Monthly Archives: June 2015

First onboard Team SCA

Sun 28th June

The lego SCA boat
The lego SCA boat

WP_20150628_13_02_41_ProWith all the racing over, the boats were going to be opened to the public and we had a plan of action to make sure we would get onboard Team SCA. So we got the ferry over at 0830 over to the Race village and there was no security – so we were practically the first in the village and first in the queue for visiting the boats. Several people tried to queue jump and Mags gave them her fiercest teacher’s stare and some firm advice as to where the back of the queue was. (Please note that no children were harmed in this process – though some came close!).

We were first onto Team SCA – which was great because we actually got longer than other groups and it was before they were jaded. It was very well done with each boat having 5 on at a time and a member of the crew.

The coffee grinders from where you can control al the winches
The coffee grinders from where you can control al the winches

WP_20150628_09_17_21_Pro Sally (who was a driver, trimmer and tactician for the in port races ) was our guide and we asked her lots of questions. She explained the workings of the deck and the winches. The size of the winches and the weight of the sail packs that they regularly moved makes you realise how physical the race must be.WP_20150628_09_25_14_Pro

Sally describes life below decks
Sally describes life below decks

Then she took us down below. The first thing you notice is how dark it is down below as all the surfaces are the matt black of the carbon fibre that it is constructed from and then the smell…. Even though it has been scrubbed.

The nav station
The nav station

Below is a mixture of the very high tech electronics and very basic systems, all of which are exposed for easy maintenance. Being on board was such a highlight and we are still buzzing from the experience. DSC_0012Today was our day to explore the village which is very well laid out and it is clear by its construction it is a very slick operation as it is designed to be moved easily from port to port. The containers give you a clue as to how it packs down, even the race helicopter fits into one. The village had 3 excellent exhibitions. One is about the legends of former races and where are they today and it tells the story of all former boats and all the crews. I have had 2 friends that have done the Whitbread as it was called then and it was great to see their names up: Sarah Davies and Nick Bate.

The Galley on Team SCA
The Galley on Team SCA

The second was a dome with different films showing about the history of the race. Originally there were supposed to be 8 teams and so 8 boats were made but the 8th failed to raise all the sponsorship necessary to enter so they have cut one boat in half from bow to stern and so you can see all the systems, which is fascinating.WP_20150628_09_26_15_Pro All too soon it was time to leave the Race Village – we felt sad to leave as we had followed the highs and lows of the team ( from the comfort of our house) culminating with being part of their final stop over. I cant begin to imagine what it must be like for Team SCA when they leave on the 1st July having been together for 2 years and having completed such a challenging race……… I just hope there are women in the next VOR.

The Final In Port Race

Sat 27th Jun

Bizarrely the ferry didn’t start running til an hour after the village opened and more importantly it would mean that we would miss the crew parade to the boats. So we went in via the main entrance – and bumped into the Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Godmother to Team SCA’s boat….. good to see that we aren’t the only ones to have a boat Godmother!

A quick stop at the SCA stand and we picked up some more Team SCA freebie’s this time some sun visors.

It was clear that today there were going to be a lot more people and the crowds were definitely turning more magenta. The Team SCA shop was doing a roaring trade which at one point meant they had to have a queue just to get into the shop.

We found a place opposite the boats and waited for the crew to arrive in the team parade. By now the crowds so several people deep, I happened to be standing next to a friend of Libby’s which was nice to get a bit more detail about the behind the scenes activities. The crew arrived, Kyle – Carolijn son had clearly become accustomed to the crowds and was happily waving at everyone!

The crews had a few additions to their ranks: Mapfre had the former Juan Carlos King of Spain and Team SCA Princess Victoria and her body guards.

DSC_0128Once on board, boats left in order to their boat songs and we headed down to find a place on the grandstand. At the beginning of the day it looked like there would be no race, as only 4 knots of wind had been predicted – but despite it being incredible light there was enough wind to get the boats moving. The boats sailed passed the stand and Brunel did a crowd pleasing sail past but most motored to further down river to put up their sails.

The race was electric and we watched it over the large screen as the race course was further out into the harbour. Every time SCA did a great move- be it the start or rounding a mark the magenta crowd roared with appreciation. At one point Liz was up the mast trying to flick the top battens over as they were bent the wrong way and you could feel the crowd pushing with her. By the last leg Brunel had secured a comfortable lead followed by Team SCA and then Mapfre gave Alvimedic a lesson in match racing.

DSC_0148The sea of Magenta went wild when the girls secure a magnificent second place which saw them climb onto the podium for a third place in the overall in port race series.

