My true quest finally began in earnest as I left Sundsvall on a rainy, grey afternoon with flecks of rain in the air. James and Tara had left, leaving me to focus on one of my lifetime ambitions: reaching the top of the Gulf of Bothnia and visiting Swedish Lapland.
I know, I know, why not somewhere tropical like the Caribbean, or crossing the Atlantic? How about something exciting like circumnavigating the Globe?
For some reason, none of these really appeal to me. I am sure they are all incredible feats of courage and endurance needing a high degree of skill, but if I hear one more story about a fifteen year old girl with one leg, sailing single-handed backwards and upside down around the world, I’ll ………..
Scandinavia and especially the Gulf of Bothnia, has always enchanted me, listening to my tall ship sailing great uncles with their tales; and now I find myself on the cusp of drifting into a childhood dream with my long suffering boat, Free.
As previously mentioned, the weather has been a mixed bag this summer in Sweden with a continual northerly airflow bringing chilly air down from Norway and Finland. When, oh when, would I be able to sail again like last summer?
Answer: ten miles out from Sundsvall.
A sou’easterly stepped into the breach and allowed me to set full sail for the little bay at Lustholmen near Härnösand. Free reached a competent speed of around five knots but was subjected to an uncomfortable swell from the starboard quarter, producing a sickening roll that deposited an array of chaos down below; for no matter how careful one is during stowage, a lively sea always has the last laugh. Nevertheless, I was content to live with the crazy motion as long as Free made good sea miles, and she did, a full fifteen, before the necessity of starting the engine on the approach to Lustholmen.
During one of my engine room checks, I was horrified to notice that voltage booster regulator had stopped working and was devoid of any lights. As this instrument has a close connection to the alternator, I was worried that the batteries would soon need trusty old Horatio, the petrol generator to perform. Thankfully, he was able to top up the charge, but after a while it seemed that the alternator was more than able to perform this task anyway. Marine electrics has never been my strongpoint, so imagine how elated I was on restarting the engine later after sailing, to see the regulator working again as if nothing had gone wrong!
The approach to Lustholmen was like the prelude to a Wagnerian opera. All that was missing were thunder and lightning, and I was relieved to finally drop anchor in the cosy little bay, exhausted after the battering from the heavy swell.
The next day dawned hot and windless so a disappointing motor for twenty miles was necessary in order to keep up some northerly progress. If I am to reach Lapland, it is very necessary to keep up the momentum before the northerlies begin their relentless rhythm again. Hopefully I can reach my goal sometime in early August before turning south again down the Finnish coast. It wouldn’t do to get caught by an early winter while too far north resulting in having to leave Free stranded in a small village somewhere.
Due to the total lack of wind, I decided to tie up to a Svenska Kryssarklubben buoy in Hummelviken, (62º54.6’N, 18°27.1’E) a little bay in the magnificent Edsätterfjärden. These little buoys have provided me with some lovely, peaceful evenings without the worries of a dragging anchor. Unfortunately there are not many of them and quite often they are taken, especially further south towards Stockholm.
However this is the Höga Kusten (High Coast) and is far more remote than the busy Stockholm Archipelago. I have sailed for some distance without even seeing another boat and this is the middle of the high summer season! There is a wild, ruggedness about this landscape, befitting of a true Viking. No wonder they were such brave warriors and fine seamen. The red granite, deep fjords and dense pine forest are typical of this stunning part of Northern Sweden.
To hell with the Caribbean!