Sunday, 6 May 2001

Gåsholmen in a blow

When you stand on the shore and look out across the water it all seems so calm.  I suppose the simple reason for that is that it is.  Rastaholm gives good shelter from wind s from the north, so the first stretch at least seemed flat even though the flags overhead show a good breeze even here.
Having spent the night on the boat anticipating a sail we want to put our noses out of the harbour.  We are reluctant to test the wind offshore so instead a short trip to test how the outboard is running (after having sorted out the slow running problems last time).
Good news… the engine starts and runs really well.
..and the weather in the bay looks ok too so sailing looks on after all.
The local forecast was for winds up to 5m/s (10kn), but with a general forecast for 7m/s.   The genny stays in the bag, and we opt for the jib & main.  With the sails up and the wind in the north west we set off on a reach for Björkö (birch island), with the intention of sailing around the island.   Clearing the shelter into the channel between Ekerö and Björkö it’s clear we made the right choice of sails.  It is blowing a fresh force 4 and we are soon doing 8 knots (if we can believe the log). 
In half an hour we are off in more sheltered water off the south end of Björkö, but it is clear with the wind in the north that passage through narrow Björkösundet to the north west of the island will be very hard work.  A change of plan then, and we head west to Gåsholmen (goose island) a short distance ahead. 
Bearing away south  behind it is a rush.  The boat surges as the sails fill on the reach and we are on nine knots before we turn off the reach onto a run.  A new record! (editorial note: the log it turns out overreads by 10-15% for speeds over 2 knots)
With the boat on a run the jib gets willful.  Blanketed by the main it flaps and has a tendency for it to twist and the batten to get stuck behind the forestay – and I am wary of gybing as the wind moves around between the islands, and the gusts come through.  So we keep to a broad reach to keep the jib full. (Still doing seven knots)
The new course takes us near to Kurön, the next island west.  Happily sailing along we are…. “Look, a bottle in the water”, “and another, and some little buoys”.  Oh yes, a line of net markers right across our path – well they’re probably pot marks but we swing to windward at short notice to clear the end.
Next landmark is Pingst (whitsun) – a rocky knoll with a few trees on – first stop on the way back and already quite close.  We wear round rather than gybe and head down into Södra Björkfjärden now getting little shelter from Björkö to the north.  It is not a bad reach, but gets progressively more uncomfortable as we head up and turn east to pass Midsommaren (midsummer) and head back towards Rastaholm.
There are several other boats around – most heading towards the channel back to Stockholm.  Some are sailing, but others are motoring, or have just a jib.  One particular one dead astern is bearing down on us keeled over at an alarming angle.  A bit bigger than us it seems happy to set the sails and plow the course.
Mata Hari too heels far over when the sails are full on the wind.  Once or twice I get it wrong and and she heels alarmingly.  The speed has dropped to 4 to 6 knots depending how much I pinch or am happy to heel.

We stick with it, finding it a little hard going and eventually reach more sheltered waters in the approach to Rasta.  Phew…  Good practice at any rate!

Tuesday, 24 April 2001

Maiden Voyage - Lidingö to Rastaholm

t all began in Sticklinge.  This small boatyard on the north shore of Lidingö was the winter berth of Mata Hari, an IF båt from 1974, and our choice of boat to explore the waters around Stockholm.  After less than a week to prepare her she was ours and in the water ready to go. 
On a wet Sunday morning we raised the mast (with some help), rigged the boom, took a final check and headed out of port, the venerable outboard cutting a green swathe through the water.

Out the small harbour, and with a bit of sea room, we stopped and made sail off Storholmen  and set out east along Askrikefjärden.  Mata Hari is well set up, with the halyards and trim lines brought back to the cockpit – but that only helps when you know what to do with them.  To start with it’s definitely a case of taking it easy.   Evenso the first surprise is that we’re doing a healthy six knots.  In planning the trip we’d reckoned on two days averaging a lot less than this so it could be a lot quicker than expected.

