Due to a series of bridges, it is not possible to reach the city of Umeå; so Free is tied up to a Svenska Kryssarklubben buoy, just to the south, at a little place called Obbola (63˚41’N, 20˚18’E), waiting out some weather.
The wind has once again returned to a frustrating North Easterly direction, right on the nose, as is the habit in the Gulf of Bothnia, especially this far north. I am quite pleased to have taken the opportunity, while possible, to use the few days of Southerly breezes to put in a good long sailing stretch in which since leaving Borka, I have covered 212.3 nautical miles (corrected from ridiculous first number, apologies!). This means I am now over half way in my quest to reach the top of the Gulf, at a place called Törehamn, which is the furthest north possible in a boat.
My progress thus far is pleasing, especially as it has involved some of the most patient and skilful, light wind sailing I have ever done, with a personal best of thirty six miles between Hummelviken and Järnäshamn; no mean feat with an old motor-sailer. There seems to be a method for sailing on this tricky, lonely coastline, with its shoals, rocks, islands and fjords.
My own method has been to make sea room in the morning with the early wind, drift becalmed for a few hours (having a leisurely lunch) then use the afternoon breeze to cover the distance necessary before making the final approach.
Many boats seem to motor directly without bothering to harness the light winds, but very few are as far out as Free; perhaps they have a limited amount of time to enjoy their short holiday, whereas, lack of money tends to motivate a different approach to this sailing life.
Since Sundsvall, I have not touched dry land and saved money; also, the sailing has preserved my diesel reserves. After two nights here on a buoy, I hope to enter my first Gasthämn (guest harbour) at Holmsund Patholmsviken a few miles down the fjord. My food and water reserves have dwindled somewhat and I am down to rye bread and marmite, which although pleasant enough need some supplementation!
Life becomes very basic when living off the anchor. In the past, I have often gone for days without speaking to another soul. This is one the facts of life and there are many who cannot cope. This is not to say that it is easy for me; just a way of life, a series of minor problems and routines that form part of a kaleidoscope of a seafaring life. It is difficult to ‘have your cake and eat it’ in life, and there are always compromises. I hope when mine is through, I’ll be able to say:
“It was a life well lived.”