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2004 Log
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Across the Baltic Sea to Visby on the Island of Götland.


Observation and Trivia I
  • Sailing in non tidal waters is easy, except it works both ways and if you ground you cannot wait for a rising tide to help. Calculations for anchoring and secondary ports are redundant.
  • So far obtaining diesel has been easy but pricey , no red diesel after Ramsgate.
  • We have yet to try obtaining propane, you do not see it at the marinas.
  • The German bread is brilliant, so much choice and very flavourful, same goes for the beer.
  • Marina fees are cheaper than the UK, for our boat anywhere between 10 and 24 euros a night.
  • We have only had to pay twice for water 50cents for 100 litres, but we understand this may be the norm in future.
  • Small kiosks selling fish of every description are common in many of the towns, Barry is keen to try smoked eel. Yuk!
  • Baltic waters are clear and blue.
  • Recycling rubbish in Germany is big, even to he extent that kerb side bins have 4 sections.
  • We have found the German railway to be cheap, clean, it runs on time and has double decked carriages. Tickets are obtained from machines around the station.
  • Marinas and harbours have varying depths from 0.5m to 5m most are box moorings or stern buoys, occasionally you need a stern anchor.
  • Shower facilities are generally good and clean, but you pay for the majority of them and you only get a timed 3mins for 0.50cents or in some cases a euro. Washing, then shampooing and conditioning your hair can be a race against the clock.

Keil (15th – 20th May, 40 miles from Halteneau)

We had decided to spend the first night in Kiel and chose the Dusternbrook Marina which is home to the Kieler Yacht Club.

At Dursternbrook we were helped into a box by a very well spoken gent dressed in grey flannels, white shirt and navy sweater who said in his best English, don’t worry this is not Cowes, we don’t mind if people need more than one attempt to moor. As it happens we did it perfectly the second time, on the first attempt we tried to get into a box that was too narrow. We stayed in Kiel for two nights, as we felt in need of a break. This box mooring is an acquired taste, but hopefully practise will make perfect.

Heiligenhafen (15th – 20th May, 40 miles from Kiel)

We had a brisk sail out of the Kieler Bucht and then wind died away to virtually nothing making progress downwind impossible, but we tried for 2 hours before decided we must motor. 5 Miles from Heiligenhafen the engine stopped but responded to being bled, so air in the fuel again. 20 minutes later it stopped again, though this time I couldn’t get the air out and it would only run for 2 minutes at a time. As we now had a little wind, plan B said we try sailing again but we realised the entry channel into the marina was dead into wind and too narrow to tack up, hence plan C.

We both stood on deck and waved our arms in the traditional and international manner saying we were in distress and needed help. The third yacht to pass us, Lovelain, came over to see us and, as he was going to Heiligenhafen, he said he would tow us. Being single-handed he did a splendid job of taking our line and making it fast but with the rope being 85m long it made further communications impossible unless he looked back at us and we needed to tell him our draft was 2m. We eventually shortened the rope and explained our depth but he said he was deeper at 2.3m so he wouldn’t be taking any short cuts over the shallows; phew. He stood by as we tied up to an old yacht outside the marina then he disappeared inside the marina, never to be seen again. Obviously all in a days work for him.

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We are still pretty stressed but at least the sunsets are a nice ending to the days. The following day Jorgen the hafenmeister of Segler - Vereinigung helped us into a mooring box so we could sort out the problem. 2 Days later we found the problem to be a loose and distorted olive on the 8mm copper pipe before the fuel filter.

The town was 200m away, it had everything we needed, the main marina is 500m away and had room for 900 boats. The people were extremely helpful and friendly.

Travemünde & Lübeck (20th – 22nd May, 36 miles from Heiligenhafen)

Our next stop, was 35 miles away and we needed to pass underneath the Ferhman fixed bridge or sail an extra 25 miles around the island of Ferhman. The bridge has 20m to 22m of clearance above the water and Mithril’s mast head is about 18m but it didn’t half look close on the approach and as we passed underneath. Throughout the day we had a cracking sail in cool sunshine, only needing the engine for 10 minutes at either end.

Just as we were trying to squeeze into a mooring box, which was a little on the thin side, the harbour master came along, escorted us across the river and gave us the best along-side-berth right in front of the yacht club. Our best mooring to date, right in the town, on the promenade and 30 seconds from the facilities. The town is the outer port for Lübeck and it is an easy trip on the S-Bahn (surface railway) to Lübeck.