Each boat docked in reverse order of the overall results with their boat song blasting away. The girls looked (deservedly) ecstatic and there were lots of group hugs having completed the VOR. DSC_0169Once docked Dee, Sara, Libby and Elodie grabbed Sam the Skipper and threw her into the Harbour – at which point Sam started doing synchronised swimming (apparently a sport from her school days) to the rest of ‘Wake me Up when it’s all over’ their boat theme tune. She was lifted out of the water and was interviewed by the Race Village MC Jo Pickard.

DSC_0185We beetled our way thought the crowd and found a spot near the presentation stage – close enough to be able to see some action but safe enough from the champagne that gets liberally sprayed for each prize. Team SCA were up twice – once for the second place in the in Port Race and once for the Magnus Olsson Award for their win of leg 8 in recognition of his favorite saying – Never Give Up – and they were worthy winners.

DSC_0379Dinner was far more successful and we discover a fantastic restaurant – and we treated ourselves to the tasting menu – 8 courses later we rolled home not able to eat another mouthful.

Our Magenta Weekend

Friday 25th

Ok so not strictly our adventures in Carra – but it was in Sweden and was very boaty – so in our minds that counts…..

From the moment we stepped off the plane in Gothenburg, it was clear that the weekend was going to be a magenta (not pink) one as we were greeting by a 5m tall picture of Abby from Team SCA. We detoured via the hotel which was a converted ship, to leave our luggage before getting the ferry across the river to Race Village. Both of us felt excited to be seeing the boats for real as opposed on a computer screen, as we had been following the race every morning and night for the last 9 months.

DSC_0146All seven identical boats were lined up in order of finish in the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR). Soon the shore crew arrived and off came the mail sail cover revealing the massive mainsail whose worn and faded appearance gave a hint of the 40000 miles it had seen to this point. Slowly the familiar faces of the crew came down to the dock, having seen them every day for months you felt you knew them – albeit in electronic stalker sort of way.

DSC_0087

DSC_0093Today was the ProAm race in the river and with a good breeze and the sun shining – we were in for some spectacular sailing. They weren’t actually racing but sailing up and down the river alongside the Race village and from the grand stand we had a superb view. The footage on the computer gives you no idea how big these racing machines are – and in a relatively steady breeze of about 15 knots – these boats just accelerated through the water with their J1s set. Some were taking it easy with their J2 deployed.

DSC_0084Whilst we were in the stand Mags was asked if she was part of the crew of Team SCA – when we were sailing round Britain she was asked if she was Ellen MacArthur…. Clearly there is something she is not telling me!

DSC_0054After about an hour they returned to the dock and their very lucky guests left. By now there was a definite magenta tinge to the village and it was clear that Team SCA where in their home port. Whilst you weren’t allowed on the dock, the boats were no more than 10m from the public walk way and with limited crowds because it wasn’t the weekend it was easy to get some good photos.

DSC_0012We sussed out the village and Mags went on a mission to get various freebies for friends that weren’t able to attend: which included calendars, jigsaws, pins, flags, and stickers. Also we discovered the stand which had free ice cream- we were a frequent visitor to that one!

DSC_0141Dinner was less successful, it ranks as the worse meal in terms of service we have ever had – having to wait 2 hours for our meal and given that the starter was nachos …. Needless to say I refused to pay the slightly discounted bill the head waiter offered us – and we left paying a lot less than they had the cheek to ask for.

Tied to a Rock

21st June

The procession of boats that had left on Friday were clearly all returning back to their marinas and we seemed to be the only ones going against the flow. Hopefully this would mean that our next stop would be fairly empty. We motored into a gentle breeze and about 2 hours after leaving Sandon we arrived at Trasko Stora. It had several places to moor against the rock and if we chickened out we could always anchor in the middle.

WP_20150621_14_00_38_Pro_editedFirst we needed to decide where to go, there was one spot which looked perfect which had recently been vacated by a motor boat. Our first attempt was less successful and we had to pull away just about 2m from the rock as I hadn’t quite judged that the wind would blow our bow off – so we reversed, up came the anchor and we started the process again – at least it kept the locals entertained. The second time around we were successful and Mags stepped onto the steep rocky shore with a line which she tied to a tree and she then  hammered  a stone hook into a crevice to secure the second line. We feel like we have now passed the Swedish initiation test – mooring onto a rock.

It was a tranquil spot and the sun came out and was actually hot enough for shorts. After lunch we tried to explore the Island but without crampons we weren’t going to get very far. So we retreated to the boat, just as a single hander sailed into the anchorage and moored on the rock next to us effortlessly… it was very impressive. It will be a while before we are that proficient – if ever!

WP_20150621_19_28_07_ProMags had her usual afternoon zizz and I cleaned the boat. I went ashore to take some photos and ended up talking to the single hander – who shared his top recommendations for places to visit in the Archipelago.

Dinner in the cockpit – without the cockpit tent ( a first this year) rounded off by a beautiful evening sky.

