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2004 Log
Page 4

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Part four: Sweden, the Åland Islands and the Finnish Archipelago.


Nynäshamn (Saturday 26th June, 76 miles from Visby)

Finally, with a new fuel pump and no observable air in the diesel, we set off at 5am with renewed confidence from the Island of Visby to the Swedish mainland. A trip of approximately 75 miles. The wind was forecast as a SW 4/5 with no mention of fog but in reality we had to ghost along in a SE2 in rapidly decreasing visibility. After little progress and increasing bad visibility we decided to use the engine. All went well for about 4 hrs, then the engine stopped, it turned out to be a fuel blockage, which we cleared with the bicycle pump between keeping a sharp lookout for ferries and shipping. The engine ran happily for another 3 hrs then stopped again, same problem. We knew that within an hour we would be approaching the rocky shore in the approach to Nynäshamn, the visibility was by now a couple of miles so it wasn’t all bad! We again cleared the blockage and continued on our way. We were extremely glad to make it into Nynäshamn with no more problems.

We tied up on what are described in the Swedish guide as “pontoons you cannot walk on”. They are in fact narrow metal beams with a buoy at the seaward end, like finger piers but 6 inch wide, Barry being Barry tried to walk balancing on the beam and he ended up, up to his knees in water. Most mooring here involves climbing off at the bows, and we now know why the locals have a pulpit with a walkthrough section. Nynäshamn is a large marina with all facilities including sauna and from the port you can take a ferry to Poland, Sweden or Götland. The town is very small and has little of interest. There are however lots of tourist boats that you can take to the many small island that form the Stockholm skargard. The skargard is a vast area of islands stretching from the southwest to the Äland Sea and it is beautiful. The majority of the islands are only lived on during the summer as, in Sweden, they take all of July as holiday and head out to this area where they camp, sail, walk and generally have a good time.

Most of the people we have spoken to say this year is a poor summer as it is still cold, 19degC, but the scenery makes up for it. We are amazed at the clear sparkling light, the sun rises about 0300 and sets around 2300 and then you have about 2/3 twilight hours it never gets truly dark.

Dalarö Skans (Tuesday 29th June, 20 miles from Nynäshamn)

After two days, more filtering of our diesel and cleaning of all the fuel lines, we are keen to set off for the inner skargard. We sailed all the way with the cruising chute. The pilotage was a good test of our skills as a lot of the island look very similar and there are lots of rocks close to the channels edge. It is imperative you know where you are at all times, and they have the most emaciated cardinal marks, with no top-marks so you need to know your colour patterns. Our destination was Dalarö Skans, a small uninhabited island (except for a restaurant) but we had the anchorage to ourselves, probably because the restaurant was closed.

Here we are tied to a rock at the bows and a bouy at the stern. We are just below the restaurant.

click for larger view, and all for us.

The island was covered in wild flowers, often growing on the rocks like a huge natural rockery. We shared the anchorage with a least two dozen herons and the omnipresent eider ducks. Whilst sitting in the cockpit watching the wildlife and the last of the sun, we both admitted that we where still not comfortable with the engine, we had both begun to believe that the fuel tank had some contamination that kept blocking the fuel line, and playing Russian roulette in the waters of the skargard is not a good idea. So with extreme disappointment we decided to return to Nynäshamn to try and sort the problem.

June's figures
Distance logged. 440
Hours at Sea. 88
Engine Hours. 46
Average distance per day. 44

Nynäshamn revisited (Thursday 1st July, 19 miles from Delaro Skans)

Again we had a wonderful sail, it being marred only by the task ahead. Which was to fit another fuel tank. Our present tank was fitted before the boat was built and so was beneath the galley furniture meaning removal for cleaning was pretty much impossible.

Nynäshamn has a great chandlery and a variety of boating type tradesmen in the area but nobody could help so we bought a 30 litre petrol can intended for use with outboard motors. I had prototyped the idea on our way back from Dalarö using a jerry can strapped to a ring bolt in the cockpit and pipes trailed across the cockpit floor but Janet vetoed it as a solution to get us to England. So we fitted the new can in an aft locker, modified the can to accept a fuel return pipe, fitted all new pipes, bled the lot and fired up the engine. Naturally it worked and it is expected to give us circa 8 hours of motoring between refills. The 200 litres in the main tank will be used so occasionally we will pump some up and filter it into cans which live on deck. All very “live-aboard” and not likely to meet with approval from the G&T brigade. Who gives a damn if it allows us to carry on with our trip.

