Grumpy granny travels

Thanks for joining me!

Why my blog?

So, you may be asking yourself why you should check out my travel blog when there are soooo many out there?

Well, for a start, I’m no spring chicken – with a lot of mileage under my belt.  I’ve lived and worked in Europe, South America and Asia, and constantly travel for work and pleasure.  So I know what great looks like, equally I know when I’ve received shoddy service, and am happy to call it out.

Grumpy granny travels?

I suppose you could call this a grumpy granny who travels blog. I’ll be providing you with warts and all coverage of my travel experiences.  This will be from the point of view of someone who is older than your average backpacker travel blogger, likes to have some of life’s creature comforts, but doesn’t have a huge budget to spend.  And yes, as I’m from Yorkshire originally, I do like to be sure I’m getting great value for money.

What do you get?

Although I travel a lot, or maybe because of it, usually something goes wrong.  I have an uncanny knack of falling into  loopholes or breaking poor processes and procedures.  So hopefully you’ll be able to learn from my mistakes and avoid the stress and hassle that I’ve gone through on your behalf!

What do I get?

In my wildest dreams my hope is that by sharing my experiences I encourage someone to have their first real travel experience.  I have friends who have never travelled out of their own town or village.  And others who are nervous about trying things for the first time, such as catching a train in Europe.  From talking to them I realised that I have a lot of experience to share.

What can you do for me?

If reading my blog inspires or helps you take a journey, please let me know.  If you want to know more about a particular journey or destination, then let me know.

I’d also be interested to hear of your experiences, especially where they may differ from mine.

Thanks for sticking with me so far.  Next blog post I might even explain what the capybara obsession is all about!

Bon voyages!

Grumpy Grandma

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

 

Day 38 – Naked sailing, really!

We woke to a beautiful morning in Klintholm, although the boat was covered in a small guano mountain of little unwanted offerings from the bountiful house martins we had enjoyed watching circle about the boats the night before…

After a quick refuelling stop at the eye-watering price of around £1.50 a litre, in comparison to the 67 pence we paid in Russia, we set off with a gentle northerly wind behind us. 

Once we had turned the corner of Mons to enter the sound we turned off the engine and gently sailed between the islands.

Today was the kind of sailing day you dream of.  Bright sunshine, cloudless sky, a calm sea and a breeze to drift you along.  Bimini up, bikini on – a day of lazing in the sun stretched before us. 

We marvelled at the buoys with their bottle brush tops – just why were they like that and why hadn’t we seen them before.  We watched butterfly after butterfly flutter by the boat, and wondered why.

Within quick succession we had two road bridges to negotiate, and Andrew went under the first without breaking into a sweat – the second there was a moment of hesitation, and it did seem almost close, but we and our mast fitted under both – and we were through.

Here the water was almost like a millpond and the breeze enough for us to chance putting up our asymmetric cruising chute.  The one that makes us look like we’re from Greece.  It worked beautifully, and after we’d reduce the main to stop it blanketing it from the wind, it pulled us along at a creditable 4 knots.  

Not sure if it was the heat that had gone to our heads, but it was at this point, alone in the middle of a shimmering blue sea, drifting along under our mediterranean sail, we decided to try a spot of nude sailing.  And even to go into the sea from our swimming platform.  Both completely unheard of before on Crystelle Venture.  Something of a success.  But whether it will ever be repeated…

Around 4.30pm we prepared our ropes and fenders to enter the harbour at Vejro, a small island less than 2km sq in size. We debated whether we should in fact stop there, as the wind was forecast to shift in the night, and would be blowing into the shallow harbour when we wanted to exit in the morning.  Our only other option was to sail for another hour or so, to an even shallower and smaller harbour, where we shouldn’t have that potential problem with the wind pinning us in.

Eventually we opted to stick with our original plan, a smart move as it turned out, and slowly approached the harbour breakwater. 

As we entered we were pointed to the right side of the harbour, as the left side suffered from too much swell.  Our preparations paid off and we bossed that box berth in front of all the locals, and with the help of the harbour master. 

We promptly got off to pay, and the harbourmaster explained that we were on a private island.  That all the facilities were included, such as bikes, showers, laundry, but the price was a little high as a result – 350 danish krona, – about £40.  We took a short walk up to the restaurant/cafe/shop – bought a couple of ice creams, beers and eggs – ordered fresh bread rolls for collection in the morning, and picked a few blackberries.

