghost town here.
Tomorrow we continue north and plan to have some chill-out time in a few anchorages. I nearly posted a photo of the new rudder sensor, but these babies visited us today, and are much cuter.