Monthly Archives: June 2019

This is no ordinary Fish and Chips…..

IMG_20190623_182620Ok I admit it, I tease Mags about the first world shortages we have had on Carra: she has had to tolerate the lack of basic galley equipment such as: pestle and mortar, pastry brush and zester – such deprivation I hear you say. All rectified I might add. But we do eat very well. Here is my favourite meal – Fish and Chips but…………

……………. this is no ordinary Fish and Chips this is M&S (Mags and Sam) Fish and Chips with lemon and oat crusted fish with cumin spiced sweet potato chips with a dressing of lemon mayonnaise with finely chopped red onion.

Extreme biking in a walk through time

As the midsummer weekend ended, there was a trickle of boats out of the harbour til there were only 3 left – and tranquillity was restored. Until a sport team on a training camp had a fitness session on the dock – bare chested young men did a series of push ups, ran a circuit and had to do a few lengths in the water, one lost his shorts en route and all was on display – slightly wasted on us I fear. There was a distinct lack of effort from some. It wasn’t Army style fitness – pull up a sandbag and let me tell back in my day……

With the empty harbour we were allowed to use the spa showers. A rain shower with underfloor heating – after 6 weeks of marina showers – it was sheer luxury.


A cubed rock

Our plan was to sail north to an island called Trysunda – a small fishing village. A cracking sail through the rocks being able to hold the same tack all the way. Sails down and we entered the small harbour. The wooden staging was built on the beach which wasn’t very reassuring from a depth point of view so as we picked up the stern buoy and Mags went forward to jump off – suddenly yelled to go back as it wasn’t deep enough. With a cross wind blowing I needed to reverse and not go over the webbing tape that was attached to the buoy and get back to the buoy for Mags to unhook us. It was a bit chaotic for a while but we managed to unhook ourselves. We decided to go in a second time without picking up the buoy but just nose in. In we went then out we went. Mags wasn’t happy with the depth. Because of the wind condition I was not able to go in gently. So we decided to abandon visiting Trysunda and find somewhere else. So we sailed south and despite being at 180 degree to our course up here, we were still into the wind. But there was a good wind and we sailed all the way. We past the hanging beach on the headland – an impressive stretch of beach all the way up the hill. However, my first though was not what a great cycling route…. more of that later.



We arrived to see WhitDSC00418e Haze already moored up. We put Carra to bed and joined Ada and Akko on board for drinks. That evening the former fishing houses of Norrfällsviken glowed in the evening light.

Plan A had been to visit another pretty little fishing village of Bönhamn – but we decided instead that we would walk round to investigate the hanging cobble beaches and to have lunch at the fire pit we had spotted, near the shore overlooking the entrance. Somehow we decided it was a good idea that to preserve Mags knees we would take her bike……

For the first couple of miles it was a good path but things took a turn for the worse when the path crossed the rock strewn shore line. I did suggest padlocking up the bike and coming back for it but Mags thought she could manage…..

We arrived at the fire pit and whilst I could pretend that I rubbed a few boy scouts together to start the fire – it was with matches, a fire lighter and incredible dry twigs that I got good a fire going. The bacon sizzled away in the pan and on the freshly baked bread we had bought that day, they tasted delicious.


We still should have turned back at this point…..

Both being rather task orientated and there was a viewing platform over the cobble beaches and come hell or high water we wanted to get to it – we carried on sharing the bike carrying. Billy goat gruff would have been happy on the mountain “path” that we had to climb – proper cairn at the top and all. Slightly embarrassed when we passed other walkers who clearly had a look of bemusement written all over their faces on seeing us carrying a bike.


The platform was impressive – how had they managed to get the wood there to build it? Now with an acute appreciation of carrying weight, we decided it must have been a helicopter. With no helicopter in site for a Brompton bike – ideal for commuting in London… we pushed on.



All the way up the hillside, right to the top, you could see the ridges that the waves and ice created. As you progressed up the hill from sea shore, to the unnaturally bright lime green algae covered rounded rocks, to areas covered with low growing plants and bog cotton, to knurled pine trees, to pine forest told the story of the gradual creation of land from the sea. It was like you were walking through time…….. with a bike!

