A long and light-winded journey to Vlieland. Solitarity at nightly IJsselmeer. Strangely lit locks and crawling forward in low-wind conditions. Finally the long night turns to morning, the sun rises and the ship gets anchored 6 nm away from Kornwerderzand. Time to sleep some of the past nightsailing wear off. After a few hours of sleep, the ship is situated 1 mile closer to Kornwerderzand, because the anchor has slipped some.
The heat of the day is making the crew lazy. Luckily on the Waddenzee side of the locks the wind picks up again, the ship flies towards Harlingen and the coolness of the breeze relieves the crew a bit. After a painstaking tacking game, arriving at Vlieland at 2300. Full marina, but who cares.
Bound to Cuxhaven, we hoisted sail and sailed away from the beautiful island of Vlieland. It would take around 150 nautical miles to reach our destination, hence we would sail day and night. After a good start, the winds dropped their intensity, so it was time to start the iron genoa. We progressed the whole night, slowly but surely, sleeping in 3-hour turns. The night sky was blazing in lightning everywhere around us and it was an amazing show to watch.
The next day dawned, and the weather seemed to like us. However, the beauty lies only skin deep.
So it happened that no journey would be complete without a survival story.
For one thing, it's different to hear old drunken sailor stories, and experience them yourself. Today it proved to be certainly true. After crawling slowly towards Cuxhaven against big waves, there was a thunder front approaching us quickly. At first glance it seemed to go elsewhere and not be threatening at all, but 5 minutes afterwards it seemed totally poised to attack us and was not very many minutes away from us. The next thing we realized was that it's going to come right at us at a ludicrous speed and there was nothing we could do about it but hide. So thus it happened. We felt the wind pick up quickly, strenghten and howl on the stays, and suddenly the boat heeled, bowing to the strong winds. We clinged to the side rail of the boat like barnacles and tried to stay on the boat and bring the boat upright. However, the winds were so strong that we had no influence whatsoever on this game. Luckily, the autopilot was still working and it tried to correct the boat's course at any cost, which somehow prevented us from broaching. Consequently, we did manage to hold onto the boat. After 5 minutes of struggling in the barnacle business and another 30 minutes of post-thunder weather events, hail, rain and flashing skies, we concluded that we had survived the attack of the forces of nature mostly intact. And what a wonderful realization it is: indeed we cannot take the days of our lives for granted, since every day there's the possibility of the killer storm. Or then you get run over by a car when you cross the street in front of your house.
The storm was on the national news in many european countries: a tornado had struck the island of Helgoland and several people were hurt. Those brief moments before the tornado phase, the storm was picking up strength and hurling huge winds at anyone who dared to come its way. We happened to be in an unfortunate position at an unfortunate time. However, the story has to continue, so we're still here, mostly intact.
After spending some time in the pirate cove Helgoland, it was time to continue our journey further. I had calculated a time point when we needed to be entering the river Elbe in order to make use of the ingoing tide. So we left at around 11 in the morning, but after getting out of the island, we noticed that the engine RPM was fluctuating. It didn't sound like a out-of-fuel problem. Deon had a look at the engine and we started to eliminate the possibilities, one by one. Finally, it appeared that the fuel pump was not pumping fuel as it is supposed to. The valves had some problems. After some trials, Deon managed to squeeze a duck-like sound out of the fuel pump. And it worked, so we were able to motor further when the winds died at 3 pm.
The current on the Elbe can be your friend or your enemy, depending on how well you anticipate it. I did the calculation completely wrong and we were met by a current of 2-3 knots against us. All the buoys seemed to be almost stationary, when we passed them at cruising speed. The whole experience is a bit frustrating, when you think that it is only 14 miles to the destination, but the GPS calculates it will take 11 hours to get there! After having lunch, Deon noticed that a yacht on the other side of the river was clearly making much better progress than we did. This issue needed some investigation, so we crossed the river to the other side to see if the current really is weaker there. And this was the case, we were able to progress much better there. Finally, the winds started picking up again, so we were able to drop the motor and reach proper speeds on sails. After sunset, we were able to reach the Cuxhaven yacht harbour, but then the motor died again. Since after the first motor problem I had already made plans in my head for a safe landing with sails on (the harbour is a bit tricky since on the ebb tide the current can be really strong), we went in with full sails and dropped the genoa, found a mooring place, maneuvered a bit to take the mainsail down, and then reached the quay withour problems.
