Hjem… There and back again.

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.

Hjem... the Geordie word for home, is almost the same as the Swedish, Hem. Borka feels like home to me.

Hjem… the Geordie word for home, is almost the same as the Swedish, Hem. Borka feels like home to me.

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.

Free, on a good broad reach, leaves the High Coast behind.

Free, on a good broad reach, leaves the High Coast behind.

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.

Big waves were hammering Free as we rounded the headland.

Big waves were hammering Free as we rounded the headland.

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.

At last... the wind is now on the port beam so she can sail on the reach.

At last… the wind is now on the port beam so she can sail on the reach.

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.

Lyskväll, festival of light, to say farewell to the Summer.

Lyskväll, festival of light, to say farewell to the Summer.

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!

I tried to enter into the spirit of the occasion in Stocka harbour.

I tried to enter into the spirit of the occasion in Stocka harbour.

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…


About Viking Queen

I am a sailor and I live on my boat 'Free'. I have no home but originate from Tyneside. I have no allegiance, just a desire to do no harm and live with courage and an open heart.
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28 Responses to Hjem… There and back again.

  1. christisn says:

    well done u and free another adventure completed. here too her winter rest and she will roaring back again in spring

    • Viking Queen says:

      Thanks Chris… A month of peace now until she comes out of the water. I can sleep at last without stress. Keep me updated about your news.

  2. Harriet Warner says:

    Poppy, you darling! It has been such a pleasure to follow your blog this summer. Just enchanting. At the beginning of the season, you told us that you thought this might be your last season. Now that you have a glorious few months behind you, what are your thoughts? xxxxxHarriet

    • Viking Queen says:

      This message is a lovely surprise, Harriet! The future? Well I can’t sell Free in this climate so it puts me in a difficult situation because she is an old lady and her time is somewhat finite. As you know, money is a huge issue in my life so everything is always on a shoestring. This has its risks on a seagoing boat, waiting for the next problem to reveal itself. Every time something happens, I somehow manage to wriggle out of it, but there’s bound to be a time when the luck runs out. Then… I suppose I’ll find out just how strong I really am. In the meantime I shall start my next ‘travel book’, this time about the voyage from Amsterdam until now. I have a pithy title for it.; ‘Looking for Wallander’!
      My aim has always been to find a wretched agent to give me a chance. Once I have it, there is a saga of writings to be produced, enough to cover the story from the Red Sea until now. It would be a fine climax to a seafaring life to write these and finally retire these two old ladies.
      Next year, I am tempted to head east into the Åland Islands, cross to Southern Finland and explore the Gulf of Finland until reaching St Petersburg. This of course depends on whether I can secure a visa. From there to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I have a taste for less tourism as you know, and these locations mirror that. However, it’s a long time until then, and there are blueberries and wild mushrooms to eat here in Borka, for the next month, until Free is lifted out for her winter slumber. Please take care, my friend and I wish you and yours the very best.

  3. Viki Moore says:

    I am sure your ancestors are VERY proud! Great adventure!

    • Viking Queen says:

      Thanks Viki. I just watched ‘All is lost’ with Robert Redford last night. