Sam faces her biggest fear!

Ever since our Finnish lessons, I had always been intrigued by the town Uusikaupunkki, because I had felt rather pleased that I could translate it. These early gains in my Finnish linguistic ability soon came to a grinding halt when Paivi, our lovely tutor, introduced us to the grammar. Anyway it means New Town or Nystad in Swedish. The “new” town was founded in 1617 as a trading town but rose to fame internationally due to the Treaty of Nystad (1721). The treaty ended the Great Northern War and saw the might of the Swedish Empire decline and the Russian Empire come to the fore. The two countries divided up countries, even though Russia had occupied much of Finland, it gave most back to back to Sweden and Russia kept Estonia and the Latvia/Lithuania.

We had an uneventful but frustrating motor for much of the way. As we approached our destination the scenery changed and it was more like the Stockholm Archipelago – only with lots of leading lines – it is a science here. I am sure it is so their big neighbour – the big bad bear can’t paralyse them by turning GPS off.

There were lots more boutique summer cottages – and the last thing you want on your door step is the local cormorant community taking up residence on a nearby skerries – industrial quantities of bird poo turn an island into a barren white ghost and down wind is quite grim …. Bang went the bird scarer and I jumped out of my skin wondering who had been shot – for it to happen 20 mins later – whilst I jumped not a bird moved.

uusiThe marina was situated down a narrow inlet with boats on all sides – it looked like it was Finland’s equivalent of the Hamble. The harbour was very friendly and was definitely the heart of the town – great vibe, cafes and restaurants along the harbour.

IMG_20190722_171139

Shopping trip without a car

Free hammocks hung between trees and everywhere in the town there were decorated happy chairs. Like Rauma it had a lot of wooden buildings though it didn’t quite have the randomness of Rauma.IMG_20190723_080808

But it did have the Bonk Museum – part art installation, part science but 100% spoof. The museum that traces the history of a fictional Bonk dynasty – and the machines that made their fortune – from anchovies. Yes everything can be made from these fish – from electricity, to potent love potions to rockets and much more. Think Willy Wonker’s chocolate factory and this was the equivalent. It was very well done – lots of period photos – someone had a lot of fun doing it, completely bonkers. But also there was a workshop which encourages children to build their own machines from disused parts.

Bonk

The power of Anchovies

An early start was needed to get to our next harbour Isokari – which means Big Skerries, the harbour was an old pilot harbour and was small and we wanted to get there first – but lots of others were leaving at the same time and it felt like a bit of a race to leave – but as it turned out they were going elsewhere. We eeked out as much sailing as possible but the heatwave that we were finally having meant very light winds. We arrived to find all places taken, but the harbour master was very helpful and moved a motor boat who had abandoned their boat taking up 2 places.

When I was little and I visited my Granny, she drilled into me the dangers of snakes. Concerned that I would try to pick up a basking adder, I was told to bang my feet if I saw any twigs on the ground. I did a lot of foot banging on my holidays. Ever since then I have had a phobia – even as I write this I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck raise just taking about them. I can’t look at pictures, let alone meet once face to face without a very uncool squeak…… we were just about to leave the previous lighthouse island Kylma-pihlaja – our boat neighbour went into the electric cupboard on shore that was 1 foot from our boat and warps, to unplug his shore power all I heard was “don’t tell Sam” – I knew exactly what it was – hissing sid was in there…… mightily relieved we didn’t take electricity that night. To think it could have come on board….urgh. Well we had just tied up at Isokari – an island with a light house – and the lovely harbour master had just taken a line – she stopped dead – out came the phase again – “don’t tell Sam” which triggers some pavlovian response in me, which means I look straight away – just by her foot was a snake. Trying to retain some modicum of control, I moved quickly to the other side of the wheel – I still needed to park the boat without screaming and running down below and shutting the hatch – which is what I wanted to do.

birds

Take off, Flight and Landing

After a while both Mags and the Harbour Master decided it hadn’t moved – and it turned out it was a plastic snake – left by some horrid child ……. My thoughts about said child are unprintable!

Thankfully there was some more appealing wildlife in the harbour, it was teeming with bird life – black guillemots flapping their wings like little wind up toys you get in Christmas crackers, busied themselves criss-crossing the harbour with small fish in their beaks. Their big orange feet coming out for their rather inelegant landing.

light

When Russia built the lighthouse on Isokari in 1833, at this point Finland belonged to Russia; this lighthouse was all about Russian status and so was designed to impress the western neighbours. It stands 35m tall and can be seen for miles. You get a fabulous view from the top. The surrounding grass meadow was in full flower with wild oregano and other colour flowers.
iso 2The harbour master packed in every boat that wanted to stay, we had 3 boats on the outside of us. An old trading ship skilfully manoeuvred and tied up oppose us onto the ferry pontoon. We assumed it was just an afternoon stop – but in the evening out came a series of tents which they put up on deck. Not sure this was glamping!