I noticed that the internal clock of my N800 was completely wrong, it was still in June, and that was the reason why the GTKtide program gave a completely wrong timetable of the tides. Better be more careful next time.
In tidal waters, timing is everything and so it was this time. We needed to start at noon, since then the tidal waters would start flowing upstream and we would reach Brunsbuttel easily and quickly. However, the old motor problem resurfaced again and the engine lost its power before we could even get out of the harbour gates. I turned the bow of the boat back towards our starting quay, and just pushed by the wind, we managed to moor to the quay, with some difficulty. It appeared that the fuel pump was working just fine, but some air had entered the injection system. Hence, the motor stopped. After removing the air, it ran fine and we got going. Fresh winds hastened our upwards cruising and by looking at the GPS, at one point we reached 10.1 knots ground speed, hence the currents can be quite strong.
After getting out of the Brunsbuttel locks, we motorsailed all the way to Rendsburg. That's a long trip right through the countryside of Northern Germany. Except that you usually don't see much from the kanal, since it is situated at such a low topological position. There was so little traffic that it almost felt like the whole channel was built just for us.
Endless motorcruising on the Kiel kanal continues. Luckily, this time it was a shorter trip, and after a couple of hours we moored to Dusternbrook guest harbour very close to the city center of Kiel. Since I had already spent a week o two here in last October, I knew the places very well. It's kind of odd to go and visit the same places once more, since everything seems to different now that it is summer and all.
Set up the sails late at the evening for a night sail towards the Danish islands. The destination would probably be Gedser in the southernmost point of Falster. However, if the winds are good, we can continue as long as Klintholm during the next day.
The winds indeed were good - and our boat flew with its goosewings past the island of Fehmarn, past some huge windparks, and finally past the island of Falster. In plain daylight, we eked out the best speed we could muster, continually trimming the sails, and reached ground speeds of over 7 knots on our way towards the island of Mon. After not too many hours of sailing, we reached the harbour of Klintholm. This time we were no match against a much larger Dutch vessel that sailed in front of us, but at least we finally did some sports sailing.
After one full day in Klintholm, seeing the sights of the island of Møn, we set sail towards Copenhagen. We rounded the island and took a course towards north, and since we now started to run with the wind, it was time to test out the spinnaker. Up it went nicely, and started to pull us at a steady 6 knots. However, after only 2 hours of spinnaker sailing, the wind died so much that the spinnaker could not support its weight any longer. Hence, sails down and the iron genua goes up. After reaching the Sjælland coast, and getting close to it, we found a nice side wind once again and could sail until our first waypoint towards the harbour in Copenhagen. It's odd that you can still see the island of Møn in the horizon, although we had sailed almost 30 miles away from it. The silouette of the high island is visible for a long distance when the weather and visibility is good.
After arriving in the sleepy harbour in Hvidovre, we rented bikes and went on scouting the city. After finding some local kebab, we visited Christiania. What a touristic place. Or at least the main streets. It saddens me to see such a nice anarchistic idea being devoured by people's stupidness (and greed for illegal substances). Luckily we found some local residents deeper into the town and had meaningful conversations with them.
At this point, Deon left the boat, so I was suddenly alone for the first time in a long time. I tried to maximize the advantages and went to random places and took as much time as I wanted to. I turned my stay in Copenhagen to a vacation in Denmark. I biked all over the city, it's such a biking-friendly city. I enjoyed my time in the hot weather, visiting its beaches and seaside piers and all. It's such a nice city, and if you know how to avoid the more touristic areas, the more pleasant.
After my "vacations" in Copenhagen, I decided to embark on the rest of journey, on my own. There's a certain threshold to single-handing. You ask yourself many questions of the type "what if this and that happens, how do I do this or that alone?" and a certain veil of uncertainty sits on top of your shoulders. The only way to clear it is to go and do your best. So I did early in the morning, heading towards the Swedish coast. Either Skåre, Gislövs läge, or Ystad should be my destination for staying overnight.
