Showing posts with label Sea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sea. Show all posts

Monday, 5 September 2016

Stockholm to Helsinki, Part II - The Aland Islands

West Harbour, Mariehamn
Sailing in a small yacht is always an adventure, full of unpredictable highs and lows, often both in the same day.  Every day is different and as we release the mooring lines in the morning we never know quite what to expect.  

Although there is always a moment when the combination of fear and sheer discomfort becomes quite overwhelming, and I resolve 'never again', still I go back for more because there will equally be moments of the sublime and the magical that cannot be found in any other experience.  I understand what my husband means when he says that sailing makes you feel fully alive and I often feel we live more intensely in the relatively short time we spend on the boat each year than at any other time when life is more humdrum and predictable.

From the boatyard, we slipped downstream to the West Harbour in Mariehamn and celebrated the successful launch of our boat with a supper of delicious fresh fish and a glass of cold white wine, setting off for the island of Rodhamn the next morning in good spirits, the sails up as the wind freshened.  Things got rather sticky as we approached the island though, as our new head sail refused to furl in frisky seas - too much sail for the weather conditions is always a bad idea and it took ingenuity and quite a battle to get it to collapse in a heap on deck so we could enter the harbour and squeeze ourselves into the tiny space which was all we could find, offering entertainment to the safely moored up boats.  One or two other boats also arrived with collapsed sails, so at least we didn't need to be too embarrassed, although we both seemed to have forgotten everything we know about a well prepared mooring, sails and ropes in all the wrong places!  


Cafe at Rodhamn
Rodhamn was delightful and the weather the next morning was positively Mediterranean, so we enjoyed exploring this small island, sitting outside the tiny cafe drinking coffee and eating the best homemade Kanelbular (traditional Swedish cinnamon buns) we have found in Scandinavia. 

Unfortunately, despite adjustments before we left, the new sail still refused to furl as we approached the island of Degerby a few hours later, so lots more undignified flapping, but lunch at the harbour restaurant soon compensated for the problems and as the weather was about to turn with heavy rain forecast, we settled in for a rest day, exploring the island in between rain showers and chatting to the friendly locals and wrestling with our overfull bilges.


View from the harbour restaurant, Degerby
The next day was my husband's birthday and things started well, motor sailing through the Aland archipelago in bright sunshine, but as often happened, the wind picked up later and we had to divert from our intended destination of Kokar to the not particularly prepossessing island of Sottunga which is vying for the accolade of having the worst facilities in Aland, including a shower that had to be prepaid but, despite my best efforts, still ran out halfway through my hair wash with no more 2 euro coins to buy more warmish water...  Not the best place for a birthday celebration, but the next island more than made up for it! 


Sottunga harbour
The wind was having none of our plans to visit the island of Kokar in the south and blew us North to the Island of Baro, which just happened to have an excellent restaurant overlooking the harbour, the Glada Laxen, which was compensation for a rather disappointing birthday.  The rest of the day was spent exploring the island and watching the children playing in and on the water - Scandinavians have a much more relaxed approach to water sports than the English as water is so much a part of their culture and the children grow up learning to manage their environment safely.  


Baro Island - view of the harbour
At last the wind was blowing where we wanted to be, and we set off for the popular holiday island of Kokar in limpid conditions, blue skies and impressive clouds.  




Coming into harbour, Sandvig, Kokar
View from the beach, Sandvig, Kokar
Half of Helsinki seemed to have the same idea and the island was teeming with families, camping, sailing and playing in the cold Baltic sea, but it was a good place to spend a couple of days, catching up with laundry, hot showers and time to explore before leaving the Aland Islands behind and heading towards the coast of Finland.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The North Norfolk Coast



It's been a while since I last posted and looking back through my drafts for inspiration, I found these photos of our trip last May to the North Norfolk coast which we visited following our wedding. 

It was a short visit, but packed with lovely memories, and I was particularly pleased to find these photos saved in my draft folder as Microsoft has very unkindly managed to lose all my documents and photos when it insisted that I install Windows 10!  Luckily I had saved most of my work to the Cloud, but not all, and these precious memories would have been lost had it not been for my blog.  

