Sunday 10th August
After a noisy night in Högmarsö, to the sound of partying late into the night, we were surprised to find a definite “end of season” feeling, with the bars and shops being boarded up for the winter. The local ICA supermarket was open today for the last day, offering free cinnamon buns and reduced rates to clear the stock. We took on provisions and enjoyed a leisurely cockpit breakfast in the sun.
A visiting boat came in and on chatting to the lone occupant, he told me that it had been very windy outside the islands and he had been forced to leave his anchorage rather early. We had been planning to go that way, but changed our plans to sail South down the sound between Yxlan and the mainland. We expected this to be pretty much a reach on the expected westerly, but ended up being a beat. We called into play our dinghy-on-a-reservoir experience, as the wind shifted and bent between the islets.
We made quite slow progress, but it was a very pleasant day to be on the water. The channel is very deep and is part of the fairway which leads into Stockholm and we saw some interesting traffic, including two huge ferries, which ply the routes between Sweden and the other Baltic countries.
The girls had a couple of goes at their new sport- swimming behind the boat. We trail a fender on a long warp and the girls jump off the boat, hang on the rope and swim up and down the boat. It started on one occasion when it was hot and Aurora was nearly becalmed, but now there are frequent requests to stop the boat for a swim. It works best when downwind and the boat can be sailed on staysail only or with scandalised mainsail (lazy jacks up and gaff peak down).
We finally arrived a a tiny sheltered island group called Idskären (literally Carp Islands), most of which is nature reserve with no landing until the end of July. We enjoyed chicken, cooked with tomatoes, onions and herbs, served with bulgur wheat, prepared by Niki in the thermal cooker.
Tonight was a full moon (in fact a “super moon”!) and I found a spot where I could see both the setting sun and the rising moon. Sadly, the mon was obscured by cloud, but the sunset was quite spectacular.
Monday 11th August
We have been using the weather forecast on yr.no whilst in the Baltic and have found it to be very accurate. We have had very little rain on this trip, but the forecast was for heavy rain by 11am. Accordingly, we set an alarm for an earlier-than-usual reveille. Despite the forecast, it was a peaceful and sunny morning. I had got up during the night to be greeted by such a peaceful scene- the water was like glass, with the islands reflected almost perfectly in the light of the full moon. Nevertheless, we set off for Svartlöga. The wind was contrary and what had been forecast as a run turned into a spirited beat. We began comfortably on Yankee, staysail and main, but soon were forced to reduce sail to main and staysail.
True to the forecast, we could see clouds piling in from the South East a d the wind grew blustery. More or less on the stroke of 11 the first drops of rain fell and soon we were driven by a wind risen from a f2 to a f5 in pouring rain. The waters around Svartlöga are quite tricky, with many rocks to negotiate. They can be pretty hard to spot and the Navionics chart is a great reassurance. On one hand, when the weather is calm, they can often be identified by the cluster of cormorants drying their wings (see photo). On the other hand, when the weather is rougher, waves can be seen braking on them. They cannot always be easily seen though and it needs sharp eyes and careful monitoring of chart.
Alice and I were undeterred by the wind and rain and we were soon abeam of the village on Svartlöga. Sails were furled and warps prepared and soon we were welcomed back into harbour by helping hands to dry out whilst the squally weather blew through. We have now logged more than 200nm on our Baltic cruise and feel that we have had flavour of this part of the archipelago, though I know we have barely scratched the surface. Still, there’s time for at least one more foray before it’s time to haul out….