Category Archives: 2021

Dame Edna Comes to Visit

We try to avoid sailing in the rain if we can help it. It was due to rain by mid-day – ergo it needed to be a short sail – a whole 5nm to a perfect all weather anchorage – the kind you snuggle down into – cocooned by trees to the waters edge – Kolnäsviken, Ornö. The next day it was another quick hop to a neighbouring island,   Mörtö Bunsö. It is a nature reserve with a natural harbour,  and when we arrived there were just 2 boats and a pair of white tailed eagles gliding effortlessly above us – we anchored and a cup of tea and some of Mags’ home baked oat cakes and we enjoyed the peace and quiet ….but to our surprise it  just  kept filling up and by the end of the day we had 40 boats in there.

The Big House

Needing to stretch our legs, we walked to the south of the island in search of “The big house”. A good path led past tiny pastures – a sign of its  former farming life,  The Big House was perched on a cliff ( it is a relative term here) – to the rear small stubby pine trees that seemed to float above mounds of silvery lichen and to the front stunning views over the Archipelago from a massive picture window.  Build in 1905, in a Finnish Romantic style it looked rather incongruous in the middle of nowhere. Incredible ornate hinges and door handles. On the way back Mags spotted a fawn that was less than 1 month old – it was tiny.

Level 3
Dame Edna Glasses

When we got back, a yacht had anchored and sat over our anchor – so we moved up to level 3 – on our scale…. Mags went off in the dinghy. But by then they had had a few drinks and weren’t going to move – actually she decided they would do less damage staying put till they sobered up.

Crunch was the noise I heard as I sat on my glasses – the archipelago has many wonderous things but a surfeit of opticians is not one of them. Out came the super glue, and the clamps – I adopted the Dame Edna look. The glue only worked for a few days – so the clamps became a feature.

We were lucky with the weather, the next 2 days were settled so we could visit some more of the outer archipelago. Another rather hairy entrance – and then just one spot for one boat to anchor – we bagged it. The rocks were much lower – with little vegetation. Mags went for a swim – it looked lovely but Iwasnt tempted! The pilot book recommended climbing the “hill” on the nearby big rock …. We did – it was 15m tall but it was highest point round here.

We fancied going to the Island Bullerö – but it was less than ideal as you needed a northerly wind to visit – and we had southerly one – a direction which was very open –  but the wind was light until midday – so we had  could have a quick visit. Former fisherman’s huts lined the little harbour, but the water looked less appealing as the lime green streaks indicated an algae bloom – the odd area beginning to turn cyan blue – this is when it is poisonous. We had come to see Hunting Lodge – which had a spectacular picture window and painted ceiling – quite a party room I would imagine. 2 such party guests were Charlie Chaplin and Errol Flyn!  We were soon back on board and sails up and we headed to Sandhamn but anchored in a nearby island.

Out on the Edge

With Denmark now a lost cause, we had a new plan – to head east and explore a new patch of rocks – the outer Archipelago. An area on the chart marked as “known rocks over 6m shown”. As Donald Rumsfeld would said “what about the unknown knowns”. We made an overnight stop in the imaginatively named Djup Viken – deep harbour – then headed east to the Island of Fjärdlång – a nature revere. We entered the bay but you had to be right at the end to see the entrance to the inner lagoon. Hugging the shore,  just 10m off with rustling leaves almost touching the sides of the boat …we crept in. A little lagoon came into view already full of boats attached to the rocks at their bows. We anchored, visited the amenities….. a compositing loo. The ground had big voluminous mounds of  bright green moss and blueberry bushes full of tiny berries clung to the rocky slopes – the result of a very dry year. No sooner had we got back than a boat anchored next to us. He dropped his stern anchor – with no attempt to dig it in (making sure it would hold you) then left it attached to his stern – rather than taking it forward to the bow.  We have a scale of 3 when it comes to people who anchor too close –  1  The look – mildly concerned. 2 – Sarcastic comments. 3 Send Mags over by dinghy for some words of advice. He was a 2 – so  I asked him if he was planning on joining us for lunch. His reply was we were swinging about. I did point out that there is a reason it is called swing anchoring and suggested that if he moved the rope to the bow he would lie in the same direction as all the other boats anchored. He did and his boat moved away.  