After I had cleared the shipping lanes, I enjoyed the sun and solitude in the middle of the Öresund sound. The autopilot gives a lot of liberties, you can do anything you want in the boat as long as you keep regular watch of the surrounding traffic. The sea was surprisingly warm, and since the boat was only doing around 2 knots, it was an easy trick to lower the swimming ladders and take a watery ride behind the boat. As a safety procedure, I threw a line from the stern that I could grab in case I somehow lost my grip of the swimming ladders. It's a poor man's waterski when one lets the boat drag one's body through the water.
Despite the poor wind conditions of the morning, winds picked up later and turned so that I had some nice wind from abeam. Hence, I made quickly some progress and easily sailed past Trelleborg. However, the sun was going to set in a few hours, so I decided to make a compromise and seek a place for mooring in the harbour of Abbekås, 9 miles west from Ystad. It was a nice, quiet place with some boat guests and a few local fishermen. Even the docking procedure went just fine without crew, since the winds were weak, and they pushed me towards the quay for a sideways mooring. All in all, my first single-handing experience for months, and it was a really nice one.
A really short sail to Ystad, with some fresh side wind, so I arrived there already at 9 am in the morning. In the marina, a friendly couple from Germany helped me get the boat moored, which was slightly trickier now because of wind pushing from behind and a tight box to moor to. Anyway, since I arrived really early, I could then use the entire day to scout around the places, which I did not have the time or motivation last year (see 2009 log book). However, the weather changed so that winds became too strong for a single-hander, and I was stranded in that city for 3 boring days. I took my time to explore the nearby towns and rural areas to find some nice, quiet roads through forests and also bought some Finnish chocolate. That made the day.
A nice day of sailing around Sandhammaren. Flew past the small fishing harbours on the Skaane east coast and docked at Simrishamn marina. Quite uneventful, or perhaps single-handing all sails has already become business-as-usual for me. It was hard to imagine that this exact same journey was so tough, stressful and even dangerous last year. (see 2009 log book)
A nice day for crossing the Hanöbukten. Some 55 miles of open sea, but since the winds were down, the waves were really small. So, autopilot and goose wings. At 3 knots I slowly sailed towards the destination.
Utklippan is a really small rock, or two rocks, in the middle of the sea. However, it was good to be moored there safe from the strenghtening winds.
The day begins with a moderate breeze which rocks the boats in the Utklippan harbour when the swell enters between the gates. After a day of lazy winds, this was good news indeed. However, if the wind direction changed even a tiny bit, I would have to tack my way to Kalmar. And after tarrying a bit in my morning procedures, the wind had already changed direction and calmed down a bit. I went bravely tacking, doing the first tack all the way to the southernmost coast of Öland and then tacking back towards the Swedish mainland. So far so good, the waveheight was less than 1 meter, so there was never much trouble in either using the autopilot to drive the boat or staying on the deck without falling. But as always, going close hauled to the wind always means a bit wet and bumpy ride, and today was no exception. Oddly enough, I only wet my shoes. However, the gods of the weather decided otherwise. When I reached the coast of Öland, the wind slowly died and the skies started to drop some water. As I tenaciously tried to sail southwards, the rain just intensified, as if it wanted to discourage me going further north.
During the whole journey I was thinking of, tinkering in my mind, with the concept of time. Why do we perceive time so differently, or do we perceive time at all? As always, the last mile feels the longest, even though all miles are equal. Also, those wet hours standing in the cockpit getting soaked by rain felt pretty long. Maybe that's because rain discourages you from doing things. Like reading a book or sitting at the ship's bow. Rain cools everything down, makes you a bit passive. Just like hot and humid weather, but in an entirely different way. Yesterday's sailing was also making me passive, but because of the hot sun. It really felt shorter a trip, even though it was clearly longer in duration. Reading a good book really helps to make time fly, or doing other interesting activities like sitting in the bow.
When the day is coming to an end, it's time to make some decisions about staying for the night. Especially when single-handing, since no one will do the night watch for you so that you could sleep. Since Kalmar was still many miles away, I decided to moor at Mörbylånga just about 10 miles from Kalmar. Fine otherwise, but it seems the swell tends to enter the harbour with this NW wind direction.
