The trip is officially over (note custom beer sling):
We made it back to our berth in Svanemøllen after 22 days. 630 nautical miles at about 5 miles per hour. Yes we could have done it faster but it wouldn’t have been as fun.
We had a porpoise play with Clan again just outside Hornbeck after leaving Gilleleje. Doing about 6 knots, it came from behind and hovered, disappeared under, and jumped from the water on either side several times. I was hoping it had chosen Clan as an adopted parent, but alas there’s been no sign of the thing here in the harbor.
Our last sail was going along fine until a squall came up and bit me in the face. W winds (from the shore, no seas what so ever) went from 7 m/s to 11 m/s in about a minute. We didn’t get the sails reefed in time, and to avoid a knock down we let the jib fly. That led to two large knots in the jib sheets, and I stupidly ran forward to try to clear them without trying to reduce sail first. One of the sheets slapped me right in the eye, quite a shock. I’m fine, I can see, and there’s no black eye even. Another little lesson learned on the very last day.
We stopped home to pick up the mail, an apartment now feels uncomfortably large. It’s confusing. The boat for all it’s troubles and maintenance is a very simple place to live. The weather is too nice, so we’re pushing off the move home until it’s absolutely necessary.
Yesterday we helped Andres move his lovely Folkebåd into place and get an automatic bilge pump wired up. As he said to us yesterday, “It won’t sink today”. Tomorrow though?! Just maybe. I’ve got a good excuse to stay at the harbor, I have to keep an eye on old “Cacharette”.
I forgot to mention that on the trip from Laesø to Anholt, running in building seas, we saw a porpoise swimming down a wave straight for us. It passed very close to our stern, swam along side for a bit without surfacing, and was gone.
Today we had perfect conditions for getting away from Anholt. Almost no seas to speak of, 5-7 m/s WSW winds. We made 5 to 6.5 knots all day long, and crossed the shipping routes no problem.
Just as we were considering the day closed, I was half dozing, when a porpoise surfaced, nearly jumping out of the water less than 2 meters from us along side. It quickly dove under, popped up on the starboard side and surfaced again. The same thing once more, out of the water, under, back to the other side. It was startling and amazing. For a few moments, Clan had a friend in the water.
Mistakes were made, but the upshot is that we are getting quite salty. 64.7 nautical miles under the keel yesterday in 10 hours 38 minutes, in big, wet, salty seas.
The boring explanation is below, but here’s the quick version of what happened- we screwed up. We made a snap decision to change our course without bothering to check if it made sense and it didn’t.
We spent the day in amazing sailing conditions, gales again (surprise!), and the biggest seas we’ve seen yet. The winds were West, the gale warnings issued for 15 m/s. The seas were humungous with a lot of rolling/breaking tops, and as the approach to Anholt harbor is from the west, they made for a stomach churning, nail biting entrance.
As the bottom rises towards Anholt, depths are going from 30+ meter to 7 to 4 fairly quickly. As expected, this means those big waves rolling in have to dissipate all that energy, and they do it by breaking. In our case they did it by nearly broaching us a couple of times, and lastly by breaking over our stern, flooding the cockpit. It wasn’t completely unexpected, but when you’re all the sudden sitting in the water rather than above it, just outside a harbor no less, it’s a lot unnerving.
It seems sailing is a lot like flying in the sense that once you’re “airborne” things go pretty much as expected. It’s when you get near the land that things get complicated. They get more complicated when you have 3600 kilos of boat, 13.5 m/s winds, and 9 horses of power. Some fellow sailors just stared at us upon arrival (perhaps not realizing what it was like outside the wall), some smiled, and some sensibly waved us to a free berth. We really don’t have the power to back our way up into that kind of wind, so berthing in those conditions is pretty much a one-shot deal. Don’t make the turn unless you’re certain you can make it, or unless you like the sound of crushing fiberglass and screaming people.