Lübeck is a Hanseatic city with a town centre dating from the 12th centaury, it is neck swivellingly gorgeous and every other building is worth looking at. Lübeckers claim marzipan was invented here during a period of siege, when the only foodstuff available were almonds, butter and sugar.

Warnemünde & Rostock (22nd – 27th May, 47 miles from Travemünde)

We took our opportunity to leave Travemünde on the Sunday, a day when the wind was forecasted to be a NW 5, the previous day had been an 8 and Monday was to be the same. During the quick and lively sail, the wind rose to a 7 during two particularly nasty squalls, we arrived wet and cold.

Warnemünde has a small marina max depth 2.5m and the Alter Strom an inner harbour used by the fishing fleet, trip boats and yachts. It is lined by traditional fisherman’s houses on one side and the fishing quay on the other. Here we tied up against wooden staging, again in the middle of the town. It was a holiday weekend so lots going on. Warnemünde is at the seaward end of the Warnow river, this river leads to the port of Rostock, again a Hansa port, having docks and shipyards stretching for 15 miles. We again took the railway into Rostock, which has a large university presence and reminded me in some areas of Cambridge. Rostock was heavily bombed during the war and has lots of recently rebuilt but very character full buildings.

There are lots of traditional fountains and some very modern water features, both equally as impressive. You get the impression it is a cared for progressive city. We have been in Warnemünde for three days, the winds has never been less than a force 7. It has been like being at sea, and at one stage during Sunday night we began to think we would be safer at sea rather than laying alongside. The swell was 0.5m and boats were leaping around all over the place.

We hope to leave in the next few days for Bornholm, an island owned by Denmark although its closer to Sweden.

Barhöft (27th – 28th May, 47 miles from arnemunde)

We were just untying to set off for Darsser Ort, described in the pilot book as a tiny harbour set in the middle of a nature reserve where wild boar roam the forest and osprey and sea eagle dive into the harbour for fish, when a German on a neighbouring boat informed us that the harbour had been closed due to silting. Oh well it sounded great but we will never know if it would have lived up to expectations. The Germans turned out to be Klaus and Evelyn who were from Berlin. We sailed in company with them to Barhöft, which is a tiny little harbour with a very shallow and narrow entrance channel. The area is surrounded by nature reserves and the water is clear and full of fish, its also ringed by reed beds which gives rise to mosquitoes, not so good. Klaus had an accordion and treated us to a concert of tunes from all around the world. He was very entertaining. On the second day here we cycled into the nature reserve and learned that 30,000 cranes fly in during the spring and autumn. Naturally, they had yet to arrive and so all we saw was pictures.

Stralsund (29th – 31st May, 9 miles from Barhöft)

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Our next port of call was Stralsund and we had some wonderful sunny weather whilst we were there. To reach Stralsund it is necessary to follow another narrow buoyed channel between shoals. It is hard to imagine how when Stralsund was such an important Hansa town, that the large ships made there way to the port through these channels.Stralsund really is a beautiful city and the marina is 200 m from it. Now lets get some ice-cream.

We had two wonderful days in the city with Klaus and Evelyn. They left on the afternoon bridge lift on route to there daughters wedding on Rugen. We left the following morning and so needed to pass through a pair of lifting bridges carrying a road and a railway, they only open 3 times a day for 20mins. 0220,0520 and 1720. We chose to go at 0520, and we where the only boat to pass through.

May's figures
Distance logged. 674
Hours at Sea. 135
Engine Hours. 72
Average distance per day. 52

Sassnitz (1st – 3rd June, 50 miles from Stralsund)

We set of into a head wind of force 5/6 and our whole journey of 50 miles was wet and uncomfortable. We lost the engine due to air in the diesel again and so did 11 tacks to cross the shoaling areas in the Greifswalder Bodden this was tricky as the water dropped to 2.5 metres in places. When we where about 5 miles from our destination of Sassnitz on the Isle of Rugen, a wave broke noisily onto Mithril, rolling us to about 70 degrees and filling the cockpit with water. Janet remembers looking down into the water and thinking why is my nose in the water and why are my shoes full of water. Mithril seemed totally unconcerned and barely hesitated in coming upright even though the cockpit was still flooded and the sail cover (stack-pack) was draining a further 20 gallons onto us. We don’t want many of those!