Lilla Husarn (Friday 2nd July, 26 miles from Nynäshamn)

At last we are of to sea again, we headed into the skargard, tricky pilotage but the scenery is stunning and we managed to sail with headsail only and arrive at our chosen anchorage behind the island of Lilla Husarn, this really was uninhabited and a nature reserve, we arrive in bright sunlight and dropped the hook in 6m of crystal clear water. All we could hear was bird song. We had the anchorage to ourselves for a couple of hours, before being joined by four small Swedish boats. They motor up to the rocks, dropping a stern anchor as they go, hop off over the bows on to a rock, bang in metals pegs between the rocks and tie up. We have yet to try this as most spots close in have less than 2m of water.

Vaxholm via Sandholm (Sat 3rd July, 38 miles from Lilla Husen)

Our plan was to sail to the island of Sandhamn about 22 miles away, not far, but distance can be quite tiring due to the concentration needed for the navigation. We had a good sail all the way to Sandhamn in a force 4 but unfortunately the harbour, which has room for about 100 boats, was crowded and there must have been over 150 boats. The boats were waiting to start the round Götland race, so we had to have a rethink. As we sailed away we saw two of the formula 60 trimarans arriving and sponsored by Gore-tex and Nokia respectively. They looked wonderful and under full sail these are amongst the worlds fastest sailing yachts, they were certainly flying apparently they can do 36 knots, we certainly gave way to them in the narrows despite being the stand on vessel.

We revised our plans on the hoof and continued on to Vaxholm. It is said to be the pearl of the Stockholm archipelago. The area we sail through is a mass of islands all with summer houses and an increasing number of private jetties, most sporting boats of all types and sizes. The boat traffic increased the nearer we got to Stockholm. When we arrived at Vaxholm we tied up to the last available stern buoy, we were glad to have arrived, 38 miles through the archipelago seemed a long way albeit very enjoyable and all under sail. After a couple of hours the harbour had lots of space, apparently it is the norm here to come into the harbours during the day and go out to the anchorages overnight. They charge accordingly for either overnight or a day rate.

Stockholm (Sunday 4th July)

Stockholm is 45 minutes away on the bus, so we opt for this method of travel, it is clean and on time. We were impressed with Stockholm, there is so much to see and do. Stockholm is 1/3rd buildings, 1/3rd parkland and 1/3rd water.

We took a 90 minutes site seeing coach tour of the city and a 45 minutes horse and carriage ride through the old town. Barry was disappointed by the lack of photo opportunities from the coach, but we enjoyed both tours.

click for larger view, and all for us.

We also saw the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace the whole event takes about 1 hour complete with brass band, a very colourful and impressive show. We would have liked to visit the open air museum Skansen, which has reconstructed properties from all over Sweden, giving an insight in to Sweden over the years and the Vasa museum. The Vasa is a 17th century ship which sank within 500 meters of its launching and was not recovered until a few years ago, but we ran out of time. They are both on the island of Djurgarden. This island was historically the hunting area for the Kings of Sweden and it is still owned and managed by Royalty it is the greenest area of Stockholm. We aim to return to visit them.

Furusund (Tuesday 6th July, 26 miles from Vaxholm)

The weather was very hot with only light winds but we managed to sail albeit very slowly towards Furusund. The sun was so hot we were plastered in sun cream and wearing our Tilley hats. Oh well nothing lasts, in the afternoon the wind rose and the sky darkened except for the lightning over the land, then it poured down. We still enjoyed the sail and arrived at Furusund our last Swedish destination.

It is a lovely little harbour room for about 40 boats on one pontoon mooring bows to with stern buoys, The water is chock full of fish and the swans brought their cygnets to visit almost before we had finished tying up. The rain and thunder had gone so we went for a walk and picked some wild flowers, this is permitted in Sweden and there is an amazing variety, including many wild orchids which we did not pick as they are protected.

We chatted to the crew of a Swedish boat Fragancia and generally chilled out.

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Åland Islands

Observations and Trivia V
  • On Äland at 2100 a gun is fired in the harbour to signal that all boat ensigns should be taken down, and then the Finnish harbour flag is lowered. It is strictly observed.
  • In Finland boat moorings are a set fee not dependant on length. Reasonable rates approx 15 to 18 euros a night.
  • Food is about 20% more expensive than England.
  • The small wild strawberries are delicious.
  • The cruising season in Finland is very short from Mid June to Mid August.
  • The Äland specialities are Äland pancake with stewed prunes and cream. And a dark bread which takes 5 days to make and tastes of malt and syrup, great with the local creamy cheese. The pancake is what we would call a flan, made with rice, flour, eggs and cardamom. Its great and the prunes are pureed so they are good too.
  • The great thing about sailing in tide less water is that you can start your journey at sociable times.