We were quite close to some rocks behind us – which had a resident tern and her annoying adolescent  offspring who screeched the incessantly demanding attention –  sometimes  doesn’t appear to be much separating us from other members of animal Kingdom!

The next morning, we went to explore the island which had a soft centre with lush grass and sheep – a contrast to the rocky terrain with stumpy pine trees growing out of barren rock that we could see from the boat. Mags did a pilates class on the deck and I had a Cruising Association meeting. As soon as the meeting was over, the engine was on and we headed out.

Ghosting along under the yankee (the front sail)– with still no sign of the mainsail we arrived at the islands of Finnskar – well a formation of about 200 rocks might be a better description –  Carra entered dancing a slow dance choregraphed by the rocks lurking below the surface. Once safely into a large pool, the chain rattled down and we dug in the anchor. It proved to be a popular location. At one point boats were queuing up in an orderly fashion to moor on the rocks surrounding us, it was a hive of activity – metal on metal clanging as they secured their hooks into granite crevices.

The Compass

We took Pikku Carra (our dinghy – Little Carra) on an expedition – we had a photo of the chart and zig zagged around the submerged rocks to a hamlet  – we were in search of a compass carved into the rocks by fishermen from 1826 – Da Vinci Code stuff it wasn’t –  you could just about make it out – though blink and you might have missed it.

We had an early start to sail south – and we actually sailed with the mainsail up – second outing this year!  Proper sailing – I had  forgotten the pleasure of trying to get every inch of speed whilst sailing into the wind and seeing if you could make past the odd inconveniently placed rock. All rocks safely passed we entered  Huvudskär – an old fishing harbour which had been an pilot and Customs post. It is right on the edge – nothing between it and Estonia. It must have been a grim existence in the winter months. Even today’s summer residents don’t get the mod cons of other islands’ summer cottages, given that there is a well for water and communal compositing loos in little blocks.

Mags has turned native and was seen skinny dipping – but it was a lot chiller than other places so she was soon back on board.


We have noticed quite a few Super Yachts have discovered the Baltic this year – I assume Covid has made them desert the Caribbean and Med for the safely of the Baltic. Anchored close by was a 72m British  boat – a study in grey with grey hull, grey mast, grey boom, even grey radar…. It oozed money and paid crew. Normally, we would invite over the crew of a British boat – but we felt that they wouldn’t want to speak to the common people. Let’s hope they don’t like the Baltic and bugger off back to where they came from.

With some windy weather expected, the low lying rocks of the outer archipelago offering no protection – so we hightailed it back with a bit of a windy sail to the shelter of Brunnsviken – a rather quaint marina. Every now and again it is good to be ashore – we can plug in, catch up on admin and stretch the legs. We cycled to the shop on the other side of the island for an ice cream and some essentials. Later the heavens opened – the wind  blasted the trees above us – we were nicely tucked up with a cup of tea and some of Mags’ latest batch of oat cookies. Bliss.

Virtual Life and the Virus shows up

With some windy weather expected, plus it had been along time since we had seen a washing machine, we set off in the search of a marina and settled on Nynäshamn. With little wind, we motored past the commercial port – clearly a cheap parking spot for a redundant Mediterranean Cruise ship – though ship seems to be a rather generous term for something that looked like a towering apartment block that defying the laws of physics in terms of stability. We were on a deadline – our Pilates class started at 10:30 and it was 10:25 when we tied up. Speedily we closed the boat electronics down/abandoned the rest of the boat, yoga mats on the deck, moving the multiple lines that run across the deck to find a bump free but not level place. We joined the class, much to the surprise of our Pilates teacher in the UK – though the class was international as there people joined from Portugal and Spain. I am not sure our neighbours knew what to make us as we adopted strange positions – negotiating ropes that were inconveniently placed and the ferry wash adding to the challenge of balancing moves.

