I write this as I travel back to Blighty across the North Sea aboard Transpulp from Gothenburg to Tilbury, at the end of our cruise around (a part of) the Stockholm archipelago of islands. We have sailed over 280 sea miles aboard Aurora on this voyage and I feel that, living land-locked in the centre of England, we have made the most of a trailer sailer.
Everywhere we went in the Baltic, people asked us if we had sailed across from England. To me, the point of a trailer sailer is to be able to get the boat quickly to the cruising grounds; the Cape Cutter is not ideally suited to long passages and that is not the type of sailing the family enjoys. The driving was not excessive, most of the miles travelled at ease on the cargo ship.
We have been lucky with the weather- moderate to light winds and much sun. It seems that my insurance policy of having a rain cover made has paid off, as we had little rain and much of this was at night.
Aurora attracted admiring comments wherever we travelled and we saw few boats as small as us. The Cape Cutter 19 is not an ideal design for the Baltic, but we managed very comfortably. Our bowsprit meant that it was hard to get close to the rock, as did the vertical bow. On the other hand, it is easy to raise the bowsprit when necessary. Our shallow draught gave us access to locations inaccessible to larger yachts.
Mooring in the Baltic is done bow-to, with warps ashore and a stern anchor. Baltic boats have a pulpit modified to allow for getting on and off the boat and many have a ladder too. A stern anchor on a tape is also usually used; we did not carry a second anchor. This was partly because I was worried about storage space, but also I was worried about the holding of a small enough anchor to stow aft. It was easy enough to move our anchor aft when needed; later on in the trip, I tended to lay the anchor from the bow and then walk the warp to the stern.
Anchoring is done in this way because it makes it easy to get ashore and because many harbours are narrow with nearly vertical rocks and little for the anchor to grip. This means poor holding and not enough room to swing at many of the nicest harbours. With no tide, why would one not want to simply step off the boat onto land.
We managed well for power, thanks to the solar panels and there were always enough amps for lights, instruments and gadget charging. However, we did not use a fridge, and modified our menu to avoid food needing refrigeration (though a bucket of sea water was good for cooling the beers). There are few shops in the archipelago and, knowing this, we brought lots of canned food and made fresh bread aboard. The thermal cooker was also well used- this was used for bread-making and also so a meal could be prepared in advance, rather than in the evening when we did not feel like cooking. It also saves on fuel for cooking.
We travelled to most of the island groups in the central part of the archipelago. At first we kept exclusively to the buoyed channels, but as our confidence grew, we realised that Aurora’s shallow draught was ideal for travelling between the island groups. The advice to “sail in the white parts” of the chart proved very useful and the accuracy of huge Navionics electronic charts was reassuring, though we always kept a wary eye out for uncharted rocks.
The archipelago is an ideal cruising ground for the Cape Cutter. It provides numerous island groups with good distances between for cruising. There was always a sheltered anchorage and the quantity of islands meant that there was always a destination which suited the wind direction. Each island has its own character, with different topology and vegetation.
Would I carry out such a trip again? Of course! I’m already thinking about locations for he next cruise….