Monday, September 29, 2008

end of the escapade

A steady fresh wind 20 to 25 knots North East pushes us for our last long stretch: 135 miles toward the island of Möen in Denmark. Two reefs in the main sail with the jib make the ride comfortable and the Aries can steer without much protest. Though to reach our goal, we have to sail downwind and to avoid a jibe, we lower the main sail and let the windvane steer under jib only. We still make an honorable 5 knots and the boat does not roll much either. It is a beautiful starry night as the wind decreases and at noon we are in sight of the high sand cliffs of Möen.

A part from the fishing harbor, the village is disappointing. A new ‘’resort style’’ apartments lack the charm of the old houses. We leave early the next day as the wind has died completely. The high pressure finally weakens after 3 weeks of good wind if not perfect weather. We motor the 10 miles to Rodvig and even stop on our way pretending to fish on some banks. It is just a way to enjoy the sun, and may be try to slow the time as we get closer to home port. We are not ready to settle back to the land routine.

Rodvig is an active fishing port and a big pleasure craft harbor too. Danes are found of wooden boats and put a lot of pride in keeping their heritage alive.

Our last stop is Bangör, across Falstebö. I have been there once in February for my first sail with Röde Orm. At this time, the harbor was sleepy, empty. Today it is full and we tie up along an unoccupied steel ketch. To celebrate the end of our little escapade, we have an excellent dinner at the same inn we ate last February.

The wind increased again in the morning, turning west. No need to hurry back, even under jib only, we maintain a good 5 knots downwind. We cannot slow down the time, and finally, as the GPS shows 1650 miles sailed, we tie up at the dock as the wind sweeps the Sound. Next week, rain, clouds and low pressure are coming back. It will be time to think about the next plan and departure.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Archipelago epilogue

lonely harbors and villages

Since the high pressure persists, incredible as it seems, it is predicted to last another week, we decide to linger a bit in Blekinge. Today we will make a stop at Karlskrona to visit the Navy Maritime Museum. We spent 5 hours and as the afternoon ends we set sail for an hour to the island of Arpö where we enjoy a rare beautiful sunset in the cockpit that immediately needed to be celebrated with a glass of dark rum. No chill this evening and I even enjoy a wash in the cockpit. We have fired up once the diesel heater for a few hours. The heater is too big for the boat, and unless it is freezing out, we cannot leave it on at night. We endure without problem 14 Celsius inside. It is not a problem as long as it is not raining or windy. Tonight there is no need for a heater.

We have changed pace the last 2 days and I can enjoy a little more of the scenery. Without the month lost for the engine that would have been the pace: short sails between islands, enjoying the beautiful anchorages. Even if it is blowing outside, the islands and reefs offer much protected anchorages with muddy bottoms up to the shore. And it was gladly appreciated when, because of my carelessness the boat left the mooring buoy by itself. As we came back from our walk, it was quite a surprise to find Röde Orm almost touching the big rocks on the shore… My only half hitch knot on the cleat was not enough of course as no wind pulled the boat to tighten it, it slid and untied itself. We had no difficulty to get out, no harm done, just my pride was hurt as I realized retrospectively how bad it could have been if the boat had ended up on the rocks instead of in the mud. I really felt ashamed and angry at myself for being so careless.

3 little jumps toward 3 last islands In Tärno the sun dares to show up and it is summer again. The little village appears ghostly as its inhabitants have already migrated to the mainland. Häno, 8 miles off shore is the last stop for our jump to Denmark. No more boats around, no more harbor fees. We climb the hill to the lighthouse which can be seen 25 miles at sea. Häno has always been a familiar landmark for all seafaring people, an outpost of the Swedish coast.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

third and last the Belkinge Archipelago

We spent 2 hours getting out of the deep mud, using all our might to avoid calling for help. Stubborn we are both and with common effort reinforced by the power of the brand new Yanmar, we succeeded. The wind is fresh turning east and we sail close haul under a grey sky, characteristic of this very strong high pressure. The barometer is set at 1034 milibars since several days now and seems to hold strong. I have the rapid tour of the archipelago, anchoring to a new place every evening, but on the move the next day. Not much hiking of even going onshore.

We leave the archipelago to sail a long 90 miles straight between the island of Öland and the main land. We have to take advantage of the following winds; the Kalmar Straight can be very stressful with a head wind. We got 2/3 of the straight behind us in one day and we anchor in Kalmar between the industrial harbor and a mighty stern castle. After a short passage the next day we reach Belkinge archipelago and its protected water, a small version of the precedent but less frequented by cruisers because farther from the main cities. We are a hundred miles south and the vegetation is different. The main land has the quiet domesticated landscape of farming country. The greens are softer, some yellow already showing in the leaves. We make a quick stop at Långören, the old pilot station kept in its former state thanks to a private association. Few miles in a dead calm bring us to Senoren where the sun dares to shine and warm us a bit.