Sassnitz is a huge harbour, capable of taking 200+ yachts either in box moorings or against the quay, this is in addition to its resident fishing fleet, numerous pleasure and passenger boats, plus a British submarine. It is the main town on the island of Rugen and it is accessed from the harbour up steep steps.

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Rugen National Park.

Rugen is a beautiful island with white chalk cliffs and extensive woodlands. We spent a day walking about 25 km in the National Park through lush deciduous woodland along cliff tops with outstanding views to the beach almost 100m below us, and to Poland away in the distance.

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Island of Bornholm

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According to the pilot book, when God had finished creating Scandinavia, he had a little of the best left, so he threw it into the Baltic and it gave rise to Bornholm. It could be true. Bornholm was a 50 mile journey in light winds from Sassnitz. It is owned by Denmark although only 30 miles from the Swedish coast, and it is wonderful. It has small farms, 130 miles of cycle ways through forests and open countryside; delightful small houses all brightly painted and tiny harbours and rocky shores. Idyllic. But costly, a bus journey of 8 miles for two cost us £16, a haircut £29.50 and half a litre of beer £3.80 but at least the harbours are delightful and only cost us about £13 a night.

Bornholm has four round churches and we visited 2 of them. They date back to the 12th century. They are extremely robust and have 3 floors; the ground floor is the church and sanctuary, the middle is a refuge or storage room and the top floor is for defence purposes. Each church is surrounded by a church yard with a detached belfry built of timber. They are pristine inside and out.

Observations and Trivia III

  • Lettuce is sold in small quantities of mixed leaves still growing, like the fresh herb pots we get in the supermarkets in England.
  • Paint suppliers of exterior house paint must have a very small shade card as we only saw 3 colours; ochre, vermilion and blue.
  • Get a gel saddle if you cycle here as the cobbles are a real pain in the bum.

Ronne (3rd – 6th June, 61 miles from Sassnitz)

Our first port was Ronne and from here we cycled about 40 km, perhaps half of it through forest. We saw a baby deer which had unfortunately been rescued by a silly well-wisher, we think the mother was simply away feeding and soon to return, we also saw a Goshawk and lots of huge ant hills complete with biting residents. The city itself is small with winding streets, many of them paved with Bornholm granite cobbles which were very hard on the derrière, and on one of the streets is the spot where the Swedish Colonel Printzenskjold was killed by the Bornholm liberation heroes.. There is also a memorial to those who died during the Russian bombings of 1945.

Allinge (6th – 9th June, 16 miles from Ronne)

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Our second port of Allinge involved a perfect sail on a beam reach in a F5 for 15 miles before rounding the top of the island. Here the water shallowed but the leading marks guided us safely through a narrow rocky entrance into a very secure inner harbour capable of holding about 20 boats. The local Eider duck population were constantly in the harbour and alert for tit bits. They made a grating “coorrr” which never seemed to stop, Janet became quite good at impersonating them.

One evening we went to a fish buffet in one of the old smoke houses, where we sat on long wooden benches over a floor covered by deep sand. We’ve never seen so many different ways of cooking herrings and mackerel and we tried them all as it was an eat-all-you-can menu.

The winds blew strongly for 2 days, keeping Mithril in harbour but again our trusty Bromptons allowed to explore. On the first day to Hammershus, the largest castle ruins in N Europe built in 1260 but constantly extended through into the 17th century. And on the second day we simply travelled along some of the 130 miles of cycle ways they have.

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Sweden mainland

Observation and Trivia IV

  • On Oland there is a free booklet, translated into English which gives samples of all the restaurants menus. We have yet to try beestings served with strawberry jam and whipped cream, sounds prickly to me?
  • Most tourist publications and harbour info has English translations.
  • Stockholm Radio transmits the weather forecast in English at 0730 and 2130 UTC.
  • Swedish marina prices are on average £12 per night with extra charge of £1.50 for electricity.
  • It is still very early in the sailing season here. July is when most of Sweden shuts down and they take their holidays.
  • Crème fraiche is sold in one litre containers which look identical to milk cartons, as Barry found out when he poured what he thought was milk onto his cereals. He quite likes it now.
  • Houses in the villages on Oland do not have letterboxes, mail is put into their individual mailbox which is located up to a 100m from their house.
  • Swedish bread is not a patch on the German bread, here it is crisp breads, sold in huge round packets.
  • In Germany it was difficult to find good wholegrain breakfast cereals, but Swedish cereals and museli are good.
  • In Sweden alcohol is expensive and generally only available through state owned liquor stores.
  • 25% of the Swedish population work in Manufacturing, errr wow!
  • Volvo agencies are not as common as you would expect.

