Tag Archives: Sweden

Hobbit Holes for Wet and Windy Weather

There was some windy weather expected and whilst our anchorage would afford us protection, we decided that we would rather be in a harbour so that we can easily get off the boat and catch up on some admin task such as laundry – which always take longer on the boat. So Gräddö was ideal, only 6 nm away so sailing slowly was allowed. Then came the conundrum. All the entries on Capt’s Mate (an app that gives people views on the harbour) had all said go on the inside of the guest pontoon to get out of the way of the wash of local speed boats that enter the harbour but that would mean that we would have our stern into the gale. I wasn’t keen as it would be much better to be head to wind. Whilst the harbour was sheltered, it would mean we were hanging off a buoy with the full weight of our boat plus windage on whatever stone was used to anchor the buoy. We arrived and you could see the boats on the outside of the pontoon wildly bucking and snatching at their bow lines. Bows crashing down close to the pontoon. Very uncomfortable – so decision made and I resolved the dilemma by three lines – 2 to our buoy and a rope to the neighbouring buoy which had another boat attached to it and also decided to reduce our windage – by taking down the spray hood and putting on our winter cover – our hobbit hole. We weren’t going to go anywhere. The windy weather came and went without drama.

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The Hobbit hole – getting ready for the windy and wet weather

It is quite normal for 2 boats to be on a mooring buoy here – but our neighbour who wasn’t Swedish informed me with bags of confidence that the rule here was one boat per buoy. As I pointed out to him the buoy on the other side of him had 2 boats on and if he was concerned he should but another line on the free buoy next to him. Mr Rules as it turned out was a 2 week holiday in a club boat – so had little knowledge of local custom. It was only after they left did I see the sign that they were parked next to which said max 3 boats per buoy….. what a shame I hadn’t been able to point that out at the time!

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What could possibly go wrong?

This was the first time we had been on the mainland – as opposed to an island for nearly a month. As water is rationed on islands, boat washing is a no no and Carra was looking a bit grubby. So Mags decided to wash the decks and provide entertainment to the marina – act 1 – hose parts company from tap when she turns it on – Mags gets soaked. Act 2 the spray nozzle separates from the hose and flies over the side and is declared Man Over Board. Thankfully they float – so Act 3 was fishing to catch said nozzle. Once retrieved, we rewarded ourselves for the many tasks ticked off with some cakes – It is always good for morale when the marina is next to a cake shop!

FejanNext stop was Fejan, a former Cholera quarantine island. In the 19th Century, the disease killed 60 million people in Europe and in order to prevent it spreading to Sweden, the very smart Swedes set up quarantine stations where ships arriving from infected areas had to spend 48 hours – which is the incubation period. Fejan was one such island, the buildings are still there including the Doctors House – a very ornate wooden building – which was also known as Congo – as it was originally destined to be a chapel in the Congo. The morgue and autopsy room are now a beautiful restaurant – but sadly shut up during the weekdays as the season closes as soon as the schools go back. IMG_20190813_123826One of the other reasons for coming here was that it had a pontoon – which meant that I could polish one side of the hull – one task on our annual maintenance task list – which is easier at pontoon height than it is when she is out of the water.
We had 2 lovely chilled days in 2 anchorages – one new one and one favourite. The peace of being in a secure anchorage which is more like a lake when the only sign of it being windy are the tops of the trees rustling in the breeze. I have just been told that is too romantic an image – they were whipping around in the gale – either way there wasn’t a ripple on the water.

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Sjalbottna – one of our favourite anchorages near our Marina

dsc01650.jpgWe left the anchorage and had an entertaining time dodging the ferries that use this fairway into Stockholm. We headed off to Vaxholm to fill up with fuel before heading back to our home Marina. As we store the sails on the boat –we need to ensure they are dry. With no rain forecast, sun and a gentle wind it was the ideal day to take off the sails. We had just tied up a Vaxholm and started filling and the rain came from nowhere – short and sharp but enough to soak the sails and then back to bright sunshine all within 30 minutes. So we then had to spend the next 1:30hrs sailing up and down the fjord by our marina drying our sails…..IMG_20190815_174532

Good bye to Finland…..for now

As thunderstorms were forecast for the next few days – missing out on Gullskrona did give us time in hand, if we needed to miss a day. I had been looking at the weather forecast as to when we might cross back to Sweden. A passage of only 30 miles but it is in open sea and needs the right wind – plus the weather window closed on the 10th as after that there was a period of very strong SWs for over a week.

In the morning, I was expecting to see black skies given the forecast of thunderstorms but we awoke to bright skies without any signs of cumulus nimbus clouds the towering clouds that are needed for thunder. So we decided to go and we had a lovely sail with a gentle F3 wind; we were leaving Turku Archipelago and arriving at Lappo on the outer edges of the Aland Islands.

As I took down the Finnish courtesy flag, I felt quite sad. We left Finland 3 years ago but having the boat has meant that we have still had our home here. Even though the language is impossible, we love the fact that we still remember a lot of the vocabulary and can surprise Finns by the fact that we can still speak some Finnish – though I am not sure “I drive a blue car” and “I live in Espoo” is the most scintillating conversation. As we are moving Carra to Denmark next year, we know that this is the final goodbye to living in Finland – from now on we will just be visitors. Up went the Aland Islands Flag.

Now was about getting the right weather to cross, so we missed out Seglinge and had a cracking 30nm sail to Degerby – I was even allowed to do some tacking – as they were quite long tacks.

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Spot the ferry in the right hand picture – in a very narrow channel

DSC01586I was about to put the engine on then saw the yacht up ahead – so decided I would see if I could pass it and then put the engine on – otherwise it would be cheating. Thankfully they had someone inept on the helm and so I was able to pass them easily – so on went the engine for the final wiggle to Degerby. A wiggle that large ferries (think cross channel ferry size) do daily down narrow channels.

We had been to Degerby before, 5 years ago in a charter boat – and I had forgotten how attractive it is with its colour houses – they must have been rebels here as they had colours other than red!

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Rod 2Our final stop is one our favourite harbour Rodhamn with its lovely red rock and heather in full bloom – isolated but very secure; that has been a harbour for many hundreds of years. IMG_20190808_160347Sadly we left too early to get the freshly baked rolls that they deliver to your boat – though don’t worry we had made up for it with their home made cakes the day before.

We had both sails up as we sailed … well ghosted out of the harbour. The perfect spot to say goodbye to sailing in Finland …….for now!

The early start meant that we would get the best of the NWs allowing us to sail in relatively light winds. At 60 degrees to the wind we were romping along at 6.5 knots. A large black cloud loomed over head and the wind built – we were doing 7.5 knots with all three sails up. It was either going to get very wind or very wet or both. We put 2 reefs but thankfully we missed the rain.

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Leaving Finland behind. Note to sailors – yes I did move the lazy sheet….

A speedy crossing saw us arrive at Arholma anchorage before 1pm and watch a flotilla of yachts coming in having crossed from Finland. The most impressive of which was a yacht with teenagers onboard and a young skipper and they sailed on to the wooden bow to and dropped the stern anchor and all with no engine. It is a lovely anchorage surrounded by wooden boat sheds and lots of reeds! We were back in Sweden so up went the Swedish courtesy flag.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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!
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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

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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