The hanging beaches looked amazing – however if you are carrying a bike it is easy to go off them! After we had transverse three large cobble beaches, a couple more rocky escapements we finally reached the road.

Midsummer Madness Up North

For the next 2 weeks we were going to cruise remote parts, so we wanted to go into Sundsvall for a final top up of provisions. In reality it probably wasn’t needed, as Mags never goes anywhere under catered. Some champagne sailing – blue skies and a cracking wind and we were able to tack into the large harbour. It wasn’t exactly appealing with its large factories – very industrial. It was a real contrast to the tiny villages we have been in for the last week. Sundsvall is a rich city which made its money through timber processing. But a fire in 1888 raised the wooden city to the ground and so it was rebuilt in stone – which is very unusual up here. Apparently, it is the most northern stone city in the world. Though I always remain sceptical about these sort of facts. The city is very grand with opulent buildings and wide boulevards – designed as fire breaks. The dragon became a symbol of the city to keep it safe from fire. The 21st century reincarnation of the dragon is hundreds of painted fibreglass dragons around the city, with each local company painting one – it is a fun eclectic mix of colour that adds to the great vibe this city has.

It was due to be a quick stop but I had hurt my back so it seemed prudent to stay another day. I am not sure whether it was the extra day or the visit to a Aladdin’s cave of a chandlery that was restorative but it did the trick. After filling up with fuel we were off. It was a frustrating sail – when we want to sail east – that is where the wind came from. When we turned north east – so did the wind…. Hadn’t the wind seen the forecast that it was supposed to be south east! We had some long tacks but never really in the right direction. Behind us the sky was getting darker and really claggy looking. Time to admit defeat and turn the engine on and motor into the wind. The low grey clouds of rain were getting closer faster than the anchorage. As we arrived the heavens opened – proper 2 blobs of rain – it rained so hard that it bounced on the water. Then the thunder rumbled around. It is amazing how quickly you can put the boat to bed when it is raining. We dripped our way down the companion way stairs and closed the hatch firmly. It was definitely a hot water bottle and fluffy sock night.


PM arrival and AM departure

It really was an early start 0545 and bleary eyed I went to clear the window of the mist and realised it was outside – the world had turned greyish white with visibility of less than 50m. As it was a simple entrance, we set off with all the electronic gadgets on that allow us to see other boats in such conditions. After a couple of hours bizarrely you could see blue sky above but the visibility came and went – we saw a strange fogbow as a result of the sun on the fog. Just as we were passing the highest lighthouse in Sweden, the mist parted enough to catch a glimpse and realise it was the highest due to the fact it was built on a cliff!

Fog2The mist lifted later and the beauty of the coast line was finally visible – yes we were definitely in the high coast – as this area is known. Don’t think high as in the mountains of Scotland – high round here is 250m!

In this part of the Baltic, during the last ice age there was 3km of ice pressing down on the land – which meant it sank 800m, it has since sprung back 500m. As well as boathouses being stranded from the water – it has a strange impact on the beaches. Rounding a headland, we started to see beaches of very large pebbles stretched up as far as the eye could see up the hill – those at the top had last felt the sea pounding on them several thousand years ago – and now were covered in green from the lichen.


Midnight at Midsummer

We had picked Ulvöhamn (see banner picture) as the place to celebrate Midsummer – as it was sheltered from the strong NWs expected the next day. With all the stern buoys taken, and not keen to use the stern anchor with the boat 90o to the strong wind we went alongside as there was plenty of room. Midsummer is the biggest festival in Baltic countries – well would you with the dark winter months. Usually you can expect lots of Swedish drinking songs and drunk Swedes. Unfortunately we had a couple of small motorboats opposite us with a disproportionate number of young guys on board to the size of their boats. So until the wee hours of the morning we were in the centre of a nightclub with a bass drum from the music shaking our boat. Midsummer Eve is the one night that normal rules of behaviour are forgotten and rules are relaxed. So we would just have to wear ear plugs to sleep. This rule relaxation includes being permitted to fly your ensign all night – normally you should strike the colours at 9pm – living on the wild side!

The only answer for our sanity was to escape to a cake shop and explore the little village. Back onboard we retreated down below and binge watched TV in an attempt to drown out the noise.