Mariehamn (Wednesday 7th July, 39 miles from Furusund)

We got up early and by 0830 we were on our way to the Äland Islands. Äland is an independent Swedish speaking region in Finland with its own flag. The area consists of 6,500 islands and skerries with 26,260 inhabitants. The only town is Mariahamn and that was our destination 40 miles away.

We had a good sail under main and cruising chute, the sun shone and once we left the Swedish skargard after 11 miles we were at sea in depths of up to 200m plus.

We saw a British yacht Pegasus and learned later they are from Shotley marina, it’s a small world.

click for larger view, and all for us.
Leading marks.

The approachThe approach to Mariahamn’s western harbour, once you find the leading marks, is relatively wide and easy and there is nothing inconspicuous or subtle about Finnish transit marks even when they are partly covered by small trees, they are huge yellow and red boards, maybe 5 m square; look how one dwarfs Janet. We lined up the middle vertical stripe and sail down the line. Easy! We tied up in the shadow of the old four masted barque Pommern; it was fantastic.

click for larger view, and all for us.

 Then Olof and Anders, the crew of the yacht we had met in Furusund, asked us to dine with them. It was so spontaneous we didn't even think to say no, and we are glad we joined them; the meal and the evening aboard Fragancia was very very enjoyable. Olaf is an MD in Sweden and Anders is a nurse at the same hospital. They also invited their friend, also an MD but from Marrihamn. She had trained in Sweden with Olof, and er, was very pretty.  (We are now 2hrs ahead of British time.)

click for larger view, and all for us.

For the next two days we had a leisurely time, we caught up on the washing, cleaned the boat and shopped for food. The facilities are brilliant and include a sauna which Barry enjoys. It is not unusual to see towel wrapped lobster red people of all shapes, sizes and gender sitting outside the saunas cooling off, not always a pretty sight though.

Friday 8th July weather forecast was for gales and we did not fancy making our first foray into the Finnish archipelago in gales. The archipelago between Äland and Helsinki is going to be a challenge to our pilotage skills and it is imperative to find and follow the leading marks if we want to avoid the rocks. So we spent the day sightseeing and generally chilling out. In the evening we joined a Swedish boat for wine and nibbles, and got some tips on the charts and anchorages. Our Finnish charts are green yellow and white, it is difficult to adjust to the colour format.

The mosquitoes were very lively and Janet got bitten, a common problem in these waters. The gale does not arrive. On Saturday 9th July the weather forecast was even worse, it rained steadily, the visibility came down to 300m and we still had the thunder and lightning to look forward to. But there was lots to do including a jazz festival in the park and a circus is in town.

During the afternoon we saw elephants, camels and zebras grazing near the eastern harbour. On Sunday the gale is with us and so we decided to cycle to the southern islands, we cycled on two lane roads with water on either side, these roads link many of the small islands, when the roads run out you take a ferry, we saw at most three cars. The area looked wonderful in the Summer with dozens of different wild flowers colouring the road sides but I bet its not all fun in the Winter. We managed to get lost and ended up going in a circle back to within ¼ mile of the harbour before finding the right road.

click for larger view, and all for us.
Äland Oasis in the Forest

We stopped at a roadside kiosk for Äland pancake, see observation and trivia for more detail, it was very good.

Monday: the gale is still with us but now the barometer is at 982mB and still dropping, it has dropped 20mB in the last two days. The rain is torrential and water is flooding out of Mithril’s deck drains, people are visiting the shore side facilities in full oilies and it is cold. Not your typical summer day.

Our gas is getting quite low now and certainly will not last the trip so we tried to get one of our bottles filled but they declined. This meant we had to buy a Finnish bottle and regulator as a stop gap. Now Mithrils gas locker is not very tall so the 6 kg bottle was too tall and we had to make do with a 2kg one, shame really as the price was only 30% more. We donated the Calor bottle and suggested they try fill it for the next Brit who came along, after all it could be us. Finnish regulator pressures are about 15% lower so cooking and heating was a little slower.

