Friday, May 11, 2007
This year an old friend of mine and I had planned a spring cruise for the last week-end of May. Due to a holiday on thursday we would take a long week-end and sail thursday to sunday, four days.
My friend arrived at the airport on wednesday evening and after having
bought some last supplies and eaten some food at a restaurant nearby we
drove to the club and settled on the boat. After a late night coffe we
went to bed. The day had been very windy with wind speeds of half a
gale, but the forecast ensured os the wind would drop during the night.
The next day it was to pick up again, but not as much and still be from
the right direction to enable us to a good reach out into the
The night was a bit disturbed by a big bang at about 0100 which origin
we were not able to find out. The next morning, though, I listened to
the radio for a weather forecast and caught the news talking about that
noise and stating that nobody knew what it had been. Apparently people
had called the police and they even had despatched a helicopter to look
for signs of an explosion, but to no avail.
Anyway, the next morning we set sail at 0940. The winds were then
light, despite the forecast. Also we had to tack all the way out of the
long inlet instead of reaching. After a few hours we changed the
foresail to the big genoa, but that did not help as the wind dropped to
nothing a short while afterwards. We waited some, but then decided to
use the engine for the last mile to our destination, the little island
of Getfoten. Getfoten is owned by a sailing club and has even a
restaurant. When we neared the place we saw a lot of sails and I got a
trifle worried that there would be a regatta and the harbour full of
boats. I called my wife on the mobile and asked her to find out by
means of the internet if there would be any sign of a regatta. When she
got back to me, having found nothing, the sails had dispersed.
Soon afterwards we reached the island. At the same time it started to
rain furoiusly so we had to conduct our mooring maneuvre in pouring
rain. That completed we went directly to the restaurant to warm up,
have a beer, some food and a few cups of hot coffee. There were about
seven boats in the harbour, but we were informed that only the day
before there were over a hundred. So there was a regatta, but they had
departed not to come back. Luck for us. We had a comfortable night,
although it started to blow quite a bit, with halyards and shrouds
rattling on the boats.
The next morning it was raining and did so until lunch. We had a long
cosy breakfast with scrambled eggs (with onions), tea, coffee and
orange juice. The stove had to work hard not only to warm the food but
to keep the cabin warm. The dock at Getfoten shortly before we left:
At around midday the rain stopped and the sun did in fact peak out.
However, we saw a new dark front of clouds approaching from the west.
We had two alternative options at that time, one was to sail to the
nearby town of Vaxholm to the north or to a cove to the south. I was a
bit in favour of the cove, but my friend who was keen on seeing the
famous castle at Vaxholm, the fact that there were warm pubs there and
the dark front approaching, made me decide to go for Vaxholm.
We sailed there in about two hours in mostly light winds, still with
minimal use of the engine. We even left the harbour at Getfoten under
sail. It was quite sunny during our passage, but shortly after we
arrived it started to rain. And so it continued in hourly intervals.
One hour of rain. One hour of sun. And so on. This destroyed all plans
of leaving again, so we settled for the night after a stroll in the
town and a visit to a café. At that cafè I also found a
newspaper reporting that the "bang" we had heard two days before
actually had been an earthquake. Now earthquakes are extremely rare in
Sweden and this one, being a 2 on the Richter scale did not harm
anybody, but quite a fews buildings did shake. Being on a boat, we of
course did not feel anything of this.
We left Vaxholm early the third day. Now the forecast was of moderate
winds, decreasing to almost nothing in the afternoon. So we started
early to catch the wind that was and get to a small harbour halfway
between Vaxholm and home as my friend wanted to be in Stockholm sunday
afternoon at the latest. Of course the forecast was wrong again. There
was some wind all right, but instead of decreasing it increased
continuously until lunchtime. We started with full sails, changed from
genoa to jib after a third of the distance and took a reef in the main
after another third. And of course all the time we had to beat.
