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2004 - 6
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Part six: Homewards via Finland and Sweden..

We are now heading generally South and homewards. Most of the Baltic is closing at the end of its summer and so everywhere is quiet. Head winds are a problem but the temperature remain warm.

Finland

page index to go here

Hanko - yes another visit (1st August, 63 miles from Tallinn)

We had checked out of Estonia the night before and so had to spend a night on the customs pontoon, Helmut and Renata on Heredato did likewise. We planned to leave at 0600 but as the rain was torrential we waited another 45 minutes, sadly it didn't change so we headed out after Heredato who was about 30 minutes in front.

Maybe less than 30 knts next time

Squally weather as we approach Finland

We got lost in the gloom and so traveled up the centre of the TSS and out to sea. Throughout this period the rain remained heavy and the wind, gusting force 7 repeatedly, made us wonder whether we could take 12 hours of this punishment.

David suffered a little seasickness, but he remained cheerful throughout.

Once clear of the Estonian coast the rain eased to an intermittent drizzle and we could see Heredato in front. We had chosen to use the genoa sail on its own as the wind was just aft of the beam whilst they had main and staysail; so the race was on. We reefed and un-reefed as the wind changed and the squalls went through but each time the visibility returned we were closer.

Once in Finnish waters we spoke to Hanko border guards who asked us to sail to the customs pontoon to clear in and have our papers checked as we had come from Tallinn. As we approached the pontoon the rain was torrential, water was streaming off everything but this did not deter the border guards from boarding Mithril. They stood around in the cabin leaving puddles everywhere, and asked if we had anything to declare.

  "Yes," said Janet, "I'm cold and wet and now I have these puddles to clean up."

They where obviously soon satisfied that we had nothing to declare and were not hiding anything and left wishing us a pleasant stay in Finland.

We tied up in Hanko 20 minutes later, having covered 63 miles since leaving Tallinn in 11 hours  Heredato arrived an hour later having hand steered the whole passage. Hanko was so much quieter this time as most Finns are now back at work.

Finnish Archipelago (August 2nd to 4th, 23+31+40 miles from Hanko)

We left Hanko on route for the Aland islands. David had decided to travel with us and then catch the ferry back to Helsinki where he had a flight booked for the 10th August.

We had a pleasant three days traveling through the archipelago calling, once again, at Kasnas, Nagu and Sottunga. The summer had finally arrived and the days were hot and sunny with light winds so we had to revisit the nature trail on Nagu, its such a lovely stroll.

On one of the days we were plagued by a swarm of hoverflies and small midges, the decks were covered and every time we moved. carnage ensued there were bodies everywhere, when we reached harbour several of the boats were washing their decks to rid them selves of the same problem. We followed suit. Mosquitoes are also a problem, insect repellent, citronella candles and bite cream are the order of the day, or the evening actually.

Mariehamn (August 5th to 7th, 35 miles from Sottunga)

With David needing to leave us on the 8th to catch the overnight ferry to Helsinki, we decided to have a couple of days in Mariehamn. We needed to do the mundane things like the washing, food shopping and give Mithril a good clean. These activities took one day after that we could have fun. We took a bus to visit the fortress of Bomarsund. The Russian fortress was built between 1832 and 1854 when Aland belonged to the Russians. It was attacked and recaptured by the French and British in 1854 and they offered Sweden the opportunity of taking over the Aland Islands again, but the Swedish were nervous of occupying Russian territory so they simply inflicted as much damage as they could on the fortress.

click for larger view, and all for us.

Unfortunately little remains today of the once vast granite structures, those that do show what a magnificent place it must have been. The picture shows the style of construction and the finish; it also shows the shell and shot damage inflicted during its fall.

The main fort would have been over a kilometre diameter and the support buildings would have covered a further kilometre. Across the bridge on the small island of Prasto were the military hospital and the cemeteries. The lasting impression was of a massive undertaking that lasted for so short a time. We asked at the local museum what its significance was and why here, their answers was that it sat on the "mail road" between Finland and Sweden, so all communications between these countries had to pass it, which explains it being of strategic importance. We also walked around the nature trail on Prasto and climbed a very shaky wooden tower for a breathtaking view of the surrounding archipelago. A super day, but exceptionally hot, glad to be back on the air conditioned bus, yes public transport had air-conditioning.

click for larger view, and all for us.