As we walked to the shower block later on, we noticed how dark the sky was, and how brightly the stars shone.  What a wonderful spot to end our time in Denmark.  

Our daily stats

Our blissful sail through the Danish archipelago

We had a leisurely 9 hours cruising round the Danish islands, managing to sail for 5, so using only 2 gallons of fuel. We’re sure that would appeal to the owners of Verjoe island who want it to be eco-friendly and self sustaining.  

You can hear more about our sail today in our podcast –  Episode 34 – drifting through Denmark

Day 37 – Farewell Sweden, hello Denmark

Ystad is a cute little place, feeling more Danish than Swedish with a nice little market square and houses reminiscent of the island of Bornholm, which is only 50 miles away, a distance the superfast (and super scary) ferries do in about ninety minutes. 

We left Ystad into a headwind, with a high mackerel sky, which by now is a familiar story.  Hours of battering into lumpy seas motor-sailing our way out of Sweden. 

Sunshine and passing ships broke up the monotony, as ships were a rarity in the archipelago.  Now we’re back in the main Baltic, right alongside the deep water channel, they’ve returned.  Bulk carriers, container ships and the ubiquitous ferries.

Our departure from Swedish waters, into those of the Danish, meant our first changing over of our courtesy flags in somewhile. Andrew, as always, did the honours.

The journey meant we sailed close to the Cliffs of Mons – possibly the closest Denmark has to the white cliffs of Dover, and seemingly quite a tourist attraction on the island of Mons. It is perhaps the highest natural form we’d seen since leaving the UK.

Arriving in Klintholm, on the island of Møn entailed threading through fish stakes, a narrow shallow entrance and berthing alongside in the area reserved for 12-15m boats. 

An alongside berth next to the electricity with the pontoon the same height as our deck.  We paid at the self service machine beside the closed harbour office – which appeared to only open for an hour or so at the weekend.

A kiosk selling Magnum ice creams, late summer sun and fresh Danish pastry for breakfast tomorrow.  We marvelled at the bravery of the lady in the small ‘mini brugsen’ shop who had to put her hand into the glass cabinet abuzz with wasps covering the jammy pastries.

Watching the sun go down, and the house martins swirling round, we caught up with some admin, and watched as the harbour slowly filled with boats.


Our daily stats

Motor sailing means straight line sailing – from Ystad, Sweden to Klintsholm, Denmark

We made 57 nautical miles in 9 and a half hours, averaging 6 knots.  We motor sailed the whole way, using 8 gallons of fuel.

You can hear more in Episode 33 – Wiggling through Denmark of our ‘Two in Boat’ podcast.

Day 36 – Dodging waterspouts

Leaving Utklippan

We stopped at Utklippan because the weather was rubbish, the temperature about to drop to 8 degrees overnight and Andrew didn’t want to sit in the cockpit for 8hrs slamming into huge waves.  It was a success.  The weather had abated the next morning and we resumed our homeward journey, with a pre-dawn 5am start.

It is a beautiful time of day to be out sailing, as you watch the sun slowly rising over the horizon. Nature is truly stunning when you are surrounded by it.

Although not completely, as we were surrounded at one point, by water spouts. This was the first time we’ve ever come across this natural phenomena, and it was a little bit scary. We decided to err on the side of caution and to give them a wide berth. They were amazing to watch as the grew and faded, and then were replaced by another somewhere else.

Suzanne took a watch, fussing over the sails and trying to extract every fraction of knot from the boat, making for a fast close reach to our destination. Fast ferries leaving and entering the harbour meant a  nerve-wracking quick nip across the main fairway between the comings and goings.  Rounding up to drop the main she piloted us into the harbour for Andrew to berth, ably assisted by two Danish chaps delivering their newly acquired second-hand Moody 33 back to Denmark after a purchase in Sweden.

Ystad, apparently pronounced “oostad, is a lovely place, a nice little guest harbour with a machine to pay for your stay automatically, which gives you as little card to access the showers, electricity and other facilities.  Wonderfully efficient, quick and convenient.  It’s a wonder more UK marinas don’t adopt it…

We pottered up to town to get fresh supplies, dodging the purples trains, as we waited at the level crossing.

