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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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She is Scottish…

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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!

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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)

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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.

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Looking for Stowaways

We were planning to leave at 10am but due to various reasons – some welcome – a lovely old rigger Bjorn had brought us some cakes to celebrate our cruise  – some less welcome – a jubilee clip failed which meant that our water tanks were slowly dripping into the bilge – we finally managed to cast off at 2pm.

FerriesThe main fairway out of the Archipelago is also used by the big ferries and cruise ships to Stockholm. I say “main”, most UK sailors would describe as a narrow passage with some passing places. Passing one ferry is somewhat routine, the best bit comes when you have 2 ferries coming in opposite directions and you are at the narrow bit. It concentrates the mind.

The next day was due to be very wet and windy and we don’t do wet and windy if we can at all help it. So we found ourselves a nice tranquil anchorage, the entrance of which was narrow and shallow so with only 60cm under the keel we crept in. But inside it was a windless zone. Perfect place for the storm to pass.

Each year we have a crisis on board due to lack of the right equipment. 2 years ago our 1st world problem was lack of a pestle and mortar. Last years was solved by Jill – thanks for the zester. A shout out for Jill who is currently sailing single handed around Britain in Vela, her 25ft boat – she has a hilarious blog https://velatour.home.blog/. I think the single handed refers to the fact there is gin in the other hand…..

Having survived what felt like sub zero temperatures, it was more than a 3 jumper day and hot water bottles needed to be fully deployed at night. We set off kitted out in thermals and had a cracking sail up to Arholma – a former Leper Colony on the edge of the Archipelago but these days is a quaint little island which is still inhabited all year around. We dropped anchor not bothering to go ashore as we have visited several times.

An early start saw us capture the best of the day. Clear skies and the wind from behind us. My ego was slightly dented by a German boat who caught us up despite all my tweeking of sails. Mags adopted her normal cruising position of puzzle book in hand, occasionally helpfully commenting that the Germans were getting closer. As they passed us, I felt vindicated as there were using their engine…. There were some very politically incorrect comments about sunbeds and towels, as they sped past us to get to the harbour first.

Our early start had been designed to miss the rain – only the rain hadn’t read the forecast…. And it was proper 2 blobs of rain – visibility was non existent. Just as the worst was passing we spied in the distance a rib doing mach 2 towards us. We were stopped by the Coast Guard and quizzed us about our purpose before they sped off and visited a little fishing boat that was hanging off a navigation mark who got more of a grilling that we did.

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Thankfully the rain ceased as we past the light ship that guards the entrance – we were soon tied up in Öregrund – a charming historic wooden town. Coloured wooden houses and many restaurants lining the small harbour.

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Öregrund – Old Seaman’s Quarter

The next few days were due to be windy but sunny. So we got the bikes out and took the ferry over to Gräsö, a nearby island. Old farms bounded by traditional wooden fencing with unusually lush small pastures.

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Gräsö

The cycle ride was much needed as we had discovered a fabulous bakery with delicious bread and cakes which we had to frequent several times for the free Wifi…. of course.

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A Royal Flush

Carra lives in a shed for the winter with about 30 other boats. She has been very discrete about who her neighbour is. Apparently it is the King of Sweden motor boat! I haven’t seen him working on his boat…oh to have staff.

WP_20190517_09_33_36_ProThe next few days were governed by a big spreadsheet of jobs to do to get Carra ready for launching. Some routine maintenance, some required new skills to be learnt – like repairing some gelcoat in the cockpit. But there was one job I was dreading – to fix our loos or heads in boaty speak. Those that followed our travels last year, will know that I spent a fair amount of time trying to fix it. Like a baby that has to be winded, Carra has had to burp when trying to pass poo, so that the bowl can be emptied…. It has been a problem since birth. Tedious doesn’t even cover it but embarrassing when you have guests. So I was on a mission. We had even bought an endoscope so that we can trace pipe runs that couldn’t be seen and to check for any blockages. Be thankfully you have been spared the photos. I don’t know if I should admit this – but I even wrote a formula of the forces involved to try and problem solve this…. So now you know how sad I am. Stage Directions: Background Science Music. To continue with the science we had the banana test…. How many pumps to pass a banana with a measured quantity of water. It was a family activity with Mags holding the bucket to catch said banana. I am quite sure I could now write a dissertation for a Masters on our Heads. The only possible issue I could find was a potential air lock on the outlet pipe. So I spent a day modifying the joinery so the pipe would get a better drop to the seacock (the hole in the boat) and shortening the pipe. Frustratingly, there was only a very marginal improvement in the banana test. To placate myself, I decided that the air lock would only be an issue in the water… the true test would come once launched.