Sottunga (13th July, 36 miles from Mariehamn)

Having decided to leave Mariahamn and head for Degerby we consulted the first of the Finnish charts. Wow what lousy colouring; green for land, yellow for sand and white for water seemed the colouring on the chart but on closer checking we found the yellow to be water less than 5m depth. We then read that off the charted transits the depths are not totally reliable and so everyone stays on the transits, great eh? We could see that to get to Degerby involved about a dozen transits, and although the route was shown as 7m deep it passed perilously close to 1m deep rocks; clearly no place for novices to the Finnish Archipelago if the weather was less than ideal. The picture above showed one of the leading marks, you can see they are huge but when sometimes they need to be seen from 5 miles distance then they need to be that big.

We set off at 0815 and followed 2 Finnish boats out of the harbour in virtually zero wind. Brill we said, local experts to follow and no sails to fuss with. Half a mile from the berth both of them were confused as they couldn’t find the transit. We all found it at about the same time and so on we went until a North cardinal buoy appeared on our line. One aimed South of it, the other cautiously aimed directly for it and we aimed very clearly to pass to the North of it. Seeing our course they quickly changed to adopt our strategy; amateurs we thought and so promptly passed them. Once out in front we realised how clear and obvious the transits were and so as the breeze arrived we unfurled the genoa and up went our speed, then, about an hour later, off went the engine.

After about 4 hours we neared Degerby but with only 20 miles on the log, and with much renewed confidence, we sought a further marina and eventually chose Sottunga 16 miles away.

The island of Sottunga turned out to be lovely and the smallest municipality in Finland. It had its own school, post office, library and internet café, it is a farming community and boasts more cows per person than any other in the Nordic countries. The harbour has room for 30 boats, it is peaceful and the water is crystal clear.

click for larger view, and all for us.

At about 1600 hours local ladies came down to the harbour and set up a table selling fresh warm bread, potatoes and strawberries. We bought some of each.

Nauvo (14th July, 41 miles from Sottunga)

We were first out of Sottunga in the morning and within 15 mins we were on a 13m route, one used by the ferries. It was a little misty but the route was easy, transits again of course. 41 miles later, after a day without wind, we arrived at Nauvo and nervously pushed our nose into a 3 m wide gap to tie up bows-to and on to a stern buoy. An hour later we were educated as to the way it should be done in a busy marina. Push nose into impossibly small gap, pull in fenders or use milk bottle size fenders to minimise space required, engage forward gear and apply half throttle and within 2 minutes the pontoon will be reached. 3 boats did this successfully but the 4th could not make the pontoon so tied up about 4m short of it.

The harbour met all the usual requirements and had a café in which the first coffee was free. Whist sitting and savouring the excellent coffee they make in the Baltic a red squirrel came down to join us. It obviously dined on pastries regularly and went from table to table looking for morsels. Along with other visitors to the marina we almost photo’d it to death.

Kasnas (15th July, 31 miles from Nauvo)

From Nauvo we followed a 7.0m route for about 30 miles. Initially we had no wind but within an hour we were doing 3 kts under genoa alone. The route had us beating then running, then beating, then running as the route twisted and turned amongst the islands, it was good fun tho’. The last 10 miles was a real hard beat in flat water at 6 knots plus to arrive at Kasnas in lovely sunshine.

The entrance to the harbour was quite narrow and we found ourselves in some quite shallow water, but the wind was kind enough and allowed us to swivel round and make a clean exit; phew. We tied up on the outside in splendid sunshine even though the locals were still complaining about how cold it was and how summer had yet to arrive.

We went on a nature trail from right outside the nature/info centre. The centre inside was superb and really worth a visit. We saw our first sea eagle in the centre but sadly it was a stuffed one, brilliant to see nevertheless. The picture shows the narrow channels of the last mile to the marina/port on Kasnas. We are looking down from the nature trail.

click for larger view, and all for us.

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Observations and Trivia VI
  • You always feel out of place in the sauna if you do not have a beer in your hand.
  • A bottle opener is to be found screwed to wall of both the ladies and gents saunas and showers. Fruit and veg are 50% more expensive than England.
  • If you don’t have a trolley with two cases of Lapin Kulta (beer) you are the odd one out.
  • Due to an ongoing conservation program we have seen 3 white tailed sea eagles even though some locals have never see them. Lucky eh?
  • Leading marks in Finland are 6 metres tall, and the government claim that if you hit a rock whilst following a lead they will pay your damages. You would have to be a idiot or very careless to hit a rock.
  • A Finn said that they spend 9 months anticipating the summer and 3 months being disappointed by it. Until August we would have agreed but now the weather is scorching.
  • Walking round the supermarket with a beer in your hand is the norm. Some of the men do it as well. Imagine how this would be viewed in Tesco’s.