DSC01430

Mags avoiding the shipping

Tall Ships and All that Jazz

The water was oily still with not a breath of wind. But given that we had to drive in a convoluted pattern of straight lines to get into the harbour it didn’t matter as you

IMG_20190718_084515

Watch tower over looking the entrance

couldn’t have sailed anyway. Another narrow shallow passage ensued and we picked up a stern buoy. It wasn’t in the inner harbour where we had hoped to go, as there was a boat in the only space we could go into. Akko and Ada our Dutch friends had sent us a mail to say they had got into the inner harbour – which at 2m deep and they draw the same as us 1.9m though the bottom is mud.
Once tied up the heavens opened and it continued to rain for the next 12 hours. The moisture in the cabin was very high, with condensation forming on the port holes and it was very chilly – what happened to summer?
The next morning there was a dire forecast of more rain but a gap in the rain made us poke our heads out of the hatch to see that the space in the inner harbour was now free. So we dropped lines and headed off…… we need 1.9m to float. We started at 3m down a narrow channel and as we got to the pontoon, the water was quickly evaporating and we were down to 2.3m, 2.1m – all the time I had in my mind White Haze did it, so can we….. tied up with 15 cm to spare. Whilst there are no tides here, the water level does vary…. and can go 0.5m either way. But there is a 2 day water level forecast so I would keep an eye on that. But we certainly wouldn’t be filling up our water tanks here!
DSC01314The inner harbour was very sheltered, closer to the loos plus we were surrounded by 3 Tall Ships – trading vessels from the age of sail. Very Onedin Line. 2 were still active ships – but had a summer use as a restaurants and the other was a permanent restaurant. We had a delicious meal on Katarina. She had last carried cargo in the 1950s; below decks the tables were close to the hull in the bow- very atmospheric – the wood oozing the salty, tarry, smell of days of old.
raumaWe explored Rauma, the old town has 600 full fine pastel coloured old wooden buildings, reflecting its trading past with some fine merchant houses. Wandering off the main street there was an intimate feel about the town, with the winding cobbled street and wooden houses, each displaying its name plate.

Dogs

Left: Wally Dogs    Right: Gossip Mirrors so that you could see who was in the street

Many houses belonged to sailors and had 2 wally dogs in the window – facing inwards displaying that the master was at home, outwards – he was a sea. What nefarious activities went on when the dogs were facing outwards – doesn’t take much imagination.

DSC01279

Lace from Rauma was traded around northern Europe. It was a cottage industry where the work was done by the poorer men and women of the town. Very intricate patterns created with many bobbins and pins – painstaking detail.

 
Jazz

 

Just up the coast is Pori, home of the Pori Jazz Festival, and it was on – Finland’s largest outdoor music festival. So we decided to take the bus up to visit. The town was heaving with people, the sun was shining and the cafes spilt onto the streets. We walked to the jazz park, one stage, the free one, was playing a jazz set. But the 3 others were ticketed and playing Finnish heavy metal, very loudly – not our cup of tea. Later in the evening Stray Cats and Toto would be playing. Toto was my old boss from Nokia’s favourite group – they used to make an appearance frequently on team days out. We ate in town – a jazz band struck up in the nearby restaurant. Sadly the last bus back meant that we left at 7:30pm but we realised the best part of the festival is not the ticketed arena but the vibe of summer cafes, live music in the town that makes for a great atmosphere.

Now all we had to get out of our berth!  Since we arrived the water level had gone done 10 cm… so only 5cm to spare – what could possible go wrong! Well for a start I should have reversed out exactly the way we came in … but didn’t .. I backed out and turned ….and felt us touch the bottom – but it was mud. The back of the keel acted as a pivot on the mud and with a bit of oomph from the engine we were able to drive her off. Thankfully it was too early for an audience. Back out into the channel, 3.2m on the way in had felt shallow – now it felt positively deep. The beauty of perspective!

We returned to the lighthouse island Kylma-pihlaja, which was much busier than on our last visit and it would set up well for our next destination.

Sam jamming with the sea birds and revenge is a dish….

