Tuesday, 26 May 2009

25th & 26th May 2009

In gloriously sunny weather we packed up the boat and explored the town of Gdansk. The highlight being the trip to the underground Solidarity Museum at the entrance to the ship yard that sparked the uprising that ended communism in Poland in 1989. 

We flew back to Birmingham courtesy of Ryanair late on Tuesday evening leaving Shimshal securely docked in Gdansk Marina for the next month.

Solidarity Monument, Gdansk.

Shimshal with cockpit tent

Gdansk Marina

Sunday, 24 May 2009

23rd & 24th May 2009 Gotland to Gdansk

Log 193 miles. Sally, Simon & Carol.

We left Gotland after dinner on a very calm evening but soon picked up a light breeze from the south west. So once again we were pitching into the wind. Fortunately the wind veered to the west and we were soon reefed down and hammering along at 8 - 9 knots. By Saturday afternoon it was a steady 30 knots with gusts of 35 knots and so we had little difficulty in maintaining and average of 8.7 knots over the 23 hour run.

The sea and the wind slowly died away as we approached the Hel Peninsular which we rounded at about 20.00 on Friday. We entered Gdansk Channel under sail and called the Harbour Master on Channel 14. We docked, initially in the wrong place, for customs clearance but the border guard was not at all concerned about any formalities. We then went onto dock for the night at the proper customs quay.

The Ship Yards of Gdansk

We left the Customs Quay early on the  Saturday morning and motored about 4 miles up the river to berth in the centre of Gdansk in a compact little marina. Initially we went along side a large Swedish motor yacht before moving to our designated berth. Unfortunately this was exactly 4.5m wide and so lft no room for fenders. We managed to excracate ourselved with some pushing and shoving before moving to a double berth in the centre of the marina which seems to be very secure. The Marina is patrolled 24 huors a day and there is CCTV too so hopefully the boat will be very secure. Electricity and water is free and a 32 day berth has cost £260.

Robert, our friend from our last Expedition, came to visit on Sunday morning and we sat in the cockpit talking about the Karakorams and mulling over the prospect of and expedition to Shimshal with a crossing of Snow lake, the Hispar and Baltoro Glaciers to Concordia and then exiting over the Masherbrum La to Hushe.

The shipyards of Gdansk

Simon, Sally, Carol and Robert

Royal Way in the centre of Gdansk
Shimshal and the Great Crane in Gdansk

Shimshal docked in Gdansk

May 22nd visit to Visby by Bus

Roof tops at Visby


Botanical Gardens at Visby

Shimshal docked at Herrvik

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Thursday 21st May 2009 Farosund to Herrvik on Gotland

Log 30 miles. Sally, Simon & Carol.

The winds, though light, were, as usual coming from exactly the wrong direction so once again we motored the entire route to Herrvik which is a tiny fishing community on the eastern most point of Gotland. 

Along the way we saw a Sea Eagle being mobbed by 3 Terns and later a pair of Goosander. 

We were uncertain about the depth of water available in the Guest Harbour at Herrvik but, as it happens the depth was of no consequnce as the entrance was too narrow for us to get in anyway. That's a first! Instead we docked along side the tyre clad fishing wharf and went for lunch at the delightful Krog on the southern side of the harbour.

Gotland is an entirely limestone island that popped up out of the Baltic after the last Ice Age and is characterised by limestone cliffs and reefs. It also has Europe's largest cement factory. The walk around the headland south of the harbour gave spectacular views of the coast, the orchid strewn heathland and the pine forest.

Orchids above the limestone cliffs of Gotland

Orchids above the limestone cliffs of Gotland


Sally having been inspired by watching the film Australia!


Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Tuesday 19th May, Kokar to Gotland.

Red Backed Shrike hitching a lift south through the Baltic

Log 150 miles, Sally, Simon & Carol

A very grey, drizzly and windless start to the day. We left at 0450 and motored, once again, out of the harbour before turning south and then south west for Gotland. Our last views of Finland were of low rocks melting into the foggy murk. The wind was a feeble 3-5 knots from the south west and, once again we were forced to motor making the journey long and monotonous. We were visited by some migrating birds en route which we eventually identified as red backed shrikes and spotted fly catchers. They stayed with us most of the way leaving deposits all around the companionway. The Quantum of Solace was shown in the afternoon but Carol and Sally remained dutifully on watch.

By night the fog was back and the flycatcher had died. We considered dodging into an anchorage on the north side of Faro as the passage through Faro Sound was partly unlit and very narrow. Fortunately the fog cleared a couple of miles north of Gotland and we docked in Farosund Marina at 0328.

Monday 18th May, Degerby to Sandvik Marina on Kokar.

Log 23 miles. Sally Simon and Carol.