Forest tea shop

The following day we had a lazy morning and then cycled down to the south of the island, with the idea of walking around a nature reserve, but Barry threw a wobbly because he was being eaten by mosquitoes so back on the bike for a brisk ride back to Mariehamn; via the woodland tea shop of course.

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Sweden

Furusund (August 8th, 41 miles from Mariehamn)

Farewell Finland. We are now comfortable with the system of leading marks and so follow the last 2 out into the Sea of Aland and along the ferry route to Stockholm. The wind was initially light and so we motored for a couple of hours but after that we had a splendid sail right to the mooring pontoon.

Furusund was much quieter than on our earlier visit but the ice creams at the cafe were just as good.

click for larger view

Sandhamn (August 9th, 34 miles from Furusund)

In bright sunshine and little or no wind we decided to go to Sandhamn, described locally as the Cowes of Sweden. We chose not to simply retrace our earlier route and so had an interesting day picking our way through narrow channels between the islands. At about midday the wind slowly arrived and so off went the engine allowing us to sail for about 5 hours, almost to Sandhamn.

Sandhamn is a small island and the Swedish home to all things yachty. As we arrived about 300 dinghies were hotly contesting some annual event, luckily the actual race was about 2 miles beyond the harbour so caused us no trouble. It was perhaps as well as the entrance to Sandhamn is an extremely narrow rocky entrance. The harbour staff gave us a berth inside the marina but right in a corner, they did this as we were having trouble berthing in the rising wind and Janet had already stepped ashore with a line but was unable to hold Mithril's bows from blowing off due to the lack of things to tie to. Most pontoons only have rings to tie to and no cleats, making it much harder to quickly tie up 10 ton of wind swept boat. So they asked us to move to a the more sheltered spot. This is the first harbour we have been in, in the Baltic, where there were staff on the pontoons.

Nynashamn (August 10th, 60 miles from Sandhamn)

We had a reasonable leisurely start, hoping that the promised wind would arrive. We managed to squeeze out of our berth with no problems and reverse down the harbour. Something that would have been impossible with our old propeller. The Brunton prop we had fitted just before we left the UK has certainly made manoeuvring in confined spaces easier, money very well spent. We had to motor for a couple of hours and then a SE4 wind arrived, perfect, we were able to sail at almost 6 kts for a couple of hours before the wind dropped away again, fickle stuff these sailing winds. We arrived in Nynashamn mid afternoon with plenty of time to do some provisioning and buy some of the wonderful mackerel from the smokery at the harbour. We are sad to be out of the Swedish skargard, it has been one of our favourites. From now on the pace is on to leave the Baltic by the end of August. We still have a long way to go to return to the UK.

Observations and Trivia VII

  • The exodus out of the Baltic has begun, the German, Dutch and English boats are flooding home.
  • The Swedish and Finnish boats are few and far between, the people are now back at work and their sailing season is almost at an end. Boats start to be lifted and stored in sheds from August onwards.
  • Every boat we meet is keen to make as much distance towards home as possible, we are all fed up with the (prevailing!) wind strengths and direction.
  • The mosquitoes are rampant.
  • Here in the Baltic the majority of harbours we have stayed in are solely guest harbours, so now with fewer boats around harbours are becoming empty. The majority of them close there facilities at the end of August.
  • T shirts, bikinis and summer sandals are being sold in all the tourist areas at up to 80% less than two months ago. It has not been a good summer according to the locals.
  • We have been tempted to over winter Mithril close to the Baltic so we can return next summer but as yet we are undecided.

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Gotland

Visby (August 11th, 75 miles from Nynashamn)

"Why are we doing this", asked Janet. Good question actually, as we were hard on the wind into a lumpy sea with 20 knots across the deck and it was still only 0830.

The wind had dropped from 30 knots and was forecast to veer so ease our passage to Arkosund but we had a few more hours before the morning veer and neither of us thought it fun so at 1130 it was Plan B time. So, we turned left 20 degrees, to be more easy on the wind, and headed 75 miles across open sea to Visby on Gotland. It was a cracking sail for the next eight hours but then we were beating hard into a gradually reducing wind and having difficulty making the course. 2 hours out from Visby, when we thought that to continue under sail might make it a midnight arrival, we opted to motor the last 12 miles. Also the horizon behind us was as black as could be.

