RoRCs Report January 2018 - Baltic

RoRCs Report January 2018 - Baltic

The latest news and whereabouts [January] of our Club’s Roving Rear Commodores in the Baltic Sea

By David Blackburn - 30/01/2018

Andrew Curtain in Pilgrim Soul - May 2017 – 2020

Isn’t the smell of paint and varnish in a boatyard evocative? It will soon be that time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, when one’s thoughts turn to long bright summer nights, zephyrs and warmth. And where better to find this than Scandinavia with those Baltic anticyclones and long, long twilight. The weather is not always perfect, Pilgrim Soul has encountered ice in Northern Bothnia in late May and an average cruise will mean at least one gale a month, but that soft light at 1 am is a major reason to go.

The writer first started sailing in those waters in the late ‘60s. Then a student , I took for granted the long summer holidays. The late Ninian Falkiner and Rory O’Hanlon, stalwarts of the Irish Cruising Club, loved northern latitudes and took me and others along in yachts that would now be considered primitive. These days, couples happily cruise in 50’ yachts, but then a 40’ yacht needed muscle; we 6 squashed into 38 feet. Those living in the forepeak (yours truly) slept amongst wet headsails which often needed changing, there being no rolling forestays. Reefing the mainsail took two or three crew with a solid wooden boom and roller reefing. Today, one rarely needs to go on deck. So yachts are safer and easier. But the biggest change I have appreciated in time is not the undisputed comfort of modern yachts, but efficient engines, weather forecasting and accurate positioning.

I am certain that all you colleagues in OCC use the barometer when coastal cruising, but am equally certain that most others don’t. In the late '60s, it was all that we had, no VHF. I remember in 1969, somewhere near the Lofotens, beating against a SW near gale for 10 days. We were trying to get home to Ireland and just about picked up what was then called the BBC Long Wave programme. Every day, their Shipping Forecast at some ungodly hour promised a persistent Northerly force 4. After days of this miserable weather and rotten forecasting, his call of “Pleasant sailing Gentlemen” at least took the heat off the squalor and damp.

Today we have weather forecasting with accuracy taken for granted. Scandinavia is no exception. Listen on Channel 16 for the regular announcements of weather forecasts and navigation warnings, but know the local station channels. The bonus is that they are also given in English. Only diehards now have no internet. An advantage of the EU is that there are now no roaming charges between countries so smartphones are useful and coverage everywhere, even in Russia, is excellent. We use a dedicated modem with prepaid local Sim cards obtainable in most towns. These can be topped up online. The Swedish Weather Agency, SMHI, have a wonderful service covering the whole region. Try it at home.,proxy=wpt-a,lang=sv,area=none
Much easier to enter “SMHI sjorapporten” and cut and paste results onto Google Translate until one gets used to the words. There is also a useful weather radar page. One learns from mistakes so there is a cautionary tale of details lost in translation. Wind speeds are usually given there in meters per second: double it and one roughly gets knots. In the Russian Saima Canal we couldn’t get an official forecast, but were told that there was going to be a NE’ly at 28. “28 what”, we asked, to be told “knots”. God bless his English. It was 28 meters per second, a Force 10, fortunately on the quarter. The barometer was steady!

The archipelago anywhere is no place to be in bad weather. There we learned that other benefit of these times: accurate position location. Without GPS, we used to tick off passing navigation marks on the chart regularly updating our position in hard copy and still do. I am certain that few do this but it is a good habit. The local leisure chart folios, called Batsportkort in all the countries are to be recommended. I have experience of 2 great chart stores, Nautiska Magasinet in Stockholm has a shop worth visiting, even for browsing. They are located in the old town Gamlastan. One usually moors in the central Wasa Marina, and it is a simple ferry ride almost to their door. Their website is in Swedish, but simple to follow.

Again, try it at home; it’s easy. Once there, click Sjokort then Batsportkort for charts and Litteratur then Hamnguider for the harbour guides. They give advice by email or phone and their English is better than mine. The other great shop is Nautic Center in Gothenburg. They have an English page and helpful staff who readily give advice by email.

The Finns have one over the other Scandinavians. In their archipelago, which is near heaven to cruise, some of the islands are marked with a large letter billboard which may be correlated on the chart. Although the charts are daunting, there are few excuses for getting lost. Note that smaller boat suppliers usually only stock the relevant local charts and these tend to run out during the season.
We are infrequently visited by customs or immigration officials except in Finland where arriving yachts must check in at customs stations, even if from the EU. Once checked in, one is rarely bothered, but official boats often approach to check out. A must when coming from the east is to check in at an island border post either Santio or Happasari islands, close to the Russian border. It is a serious offence for any yacht to ignore this. An ICC yacht was recently fined for the mistake. If going to Finland, Russia or the Baltic States, make up an Excel spreadsheet crew list showing name, date of birth, nationality and passport number and print out lots; you will need them.

Finally, one bit of advice. Most yachts in continental Europe use the blue Camping Gas cylinders. These are nearly impossible to obtain in Scandinavia. I would strongly recommend the expenditure of a fitting for the local gas bottles which can be obtained everywhere, even in filling stations. They should fit in most gas lockers and one lasts me almost a whole season of constant cooking. They are aluminium so, unlike the blue ones, don’t rust and are light to carry. They are worthwhile taking home as the empties can be refilled anywhere.
It is hoped that this is helpful. I would be delighted if I can offer any further advice and in all enthusiasm would welcome joining up with members present and future next summer.

Ernie Godshalk in Golden Eye - Nov 2017 – 2020

I am pleased to have recently been appointed RoRC – Baltic, joining Andrew Curtain, and, consistent with the “Terms of Reference - RoRC,” look forward to promoting OCC in the region, visiting with port officers and providing pilotage, navigation and cruising information.

Golden Eye, a McCurdy and Rhodes-designed Hinckley Sou-wester 42, built in Southwest Harbor, Maine in 1996, has been in the Baltic, except for one summer in Brittany and a winter in Norway, since 2011. Her cruising has extended from the Kiel Canal/Baltic Germany/Denmark to Lofoten, Norway, the west and east coasts of Sweden via Øresund and Göta Canal, Åland Islands, southern Finland, Estonia, Bornholm, Christiansø and Gotland. She has wintered in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Netherlands and now lies near Stockholm.

I am also Post Captain of The North American Station of the Royal Scandinavian Yacht Clubs and Nyländska Jaktklubben (The NAS), the US operations of the five largest yacht clubs in the Nordic countries, so have gotten to know those clubs and their flag officers, facilities and fine hospitality.

Photo: Completed Maypole being erected

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