Anyway, we reached our destination after a really good sail, although a
bit cold at around 1300. We had a good lunch and settled for a quiet
evening at that place. Or so we thought. Soon it dawned on us that
there was some activity at the club house directly in front of the
dock. Enquiries showed that there was a party to be that evening for
someone's 50th birthday. So we had a problem.
It was apparent that we would not be able to sleep until very late if
we stayed. Also the forecast for next day was of very light winds and I
did not feel for motoring all the way home. Instead we decided to set
sail again directly. We left at 1600 and were in fact able to sail half
the distance home, athough very slowly for the last part. At 1900 the
wind died totally and we started the engine that brought us home on a
mirrorlike sea and under a still quite high northern sun one hour
Although thus being somewhat curtailed the cruise was a success. It
showed that there can be done some very nice sailing even in adverse
cold and rainy conditions like those. Still I have never before slept
in a sleeping bag with clothes on and an extra blanket inside the
packet to keep warm. Temperatures were never over 15C, mostly around 10
and surely lower during the nights. Also there was quite some rain and
the wind was very cold. Still we kept the spririts up, drank some
rum-and-hot-water-grogs and had a good time as only old friends can.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
We left our home port at about noon. With a follwing wind for almost the whole time we made it to Vaxholm castle at 1700. Our first plan was to stop here, but the wind was so good, we decided to continue and just anchor somewhere when we got tired. We finally ended up in a moderately protected cove in Lindalssundet. There was quite some wash from passing boats, but we reckoned that this would stop during the night, which it did.
We had dinner and got to bed early. We were quite exhausted after this first long sailing day. The next morning the weather was exactly the same as the day before. The following wind continued and we sailed on to Gällnö. This was only a short sail of about three hours, but we were still quite tired after the night and had made an early start due to increasing wash from passing traffic.
Getudden at Gällnö is a very nice cove, frequently visited by people with children because it has a sandy beach, something quite rare in the archipelago with all it's rocks. On Gällnö there is also a small shop and café about half an hours walk from the cove. We anchored from the stern bows towards land, as it's common here. Unfortunately the anchor did not set properly the first time. Instead of motoring out again and repeat the maneoevre I decided to use the inflatable dinghy to reset the anchor. This worked very well except for the fact that the dinghy had been damaged (probably by mice) during winter storage and now had two small air leaks I did not know about. However I made it back to shore, despite a slowly deflating dinghy. I am sure it was a great sight for everybody else...
As we arrived early we had the whole afternoon to relax, swim and enjoy our vacation. The night was cloudless and there were quite a few stars to be seen. One thing about the flowers. We used to have these on our first cruise in 2002, then on the old wooden folkboat, and since we have carried on the tradition. However, there are people who think that flowers onboard ship are bad luck. We did not know this then, but maybe we will be taking herbs next time just to be safe. The next day we had to cross Kanholmsfjärden, with a bit more open water than we had encountered before. Of course the wind veered to the east and picked up somewhat, so we had to tack the rest of the way to Sandhamn.
Sandhamn has two small boat harbous, one directly in front of all the seaside restaurants and pubs and another one on a smaller island on the opposite side. As we wanted it a bit more quiet we picked the other side, Lökholmen (this means Onion Island). There were a lot of boats here, but the Alacrity being so small and shallow draught we got a spot at the innermost and most shallow part of the anchorage. Here we would stay two nights.
We were very satisfied with our cruise so far, the sail to Sandhamn had worked out without any incidents (except for the one with the leaking dinghy) and we were right on schedule. So we went to dinner at one of the restaurants in Sandhamn and celebrated our success. Unfortunately the disposable camera we had used had run out of film and we could not buy another one until the next day. So there are not too many pictures from Sandhamn itself. To get there from Lökholmen involves a short ferry trip which we did only once. However, Lökholmen istself has showers and toilets. They also publish weather forecasts on their info board.
Finally we left Sandhamn and were on our way home. The weather forecast was talking about 18 knots of wind, but this was all nonsense. We crossed Kanholmsfjärden on a perfect beam reach with all sails up, my wife being at the helm. As we did like the anchorage at Gällnö very much, we decided to stop there again on our way back home. Mooring this time involved some moderate rock climbing.