Karlskrona (9th – 10th June, 58 miles from Allinge)

After 2 days of strong winds we had to motor 58 miles to Karlskrona in Sweden. Why do winds seem to be either too strong or not strong enough, or in the wrong direction always it is extremes? Karlskrona was simply an overnight break, somewhere to stop and put the hand brake on. The entrance channel is interesting and you need to be on the ball watching the buoys between the rocks and islands.

The harbour was founded as an ice free harbour for the Swedish navy, and present day recruits to the navy still undergo training here. It is probably quite a nice place but we wanted to make some progress N after our lengthy stay on Bornholm.

Kalmar (10th – 13th June, 67 miles from Karlskrona)

Getting to Kalmar turned into a splendid 50 mile sail, that was after the first 2 hours of motoring into a F5 wind in foggy conditions. It was the poor visibility which cause d us not to use the shorter inside route N of the islands of Uttklippan and so added 10 miles and 2 hours to the journey, but the last 50 made up for it.

Kalmarsund is about 12 miles wide at the start and progressively narrows to about 50m between the buoys just before Kalmar. The wind was mostly on the beam and between F3 and F6 in strength so a fast sail in sunny weather for most of the time. The course passed the world’s first and largest offshore wind farm, about 5 miles off the Swedish coast. It is still a huge research site looking at effects on birds, fish, vibration, economics and power transmission. If it goes well I’m sure you’ll soon have them at a site near you.

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Approaching Kalmar saw us slightly apprehensive as the UK sailing info described the section as complex and shallow such that we had to stay inside a narrow channel. The charts and what appeared before us was just the opposite, it was a breeze, and with a well buoyed harbour channel we were soon tied up to a stern buoy. We’re getting the hang off them now.

The yachting facilities at Kalmar are brand new this year and all of the facilities are included in the £12 per night. It even had a mixed sauna which Barry used, as you’d expect of course ;-)

The peach of Kalmar must be the Slott (the castle) which was built in 1397 and although damaged by fire in the 17th centaury is now absolutely splendid, inside and out. The complex tiled floors, the wood panelled walls and friezes above them, together with the gilt ceilings seems to rival any thing we have in good old blighty. The thing we missed was the Kronan, a sailing ship which sank on its maiden voyage in 1697 and not salvaged until 1980.

Whilst in Kalmar the subject of gas for cooking cropped up, indeed as it does whenever 2 British boats meet. Our gas is now over 50% consumed i.e. we’ve used two of the four 3.9 Kg propane bottles we left England with. The chandler offered to fill our bottles if he could have them for 1 week or we could buy a Swedish 2 Kg bottle of propane plus a connector and a new regulator for about £100. Down side to this latter way was that the regulator pressure was about 25% down on UK so the cooking would be slow, and anyway we were leaving Sweden in one week and the chandler said we could not refill the bottle outside of Sweden. One UK boat, who was almost out of gas, decided to buy a one burner camping stove and use the little disposable Camping Gaz bottles, another bought an electric hot plate and kept the gas for cooking on-passage. Hmmm, sounds like a problem for another day.

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Oland Island

Borgholm (12th – 13th June, 16 miles from Kalmar)

We had a relaxing start to the day as the fuel berth didn’t open until 0900 and it seemed a good idea to fill up on cheap low duty fuel (£0.66/L). We then sailed in light winds and wall to wall sunshine for 15 miles to Borgholm on the island of Oland for some more castle bashing.

When we arrived at the marina I had forgotten that the rudder for the wind vane steering was still fitted and being locked in “straight ahead” I had an awful time trying to pick up a stern buoy but eventually we managed it. Luckily no audience. As it was still sunny, and as we had seen the splendid castle on the skyline whilst we sailed in, we got the bikes out and cycled up through the woods to Borgholms Slott.