Later that evening there was a knock on the hull and there was the hotel staff and a grumpy Swedish lady who said “you should be at 90 degrees to the pontoon on your stern anchor because that’s what we do here“ as we were moving the floating pontoon near the stern of her small motorboat. All she had to do was move her boat 50cm further along and it wouldn’t have been an issue for her. When I pointed out that if we moved our boat would be a like a sail to the wind the next day and then we really would move the pontoon and it would be dangerous, all she needed to do was move their boat 50cm… her reply “ why should we move when we were here first”. Clearly the park at 90 degree to the pontoon rule was the only rule not suspended on midsummer! The lovely hotel staff ( they were the harbour staff as well) – understood exactly what I meant – and for the next 2 days kept apologising profusely and checking we were ok. I am not sure if the fact that one of the staff also wore comfortable shoes helped our cause! Since then we have had free electricity and free cups of tea…. Ulvön having redeemed itself, we decided to stay an extra night.

IMG_20190621_170229We are self confessed Scandi fans….and yes we know we do wax lyrically (bore friends rigid) about the joys of life here and in Finland. However there is one thing that we draw the line at and this Island is famous for it….fermented Baltic Herring, Surströmming. Back in the day, as salt was expensive only enough was used to prevent the herring from rotting ( a matter of opinion). Fermentation takes 6 months and it is described locally as have a strong characteristic smell. IMG_20190623_130259Apparently a Japanese study (and they are lovers of fish) described a newly opened tin as the most putrid food smells in the world.

Out came the bikes and our plan was to cycle to the other side of the island. After seeking shelter from one downpour, we decided that we didn’t need to see the other side of the island and hightailed it back to the boat before the next rain cloud. But we did cycle through colourful wild flower meadows in the centre of the island.


This pebble beach is about 80m above sea level

We took a look round the harbour’s Fisherman’s Chapel built in 1622 – painted with the most extraordinary scenes inside.


Sociable times in the land of pretty red fishing villages

The natural alarm clock was heavy rain above our heads. Which is not exactly conducive to getting up. 2 blobs of rain in a forecast and we really don’t feel compelled to go sailing. The offer of a free washing machine eventually got me up – warped priorities?

The longer your stay in a harbour the slower you are to leave, so our 11am leaving turned out to be 4pm – well there was a very good hardware store to be visited, and the washing to do and and …. Our planned destination a little anchorage 2 hours away. Just as we were about to enter the anchorage we received a text from our friend Douglas to say he was planning to be in a harbour about 2 hours away. So we decided to head over and join him in Kuggonen.

They arrived minutes before we did – and took the buoy in the centre of the bay. An attractive old fishing harbour with a deep bay. The rocky shore and the lack of vegetation did not bode well for anchoring. 4 attempts later and the chain continued to rumble indicating it was not holding. In the time that we faffed around anchoring – Douglas, who is an extremely talented artist, had painted the scene. We were in the picture but hadn’t stayed long enough to finish us at anchor. Douglas offered that we come alongside him. It wasn’t my preferred option, as we were both heavy boats – but as the conditions were due to be benign overnight and the next harbour was 4 hours away or 2 hours back to our original one. We decided to risk it and set the anchor alarm. We joined them for drinks and left at an hour we had not seen in a while 11:30pm.

We didn’t move but it wasn’t a good night’s sleep – aware that we probably shouldn’t be 2 on the buoy. But we awoke to not a breath of air and thick fog. So we weren’t going anywhere soon. Douglas, Marjorie and Russell joined us for morning coffee. Eventually the fog rolled back out the harbour – we bade farewell, as we headed on our journey north and they turned south.

We sailed to Mellanfjarden, with an inquisitive seal checking us out enroute but the fog was never too far away. When it started to roll back in, we switched on the motor, keen to get into harbour before it did. Another harbour that was supposed to be deeper than 2m but shallower than 3m but in reality was deeper than expected and some rather fine leading lines – made it a harbour of no dramas. Soon after we arrived, Iain and Renske moored next to us– (Mags had meet them in Hudiksvall whilst I was in the UK). Later we joined them in the Restaurant and met Johan a local character.


