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!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By 0730 we had raised both our anchors and retraced our steps to rejoin the fairway. A grey and cloudy morning, but lifted by the stunning scenery of the national park we seem to have all to ourselves. We saw seals, great flocks of cormorants and perhaps even more rare a sighting, Suzanne steering.
Around 0930 we were able to start sailing, make a good 6 knots and a for a brief period we even put up the cruising chute – although that didn’t last long. Throughout the day military launches swiftly passed us.
Mid afternoon, just past Hanko, we caught up with another rally yacht – who attempted to offer us scones it turns out – though we couldn’t make it out at the time! The wind had picked up a little and we were making up to 7.5 knots under sail.
Andrew had found our berth for a night on a website called viking islands. It sounded promising, with a kiosk, sauna, showers and fresh fish. We arrived about 4.30pm, and slowly motored into a sheltered bay on the island of Helsingholmen.
Our first attempt to moor was rebuffed by another yacht – who said it was too shallow and directed us to the other side of a pontoon. However when we got there, the boats were too close together and there was no room at the inn. We spotted a gap further down, and slowly nudged our way in, until we slowly touched bottom. Nope that was no good.
We reversed back and ended up tying up on the rubbish pontoon in a space reserved for the refuse ship. Unfortunately Suzanne had just started to cook dinner when the said ship arrived in the harbour. It had a small crane and was busy working on the round waste containers that were moored in the centre of the small bay. Everyone watched intently as they made a lot of noise and put in a lot of effort into doing quite what, no-one knew.
The boat then put across towards us, and Andrew asked if they wanted us to move – no they were ok on the end. They let their dog off to pee and then they were off again. Bin men of the waters still working at 7pm at night.
We had a similar non event with the harbour office. It was 10 euros to stay, another 5 euros if we wanted electric. However no shower without the sauna, and that was booked until 1am. There appeared to be nothing for sale in the small kiosk. Armed with only a card, Suzanne slunk back to the boat, and we spent the following half hour rummaging through drawers and clothes pockets to scrape together enough coinage to pay the 10 euros.
Nevertheless it was a peaceful spot – with an amazing display of fish jumping out of the water. It also, inevitably had a similarly large number of flying insects to tempt the fish…
Our daily stats
We made 51 nautical miles in 9 hours averaging 5.6 knots. We sailed for 4 and used 4.5 gallons of fuel.
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We set off around 9.30am, put up our sails and were soon sailing the inshore route behind the islands, moving into beautiful clear waters and clear skies. We were sad to say goodbye to Helsinki. We’d enjoyed a fabulous crew meal at the yacht club the night before – as well as a sauna, and a shed load of washing.
Unfortunately the tumble dryer couldn’t match the washing machine, and we left with our saloon looking like a chinese laundry – a makeshift line hung up to try and dry the last load of washing.
Our trip to the island of the street of chandlries had been interesting and fruitful. It’s not often you get asked to leave a chandlery at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon because they are closing. But yep, they all did. We had lunch of the local delicacy of fish soup – basically salmon and potato – very delicious, in a restaurant overlooking another marina. Bit of a busman’s holiday…
Mid morning we caught a glimpse of our first sea eagles, as we wove our way carefully through the guide poles between small islands.
Beware the gusts that come between islands! These are strong and can almost knock you over. We were caught out – and Andrew’s full glass of squash went tumbling down the companion way, over the newly washed clothes – of course!
Others from the rally had taken the outside route, and appeared to be battling against a strong headwind and rain. Around lunchtime they started to move into the inner route and we met and past a number of the other boats.
Barosund had been one of the recommendations of the speaker at the crew dinner. He said it would be like sailing in a swimming pool. Not sure that some of the other yachts would quite have agreed with that on the outer route – but here as we drifted through the islands, we understood exactly what he meant.
Having learnt the lesson the hard way on arrival in Finland – we knew we would want to find our anchorage in day light. Andrew had earmarked a few on the chart – and we discounted the first – as too small and possibly also belonging to someone – there was a buoy.
It was getting close to 6pm, the wind was picking up and our swimming pool was becoming quite choppy. Luckily our next choice proved just the ticket – some carefully following of guide sticks, and we were hunkered down in an anchorage made for one. The small island of Sundskar was to be our berth for the night.