We stayed at Byfords in the lovely Georgian town of Holt and were thoroughly spoilt!  This pretty bunch of spring flowers came from the Delicatessan in Cley next the Sea

















Thursday, 30 July 2015

A Taste of Sweden - Views from the Cockpit

Sailing is a frustrating business!  Conditions are rarely favourable and it is frequently impossible to actually go anywhere in the boat at all, even in Summer, as the sea is too rough for any but the most intrepid (not me then!) or foolhardy.  Either the wind is in the wrong direction, or there is too much or it, or too little, or the tide is against us - although this doesn't apply in the Baltic - or it is tipping down with rain, but every now and then (a bit like Goldilocks) everything is just right and you have a perfect moment, actually lots of perfect moments out on the water, seeing the world from a very different perspective and often almost completely alone.  Compensation for dawn starts, unpleasant, crowded airports, snaking queues and tortuous journeys to be there! 

Boatyard at Oxelosund where we began our holiday 
The last two gorgeous Baltic summers of cockpit living, the sun shining almost every day, the weather lovely and hot and firmly stuck in the 'Baltic High' had not prepared us for this difficult and extreme summer.  It started well enough and the first few days were hot and sunny but the weather quickly deteriorated.  Every day could be both hot and sunny and cold and very wet indeed at any one time and weather forecasts proved to be extremely unreliable.


Our holiday home - moored at Rastaholm, Lake Malaren
Living in a very confined space when torrential rain is drumming down (and trickling down the mast which runs through the cabin), despite our best efforts to seal it, and dripping gently through the window onto my berth where I sleep with a towel and a bowl beside me to catch the drips) with nowhere to dry any of our wet clothes, unable to go anywhere until conditions improve, is not the best fun - we are after all camping on the water.  Then there is the loo situation! Facilities are often pretty basic and can be downright unpleasant and inadequate and forget privacy!  

We arrived on one island in the Archipelago, successfully moored onto the rocks and were directed to the facilities which turned out to be a compost toilet, a 10 minute walk away through a swamp.  What they didn't tell us was that no-one actually walks there, they all dinghy there, but we naively set off along a very overgrown path, slipping on wet rocks, sinking into bogs and under attack from ecstatic midges.  I was badly bitten on my face and hands, the only exposed parts of me, and pretty traumatised.  We left shortly afterwards to find a more civilised spot with an easy walk to the facilities and no midges.  Mosquitoes though are a perennial problem on the water, particularly the lakes.

Another low was the day we motored across Lake Malaren to Strangnas - a charming  lakeside town -starting out in glorious sunshine, anchoring in a quiet bay for my speciality boat lunch of feta cheese and couscous salad only for the skies to turn ominously black by 4pm leaving us motoring through torrential rain, thunder and lightning for two hours before arriving soaked in harbour to find it was full on a wet Wednesday!  Luckily they managed to squeeze us in eventually  - we are quite small and that can be an advantage - and we had a memorable outdoor supper with new friends Eva and Pieter under canvas at the crowded harbour restaurant, the rain still tipping down in sheets and running through the streets like a river, still dressed for warmth in our foul weather gear.  The glamour of it all!


Strangnas, the morning after the storm
But there were some very special moments too, some beautiful remote bays to anchor in, some stunning skies and sunsets, delicious meals sometimes with live music, chance encounters with charming and friendly Swedes and some very pretty towns to moor up in and visit too.  I could easily fill the boat with gorgeous Swedish design and love browsing around the antique and interiors shops, stopping for a cup of invariably excellent coffee or ice cream and a delicious lunch of fresh fish and salad before admiring the lovely Lutheran churches found in every town.


Anchored at Sackholmen, Stockholm Archipelago


Sunset at Sackholmen - Archipelago

Rastaholm in a rare sunny moment...


Slandokalve, Lake Malaren

Gripsholm Castle, Mariefred, Lake Malaren

Nacka Strand, Stockholm at Sunset

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Sailing into trouble - Sea and Sky

Surprisingly, there was little indication of what was brewing as we sailed up the Venetian Lagoon towards Chioggia.  Weather is fickle and can change so quickly, but we had a peaceful meander that day.


Just us...


...and them...


...the sea...


...and the sky.

This is what I go out on the water for!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Lunch is in the Sea

Travelling alone across Northern Italy by train and bus, armed with only a toothbrush and a dozen words of Italian, was not on the agenda when we agreed to join friends for a sailing trip to Venice and the Venetian Lagoon on a charter boat.  I had jumped ship!

Fishing boat - Chioggia
The previous day had started pleasantly enough with a wander round the old fishing town of Chioggia, investigating the street market and drinking delicious Italian coffee, watching the street life.  There was a strong wind blowing though and we both wondered if sailing back to our home port was viable in such rough conditions. However when we arrived back at the boat and started preparing lunch, we found ourselves underway! Without consulting anyone and anxious to get the boat back in time, the skipper had simply set off.  