I’ve read a lot of books about the sea, and one of the things always mentioned is the fear of land. I’m beginning to be of the same mind. Out on the water, even though you’re exposed to the elements, the boat is doing what it’s supposed to do. Clan takes the waves (well, at least the 4+ meter waves we’ve seen) easily and gracefully. The wind in the sails keeps the boat in balance, and even heeling too much feels natural and safe. In the harbor though, the boat is slow, cumbersome, wobbly, and even a little dangerous. It’s much more relaxing to float over and down the backside of another wave, with nothing at all on the horizon, than it is to surf your way between the red and green markers on a immovable rock breakwater.
So, the mistake: Laesø is surrounded by shallow water, most to the north and south. The course I plotted from Vesterø Havn to Anholt was 49 nm but involved going WNW into westerlies blowing at 9 m/s (not easy), then down the west coast of the island. We worked a while south towards the shoals at about 210, then tacked up to 310/320 for the second leg. Our waypoint was bearing 280, so the easy thing to do is just sail on until the bearing to your waypoint is below 210, even though you’re heading the wrong direction, then tack again and be done. Not us. The waves were annoying, we had a late start, we got frustrated and on a whim decided to fall off, run east with the wind past the island, then turn south on a beam reach to Anholt. It couldn’t possibly be any further, could it? Yes, in fact, it is much further. Before we made the turn downwind, the bearing to our waypoint had gone from 280 to 265 in something like 20 minutes. One hour probably would have done the trick. Instead, we added 16 nautical miles to our journey- on an average day that’s about 3 hours of sailing. 3 hours vs. 40 minutes is an awful trade.
Here we are, only 82 nautical miles from home!
We left Skagen this morning with a forecast of 7-10 m/s, gusting to 15. Shortly after our departure, sure enough- Lyngby Radio sounds out near gale warnings for pretty much everywhere. We spent the day learning again, mostly learning what the difference is between 11 m/s and 15 m/s. A double reefed main and some of our jib kept us going 5.5 to 6.5 knots, sometimes 8, and the off-shore wind kept the waves around 2 meters. Easy peasy.
We made it to Laesø safely despite the wind, the waves, and the insane ferry driver who decided to throw it into reverse while we were maybe 50 meters from making it past the break water. No choice given what we could see but to tack with what jib we had out and try to stay out of his way. We did manage to do that, despite a consistent headwind of 13.5 m/s. We jibed back down behind him (this is not a small vessel mind you, and the shoals around Laesø are numerous and dangerous to him and us), and got friendly waves from the passengers who likely thought us insane.
The map is getting prettier, more symmetric, and the wind looks okay (gusting to 15 🙂 ) for a run to Anholt tomorrow.
The onions are done.
We are back in Denmark. The harbor is absolutely packed, boats stacked 10 and more deep with a birds nest of stern anchors. We learned from a waiter last night that it’s “Hellerup Week”. For those not in the know, Hellerup is a posh suburb just north of Copenhagen where only the wealthiest set root. Some of them then join together on a showy trip to Skagen during one particular week of the high holidays in order to make merry for themselves and “I’m on a boat!” blaring nuisance for others.
We crossed from Lysekil to Skagen yesterday, in no wind, with a 1.5 to 2.5 knot northerly (against us) current. It was a painful, 10h43m engine and nerves test, but we passed even before the sun set. Position has been updated on the ever increasing google maps plot.
We came across a dying bird, floating, wounded somehow, out in the middle of the crossing. It was an interesting view into what a lonely death at sea might be like. Not exactly pretty, but almost?
Today is a “gale-day”, 20m/s winds, lounging, and an oil change for the engine. Tomorrow we try for Laesø, though strong winds are expected once again.
The last two days were tough. We’re in Lysekil, and each had an awesome 2 minute 5 kroner shower.
The winds have been S or SW, and strong. Today we cut short at around 5 pm due to a “near gale” warning issued, and due to the fact that the seas were absurd, the wind was the wrong direction, the current was 3 knots in the wrong direction, and cause we god damn well felt like cutting it short.
Both days involved the real sea, big waves, open water, or at least the sense of it. The crossing from Norway left us 25 miles from land, in the middle of the Skagerrak. The conditions were fantastic, but we hit a small snag of a 2.5 kt current in our face as we approached the Swedish coast in a SW wind. It seems the entire Baltic is trying to drain into the North Sea via Bohuslan.