Following our class we then went to check in. Realised there was a much nicer berth closer to the facilities – important for the early morning dash to the loo, close to the wifi – oh and yes not forgetting the nautical stuff – more sheltered. So much to the amusement of neighbours we upped and left.

We had previously been here at the start of a CA rally – but have never bothered to explore the town. The positive vibe that surrounds the harbour with little shops and cafés, and fabulous fish smokery ended there and the town was a non event – a homage to boring brick buildings and devoid of character. Apart from the Harbour,  its other redeeming feature was the network of cycle paths to explore the coastline.

Lockdowns in the UK had seen a friend and I jamm virtually every week. Me on guitar and Casey on the piano. Part therapy, a lot of fun and developing our musically ability, it has been the highlight of some of our lockdown weeks – like the curates egg we can sound good sometimes , bad others and always have the luxury of blaming any timing challenges on the technology. So we were determined to carry on the boat– though my mini guitar sans amplifier was no match for the piano – but still great fun.

Having been away from Marina life for 2 years,  we had forgotten what fun it is to people and boat watch when someone comes into moor  – the onlookers turn into Meerkats. Thankfully that what ever mess we are all watching unfold from our ring side seats, that we aren’t the providers of the entertainment. Or if the move goes smoothly – everyone averts their gaze quickly as if we weren’t really that interested. However there was one boat that caught everyone’s attention – a steel hull German vessel called Virus came into view. I am quite sure it seemed a cool name 2 years ago but I think it was crying out for a renaming!

Kyrkvikens and Cakes

With the luxury of time and no set schedule, we could pick our direction according to the wind. So we had a tranquil sail downwind to Trasko Stora, a beautiful anchorage that shows the archipelago off at it’s best. After the frantic activity of getting the boat into the water, the peace of just swinging on the anchor was bliss – just to take in the scenery –  the warm tones on the red rocks – it was good to be back living aboard. Mags went for a swim – a pleasant  (for a Scot) 21C – unless there is steam coming off the water it is too cold for the southern softy.

Getting the anchor up the next morning was problematic, in that a twist in the chain has caused it to seize solid on the drum of the anchor windlass (the electric motor that lifts up the anchor). Which meant that Mags had to take the windlass apart – whilst I did circles of the anchorage. Thankfully, as she services it annually, she knew how to take it apart quickly.  So in no time the anchor was shipped and we were on our way. With northerly winds for the next few days, we decided to meander down the chain of islands to the south of the Archipelago. This would leave us in a good spot to sail to Denmark should Anders sell the boat….though a diminishing prospect. We spent the night in a natural harbour  Bjorko which was rather spoilt by a ramshackle marina – but it was more of a passage anchorage.

With the wind directly behind us, ( would the mainsail ever make an appearance?) we sailed down a large stretch of water – gently cruising, avoiding the occasional lump of granite. The last time we had been in these waters we had been beating into a strong winds. What a difference it makes going where the wind takes you.

Ornö Kyrkvken

Our destination was on the Island of Ornö– Kyrkviken – or Church bay. A straight forward but narrow entrance – the kind that you don’t go down if anyone is coming the other way, as there was only a few metres either side of the boat. The large harbour was overlooked by the white church that sat high above the bay and glistened in the morning light. The harbour had a small marina – but we chose to anchor further in the bay.

We explored the harbour by dinghy – bought some freshly basked bread and had an ice cream. We decided it was a nice spot to spend 2 days. Mags baked some oat biscuits then went swimming to cool down. 25C, an oven and hot flushes aren’t a great combination. We had arranged a facebook tea and cake session with my mother and had had some mini cakes from Betty’s sent to her. It lifted her spirits albeit for a short while, as she has been very low.