Our daily stats

78 nautical miles, 10hrs of motor-sailing and 4hrs of real sailing got us there in 14 hrs, averaging 5.6 knots, a creditable performance considering the wind didn’t play ball and there was still a residual swell from the day before. We used 9 gallons of fuel.

You can hear more on our podcast – download episode 33 – Wiggling through Denmark.

Day 30: ‘Scaping Stockholm

Day 30: Tuesday 13 August 2019 – sailing the swedish archipelago – fa

It was the 13 August, luckily not a Friday.

After putting, not enough at it turns out, water in our tanks, we squeezed our way out from between two other rally yachts.  Unfortunately one of those yachts untied and then dropped one of their fenders, when trying to make our exit easier, which resulted in their captain putting her head down between our two boats to retrieve it – as we were reversing.  Scary.

We then refuelled at possibly one of slickest fuels stops ever.  A row of different pumps almost confused Andrew – and the two young men who came out to attach their lines made Angela and Suzanne redundant with their mid ships and stern lines in hand.  Our first time sailing with crew, and our first berthing was a doddle. What service.

This all meant we left Stockholm a little later than anticipated.   We pushed south into the archipelago.  A really nice sail out of the city turned into an uneventful and grinding motorsail into the wind and a choppy sea even as we opted to stay on the inside as much as possible.  Gradually we found the lee of some islands and wiggled through to Nynashamn, bypassing the anchorage and tieing up in the marina.  

We chose the marina rather than anchoring due to a raw water pump that was doing it’s best to turn to spray seawater all over Crystelle Venture’s engine bay.  A quick nip of the centre gland and engine check proved a new pump, strip down or repack wasn’t required.  

Berthing was to booms, a strange invention that requires the boat to nose up to the pontoon while tieing to light floating booms either side.  Not pontoons, as you can’t walk on them.  The trick as we found is to pick booms only slightly wider than the boat.  And these were only slightly wider, needing a firm push to wedge the boat in and then a firmer push to get fenders in.  On leaving we needed to engine reverse out rather than drift back with the wind, as we were tightly held even without ropes in place…

A great marina, with clean facilities including a free sauna.  Definitely somewhere we could have spent longer, although the town was fairly small and without too much character – although their church was light up like a candle and rang out hits bells pretty frequently.

Nynashamn also has a fantastic smoke house on the harbour front. Great selection of cheese and smoked fish – even had english Black Bomber cheddar cheese, which has to be one of the very best.

Smoked fish in hand we congregated in Crystelle Venture for wine, fish and salads.  Together with “the boat following”, previously known as “the boat leading” we made plans to tackle the ominous Draget Kanal the next day, with an 0800 start and a non-spraying engine.

Our daily stats

We were underway for 6 hours, with the wind gusting 5 -6 at times, motor sailing for around 35 nautical miles with roughly 5 and half hours of engine time.

The marina cost 350 Kr including electricity.

You can hear more about our time in Stockholm in our podcast Stormin Stockholm, episode 30 of our 2 in a Boat podcast.

Day 35 – Farewell to the rally

Leaving Kalmar was in some ways sad.  We were nearly the last to leave, only outstayed by another Rally yacht who lost their mast on the final leg.  Not lost as in mislaid, that would be careless.  Lost as in it fell off, which actually sounds worse.  Thankfully no one was hurt and in a happy ending they’re now ensconced in Copenhagen also working their way home.

We’re probably motoring just as much though.  A consistent headwind has meant motorsailing.  It was nice down the coast between Sweden and Oland, but once around the corner things got ugly.  Short steep waves slowed our progress and made it distinctly uncomfortable. 

Fortunately at the planning stage we’d identified a harbour every 50 miles or so for just such an eventuality.  At 48 miles we had Utklippan, two islands fittings snugly together with a large lighthouse attached.  Sometime in the middle of the last century Sweden decided to blast a hole in the middle of one island to make a haven for fisherman caught out in stormy seas.  With perfect shelter (and no fisherman using it now) Utklippan Gasthavn was born. 

