Saturday, February 10, 2007

2006 Summer cruise


This year I was determined to get on the boat for a longer part of my
vacation. The conditions were good as I got four whole continuous weeks
off work. Still my wife and I did not want to burden my mother in-law
to take care of the cat for three weeks. Also my wife had to work some
hours the first week so we decided that I would start on my own for a
week, then sail home to get my wife for another two week's sailing.

The weather this summer had been superb. It had not rained much
previously and I was a bit concerned that this would change just when
we were to cruise, all by the rule that did it not rain before it
surely must rain later. But I was wrong! July turned out to be the
hottest and driest since 1994. A blessing after last years rainy cruise.

I set out on my single-handed little cruise on Monday, July 10th. That
morning it was for a change raining heavily, so I waited for it to stop
and did not sail until 1630. There was the tail of a gale blowing from
the SW, which was perfect to get me out some distance from the city
despite the late start. I sailed with genoa only, something I never
tried before. It turned out to be a safe and nice way to sail in this
weather except for the little tacking I had to do to in the beginning.
With genoa only, the boat really did not go to weather very well and
also it is a hassle to tack (as always with the genoa, which I am now
beginning to use as a light wind-downwind sail only).

I reached the club harbour of Getfoten outside Vaxholm at 1930 and got
some help to moor the boat. Mooring the boat single-handedly with an
anchor at the stern and bows to a dock is no easy thing, but I am
beginning to get the grip of it.

This is the dock at Getfoten in the evening. The next morning I
continued at 0930 and sailed to another club island, Ekholmen. I had
never been there before, but got the tip from a friend who never had
been there either but got the tip from someone he met. So it clearly
was a place that needed to be checked out. Ekholmen turned out to be
one of those nice places that tries to stay out of the pilot books so
it gets a bit exclusive. Still they do welcome guests. There is a good
dock and a clubhouse where one can get a cup of coffee or ice-cream.

I got tucked up nicely next to a big motorboat, securely moored with
stern to a bouy. As the weather forecast talked about a gale early next
day and quite some strong winds even later I decided to stay here for
two nights. The second evening there was a spontaneous concert with
guitar and trumpet on the dock. Also I learned that the club has a
tradition of welcoming the steamer "Storskär" on her evening run
at 2000 by cheering and playing the trumpet (when the trumpet player is
there), the ship replying with it's steam whistle. So this evening I
could see the whole show.

The trumpet player is standing nearest to the camera.

On thursday I was beginning to have trouble with the weather forecast.
I originally had planned another stop somewhere in a natural harbour
but there was still forecasts of heavy winds later that week-end and I
felt that I could not sail further out and be back in time to get my
wife for the second week if I had to wait for gales to abide. Instead I
decided to curtail the trip and head for home directly. Depending on
the weather I would stop somewhere on the way (but then I would have to
stay there for two extra days until I could sail home).

I headed out at 0930 in quite some wind with jib and a reef in the
main. I had to beat, but with long legs on quite open water in the
beginning. It worked nicely. When I reached Vaxholm I got onto a beam
reach that brought me past the fortress quite quickly and I decided to
continue. Of course the last run up Askrikefjärden would be a beat
again but by now I was into it and it had almost become a sport to try
to get home in one run. It took me 10 hours of continuous sailing,
mostly upwind. I shook out the reef and took it in again twice. I lived
on water and bread slices with nothing on them. Still I made it.

The sunny cruise

Well back home my wife and I decided that as I was home
earlier from my single-handed cruise we could as well start earlier
with our cruise. We used the week-end to provision the boat with food
and wine for two weeks. As usual, when I sail with my wife great care
was taken to the little luxuries onboard, such as table cloth, plant,
extra cushions and things like that.

Our plan was to set out on monday and so we did. Exactly as on the
previous monday there was quite a lot of wind. But now we sailed with
reefed main and jib in order to be able to tack more easily if the need
should occur. We sailed at 1130, passed Vaxholm at 1300 and entered
Ekholmen at 1530, sailing the last part with reefed main only. This was
exactly the same distance I tacked up in 10 hours three days earlier.
Now we had made it in four hours! I think it was now we broke our
personal speed record by 0.3 knots.

Quite early that day we passed a house pontoon being towed by a tug.
Also my wife took some daylight photos of Vaxholm castle.

