Amsterdam

After Harlingen, we motored out into the Ocean into the first possible wind window – it would only be building to a little over 15 knots instead of the 25 knots it had been blowing – directly on the nose. I say Ocean with a little tongue in cheek – we had to go at high tide in order to be able to sail/motor the narrow course to the lock opening for the Ijsselmeer some couple of hours south. The wind made everything a little lumpy but we managed.

Once we locked through into the Ijsselmeer, we found ourselves sailing close hauled doing 7.5 – 8 knots in just 2.3 – 3.3 meters of water – all rather scary, but one gets surprisingly used to it! The weather was good so it ended up being a very enjoyable sail – and as we approached Amsterdam, the wind conveniently shifted to allow us to sail pretty much as far as we would have wanted to.

We then motored up the somewhat deeper canal to first a bridge – at which we had to wait, immediately followed by a lock – where we had to wait again. There were hordes of boats waiting to lock through – and in the end when they started letting everyone through, it was a mad dash to get in – but we didn’t!

Crush to get into the lock

Crush to get into the lock

We made the next lock however and made the biggest hash of it you can possibly imagine – failing to secure lines to the windward wall – despite the “help” of a lock steward (who was completely f&*%ing useless!) – we were immediately blown onto the tinniest little boat leeward of us and had no chance of making everything right – and the Steward apparently thought all was good – anyway, we held on for the 10 minutes or so (felt like hours) that it took for the lock to finally open and rushed through with tail twixt legs.

We were going to try to moor in the famous Sixthaven marina but took a quick look at the tight entrance and decided prudence dictated we should head for the “New” marina up the way. So new in fact that they show up on the chart as 4 meter deep clear water! Turned out to be the best marina we’d stayed in all year with fantastic facilities and a free water taxi ride into Amsterdam – and cheaper than most marinas we’d been in all year!

We only had one evening in Amsterdam – but we made the most of it. What a great city – but crowded like you cannot imagine. We wandered the canals and of course the Red Light zone (though Laurie wouldn’t let me go there after dark!) and after an OK meal we ended the night at a tiny little pub ‘Olofspoort’ where they were playing live jazz – reminiscent of what you’d hear in New Orleans. The place was dated as 1610, but apparently the cellar dates back to 1300! I enjoyed some Scotch while Laurie sampled the Dutch equivalent – all very entertaining! https://www.facebook.com/Olofspoort/photos_stream

Crowded Amsterdam

Crowded Amsterdam

Interesting Canals

Interesting Canals

And Architecture

And Architecture

Amsterdam3 Amsterdam4

Ahh - how sweet!

Ahh – how sweet!

Amsterdam5

 

They certainly like to commute on bicycles!

Multi-story bike park

Multi-story bike park

Enjoying Whisky of one sort or another at Olofspoort!

Enjoying Whisky of one sort or another at Olofspoort!

Unfortunately, once again our visit to an interesting spot was cut short due to weather considerations – a window was opening the following day for the trip to England – if we didn’t go now, we’d be stuck for more days than our GRIB files covered… So reluctantly we pushed off the following morning at 10am – after a quick sojourn to the city again for breakfast, some bread and the posting of Matthew’s postcard!

 

The passage to England was tiring. We had to negotiate the shipping lanes while sailing in pretty heavy weather (20 – 25 knots, 6 – 8 ft seas) with two reefs in the main and our small jib furled. As we passed Rotterdam we were in touch with their Pilot Control – who had us follow a specific course – and kept the big guys off our tail. I wasn’t too thrilled with their directions – but in the end they certainly proved correct. During the night we had to thread our way between two wind farms – which turned into three wind farms as we approached – we got waaay too close to the uncharted windmills of the third farm – scary stuff!

We crossed the busy shipping lanes in the early morning with not much fuss – with another sailboat ‘Bojangles’ close by. I managed to take a nap and when I got back up after a couple of hours, was delighted to find that Laurie had managed to keep Bojangles behind us!

White Cliffs of Dover

White Cliffs of Dover

Ok Honey! - it was a long night last night...