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The original royal castle was built in the 12th centaury and through its history it has been repeatedly damage and rebuilt until 1806 when a violent fire turned it into a ruin. But what an impressive ruin, the stone work is all intact for its 3 floors and the staircases were about 5m wide. Its run by the local equivalent of the NT. Whilst we were there 2 separate sets of weddings were being photographed, such a shame that it then started to rain. And how it rained and thundered, leaving our decks filthy as the rain was very sandy. But what a Sunset, as you can see.

The following morning we had coffee with Paul and Sue on Baleana of Chichester and swapped a few yarns. It was amusing to hear that he had a the full suite of Nokia GPRS kit and in spite of numerous calls to O2 in UK he was having no luck. Being a novice in these matters I said nothing.

Sandvik (13th – 15th June, 15 miles from Borgholm)

A leisurely start in light winds had us planning to slowly tack further up Kalmarsund, but as the wind became a F2 within minutes of us hoisting sail, and it swung onto the nose, we motored the 18 miles to the next harbour of Sandvik. Sandvik looked beautiful from seaward, a tiny harbour with pink granite walls, a cluster of tiny houses and a windmill. We picked up a stern buoy using our new hook purchased in Kalmar, it’s a one metre long bar of stainless with a hook at one end to which you attach your rope, all the Swedish yachts use them. It worked a treat on the second attempt.

Lovely evening, sun worshipping in the cockpit. The forecast for the following day of W F6-7 gusting 7-8 with a 2m sea arrived overnight, and with rain to boot. The wind blew all day and the harbour became quite bouncy. Walking down the pontoon was like trying to walk a straight line whilst drunk, impossible. Two Dutch barges were in the harbour, they were 0.6m & 0.8m draft and they were amazing to watch as they leaped around, I would have hated to have been trying to make a drink on their boats. We spent a day catching up with odd jobs and had a leisurely walk to the windmill, which is eight floors tall and has 24m diameter sails. Together with an ICA supermarket, that was it for Sandvik. No one left the harbour except one fishing boat who obviously had no choice.

The strawberries grown on Oland are the best we have ever tasted. The climate is so good that they are able to grow plants and herbs such as basil which normally grow in far more southerly climes. One of the most remarkable things about this island is the light, everything is so clear and vivid, apparently no fewer than 12 landscape artists live and paint here, we can see why.

Byxelkrok (16th – 17th June, 17 miles from Sandvik)

Having watched the weather via the 5 day radio-tele-type (RTTY) service from Hamburg in Germany we knew the wind was reducing and would be lighter in the afternoon and so at 1300 we headed North for 17 miles to Byxelkrok. Our aim here was to make progress and reduce the passage time for our later trip to Götland.

The sail was delightful, we had the engine off within 10 mins of leaving and Vanessa, our Hydrovane wind steering, revelled in the NW F3 and looked after us for all of the 3 hour passage.

The town was small, in fact simply a fishing community. It had no high street but a few shops surrounding the harbour so Janet treated me to ice cream and an espresso. We sat on the decking which overlooked the harbour and watched the world go by. Super.

The following day the wind blew F6-7 and no one moved. We went for a 20 Km cycle, choosing to head into the wind whilst travelling outwards through the forest which offered a little shelter and then with the wind at our backs, a quick return to Mithril. The North of the island is very quiet and the reed fringed anchorage at the tip looked idyllic even on a blustery day. Amazing what a bit of sun can do!

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Island of Götland

Visby (18th – 21st June, 51 miles from Byxelkrok)

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Janet in her Baltic bikini

We had a wonderful sail to Visby and Redgrage, the wind vane steering system, helmed for all of it. Our passage was largely 060 degrees and so with a W-NW wind we had a fast but rolly ride, most times the speed was 6+ knots until about 5 miles out from Visby when the wind just disappeared.

On with the engine then, but after 20 mins it stopped; not air in the fuel again we both exclaimed. I tried to bleed the system but to no avail, I could get no fuel at all even to the first filter.

We were about 1 mile off the beach but in little or no wind so we couldn’t sail, and as we were in 100 m of water we couldn’t anchor. We spoke to the haven controller (marina manager) who said he would try to organise a tow but as we would not admit to it being an emergency he was not sure who he would get to come out to us. Read into that what you will. Luckily we hailed a passing German boat who quickly had us in tow for the 4 miles into the marina. Mooring was probably amusing to passers by but to us it was a series of gesticulations as we got people to take our ropes and tie us up.