My wife did like Ekholmen as
well, although there was no trumpet playing for "Storskär" that
evening. During the night there was a brisk northerly blowing making
the harbour a bit bumpy. It had blown itself out by noon the next day
and we started for our next stop, Gällnö. We had been there
before a couple of times, but not liked it as much the last time we
were there. Now we decided to try it again and we did indeed like it.
This time we moored the boat on the opposite side of the anchorage.
This way we got the sun into the cockpit during the evening.

In fact we liked it that much we stayed for two nights. The next day we
walked a few miles to the little village where we had lunch at the
café and bought some things. Unfortunately we were not allowed
to buy a disposable grill because of the dry weather and risk for fire.
So we had to cook the meat we bought in the frying pan.

The forecast talked of mostly light winds for a few days and we decided
we would try to get into a good starting position to make the jump over
open water to the outer parts of the archipelago again. So on thursday
we first motored through a tiny channel and the set sail north towards
the island of Kålö, another club harbour with a dock and in
a perfect postion near the open water.

The harbour itself was a bit crowded, but the view to the other side
was very nice.

I also took a walk to the other side of the island. From there the open
water could be seen.

The next day we started at 1100 and
sailed to the island of Kallskär. Kallskär is one of the few
islands in the outer part of the skerries that has a protected
archorage. The pilot book even calls it a "hurricane hole". On the
picture below, Kallskär can be seen in the distance to the left.

While this is certainly true as far as swell is concerned I do have
doubts as for the wind. The harbour is a tiny cove with a narrow entry
from the south that literally funnels the wind into the harbour. This
was mentioned in the pilot for southerlies and although we did have
southerlies when we arrived we knew that the wind soon would veer into
the north so we moored inside anyway. After a two hour trip over open
water, making more that 5 knots most of the time we arrived into an
anchorage that was totally empty! And that with the pilot book's
warning in mind that the anchorage was popular and fenders would often
be needed.

This is the viev over the anchorage from the top of the highest hill on
the island. The narrow entrance is to the left.

We did like Kallskär very much. The only downside was the draft,
with even northerly winds blowing through the anchorage. In fact it was
quite cold here, I guess this is how the place got it's name.
Kallskär means "Cold Skerry". In the evening did in fact arrive
some more boats, but still not at all many and fenders where definitely
not needed.

Our plan was to stay here for two nights. The last time we were in the
outer skerries we only stayed one night and regretted it since. So we
had one of our nice dinners and settled for a night that became quite
calm. The next morning we got fog that lifted at noon. The forecast
talked about some more days with mostly light winds and I was a bit
tempted to try for another outer skerry, Rödlöga, but my wife
had by now become very keen on restaurant food and some civilisation.
So we decided to make for Finhamn instead.

Even that morning there was a fog, even denser than the day before. I
was very surprised when I saw three boats anchored just outside the
harbour entrance when the fog lifted a bit. At 1215 we left the
harbour. Visibility was not yet good but improving steadily and good
enough to see other vessels. Navigation could be managed by GPS anyway.
So we sailed.

We saw some kajaks out in the open
water. They were not easy to spot in the still not perfect vis.

Only a few miles before our destination we got into a thunderstorm with heavy rain, but fortunately
no severe gusts. It was over in less than an hour and the sun was back
again. As it was quite late when we arrived we decided to stay two
nights and go to the restaurant the next day. Here we would also be
able to fill the water and buy some more food. Unfortunately the visit
at the restaurant turned out to be some kind of anti-climax. It was
quite a long way to go and finally there, everything was so
over-efficient and fast we got the main course before we had time to
finish our drinks. The food was not very good either.

In my opinion the best food for sailors in conditions like ours is a
good steak with a nice bottle of red. When we have been out for a week
or more living on canned food and hard tack we do not need or want
fancy dishes in funny bowels fitted with italian names. This is all
good and well at home in town (especially if you don't need to pay for
it yourself), but out here, give me a steak at a decent price any time.
I do understand though that these places (or many of them) thrive on
day visitors coming out by ferry from town for a swim and a sunday
dinner and maybe they indeed do want the fancy food. Anyway, it'd
better be tasty then at least.