Ok Honey! – it was a long night last night…

Unfortunately we only made it as far as Dover, with heavy wind on the nose forecast, there wasn’t any reasonable chance of us making Southampton. We’re now in the Marina and will be here while a Force 8 gale blows through today. Hope to leave Monday evening for a 2 day trip west to Falmouth – into the wind the whole way, but hopefully able to sail a close-hauled route most of the 300+ miles.

 

1.95M Canals with a 2.0M deep boat…

Photos Added

Dutch Sailing Barge

Dutch Sailing Barge

So, we set off on Sunday morning down the ‘Standing Mast Route’ of the Dutch canals. The good news here is that at every bridge you come to, they’ll pretty much open on demand – they see you coming – unless of course it’s elevenses, lunchtime or tea time – in which case you can wait an hour! The bad news for us is that the canal is maintained at 1.95M – 5cm short of our 2M draft – but we’re told that today the water is supposed to be 2.01M deep! Yippee!

We found ourselves being escorted – by a German boat in front of us and by Peter Paternotte behind! Our first event was to travel through the first lock – about 5 miles inland – which used to be a sea lock! The rise in water level was almost undetectable, so the locking though was a non event.

Our plan was to take it easy and head to Dokkum about 15 miles along. Supposedly a nice little town… When we got there it certainly appeared nice – but it was not possible for us to stop because the depth at the canal side would not support Toodle-oo!

On the way to Dokkum, we’d touched bottom about 3 times – but it was all very gently and hardly slowed us at all.

Canal Horses

Canal Horses

Canal-Side refreshments

Canal-Side refreshments

Followed

Followed

Wating with gateway

Wating with gateway

We motored on towards Leuwarden – another nice town that we had planned for day 2’s stop. We got a little delayed when we arrived at a bridge at lunchtime – and there were boats crowded around the only available moorings – so we had to hang around in the canal – with a 15knot breeze blowing. So, I learned a new sailing technique: reverse the boat towards the side of the canal and wait until you get stuck in the mud! It would hold us for about 10 minutes and slowly release us – so we’d reverse again – and so on – passing the 45 minute delay in a rather unique manner!

We continued on, skidding our way along the bottom of the canal – all a bit tense – but nothing too serious. Laurie recorded the biggest bump – maybe someone threw out their old toaster?!

Approaching Lewarden we encountered another bridge with a delay (we think for traffic) – so we once again moved towards the canal edge – and actually managed to get there and tie up – with the mast stuck up in the trees!!! Oi vey!

Once we finally got to Leuwarden proper, we found a likely place for us to stop in the crowded canal – though we’d have to ask the little power boat to move forward a bit – which we did. Unfortunately, we got stuck in the mud trying to get there and so once again were forced to move on. The same story at the next town too!

Narrow Dutch street!

Narrow Dutch street!

Rotating bridge

Rotating bridge

fancy lifting bridge

fancy lifting bridge

Parked

Parked

The last town before the Sea again is Harlingen – so Laurie called them and secured for us the only remaining berth with 2M depth! When we finally arrived, we found our German lead boat friend had pinched our spot! Fortunately they were already on the move – but they had plenty of time since I’d run aground at the entrance to the marina – and was having a tough time getting off. When we finally got unstuck, we managed to pull into the slip and sink gently into the 1.8M depth!!

Halsingen Lion

Halsingen Lion

Barges

Barges

? Narrowest street so far!

? Narrowest street so far!

Fancy door

Fancy door

A Dutch street

A Dutch street

Canal living

Canal living

No right angles here!

No right angles here!

Cute little bridge in Enkhuizen

Cute little bridge in Enkhuizen

A couple of years ago we started thinking about our next boat – once we’re done with ocean voyaging – and selected a sailing barge so we can travel the European waterways. Today’s excursion reinforced that choice – our day was very frustrating in that we kept going through these beautiful Dutch villages but couldn’t get out to enjoy any of them – it was a tease!

Next boat?

Next boat?

Harlingen has proven to be a nice little coastal town with lots going on. We’re waiting now for a bit less wind (currently force 7!) so we can make some progress towards Amsterdam.

