RoRC Report from the Baltic

RoRC Report from the Baltic

Andrew Curtain, s/v PILGRIM SOUL, takes us from Sweden to Germany via Denmark

By Andrew Curtain - 23/10/2018

This year Pilgrim Soul had an early trip up the river to Gothenburg, then through the Trollhatte canal to the large Lake Vanern visiting Vanersborg and its facilities. One tends to sail past the town as fast as possible when travelling eastwards, but we have always spent the night there when sailing west because, if one crosses the lake leaving early from the Gota Canal at Sjotorp, there would be a very late arrival. I personally do not recommend much night sailing in the Swedish lakes remembering a miserable approach to Vanersborg with serious light pollution from the town and large unlight buoys. On one occasion we followed a well crewed but tired Danish yacht which hit an unlit navigation buoy not in its expected position. Mind you though, the Swedish VHF gives regular and excellent navigation warnings in English for the whole coast and lakes, so we should have listened. They are very long. Interestingly, two operators speak alternately, presumably to keep one’s attention.

Later in the hottest summer for years PS sailed west to Skagen in Denmark where there is a wonderful art museum of the Danish impressionists and a superb delicatessen. In high summer, the harbour is miserably full, but somehow they pack all in. Then south to Copenhagen and Kiel to find Copenhagen crowded, but well worth the visit. Small, it is one of Europe’s most attractive capitals. One’s crew would be delighted with the beer, open sandwiches and an open air public tango scene. The city centre harbour, Nyhavn, in an ancient canal, has 17th century coloured houses, bars and many restaurants of surprisingly good quality for such a busy tourist area. It is a lively place to stay but can be noisy, grubby and very crowded. One sits in the cockpit with a G&T for the entertainment of the general public.

A visit to the Kiel area is recommended and many members will pass close by on their passage to the Baltic via the canal. There seems to be no end of well maintained large and small sailing ships constantly criss-crossing. Also, every small German town seems to have great value in small Italian restaurants with Kiel no exception. The town is well worth a visit and to sit in the cockpit just to watch the procession of yachts and sailing ships is a treat.

I don’t want any reader to think badly of our frequent mention of food and drink, but in Scandinavia one must. The food is first class and a real reason to visit, but the price of alcohol, particularly in restaurants, amazes one even more than the cost of running a boat. Apart from the Baltic States, Denmark, including Bornholm, is the only Scandinavian country where one can buy alcohol outside the state liquor stores. Prices are much more reasonable than Norway, Sweden and Finland, but prices in Germany are very much cheaper so, readers, stock up there.

PS then sailed to Ystad in the south of Sweden of Wallender TV detective fame to find a busy ferry port in a peaceful town with good facilities and no bodies in the street. On passage towards Stockholm, disaster struck. A piece of net wrapped around the propeller and the rope cutter on the prop shaft was inadequate. Stockholm Radio VHF quickly organised a tow by a local sea taxi into Karlskrona. It cost 7500 Krona, about 725 Euro. Karlskrona would be a good stopover in normal circumstances. There is a new marina with every facility with good depth. The nearby boatyard was only half functional during the summer holidays. We waited a few days to get lifted out and have the folding prop inspected, but because of an unsettling vibration we called a halt to the cruise, slowly sailing home in an almost calm, using the engine only for harbour entry. We have since bought a spare propeller. The folding prop needed to be sent back to the manufacturers in Italy for repair.

So what do I recommend to those thinking of sailing these waters next year? I would buy a connector to use the local aluminum gas cylinders which are large enough for almost a season. Cylinders are widely available in marinas and filling stations, connectors can be bought at most chandleries. Blue bottles of Camping Gas are rarely stocked.

One ties up in harbours bow to, after fixing the stern to a post or picking up a buoy. The skill of locals amazes, but short handed yachts from abroad have trouble, particularly in crosswinds. There is a contraption a bit like a shepherds crook, a sort of a Bo-Peep job, which is widely available and cheap and invaluable for dignified mooring. One simply picks up the buoy as it passes. Lastly, if one really wants to go native one may obtain a mooring spike available in most boat shops. Most local boats have a stern anchor. This is dropped while edging towards the shore. The most agile crew member jumps ashore to tie the bow to a tree or a ring in the rocks, of which there are many. If there are none, the spike is hammered into a crevice!

Finally, a word of warning. One is now obliged to use holding tanks and pump out facilities are more and more available. I have not yet heard of yachts being inspected, but the threat is there. More about planning in the next message with restaurant recommendations. Next season, we will be retracing our steps towards the Stockholm archipelago, hoping to meet many members.

Photo: Mooring buoy hook

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