Over the next few days the jobs got ticked off, the car was emptied and the journey down a step ladder followed by a 200m dash to the loo became more wearisome. Soon the shed doors were opened, light came streaming in and Nicklas and Tommi came to collect Carra for launching. The next few days were a whirl of activity: mast on, lines rerigged, sails on and kit stowed.

Like expectant parents, we awaited the arrival of the first opportunity to test the loo properly………. and yes we are pleased to announce that……… we have a functioning loo!

Bletchley Park Code Breakers….not

Mags performed her usual Houdini trick; which meant that all the boat stuff that had been assembled in the sitting room disappeared into every nook and cranny of the car. It is amazing how much you can fit round the spare wheel! Previously we had broken the journey to the ferry at Kiel with an overnight stop – but the security of the car overnight is always a worry. So this time we drove in all the way to Kiel and boarded the ferry to Gothenburg the same day. It is always a trip down memory lane, as the ferry passes the former British Kiel Yacht Club – this the home to Army Sailing for those stationed in Germany…part of my misspent youth… but also of my Father’s, who did his National Service here.

From Gothenburg we crossed Sweden to Stockholm, stopping enroute for lunch but sadly there was no free Wifi. However, there was a protected network close by called Harry Potter’s Great Hall…. After a recent visit to Bletchley Park, we both fancied ourselves as code breakers. Having exhausted all the obvious Harry Potter passwords, we resorted to trawling the internet to find some more obscure ones. But to no avail – other than using up data to find access to free wifi that would save us data….. rather warped logic. Through it did keep us entertained whilst waiting for our Pizza.

IMG_20190514_174128It is always with a sense of home coming when we get to the marina – back in our Scandinavian second home.

What an Albatross ate moves us to reduce single use plastic

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The stomach contents of a young Albatross Chick

At the Lisbon Volvo Ocean Race stop over last year, on one of the stands we saw the contents of the stomach of a dead Albatross chick from the Southern Ocean.  Look closely it is quite grim. The fact that there will be more plastic in the sea by 2050 than fish fills me with horror.

So last winter we decided reduce our consumption of single use plastic at home. We tried to reduce it is much as possible but we wanted to understand our single use plastic footprint. So for a couple of months we collected all our plastic and returned it to the supermarkets at the end of each month. The banner picture is all the plastic used for one month. Despite taking numerous steps we found it equated to a shocking 15 Kg of plastic a year. It would have been much more without these steps so we still have more to do but it was a good start.
So whilst sailing in 2018 we focused on what we had learnt from home to reduce our consumption of single use plastic:

Stopped buying Bottled water
Bottled Water – we drink a lot of water onboard and we now have 12 2 litre bottles that we refill from marina tap water. In the past we have bought bottle water. So not only do we save water but we save carting water from the supermarket and the quality of the water in the Baltic Countries is very good.
Sodastream – With a sodastream onboard we no longer buy sparkling water. A gas bottle would last us about 3-4 weeks and we had a spare bottle onboard. We were able to exchange bottles in Finland and Sweden but not in Estonia or Latvia. We may have been able to buy a bottle in Tallinn – but couldn’t in any other coastal cities.

Reduced the use of cling film

silicon lidsSilicon lids – these lids create a seal and reduce the amount of cling film. You get 2 types one that provides an airtight seal and the other type that is just a lid. We have found the former more useful.
Silicon Vegetable sealers – these seal the ends of cut vegetables. Good for cucumber, onions, avocados etc and take up less room in the fridge than plastic boxes. We use food huggers.

