From the title, you will see that I have returned safely to Borka Brygga.
Nine hundred and seventy nautical miles (which is approximately one thousand, one hundred and sixteen land miles) of open sea, archipelago and fjords. From the grand entry to Sundsvall, to the rocky, tortuous approach to Kemi. From the violence of the thunderstorms off Piteå to the glorious broad reach sailing of the Haparanda Skärgård; I have experienced it all and come through without touching a single rock.
Had it not been for the loss of my little tender and long time companion, I could not have asked for more.
The kindness of both Swedish and Finnish folk on both sides of the Gulf of Bothnia have touched my heart deeply and I am moved to tears of gratitude to know that in these hard, frightening times, when the world seems to be tearing itself apart, there are lovely, kind people willing to help a lonely, single handed sailor in her attempt to find out what she can do in the realms of the far north. Thank you all from the deepest part of my soul.
Milo and I said farewell to each other in Bönhamn and Free sailed on the best and most challenging stretch yet to Sundsvall in a stiff following nor’ westerly, which mercifully came off the land producing waves that were manageable for her poor old helm! I broke my own record for a day under sail of forty six miles without engine. It was an exhausting but fulfilling sail leaving me so proud of my little, steadfast sailer.
Sundsvall is a long way up the fjord, almost eight miles; however it was necessary for me to resupply as my food was almost gone. The next day found me wishing that I had not bothered, for Free found herself fighting to get out to sea again as the wind had veered round to east, sou’east overnight, meaning that I had to sail her very close to the wind with her sails and running gear sheeted in very tight. An old boat like Free, doeasn’t like this as she is too broad in the beam to attack the wind, thus, unlike pedigree sailing boats, will tend to fall off or luff up, struggling and slowing down. Sometimes she needs the engine to help her so it was necessary for a short while until finally clearing the land, a nasty lee shore with the wind blowing us on. Big waves were hammering us as we rounded the headland and shallow ground caused them to be even larger than usual.
Once Free was out of the Sundsvall Fjärden and the wind dropped off her bow to the side, she was able to sail on the reach without the engine, taking a big strain off the rigging and sails. She relaxed and began to build up speed for the short passage down to the little settlement of Lilubben only two days away from Borka. Just one night was necessary after the difficult escape from Sundsvall, and at this point I must thank the lovely lady who gave me some tins of vegetables just before I left the following morning. So typical of the kind, generous folk along the coast of Northern Sweden. God bless you.
My aim had been returning to Borka to share the Scandinavian festival of Lyskväll with my friend Eva. I missed this event last year due to leaving Free early for the Camino in Spain. It takes place on the final Saturday of August to say farewell to Summer. This is done by decorating the harbours and shores of Northern Sweden with candles. The festival’s origin is Finland but it has been enthusiastically embraced by the Swedes. I made it the following day to Stocka, one day north of Borka and witnessed the festival in the harbour there.
What an enchanting evening it was! I decided to enter into the spirit of the occasion by adorning Free’s after gunwale with tea lights. It is difficult to capture the beauty of the moment on a camera as one misses the special atmosphere. I stood in silence, engrossed as the tiny lights lit up the small harbour with tiny fluttering pin pricks. I could feel the tug of the old Gods. I’m sure Odin would have approved!
The following day I sailed the final thirty odd miles to Borka, arriving as night was falling, enveloping the Enånger Fjäarden in a cloak of twilight. I motored the last six miles, as the wind had finally died, witnessing the magical Scandinavian moment when the sky and the sea appear to merge together as one.
How fitting, I reflected that all should come together for this Viking Queen and her return to that special little haven that has stolen her heart; her special friend Eva, the kind, helpful, Micke and the generous Borka Brygga boat club.
Like so many of my ancestors before me, throughout the centuries, I know the feeling of what it is like to make that special voyage and feel the thrill of the final landfall where a welcome awaits.
I hope that I have made them proud…