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.

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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.
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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.

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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!

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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

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Plague and Pestilence hits Carra

Jill arrived in the evening bearing gifts – a new rev counter and bacon – what else could a girl ask for! Plus more importantly a puzzle book for Mags as she had finished her last one. The next morning we left in time for the 12 o’clock bridge – given that it is the third time we have past through it in a week – it was positively routine. A great sail across to Lumparland and we were tucked up nicely in Bomarsund as the wind built throughout the day. After lunch of – surprise surprise – corned beef sandwiches, we wandered up to the fort – through the woods. It was a glorious sunny day and a beautiful walk – the path meandered through the trees that were clinging onto the rocks clearly marked as the rocks had been worn smooth, elsewhere the rocks being covered with pillows of sage green lichen. As Jill said “you expected pixies and fairies to be living here”.Bomarsund

The fort with its old Russian canons with the double headed eagles over look the approach to the harbour. We then walked down to the garrison fort and to the plaque for the first VCs that were awarded here.

Bomarsund was a decision point, do we go north about and cross from Sweden from there or do we go south to Rödhamn and cross from there? With strong southerlies for the next few days – we elected to go north about and had a gybe-athon through some rocks. We had both sails up and it was fun getting the gybe angles right for some narrow passages between the rocks.

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Mags and her new puzzle book – order is restored on Carra

Once through it was a reach to our next harbour – through quite a wide channel to Hamnsundet. It was completely deserted, so we decided to come along side – as I wanted to polish one side of the hull. It needs to be done once per year and it is much faster and easier from a pontoon than once in the shed where the topsides are 3m from the ground.

We were due to go to an anchorage the next night before turning the corner and coming south to Karingsund. With 2 days of southerly winds ahead I knew we would need to motor and the next day the winds were lighter so we elected to go straight to Karingsund. Which in the end was very fortuitous, but more of that later…..

DSC07364Frustratingly as we turned the corner to head south so did the wind – but at least with lots of islands and rock to negotiate it did flatten out the sea. According to the chart there were navigation buoys directing you around the shallow, narrow entrance into the harbour– but all bar one set were missing. Karingsund is a perfect harbour, very sheltered from all directions and an old fishing harbour with lots of fishing huts lining the natural bay in various states of repair.

About 2 weeks ago Mags had been bitten by a tick. Ticks here can carry lyme disease and TBE. We had been vaccinated in Finland against TBE on the Punkkibussi – a bus that came to the supermarket. But there is no vaccination against lyme disease. I had removed the tick but it was very small and didn’t appear to be full of blood so didn’t think it would cause a problem. After a few days the bite disappeared, so all was well…… Until today when Mags had a red rash about 8cm wide. I was 100% sure this was Lyme’s disease, which can be a life changing, disabling disease if not treated quickly. So we got into a taxi and went straight to the hospital and sure enough Mags was diagnosed with lyme disease. So next stop was the chemist to pick up some very strong antibotics. As the Doctor said she was lucky to have had the rash – not everyone does and that is when it goes untreated with unexplained debilitating symptoms . But he was confident catching it so early meant that she would fully recovery. Also we were grateful that Mags got treated in an area where it is prevalent, so they knew the signs and issued the antibiotics immediately rather than waiting for the results of a blood test which don’t appear positive for some time. Hence many places delay the treatment and then wonder why they have high rates of untreatable lyme disease.

Although Mariehamn looked empty we found a restaurant full of locals and the Schnitzel lunch hit the spot – thanks Jill. The trip into town also allowed us to do some food shopping and overt a beer crisis onboard Carra. Throughout the day Mags had been feeling more unwell. Amongst other symptoms extreme fatigue is one of the impacts of the disease.

