Baltic, trip logs

Baltic Blog: Speedboats and Sunshine

 Overnight, the strong Southerly wind abated and we awoke to a nearly windless morning. I had been putting the solar panels out less whilst sailing (especially in conditions like yesterday in the strong breeze) and the battery was getting a little low; however, our anchorage caught the sun from soon after sunrise, so charging was already underway when we ate our breakfast of boat bread from the thermal cooker.

These islands to the North of the archipelago are different in character to the more Southerly ones we had seen so far. The rocks here are quite a lot higher and there is more soil, so the trees are mostly pine.
 We set off under engine, put our shallow draft and modest mast to advantage and took a shallow channel out of the anchorage under an electricity cable. We poked our nose into a small bay on Tjockö. It was lined with summer houses, but we did notice two fishing boats too. There being nowhere likely to tie up, we hoisted mainsail and moved on. There was a modest breath of wind by this time, so with all the canvas aloft, we wafted out into the main channel.
 A surprising sight greeted us, as the channel between the mainland and Tjockö was full of boats and there was even helicopter buzzing overhead. The attraction turned out to be powerboat racing. We could see a fleet of arrow-shaped boats with helmeted crews milling in the distance, making sounds reminiscent of WWII fighters. Soon they roared off up the sound and we continued our slow passage, close hauled, across the sound. With a few minutes, the fleet of powerboats were roaring past us, having completed an unknown circuit of many miles to our few cables. I had never seen these boats underway from so close before. They roared past, seemingly with only the engine in the water, leaving almost no wake despite passing only a boat length or two from us.

We saw one boat accelerate from sailing stationary position near us. At first I thought they had a problem, because the crew had crawled out from the cockpit and appeared to be reaching for something near the bow; however, this was just to provide trim for the boat, as it climbed over its bow wave. He climbed back into the cockpit as soon as the boat was planing.

It was a slow beat for us South down the sound, but no hardship in the warm sun- I have not often sailed in weather warm enough for shorts only. As we entered the wide East-West channel that leads shipping in and out of Norrtalje, the breeze began to pick up and the boat travelled faster and faster. We had a choice of beating down the North-South channel all day, or to take a longer, more circuitous route with a more favourable point of sale.
 We chose the latter, and were soon reaching at 5kt down the main channel. Many power boats with families aboard made close passes with children waving; evidently Aurora was attracting some admiring looks from passers by. I sailed with the chart on my knees and practiced “buoy-hopping”, rather than using the GPS and this proved straightforward enough. It is more relaxing to sail along the channels, as one does not need to look out for unexpected rocks, provided the boat is within the channel markers.
 With Furusund in sight, we tacked out of the channel and beat through a chain of islands (rocks) past Gåsö and changed from a SW course to an ESE one. Once out of the channel, far fewer boats were to be seen, but even the smallest island seemed to have at least one motorboat moored up to the rocks with a family on the shore enjoying the Saturday sunshine. We made very good speed; though, as usual with beating, slow progress to our destination.

Approaching Hundskärsknuv, we could see a pair of sea eagles being mobbed by a gull and were evidently driven off what we presumed was the gull’s nest site. Trev also had a fleeting glimpse of a seal. Later on, we saw another gaff-rigger in the distance. We tacked and passed quite close in the opposite direction to its track. Of very traditional design, it was wooden with a wide beam and narrow draught, sailing under its large main and assisted with engine. It contained a surprisingly large number of passengers, who waved cheerily as we passed.

The remainder of our journey seemed quite slow, as the wind began to drop and our destination was in sight. As usual, those ashore had spotted us taking in the sails and were waiting on the quay to catch the warps by the time we motored into the harbour. My longest and most intricate passage to date, we had travelled over 30nm in about 9 hours.


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