Fast Trip South West – Weather Avoidance

We left Visby early on the Monday morning and had great wind that took us right to the Danish island of Bornholm. We resisted temptation to revisit and carried on towards Keil – hugging the southern coast of Sweden before the winds changed direction completely and we set off south west towards the German coast. Eventually, and as predicted, the winds finally died but during our second night at sea we were able to motor sail quite effectively.

The shipping lanes were quite interesting – at one point on Laurie’s watch she was faced with two large ships bearing down on us – one overtaking the other and both coming within just 100’s of feet of us. We talked with them on the radio, and they were very amenable to making changes to get out of the way, but in the end it was prudent to just slow Toodle-oo! down and let them pass half a mile off.

As we motor sailed west, we started seeing tall ships heading towards us – their AIS signals indicating a destination of Rostock. Turns out there was to be a big regatta there. As we approached Keil one tall ship came very close to us, with full sail up in the early afternoon sunshine – except it had just one sail furled – the upper rear Mizzen. This was particularly curious so we called them up to find out why bother to raise 14 sails but not the remaining 15th sail. The answer came back from her captain that her guests complained that the sail was blocking their sun as they enjoyed their drinks on the rear deck! Best excuse I’d ever heard!

Missin' Mizzen

Missin’ Mizzen

We arrived in Holtenau at the eastern entrance to the Kiel Canal on Wednesday afternoon and tied up – exhausted after the 2 ½ day passage.

The following morning we took things easy as we were planning to head to a marina at Rendsburg, just a few hours into the canal. We set off at about 11:00 and lined up with about 15 other sailboats waiting to lock through. As we were waiting, we suddenly recognized ‘Believe’ a US flagged boat that was part of the OCC cruise with Rick and Julia aboard. We locked through with them and then followed them all the way to Rendsburg where we enjoyed an evening drink together aboard their beautiful Hylas 49.

Weather was beginning to play a big part in our planning now, with the remnants of Tropical Storm Bertha approaching, bringing strong south westerly winds to the North Sea. If we don’t make fast progress west, we’ll be stuck in the Keil for probably 5 days.

Believe left early the following morning but we had to wait to fuel up – we’d been on minimal fuel for a while now and with the expected motoring coming up to get through the canal and then head west into light winds (before the heavy winds) we were in desperate need of a top-up. We therefore found ourselves in familiar territory – altering plans at the last minute again – and set a target of the Dutch Canal system – which was never even on our radar!

We managed to leave Rendsburg before 10:00am having brought 525 liters of diesel aboard and headed west. It was a painful passage – managing to exit the canal in the early afternoon and then motoring and motor sailing all the way down to Lauwersoog, one of the entry ports to the “Standing Mast Route” within the canal system.

This was another painful overnight passage – dodging shipping the entire way. At one point in the early hours of the morning, an approaching Indian freighter decided to turn right across ourpath in order to enter an anchorage area, forcing me to slow down – and then we got hailed by a ship coming out of that same area (at 15 knots) – indicating that they would turn to avoid Toodle-oo! At least we didn’t hit or get hit by anything…

The guide book we have is pretty explicit in saying that we should follow the buoyage rather than follow the charted information – since the sands shift quite significantly. No kidding! We reached the entry point for the channel into Lauwersoog mid-morning – to find that not one of the expected buoys was there! This was a pretty major channel… We scoured the horizon and saw a bunch of buoys off to the east and motored towards them. Sure enough, it was the new channel – which had been moved no less that 1 1/2 miles due to the sand movements.

The remaining trip amounted to a 2+ hour motor sail against a 2 ½ knot current into Lauwersoog – but we got our first glimpse of some Dutch Sailing barges – which are just spectacular.

Dutch Sailing Barge

Dutch Sailing Barge

There’s a lock one has to navigate through to get into the canal system – or there’s a marina on the outside where one can take refuge. We arrived at low tide and the charts indicated that we were too deep to get into the lock – forced therefore into the outside marina. Tight! Very tight! We called up the harbormaster and he came out to help – but it was clearly going to be very difficult to find a berth for Toodle-oo! Laurie persisted with the harbormaster (read that as regaled him!) and found out that actually there was enough depth for us to lock through and get to a calmer and hopefully more spacious spot within the canal system.