After staying two days in Mörbylånga for the sake of strong winds (force 6, at the point where I don't like to single-hand), I set sail towards the northenmost point of Öland, the fishing village (and a popular tourist resort) of Byxelkrok. The island is long, so long that it gets boring. Luckily, I had swift winds from the south, which meant more or less fast progress. However, after going under the Öland bridge (a 6 km long bridge that connects the Öland island to the mainland), the winds picked up force and I needed to reef down the main. The wind was from behind, so I was really close to the point of an accidental gybe. While I was preparing the cordage for reefing the main, I drifted too much out of course and the mainsail gybed. I reacted somewhat subconsciously by trying to grab the mainsail sheets, but the sail had so much force that the sheets just slapped me on my fingers. As a result, my hand got numb, lots of pain in the fingers, it effectively handicapped me. I managed to get moored to Byxelkrok with help from a fellow sailor, and then had to treat my hand using ice (to suppress inflammatory action) and a compression bandage. Needless to say, sports sailing is dangerous. However, I was satisfied to reach such a high average speed, around 5.8 knots. What I was not satisfied with, was my hand. I was afraid that being (physically) single-handed would mean the end of my little sailing trip. The mere thought made me really sad to the point of despair.
After a day of idling in the northernmost point of the island, my hand started to feel a bit better. Evidently I was lucky enough not to get any serious damage. Ice and compression also helps for a swift recovery.
I biked, with one hand, around the northern part of the island, about 50 km. Too many cars on the narrow roads for my taste, but I found some nice forest roads that were evidently used in the first half of the previous century but now allowed me to concentrate on my own thoughts. The scent of pine forests and the sight of beautiful beaches seem to soothe my painful thoughts about having to give up the voyage.
A cloudy morning in Byxelkrok, with some drizzle adding up to the gray mood. I really didn't want to stay there for too long, because of expensive harbour fees, and, generally speaking, the place is a tourist trap. So I decided to take advantage of the calm waters and sail to the other side to Västervik. This would mean that I have to enter the archipelago, with islands, rocks, and more rocks. Underwater rocks. Conspicuous rocks. Finally, I need to start acting like a navigator, since there will be no safe water. It's a dirty job but I have to do it now.
The day starts with rain, and ends with more rain. The time in-between I took advantage of and sailed some. For the final miles past some beautiful islands, I stopped the engine and hoisted the headsail and slowly but quietly floated through the beautiful archipelago. I sailed really close to some islands and watched people do their stuff in their summer cottage gardens and piers. Finally I found the marina I was aiming at. Ropes fixed, bike out, and off to the city to get some cash and a couple of cans of beer. I've deserved it.
A short day's sail to Fyrudden, which is half way between Västervik and Oxelösund. Since the distance was short, we could afford to start as late as midday and still arrive easily before sunset. Plenty of islands and red-green gates to thread through. The weather was warm and sunny to add to our enjoyment.
Time to continue the archipelago tour after a good night's sleep. The water in the harbour of Fyrudden is so transparent (which is not so common in the Baltic Sea) that one can see the little perches darting around between the underwater rocks. We woke up early in the morning, motored out of the harbour, hoisted the mainsail and off we went northwards. Only one tack was needed to negotiate a narrow waterway going northeast, which was full of big, nasty-looking rocks.
Arriving at Oxelösund was easy in plain daylight and it was a different experience than approaching it during darkness, like I did last year.
The gray weather of yesterday continues in the morning. Yet, we were determined to take advantage of the weather and winds and go further northwest along the archipelago. Today's destination was Landsort, it was close enough for a trip of short duration and uncertain winds, and it sounded like a nice island to explore. The first few hours were easy sailing, taking full benefit of the autopilot and just trimming the sails a bit whenever the winds shifted. However, the initially moderate visibility was being progressively worsened and eventually there was this thick fog surrounding our vessel. At this point the visibility was diminished to about 1 cable (or 180 metres for the less initiated). I decided to watch out for ship traffic using the AIS receiver to check out the positions and courses of the ships in surrounding waters. Even though I thought no ships of significant size ought to follow our path (the island does not have any meaningful professional marine activity), the AIS showed a couple of ships nearby. I kept an eye on them, and eventually one cargoship, callsign ESTLAND, began to appear closer and closer. At 2 nautical miles, I began to suspect a real possibility of having intersecting courses, and at 1 nautical miles I tried to think about a good course for evading that ship. Evidently we were on a collision course because the ship started to blow their horns. I checked the AIS data and they were heading directly towards us at a speed of 11 knots, and getting closer and closer. When the distance was down to 0.2 nautical miles, I calculated that at 11 knots, they will need 20 seconds to cross 100 meters of water (I evaluated the visibility at or around 150 meters) so we should have just enough time to take evasive course and motor our way clear of their course. Soon enough, the ship blew the horns again, and suddenly we saw a huge ship bow emerge from the hazy mist. Since the distance was around 100 meters, this is a really scary sensation. I sprang into action at once, evaluating the course of the ship and the shortest path for us to safety, and took the boat around for a 180 degree spin. After some tormenting seconds, the boat was out of harm's way and we saw the flank of the ship around us in the middle of a sea of haze. That was a close call - way too close.