The fuel station opened at 0830 and they lent us a trolley so we bought 120 litres of diesel and siphoned 85 litres into the tank. Excellent showers then got rid of the oily residue. We drifted off the dock at about 1045 and motored north east against a light but contrary wind. As we turned south for Kokar Island the wind did so as well. We were passed by many large ferries going from Stockholm to Turku as well as several smaller inter island ferries. By the afternoon the sun had gone behind some high cloud and the forecast rain arrived by early evening.

Sandvik, our last Finnish port, was deserted and all ashore was locked up so we took the dinghy on a 12 km round trip in to find some sign of life. We went down  the very narrow sound that forms the eastern shore of Kokar and passed under a bridge to emerge at another guest harbour and an open restaurant. To our surprise the proprietor agreed to cook us a meal and she proved most hospitable. The excellent lamb and warm, welcoming atmosphere meant that we didn’t mind too much when the rain arrived and it came time to climb into the dinghy for the return trip. 

The excellent restaurant on Kokar

Back at the boat we prepared for the 130 mile crossing to Gotland by deflating the tender and stowing it in the cockpit. The forecast was for fog and light head winds.


Sunday 17th May Rodham to Degerby

Log 12 Miles. Sally, Simon & Carol

Having had contrary winds for most of the way thus far and with a forecast for more of the same we were anxious to top up our fuel tanks before leaving Finland for Gotland. Our guest harbours guide suggested that the marina at Degerby would be open and that we could get fuel. In fact it was closed until the 10th June and no fuel is available on Sundays. We went alongside the deserted jetty where there was plenty of depth. When the cafe opened the next day we were able to get the key for showers and toilets. We took the bicycles ashore and cycled out to a 14th century church on the island of Foglo. The domes and spires gave it a very eastern European appearance reminding us that we were now very close to Russia.

Back at the boat I siphoned the water out of our redundant 600 litre tank directly into the bilge thus getting rid of our port list that we had carried ever since Oxelosund where the overzealous boat yard had filled the wrong tank. We had also had a recurring problem with the toilet whereby it would, intermittently, refuse to prime. I had dismantled it, cleaned and oiled it on several occasions only to find that it would work a few times and then fail. Eventually I hit upon the idea of gluing a couple of washers to the clean water outlet valve to “encourage” it to close more effectively. Thus far a bit of araldite and a couple of stainless washers appear to have done the trick so we are keeping our fingers crossed. 

Saturday May 16th 2009, Mariehamn to Rodham

Orchids on Nato

After moving pontoons to find one with water we filled the tanks and motored a very few miles south to anchor off the Nato nature reserve. Ashore we found another stunning spring meadow of orchids and anemones carpeting the forest. The reserve was alive with birds, flowers and photographers. The latter lying face down in the meadow grass or bent double with bum up in the air and face in a bog. A couple of horned grebe were nesting where we docked the tender and we enjoyed the usual display of red breasted mergansers, terns and eider.

In idyllic sunshine and with very little wind we raised the anchor and motored a few more miles to the guest harbour at Rodham where we picked up a buoy and  tied the stern off onto the nearby jetty. The old pilot’s harbour is tucked in tightly between islands on the northern side of Rodham. Unusually there were a few other boats sharing the harbour with us. A couple of motor boats and a small sloop. Ashore there were some very good composting toilets and a replica of the original pilot’s house.  The harbour itself was closed until June.

 The island was sculpted out of pink granite and had few trees apart from the low lying, scrubby juniper. On the exposed south side the Baltic was mirror calm with raft after raft of eider all “coo-ing” to each other in the evening sun.

Granite coast on the south side of Rodham

Sunset from Rodham Guest Harbour

Rodham Guest Harbour

May 15th 2009 - Exploring the Alands by bicycle

After a few days at sea today was the day to break the bikes out of the bilges and go exploring. Carol hired a stunning pink affair for just 7 euros a day.

Carol on her rather stunning pink bicycle

After breakfast ashore the first stop was the excellent Chandlery about 3km out of town where we finally bought the charts of the Aland Islands and the route to the south as well as the usual bits and bobs that always seem to appear at the checkout.

We were moored in the Eastern Harbour so we cycled over to the West Harbour to see what we were missing. It was certainly quieter, better sheltered and more picturesque. We had lunch in a dockside cafe and then had a look around the Pommern. This 4 masted square rigger had been built on the Clyde in 1903 and had spent the next 35 years sailing around the world carrying cargo. She had no engine and a crew of just 26. Her last commercial journey was in 1937 from Mariehamn to Adelaide and back and then she was retired. Indeed she was one of the last commercial sailing vessels to make the trip. She is now tied up permanently in in the West Harbour and is an excellent museum.