Arriving in a strange harbour at 2230 with the sky as black as the ace of spades, and with the last ferry having arrived and long since locked up for the night, the place was dark, really dark. Additionally Janet has poor night vision and so was distrustful of my seemingly blase charge through the outer harbour. I still maintain I could see, he he! We tied up with the help of a German and a Swedish guy. Then the wind rose to 20+ knots and progressively veered, 12 hours late.

click for larger view

The following day saw us with 20 to 30 knot winds and just to the south of us were gales so we had a shore day, and anyway we like Visby. We cycled on their super coastal cycle way through lovely scenery. Then in the afternoon we shopped for souvenirs and gifts in the town. As it is the end of the summer season there were bargains galore. Here Janet is sat on the town's mascot, a concrete lamb.

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Oland Island

Byxelkrok (August 14/15th, 47 miles from Visby)

With the wind forecasted to reduce overnight we set the alarm for 0600 and planned an early start across to Oland but at 0600 the wind was still blowing hard so we rolled over and had another hour in bed.

Leaving the harbour at about 0800 we were straight into a Northerly F5/6 which had blown for 36 hours across over 100 miles of open sea. The waves, therefore, were horrible big rollers and Janet didn't like them at all but to turn back meant beating into them; no thank you, and anyway we only had 50 miles to go and the wind was forecasted to drop before veering to the South. Half way through our journey the auto-helm steering packed up, so we had to hand steer into an increasingly strong wind and bouncy sea as the wind had now gone southerly. We were glad to be tied up in Byxelkrok, although our first attempt at finding a spot was a little tricky as the water depth was only 2.1m a little shallow for us, we eventually found a 2.5m spot sheltered behind the harbour wall. Well reasonably sheltered as the wind was now a force 6 gusting 7.

We also met Chris and Margaret another British couple on their yacht Tacuba II, we spent a pleasant hour getting to know them over a few beers. They are also heading south to Holland where they used to live and still keep their boat during the winter.

Borgholm (August 16th, 47 miles from Byxelkrok)

Again the day is not ideal for traveling south, but we are keen to make progress, so we headed out into a SW F4. The wind remained constant for 4 hrs and we made good progress, albeit tacking thereby adding numerous miles to our journey. The wind then rapidly began to rise reaching a force 7. The sea was quickly building and we where dead into the wind, not pleasant, but we plugged on for the last hour and headed into Borgholm with a total journey distance of 47 nm; it should have been about 30. Of course we had been hand steering as the auto-helm is still out of action, but the good news is that we could buy a new one in Kalmar for a mere £600, the cost in England would be £400, but we do not want to wait for it to be shipped so our options are limited. The chandlers in Kalmar will have one waiting for us tomorrow and Kalmar is only 22 nm away.

A quick shower, a trip to the supermarket and a pizza in the town completed the excitement for the day.

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Sweden

Kalmar (August 17th, 21 miles from Borgholm)

Unfortunately again the wind is on our nose, but with a minimum of tacks we arrive in Kalmar around lunch time. The sun is shinning and while Barry goes to collect the new auto-helm, Janet takes the opportunity to use the excellent harbour laundrette facilities and a stroll around the town and past the old wooden houses.

In the seven years the old auto helm has been on Mithril, Ratheon have brought out a Mk II auto helm and so, as the new one looked very different, we phoned Ratheon UK who said it was as near a replacement as they could manage.

OK so the old screws were chiselled out of the steering column as 7 years of corrosion had left them solidly corroded in. The new one then fit pretty easily and worked a treat, it is much quieter too.

click for larger view

In the afternoon we walked around the lake by the castle and then over this bridge beside the water tower (Janet is on the bridge by the arch on the right). Soon afterwards it started to thunder and lighten, but fortunately the guest harbour is right next door to a shopping mall, so a little retail therapy was the order of the day.

Aspo (August 18th � 23rd , 60 miles from Kalmar)

Today there was no apparent wind, and we had fog. After a quick visit to the fuel pontoon to take advantage of buying green diesel which is a little cheaper than other Baltic diesel. We motored out into a thick haze with about ½ mile visibility. After about 4 hours the visibility began to improve and the wind appeared We were able to make good time towards our destination which is the small harbour on Aspo just outside Karlskrona.

The harbour is very small, but we where able to raft up to two Danish boats on the quay in 2.7m. A little further down the harbour shallows to 1.1m and the rocks are visible. Again we are in company with Chris and Margaret from Tacuba II. The facilities in the sailing club are new, beautifully clean and come complete with sauna.

click for larger view

Evening in the Citadel

In the evening we walked to the restaurant situated in the old castle, the setting is super, the grounds were lit by candles and as well as a very pleasant meal we where entertained by a young guy signing and accompanying musical classics on his pan pipes. The acoustics were good and the whole evening was extremely enjoyable.