So somewhat disappointed having missed the hop to Rödlöga
for some uninspiring food we decided to make the best of it and do some
island hopping in the area, adding some places we had not gone before
to our list. The first one of those was only one hour's sail away.
Stora Kalholmen, an island with the oldest youth hostel in the
archipelago and quite some nice achorage. The place turned out to be
nice enough and it even had water and a tiny shop where canned food and
bread could be had. So next time we can go here instead of Finhamn.

This is the youth hostel or parts of it. The picture primarlily shows
this little fluffy dog in the middle which is the reason why the house
is out of focus... The next day we continued to a place called
Säck (which means bag). It is an anchorage shaped just like a bag
with a narrow entrace to the north. Due to favorable winds we did in
fact both sail in and out of the anchorage without having to do a
single tack. This was also the best part of it. Otherwise the anchorage
was very crowded and quite dirty (I found some garbage disposed of in
the middle of the forest althouth there was a litter station nearby).

During these days we had light winds and very sunny and warm weather.
Even at nights it was quite warm now and long gone were the sweaters
and blankets we used in the evening in the beginning of the cruise.

Even the water was warm enough to be quite comfortable once one had
been in it for a while. In fact during this cruise we never ever used a
marina with a shower so all washing was done in the sea. We still had
our wine even if the place felt more like a camping lot.

The next day we decided to sail to a cove we had visited before and
liked very much. Then we were almost alone and we hoped for similar
conditions this time. On the way we passed a little seaside village,
Norra Stavsudda, that has a store and a pub and we stopped for

This was exactly the kind of seaside restaurant I was talking about. We
had hamburgers and a beer and it was perfect. At that time I was
beginning to get a bit annoyed by the beard I was developing. I had
decided not to shave during this cruise and now it was itching more and

After lunch we continued to Lådna to arrive there in the
afternoon (I did not note the exact time in the log for some reason).
There were some boats but we got a spot quite for ourselves. At Norra
Stavsudda we finally had managed to purchase another disposable grill
and some fresh meat and now we were eager to have a barbecue the next
day. My wife was especillay looking forward to this. The morning was
clouded but it did not rain during the whole day. But right in the
evening a thunderstorm appeared with some heavy rain.

Disappointed, we had to fry the meat in the frying pan once more. The
rain held during most part of the night. We decided to leave the next
morning as it was time to make some way homewards. More rain and light
winds were forecast and indeed this day was the only one with
continuous rain that did not stop until shortly before we arrived at
destination, Hästholmen south of Grinda. On our way we passed the
dock of Lådna village where the "Skerry doctor"'s boat was moored.

At Hästholmen we had the chance to dry out and watch all the
others having barbecues. We, though, had already eaten our meat and
although we now had the grill we did no longer have anything to put on
it. Maybe I should learn to fish? In fact we saw a lot of fish this
season, oh well.

Now our cruise was coming to an end. Our last stop before home was once
again Getfoten were we had a good meal at the pub (a simple and decent
one as well). I had moored the boat to a dock under which some swallows
had nested. I did not get a good picture though.

If you look closely you can see the dots of their eyes. The birds were
very nice all right, but they do wake very early and then they make
noise and walk on the deck just above my head. Anyway we also woke
early and started the last leg home at 0930. For once we had a
following wind
and a good one, too so we arrived at our home berth around 1300. 15
days at sea together, plus my little prelude made this cruise a really
good one. Even this time we had made some improvements to the boat. We
carried an old big umbrella that was lashed as a parasoll and did work

I also carried a new anchor, a Bruce. I am not really sure what I am to
think of it. My impression after this cruise is that it does not set as
easily as the mushroom I used before, but once set it does not drag. In
fact as of yet the Bruce has never dragged. But once or twice I had to
make a new run because it woud not set on the first try. The first time
this happened to med was at Ekholmen when it was too late to stop the
boat and it bumped into the dock, fortunately with no damage to either.

We also improved our mooring technique in natural harbours. Now once I
am sure the anchor has set I go forward and do the actual rock climbing
while my wife stops the boat with the anchor line.

This cruise was one of the nicest yet. We did not sail an excessive
distance this time (I have not yet summed it up, but I guess it is less
than even last year (not counting my single-handed part). Still, we did
see the outer skerries again, and visited new places. And most
important: we had the best weather yet.

A final note with regard to bird flue worries (which were quite strong
in the late winter). We did not see a single dead bird. There were
fewer ducks as usual (but not at Getfoten!), but a lot of Swans. Even
the cormorants seem to thrive well.

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