We also got in some more swimming. In fact, the weather was perfect almost the whole week and I can not remember that it rained at all except the last night at Vaxholm when we got a thunderstorm coming through. But then we were moored safely in a protected marina. At dinner time we saw a very nice wooden sailboat run aground on a shallow near the entrance to our cove. The young couple on board tried everything to get off, including them both jumping overboard and trying to push their vessel off the rocks. However, this did not succeed and eventually they had to be towed off by a powerboat. Unfortunately we did not take a single photo of the incident, I have no idea what I was thinking of, me being a journalist and all. It must have been that I was on vacation at the time.
Gällnö is a favorite place for ducks. This is probably because there always are a lot of boats and the ducks use to patrol the anchorage in search of some leftover food. They also like to sit on anchor lines as the one above. The next day we proceeded to Grinda island. On Grinda there is a very popular pub which also has a small marina (it has become bigger since). On our last cruise in 2004 we did not like Grinda too much as we arrived there on a week-end. But in 2003 it was on a Monday and then it was very quiet and nice. We enjoyed good food at the seaside pub and the only downside I remember was that there were a lot of wasps.
When we sailed from Grinda the following day there was almost no wind at all. We ended up motoring almost the whole way to Vaxholm. Unlike in 2004 we at least got some wind for the last part of the trip home. Unfortunately these calms on our way home turned out to be yet more annoying one year later. I am beginning to think that there may be some meaning in it. Maybe the archipelago wants us to stay out there and never return to town, work and cold winters....
This little lighthouse marks kind of the boundary of normal daysailing range. We now would not see it again for two weeks. This felt great! To get a bit away from the city one has to sail one of two ways. Of course, also every powerboat going out over the week-end has to do this. This is why it is not so good to start or finish a cruise on a Sunday. (There is another reason, to be told later....). After passing the famous Vaxholm castle (where the Swedish fleet waited doing nothing in 1717 while Russian warships burned the outer parts of the archipelago), we turned into Lindalssundet, also called the highway to the archipelago. Now we really learned this thing about powerboats and Sundays. It got very bumpy... But finally we made it through and into more open water. I did, of course, forget to take a picture of the castle, as I have seen it so often. I know you haven't, so I promise I will sail there soon again and take a picture. However I photographed some nice houses along Lindalssundet.
At 1800 we hade reached out first nightstop. This was actually the whole cruise's longest leg, but we really wanted to get away from town.... We stayed at a nice little cove, actually it's a sound, as there is an island blocking the southern entry of the cove. This makes it very sheltered although there is heavy boat traffic in the lane south of it. But almost no swells reaches in. There were a few other boats there, among them a big German sailing yacht that had anchored in the middle. Everybody else was mooring bow to land and anchor aft, as we usually do it here.
We were so hungry after the long sailing day that we skipped any advanced cooking projects and had pasta.... The next day it was overcast, and later on we would get some rain. We decided to leave anyway, as we wanted to put some distance between us and the city (and the powerboats...). Winds were still from the south and about 10 knots. We sailed for five hours until arriving at the next stop. Around lunchtime, we had some instant noodles (the kind that comes in a cup and you only pour hot water over it which we had pre-prepared in a thermos). We passed a funny little island with a lot of Cormorants in dead trees on it...
Finally we arrived at Träskö, where we stayed the night. Most of the time it was drizzling.
This is the anchorage at Träskö in the evening. Quite a few boats here, too. Tuesday brought better weather and winds still from the south at the usual 10-12 knots. We happily continued north, with the wind, not knowing what would happen in a few days. So far we always listened the the forecast on the radion two times a day. I did not yet bother to check medium range forecasts via WAP, which I soon should learn is a good idea.... We now sailed in much more open water, at least to the east.
After four hours we arrived at Själbottna. Here I took this season's first bath.
The water was a bit cold, but it felt good. I liked this little cove which is not so sheltered to te east, but works in all other winds.