Aspo is very small so it is possible to walk around the island in a couple of hours and so, as today was to be a rest day, we decided to see what the island had to offer. We found the islands shop, actually a very well stocked small supermarket, and we went for a walk right around the island. It has lovely woods, rocky bays and lanes with hedgerows full of wild fruit and flowers. Margaret had the foresight to bring a plastic bag and we collected lots of bilberries, blackberries and raspberries. The sun was shinning and it was a lovely relaxing day. We ate our share of the wild fruits made into a compote served with ice cream, they were absolutely delicious.

Once again winds of SW 5/6 so to make progress towards home would mean another beat to windward. We therefore decided to have a another rest day. The ferry runs from Aspo to Karlskrona every hour and one can travel for free, the journey taking about 20 minutes. We caught the 10am ferry and had a good day visiting the churches and maritime museum in Karlskrona.

Just outside the navel complex is Sweden's oldest wooden church, built in 1653. We were lucky when we visited as an organ recital was just commencing.

Again it was a sunny day and we had a very enjoyable day in company with Chris and Margaret.

Karlskrona (23rd Aug, about 10 miles from Aspo)

We were undecided what to do today as the wind was SW F5 again and still right on the nose to our proposed destination, we eventually set off into a big sea, but after 30 mins turned round and headed to Karlskrona. We did not relish beating into the waves, tacking and making a 25 mile journey into 35+ miles, although Tacuba II made it to Simrishamn as planned. The following day the wind was even stronger and still SW, so we took a guided tour of the old naval base, it was very interesting even though the guide admitted to a hangover from a very drunken evening. Originally 50% of the navy used Karlskrona but the 10 minesweepers we saw show that most now use Stockholm.

In the marina the entire visitors pontoon is occupied by ourselves, Germans and Dutch and all are keen to be heading South "maybe tomorrow" is the general cry.

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Island of Bornholm

Allinge ( 24th Aug, 61 miles from Karlskrona)

At 0600 we left Karlskrona and planned to go to Simrishamn along with maybe 10 other boats but once out at sea the fleet progressively reduced until we alone weathered the bumpy conditions and remained on course, determined as we were not to be beaten by the weather again. But after about 4 hours the wind slowly backed until it was clear that on this new course a couple of hours had just been added to the trip. All was not lost, however, as straight ahead was Bornholm and the port of Allinge, also the wind for the following day was forecasted to go South Easterly F6, hopefully giving us a good fast passage to Ystad. At 1750, with 61 miles logged, we arrived at Allinge a little shattered from the long day. The leading lights were once again impossible to find but a rough bearing of 250 degrees from the pier end had us inside.<>

We had the obligatory walk around the, now sleepy, town and then early to bed as we planned an early start.

Sweden

Ystad (24th August, 37 miles from Allinge)

We left Allinge, but only just, at 0615. The trouble was that some bright guy had hoisted sail inside the harbour and set off just as we untied, then, as we tried to negotiate the tight turn to seaward he almost rammed us. He had de-powered as best he could but he was still a couple of knots too fast; anyway we made it out to sea and hoisted the head sail. On passage we saw winds between F4 to F6 and we averaged over 6 knots for the passage. It was a really good sail with the wind on the starboard stern quarter throughout, we arrived just after midday.

click for larger view

Ystad is a busy ferry port with a lovely small marina to the NW of the port, entered on a leading line of 027 degrees to avoid the shallows in the harbour entrance. The town is quite old, with maybe some Hanseatic influences in parts, but with a thoroughly modern centre meeting all the requirements of a visiting yachty. We strolled through the church cloisters and found it wonderfully warm, it being completely sheltered from the wind.

Being a warm sunny day we had the almost obligatory ice-creams and coffee in a street cafe; splendid. The daily market sold a wide range of vegetables and so Janet stocked up, we even found a lime so had very civilised G&T's that evening. All of the shops were offering up to 80% reductions on end of season summer wear but we resisted, anyway I've given up wearing bikinis.

The free internet cafe in the marina meant we could catch up on emails as the weather had again produced strong SW winds and kept us from sailing.

We met Chris and Margaret once again and had a nice evening aboard Tacuba II and hatched a plan to head for Klintholm when the weather moderated.

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