Monthly Archives: May 2018

Exercise Viking 2018 and a Milk Crisis

We set off early for the Baltic ( early in Baltic time is 0730) and no sooner were we out of the busy harbour all 3 sails were set and with a light north easterly wind we were managing to cruise along at 8 knots. It was the perfect weather for a long passage – calm seas, 12-15 knots of wind from just forward of the beam and blue skies -topped off with bacon butties – it was perfect sailing.WP_20180525_08_01_36_Pro

We saw the Swedish Navy in stealth mode as we have been sailing in the middle of their big Exercise Viking 2018. About 4pm we dropped anchor in a delightful bay of Stora Alo.

DSC05712After breakfast we went for a walk around Island. We tied up the dinghy to a rock and went to investigate the red wooden information hut which even had a library inside. The small island is a nature reserve and still has a working farm with animals – which allows you to see how farms would have been in the archipelago in former times.

Back on board we upped anchor and had the sails up straight away for another cracking sail through rocks, well till the wind died. DSC05766At one point we were shadowed by a minesweeper that was about 200m astern of us and it shadowed our every move and maintained our speed for about 30 mins….. it felt like a slow motion car chase at 5 knots. We then lost them by turning down the equivalent of a pedestrian alley that led to the entrance to our anchorage which was about 10 m wide and 2.9m deep ( we are 4m wide and 1.9m deep). Once into Kupa Klint it deepened and we were nicely sheltered by the 30m cliff ( tall for here) that bounded the anchorage on one side, the other side being a series of small skerries. The anchorage was very still and you could hear and see the fish jumping all around. As evening fell the wind died completely in the distant archipelago and it was as if the islands were sitting on a mirror. With the sun setting the rocks glow pink and it is what makes evenings so special here.

Our normal morning routine of a cup of tea in bed didn’t go well. We had managed to buy a white liquid that wasn’t milk – but turned our tea into the French dish of Isles Flotant – with white blobby bits floating on the surface. So out came the emergency marvel powder. But as avid tea drinkers you can only cope with that for so long. So our planned anchorage was scrapped in favour of a place with a shop that was to be Arkosund. There was more wind today which built as the day progressed so we had a somewhat lively sail. 8.5 knots into a deep narrow gap between rocks was a bit too exciting and so we took the opportunity to reef ( make the sail smaller) the yankee (sail at the front) as soon as we were in the lee of an island. Arriving at Arkosund there was a strong cross wind so we had fun tying up and finally the milk crisis was over and calm was restored on Carra.


With an even stronger wind the next day in the direction we WP_20180528_11_35_13_Prowanted to go, it meant that we had decided to stay put for the day. Giving me the chance to try and resolve a problem we had with the heads ( the toilet). So I spent much of the day with marigolds on fixing the pump. Having replaced the valve gasket, I reassembled the pump and performed the banana test. A simulation test – which it passed but the proof is in the pudding or the aftermath of the pudding!

Holiday in Visby

20th- 24th May Visby (our second Baltic Capital) is the small capital of Gotland which in a former life used to be the centre of the Hanseatic world – a 14th-17th Century trading and defensive

alliance. The town is surrounded by impressive city walls which was more about keep the natives away from the foreign traders who lived in the town. We had a chilled start before wandering around the town; a mixture of impressive grand houses of wealthy traders to some very small houses in the what had been a poorer quarter. There was a lovely Botanica Gardens ( think small park with flowers). We invited our neighbours around for drinks Nicholas, Max and Lynnie (Juanona) – a fascinating couple who had sailed all the way from Maine, USA.WP_20180522_21_11_34_Pro

We dug out the bikes the next day and went for a 5km cycle up a coastal cycle path, big boulders litter the beach and you started to see a glimpse of the unusual rock formations that characterise the island’s shoreline. Back on the boat we spent the rest of the day catching up on boat and admin jobs. After which we were iDSC05582nvited back to Max and Lynnie and had a lovely evening.

