Wednesday, August 27, 2008

still waiting for the ''heart transplant''

old heart dismissed...

my backyard...

Lonely Dirhami...

20 days today, 20 days of waiting in Dirham, 20 days of questioning, of feeling low, sometimes depressed and finally accepting the fact that no matter how we take it, things have to follow a certain order, and we do not have any control on it. We just have to trust Hendrik our only link to the outside world !! The old well worn engine have been dismissed on the 21 st, the new one has arrived, but the steel bars where the engine was mounted were so rusty that it was decided to make new ones. That seems to take longer than we thought. We are so isolated here; we can only rely on Hendrik who takes everything back to Tallinn and deals with subcontractors as he says his ''metal partner''. Though Hendrik is a thorough diesel mechanic, he never installed a new engine on a boat, so it is a premiere for him too, and if he is very careful of course everything takes longer than it should. We know that everything will be overlooked and well studied as he does not want to make any mistakes, but it has a draw back: time... Time is money, and time is running short for the rest of our trip and time is also the approach of cooler weather. For me it is not an attractive prospect and that only reminds me of the winter coming and will I be able to take it without feeling too depressed and restless, longing for tropical breeze and outdoors activities and laid back countries away from any fast moving society, back to the marginal life I like? But that will be another story. Trying to make this forced stay a little more enjoyable, I have established my little routine: a short run in the morning in the nice and peaceful pine forest with its endless trails and to crown the day, a yoga session on a soft and odorant moss mat followed by blueberries picking. If the sun is shinning, it is a perfect day after all….


Monday, August 18, 2008

R.I.P, the beast is history....

Hendrik and his little family

No, we did not have a funeral for the beast at the Orthodox church in Tallinn, but instead had a very nice week-end in Tallinn, thanks to Hendrik, our mechanic who invited us to stay at his family home.
Last Friday, the diagnostic was not encouraging, as every little bolts were corroded. A phone call to Finland brought us the news of a 30CV new Yanmar that could be sent here on Tuesday. Still cheaper than in Sweden, it became obvious and logical to switch engines here. So, Magnus took the tough decision. Not only it is a tremendous expense but also that will shorten our little trip in Finland. Although, looking at the brighter side, it will be done and over with for the big departure next spring. Tallinn is a small city for a capital and its old town attracts a lot of tourists coming mostly from the cruise ships docking at the harbour. Already an active town during the medieval era, its history is tangled with Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Germany. During the long drive to Tallinn from Dirham, we were astonished as we saw nothing but pine forests, no villages, no farms. The only farming region is in the south. Estonian economy is in the dark as the country does not produce anything really and that foreign businesses have taken over. Not much money is coming in.., but certainly a lot is going out !! As they entered the European Union, a big help had kicked off the economy, now it is slowing down and Estonian middle class is in jeopardy, struggling, not yet adjusted to this new way of life as they fell in the trap of ultra capitalism. Young educated couple as our new friends do not have an optimistic view of Estonia future. Would it make it or not on its own ? Would it fall under Russian dominance which is always preying on an opening to sea ? With this first true contact with the country, as we absorbed all those informations, as we saw some of the country sight, as we met more people, we feel a certain melancholy, as a gloomy veil that seems to be the country fate.

street in old Tallinn

Friday, August 15, 2008

still operating on the wounded

discussion over the wounded beast

It is the fourth time the mechanic comes. Today, it is in day light... The three first time, he came at 6 pm and worked until 11pm. Although he is reluctant about ''the situation'' of the engine, he is doing a thoroughly overhaul maintenance on the rusty beast. He is very consciencious and stubborn as he wants to investigate the problem. Although he is young he has this old fashion geniune craftman spirit that is mostly gone in the fast moving pace competing societies. As he says ''I am learning every day''. So we hope for the best, but soon or later the old beast will have to be replaced.....

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The waiting...

coming to Dirham under tow 59 12,7' N 23 30,2' E

It has been 10 days since the engine gave up on us, and we are still counting... 10 days is a lot when there is only a month and half left. Hopefully we should have some answers and solutions today. With a 24 years old rusty engine, you have to be ready for the worst ! Even if everything is solved today or tomorrow, that will jeopardize the rest of our little trip which should start to be a lot more interesting. Ironically, this part will have to be shorten quite a bit now.

Ironically too, I started this trip with not one book to read, and now it is torture ! Thinking about finding some English books in the big cities like Riga or Tallin I did not worry much. There is not much to do here beside walking to the little convenient store and buying some Russian beer, or walking in the endless pine forest where I do some yoga to release my energy. There is not much boats coming in now and in general rule, I found that ''cruisers'' do not socialize very much in those waters. Of course being isolated on the lonely big wharf on the other side of the slips does not help too.

So in retrospect, skipping Ventplist, Riga and Tallin was not such a good idea since those cities represent the only interest in those area.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

stucked in Estonia !!

Lethma harbor and trouble.... towed to Dirhami

We had half joked about fleeing Estonia that we found gloomy with its watch towers and unwelcomed shores. The reminiscence of the Soviet era is still strong. We keep reminding ourselves, that it has been only 20 years since those countries got freed from the Soviet boot. During the Soviet era, to go to the islands from the main land, required permission. Some people got shot on Huiimaa Island to set an example, as they were suspected of having some desire to flee the country. No wonder why we found people a bit wary, they are still trapped in the Soviet Education. So when the Yanmar engine refused to start in Lethma, this outpost harbor of a lost island… we thought we were doomed in Estonia!
So yes, to my opinion, the Baltic countries are not the best sailing grounds. The water is too shallow and the coasts too difficult or impossible to approach unless you go to designated harbors and still have to be careful to stay in the channels. The Bight of Riga itself is a challenge. We got some 15 to 20 knots of wind there, so what would have been a good comfortable sailing became a session in a washing machine with very short waves breaking at the top as if the wind was blowing 35 knots and only 4 seconds between them! The average depth is 20 feet. We were glad to get out of this Bight. Without the engine working we could still get out of Lethma and sailed the 24 miles to the mainland where it would be easier for the mechanic to come. It took us 24 hours though since the wind as usual died… We could not get close to the entrance channel at night so we hove to for 4 hours. Then in the morning, the wind veered south, right on the nose. It was impossible to tack in a 60 feet wide channel with dangerous rocks on both sides. We called on VHF the harbor and a boat from the ‘’border patrol’’, the local Coast Guard towed us to the harbor. We felt a little ashamed not to have been able to sail in but that would have required the perfect conditions to do so and after 24 hours trying to get there, it was quite a relief to get in even shamefully towed in. Dirhami is another commercial/pleasure harbor. Though the big wharf seems to fit freighters, it is empty and I doubt if any commercial ship can come in view of the narrow entrance. It is another harbor financed by European funds. A few slips, wide and short, a big wharf in an isolated place again, no villages close by, no fishing boats either. People are nice but mostly distant. There is of course the barrier language as very few people over 30 speak English, like in Lithuania they had to learn Russian. I have found Lithuanian to be a bit warmer and may be the softer and more musical language intonations helped feel so too. Since we do not get close to any villages or towns except for one in Saareema island it is hard to have contacts and see people in their day by day life. It is disconcerting in fact. We have spent time now in Lithuania and Estonia but except for the tiny Rhunu I have the feeling of not having seen much or learned much about the country and its people, beside shallow waters, pine forest and sand coastline and former soviet watch towers!