We extricated ourselves from the marina and then followed a large barge and a small barge into the lock – whose keeper apparently spoke no English. Tight squeeze indeed! We were behind the big barge, next to the small one and a motor boat tucked in behind. Laurie was tied lines to everything in sight and fending off from other boats, expecting the torrents of water as we’d experienced in the Caledonian. She was asking the lock master for assistance in taking yet another line when he said “It’s all over – the doors are open!”

We motored out into the calm and found a nice little marina with a spot just right for Toodle-oo!

Later in the afternoon we were visited by Peter Patternote – the Regional Rear Commodore for the OCC! HE was very helpful in explaining the canals foibles and found out that yes, we should be able to navigate down the ‘Standing Mast Route’ – which has a depth of 1.95M but will be plenty deep enough tomorrow – when it will be at a level of 2.01M – Great we’ll be able to do 7 knots with out keel at just 2.0M!!!!

The adventure continues!

 

Visby, Gotland

Visby, capital of the ‘Pearl of the Baltic,’ Gotland, is a wonderful place to visit. A small walled medieval city with very quaint streets and ages old homes surrounded original fortress walls, ruins of various descriptions and lovely cobbled stone streets.

Visby1 Visby2 Visby3 Visby 4 Visby 5 Visby 6

Work got rather in the way for me and I was only able to spend two half days exploring the town, and while we’d searched out a good restaurant with lovely outdoor seating in the one of the town’s squares for our Saturday evening outing, when it came time, the heavens opened, making the outdoor arrangement impossible and they were fully booked for the remaining seats. We ended up enjoying a more casual dinner at “The Black Sheep Inn” – which unfortunately didn’t serve Black Sheep, my favorite bitter – but they did a great line in Fish and Chips!

Visby was to be our last hurrah before setting off on our return trip – so it was really disappointing to have to leave the place much earlier than expected due to favorable winds immediately, and totally unfavorable for the next several days if we were to delay. So sadly we left Visby far too early to be able to do it justice – with The Keil Canal in our sights, some 350 miles to the south west. Making it more painful to leave, we ended up leaving at the start of their Medieval week – where everyone on the island is expected to dress up in period costume – some restaurants apparently refusing service if you were not appropriately attired… Rats – missed it!

To Gotland

We left Stockholm on Wednesday, bound for Gotland by way of an outlying island in Sweden’s archipelago “Huvudskär”. We decided to take a bit of a short cut from Stockholm along a really narrow and shallow path. Lalize had decided to follow us a couple of hours later – and were interested to hear how deep the water is – since she draws about 30cm more than Toodle-oo!

We turned onto this narrow section and everything was great – and then a storm decided to hit us. I thought about waiting in a relatively wide section for the storm to pass – but quickly decided to press on as it looked short lived – which thankfully it was. 30 minutes later we came to the narrow/shallow bit. We were following a power boat at the time – who had stopped ahead. A sailboat then emerged from the channel and the powerboat moved through. At this point we couldn’t even see the channel – which was entered after a 90 degree turn – which once we made looked somewhat daunting. We could pretty much lean off either side of the boat and touch the trees – and the mast followed the clearing at the top of the trees and the depth gauge plummeted – but fortunately to just 2.8 meters – giving us a full 80cm clearance. The channel remained exceedingly tight like this for a couple of miles and we raidioed back to Lalize that they’d be fine (and crossed our fingers!).

The rest of the trip to Huvudskär we were threading our way between islands, sailing when we could, motoring when straight into the wind and arrived at the island in late afternoon – just in time for G&T!

We anchored out in the center of the lagoon and marveled at the Swedish rock moorers as they pulled up and tied themselves to the rocks using mountaineering kit which they hammered into any available crevice. I still don’t get the need to be able to step off the boat…

Lalize joined us about an hour afterwards and we had dinner aboard Toodle-oo! followed by an excellent tipple of Caol Ila whiskey – one of the good bottles from our trip around Islay!

 

4:30am and all hell breaks loose in the anchorage. A wind shift accompanied by a nasty wet squall means that Lalize has turned and is very close to another boat. I watch Adrian and Leslie upping anchor and moving to better spot.