The Pommern at Mariehamn

Nearly all of the work on board was done by the crew who heaved on ropes, ground winches and pushed capstans. A small steam engine – made in Cradley Heath – was used to winch cargo on and off.

The Donkey Boiler on the Pommern

In the late afternoon we cycled out to the Ramsholmen Peninsula just west of the airport. This delightful nature reserve was alive with flowers and deciduous trees. Some photos are included below.

Swan at Ramsholmen

Wood Anemones at Ramsholmen in the forest meadow



Wednesday and Thursday 13th and 14th May, Rano to Rodloga and Rodloga to Mariehamn

Tall ships tacking north

Log 111 miles. Sally, Simon & Carol

Clear blue skies and light northerlies. We left early and sailed a little before being headed and forced to motor. We were shown up by a couple of classic boats who were determined to short tack all the way but we pressed on with the engine on as we were keen to get to the Aland Islands which were still over 100 miles upwind.

We did, however, find time for an idyllic lunch stop at Grisselholmen (page 194 of the Pilot). A very picturesque anchorage full of duck, swans, terns and gulls.


Our evening anchorage was at Rodloga and by now the wind was strengthening so we dug the anchor in very hard as one forecast predicted winds to 50 km/h through the night. Though it blew it never got anywhere near that but we did hesitate the next morning when a near gale warning was issued for the Aland Sea and sure enough it was to come from exactly the direction we wanted to go. Identifying a raft of Tufted Duck delayed us somewhat too. We did, eventually, decide to go for it and Sally and Carol duly downed their sea sickness tablets and remain comatose as I write this (about 12 hours later)! The wind turned out to be a “fresh northerly” which, at this latitude in the Baltic means it was cold. The sea too was cold as I found out when I took a Baltic wave down my neck. Very fortunately, after motoring for an hour or so up through the last of the Stockholm Archipelago, we were able to bear off to the north east and sail close hauled direct for the southern approach to Mariehamn. Reefed heavily we bounced along at 8 knots most of the way and made light work of the “near gale in the Aland Sea”. I did, however, regret leaving the tender on its davits as, with the chop and the angle of heel, there were a couple of occasions when we were dragging one of the floats sideways through the water at great speed.

We passed south of the wind farm at Nyhamn and headed up to the narrow entrance that leads to Mariehamn’s Eastern harbour. By now the wind had built and so we motored the last few miles directly into the wind. With the combination of strong winds, a strange harbour and no pilot book we decided to anchor off the guest harbour for the night and visit by tender. That was the plan but now I find that my crew are in an Avomine induced stupor and cannot be budged. I have had to resort to typing up the blog and trying to log onto WiFi. Anyway it’s great to be in Finland and at our most northerly latitude on this cruise (60 degrees 05 minutes north and 19 degrees 58minutes East). The forecast is for more northerlies so let’s hope that we have finished the upwind sailing!

Wind farm and old iron mines at Nynham

Tuesday May 12th 2009 Oxelosund to Rano with a brief stop at Stora Ramklov

Steel works at Oxelosund

Log 47  miles. Sally, Simon and Carol (Darwin)

After 8  months ashore Shimshal was re-launched last week in Oxelosund. She had been very well cared for through the long winter by Jaochim, Catarina and Bengt at the Oxelosund Batvarv.

We flew out on Sunday afternoon and spent Monday sorting out a few snags that had arisen. The solenoid on the windlass had stuck but was quickly sorted out by stripping and lubricating. On the first night we had some excitement when two of the saloon lights went on fire. Fortunately we spotted it very quickly and no serious damage was done. But why did they spontaneously combust? The mystery was solved the next morning when we discovered that some 12 volt replacement bulbs had been fixed in the 24 volt circuit – they were certainly bright! On a similar note the next morning the forward heads started to flood the boat but this was quickly sorted by putting the old valve back in as the new replacement that had been fitted was by a different manufacturer!

These and other minor snags were quickly sorted and on Tuesday morning we left the harbour on a gloriously sunny day with a light north westerly wind. We motored past the steel works and the curious island that has been completely trashed by nesting cormorants. After that we turned more easterly and made steady progress under sail. About 5 miles from our short cut through the Landsort Peninsula we were struck by a powerful little squall that set us pounding along at 10 knots.

Stora Ramklov is a few miles east of Landsort offering good shelter from northerlies. As we were anchoring the wind went round to the south so, after a cup of tea, we pressed on for Rano where we knew we could get shelter from all wind directions. We had a lovely evening sail in a light, cold easterly and entered the anchorage just as the wind died altogether.

We have seen lots of bird life along the way including White Tailed Sea Eagle, Barnacle Geese, Grebes to name but a few.