Elaine left us in the morning and our plan was to look for a weather window to cross the 132nm to Finland, we wanted a good wind direction, but not too windy so that we could sail all the way without it being too lumpy. I looked at the long term weather and there was a distinct lack of wind for the next 4-5 days. Not what I was hoping for as it would mean we would have to motor. We had a choice wait 5 days or go and hope to catch the last of dying the wind. Härnösand wasn’t really a place we wanted to spend any more time than we had to – so we decided to go for it.

We set off east out of the fjord – frustratingly we were head into the wind. But once clear of the headland, we could set all 3 sails and head roughly in the right direction – close hauled into the wind. Which was great as it made what little wind there was appear stronger. 6.5 knots was more than I could hope for. We managed to sail for 6 hours but with the wind progressively coming round first at 90 degrees then from behind us it meant the wind we saw got lighter and lighter until we only doing 2.7 knots. Time to capitulate and turn on the engine…..

sailingWe were sad to be leaving the High Coast – it is a stunning area to sail in and had exceeded our expectations – dramatic scenery, pretty little fishing villages and unique geological features. But with each mile travelled, the view of the High Coast disappeared over the horizon and soon it was just sea that was visible. Given that we were expecting the trip to last 26 hours, we set up a watch system. Having had dinner, Mags went off watch and went to sleep. There were a couple of large ships to watch out for – but with electronic tracking (stalking or its proper term AIS) it was like playing a very slow electronic game. It was interesting seeing all the exotic destinations they were bound for – one was going to Alexandria.

But with no sails to tweak – few ships to watch out for…. I was getting bored and that meant I would start feeling sleepy. I got out the sweetie box. But there are only so many mint humbugs you can eat….

DSC01096 v2

The guitar mid crossing

So out came my guitar and I decided to have my only concert in the middle of the Gulf of Bothnia. From Bossa Nova, Ed Sheeran, Tracy Chapman, The Beatles, Oasis, James Blunt, the Shadows – Strumming away, I gave it rooty toot – singing at the top of my voice – my guitar teacher would have been proud of me as I even played Paranoid by Black Sabbath (not my favourite but apparently a useful technique he tells me) – all on my ½ sized classical guitar……The engine drowned out the many dodgy notes and I was able to labour until the misguided belief that I was the next cool acoustic guitar soloist. But just before you rush to book me up for your next party:

a. I cant sing
b. My “set” wouldn’t last long – as I only know one song from each
c. I would still like to have some friends.

It never really got dark – at about 2230 the sun was setting but it would rise again at 0300 so the sun just went below the surface and only had 4.5 hours to rush round to the other side of the sea so it was like having a permanent sunset and sunrise.
Mags took over – she had been oblivious to my gig. It rained for a bit and she saw a weird horseshoe rainbow then I was back on watch for a couple of hours, then Mags took over again. 10 am we had bacon butties – always good for morale plus we were able to sail from there – a relief turning off the engine.

DSC01112Our destination was the light house island of Kylma-pihlaja about 5 miles off the Finnish Coast – close but very isolated. We arrived 26 hours after setting off – into a small harbour which had been hewn out from the rock, was a former pilot station harbour and we were the only yacht and a hand full small motorboats out for a lunch stop.

DSC01102Tip toeing through the goose poo, this was a bird sanctuary – we walked round the island – and climbed the lighthouse which was now a hotel. By 2030 we were completely pooped and fell into bed….. next thing we knew it was 10:30…. It was a lovely sunny day and we were the only boat here. A fine harbour so we were quite happy to spend another day here.

Boats came and went all day – it appears to be a coffee stop for the coast guard and pilot boats, the ferry made frequent stops. One couple will be rueing the day they didn’t check the time of the last ferry and with no beds in the inn – a water taxi came out to pick them up….ouch – expensive!

IMG_20190714_171424With the harbour deserted all bar one small motorboat, a yacht arrived…..with the whole harbour to park in – he chose to moor 2ft in front of us at right angles by picking up a stern buoy. Making it more difficult for us to get out. It was totally out of order and inconsiderate. So I took great delight the next morning in springing Carra out – this is a technique where you pivot the boat using just the engine and one warp – which brought her stern out perpendicular to the harbour wall. He came out to watch, initially he looked worried as it isn’t a commonly used technique in these waters. He was about to make a very “helpful” comment then stopped to watch –– we exited perfectly…..I felt satisfaction for all the mansplaining I have had to endure as a skipper – this was womansplaining to an inconsiderate skipper without saying a word and it felt great!