You can enter from the East or West depending on which is the sheltered side, so we eased in through the East entrance and deftly berthed in nearly the last spot inside.  Using the rowing boat casually left tethered for such eventualities we rowed over with a German couple and paid our harbour dues.  By card.  To a man in a wooden hut.  Several miles offshore.  The next time someone in the UK says they don’t take card, I’ll think of that moment.

The islands are fantastic, with rockpools, windswept views and a lighthouse to climb.  A perfect little haven to break a journey that could’ve got tedious!  We explored the island, which admittedly didn’t take much time and rowed back. 

We were complemented on our berthing by the German lady, how calm we looked and how we managed to guide the boat gently to the side in such strong wind and a tiny space.  I was amazed, and unused to such high praise, but compared to colliding with the harbour wall in Latvia, our hull only “protected” by old tractor tyres tied on with steel rope we did well.

Our daily stats

We made 57 nautical miles in 9 and a half hours, averaging 5.4 knots, although we did do about a mile twice!  It was 9 hours of motor sailing, which took up 10 gallons of fuel.

You can hear more in our podcast Episode 32 – And so the end is near

Day 29: Messing about in Stockholm

After our disturbed night in Sandhamn , we didn’t rush to leave the marina.  We also knew that we didn’t have so far to go, as we had broken the back of the journey the day before. So we took advantage of the capacious shower blocks, had leisurely chats with other rally crews to see how they fared in the storm the night before, before releasing our lazy line about 10 am.

We motored for a couple of hours before were able to put all the sails up and make a decent 5 knots.  An enjoyable sail, with gusting force 4 South westerly wind.  Just after 1pm we noticed a small flotilla of other rally yachts starting to catch us up in the channel towards the sailing club.   However we managed to keep our pace and our position, 

Arrival into the Royal Swedish Yacht Club (KSSS) at Slotsjobaden, was a breeze.  With our technique for stern buoy berthing nailed, we executed a perfect berthing in front of the restaurant goers.  

We tidied up in preparation for our first and only crew member to join us on this trip, who arrived by train about 3pm.  We had intended to go into Stockholm for a walk round in the evening, but the train journey was longer than expected, due to engineering works.  Yes ,they also have them in Sweden. So instead, we decided to be sociable and join other rally members for drinks and a halloumi burger in the yacht club restaurant.

The next day or so we spent being tourists in Stockholm – visiting two contrasting but equally fascinating museums – the Vasa museum with it’s immaculate raised 17th century ship – and the Abba museum and pottering about on ferries and around old buildings.

Daily stats

We had a short run of only 23 nautical miles, using 4 gallons of fuel and 3.2 engine hours in a 4 hours.  Fuel figures seems slightly out, which we reckon is because Andrew took the reading the day before, and Suzanne the one today.  So it was probably somewhere in between!

You can hear about this leg of our journey, on our podcast ‘2 in a boat’ – check out episode 30 – Stormin Stockholm

Day 28: Getting up close and personal in Sandhamn

Crossing the Gulf of Bothnia

The day didn’t start so well – with a bank of fog so thick we couldn’t see the Pommern or the boats on the next pontoon.  So much for an early departure.   Those who had set off early, had returned to port.

Finally around 0900 the fog lifted and we went to refuel at the self service pontoon.  What a location, right behind the stern of the Pommern.  With an extra 12 gallons on board, Suzanne steered us out and across the Gulf of Bothnia.

What’s it like?  It’s a bit like crossing the channel.  A traffic separation scheme to cross at 90 degrees and a stream of large ferries in both directions.  Andrew went back for some sleep, tired after our late night and our continual days of sailing.  We need a rest!  Thankfully Stockholm is our next destination and we should have a day or two there.

The engine started to warm slightly, only 5 degrees more than usual, so Andrew altered the belt and turned off the external regulator.  We kept a close watch on the temperature gauge for the rest of the journey.

With a southerly wind we were able to sail, and it was a reasonably swift passage across the Gulf.  As our phones pinged to let us know we’d now arrived in Sweden, Andrew lowered the Aland flag and raised the Swedish one.  Our clocks also went back an hour.  

As early evening approached, and we started to weave through the Swedish islands the rain started to pour.  The weather forecast was also for high winds, so we decided to go into a marina rather than to anchor.