The island is about 90 miles long and to see more of the island we hired a car for the day and headed to the north of the Island. Inland the landscape was very rural with many small farms island. Many of the roads where line with Lilac trees that were in full blossom, deep purple, lilac and white with a wonderful smell too.

dsc05675.jpgWe visited the little harbour of Lickersam and saw the Maiden raukar, tall imposing limestone stacks rising from the sea. At the top of the island we took a small car ferry to Faro a small off the north coast. It had a much more open landscape with incredibly neat stone walls and windmills.DSC05617


We stopped off to see Faro Church – who famous resident of the church yard was Ingmar Bergman – so in his honour I started taking Black and which photos.

At the north of the island there was the most extraordinary Rauka field – these majestic columns of limestone were enormous and the weather had craved out features that gave the appearance of faces – just like the statues on Easter Island.



DSC05653We took the coast rodDSC05644e back and came across some old fishing huts standing in complete isolation on a beaches miles from any habitation.


On the return journey we visited Bunge as recommended by Lynnie and Max – inside the walls were adourned with simple paintings dating back to the 13th century. Both churches we visited were completel open with no one DSC05667around. There is a real trust based culture here which is lovely. After supper we headed south to see the sunset over the beach at Tofta.

We waved Max and Lynnie off in the early morning – we then got the boat back into sailing mode having been in holiday mode for the last few days, after we completed our boat jobs – we just relaxed before heading into town to the Cinema to watch “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society” – it was a private viewing as we were the only ones in the cinema.DSC05678

A Very Rocky Passage and Plans Change

It was all downwind the next day so we just had the Yankee (large sail at the front) out.

P1080735We had a lively sail to Figeholm particularly going down wind through a narrow and shallow gap – despite putting most of the sail away we doing 5.5 knots through the gap…… sigh of relief when through. We sailed most of the way til we came to a Nuclear power station and the rocky passages got a bit more tricky. We have sailed here for 3 years now but this was the narrowest rocky passage we have done – it was about an hour of intricate turns mostly marked with red and green posts but at one point the gap between the red and green was only about 7-8m….and we are 4m. But the time we got to “Figeholm’s narrow winding entrance” described in the pilot book it felt like a motorway. By the time we arrive I felt I had earnt my beer!

DSC05509Figeholm was an immaculate little village with a gasthamn that is run by villagers – who couldn’t do enough for you. The place oozed pride and everything was very well tended. On the Saturday morning there was a works party, flowers were planted, grass cut – none of which needed doing as it was already looking good. Beautiful old wooden building lined the small inlet. We decided to stop here for a second night as it was just such a lovely place.

Our plan the next day had been to sail to an anchorage at the top of Oland Byxellrok – but when we left Figeholm we were having such a cracking sail 8knots and all 3 sail up we decided we would push on to Visby. Particularly as the wind the next day looked lighter and we might end up having to motor. At 7.5-8knots we were eating up the miles – it is about 60 miles from Figeholm to Visby. It was lovely to be able to sail without looking out for rocks though we did need to watch out for ships as it is a busy Baltic route for commercial vessels. We had a few patches of lighter wind and just as I was considering putting on the engine to make Visby when it was still light – the wind increased just enough to allow us to sail the last part and we only took the sails down at the harbour wall. We arrived just as the ferry arrived – one that we had past us 3 times enroute. We tied up about 8pm after a cracking sail.DSC05519

Heading South with Jo

DSC053239th – 17th May – I had been keen to visit Trosa – but with a channel that was too shallow for us and the only anchorage being in the wrong direction, we needed to go bus. A beautiful wooden vilDSC05330lage that is built around a fast flowing river.

Mags summed it up well “It was a sleepy village that was just being to emerge from its winter slumber” so not much was open but we did manage to find a delicious buffet for lunch and was packed with locals and you could see why.

By mid day we were back at the boat and Jo arrived safely that evening carrying several items that we had forgotten and various spares that we needed. Plus some Bacon – yum Bacon Butties.