We dropped both bow and stern anchors, and settled down to some mushroom risotto for dinner.
Our daily stats
We made 51 nautical miles in 8 and a half hours, averaging 6 knots. We sailed for an hour, motor sailed for 7 and used 7 gallons of fuel.
We pottered in the morning and set off about 0930 – the other rally yacht had left earlier as they had crew to pick up in Helsinki.
We slowly motored our way back down the channel out of Porvoo, where the depth at times dropped to as little as 0.9 metres under our keel. We had hoped to take a sneaky short cut and follow a lead all the way to Helsinki, but the bridge was deemed too low for our mast.
What’s a lead? Sailing the archipelago they are a must. They are lines on the chart which show you the way to go from one point to another – show the depth of the water under the keel, and so help you avoid going aground! It’s a new and different way of sailing for us, and takes up far more energy, nerves and time than we had anticipated. It is also thrilling, exhilarating, and achingly beautiful.
Opportunities to sail have to be chosen with care, but even within the archipelago there are wide open expanses of water deep enough to sail, as long as you keep a close eye on the buoys and the transit lines.
Today we were lucky, with a combination of wind, direction and expanse of water. We sailed, with the westerly breeze pushing us around 4 -5 knots as we made our way towards Helsinki.
On the lead up to Helsinki, the wind was gusting, getting us to over 7.5 knots under sail, and putting us in the mix with some 5.5 yachts who were racing out of the sailing club we were heading for. We even over took a ketch.
Around 4pm we let rally control know that we were making our approach and were told to enter close to the stern of another rally yacht. Unbeknown to us at that stage, that yacht had hit a rock on the entry to the harbour, so we were all now being guided in over known safe water.
We bossed the stern buoy berthing and took the opportunity to take in the stunning setting that we were so privileged to enjoy. The NJK marina is an island that belongs to the oldest yacht club in Finland. Its club house is an Edwardian treasure, with the backdrop of the city skyline behind it. The facilities were perfect, with showers, sauna and laundry. And a half hourly ferry to take you to the main land.
We enjoyed the next couple of days exploring Helsinki – travelling out on the tube to the street with 4 chandleries and eating and drinking with other crews.
Our daily stats
A short day’s run of 38 miles, took us 6 hours and a half hours, we sailed for 3 and made an average of 5.8 knots, using 1 gallon of fuel.
After our late night shenanigans the night before we didn’t rush to leave Haapasaari. We were a little shocked when we looked out of our companionway first thing to see just how close and how many rocks there were round about. Just how we managed not to hit any is still a mystery.
At 0930 we set off with another rally yacht, to make for the town of Porvoo. One of the oldest cities in Finland, it promised to be an interesting sail and deep into the Finnish countryside.
The westerly wind gave us a good lift, allowing us to sail – making a good 6 knots and sailing side by side with our companion boat.
It was a cloudy day, and the wind had a cold bite to it, although the sun did manage to raise the temperature into the low 20s in the afternoon.
This was our first real taste of the Finnish archipelago, and it met all our expectations. Islands, big, small, stone and granite, sand and shore, pine trees, and trees and trees. Cormorants and shags and terns. And endless blue water.
And as we sailed up the approach to Porvoo, the sides closed in with reed beds and fen like landscape. Little culverts and side streams all along the way. We gently and carefully wove our way up what felt like a river within a swamp, up and up towards Porvoo.
Our way was heavily marked with buoys to ensure we didn’t stray, and safely guided us into the small marina at Porvoo. We berthed alongside and paid – for the first time, but not the last, at the local cafe/kiosk for our overnight stay. It was an eyewaterinw 47 euros, which included power, water, showers, kitchen and laundry.
The small marina was so shallow there were water lilies in the water. It nestled close to a road bridge, over which a supermarket was conveniently located.
We took a walk into town, with beautiful old wooden medieval buildings, and luckily fell upon a restaurant in old barns overlooking the river, with a waitress with impeccable English and great customer service. The beers were pretty good too.
We were too late for the bakery, but not too late to see a weird sculpture(?) consisting of old Barbies and other toys naked around a bowl. The streets were also eerily quiet, the roads too. Where was everyone?
Welcome to silent, still Finland.
Our daily stats
We took 9 hours to complete 60 nautical miles, averaging around 6.7 knots, and using 8 gallons of fuel.