A Floating Bastu

20th June

WP_20150620_13_11_37_ProWe awoke to the steady drumming of rain on the deck, which wasn’t conducive to going sailing. Plus there was next to no wind so it was a rather lazy start to the day, breakfast in the cockpit – 3 cheers for the cockpit tent. We watched the optimist ‘match racing’- well drifting to be precise. It is fantastic to see how the island is set up – it has a 4 little Oppies for kids of the club to sail. By lunch time the rain had stopped and finally the sun came out.

WP_20150620_13_19_53_ProWe explored the other half of the island – which was covered in blueberry bushes which will be ready for picking in about a month or so. We were just watching the world go by when the Club Captain came by to talk to us – so we now have a good understanding of how the Island functions. He also gave us some good advice –stay out of anything marked blue on the chart unless you are mooring. We have certainly landed on out feet when we picked the marina – particularly as when we put our names down on the waiting list we had no idea about the club’s island.

WP_20150620_13_31_49_ProThe Bastu or Sauna like in Finland is a great tradition. There is private one on the island but the common one is floating, which is a clever way of avoiding the building regulations which prevents any new building within 300m of the shore. Our British visitors (and Mags) will be pleased to note swimming costumes are worn in this one as it is open to all.

The mid summer pole should have gone up yesterday – but the weather was miserable so they had the ceremony today – with children singing and dancing round the pole. Where as yesterday most had stayed on their boats prior to the party – today with the better weather the club element became much more apparent as the island came to life. It was lovely just to relax on the boat after our hectic travels earlier to get to Sweden.

Celebrating Mid Summer on the Club Island

19th June

Given that I had arrived at the boat at 0140 in the morning, it was never going to be an early start. But with no tides and only a short hop of 10nm to the club island there wasn’t too much pressure to get up and off.

I started the engine but within seconds the engine sounded like it was going to jump off its mounts…not good. I rushed to stop it. Mags had changed the fuel filter the day before and although she had bled the fuel line and run it for 15 mins, clearly overnight some residual air had collected in one place. We opened the breather value – started the engine again and closed it again once the air had gone and thankfully it then ran smoothly.

WP_20150619_13_34_53_Pro 1All morning there was a steady stream of boats leaving the marina – off to celebrate midsummer which is perhaps the biggest day in the Scandinavian calendar as the midnight sun never sets. We joined the steady stream which was matched only by the stream from the skies as a drizzle got heavier and the skies got darker. It would be a wet midsummer.

The Marina club house is on an island which is about 1.5 hours from the marina. We had been worried there might not be enough space and would be slightly relieved if we had to anchor off, as we had yet to complete a bows to mooring with our stern anchor with just the 2 of us. The club has a couple of pontoons and although there were about 30 boats already tied up, there was plenty room for some more. So no escape – we would have to use the stern anchor. Thankfully the rain deterred any chance of being a spectator sport. About 3-4 boat lengths away Mags dropped the anchor and slowly we headed for the pontoon. With our shiny new bow ladders fitted she was able to step ashore…thankfully no dramas.

WP_20150619_18_52_10_Pro WP_20150619_19_38_07_ProThe island is incredibly well set up: 2 saunas, BBQ areas, several fire pits, picnic tables and a marquee which was just as well given the weather. About 6 o’clock, the BBQs were fired up and all crews emptied from the boats, clearly for some the party had started some time ago. We all collected in the marquee and out came the table cloths, candlesticks, meat was soon cooking and the celebrating had started. We had the club musician on our table and he got out his guitar and there was a Swedish sing along. Mags was very disappointed that this wasn’t an Abba fest –but included such well known Swedish folk songs as “I am the king of the swingers, the jungle VIP” in Swedish – including actions!

Before bed we had a quick wander round the island. On the other side, are the sandy beaches from where the island derives its name Sandon – Sand Island. Apparent a lovely place to anchor. We will definitely be visiting the island many times.

Home Sweet Home

7th June

With an evening flight to Finland we had an early start on what was our last leg of the journey from Kiel to Stockholm. The wind direction had changed overnight and was now coming in directly through the entrance – so there was a fine chop on the water just to add to the fun.

Our route out was a little more complicated than coming in as it had 2 dog leg in it which thankfully were marked with leading lines. Sorry it was too scary to even think about taking photos!

My “mastery” of Swedish extends to understanding the Swedish weather forecast – which is more than I can say for the Finnish equivalent. I have to give their forecasters the prize for the understatement. The weather forecast was SW to W 18 -24knots with risk of gusts over 20 knots 80%….. given that is was regularly gusting 40 knots meant their forecast was true but not very helpful. But Carra takes these kinds of conditions on with relish – and with 3 reefs in and the staysail we were very comfortable. Mags with her cattle prodder on full belt ( see the post of XX) was able to go down below to produce Bacon butties which were most welcome.