After the pulse had slowed down, we navigated to the guest harbour at Landsort, using the GPS as our only way of navigation. The fog was so thick that we had to get really close to the cliffs leading to the harbour before we could visually ascertain our path. After fixing the boat into the buoy, it was pea soup time. And a well deserved sleep.
Still uneasy about last day's experiences, we continued towards the island of Utö in the north. No trace left of yesterday's dense fog, everything finally opened up around us and we were surrounded by a throng of barren-looking islands. The light winds gave us enough speed to cross the shipping lines coming from Nynäshamn, and after a few hours we dropped anchor at Utö. Plenty of daytime left to explore the big island.
After the short sail to Utö, we decided to do a bit longer journey as long as the winds continued to be on our side. Starting early in the morning, the sails brought us northwards through interesting scenery of small and big islands, small villages and a lot of other sailboats. When the evening sun started to feel cooler, we already approached the harbour of Husarö before I got to grab my pullover of Norwegian wool and then, after some brief moments that have become the docking routine, in the cockpit we dined in the evening sun.
It's a shame to leave such a nice island behind as Husarö is, but life goes on, and so does our journey. We wanted to have a good outlying harbour as a stopgap measure between Sweden and Åland, so we chose to go to Gräddö guest harbour just next to the lighthouse of Kapellskär. The journey itself was of light winds and sunshine and beautiful islands without any buildings. I can't really describe the beauty of Stockholm archipelago, it's just a marvellous creation, just like the norwegian fjords.
We also saw two huge passenger ferries that cruise between Sweden and Finland, and were reminded of the reasons why we had such a strong aversion towards big ships.
Finally, crossing the sea from the Swedish waters towards the Finnish. It's not really comparable to real sea crossings, since the distance is only 23 nautical miles from shore to shore, but nevertheless it's open sea all around you, without any lee shore to escape the waves. Needless to say, we peered at different weather forecasts with anxiety. There was plenty of fog in the morning when we were supposed to hoist sails. However, the weather forecasts seemed to indicate that the fog would subside soon, so we set out towards our destination while carefully keeping a lookout in the constantly brightening and deepening fog.
The winds soon picked up, and our boat made fast progress. The Swedish coast seemed to fade away in the background and there was a nice feeling of peace that surrounded us. The sea was very calm (relatively speaking) because of previous days' light winds, thus the whole crossing was a very enjoyable experience in the warmth of the sun. We were able to avoid confronting big ships during the whole crossing since our path was chosen to be a few miles north from those cruising ships' lanes. It was only in the approach to Mariehamn, when we encountered a Viking, the huge red ship full of drunken finns and swedes making everything out of their expensive tickets.
In Mariehamn we stayed two days since I had some trouble from the scorching sun of the previous day. Even the anti-inflammatory medicine is powerless in front of the sun-induced illness. I took advantage of our stay by visiting the museum ship of Pommern moored not far from us. It's a fine installment of pictures and artefacts from those last days of real seafaring where sailing vessels were still used for cargo. These men went out in every weather and in every circumstance and had to fight their way through horrendous seas, which makes my achievements seem oh so insignificant. I have this inexplicable feeling that I was born in a completely wrong century, a wrong era of motors, automation, and ISO quality certifications.
Another early wake-up. The mornings are good sailing times, so we wanted to benefit from cool temperatures and low sun. Too much ultraviolet so far, anyways. This time we wanted to reach Lappo, on the eastern side of the Aland archipelago. Only 45 miles, so potentially only a 7-hour sail if the winds are good.