Mellanfjarden at 11pm and still light

With the sun setting so late (11pm) it is easy to lose track of time or was it the beers anyway it was another late night.
“Exhausted” after our 2 nights of socialising – two late nights and one poor night’s sleep and we decided to stay another night in Mellanfjarden and have a lazy day. Time to explore in our dinghy Pikku (Little in Finnish) Carra.DSC00263 Our electric engine gently whirred her way past the houses as we had a good nose deciding which property we would like to live in. I left Mags pottering in the dinghy and I went off to take some photos. A beautiful white old yacht came in. They picked up the stern buoy and an elderly gentleman on the wooden staging went to catch the lines. Only he fell and missed the rope. By which time the wind caught her bow and quickly blew her away from the dock. Enter Mags to the rescue, in Pikku Carra the tug….. Mags went to get the bow line and take it to shore – through a fine display of seamanship she managed to go into reverse instead of forward. Get the line wrapped round herself, but eventually threw the line – but the same elderly man went to catch it and fell over again. Mags then disappeared under the jetty at a rate of knots only to emerge with the propeller spluttering as she tried to avoid the rocks. Thankfully said man then decided best he left. Calm restored, we managed to get the heavy yacht – White Haze to shore with me pulling and Mags pushing the bow with the dinghy against the wind

Early next morning – well for us anyway (8am) we followed White Haze out of the harbour in glorious sunshine. A fickle wind– one minute we were drifting at 2.5 knots – the next creaming along 6.5 knots – but we failed to make ground on White Haze despite a morning of tweeking sails and interrogating AIS (electronic stalking of other boats) as to their speed.

I have decided that tricky harbours entrances here are on a sliding scale of 4 categories: interesting, challenging, you have got to be joking and no way. I have never plucked up courage for the last category. For about 30 mins we meandered about a relatively large looking lake clearly avoiding invisible boulders than lurked beneath the surface but with 4-5m depth there was no drama….well until we went round the corner and the narrow shallow bit came into view– this one definitely fell into category 3. XXXX – you have got to be joking were my exact words. It felt like we were scraping past the rocks on both sides – and it wasn’t that deep either. But we were rewarded with Skatan, a stunning little harbour, which made the fact that my heart had missed a few beats worth it.

We were greeted by Capt Ahab, the most friendliest of harbour masters. Actually the only HM we have seen so far. We moored alongside and opposite White haze.

skatanDSC00302Skatan oozes pride – the beautifully kept red houses with white capping are in immaculate condition, beautiful tended pots and the all the wild lupins and lilac were in flower. Capt Ahab was a mine of local info having lived here since he was a boy and his parents before him – he could still remember the village as an active fishing harbour.

dsc00275.jpgWe invited Akko and Ada from White Haze over for drinks….. Their yacht radiates elegant beauty –from the grain of the coach roof, the sleek lines of the white covered steel hull, the wooden mast and her sheer simplicity. No gadgets and gimzos that adorn most boats these days. White Haze was of the KISS (keep it simple stupid) school – she was a go anywhere boat and indeed she had – they have sailed over 100,000nm in her. Yet her the condition belies this fact. Some of the places they have sailed to: Antarctica, Easter Island, Galapagos, Alaska, NZ, Japan, South Africa. Last year they sailed round Iceland. I asked them about the roughest weather they had sailed in “ we crossed the Beagle Channel (between the bottom of South America and Antarctic) and we hove to and went to sleep” – and we wont even sail in 2 blobs of rain!




No Big Virgin for us but we see seals

DSC00186Mosies – that was the buzzing sound we awoke to – hoards of them. Slow moving, as they had feasted all night – on us! All thoughts of preserving the insect population disappeared rapidly and we killed at least 20 before breakfast. We left early, keen to benefit from the windless, mirror like conditions. We were wanting to make a lunch stop at an island with a rather exposed harbour. Given that there was only 2.5m water depth in the harbour we needed no swell and benign conditions. So we set Carra on a path to her date with Big Virgin or Storjungfrun in Swedish – the name of the Island. Which is supposed to be very attractive. As we rounded the southern tip of the Island there was a slight swell from the last few days of SWs…. Whilst very slight it was about 20-30cm. 2.5m minus 1.9m minus 0.3m is the square root of bugger all – so no landing for us. With inuendos aplenty, we had a quick peek at the Big Virgin and then set sail.