I then look behind me to see one of the rock moorers has now moved off the rocks – but has left a crew member on the rocks – in his pajamas! He got left there for about half an hour in the pouring rain and driving wind until the crew could launch the dingy and mount a rescue! About half a dozen rock moorers ended up moving into the anchorage – so I rest my case about the whole thing being a rather silly exercise – and I went back to sleep – soundly!

When we finally got up, Lalize had already buggered off – heading for Öland – a large island further south and west on the Swedish coast. We departed about 9am and enjoyed a really nice sail all the way down to Fårö – just off the north tip of Gotland doing 8+kts most of the way. Lalize decided the wind direction wasn’t good for their destination – so they headed to Fårö also. On the way we sailed through some thick algal blooms – and the photo shows the distinct boundary between clear and blooming water!

Sailing out of the goop and into clear water

Sailing out of the goop and into clear water

Unfortunately when we arrived we were unable to get a good set on the anchor in the bay we’d intended so we ended up moving a little, following Lalize into a well protected area – where we set first time.

The following day Lalize headed off for her original destination while we had an absolutely rotten trip down to the capital of Gotland, Visby – motoring the entire way straight into pretty strong winds and lumpy seas. We were really glad to arrive in Visby and get relief, tying up to the dock with the “big” boats.

Stockholm

Stockholm  Stockholm2

We arrived in Stockholm on a Saturday to be greeted by fellow OCCers Paul and Jayne who we’d met in Mariehamn – who helped us get tied up into the slip. We’d arrived early enough that we could go exploring a little – with a primary goal of getting to the other marina in town where we’d heard propane might be available. We’d run out of propane at our last anchorage – and it’s not easy to get either US or UK bottles filled. Turned out to be the case here too… At least we were connected to shore power so cooking on the portable electric hob was an option. We did secure a phone number of a potential supplier and would call them on Monday to establish what possibilities might exist.

We were greeted in the afternoon by Micke – the local OCC port Officer and his friends Per and Astra, and enjoyed a beer or two aboard Toodle-oo! Unfortunately Micke was not very optimistic about the propane either…

On Sunday we headed in to town proper on the tandem and stopped first at the Vasamuseet. This museum is dedicated to the 17th century ship the “Vasa”. This warship was constructed to strike fear into her enemies and was decked out in the most splendid way with intricate gold leaf covered carvings like you can’t imagine. She was also decked out with massive guns, etc. She was launched in 1628 and managed to make it 1km from the harbor when a breeze blew up and she started rocking side to side. Water came in the gun ports and she sank with the loss of 32. She remained at the bottom of the harbor for 330 years, when she was rediscovered and a massive exercise was started to salvage her. She is remarkably well preserved and the entire ship is now housed in the museum and is 98% original apparently.

Complete ship - difficult to photograph...

Complete ship – difficult to photograph…

Vasa's intricate stern carvings

Vasa’s intricate stern carvings

We carried on to Gamla Stan – the old medieval city – and visited the royal palace and had lunch at a restaurant along one of the old streets. We were sat outside but a huge thunderstorm put paid to that and we and all the other guests were forced inside. It was an absolute downpour and very high winds – but we were inside nice and cosy enjoying beer and lunch! (Never a thought for the boat…)

Streets of Stockholm

Streets of Stockholm

Narrow street

Narrow street

Narrowest Street

Narrowest Street

300 year old candelabra

300 year old candelabra

Street Scene

Street Scene

Thunderstorm messed up our lunch date!

Thunderstorm messed up our lunch date!

Once it cleared, we continued our tour and then headed back. There were tree limbs lying all over the place and we started to get somewhat concerned that the boat may have taken a hit. When we got back, we found that she had indeed dragged her mooring and was now resting heavily against a little power boat – but we were so well fendered, no damage had been sustained. Unfortunately however, I had left some ports slightly open and the inside was flooded!! Oh well!

Sunday evening was the final OCC dinner – so it was nice to actually meet the group of 10 or so boats. It sounds like they had a very interesting rally – but it does appear that the schedule was somewhat grueling and perhaps Toodle-oo! made out the best – taking in the sights but without the time constraints.