Monday, September 15, 2008

archipelago blues...

Harstena and berries hunters

At last, we take some time to walk with Steffan to the village. The little trail winds among the rocks crowned with velvety moss. As we stroll, we pick up berries. It is peaceful; time has stopped as we reach the picturesque tiny village with its houses neatly kept in a very Nordic manner. Now days, it is home for summer vacationers and retired people. I suddenly see myself spending one winter cozily in one of those little red houses writing and meditating. I guess I suffer a bit from the fast pace we have imposed on ourselves. Although we pass through too fast, we are here at a right moment, when the summer crowd has already deserted the islands. The Stockholm Archipelago is more frequented than the Finnish one which is more isolated and seems almost untouched by human hands. We go to a pound where red lilies grow at the end of the village. Standing on the rocks we can see more islands, further we can guess the Baltic Sea clearly agitated by a strong Northeast wind. And that brings us back to reality. Time presses as the favorable wind is strong. We have to get south as much as we can. We leave Steffan after lunch for another little heaven Magnus had discovered during his previous sailing trips. A family of wild swans crosses the narrow channel in front of us. We keep going deeper in the bay, too far though as we softly touch the muddy bottom. Even with full throttle back, we cannot move. There are no tides here, but Magnus remembers that during a high pressure, water recedes and we clearly see the waterline on the rocks…It is getting dark, we set a stern anchor and decide to wait until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

archipelago suite....the Stockholm version

Harstena island, where the two sisters meet

The days are long as we speed down the fairways taking advantage of a 20 knots wind to reach Nynasund where a Yanmar dealer and Magnus parents can be met. His parents are bringing the radar which after repairs has been sent to their home in Gavle, 200 km north of Stockholm.

The mechanic does not see any major problem though says he will need to troubleshoot and won’t be able to do it before a week. It is out of question to wait, but he assured us that it should not be a problem to go on. Being the lightest, I am hoisted to the mizzen mast to reinstall the radar antenna. We spent 2 days with Magnus parents who stayed at a nearby hotel. We enjoyed their company and some nice dinners at a very good local restaurant right in front of the boat bow. But we have
another social rendez-vous. Steffan, who we met already in Götland is heading to Harstena an island 40 miles south of us. He is inviting us for a barbecue. The wind is still strong and the downwind pace is uncomfortable and requires all our attention to avoid a jibe. We want to make it before dark and 5 miles before the entrance of a little channel, we turn on the engine to arrive in a beautiful little bay, another perfect hide out protected by a very narrow passage. The little red sloop (small sister of Röde Orm) is moored bow to the rocks. As soon as we are moored beside her, Steffan does not loose time and prepares his barbecue on the smooth back of a rock which harbor our bowlines. Just one step off and we are around our improvised dinner table enjoying some very nice and tender pork filets. Steffan is a very enjoyable man and we all end up in Röde Orm salon nursing some of Magnus priced malt wiskey.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Åland, a special place (click here..)

Mariehamn marina

Åland, the last big island at the western part of the Finnish archipelago has a special place in both Finland and Swedish history. The last outpost of the groups of islands spanning the gap between Stockholm and Helsinski is considered part of Finland internationally, but has its own government. Alanders are proud of their heritage and work hard to keep their little paradise for themselves. As a result, there is a special charm to it. Mariehamn, the biggest town is very pleasant and a 2 days stop for us. A mechanic is contacted. He is young and totally inexperience in marine diesel engine as he admits it. Nether less, he spends his lunch hour free of charge listening to the beast’s heart and feels sorry he cannot help. He is planning to take a diesel mechanic course this winter. There is a good wind as the big high pressure built up. We cross the 25 miles of open sea between Åland and the first outpost island of the Stockholm archipelago. Despite this high, the weather is miserable, grey, damp. But a very steady and fresh wind propels us at 6\7 knots on a broad reach on a sea that flattened as we enter the protected waters of the other archipelago