With no tides and we had a leisurely start, the initial route was narrow but it was thankfully a quiet day for the canal. As soon as the water opened up we were able to hoist our sails and sailed to our anchorage at Fifang. Everywhere we have sailed has been deserted so it was surprising to see 2 other boats in this anchorage but in typical Swedish fashion they were hanging off the rocks.

The Island of Oja was our next destination which was only 7nm away which would give DSC05360us time to explore the island. We set off and we were quite content tacking at a leisurely pace to the harbour till Mags spotted that it had about 10 masts in there already – so rather than tack again and take another hour to arrive it was engine on to grab a spot. Which we thankfully managed to get the 3rd last space at 1pm! Despite the rest of the archipelago being empty – Oja was clearly a top destination but given that it was a bank holiday and stunning weather we shouldn’t have surprised. We were able to hire a bike for Jo and cycled the 3.5km south to the village centre through woods that were carpeted with white wood anemones as far as the eye could see. A typical quaint village full of red houses built around the rocks – which still has 20 permanent residents. We cycled up to the Landsort Lighthouse and then back to a café and rewarded ourselves after an arduous passage (not) a beer overlooking the village.


The next morning, we were able to sail for about an hour before the drift elicited that look from Mags – followed by the seemingly innocent question of what time are we planning to arrive. This is her very unsubtle way of asking why we haven’t we got the engine on yet. Admittedly 1.9knots wasnt going to get us there any time soon so on went the engine and we soon arrived at a very secluded anchorage of Ringson. After lunch we got the dinghy out and went for an explore. Ringson is a totally sheltered and tranquil natural harbour – bounded by reeds trees and smooth granite rocks that turn a wonderful pink in the evening light. One item Jo had brought out was the central hub for Bertie our wind generator. Jo and I spent the afternoon reattaching the blades and ensuring there was the exact measurement between each tip. A tedious job as it involved readjusting the blades many times. I as just glad that Jo was there to help as I am Mags would have got bored after about the 2nd attempt. Success – Bertie is now burling ( Scottish for spinning) beautifully and a great deal quieter with no vibration than previously – our efforts were rewarded with a cold beer.

After a short motor our of Ringson we are able to sail winding our way through the rocks. However just as we are about to have lunch the wind died and we drifted at 0.5 knots. I manage to negotiate keeping the sails up till aDSC05381fter lunch so that we can eat it in the peace and quiet. The wind then filled in and we were able to have a cracking sail tacking amongst the rock till we couldn’t quite make it safely past one rock under sail. But by that point we were so close to Arkosund we were going to motor soon anyway. The harbour was empty so we were just getting ready to come alongside when Jo decided to try walking on air only she thought it was solid and fell badly twisting her ankle painfully. So we headed back out to sea. Got the ice pack out of the fridge and had her ankle elevated as Mags and I brought the boat in. Safely tied up we considered amputation but decided it would make too much mess – so applied more ice till Jo was squeaking that it was too cold. Judging by the swelling it was definitely sprained. I strapped it up – later refined my technique with the help of YouTube! She decided a shower was medicinal and so hobbled to the showers.

The next day Jo stayed on the boat to rest her ankle while we went for an explore round the attractive village. A series of Islands had been connected by walkways that led to a wooden staging which edged the harbour. You could see that in the height of summer this would be packed but as it was early in the season it was still very empty, another “sleeply little village”. But thankfully the shop was open and we could get some more beer ( medicinal of course) and some other bits and pieces.

We managed to sail for a couple of hours to the island of Harstena – I had wanted to moor in the shallow harbour which was closest to the village to prevent Jo having a long walk. But we tried twice and couldn’t get it to hold. We had anchored there before but harstena 3near the spot that we had anchored there were submerged rocks that are now marked but weren’t before – one of which we had found on leaving so it rather put me off getting to close in. Also the harbour was more exposed than I wanted to that wind direction. So we motored to a much more sheltered harbour with a rather skinny entrance and found a lovely spot.