P1070279_editedOn passing one rock and I mean a rock I thought I saw a chair – Mags got out the binoculars and it was infact a toilet…

Most sailors will recognize the phenomenon that means the wind is always coming from where you need to go. Well on this cruise we have been very lucky is has always been behind us but today the wind was on the bow – but again our luck has held and we have been able to be on one tack all the way up a fjord ( not sure Sweden has fjords).

P1070288Exactly a year ago to the day, we had done the reverse of the route with a group of friends from the UK. The narrow canal cut though felt even narrower when a large motor boat decided to overtake us in the middle of it…. I had indicated to him to stay behind us, but as he passed us at the narrowest point I gave a thumbs down sign to the driver – his wife look embarrassed – he just didn’t look at me!

P1070295We wound our way through the islands, narrow passages and with the scenery changing from the remote archipelago to banks lined with houses as opposed to summer cottages and then by about 2pm we had the first glimpse of our marina, which is to be our sailing home for the next few years. We had been allocated L62 – but when we arrived it was clear that it was not going to work as the access to the berth was way too narrow for our size of boat and with winds gusting 40 knots it wasn’t wise to try. So we found an alongside berth that was free. It is a club rather than a commercial marina so it doesn’t have visitors places, also the harbour master is only there during the weekdays. So we left them a note explaining why we had had to abandon her there. We checked with near by owners that it was free and we just hoped that we would have left before an irate owner turned up. So after 700 nm we have made it from Kiel to Stockholm.

8th June

A phone call to the office and thankfully they managed to find us a new berth 2 away from the spot were we had abandoned Carra. A great relief!

Short Cut or Long Way Round

6th June

We hadn’t really appreciated the beauty of Ringson when we had arrived late last night. Judging by the movement of the top of the trees it was clearly windy outside but it wasn’t apparent in this sheltered haven. About half the banks were bounded by reeds and exposed rock in the rest, some of which had a few boats hanging off them and a couple of boats at anchor it – clearly we weren’t alone in thinking it was an ideal spot! If we weren’t on a timetable we would have happily have spent a few days here chilling out but……

We had been warned about the mud that would be on the anchor so we had the deck wash set up and it was all cleaned before stowing. By 9am we were out of the harbour, the sails were up and we were speeding along at 7.5 knots. There was a rain shower and out came the Sowester (fleece lined Mags would add)

WP_20150606_12_50_08_ProGoing anywhere in Sweden there are 2 ways: the long way around and then the short cut – the latter always involves very intricate routes, and this was no exception. Doing this at speed wasn’t an option – so we stowed the yankee and put a second reef in and it made it less of a white knuckle ride. It is amazing that it can go from 54m to 3m in a very short distance. Once the other side of the islands we then were exposed to an uncomfortable swell which meant sailing downwind wasn’t an option… on went the motor, down came the sails. After an hour or so we fell under the shelter of the island of Uto and so lost the swell and we were soon cruising along at 6 knots with just the yankee up.

A narrow entrance - and you can see only the rocks that are above the water in this picture
A narrow entrance – and you can see only the rocks that are above the water in this picture
Looking out towards the entrance at Gronskarfladen
Looking out towards the entrance at Gronskarfladen

We had a lovely sail through the outer edges of the Stockholm Archipelago. The entry into Gronskarfladen was narrow, shallow and a dog leg thrown in for good measure. When visible rocks above the water are only 3 metres either side of you, it concentrates the mind! We dropped the anchor about 8pm and soon had a beer in hand, relaxing in the cockpit.

The Last 100 nm Leg

5th June

Having flown in late Friday evening from the UK, Mags had done a sterling job getting the boat ready. All I had to do was step on board and cast off the warps and go. Our first task was to fill up. Ever since we had Carra the fuel gauge was not reading correctly – so with the tank relatively empty the plan was to fill the tank in 20 litre amounts and recalibrate the gauge. A grand plan til you find that the pump at the filling point will only allow you to put in a max of 31.76 litres and then you have to put the nozzle back in the pump – which involves hauling a big heavy hose across the boat and enter your credit into the machine and start all over again….and when you need 245 litres of diesel it is a rather length affair. But now at least we know how much fuel we have in the tank. We wanted to get out of the river to a nearby anchorage so that at least we had a headstart for the next day – as in total we needed to cover 100nm back to our marina just north of Stockholm.

Every now and again in the Archipelago you see a small island where are the trees are dead and completely – which means that Cormorants are in residence and their guano has killed the tree. This tree never had a hope as it was covered in their nests.

Thankfully with the long summer days we arrived at 22:30 to the last of the twilight and dropped our anchor in a delightfully enclosed bay of Ringson with a narrow and shallow but straight forward entrance (for Sweden). With the anchor secured, anchor app on we turned in.