Reduced the use of plastic bags
Stackable airtight plastic boxes – we increased the number of these – but we needed to get stackable ones to prevent a tupperware mountain.
Vegetable bags – I made some thin cotton bags which we take shopping so that we don’t need plastic bags to weigh out vegetable.
Bags for Life (non hessian ones) – we never accept a plastic bag – we either use a rucksack or a bag for life. We have the non hessian bags for life as they take up less room and don’t attract mildew on a boat.
Reduction in the use of Ziploc bags – a few years ago we used to go through handfuls of Ziploc bags. They still have their uses but we now wash them out and reuse them.

Reduced use when on shore through BYO (Bring Your Own)
Keep cups and water bottles – before leaving the boat we take our keep cups (refillable tea/coffee cups) and refillable water bottles with us.
Plastic straws –we never ask for a plastic straw in a drink. But found they came in some drinks. So we found if you want to prevent ones being used you need to tell them when ordering a drink not refuse it when it arrives – it is too late at that point.

Making from scratch
Making dips – We make hummus and tzatziki from scratch. It saves quite a few plastic pots. It also tastes much nicer.

New for 2019
This year we are going to totally stop the use of cling film on the boat. We have bought some Bee’s wax wraps – we have started using them at home instead of cling film. They are cotton coated in beeswax. They are moldable with the heat of your hand but can be washed in cold water.

Refillable wine boxes In order to reduce weight of glass on board and space, last year we moved to wine boxes. But of course these have non recyclable foil/ plastic bladders. Whilst we were in Latvia we found refillable plastic bladders – so we will give these ago. We will let you know what happens.

Problem areas – the galley and heads still produce a fair amount of plastic. This is what we need to focus on next. So do let us know any tips or suggestions.

 

Wrapped Up for Winter

The next 9 days were governed by a detailed spreadsheet – a glorified list of things to do. With temperatures reaching -25C, Carra has to be ready to withstand the winter. The mast off was due off on 4th and Carra due to lifted the next day, there was a lot to do. However, Mags was still suffering and was on very light duties. But gradually she regained her strength and we were able to crack on with our tasks. The days flew past, spent taking sails off, cleaning the dinghy, oil changed, the new rev counter fitted to name a few of the tasks. We had clearly been transporting a colony of spiders round the Baltic – which all needed to be removed. They had even established a home and a few spiders webs up the mast….how do they get up there.

Soon we were taking the boat around to get the mast taken off. This is our 4th year over wintering here so it is becoming routine. With the mast off we were able to track down the cause of an annoying squeak from the main halyard. We had been in touch with Selden (mast manufacturer) as there was also wear on the halyard. We knew it was partly due to a crossed halyard but when the mast came off we looking inside the top of the mast you could see the halyard was fed the wrong side of the bar. Next year it is going to be so much easier to pull the sail up without all that friction! Plus they are going to replace the main halyard and topping lift free of charge.

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Marcus, Nicholas and Tommi

As we pulled Carra along the pontoon to the awaiting tractor and trailer, she felt heavy as if we were leading a reluctant animal away from her summer pastures into her winter shed. Soon she was out of the water and still no growth underneath – we last put antifoul on her in 4 years ago in the UK!

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Going, going, gone
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Mags blowing through the water

To ensure Carra can cope with the winter all water needs to be removed – so no food with water can be left on board, all water is blown out of all the pipes in the drinking water system or replaced with antifreeze for other systems.

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Changing the oil and greasing the prop

This involved my favourite activity – taking the heads apart. Which had its final revenge as the contents of the outlet pipe blew back over me. Thankfully I had washed it out many times and so was only antifreeze…..or that was what I was telling myself.

DSC07623 - CopyAfter 5 days of being in the shed – the need to climb down a ladder and walk 500m to the loo was wearing rather thin. The thought of an ensuite loo was very appealing.

With all jobs done – we left Carra. Over the last 4 months we had sailed 1800 miles and all that remained was to drive 1000 miles home in 2 days.

A few stats from our cruise:

• Summer cottages visited: 3

• No of boats seen crewed by all women: 3 excluding us

• Puzzle books completed: 6

• Corned beef tins consumed:25

• Guests onboard: 53

• 57 new fish collected (each one represents a new harbour)

• Days since a bath: 138

• Hero of the day : Antibiotics!

That is it for this year, thanks for following our adventures

rod s and m

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