Next morning Jo felt up to walking into the village – however we rather underestimated the distance and I am not sure she was expecting a 25 min hike. But she coped admirably and hobbled along. Harstena is a beautiful community built around the waters edge, lots of red houses, beautiful white apple blossom and little purple violas everywhere. But it lacked vibrancy as it was off season so it meant you had to imagine the commHarstena 2unity – yes I am afraid another sleeply village but this one was still to wake from its winter slumber.

Back on the boat we set off to our next anchorage – which was only a couple of hours away at Stora Asko. The location was perfect for going against the rock. So we nudged in gingerly to check the bottom was deep enough then Jo dropped the stern anchor and Mags leapt off onto the rocks and knocked in the stoneDSC05443 hooks to small little crevices to tie the ropes to.

Tied up safely with a whole 25cm under the keel we had Dinner in the cockpit. The wind died and all the reflections made it a magical spot in the evening sun. The final treat was a beautiful sunset – the Archipelago at its best.

The fun of mooring on rock is the challenge of getting off with everyone on board. As you have to hold the boat , knock out stone hooks and get back on board. So there was Plan A, B and C hatched and the later being picking Mags up in a Dinghy. Plan D – Mags sDSC05466wimming was rejected by the mutinous crew. But having 3 onboard makes such a difference and we got Mags off the rocks with plan A and we were soon on our way to Vastervik. We attempted to sail but there really was no wind and so we had a long old motor. We arrived at the Gasthamn and were met by a friendly harbour master – a first this season. Another first was that the facilitiess included a swimming pool but as it wasn’t heated yet – there was no chance of me getting in. Once showered we had a wander round town sussing out where the bus stop was. Jo by this stage was hobbling less but the bruising was beginning to come out.

It was a much larger town, some nice old wooden buildings. But clearly a town that was alive and kicking. Whilst their summer guests were not yet evident you could tell this would be a fun summer place to chill out. We were then treated to a delicious meal by Jo. The restaurant was small but the food was fantastic. A lovely way to finish a great week with Jo.meal

The next day, we said goodbye to Jo and went off to the Supermarket to reprovision. After that it was an admin day laundry and boat jobs. Later in the day we were joined on the pontoon by Blue Orchid and it turns out they are on the same Rally as us – so we invited Paul and Gynneth onboard for drinks.

Palaces and Castles of Lake Malaren

2nd- 8th May – All togged up in thermals, we cast off our lines and embarked on our big adventure. The YWP_20180502_13_32_52_Pro__highresankee (the big front sail) was unfurled and we wafted gently away from the Marina. We managed to sail for an hour before needing to motor as we were going directly into the wind plus we had a date with some bridges. Our destination was an inland fresh water lake which is accessed through a canal through the centre of Stockholm but it is crossed by 3 bridges and a lock that need to open to allow us passage through. With the last bridge opening at 15:30, it meant that we had to be at the first bridge at 14:30. We arrived 30 mins early which afforded us enough time to take a spin around Gamla Stad (Old town) which is the heart of Stockholm. This is the first of our 6 Baltic Capitals that we will be visiting on our cruise. Soon we were into the canal system – passing through a city in Carra was a slightly surreal experience. Busy central city life seems at odd with being on a boat. Once through the lock we were into Lake Malaren – which is Sweden’s third largest lake spanning 120km from east to west and the reaches 64m depth in some places.DSC05242

Having spent a lot of planning time looking at bridge heights – I had missed an overhead cable. It was only 15m clearance and we need 19m, this caused us to double back and go around the other side of an island where the cable clearance is 33m. Our anchorage for the night was a sheltered bay with the Swedish Royal’s Drottingham Palace as a backdrop. The wind died, the clouds disappeared and the water revealed stunning reflections.

An 8am start was essential if we were to miss the rain in the afternoon that was forecast. Anchor up and we set off passing many forested low lying islands – despite our eyes telling us we were in the middle of nowhere, there was a distant hum of traffic reminding us we were very close to a capital city as Stockholm’s citizens commuted into work. With sun shining we were hoping the forecasted rain was wrong. As we made our way west we lost the hum and the water opened up to the largest part of the lake. Apart from theDSC05257 odd commercial vessel we were the only people out cruising. We arrived at our next anchorage about 30 mins too late as the rain had started. Our anchorage for the night was a sheltered bay is over looked by the Baroque Malsakers Castle. It was still shut for the winter – which is common here until June.