Lidingö is a big island to the west of Stockholm, in the Archipelago that runs north and south along the Baltic shore.  There is little tide to speak of and only very small currents.  That all simplifies navigation, but a good chart is essential.  There are over twenty thousand islands, and most of them have rocky shores and trees on.  Knowing where you are and where to go is only the first step of course as for every island you can see there are a scattering of rock beneath the surface.  Most are close to shore, but not all.

After an easy reach along Lidingö we reached the first navigation exercise.  Around the western most point there are several islands and rocks to weave between before we can turn south west towards Stockholm.  By reputation the IF båt is a little slow through the tacks, and with a novice crew it would be easy to end up in irons.  It would be better not to do that with little room to manouevre. 

However, the winds were light and things went smoothly, so we were able to beat through on the inside of St. Hoggarn and into Hoggarsfjärden.  An unfortunate thing with islands is that they tend to funnel the winds into the channels – so it was no surprise to find the wind on the nose – with the prospect of it staying that way all the way into Stockholm.  The good news?  Well we get plenty of boat-handling practice!

After plenty of tacks we came arrived at Lilla Värtan, open water marking the entrance to Stockholm proper.  In the midst of it lie Fjärderholmarna, a group of small islands.  I had planned to detour round them on two long tacks, but now with a big shift we were headed clear down the strait.  Great!  ..while it lasted.  By the time we were abreast of the islands the wind had shifted again and we are back to tacking, and trying to avoid the Waxholm boats coming out from the city en route for the islands with their loads of trippers.

Coming into the city the wind is more unpredictable – fresher for one, and gusty too.  Our trip up Saltsjön is testing, easing the sheeting positions to make the genny easier to handle.  Still this is the end of the first leg  and we are pleased to drop sail and start the outboard for the next bit.

To go through the center of the city is impossible without dropping the mast.  Instead we go around the south edge of the center, skirting the fashionable Södermalm.  The first stage is through the short Hammarby Canal, passing under Danviksbron.  According to the chart we have at least 1.5m clearance.  ..are we sure….?

And then to Skanstull and the Hammarby Sluss.  This is the lock that separates Mälaren from the Baltic.  Eventually we had found information to bring with us on how this worked… and work it did.  We waited while the lights changed, and a solitary sailboat motored out the other way, and then motored in ourselves.  The engine though is not happy at slow revs, nor it seems happy at warm starting.  Hmmm.  We are in the lock – but can we get out again!

By the time the gates open we are in business again and able to point the boat into Årstaviken.  Home!  Well almost.  It’s a short walk from here to the apartment – except we’re not stopping.  Everything here is familiar.  We stop in Liljeholmen to stock up on fuel – but they are closed – and motor on under the E4, passing south of Stora Essingen.

It’s hard from the chart to guage how much room there is to sail in these narrower channels.  In parts it seems quite a lot.  We have a plan to stop for lunch after the main city is passed.  (Lunch – it is after 3pm!).  At the same time we have picked a likely spot to anchor over night.  We contemplate stopping, but in the end decide we will make sail again and press on.  The lunch stop becomes a stream of cheese sandwiches as we sail.  The winds, much gentler now and the water beautifully flat as we take our first introduction to Mälaren.

After the first open waters have to pass through the narrower waters to the south of Fågelön (bird island) and Kungshatt (king’s hat(!)).   This last bit is quite narrow and gives us plenty of tacking practice. 

And then, in a fresher wind we are into Fiskarfjärden and heading for our anchorage.  As we turn more westerly we are thankfully off the beat, and comfortably making seven and a half knots.  Maybe we should be hiking out….
In front of us is Ekerö, and somewhere on its more western shore our destination – Rastaholm.  But this is home for tonight, in the sheltered waters between Ekerö and Gallstaö .  We put in the plug anchor in the mouth of the shallow c