We did learn that other boats were also looking for propane so on Monday Laurie came up trumps, finding a vendor that would pick up our UK tank in the morning and return it the following morning. We informed everyone else – and I guess it all depended on their state of desperation if they took advantage – a 6kg refill costing us $125!!!! (normally about $25). Who cares – we’d be back in business! We were therefore delayed a day longer in Stockholm than planned, but took advantage by spending more time in the city – and it allowed me to do a couple of days proper work again.

The delay also allowed us to meet up with Leslie and Adrian aboard Lalize, another American boat. Adrian is a Brit, Leslie a Yank (ok, Southern Belle) – so we somewhat hit it off. Leslie was gracious enough to invite us dinner on Tuesday evening with some friends of hers – to which I somehow managed to also invite Per and Astra to – who showed up in Per’s diminutive and sleek 100 year old power boat. Leslie was fantastic – somehow managing to make the salmon stretch to another couple of plates.

Per and Astra aboard antique motor boat

Per and Astra aboard antique motor boat

Stockholm is nice – it unfortunately gets inundated with massive cruise ships – so timing visits around those is sensible. We’re about citied out now – so looking forward to some smaller surroundings.

We’re headed next to Gotland – by way of another outlying island of the Swedish archipelago.

To Sweden

We had a very good sail from Åland to Sweden. Winds were very light at 7 – 10 knots, but because the seas were so flat, we were able to make progress at 5 – 6 knots most of the way – and the boat speed brought us into a close hauled position (though true wind was actually behind the beam).

Shortly after the Finnish customs left us, I noticed another boat heading in roughly the same direction – we have a race! – and one that we were not doing very well at… He was about a mile off our port side but edging slightly closer and after a couple of hours had moved right in front of us – just a 100 yards or so. His was a smaller lighter Swedish boat – but he was getting everything out of her. I took up position right behind him, on the same course and studied his sail configuration! He had his mainsail trimmed rather differently to Toodle-oo! and it was obviously working better for him – so we ended up mimicking his sail shape and then started catching up! We passed him doing .2-.3 knots faster – by virtue no doubt of having larger sail area and we both made our way to Sweden in fine style – him now on the starboard side and dropping back then gaining as wind gusts allowed.

We reached the islands – there are tens of thousands of them – and various rocks jutting out all over the place. We’d selected one particular island and as we rounded up to take down sails, our Swedish companion did the same – we’re headed to the same spot. This is good news as we figure he has local knowledge and we’d be able to follow him into the anchorage.

We’ve developed a new and necessary routine – I have the Chart plotter in front of me while Laurie watches the charts on the iPad. Ostensibly, they are the same charts (Navionics) but in reality the presentation and actual content differs quite a lot. As we were threading our way between a couple of very tight rocks, Laurie points out a rock shown on the iPad, but not on my chart plotter. As I looked up to identify if I could see anything, I watched the Swedish boat pile straight into it while doing about 6 knots. Instant stop! Looks like everything was OK – some screaming kids and no doubt some hurt pride. Unfortunately it rather put paid to a possible social evening as we later saw them gingerly motoring to a rock side anchorage a mile or so away.

We’ve been too chicken to try the Swedish mooring technique of setting a stern anchor and driving up to a rock bow first, jumping off and attaching two lines to whatever is available. Our boat is rather high at the bow and with a non-walkthrough pulpit (upgrade is being considered) – and besides, Laurie refuses!!!  Can’t say I’m too thrilled about the idea anyway – we have a perfectly good dingy to get us to and from land.  This night we therefore anchored out in a well-protected bay all to ourselves so we went skinny dipping – swimming around the boat in the near salt free 78F water and had a wonderful evening.

The following morning we set off for Stockholm – still some 75 miles away along a tortuous route amongst the islands. It was a very hot and almost windless day – so ended up being rather noisy. We ended up anchored at another island about 15 miles outside of the city – along with a host of fellow anchorers – no skinny dipping tonight! Had a fun time watching a group of 5 or 6 teenagers jumping off a small cliff into the water – except one couldn’t. It ended up that the whole anchorage was watching and egging him on – and when he finally took the plunge the whole place erupted!