Surprised and apprehensive, we took the french bread rolls up to the cockpit in a plastic bowl and started to eat lunch, anxiously watching the harbour mouth to see what conditions were like at sea. With layer on layer of white water ahead, I voted to turn back now, before we left safe waters, but in a group the consensus rules and only one of the others was concerned as apparently it is not uncommon for conditions to be at their worst at the harbour mouth, but to settle down once out at sea.  We donned the flotation jackets but with no safety straps provided to hook onto the boat, we had simply to hang onto any fixed bit of the boat we could find.  I wrapped my arm firmly around a winch as a huge wave, over 7 feet high, lifted us over the sandbank and tossed us down into the churning, boiling sea - the heaviest I have ever seen, or wish to see again at such close quarters.  


With the bowl of sandwiches proving a distraction from the grim business of hanging on for our lives, one of the girls took the executive decision to dump our lunch, bowl as well, into the sea. She crouched beside me, silent and pale, an accomplished sailor unlike me, and way out of her depth. Trembling with fear, teeth chattering, I clung to my winch.  The skipper refused to turn back. The huge wave at the harbour mouth would, he insisted, turn the boat over if we tried to return and there was no way back.  He handed the wheel to my partner, the only other man on board and luckily an experienced sailor, and disappeared down below to sort out the navigation.  By the time he returned we had mutinied, and to a man and woman had decided to go back, whatever it took, rather than face many hours in such dire and dangerous conditions with an uncertain outcome.  


My partner took charge and somehow managed to find a tiny window of slightly flatter water to turn the boat swiftly, avoiding capsizing it which could have flung any or all of us into the sea - a huge wave hitting a small boat sideways-on is the biggest danger.  He then skillfully surfed the waves back into safe waters to the enormous relief of all on board.  Later, we took the safe route back through the canals to Venice, a route which had previously been discounted on the grounds of depth, but which turned out to be perfectly negotiable.  We never did get lunch that day but we really bonded over supper that night!


I rose early the next morning and set out alone for Grado where we had joined the boat, unwilling to expose myself to such potential danger again and looking forward to a trip overland under my own steam. My partner felt he should stay with the boat and see everyone safely back as the sea was still very unsettled after the recent storm. 



St Marks from St Elena
I thoroughly enjoyed my early morning Vaporetto trip across to St Marks Square where I found myself a front row seat on a trip up the Grand Canal to the railway station, negotiated the pitfalls of the Italian ticketing system, took a train across Northern Italy, nearly missed my stop, somehow managed to communicate with a fellow traveller who spoke no English at all, but helped me find my way by bus to Grado and back to the market square where we began our adventure a week before. 

Sitting with coffee and a croissant, I decided enough was enough and booked myself into a hotel for our last night in the Venetian Lagoon, a small cosy room with my own loo and shower and a bed that I could stretch out in and get out of without hitting my head!  Utter bliss.  The others arrived later that evening after a long but relatively uneventful trip, cold, tired and wet.  We shared a final celebratory meal together and, relieved, went back to our everyday lives.  



The holiday from hell or the holiday of a lifetime?  A bit of both perhaps but two firm decisions have been made.  One is that we will only sail alone, on our own very sea-worthy boat, make our own decisions; and the other?  To learn Italian!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Another day, another mooring



I love the skies in Sweden, especially the evening skies just before the sun sets after a long, long summer's day.

It is rarely dark before 11pm and light starts creeping into the skies again by 3am in June/July, which I found rather unsettling. I don't think we really slept deeply at all.


We dropped anchor for the night in this quiet inlet...






...before heading to Fyrudden, a small pretty harbour, just a shop, a bar and a few houses...















...then on to Arkosund and a stunning sunset.  

We found ourselves caught up in a Swedish music quiz - we didn't understand the questions, never mind having the answers!










Nykopping at night. The night sky is rather painterly, I thought...


...and we could have showers and catch up with the laundry...




 ...then on to Ringson, an island in the Stockholm Archipelago where we learnt to moor onto the rocks, very popular with the Swedes, as you can then hop ashore and light a barbeque, walk the dog etc...









...before heading for the marina at Trosa, a beautiful little seaside town with a New England feel where we stayed a couple of days...






...then a long, so very hot day motor sailing which brought us to the beautiful island of Rastaholm on Lake Malaren, our favourite place of all, I think. Just idyllic...














...but, we had Stockholm on our minds again and the chance to sail into this stunning city, admiring the gorgeous Swedish summer houses built on the water...










