Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sailing through the Rainbow (2005 summer cruise)

Out of experience we do know that the best time for sailing in the Stockholm archipelago is late July and early August. Unfortunately work commitments prevented my wife and me to undertake our yearly expedtion at that time. Instead we managed to get two weeks off work together of which we would sail 13 days. In fact it was only 12 in the end. Because of the shorter time available compared to last year, our expectations weren't that high. Either did we plan to sail to those far away destinations we were talking about during the winter, as the Åland islands. For that we would need at least three weeks. Instead we decided to head out as far as possible the first day and then follow the wind, preferably trying to visit as many new places as possible and avoid most of those we already visited. Also, my wife always wants to see as much of the open horizon as possible.

We loaded the boat with provisions according to what we have learned on earlier voyages: potatoes, crispbread, canned food, some frozen food in a cooling box for the first days. We took a lot of oranges to make our own juice (oranges do keep very well in the bilges, much longer than any other fruit we have taken). New for this year was that we took eggs, to scramble for breakfast. Eggs do last at least a week, even without being cooled. And of course we took wine, beer, brandy and water. The morning we had planned to leave it was raining. We decided to wait until 1500 and if it stopped before that we would leave anyway. At lunchtime the rain stopped and at 1300 we were on our way. Only minutes after leaving the dock it started to rain again, but fortunately it was only a short shower. We would get much more of that later.

In the evening we reached the anchorage of Bockholmen, east of Grinda island after seven hours of sailing. This anchorage was new to us and we liked it very much. There were only a few boats, especially the first night and it was nice and quite.

The nex day brought very little wind and as we still were tired after the long sail of the day before we decided to stay and rest for another day. We had a barbeque on the rocks and in the evening we saw this funny cloud that looked like an animal or something.

This fellow was interested in our barbeque...

At Bockholmen I also took my first swim!

The next morning we started for what should become another long leg of this cruise. The wind was from the north so we decided that after quite a bit of tacking to get to Kanholmsfjärden, we would turn south. The southern part of the archipelago was completely new to us so we looked forward to a lot of new views. On Kanholmsfjärden we had a nice and fast reach in a good breeze. We met this pretty two masted vessel.

And this Vivacity beating upwind with a reef in the main. I do not know who owns this boat and we did not manage to attract their attention, possibly they were busy doing the sailing. A few miles before our destination for the day, Boskapsön, I managed to run aground. Fortunately the shallow draft twin keeler just slided up the shoal gently and we were able to push her off easily with the boathook. There is a lot to be said for shallow draft boats. Also I did know the shoal was there somewhere but failed to keep a good lookout. It could clearly be seen and later we did not understand how we could have missed it. We were sailing at only about two knots at the time so no damage occured except some scratched off bottom paint.

The skerry above is near the shoal.

Just before we arrived at Boskapsön we got some more rain which passed over quickly. Boskapsön is a nice but not very protected anchorage east of Nämdö. It was actually nearest the horizon we did come this time.

This is the view from the other side of the island which also had a small fisherman's hut and dock.

At Boskapsön we stayed only one night. The forecast was talking about a westerly gale coming through and we wanted to reach a safer anchorage before that. So the next day we moved only a short distance to Jungfruskär (Virgin skerry). This anchorage was described in the pilot book as being sheltered in all weather, but we found it quite windy in the westerly the following day anyway. No real problem though and the anchor held nicely.

This is me untangling a mooring rope under close view of the harbourmaster....

Our mooring in the lull before the gale. Actually this was early in the afternoon and the anchorage filled up nicely later. We had our little rock for ourselves as it was quite shallow on either side. No problem for an Alacrity though. I did fail to take a picture of the entrance to the anchorage during the gale. I went up there and it was a good blow, but I did not take the camera. The gale blew the whole next day and we stayed put reading and relaxing. The second night I was a bit concerned about the anchor, so I took the compass close to my bunk so I could check the bearing without leaving the cabin or having to look out of the window. Everything worked nicely though.

The next afternoon we continued to Ornö marina. It was a perfect sail in still quite strong winds and we did not even have to tack once! We wanted to go to a real marina this time to be able to take a shower and eat a dinner at the pub. We also had heared that there would be a warm front coming through with quite a lot of rain. In fact this was the beginning of a really rainy period and even if we still got some days of sun, the weather had become very unstable with several low pressure systems dominating the scene.

This is the restaurant at Ornö. We ended up eating here twice as we were forced by the rain to stay here for three nights. The food is very good indeed, and they charge accordingly. Ornö also has a food store a short walk from the marina so we could stock up some fresh food and get newspapers with depressing weather reports and some more books to read in the rain.

This is Ornö church. This picure was taken the first afternoon when it still was sunny. But already the same evening a thunderstorm came through with quite some rain. The next day it rained almost the whole day and at 1400 another thunderstorm passed right over the harbour with very strong gusts. Our cockpit cover almost blew away and the rain was so immense we actually had to bail the bilges afterwards as one of the cockpit lockers did not keep tight.

Those two days we spent mostly reading.

The second day of the warm front the local lifeboat had a show but in the steady drizzle not too many people showed up.

Finally the rain stopped and we could sail again. However, with the weather situation so unstable we cancelled all plans of going further south or farther out towards the outer islands. Instead we would sail to Härsö, my boating club's summer place which I not had been visiting before, because it is in the southern part of the archipelago and there is a very narrow passage to get there if one does not want to sail around on the outside as we now in fact had done. We decided to take the chance and go there now and then sail (or motor) the narrow passage home, thus in fact circumnavigating the central part of the archipelago.

The sail to Härsö was perfect. We had a following wind again and a strong one too. We sailed the first part of the leg with main sail only making still almost 5 knots.

The club's summer place is really nice. There is a good dock, a quiet anchorage and it even has a sauna. When we came in there were about six boats but most of them left the next day. We stayed for two nights and could have done so longer still. But the third day there was a good southerly wind which we would need to get through the narrow passage fairly easily without using the engine all the time.

The view from the entrance.

And a club dog getting his ticks removed. My wife, who is mostly responsible for the animal and wildlife section of this report also managed to photograph this one. We have no idea what it is, so please do tell if you know...(Update: I have been told it is a 'stinkbug'...)

It was about half an inch long.

Our trip through the narrow passages of Baggenstäket and Skurusundet was fairly uneventful. We managed the passage with a minimum of engine use and could even sail under Skurubron.

However, when we reached the end of Skurusundet we were greeted by an almost black sky and shortly it began to pour. I was totally soaked and then the wind disappeared. Being a bit tired and upset I ran the engine for a quarter of an hour until the wind came back.

We were then rewarded by the most magnificient rainbow I have ever seen. We did in fact literally sail through it and at a time one of the ends was only 20 m from the boat. This picture are in fact two which I have pasted together, that's why the boom and mainsail look a bit weird. Shortly after, we reached Getfoten. Still totally soaked we were glad that there is a pub on the island and we had a really good dinner to dry up. Fortunately there was no more rain that evening and during the night.

My wife found another ship's dog for the archive. The next day we sailed the last part home. It was a labourous beat against a westerly wind almost all the way home. Half way we got another downpour with some really strong gusts and I would have reefed if I had not known that the wind would drop when we neared our home port so I made do with a fisherman's reef instead (flapping mainsail in gusts). Concludingly this was definitely the wettest (in respect of rain) cruise so far. However, we had some really nice sailing (we made an effort in not trying to sail when the wind was not favorable (except for the last day when there was no choice), visited some new places and made some more improvements to the boat. Also my wife has learned some more about sailing the boat, in fact she said this was the trip when she felt she learned the most.