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Early morning in Karingsund
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Back in Swedish waters

There was an early morning fog in the air when we left Karingsund, but it soon cleared and with F2/3 wind just forward of the beam we had a lovely sail with all 3 sails up we were making great progress. Bacon butties were most welcome as a mid morning snack – given that breakfast had been early o’clock. The smell of bacon buttie didn’t even raise Mags, so I knew she wasn’t well. Quite quickly we lost visibility of the Aland’s and Jill and I sailed ….. Mags slept.

Soon we were weaving our way into Arholma’s West harbour- a pretty harbour with your typical red houses and wooden boat houses supported on stones. We tucked in behind the floating loo and anchored.

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Arholma
Arholma
Life on Arholma

Jill and I went for a stroll round the island – in theory to look at the island but in reality in search of cinnamon buns. With all tourists gone there were only locals (70 live here all year round) and they seemed to be able to survive without cinnamon buns! bakenWe returned having failed in our mission but having explored the church and the beacon at a giddy height of 25m above sea level….. Mags slept.

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Jill visiting the floating loo

Jill was determined to use all items of clothing she had brought and the swimming costume was yet to be used. So decided to visit the loo by swimming to it. Mags occasionally surfaced but soon went back to bed and ….Mags slept

Our next destination Sjalbottna, a lovely anchorage but we couldn’t be believe it was to be the last of our cruise. With a gentle breeze we were able to tack our way between the rocks, it is great fun – planning your tacks to avoid the rocky islands. Jill and I dodged the small yellow ferries that shuttle between islands and managed to sail virtually all the way to the anchorage..….. Mags slept.

As we were taking Carra out of the water we needed to fill up Carra with fuel – so headed for Vaxholm and were able to sail all the way. This time ferry dodging was with the big ships that come into Stockholm and if it wasn’t for our ability to see them electronic – you would get quite a shock as you don’t see them behind the islands……. Mags slept…. only surfacing for the ferry.

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You could tell we were back in the Stockholm Archipelago as there were the white ghostly islands – all vegetation being killed off with Cormorant poo. DSC07430Once anything growing us dead, the birds move off and after a while it regenerates. You know when you are downwind of one of these islands. Once tied up at Vaxholm – Jill went off in search of cinnamon buns and was successful! We made our way back to the Marina. Sad that the cruise was over but pleased that we had completed our trip and had seen everything that we had wanted to see and been able to share our adventure with so many friends……. Mags was awake!

Update

The joys of Lymes disease is that that once you have started the antibiotics you feel worse as the dead bacteria appear to have their revenge as they float around your system waiting for your body to remove them. Mags has had some rough days since coming back to the marina but every day has felt better and is nearly back to normal.

Windy weather in Lumparland

With only 1.5 hours between friends, we had a quick clean of the boat and had just about finished when Caron and Yvonne arrived bearing gifts. A vented loop (don’t ask – it is for the loo) and salad cream essential for my corned beef sandwiches which now are a key ingredient of my stable diet, due to the 25 tins we had on board – and now down to the last 6! We have made less progress on the cuppa soup mountain though, which is less appealing in hot weather.

The windy weather looked set in for the week which was frustrating – but not much we could do about it. But there was an opportunity to get to a harbour before the next front came through with 30 knots winds. We were heading to Lumparland – part of the mainland or in our minds home to Willy Wonker.

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The narrow canal Photo: Caron

But to get there we had to go through a narrow canal with a bridge opening that meant we had to leave at 1110 on the dot. So safety brief done, we cast off and timed our arrival at the bridge for 1200. There were a couple of boats coming the other way and it felt like we were squeezing through – it always seems a challenge the first time…. Mast just past the bridge, it swung shut and we had a good downwind sail across open water. This route was the approach the British and French Warships used to sneak up on the Russian Fort at Bomarsund. The battle was part of the Crimea War and the warships took 48 hours to destroy the fort that the Russians had taken 10 years to build. A simple case of the Russians expecting the attack from a different direction. Given the rocks it must have been an impressive bit of sailing getting the warships so close.