Hanko (16th July, 23 miles from Nauvo)

David (Janet’s eldest son) was due to arrive in Helsinki on the 18th so we were gauging progress to arrive in time to meet him. However, we were losing days repeatedly and it seemed some risk still existed that we wouldn’t make Helsinki in time so we kept our daily sails going.

click for larger view, and all for us.

We left Kasnas with 36 miles in front of us to Hanko. In the main, after the first 30 mins that is, it was a 13m route with prominent transits sometimes at both end of a leg so quite easy. The picture shows how Hanko is almost at sea albeit a very shallow, tricky and rocky sea. The marina is on the island in the centre.

About 10 miles from Hanko, just as we entered a national park, I saw a large crow which was soon being mobbed by seagulls, just as you’ve often seen them do. But looking at the gulls they seemed small, really small, so small in fact that it became obvious that the crow must be huge. With us both quickly picking up our binoculars we could see the unmistakable shape of a huge eagle, our first real live Sea Eagle. We watched, almost ecstatically, for about 5 minutes until it landed on a small wooded island and we lost sight of it.

With Hanko now only one mile away, as a Sea Eagle might fly, we entered the circuitous route round to the harbour. It was about 5 miles long, took over an hour and involved 10 different transits to get into the harbour.

Whilst travelling from Kasnas a slow leak from the toilet had become quite serious so we had shut off the sea cocks and become toiletless. The following day showed the plastic pump to have cracked so I decided to replace the whole pump assembly with the spare unit and repair the old one later. The job went well until the 2 inch pipe was removed from the pump. The inside space should have been about 1.5 inch diameter but I couldn’t even push my little finger inside the pipe as it was so clogged with lime scale like stuff, incredible really. I’ve read that this happens but never previously thought how bad it could get. Anyway we had brought 4m of spare hose and so swapped old for new. Job done and now working as new, thank goodness. Hey Janet pass me a loo roll!

Whilst in Hanko I cycled around all of the hardware shops I could find, searching for a gas regulator or system of pipes and connectors which would allow me to get liquid propane out of a Finnish bottle and so decant the “gas” into the UK bottles. The first tip to anyone trying this is not to tell people what you are trying to do as they are either horrified or simply don’t want anything to do with a mad Englishman trying to do the impossible. Thus getting help from shops and suppliers is pretty hopeless.

Anyway after about 20 miles of cycling I had formed a view as to what was available and so repeated the circuit and purchased what connectors, pipes and fittings were available.

Back on the pontoons I sat trying to get liquid out of the inverted Finnish bottle. It seemed that even the straight through regulator (not a regulator at all in truth) seemed to shut off if it saw liquid; safety mad these Finns. But with bits of carefully bent copper wire pressed into the fitting this feature was immobilised and liquid spayed forth, so a solution was at hand.

I suspended the Finnish bottle upside down from the anchor and fed the liquid propane down into the Calor bottle. Opening both bottle taps gave rise to a satisfying whooshing sound as 2kg of gas/liquid quickly descended. To aid the process I left the full bottle in the sun to warm up whilst the empty Calor bottle remained cool in the locker until the time.

I put 2 bottles of 2kg into each Calor 3.9 kg bottle so almost 8kg of gas to keep us going, at least for another couple of months.

The whole task including cycling to the garage to get each full bottle took about 90 mins and the activity aroused much interest on the pontoons. Some said it would obviously work whilst others said the gases would simply equalise and they struggled to understand that the gas was actually liquid.

Helsinki (18th July)

David arrived by air on KLM and we all had a day site seeing in the capital. The old city is quite small so easily walked around, although, we had to try the trams which were clean, bendy and punctual. We went on a short ride from one side of the town to the other.

click for larger view, - Davids photo.
I think this is Helsinki's cathedral

Whilst we were walking we were politely accosted by two tourist guides so we asked what we should see in Helsinki, but all they could suggest were 2 churches and the market, oh and a trip on a boat out to an island.

The outdoor market was brilliant and had what Janet described as the best display of fruit and vegetables since we entered the Baltic. Pricey though about 50% more than at home. The churches were very impressive, we gave the boat ride a miss.

The NJK marina is on an island called Blekholmen and although we had been told it would be chocker, there were loads of spaces. A ferry connects to the mainland by the Silja cruise liners berth. A UK yacht Wandering Star was the only Brit.

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