We saw our first sea eagle of the season.  I did some work for Captain’s Mate – an app I have helped design and has taken up much of the winter months. The next morning ,after our boat jobs – we headed into the village and went to the museum and the guide told us of the history of the island and the village school where the museum was situated. With only 30% in private ownership, the Island is ruled by 2 sisters – and this was reflected in the houses: those with dodgy jetties and well worn red traditional houses – as opposed to those with proper little mini harbour jetties and smartly painted houses. No guesses which belonged to the landlord of the Island. The island had been a source of Feldspar ( used in Porcelain in Europe) and I walked to the quarry that is now filled with water.

There are a couple of harbours in the Stockholm Archipelago that I have been on my list of must visit. Utö is a holiday island, the main harbour which we have visited before  but it would be packed and I was keen to anchor in the Kyrkviken as it was on the list. Arriving there at 10am afforded us the best chance of getting a spot, as it is when most Swedes leave. Sure enough the anchorage was empty. The corner of the inlet is over looked by the simple yellow wooden church which was glowing in the sun as the anchor bit the mud.  Close by was the church pier where the islanders of yesteryear would land, having rowed in large church boats – driven by  as many as 12 oarsmen.  After lunch, we set off  on an expedition to the main harbour by dinghy with Dizzy our electric outboard –  attracted by the famous Utö Bakery and their fab cakes. It was just over a mile to the main harbour – and we have been using the dinghy a lot in the last harbour. With 51% left in the battery, we set off into a brisk head wind. The battery started to drop and drop 40%, 30%….. we went a bit slower – we got there with 26% left. Cakes on board, we set off and with a downwind advantage we got back with 8% left…. I now understand the range anxiety with electric cars. Though in fairness to Dizzy, we had managed 4.5 miles in total on 92% of the battery. Kettle on and a nice cup of tea with our first cinnamon bun of the trip. Bliss. Mags – the water baby did a few laps of the bay whilst I practised my guitar.

Mags with Uö tKyrkviken

First Rustler Owner’s Baltic Meet

Everyone at the Marina was pleased to see us. It has been Carra’s home for 6 years now. We were due to be in the shed for 3 nights – but a tin shed at 30 C is the equivalent of being cooked alive slowly. So we were relieved that they could put us back in the water early.

No slings – no drama

I went to move her round to the mast crane – there was a pathetic cough – but she failed to start. We have the ability to start her using our domestic batteries and the engine roared into life. One for investigation but for now we had to get the mast on. Niklas and the crew from Doghouse manoeuvred the heavy mast into position. But the back stay ( the wire holding the mast up at the back) appeared  to be 10cm too short. There were comments about the boat must have relaxed…. I was very sceptical given the thickness of our fibreglass. Then they decided to try and force the mast back by hauling down on the mainsheet with a taught topping lift. After 10 mins of achieving nothing,  I was concerned that they might break something but also I just didn’t believe the boat relaxing was the issue. I said something must be rigged differently, as I pointed out the mast hadn’t grown and it was seated correctly at the bottom – so there must be something different at the top. There then followed much shouting and I think Swedish swearing – I haven’t done that du- olingo lesson yet  and it was ascertained that the trainee rigger had not noticed that there was a link missing on the forestay (the front wire) hence the mast was too far forward. Surprise, surprise once the link was in place the backstay fitted. I was just glad the boat was still in one piece after the demonstration of brawn rather than brains.

We then set to rerigging the boat – all the lines and halyards and sails – hot work in 30C. We decided to try starting the engine with just the engine battery – and it worked first time. But I wasn’t happy why hadn’t it charged with the shore power. One to check out.