Ed Note: Spell checker recognises mansplaining but not womansplaining!

Toasted Marshmallows, Crayfish and a Bonkers Museum

We had received an email from friends that we had met on a rally last year that they were going to be in Ulvöhamn. Whilst Ulvöhamn is one of the must see places in the High Coast, its attractions can be done in 2 hours; so not the place to sit out a day of windy weather. So it made sense just to pop in for lunch. Robert and Helen from Trenelly invited us onboard for a lovely lunch. Followed by showing Elaine the “sights” and it was back to Saku’s boat Duo for tea and cakes. It was fun catching up with them all and about 4pm we had a gentle drift to Norrfallsviken.

socialThe next day you could hear the waves crashing on the nearby shore and the wind whistling in the trees but we were all tucked up with not enough wind to turn Bertie, our wind generator. He is called Bertie after a Scottish phase Birling Bertie – Birling being Scots for spinning. Bertie is a bit of a drama queen and can make a light wind sound gale force strength. But even he was silent.

DSC01013Once the fresh rolls had been delivered to the boat, we were ready for our hike. We were keen to show Elaine the cobble beaches – so we decided to repeat the walk we had done previously – but it is amazing how much quicker it was without carrying a bike! The hut and fire pit we picked for lunch had dramatic views over the headland but little in the way of vegetation, so it was just as well we had collected some wood en-route. We had improved our BBQ offering – these were no ordinary bacon butties, these were…….. M&S smoky BBQ cooked bacon on fresh baked seeded bread rolls and smashed avocado – all very Hampshire darling. Followed by toasted marshmallows on sticks whittled by Mags.

img_20190708_153633.jpgWe had a leisurely start hoping that the sea would have calmed down from the previous days windy weather. Sadly it hadn’t, thus the deep swell and light wind from behind us meant that it was a lumpy and uncomfortable trip. It wasn’t til we were protected by land could we actually sail. Haggvik was tucked up behind an island and had more in common with a small boating lake and as a result it was very protected.

DSC01072It was a real suntrap – perfect for a cold beer and chilled wine whilst watching the wildlife. Slovenia Grebes kept us entertained – parents and 2 young riding on their mother’s back. Definitely a case of ugly duckling turning into beautiful swan, as the 2 babies looked more like ugly baby dinosaurs.

 

DSC05123_edited

Haggvik – you can just see Carra nestled in front of the island in the centre

Not only was Haggvik in a lovely setting – plus it was a bargain – free washing machine in the price of the harbour dues…. That meant a dobe evening. Close by we visited the most eclectic well actual totally bonkers Museum that I have ever been too – Mannaminne. It has everything from a woolly mammoth, old ships, trains, cars, farm equipment, computers, telephones, building from across Scandinavia and that is only a tiny portion of what they had…..you name it – they had it – todays junk tomorrows museum piece came to mind.

museum

We had a lively sail out of the fjord, the scenery here resembling the Norwegian fjords, then out into the open sea which was very tame compared to the previous day. Gybing downwind through the skerries and islands which is always fun and gives you a sense of achievement when you don’t need to put the engine on. We tucked into the small old fishing harbour of Lövvik for the night.

IMG_20190710_131805For Elaine’s last sail we had a great wind and sailed between the islands. We looked into Lustholmen, where I thought we might stop for lunch – but holiday time on a club island meant it was packed; so we headed off to Härnösand where we would be dropping Elaine off.

DSC01088

High Coast Bridge – Swedish Equivalent of the Golden Gate Bridge

The guest harbour was in the centre of town and seemed to be the drinking spot for the local drunks. The reception committee thought nothing of urinating next to the buildings in front of us. It couldn’t be a greater contrast to the little harbours we had seen for the last few weeks. Härnösand had been slightly oversold by the Rough Guide – or may be we had been put off by the reception committee. But the grand square – was very ordinary with a couple of nice buildings. There were some nice wooden building in pastel colours – but the best bit was a fab little deli. Clutching our garlic mayonnaise and strong cheddar we headed back to boat. However, one redeeming feature, it did have a very good Restaurant and Elaine treated us to a lovely Dinner. Mags and Elaine sharing a traditional Crayfish Dinner complete with silly hat and bib.

Celebrities and the Photo Shoot

Elaine arrived late in the evening, after a day travelling, to be told that we would be leaving at 0630 and it was likely to be raining – she took it very well. On the positive side, the plan would give us the best chance of getting into Trysunda but no guarantees. We left on time but the drizzle and the low claggy cloud kept the coast line a secret. At least, we were able to sail and as we rounded the headland and glimpsed into the harbour, we had fingers and toes crossed that there would be a space – given that it had been packed 2 days earlier we weren’t sure…..