Saturday, September 6, 2008

a sample of Nordic archipelago

Jurmö and its tiny village

The sky is grey, but even under this lead color, it is magic. Though, the nice purring of the Yanmar got rough this morning and sounded more like the asthmatic old one. Something is not quite right, no doubts. We definitely have to have it checked as soon as possible. To add to our frustration, the RPM gage stopped to work, then the oil pressure alarm goes on for no reason but to put more stress on us. Despite all that and the drizzle which does not stop, I still enjoy being here. Today we stop at Jurmö, an island Magnus knows from last year, big enough to harbor a tiny village. After tying up at a deserted little marina, we take a long walk looking for berries. Despite the drizzle and grey skies, a high pressure is building up, creating northerly winds all in our favors. We still have a long way to reach Mariehamn, on Äland. We won’t be sightseeing, just passing through. Although I feel like a Japanese tourist on a charter vacation, I experience the exhilarating feeling of freedom, having the liberty to stop or go at will and belonging nowhere than to the red little ketch silently gliding among the islands. As pearls on a string they parade before my eyes charged not only with history of seafaring, Viking raiding, war between neighbors, but also reminisce of last ice age which has carved those rocks, flattened them, rounded them, soften them to smooth shiny harmonious shapes. Not only you have to look out for pleasure, but also have to be very alert as it is a very challenging navigation, as channel markers have to be identified continuously. A detailed chart is a must.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Finland !!

Now we grind our teeth as soon as we have to start the engine... Will it start without too much grumpiness today? It is still very windy as we motor to the marina without any problems. The sun is shining and every thing brightens up, even our mood. Hangör is a very pretty old town, charged with history and it is my first test of the archipelago landscape Magnus told me so much about. I cannot believe I am actually in Finland. Not long ago, Scandinavia seemed so far away, almost inaccessible and remote trapped between ice and sea in my imagination.

How easy can we forget hardship! Yesterday was gloomy and stressful, today we start to relax and enjoy our surroundings. A nice sauna and the company of 2 new friends helped a lot. Mike, a British retired man single hands his boat during summers and Bastian a young German who sails alone his wooden Folkboat in a full Baltic tour. It was a celebration for us as 8 months today have past since we met in Paris. We all ended up in Röde Orm salon for dinner. At least it felt like cruising life again, sharing our passion with other sailors. As Bastian pointed out we were members of 4 different countries gathered in one foreign to all of us tonight.

And here, begins the nicest part as we enter the Finish Archipelago with its numerous channels and fairways leading to thousands islands in a protected sea. I have some flashbacks of landscapes from Canada, Brittany, Maine. But it is not comparable; it is unique and rewarding at last. Magnus feels like home and I feel like an explorer and adventurer again. We anchor tonight between 2 little islands. The Swedish language has a variety of words for all kind of island size and shape. It was a beautiful night under the stars, and perfect for eating the can of ‘’fois gras’’ my mother sent me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

free again....

Lonely Dirhami...

No doubt that Hendrik was doing is best. But being nice, courageous and honest does not replace experience and professionalism.. Obviously he had never installed a new engine and has not worked much on marine engine, except outboards. He knows about theory, but for the rest, he is learning as he goes. It is not something you want to hear from the one you trust installing your brand new expensive engine. So we started to worry about the out coming. It took a ridiculous amount of time. After a month since the old one gave us its last breath, we still do not completely trust the installation. Is the alignment right ? It seems that Hendrik with the help during the last day of an older mechanic had not a clue. The poor thing was vibrating painfully at the first try. It seemed also that the use of a filler gage was not an option until, after discussion, they finally used one. The result was that the engine felt a lot better in its new bed and stopped complaining and shaking. But....
May be it was not the right place after all to have this work done. Although less expensive, the number of competent experienced pleasure boats diesel mechanics is not overwhelming in Estonia. They may built a lot of brand new marinas but the pleasure boat industry is still limited to some foreign boats coming and going during only 2 or 3 months a year.
So finally, the 3 rd of September, we fired up the new beast which purred like a kitten and with much relief saw Dirhami disapeared at the horizon. The wind picked up, the Aries decided to act up too, jealous of all the late attention toward the engine. To help our speed, Magnus put the transmission in reverse and soon realized that the gear level was stucked. As the wind and sea picked up, it was impossible to lift the engine hatch in the cockpit to see what was going on. The old lady got well splashed by a very confused sea as the wind picked up. We suddenly felt stressed and almost doomed with new problems. What is next ? The surrounding of Hangör, first stop in Finland was not welcoming under grey skies and strong wind : lot of rocks, shallows and reefs. We had only one option and just one try at it : anchoring under sail in a semi protected little bay behind the ferry terminal. The maneuver went well and the heavy CQR set on first try. The problem with the gear was solved swiftly but the reason of the failure not quite understood. We spent the night at anchor, too tired to care about the fetch.