Carra and Sini

During the winter I had chatted with Mika a Finn who had just bought a Rustler 42 – he had planned to do an Atlantic Circuit but due to Covid he had got to the Kiel Canal and decided to go next year. On his way back he dropped me a line and he popped into the marina for a night so we had the first Baltic Rustler Owners meeting. It was inspiring looking at all the adaptions Mika had made to his boat….. we now have a long list. They joined us for Dinner on board Carra and we had breakfast with them on Sini the next day. Mika and Outi were a fascinating couple – Outi had sailed across the Atlantic with her family when she was 15years old. She was now helping her father  build a wooden boat – that he had designed – he is 81 years – just shows you that age is no barrier. Mika was a serial entrepreneur who had designed a digital lock whose power was derived from putting the key in the lock.

After they left we did some tests on the battery. Marcus our friendly New Zealand Electronics engineer found that the fuse between the battery and the shore power charger had blown – as a result of the condition of the battery. So he put the battery on an external charger to be reconditioned for 24 hours to see if it could be brought back to life…… it couldn’t so we bought a new starter battery. But considering she had been left for nearly 2 years we were lucky than only a battery had failed.

Last shop stowed and we cast off our lines and set sail down Svinninge Fjord – not knowing if we would be returning or going to Denmark.

Plan F Succeeds

Having missed the sailing season in 2020 – we were keen to get Carra out of her shed and into the water so she still felt loved – boats don’t like to sit doing nothing. Our intention was to move her to Denmark – so that we could her get her back to the Uk in 2022 before the 30th June to avoid paying VAT twice on Carra – a joy of Brexit.

Having jumped through various sizeable hoops – finding care for my mother so in an attempt to make me feel not quite so guilty about leaving her and getting vaccinated – the question was still could we get there?

  • Plan A in 2019 was to drive back out to the boat as we had taken some pieces of equipment back  including the saloon cushions that needed a repair. But given that we couldn’t  drive through Germany, NL or Be…..
  • Plan B – fly – but we couldn’t fly into Sweden as it had banned people entering from the uk….nothing looked possible.
  • Plan C – In June, entry to Sweden via Iceland was allowed – but not really that appealing. Later Sweden allowed entry through Denmark – but we couldn’t get into Denmark without a worthy purpose.
  • Plan D Later Denmark allowed double jabbed Brits in and it was debatable if you needed to quarantine. We wrote to Anders ( Marina Manager of the Yard in Denmark) to tell him we were definitely coming out and could we get a berth.  But only if he managed to sell a boat he would have a space for us. We were hoping the Danish market was as buoyant as the British boat market.
  • Plan E – Fly to Denmark and get the train to Sweden but we really needed to get the stuff out to the boat that we had brought back…..
  • Plan F – We would drive to France, stay in with Mags’ brother and family for 10 days so that we could drive through Germany – we still couldn’t drive through Be and NL. Plus we weren’t suppose to leave the UK but we were able to get travel insurance that covered us.

So we had a plan, and we would leave on 15th July…… But then it was clear that the Delta Variant was running rampant in the UK and Angela Merkel was trying to persuade the rest of the European leaders to ban anyone from the UK. So we needed to get there as soon as possible – we left my mother’s on Tuesday afternoon following a hospital appointment  and by the afternoon of Wednesday 30th we had driven home,  packed, had  our lateral flow tests to get into France and we were on the Chunnel train bound for Calais.

After 10 enjoyable days in France with Sandy and Corinne, and a PCR test by nurse whose party trick was to make the majority of the swab disappear up your nose whilst counting to 5 very slowly – we were off.

By the time we got to the French/ German border it was raining –  “biblical quantities” as I texted a friend. It was to continue raining like this for the next 4 days resulting in those devastating floods in Germany in the area that we passed through. We passed into Germany – without any controls. The Danish customs man wanted to see our PCR test. The final crossing was across “The Bridge” scene of the Nordic noir into Sweden. The cheery customs official wanted to see our passport and we were in. 1900 miles later and twice our normal mileage we arrived at the Marina with a sigh of relief and disbelief that we had made it.