Well it was practically deserted – there was a beautiful British yacht nudged into the harbour lifting its anchor as we arrived. It could have taken a direct route out but they motored towards us to say hello – as it drew closer I recognised it and it’s famous Skipper – well famous in sailing circles Tom Cunliffe. We chatted for a short while then they headed off south. It was good of him to come over.

DSC00974DSC00963Slowly the weather cleared and sun and blue sky were seen. One advantage of being tied up by 10 o’clock was we had ample time to explore the island and it gave us a chance to revisit our favourite stone beach with its big silky smooth rounded cobbles and big grey rocks – shaped by the sea into perfect seats and warmed by the sun. DSC05046A place for contemplation and just being.

Trysunda was our favourite harbour of the trip and we thought we could do a bit Carra photo shoot here with Elaine as our human drone. We would do circuits of the harbour while she took pictures from a nearby hill. Much to the amusement of the locals from their docks we did loops, sail out sail in. Once over we went bows into the staging just close enough for Elaine to hop on to the bow ladder and reverse quickly. Photo shoot in the can, we left…

DSC05044

Swimming 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle – 63 Degrees North

Mjalton as an anchorage had caught my eye, a natural anchorage which is a perfect circular inlet. There was little to go on – the chart said less than 3m but I had read that it was 3m deep. There was narrow entrance and as we approached there were strong gusts of 25 knots and I bottled it. I didn’t fancy having to reverse quickly through a narrow gap if I didn’t like it in there. So we set course for Trysunda ….again. With the wind just off close hauled and 2 reefs in the main, we romped along at 7 knots. Just as we arrived, 3 boats left and we managed to pick up a buoy. With other boats already there it is a lot easier to handle cross winds as your bow has no where to go and you can nose in gently to check the depth. With 2.7m by the keel but less than 1m under the bow – we were safely in.

DSC00783
Trysunda is a an old picture perfect fishing village and consequently it is a magnet for boats. Last week when we tried before we were the only boat here – but now there were 2 boats on every buoy. You moor in the Baltic with your bows onto the wooden staging and your stern clipped onto a buoy at the back. Throughout the day more boats arrived – there was an evasion of Finnish boats that had come across the Gulf of Bothnia. Just when you thought it was full – they squeezed a few more in. The principle being if there is a gap wide enough to stick you bow into – you can force your way in.

The was an informative little fishing museum in a boat house describing the fishing fleet and life on the island. Originally it had been 3 islands with three sounds – hence the name Trysunda. But the sounds have been long since filled in with the land rising and it is estimated there will be no harbour in 1000 years time – but then with global warming – who knows they might be back to 3 sounds. There was a sweet little white wooden 17th Century chapel with the coolest key hanging up on the outside. Inside painting adorned the walls.

church
The next day we climbed the hill and went to the north beach – to our surprise we found a stunning sandy beach. We walked on to the next beach which was a total contrast. It was stones – but not your normal stones. Imagine smooth rounded pebbles – normally they would be a couple of 2-3cm centimes long. But these were 20-60cm – very tactile and then some massive lumps of rock – complete smoothed by the sea but made up of lots of crystals and warmed by the sun. It was a magical beach.

beach

rocksOne of the pleasures of being in Scandinavia – I am not exaggerating when I say that since we came over in mid May I can count on 2 hands the amount of litter that I have seen and picked up and no plastic in the sea. So these beaches were pristine with only driftwood on their shores. Beaches and pretty red houses – this was a very special place – no wonder it is busy in the holiday period.

 

dsc00843.jpg

DSC00846

Left – Mags standing on the bottom – it is that shallow

Good paths meant it was a great island to go for a run on – so off I pootled. Though I was less convinced by Mags choice of activity – Swimming – a sentiment shared with our boat neighbours who normal will go for a quick dip whenever they can – but not here. Just 200 miles south of the Arctic circle and only 11C…… Even the sea kayaker who she chatted to her mid swim thought a 2mm wetsuit was a little thin.

dsc00852-1.jpgToo soon it was time to leave this little gem of a harbour, as we need to go to Örnsköldslvik to replenish the supplies and to pick up Elaine. Having thought we could sail there was not enough wind when it was in the right direction and then going up the long fjord, it was against us and had strengthened. So it was a boring motor.

ovikThe town is dominated by 2 massive ski jumps, the bottom of one is crossed by a bridge – not exactly conducive to wanting to jump further! Going for a run here, I cut through the graveyard. It was very different to a British one – which even the nature of the name “grave yard” is not very uplifting. But in Sweden they are called Church gardens and flowers and greenery abound, with each stone having a little garden growing permanently. They even provided sets of gardening tools to tend to the garden. Sadly I fear in the UK these would be nicked….map

This is as far north as we will go on this trip – 63 Degrees 17 N.