If you look carefully you can see a seal

Just south of our harbour Agön lay a couple of islands with a red box around them on the chart. It was a seal protection area. Keen to know whether we could pass through it, I googled rules for seal protection areas. To find lots of articles about seal hunting in Sweden and that they can kill 600 a year. So I am not sure if this about protection area or target practise! Eventually I found that you cant go through them from 1st Feb – 31st Aug……so we went as close as we could to see them.

Plan A was to anchor, but it failed to set the first time and there was a rather tempting wooden staging with a cluster of boats on it. We dropped the stern anchor for the first time this year and moored up. The idea is to drop it about 3 boat lengths from the dock. We had dropped it a bit late – so pulled it back up – under the watchful eye of the entire pontoon. Attempt 2 I was happy with – and we were at a better angle too. There were loos, rubbish, bbq areas, a sauna and a library – and all for £1.50 a night- a bargain! Sheltered from the wind it was a real sun trap.

DSC00199Below we had some more stowaways onboard as some of the mosi population had hitched a ride – 30 mins of fun playing chase the mosi. Happy that the cull had been successful. We decided to cross the island to the old harbour. Clearly our slaughtering activity had made the mosi-net and their friends came out on the walk to seek their revenge. So we walked the 2km path waving our arms frenetically in the vain hope of preventing the inevitable.

During the last Ice age the weight of the ice in the Baltic was so great that it pressed down on the rocks keeping them surpressed. When it melted the rocks started to rise – to “Spring Back” as it is called here – and they are still rising at 8mm a year. It doesn’t sound much – but it is 2m in 250 years.

agon 1

agon 3The harbour we were visiting was hundreds of years old. Tiny little red houses (would it be anything else) and boat houses bordered a little inlet. Full of atmosphere of days gone by from the lichen covered racks used to dry the nets to the tiny houses designed to preserve the heat in the cold harsh winters. Everything looked very functional til you realised that all the boat sheds were about 2m higher than the water.
IMG_20190608_125949We had 2 relaxing days there, a few boat jobs done, Mags went swimming – it is getting warmer – now a positively barmy 14C and I practised my guitar – is that why all the boats left our side of the pontoon?

With some very windy weather expected, I was keen to get to Hudiksvall early – where I would leave Mags and the boat to fly back to the UK for a few days. The challenge with the stern anchor is getting it up – especially having been hanging off it for 2 days, it would be well dug in. Without an electric windless – it is all muscle power. With 2 of us pulling we managed to retrieve it – always a great relief. We are still scared from an earlier occasion when it took us about 10 mins to break it out in a small harbour watched by the entire harbour. We saw the best of the day by leaving at 0630 – good wind and blue skies. We arrived in Hudiksvall where the only place to park was at 90 degrees to the expected strong wind.


What buoy?

So we made use of the stern buoys to take some of Carra’s weight to save the fenders and gelcoat from getting a pounding. Within a couple of hours it blowing a hooley F7 – a day for staying on the boat.


The next day we went to explore Hudiksvall – I have decided it has the same charm as Lowestoft – I can say that as I grew us about 8 miles away from there.


They are all empty!

The harbour is surrounded by attractive wooden buildings – screaming out for development which could fostering a café culture around the harbour. Instead they are derelict and unloved. But at least they are painted which in Lowestoft they wouldn’t be… so maybe I am being too harsh.

Next day I went back to the UK for less than 2 days – which involved a home visit for an hour. On my list of things to do was water the garden – but it was clearly not needed. Then up to Beccles to visit Mummy and take her to the hospital for a Consultants appointment. The 2 days flew by and I was back on board having brought the rain from the UK with me. Mags was a star whilst I was away and all the boat jobs were ticked off.


A clunk, a kiss and we help the Sweds find more rocks



Pollen on the water

Given that the dominant scenery is tree lined coast – miles of it infact, the tree pollen season is like being attacked by a giant pot of custard powder. The boat, the water everything gets covered in yellow. No matter how many times you clean it – 5 mins later it looks just the same.

A quick run around the beautiful Tullpark – woods carpeted with alpines and Lilly of the Valley just on the cusp of flowering.


IMG_20190601_074313A last visit to Café Vilma to stock up on some tasty treats: freshly baked rolls and cakes and we were ready for the off.