Up goes the Swedish courtesy flag.

Up goes the Swedish courtesy flag.

Approaches to Sweden

Approaches to Sweden

Island fortress protecting the city.

Island fortress protecting the city.

Tomorrow we head to Stockholm proper – and our first OCC event – on its last scheduled day!

Northern Åland Island

So we left the ‘Lost’ island and headed for a circumnavigation of Åland Island, stopping at a resort sort of town, then a remote anchorage at Denmark’s “Fjord” (hardly a Fijord, but one gets the feel) at Djupviken where we unexpectedly found ourselves on a 10K walk around the place! Very enjoyable walking along the granite rock, populated with sparse but somehow lush vegetation. The path was marked out by some wooden arrows and by stacks of rocks – cairns one would think – but it seems the Finns get rather carried away with them sometimes – and we found ourselves surrounded by mazes of ‘cairns’ - leading to who knows where!

The Djupviken Fjord...

The Djupviken Fjord…

Tied to rocks...

Tied to rocks…

Granite slabs and sparse vegetation

Granite slabs and sparse vegetation

Many overhanging slabs of granite could have provided primitive shelter.

Many overhanging slabs of granite could have provided primitive shelter.

Crazy Finnish rock stacks..

Crazy Finnish rock stacks..

Our Djupviken anchorage

Our Djupviken anchorage

Unfortunately, when leaving  Djupviken we discovered that the “fixed” windlass wasn’t. Necessitating various tactics to raise the anchor. As a consequence we decided to bag the next planned anchorage and head towards more civilization and found ourselves in a small guest harbor, attached to the cliff and kept off it by a stern mooring ball (that took us 3 attempts to snag effectively). This place was the scene of a Russian’s Tsar’s proposed fortress – which amazingly got scuppered by a joint English/French force! Pretty place, but not much going on – so we returned the following day to Marinhamn – where we would be able to source parts for the bloody windlass – and also find good internet such that I could do some proper work!

We met our first English boats in Mariehamn – one from the OCC cruise, another just cruising about the place – and enjoyed getting together with both of them over the next couple of days.

 

The plan had been that we would pick up the OCC’s commodore and his fine lady (John and Jenny) in Mariehamn and ‘take’ them (read that as get a lesson from them!) to Stockholm. Unfortunately, other people’s plans change too – and they sadly gave up on the trip to Stockholm in order to fly home rather sooner than planned. As a consequence, we were able to head to Stockholm a couple of days earlier than expected – after of course fixing the miscreant windlass motor…

We set off for Sweden around midday – planning to get to one of Sweden’s outer islands… – which we successfully managed… though got accosted by a customs boat while on route… They came alongside and asked us who we were, where we were going etc… I asked if we should slow down so they could board – but no problem – they obviously recognized an honest face and left us in peace!!

Finnish customs - on the move.

Finnish customs – on the move.

Laurie also had to “un-make the Åland  flag and return it to it’s former glory as a Swedish flag…

Recreating the Swedish Flag from the Åland one

Recreating the Swedish Flag from the Åland one

 

Finland has been great fun – unfortunately buggered up by some boat projects and work related stuff – but the weather has been exceptional, the long days fantastic, and the Finns have been extremely courteous – and when we’ve got to know them a bit, exceedingly good company.

 

Yes we’re still alive!

It’s been a long while since I posted anything – sorry about that – much has happened…

Since the “Lost Island” we did a lazy route around Åland – stopping at a resort town one night (Karingsund), a remote and very secluded bay another (Djupviken) and then onto the location of a fortress that was being built by the Russian Tzars – but which the British and French (working together???) put paid to some 150 years ago. We then returned to Mariehamn again – unfortunately to affect further repairs on the windlass – and to do several days of work for Checon.

Throughout, the weather has been magnificent – the Finns can’t believe how good it is – and we’re rather wishing it wasn’t quite so hot – though swimming off the back of the boat has been good fun.

