While the rest of the rally set sail for the island of Gotska Sandon to view seals and lighthouses, we chose another new country and the prospect of raising a new courtesy flag. Hopefully without any smelly seals.
A cunning plan that would break the leg to Tallin, Estonia into 4 bite size chunks, two legs to our new destination, and two to Tallin – a new country and more of Estonia to explore. No overnight sailing, just long day sails with a bit of time to explore at each new port. What’s not to like?
We were rafted three deep, so after a bit of boat shuffling, we were alongside to fill up with water and hand in our harbour cards. We set off at lunchtime, and ate as we went. For our first leg we decided to break our journey in Farosund, the water that divides Gotland from the island of Faro.
We managed some sailing up the coast of this limestone island, covered in pine trees, and seemingly sparsely populated once we had left the historic city of Visby behind. There was only one incongruous area, as the landscape of limestone rock falls continued on our starboard side. What we thought was an out of place and uncharacteristic city with high rises, turned out to be a massive silo complex for what we guessed must be a cement factory. After all, Gotland produces mortar to send to other cities around the world to repair their ancient limestone monuments and cathedrals, as well as cement.
Sleeping like logs
After several hours we started to follow the buoyed channel into Farosund, as night started to fall. There are three perfectly good harbours, but we chose to anchor, for the first time on this trip, just to the west of the town. It was a beautiful quiet spot and we slept like logs, especially after the bouncy nights in Visby – the middle boat of rafting does seem to get the worst berthing experience.
Off at dawn
Up and off at 5am the next day, as our destination was an hour ahead, and with over 80 nautical miles to go, we knew it would take us a good 14 – 16 hours. As we past the small town of Farosund dwarfed by the bright yellow ferries that connect the two islands of Gotland and Faro, we noticed another of our rally yachts popping out from one of the harbours. We streamed past the two small bird covered islands in the middle of the channel and then were out into the east sea.
Around lunchtime we found ourselves in thick fog, and could no longer see the other boat we were travelling with, apart from the odd ghostly appearance off to our starboard bow. We both kept a good look out and, luckily, there were no other passing ships to avoid. After 2 hours we came back into sunshine.
It was around this point that Suzanne discovered that we didn’t have a full set of Baltic flags. Latvia was missing. Discussion ensued on how a makeshift courtesy flag could be fashioned out of other flags, masking tape and colouring pens. In the end, rather than cause any kind of diplomatic incident with a badly drawn flag, we opted to go without.
The closest port in Latvia is Ventaspil, a commercial port with oil, coal and ferry terminals. We called ahead and were immediately given clearance to enter. An incongruous Greek striped cow stared at us from the breakwater as we entered the outer harbour, and then made way along the starboard side towards the entrance to the fishing and yacht harbour.
We had prepared ourselves for a bow to and pick up a stern buoy berth – and had got out and set up the new hook we had bought at the chandlery in Bornholm. However as we turned the corner into the marina we saw to our dismay that the other yacht was moored up against the wall, with old tyres against it.
We did a quick rejig of ropes and fenders and the harbour master helped us to tie up. Unfortunately we hadn’t realised that the tyres were tied on with steel rope, that scraped away more grey paint. Another small donation to a Baltic country.
While Andrew went for a shower, Suzanne went up to pay for our night’s stay and to practice the little Latvian she’d picked up from google translate. She likes to think it was appreciated. At 25 euros it was one of our more expensive stays, however electricity, showers and waters were included – so probably worked out much the same.
We walked up into the old town for dinner, to a restaurant the harbour master had recommended, and in the brochure he had given us was shown to be number one in some local award. We walked through broad streets with pretty parks, cobbled streets with old wooden houses and ancient doors, and finally found a busy restaurant, with outside seating that was clearly full and very popular.
The waitress spoke perfect english and explained we’d have to wait for a table – which we were more than happy to do. We perused the menu while we waited, and were impressed by the prices. We took a punt on a Latvian sparkling wine, 10 euros a bottle, and it turned out to be so decent, we had a second. Unfortunately, when we checked the label, only for sale in Latvia – and the shop was shut when we walked back to the marina. Probably a good thing, as we have to reduce our alcohol on board before we enter Russia.
The food was tasty, the portions generous. For the four of us, with a starter and a main, two bottles of fizz, and a cup of mint tea – the bill came to just over 70 euros. Bargain – we like Latvia!
Over dinner we discussed our strategy for the next leg of our journey – a respectable departure time of 7am agreed. We then pottered through more of the old town, which was almost deserted – perhaps not surprising in a country of less than 2 million people – and the only noise was that of youngsters on whiney mopeds – in stark contrast to the boom of the Harley Davidsons on Bornholm. Finally we took the riverside walk back to our marina, marvelling at the giant cow en route, and enjoyed a comfortable night dockside.
Our leg stats
Visby to Farosund was just under 7 hours underway, making 38 nautical miles, an average 5.4 knots. Farosund to Ventspils was a longer 13 hour sail of 86 nautical miles, with an average speed of 6.6 knots. A total of just under 16 engine hours in total. So our time to get from Gotland to Latvia was around 20 hours of sailing.
You can hear more about our time in Latvia in episode 22 ‘Loving Latvia’ of our ‘2 in a boat’ podcast, due to go live on 1 September 2019.
Episode 21 hears us chewing the fat on Bornholm and Visby.