We turned into Sandhamn Yacht Club, a sister club of the one we are to stay in Stockholm.  A large substantial club house and busy pontoons, meant we had to search for a berth.  Eventually we saw a blonde youth in a red uniform beckoning us to a spot.

And here it was again – another new way of berthing – a lazy line.  This entails a line tied to a heavy weight, that leads back from the pontoon.  The youth raised the line and Suzanne grabbed it with a boat hook, leading it back to Andrew to tie off on a stern cleat.  Bow lines were thrown to the youth – and all was going well, until a look of horror indicated we’d done something wrong.  We couldn’t work out what he was saying at first – and then Andrew realised – our lazy line had somehow also dragged up the water pipe for the club!    Needless to say we were moved onto another berth – with a racing yacht one side and motorboat the other – and party boat on the opposite side of the pontoon.

Clearly this marina was party central – we’ve not seen marina information before where it says you’ll be fined 2 weeks berthing fees if  you are noisy after 11pm.  Lots of the boats were blasting out music while they could!

The rain was still coming down, but given the late night cooking debacle in Mariehamn, Suzanne insisted we ate out.  We wandered into the nearest open eatery and had a veggie burger and crisps with sour cream and fish roe, 2 beers and a chocolate pudding – which came to a cool £70!  Making those the most expensive burger and crisps we’ve ever had!  Tasty though…

We walked back in a howling wind to find the boat beating its bow agains the pontoon. Andrew  tightened the lazy line and Andrew tried to fend off the bow and put a fender down – helped by a crew member from the racing yacht.  They turned out to be Finnish and they had just won the racing regatta at the club.  

We went to bed, but were woken at 2 in the morning to hear the sound of frantic winching.  The wind was throwing us around, and Andrew went out to investigate.  Basically our boat was on top of the power boat, which was pushing it onto the pontoon.  Rather too close and personal for the skipper of the other boat, who became Andrew’s cheer leader as he battled with the lines and winches.

Further tightening of the lazy line ensued, until a 30 cm gap appeared between the boats.  The racing yacht was also struggling to stay off the pontoon. The storm was raging by this point and the noise of the ropes on masts and flags on boats was intense.  There were 30 knots of winding rushing through the marina.

We woke to a different world.  There was a huge gap between us and the powerboat – the water was calm and it looked as if nothing had happened the night before.  

Daily stats

We were underway for 10 hours, making 67 nautical miles, we sailed for 2, motor sailed for 7 and moored for 1, using around 4 gallons of fuel.

You can hear about this leg of our journey, on our podcast ‘2 in a boat’ – check out episode 30 – Stormin Stockholm

Day 27 – Ferry dodging to Mariehamn, Aland Islands

We had a rendezvous with the rest of the rally fleet and needed to be in Mariehamn, Aland islands, before the end of the day.  We quickly hoisted our Aland island courtesy flag, having inadvertently overlooked the fact that we were already in their waters the night before…

We had a slightly sticky departure from the berth, as our hook on the buoy had got bent out of shape, and the bow line when we released it got caught in the pontoon.  Luckily both issues were resolved relatively quickly, and we made a clean get away.

It was a day of two halves – sailing and motor sailing, sunshine and rain.  We managed a short distance with the cruising chute up, but a storm heading our way, meant we dropped it again quickly.

In the archipelago its best to give ferries the right of way – they go fast and they don’t deviate.  As we approached a rather narrow channel, we realised that a ferry was bearing down on us, fast.  We took the sensible option and moved out of its way.

Late afternoon the wind gave us a good lift and we had a great hour or so of sailing, making up to 7 knots.  

We arrived into Mariehamn when the rally cocktail party was already in full swing on the pontoon.  We berthed perfectly and joined the others on the pontoon – too late to take part in the cocktail creation competition.

It was then a late night visit to the supermarket in town, where a big party was going on. Suzanne was desperate to eat fish and chips, and despite checking all the restaurants and stalls at the fete, nothing remotely doing.

So it was fish fingers and oven chips from the supermarket. Which seemed like a great idea, but our gas ran out half way through cooking it! It was a very late dinner and an even later night. However Mariehamn was well worth a stopover, with a beautiful backdrop of the tall ship Pommern. As with many places on our whistlestop tour, we wish we’d had a day or two more to explore.

Daily stats

No chart of today’s visit unfortunately, as we were too late/tired to get a screenshot.