The next day we were off to Stragnas – which involved 2 bridge openings which went without hitch and we arrived at an attractive old town which was dominated by a large church and an old windmill. The Gasthamn had a washing machine which allowed us to get some washing done. After that we went for a stroll round the old part of town full of cobbled streets and colourful buildings.

The following day we had to back track along through the 2 bridges to Mariefred. Which is a beautiful town overlooked by Grisholm Castle – which is one of the Swedish Royal Families CasWP_20180505_17_25_14_Protles. We were met on the quay by a former work colleague of mine Heribert and his 20 month old son Gabriel. We tied up and invited them on board. Later on in the evening Heribert, Inga and Gabriel came onboard for pre dinner drinks. A winch and winch handle being a very good child entertainment centre.

Heribert had booked a table for Dinner at the local Restaurant with some very good friends of theirs Cynthia and Ulf Jonstromer and their sons Adam and Philip. What a fascinating evening, meeting a remarkable family. Ulf and Cynthia were both entrepreneurs and one amongst many of their achievements was setting up the local school which now has 600 pupils and is regarded as one of the top 10 schools in Sweden. Its success appears have been adopting the Finnish teaching system and using his cultural philosophy of BrainHeart which is at the core of his business success. A chance remark to Adam about playing the piano revealed that he was actually highly accomplished solo pianist who has performed for the Swedish Royal Family, won many European music awards and had recently played Gerswins Raspody in Blue – which is my favourite, in front of 700 people. Not bad seeing that he was only 15! After he and his brother had gone, Ulf showed me a YouTube clip of his playing and it was spine tinglingly brilliant. What a talented young man. It was easy to feel totally in awe of this family but they were very warm and welcoming. Returning to Carra the view of the reflection of Castle was breath-taking.DSC05270

The next morning we ate a delicious brunch with Heribert and Gabriel in the same restaurant and then explored the Royal Palace from the outside. Later in the afternoon Heribert invited us over DSC05289to see their house which stands in the grounds of Ulf and Cynthia’s Castle. We also went to see the Orangery which they are having converted now that Gabriel is on the scene. Ulf and Cynthia invited us for tea on their terrace, which has a beautiful view of the Royal Castle and the Lake as far as the eye can see. DescendiDSC05291ng from the terrace are 2 grand stone staircases leading down to the waters edge and a jetty. Cynthia insisted that next time we come we moor Carra there. I was keen to know the depth, though I needn’t worry as she replied “ the King of Sweden used to moor his sailing vessels there”.

All too soon it was time to leave this memorable little town and with the wind behind us we soon had the sail out and engine off and enjoyed the tranquillity of the sail to Rastaholm. A convenient location for entering the canal the day.

DSC05317We felt that we had got this bridge opening and lock business sorted – so we were expecting a very routine passage. But little did we know this lock out of the lake is the route that all the large commercial vessels use. As required, we contacted the bridge who informed us it was a busy day. En- route there was a yacht that we had passed that was well and truly aground on a rock, we called over a rib and he went and rescued them. We arrived on time for the bridge opening and waited and waited. The bridge then told us as soon as the bridge opened to go througDSC05318h on red as there was another vessel coming that was 18m wide. As the bridge opened, we ended up reversing as a very large vessel appeared much sooner than expected and there definitely wasn’t room for the both of us. As soon as the tanker passed we went under but just as we arrived at the bridge the light went red, and the bridge closing process started. Throttle down and we made a speedy passage under the bridge before it closed. We arrived at the lock and went onto the waiting pontoon as several tankers went through in both directions. Finally ourselves and 3 other leisure boats got passage through the lock and out of the lake.

We moored alongside at Sodertalje – time to stock up on food and pick up Jo who was arriving the next evening.