... then a chance encounter with Andreas, a lovely German who had hit a rock (a common occurance in the Archipelago) and who needed a tow into Stockholm.  We took his line and towed him for 2 hours - 4 tons of metal just behind us, and no brakes, negotiating a lock, a bridge opening and heavy traffic coming into Stockholm...




...but we made it safely into Vasa Harbour in Stockholm, where we were found some scarce space - city harbours are popular in summer, but a crippled boat will always be a priority......and we ended our journey back where we started with an unlooked for extra two days in Stockholm, packed tight in Vasa harbour... w
ith an invitation to a wedding in Germany very soon!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Scandi-style boat living

Cockpit living
"Not another cushion!" he grumbled as I clambered onto the boat carrying yet another shopping bag. Inspired by our visit to Millesgarden and Svenskt Tenn, I was a woman on a mission and the boat was getting a Scandinavian makeover.  Out with the drab and the utilitarian and in with the bright, bold and stylish. If I have to live on a small sailing boat for several weeks every summer, it is going to be a place I enjoy spending time! Cushions, duvets and curtains have gradually crept onto the boat over the past few summers, every change hard-fought, but now was the time to seize the zeitgeist and introduce colour. Glamping on the water has arrived!


My berth
We had arrived in Vastervik, a provincial seaside town five hours to the south of Stockholm, and the temporary mooring place of our boat.  Cold, wet and windy, we were marooned there for a couple of days waiting for the weather to change, giving me plenty of time to hit the summer sales.  New pillows and duvets arrived on the boat, together with bright duvet covers, cushion covers and a small blue and white cotton rug that neatly fits both in the saloon and the cockpit and which I cannot now image being without.  Citronella tea-lights glow in colourful glass holders in the evenings, deterring mosquitoes and adding to the ambiance - mosquitoes are ubiquitous when living on the water and being confined with one for the night in a very small space is to be avoided at all costs!

Anxious to avoid yet more shopping, he insisted we set out as soon as the weather improved, heading north towards the Stockholm archipelago and completely different way to see Sweden!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Baltic Summer


The Baltic is the Mediterranean!  A huge bowl of the bluest of cloudless bright blue skies sharply etched with vivid green trees and pretty houses washed white, pale yellow, red and ochre, each topped with a neat red-tiled roof, clustering around ports in the small towns and villages of Danish South Zealand. 




There is something magical about living on a boat on the water at sunset during the long twilight hours of the Baltic Summer, being part of the unfolding drama of the closing of each day.  The swifts swooping for their supper, the splash of fish jumping for theirs, the water like ripped silk, as we watch the achingly slow draining of the light as the sky turns from deepest blue to soft shades of silvery lavender, rose and the very palest of spun gold, laughter and voices drifting across the harbour; ancient, impenetrable tongues.


For days we hopped from one idyllic island to another drifting on a light breeze, exploring inlets and bays, mooring up or anchoring for long lazy lunches and a siesta, as one long, hot summer's day followed another, swimming with the fish in the clear, clean water then threading our way back precariously through the shallow inky-blue waters, reading the runes of the sea to bring us back to the relative safety of deeper waters, before  moving on to the next harbour, each one prettier than the last then slowly heading north towards Copenhagen.




Sailing into Christianshavn Kanal right in the centre of Copenhagen, and mooring up there for two days in the shadow of the brightly painted converted warehouses that line the canal, was a complete contrast and an opportunity to spend some time exploring this busy, vibrant Cosmopolitan city, dipping into museums, galleries, shops and restaurants, sampling home-made schnapps and eating freshly caught fish, before returning each evening to our own small boat, sitting in the cockpit with a glass of Aquavit watching the world go by, then rocked gently to sleep by the movement of the boat.



We tore ourselves away from Copenhagen and reluctantly left Denmark, crossing the Sound to Sweden and the somehow cooler delights of Malmo, spending a day exploring the old town, lunching in the market square and stopping off for delicious Italian ice cream before setting off the next day on the final leg of our journey, sailing under the Oresund Bridge in a very fresh wind which threatened to blow us off into the massive concrete pillars, a train rumbling overhead, then fighting the wind on a rolling swell for a while as we sailed off the coast of Southern Sweden, spending the night in a small fishing harbour smelling strongly of fish, too tired to care. 



A change in the wind the next day swept us straight into the seaside town of Ystad in Southern Sweden and, finally, time to spend with a small Swedish granddaughter, building sandcastles on the long white Baltic beach and paddling in the dark blue waters that had carried us safely here.