We covered 42 nautical miles in just under 9 hours, averaging around 4.8 knots – and used 3 gallons of fuel.

Day 26 – Baring all in Baro

We didn’t end up where we had intended at the end of the day, but were glad we changed our minds.

We had flip flopped over where to stay the night before, and had eventually settled on an island in the middle of the Archipelago sea.    We slipped our berth on a misty morning about 0930 in Turku, and retraced our steps back down the river towards the archipelago.

By late morning our sails were back up and we were making around 5.5 knots – Suzanne had slipped back to bed, still full of cold.

Around this time another yacht said they would be going to the island of Baro, which had an excellent restaurant and a barrel wood sauna – would anyone like to join them.  So at just before 4pm we altered course to head up to meet them.  In doing so we got to see another pair of sea eagles.

Dinner was booked for 7pm, and our sauna for 10pm – so to make sure we were there just in time, we washed and changed as we motor sailed along.

Berthing was a bit of a cockup – Suzanne trying to catch the stern buoy with the wrong side of the hook (she blames her cold), the guy in the boat next door wanting to engage in conversation, and the stern buoy rope getting caught on a cleat and stopping our approach to the pontoon rather abruptly.  With the other yacht watching…. why is no one ever there when you boss it??  Still no-one was hurt and we arrived with 15 minutes to spare for dinner.

Dinner was delightful, the usual fish and vegetable fare we have come to love and enjoy during our time in Finland.  We also paid our berthing fee of 30 euros and sauna fee of 20 euros at the restaurant.  The normal sauna was free, as was the laundry.

After dinner, we pottered across to our barrel sauna.  A small ante chamber to change out of your clothes and then into the sauna proper where a small stove blazed with a wood fire, heating the stones on the top.  We then spent a blissful hour, over heating in the sauna and then popping out onto the verandah, to dip our toes in the sea.  And dodge the mosquitos.  

Andrew, as ever, got bitten – and the bites blew up to the size of small golf balls.  So big, the other yacht could see them the next morning from about 40 feet away!

Needless to say we both slept like logs that night.

Daily stats

No image of our track, we forgot! We took just over 9 hours to make 55 nautical miles, with an average speed of 5.9 knots.  We sailed for 2 and a half hours, and used 5 gallons of fuel.

If you’d like to hear more, check out our podcast ‘Two in a Boat’

Day 25 – Tourists in Turku

Day 25 – to Turku

Today was the day we reached the destination the last few days had been about.  And Suzanne missed most of the day – struck down with the Helsinki flu bug.  She got up to see us out of the Helsingholm berth and then retired to her pit.

Andrew had booked the berth online in Turku, so knew that it wouldn’t be available until 2pm.  So he enjoyed a very leisurely sail drifting along downwind.  More seals spotted, more beautiful islands and cute painted wooden summer houses.  

Suzanne was kicked out of her sick bed to help with the arrival into Turku – which she didn’t begrudge as it was a great entrance.  A long river, with the castle on the corner as you turned into the main straight through the town.  On the port side the maritime museum, with a number of interesting military ships and an old tall ship berthed alongside.  

The city marina was a short way from this, and before the first low bridge that prevented exploring any further up river.  The box berth was 5m wide, but the actual piles only came up to cockpit and were no where near our stern – so we had to put on springs – which was odd but worked.  

The little cafe/kiosk was also where we paid our fees, 47 euros all included, and picked up the local info.  The toilets were behind the kiosk, and the excellent showers/saunas and laundry were across the road in a former ceramics factory, down in the basement, with exposed stonework and tiles.  

We pottered into town to visit the living museum, the cathedral and grabbed dinner at a vegetarian restaurant beside the river.  A very pleasing town, with life centred on the river.  A great art museum that we didn’t have chance to visit.  And a cool looking castle that we saw only from the outside.

It would have been great to spend a few more days in Turku – but we were on a timetable – so had to content ourselves with the few short hours we had. We hope we get to visit again soon.

Our daily stats

We travelled 32 miles in just under 8 hours making about 4.1 knots, of which over 4 hours was sailing.  We used half a gallon of fuel.

If you want to hear more, check out our ‘Two in a Boat’ podcast, Episode 27 – think we found our viking!