Roving Rear Commodores' Reports - Baltic

Roving Rear Commodores' Reports - Baltic

The latest news and whereabouts [October 2017] of our Club’s Roving Rear Commodores:

By Roving Rear Commodores - 11/11/2017

Andrew Curtain in PILGRIM SOUL – gynonc.curtain@gmail.com May 2017 – 2020

Our yacht, Pilgrim Soul is a 40’ Malowhich and has been based in Sweden for 9 of its 12 years of ownership. We took delivery there, loved the place and, apart from 2 visits to Ireland for Irish Cruising Club meets, remained. We winter at MartinssonsVarv (www.martinssonsvarv.se/) on the island of Orust on Sweden’s West Coast where she is maintained so like new that we loyally return.
Essentially, the short Swedish sailing season runs from Midsummer until their schools return at the beginning of the third week in August. On the West Coast in peak season the crowds in the harbours of Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and German yachts can be horrific, but there is a vast choice of remote anchorages in stunning surroundings.

The West Coast archipelago is a wonderful cruising area, which we explore outside the busy time. This year we sailed to the Swedish East Coast with a diversion to Skagen at the northern most tip of Denmark. It is well worth the visit,having an extraordinary museum of the Danish impressionist painters who settled from the late 1870s until the turn of the century. Its harbor is always crowded, but somehow the harbourmaster squeezes all in.

To get from the Swedish West to the East Coast, one has two choices. The Gota Canal or the passage around the southern tip of Sweden. With reports from Swedish yachtsmen of delays with lock repairs and a shortage of water in places, we chose the latter.

The shallows at the southern tip of Sweden extend considerably so one should use the Falsterbo canal to bypass.This is a short canal built during WW2 to facilitate the safe passage of Swedish shipping, avoiding German minefields to the south of the country. It is a very short canal with one sluice gate that is almost always open. There is a small unattended harbour at its western end which is a useful place to overnight and to wait for a road bridge to open. Visitors, shouldn’t make our mistake. Despite little traffic, the bridge opens on the hour only. We were unaware that it doesn’t open at 0800 or 1700 so we watched the unresponsive operator drinking coffee while drifting in circles for over an hour.

From there we had a short sail to Bornholm, a Danish Baltic island, which is well worth a visit. It is famous for its smoked fish, glassware and recent history. There is one detail a reader perhaps doesn’t need to know. A medical person would have heard of Bornholm disease, a painful viral infection that may mimic a heart attack, first described there in 1933. I personally guarantee the safety of visitors these days. At the end of WW2, Bornholm held out the longest after the German surrender, its occupiers preferring to cede to Western forces. A heavy bombing by the Soviet airforceof its capital Ronne changed minds. The inhabitants of Bornholm endured Soviet occupation for a year and at least two soldiers were executed for rape.

Today it is tranquil and a visit to Ronne is recommended. Being Danish, one doesn’t have to look for state liquor stores, most shops being stocked at Danish prices. The place is laid back. The closest supermarket to the harbor is called Qvickly: an oxymoron.

From there, it is easy sailing to Stockholm. We aimed for Sodertalje, a small town south of the city with excellent rail connections. I can vouch for WasaYachts (https://wasayachts.eu ) who run a small marina with good wintering and repair facilities. From there, through a short canal and Lake Maleren, it is a pleasant 5 hours to Stockholm, but leave early in the day because the main marina in the city, the relatively small Wasamarina near the Wasa museum, fills very quickly. From the marina one can take a ferry into town and there are several supermarkets and a systembolaget for alcohol nearby. While in the lake, we diverted to Mariefred, mooring in the moat of a castle. It is tranquil with several good restaurants. We were told that mosquitos are Sweden’s “HemligArme”: “Secret Army”. They are carnivorous.

The pleasures of the Stockholm archipelago cannot be described enough in a short dissertation. It is a cruise in itself. On passage from Stockholm to Turku in Finland one spends only a short time in open water. My advice is to have a plan, a destination such as Mariehamn in the Aland Islands or Turku and to pick one’s way there. We chose the former. One can find many small marinas as well as anchorages and the Swedish Cruising Association (www.sxk.se/welcome-swedish-cruising-association )provides maintained buoys for its members and detailed harbour guides for Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway, all for an annual subscription of SEK 450. One should not be deterred by the detail in the charts nor the heavy commercial traffic in narrow passages. We replenished water whenever possible and diesel outlets can be hard to find. One warning is that not all the unattended fuel pumps take foreign credit cards.

As mentioned in a previous report, the best harbour guide is Hamnguiden, a series of 11 guides to harbours and anchorages. Both the West and Eastern Swedish Archipelagos are so complex that paper charts are recommended as well as electronic. These are daunting at first but navigation marks are so good that correlation is easy. The Swedish Government Agency, Sjofartsverket, produces small boat folios of charts, Batsportkort, that cover most of its coastline, canals and larger lakes ( www.sjofartsverket.se ). There are excellent Finnish equivalents. All relevant charts may be bought online from www.nautic.se/ which may be accessed in English.

The only hazard we encountered was mosquitoes in fresh water areas. I am sure that any good advice from readers on their avoidance would be welcomed by all who sail in high latitudes.

We had hoped this year to include the Baltic coast of Germany and revisit the Baltic States but work intervened so hopefully we will next year. We met only a few British yachts this year, encountering an increasing number of German and Danish vessels with the occasional Pole and Russian. This was a disappointment, so I would welcome an approach from anyone intending to cruise this outstanding area needing either advice or some Irish hospitality!

Michael J Smith in PAVANE – michaeljsmith@uk2.net Feb 2017 – 2020

Michael Smith did not launch this year and has not sent a report.


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