We came to the Baltic to be a part of a rally organized by the Ocean Cruising Club – a 2 month cruise through the Baltic – right up to St. Petersburg. However, when we had our mishap back in Scotland and the resulting 5 week delay, we got very far behind and we’ve been trying to catch up to them ever since. Finally in Mariehamn we met our first OCC boat (Delphinus with Jane, Paul and Lilly) – for about an hour because as we arrived, they shoved off to somewhere else(!) – but it was good at least to finally see someone!

Finland has been very interesting – here are some very generalized observations: The people are very private and don’t make eye contact or say hello to strangers in the street. When walking up the dock, they’d look at Toodle-oo! and register the American flag, but seldom any would engage us. Once engaged by whatever means however, they were very friendly, helpful and enjoyable people. There’s very little wildlife – actually, this is true throughout the Baltic. Very few seabirds, we saw just a couple of seals – all unfortunately due to pollution in the Baltic which has killed off the fish – and therefore broken the entire food chain. There are Algae blooms all over the place – so swimming is not always possible. The one thing that has stood out the most however is the long long days – never really getting dark – awesome!

After Mariehamn, Finland we had a tremendous sail over to one of the outlying Swedish islands and then went on to Stockholm – where we finally caught up to the whole OCC gang – for the final dinner of the rally!!!

Stockholm was great and we stayed 4 days – and then started our return trip, stopping at an outlying island again and then crossing to Gotland – right in the middle of the Baltic. We’re now in Visby – a really pretty town – where we’d love to spend more time, but weather dictates that we should leave in the morning, headed towards the Keil Canal – but will probably stop in either southern Sweden or Bornholm again as a storm passes.

I’ll update properly once in a good spot – as I have lots of photos to post.

Sorry the website went down for a few days – not sure what happened – but all should be fixed now.

Lost…

We left Mariehamn and set off for a small island to the west of Åland, Enskär. Disentangling from the mooring was interesting – we were hemmed in by two boats – so the marina staff had to come by and unhook one’s stern mooring in order to let us out. Not much wind so we motored most of the way – just sailing for about 2 hours once we were clear of the islands using main and code zero. Navigation in Finland has been very interesting. They use cardinal buoys – identifying the north, east, south or west extremity of a hazard according to the arrangement of black and yellow bands on a pole. They also use leading lines a lot – once you’ve lined up two markers that are situated on land, you can follow that track safely through whatever hazard you are negotiating. Arriving at the tiny uninhabited island was quite interesting and we found that there was actually a dock – not marked on the chart – with two sailboats docked. Since we were not sure of the depth around it we opted to anchor – close by the dock. If you’re familiar with the series Lost – this is it – minus the sweat! There’s evidence of past activities, but the huts and houses are vacant. Apparently it used to be populated by marine traffic operations but instead they built a radar station there and monitor remotely. As a consequence, it’s all a bit eerie and the paths all overgrown. We did walk around the island and really enjoyed the huge variety of flora – growing in cracks in the red granite rocks. The rocks remind me of a granite version of Malham’s Limestone Pavement. We stayed a couple of nights – having the island completely to ourselves for a good deal of the day and really enjoyed the solitude. We barbecued on the rocks both nights – sausages, then chicken; both excellent!

Need a bigger boat!

Need a bigger boat!

Aboard Pomern - last operational sailing cargo ship.

Aboard Pomern – last operational sailing cargo ship.

Dinner on the barbie

Beautiful granite

Beautiful granite

Diverse and very pretty flora

Diverse and very pretty flora

Abandoned buildings

Abandoned buildings

Rock Hopping

Rock Hopping

We could have tied up to this and stern anchored... I guess we're just wimps!

We could have tied up to this and stern anchored… I guess we’re just wimps!

Mysterious dead monster - definite carnivore - too big for a dog...

Mysterious dead monster – definite carnivore – too big for a dog…

Flora

Flora

Today we departed Enskär and headed across the bay just 8 miles for the larger island of Eckerö and the community of Karingsund, finding a super little harbor full to bursting with boats and tourists from the local massive camp ground. We even tried it the Finnish way and moored bow to – without drama. A very different but equally interesting locale. We’ll stay here tonight then head on around the top of Åland for Djupviken tomorrow. All very well aboard Toodle-oo!