When we left Hunnebostrand this morning, it was the first time in my entire life that I’ve felt a certain sensation oft spoken of. We cut the engine just after a narrow channel, making 5 knots in the right direction, and sure enough came a wave of such a size that we were taken aback- we both paused. It was massive. I know it was 4 meters or bigger but don’t really have a valid guess. I just know that it passed beneath us, we fell, and we both breathed. I turned around and mentioned to Catherine that my bowels felt a little “tense”. She agreed hers did as well.
As the day wore on I tried to get some photographic evidence of the size of the seas, it’s nearly impossible. Just take our word that the waves were up, they were inspiring, but not in a good way. The boat took them beautifully, I couldn’t be happier with the way all four of us sailed. Lars pooped in his box, and left no vomit.
We went nowhere today, and aren’t getting any closer to home. We had dreams of Skagen, but the forecast tomorrow of 3 m/s, and the next day of 20 m/s, is making that perfectly implausible.
Because it’s difficult to take a good photo of a wave, I took many. Here are some (and some others):
We are socked in at Stavern.
Wind is 8+ m/s and there’s plenty of swell in the harbor. There’s also tide to contend with. Out on a walk to see the town, we both felt sick, it seems Lars is the only one feeling decent.
So it goes. Yesterday I dropped my sunglasses, the stop lever for the engine broke off. Things are getting a little stressful. Today after 6th sense, or smell from below, we realized the engine was in trouble. Much of the coolant seemed to have burned off and smoke was coming from the “engine room.” Tear off the black tape that covers the indicator lights and sure enough, the coolant alert light was lit. I had a hunch that the ignition switch may have slipped back a notch and the coolant pumped turned off, so we gave it a few minutes to cool, added a little oil just in case, and then carried on towards Svenner, not the best place for a maintenance stop. We had little wind, so used the engine sparingly through a nice easy approach. After anchoring up Scandinavian style, and not looking a bit like our former selves, I got to work. I had another Volvo panel NOS from Ebay, so after trying to get it in place, settled for replacing the alarm and the indicator window. Done.
We had a quick walk around an unreal little island, and after realizing the wind was up to 7 m/s, got our nerve up to head to Stavern. On the way out of the harbor we got a nice “Hi Hi” from a couple on an older boat than ours- I assume now it was because they thought we wouldn’t make it. It’s an extremely narrow channel, rocks in the water, BIG rocks on both sides, wind and waves head on, and a whooping 9 horse-power behind us. One of our backrests went overboard, not the time to worry about anything but our lives.
We made a clean exit, but our nerves were more than tweaked.
The sail after that was uneventful once a reef was set, and Stavern is a lovely harbor, though not so sheltered. We’re rocking quite a bit, and have about 1m of tide to contend with on the mooring lines. We seem to be doing better than most though, everyone is rocking and rolling here.
The people here are nicer than nice. A barefoot man who helped us tie up was dancing with two lines in hand and still happy to help. We got lots of advice on places to visit at Verdens Ende, and even changed money since we stupidly had no Norwegian Kroner on hand. Lars got lots of love, “skibs kat” was heard all over, and he also got a nice hike around the rocks. Lars has also decided that rather than soil our bed, since it’s off limits, it’s much easier to climb into the stern locker over some bulkheads, and poop on or near our lines, the reserve oil, the fenders, what have you. Quite considerate.
The harbor master came by around 10, it was dusk, maybe. A stern but fair fellow, all I can say (“You must pay!”). We’ll check the weather in the morning, but the plan is to head southerly against the southerly winds towards Goteborg, then stage a crossing to Skagen at some point. The coolant leak we’ve had on the Volvo seems to still be manageable, though not inspiring confidence.
I’m posting this at 11, it’s still dusk.
We are in Norway, at Verdens Ende, or “the end of the world.” Data is pricey so to keep it short, the sail was fantastic and the people are very friendly. Time is tight but we’ll try to stay here for a couple of days since the weather’s looking good.