 

Hiking and Prehistoric Times

With some windy weather expected, we decided we needed to find a good place to moor and Docksta provided just that. Plus it is right next to a national park so there would be plenty to do for the next few days of northerlies. I had looked at the harbour and there was one spot I was keen to get which meant that we would be well protected and could leave the boat there. So an early start meant that we could got the pick of the places. It is still quiet up here – during the week more than 2 boats in a harbour and it is positively crowded. White Haze followed us in in – I am sure they must think we are stalking them. We did beat a large German boat in – a rather satisfactory beach towel victory moment.

IMG_20190701_155111We were greet by an incredibly friendly and helpful harbour master Tommaso and his wife Anna and it was a surprise to hear their Italian accents. Tommaso was speaking at full tilt and by the time we had put the 2nd rope ( of 4) on ashore he had given us a map of all the hiking routes, told us the best routes to go on and given us the brief on the facilities!
lichen

The following day with Mags dosed up on ibufofen for her dodgy knees, we set of along part of the High Coast trail in the Skuleskogen National Park. We walked though ancient pine forests with rare plants and lichens, past Bronze age burial chambers, saw cobble fields (beaches) at 200 m above sea level and walked

rocks

DSC00634

Bronze age Burial Chamber

DSC00679across bare rock with knurled pine trees growing in the most unlikely of locations. Steep climbs rewarded with great views of the islands below.

DSC00661ravineArriving at a beautiful lake with a little red bothy for the trail hikers and a couple of fire pits, it was the perfect lunch stop. Our route returned through the Slattdalen Ravine – created over 1.5 billion years ago with steer granite walls and rocky floor.
seat

IMG_20190628_094940Continuing on the High Coast Trail the next day, we past a suspended seat with different positions as demonstrated by Mags– which is part of a series of architectural installations along the trail.

IMG_20190702_084222

Skulebergets on the right

From there we climbed Skulebergets, which has the worlds highest shore line at 286m above sea level and it has a cobble field at this height – meaning that it over 8000 years old. When you see the sea way down below it is incredible to see how much it has risen.

DSC00757

The metal sign is where the sea level was 8000 years ago

I am pleased to say that Mags knees held up and she managed both days without limping!

We decided to hire a car to explore the area and visit some prehistoric rock paintings. There is a reoccurring theme with the coast of Sweden – trees and vast swaths of them. Thinking there might be a little variation in scenery we headed inland – as we are all treed out. But no – the vista of trees didn’t change.

carvingWe took a guided tour round some of the 2600 carvings which are believed to be between 6000 -1500 BC. Their proximity to the roaring water of the hydroelectric dam is a dramatic situation for these unique carvings.

They depict elk, people, salmon, bears and boats. Believed to be carved with quartz, they are painted in modern times as they would be impossible to see otherwise. It is debateable whether this is the right thing to do but it does make it easier for the untrained eye.

We discovered the Fjallraven Outlet store – lots of cool outdoors kit though an alarming number of people wearing socks and sandals. There was a danger of spending serious money here and blowing the sailing budget – but as a friend said we could always park the boat and continue by dinghy!

On the roof of the harbour clubhouse, there was a nest with 2 seagull chicks that were only 3 days old – cute feathery brown balls.. The only problem being to go to the loo you had to pass close by with both parents on guard duty. In other harbours, we have had to negotiate artic terns that attack you with their beaks but the seagull just swoop at you – harmless you think but when they really don’t like where you are – they deploy the ultimate deterrent with the bombing accuracy of the dambuster bombs – father seagul scored a direct hit all over me.

We invited Ada and Akko and a British couple Helen and David over for drinks and enjoyed more tales of daring do around Patagonia and other exotic boat locations. Carra’s high seas Hummus was made for the occasion.

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.

dsc00378.jpg

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.

DSC00397

Norrsfällsviken

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.

bbq

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.

mountain

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.

bridge

DSC00451

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.

sunsvall
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.

fog

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.

2.jpg

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.

IMG_20190622_185057

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.

Capture

« Older Entries Recent Entries »