Now the weather forecast changed. They talked about the wind veering into the north and increasing to about 20 knots in the evening. We decided to make an early start and sail to Blidö. This would mean tacking up all the way through Blidö sound, but I thought that it would be easier there to get shelter if the wind increased further. This decision I would not have made if I had checked the medium term forecast now, as it already would have told me that the wind would stay in the north (it stayed there almost a week!) and that there would be a small craft varning for winds of up to 28 knots the day after. However, we still were headed north, as was our plan and so we did the tacking. After seven hours we got to Blidö. Here we at least could have a shower, eat at a restaurant and buy some fresh food. We also, I thought, could stay here an extra day if the wind was trying to build to a gale.
Blidö visitor's pontoon in the evening. Here I finally checked the medium range forecast. Having learned that the wind was to stay in the north at least three more days (this being the WAP-forecast's time range) and the fact that the next day would give us winds up to 28 knots and the day after not much less, we had a problem. Additonally the night at Blidö was not at all quiet with swell from passing boats and roaring kids from the village half of the night. So when the next morning's forecast talked about the 28 knots of wind being delayed to the next day, it for now being around 20-24 knots, we decided to leave anyway. We would, however, change our plans and not try to fight against this wind to get further north. There are almost no anchorages there than can offer protection from northerlies. Instead we would fly south with the wind and eventually be heading east towards the outer parts of the archipelago. So at 1030 I put a reef in the main and hoisted the small jib and off we went. It was a bit scary in the beginning, but we soon learned that the boat handled it very well and that there was almost no powerboats to be seen! We also hit a new speed record of 6.1 knots and that with a reef in and the small jib... The sailing was too exciting, so we forgot to take any pictures. In the afternoon, we arrived at the very sheltered anchorage at Finnhamn (called The Paradise). There were already a lot of boats here waiting for better weather.
We did not get a very good spot, not wanting to anchor out with all the others, but with a spring line to shore and an extra anchor out aft, the first night everything worked well. It turned out that the strong winds stayed for one more day, so we stayed too, resting.
The next day we also got some rain. On Saturday winsd finally got weaker. It was still blowing from the north though, so we stayed with the plan to go east to the outer parts of the archipelago. We picked a small island called Tistronskäret as a starting point for the eventual jump across open water to Björkskär.
This was perfect sailing. A beam reach over quite open water in perfect weather.
And here were almost no other boats! Below is the view from the other side of the little island (facing north...)
The one bad thing with having the open sea to the east and north is that I never will be able to take these beautiful sunset pics....this is the closest I can get. This is my wife looking at the sea. The weather was to stay quite stable with northerly winds, so we decided to sail to Björkskär the next day.
With a few days of half a gale from the north, there was quite some swell left, but of course nothing an Alacrity even would blink at.... In fact we sailed out with full main and genoa, but had to take down the genoa after an hour or so, as the wind increased. I did not bother to put up the jib as we still made 5 knots with main alone.
Landfall at Björkskär. It's really not that far out, but it is open water sailing, the same as it would be to sail to Finland or Estonia, only that would take much longer...
The entrance to the anchorage at Björkskär. There is only one house on the whole island. But there is a small harbour which of course, an Alacrity can use. Here of all places we were approached by a guy who recognized our boat and told us that he was sailing here with an Alacrity 30 years ago. He also took his wife along and they came aboard Discovery and got this special look in their eyes remembering former days of simpler sailing. They once sailed their Alacrity over the Baltic to Åland and found it easily done. They even had to tack the whole way back, which took them 15 hours...
Discovery at Björkskär. There was a lot of wildlife here, frogs, the usual mosquitoes and an amazingly great amount of swallows! They even sat on our spreaders and docklines!
We sailed back the next day as the forecast talked about a rain front coming in. But we did not catch any rain at all. And the sea was much calmer...
There is no fresh water to be had on Björkskär and we were now somewhat low on supplies. So we decided to head back to civilisation. This time it would be the small fishing port of Möja. The island of Möja is one of the biggest in the outer archipelago. There are three fishing villages on the island's eastern coast. The good thing about Möja is that the local people have resisted the transformation into a tourism-only-island. Here people live all year round and there are still some active fishermen.
