Day 31 – Broken – on a rock in a hard place

On a rock in a hard place.

Draget Kanal

Wednesday 14th August started and ended with the most nerve wracking experiences of the trip; firstly, piloting through the Draget Kanal.  The Kanal is only 150m long, on the chart only 1.5m deep, and reputedly 8m wide.  We’re about 1.85m deep (before a ton of cruising crap, 600l of water, oh and we’re in fresh water so we float deeper…) and 4m wide.  A “bloke in the marina”* said it should be OK, and there’s a sign at the end that says it’s 2.0m deep so egged on by “the following boat”** we thought we’d give it a go.  Literally no turning back.

Looking at the entrance to the Draget Kanal

Although the video looks serene it wasn’t behind the wheel.  With overgrown trees threatening the mast and depth sounder reading close to zero under the keel the granite on either side rapidly closed in.  We made it through!!  Unfortunately at first “the following boat” didn’t, and had to have a run up at a few points before popping out at our end.  Their keel is deeper than ours, and mast higher, but they made it too, in places literally ploughing their own furrow.

After a few more wiggles through narrow bits to which we were now desensitised we hit open sea and endured an hour or so of unpleasant pounding and short chop.  Head down and pushing through we arrived at the dubiously named island of Broken. 

Breaking in Broken

Ringed by shallow bits and rocks there looked to be a buoyed channel into the yacht club, but not knowing how deep it was Andrew opted to find our own channel using the chart….a big mistake that led to the next nerve wracking experience.  While slowly picking through the supposed not-shallow bit Crystelle Venture hit a rock.  With a gut-wrenching bang and a shuddering crash we stopped and rapidly reversed off.  Unfortunately “the following boat” wasn’t so lucky.  With a 15cm deeper draft they hit the one we glided over and became firmly wedged, unable even with the aid of engine and bowthruster to move.

A rope between her teeth

Not wanting to get two boats stuck the plucky captain swam across to Crystelle Venture with a rope between her teeth and then back to the stricken vessel.  Tethered to the masthead we powered ahead, heeling the boat with the aim of reducing draft.  Even with their side decks awash we struggled, and every time we reduced power she settled back with a sickening grinding crash.  After the third or fourth go she came free, graunching sideways into deeper water.  “She swims!!!” we cried like Jack Aubrey…or something like that.

Firmly resolved to go the long way round we entered via deeper water into the harbour.  Stern anchors and mooring bows-to was the order of the day, a new-to-us technique that seems pretty simple, but we’ve yet to try leaving and lifting the anchor on the way out.  We’ll report back on that one.  Oh, and another “bloke in the marina” thought there was at least 3.0m in the approach channel.  Guess which way we’ll be leaving.

Warmth and sanctuary

Thankfully the island of Broken, although aptly named for our boats, actually was a place of warmth and sanctuary – an honesty box for berth payment of 190 Krona, earth and incinerator toilets, and a free sauna with hot showers.  Both crews walked across the island to share a communal sauna with windows out over the sea, us Brits in our swimming costumes and the 2 germans in their birth skins.  We all, including the germans, chickened out of actually swimming in the sea post sauna, but a few brave souls did in fact go into the water up to their thighs. 

Suzanne baked another lemon drizzle cake, as comfort food and hot tea seemed the right answer to a day of such highs and lows, with both crews huddled round the table on Crystelle Venture.

Daily stats

In 5 hours we made 32 nautical miles, using 5 gallons of fuel, motoring all the way, so averaging just over 6 knots.  

You can listen to our 2 in a boat podcast about the day’s events in episode 31 Broken in Broken.

*this was backed up by the “girl behind the counter”, so we believed him.

**”the following boat” has often been the lead boat in our two vessel off-piste adventures.  They generally don’t run aground, but coincidentally have done twice with Crystelle Venture in the lead…

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 24 – Touching bottom in Helsingholmen

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.

Hanko

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.

If you’d like to hear more, why not check out our podcast – Two in a Boat?

Day 23 – anchoring in the archipelago

Helsinki to Sundskar anchorage

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.

You can hear more of our thoughts about Helsinki and our time there in our podcast Episode 28 – In search of vikings.

Day 22: Where the devil does his washing up

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.

You can hear more in our podcast, Episode 27 – where the devil does his washing up