The winds were not good, and some clouds looked like developing thunders instead of the more pacified rain shower cloud type. After tacking southwards, one would expect to be able to enjoy side wind when changing course to northwards bound. However, the winds somehow shifted to the northeast, and once again, tacking was the name of the game. At 4 knots and 1.5 times the distance (after taking into account the amount of tacking) it didn't look like an easy leg, and the weather seemed to be poised towards thunderstorms, so we stopped at the guest harbour of Degerby. Beautiful islands and surroundings nevertheless.
A seemingly short sail from Degerö to Enklinge. But since the winds were still quite strong and gusty, the distance seemed longer than it really was. We had to cross the sea area of Delet, which opens up towards north, and the winds unfortunately turned towards north, which meant bigger and bigger waves for us. After a few tacks in the strengthening winds, I decided to take down the sails instead of just taking in the 2nd reef, and motor to our destination. However, this was a foolish decision, since going to the bow to take down the headsail was more dangerous than I thought, and the overall stability and roll resistance of the boat suffered from taking down the sails. Since the motor is weak, we could only do around 3 knots in the strong winds and sharp waves. Tacking would have been a better choice, but oh well, time to learn things.
After counting all the remaining miles, and cables, we fought our way to the sound between Kumlinge and Enklinge, and then the waves desisted to hinder us. The small boat harbour of Enklinge was perfectly protected from northern winds, so it was a good place for us to moor at.
A risk for thunder and winds from the wrong direction meant a vacation day in Enklinge for us. After such a nice summer day in a summer island, there must come some progress when progress is due. Our destination is awaiting us, hence the next morning we woke up early to enjoy the light winds of early morning. The northeast winds were still prevailing, so the iron genoa had to do the work. Luckily two short legs were slightly slanted towards NW, so we could stop the engine for a while and enjoy the silence of the far reaches of the most beautiful archipelago of the world.
The surrounding clouds seemed to be full of rain, but for a long time we didn't get any. However, when we were doing the last quarter of the journey, the skies poured their contents on us. Thus, our foul weather gear wasn't for nothing, after all. Usually pulling that out means that it won't rain at all. But now we were sitting in the cockpit, drenched by the heavy rain and cold, northerly winds, counting nautical miles to the next waypoint. And next, and next. Finally, after 4 hours of sailing, we reached the small harbour of the island of Jurmo. It wasn't such a long trip at all.
After a refreshing sleep, at land, which is highly unusual, we woke up a bit late. We wanted to reach Isokari, which is only a short distance away, so it did not matter. However, the east wind was already shifting towards north, which meant tacking. After successfully navigating through a shallow sound between Jurmo and neighboring islands and rocks, we set sails to go northwards. The winds got stronger the closer we got to the island, so the tacking game got harder and we had to reef. The toughest part about tacking is that the boat is so light that it starts to hobbyhorse at the slightest of waves. And when tacking, you always go against the waves. By empirical testing, it seems that the average wavelength in the Baltic sea somehow correlates nicely with the waterline length of the boat, which then starts to resonate in a hobbyhorse like movement. So, we tacked to the shelter of an island nearby, took down the sails, and motored the last 2 miles to the harbour.
At sunrise, we started towards Rauma, the final destination of the boat. The weather looked fine, and continued to be so for the whole day. Since the winds died towards the midday, it was a motorsailing day until the last few miles, where west winds began to blow. It was like a crowning to be able to sail the last miles all the way to the quay. You look back all those miles and endless days that had preceded this event, and then it finally begins to sink in: it's a crazy thing to sail these huge distances, even crazier to do it alone, and not many people have actually done such crazy things for pleasure. However, my achievement remains an internal one: it was my battle against myself, and winning oneself is the only victory that I condone.
This is my final log entry as the captain of Lorelei.
I am thankful for the support of a few persons, without which any of a thousand things could have gone wrong. I want to thank my past crew members for their patience and resourcefulness, my mom for her understanding and help, my brother Lauri for helping me with the installation of solar panel and other details, my dad for fixing the mainsheet traveller and the real-time weather advice, Ole and Katrine for their invaluable advice and hospitality (and for the book!), Jef and Marin for their endless advice, hospitality and long nights playing Carcassonne and having port wine, and for saving me from Biscay, Loviisa for completing my first-aid kit, Sirkka's dad Risto for weather forecasts, and Sirkka for her tenacity and love, pushing me over the edge and keeping me sane where insanity was due. And, those friendly persons I've met in every second harbour with their help or advice or pleasant chatter.