The harbour at Möja is very small and we were lucky to get a spot in the inner part which is most sheltered. However it got very crowded. Here we bought some supplies and had a good meal at the restaurant. (This time it was really good food. I had been somewhat disappointed with the food at Blidö and Finnhamn). Our plan was to leave the next day and sail on to some less crowded place. But this plan did not work. The high pressure centre everybody was talking about for weeks finally was about to hit Scandinavia (we had had a very rainy and quite unusually cold summer this far), and with it there was a lot of moist, warm air coming over a cold Baltic Sea.
We got fog. if you look very carefully you can actually see a sail in the middle of it. The whole day boats were coming into this tiny harbour to wait for better visibility. There where everywhere, anochored out, tied to private docks and to each other.
Here maybe a note is apropriate to our Canadian friends. Well I know, you always sail in this kind of weather. And yes, maybe I am squeamish about this visibility thing..... However the fog lifted in the early afternoon. We decided to stay the nigh anyway and sail the next day. With the high pressure being here, now we got it very hot, and very light winds. This would unfortunately stay until the end of the trip. So we planned to sail homeward slowly. At first this worked great. We found an anchorage at Lådna that was almost empty. After a day's sailing in light air and bright sunshine we swam quite a lot and afterwards we agreed that this was one of the best anchorages we found. We will certainly remember this one.
On our way there we saw this nice little boat.
The next moring we really wanted to stay another day, but the winds being so light, we were afraid we would not make it home in time so we proceeded to Gällnö. We still had some wind, so we made the whole trip under sail alone.
Om our way we discovered some cows on the beach. How did they get there?
At Gällnö we got in the middle of some kind of open wooden boat meeting. They only stayed for a late lunch though. Gällnö once again is poweboat country. Here poweboaters can easily drive from town to take a swim and get home in time for the evening news. At Gällnö there are quite a lot of dragonflies. And some curious duck like birds.
This one is sitting on the tiller.
Now the less successful part of the trip begins. Our plan was to stay two more nights out, first at the marina at Grinda, where we would eat at the restaurant and then at Vaxholm, a small town from where we knew we would make it home in one day whatever the circumstances. But we did not think of it being Friday night. Last year we had stayed at Grinda and liked it very much, but then it was not at week-end. This was horrible. There were so many powerboats from town creating swell in the harbour, leaving and arriving at all times during the night and dragging half drunk girls from the pub to their boat's to "complete the task". We had one such incident in the boat moored next to us, and we heared every word. It was like a TV show. Of course, we did not get any sleep at all. And the next day we did not get any wind. We motorsailed quite a lot as it was impossible to wait for wind in the horrible powerboat swell. When we approached Vaxholm the wind picked up but we were so tired that we decided to put into the marina anyway. This, too was a mistake. We should have continued all the way home in the light evening breeze, because the next day, there was even lesser wind and we had to motorsail almost all the way back home. However, now I do know that the Honda 2hp 4-stroke works perfectly well indeed. I did actually take a picture of the Vaxholm castle, but it's at nigh....
Despite the last two days this was a very successful cruise. We now know that we can live onboard Discovery for two whole weeks without any problems at all. Even when it was raining, we could live inside the boat or under the makeskift cockpit tent. We also sailed all the time, except the last two days. At many occasions we sailed out of the anchorage not using the outboard at all, and at one time we sailed in half a gale and got a new speed record. My wife now has been sailing in moderate open sea swells and liked it. Actutally she liked the open parts best. We have also learned a few things. Mostly not to leave and come back on a week-end if this could be avoided, and to use the wind that is during high pressure periods. In fact, the day after we arrived home there would have been a perfect wind to sail home from Vaxholm. But being so near home, and so tired after the sleepless night at Grinda, we wanted to get home and did not bother to wait another day for better wind. Also my mother in law who had lived at our place to take care of the cat was leaving. Finally here is a map of the trip.