A cracking sail all the way to Ängskär – through rather lively at the end. Lively means – doing 8 knots screaming into a rocky passage….. “quick get the sails down”.

Harbours and anchorages are few and far between on this bit of coast. With an added complexity of the wind going from south to north west and the bay we were stopping in was very open to north – a few hundred miles to the next bit of land = very lump sea if the wind comes from that direction. Unusually for this time of year there was no room at the Inn, which was a shame as the harbour did afford some protection from northerly winds, so we needed to anchor. Keen to tuck ourselves in to get out of the NW, I wanted to go close in. Before anchoring you need to check out the depth of where you might swing on the anchor. But with little (believable) detail on the chart I was proceeding very slowly. The depth suddenly varnished in a flash 3 metres, 2.4 metres I put the engine in reverse – but not fast enough to prevent the dreaded clunk …. We had hit a rock. The second one since being in the Baltic. Thankfully at slow speed and we didn’t hit it hard, so it will be a slight mark on the keel to be mended over the winter. Grateful we didn’t stick on it – always a danger with no tides.
With the wind due to change direction at midnight, we set an alarm to check on the anchor but about 10pm there was a rumble from the chain as the boat swung around and settled. Only it was northerly – not what was forecast – although gentle not enough to be peaceful. So I got dressed ready for action. About an hour later the NW kicked in and tranquillity was resumed. This wasn’t going to be a restful anchorage.
Keen to leave we set off just after 7am and picked our way through the rocks out to open water were we were able to sail…just in the wrong direction. After some lovely tacking we decided that it was time to admit defeat and put the engine on.
Expecting some more windy weather, our next anchorage needed to afford us protection from strong southerlies. There is little info about harbours here – so we had a plan A and plan B. Granskär (plan A) turned out to be perfect – a natural anchorage nestled between some sailing club islands. A relief after the previous sleepless night to have a secure, safe harbour. With the windy weather expected, it was a lovely secure anchorage so we decided to stay for 2 nights.


She is Scottish…


Round and round the Island….

With lots of anchoring, my Fitbit showing less than 1000 steps, half of those I am sure were winching, we decided we needed to get the legs moving. Mags activity was swimming, as she put on the wetsuit I could see the icebergs floating past – water temp 12C. My activity was a little more sane. Though the Island wasn’t exactly massive – so on my run I needed to explore every path many times to do 2.5 miles.
Light winds saw us ghost up the coast to our next harbour Iggön, as it was only 10 miles away it didn’t matter that we were only doing 3 knots – normally at this speed Mags is asking the pointed question of “what time will we arrive” – coded speak for – put the engine on.

Without the luxury of pilot books you rely on the charts for depth of the entrance. The chart showed the wiggle through the rocks was less than 3m but greater than 2m at the shallowest point….. Given that we need 1.9m of water, we proceeded at funereal pace. We followed in some markers – well they looked more like pipe cleaners – had someone lost their ski poles? In the end we never saw less than 3.6m….. so much for the chart accuracy!

Dinner in the cockpit – the first of the trip. The wind died and the waters became glassy still and all the reflections that make evenings here so special appeared plus we were treated to a fabulous sunset with a large halo around the sun (there is no editing on the photo)

Synskär was our next destination, another short hop, to yet another rocky narrow entrance. To a little bijoux bay – with a buoy exactly were we wanted to anchor. But it looked like I could nudge up into the corner…. Then we very gently kissed a rock – not the clunk of the last one. …but our depth instrument was telling us we had 5.6m under us. Clearly a very large single bolder. The Swedish charts say for some areas – all known rocks over 6m shown….. well we have found 2 more for them. We decided we didn’t want to find any more and it was too bijoux for us – so we headed out back to the safety of the open water and I looked out for plan B.
Plan B was Axmar Brygga. Accessed though a long but winding route that was well marked though the most extraordinary landscape – a large mere that was littered with these massive bolders, not exactly reassuring. We moored on the staging without drama and rather relieved I don’t have a heart condition.
The harbour just appeared to have a restaurant and the carpark was full of camper vans. Deciding to stretch the legs we followed the dusty road and came across an old iron smelting works with beautifully preserved workers cottages and English garden of a former mansion. This explained the glass like bricks that had been used to construct the restaurant. A real hidden gem.


ax 2