Soon we were visited by others on the Baltic milk run and all with best wishes and offers to help if we needed something specific. Its interesting that throughout the summer a large number of boats, crewed by retired couples, are doing a Baltic circuit and as each day goes by some of the faster boats catch us up and become a new face for a few days before then moving ahead and leaving us behind. Similarly we catch up slower boats and make friends before leaving them behind. But it is these slower boats who again catch us up if we have a problem hence lots of familiar faces in Visby.

Our problem was found to be a blockage in the fuel extraction pipe within the tank. I fruitlessly tried blowing to clear it, but when Janet produced a bicycle pump and proceeded to pump like billy-oh we heard a tremendous bang as the blockage cleared. The following day we tried sucking debris from the tank bottom using an electric pump and a length of 8mm pipe. We got allsorts out but no large foreign bodies, sad. Naturally we had to bleed the fuel system again.

Visby is a UNESCO listed heritage city and described by them as

“ . . . . an outstanding example of a Northern European walled Hanseatic town which has in a unique way preserved its townscape and its extremely valuable buildings, which in form and function clearly reflect this significant human settlement.”

It’s a beautiful city, largely geared to tourism now, but with its walls and buildings largely intact, many have origins in the 12th centaury but most date from the 13th centaury when the Hanseatic league was at its height. During the day it is largely a pedestrian only zone so pleasant and easy to wander about, and wander we did. We walked the 3.5 km around the city walls passing the 20 or 30 defensive towers and the North, South and West gates, the East being the sea so without gate or wall. Inside the walls the original street plan remains so it’s a mix or large and small, some of original wood, others of the limestone quarried locally and many with those gable ends so common in these Hansa towns and cities.

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Gun powder tower.

The picture shows the old Gun Powder tower, yes you've got it, they stored gun powder here. Its part of the walls and the tower overlooks the sea.

And just look at that blue sky, wonderful.

In the evening, and following our traumas of the day before, we dined out in a city centre restaurant and although a Saturday evening the whole city was really quiet. For starters Barry had a local speciality starter, prawns in sour cream topped with caviar on toast. The fish eggs where orange and despite the waitresses good English she did not have the name of the fish in English.

When it came time to leave Götland we opted to make a direct 75 mile route to the mainland of Sweden and so decided to leave at 0400 and thus arrive in time for tea so to speak. The evening forecasts disagreed, one said SW 4-5 and the other V 0-2. Janet confessed that she was really terrified of starting a 75 mile trip in light winds if we had an unreliable engine and even worst closing with a rocky lee shore with no engine, so at 0300 when we discovered the wind to be little or nothing we turned over and slept on.

The following day we took the fuel system apart and placed clear plastic tubing between ever part in the chain. This enabled us to see clear diesel rise from the tank, clear diesel to flow out of the first filter and fizzy diesel to emerge from the fuel lift pump. Eureka! All of this glosses over the 5 hours of toil, sawing up copper fuel lines making new connections which we hoped would not further complicate the situation, well plastic pipes and jubilee clips I ask you, and the 10 minutes of manual pumping to purge the air from the system until we felt each time we had a representative system in front of us. Then off to the marina to find the nearest Volvo agent. Being in Sweden there should have been one on every street corner but no, we had to order the part from the mainland and a 2 day delivery.

Our stay in Visby coincided with the Mid summer celebrations, these are traditionally celebrated in Sweden on the first Friday after Mid summers day. The highlight of the day time celebration is the decorating and raising of the mid summer pole. The pole is decorated by winding fresh picked greenery around it, and incorporating wild flowers which are brought by all the participants. It is fun to watch, once it is finished it is raised and then folk dancing around it takes place. The females regardless of age wear coronets made of wild flowers, it is all very colourful and this part of the celebrations must have changed little over the years. There where also other events over the weekend, a parade of 1950/60’s American cars, a jazz concert in the park and folk singing, plus the usual revelry in all the bars that accompanies these occasions.

So, will it be the cure, will it calm our nerves and fears, will we have to take the system apart again for a more in depth analysis? Perhaps we'll find out in a couple of days time.

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