DSC07250Bomarsund is one of our favourite Aland Island harbours. Stunning red rocky cliffs provide a dramatic backdrop for the deep harbour which has been used for centuries by old sailing vessels. The vessels being tied to the rocks with big rings that are still used today. Trees and lichen cling onto to rocks and gravity defying angles with little sign of soil. The board walk follows the contour of the rock and is suspended over the water and more importantly it is incredible sheltered from any southerly winds. So the only sign of the near gale blowing were the trees on the top of the cliff.

c and y 2The following morning Caron and Yvonne went off to explore the fort – we stayed on Carra and caught up with some admin. The wind was due to drop slightly in the afternoon and with a downwind sail – it looked like there was an opportunity to sail. But at lunch time you could see it was still very strong wind – so we decided to stay put.

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Looking at the bowels of the boat on her phone

Caron and I then set off to explore the heads to see if we could solve the problem by way of a boat colonoscopy – with a go pro camera on a pole we explored parts of Carra that had not seen day light for some time. Caron’s knowledge of pumps was very helpful – whilst we couldn’t solve it – we were able to eliminate a couple of causes and I was better able to describe the problem in terms of pump pressures.

The sunset that evening was the essence of tranquility and beauty. ( see banner photo – by Caron)

As is often the way with windy weather, once past we found ourselves becalmed and so we motored to Kastleholm. Enroute were treated to a very close view of a sea eagle spiralling down to the waters edge – the closest we have been to one. Crossing our path on our way to our harbour was an electric cable which was 22m from the water – we require 19m so in theory there should be 3m spare – but it looks like cms from the deck – which is why I find it easier not to look. So I just had to ignore Mags saying “are you sure we will fit under” and go for it.

Having had strong southerlies we now picked Kastleholm as was good shelter from the strong northerlies for the next few days. We explored the Jan Karlsgården museum in the morning – although it was the second time that week it was still very interesting.

Whilst it was windy the sun was shinning, so we had a great 25km cycle ride around a nearby lake – which was rewarded with cinnamon buns that Caron had bought earlier.

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Early morning mist Photo: Caron

I was frustrated that we hadn’t been able to show Caron and Yvonne any harbours beyond Lumparland. But provided we were quick we could get out to Rodhamn the next morning and show them the outer Archipelago before the next windy weather arrived. We awoke at 0530 with mist swirling on the water and as we set off the sun shone through the mist it was magical. We sailed all the way back to the bridge and made it through the first opening at 9am. Passing through for the second time … it seemed less scary.

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Focusing on rocks and beating another boat

After some tactical tacking we arrived at Rodhamn at 11am. Rodhamn is another favourite of ours but we had never seen it deserted before, indicative of the sailing season being over here.

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The leading lights of Rodhamn! Photo: Caron

We had the choice of spots on the wooden staging. We went off and explored the island – to my horror I saw a small snake ( I hate snakes). Thankfully it was small, so I managed to suppress my inner desire to scream but with evil yellow eye lids – I wasn’t getting any closer.

rodhamn 1With the wind due to increase soon we only stopped for an hour before sailing back up to Mariehamn.

Caron loves sheds – so the old harbour was a brilliant shed spotters paradise. A wonderful old working boat yard with lots of boat sheds – some on land, some over the water but all focused on restoring old wooden sailing boats. It is a favourite spot of ours in the grand metropolis that is Mariehamn, think small town with a parochial feel but that makes it sound way too lively.

We strolled over to the other harbour and pondered who was the owner of the £46 million super yacht called Africa 1 – we were convinced it was some despot African dictator. Mags asked one of the crew but despite her teachers integration – they didn’t divulge the owner, as they are sworn to secrecy. This only reinforced our view, definitely dodgy money.

Caron and Yvonne treated us to a delicious meal in Mariehamn. They left on the 9am ferry, with Jill not arriving for another 12 hours we were able to get ahead on the admin – aka laundry!

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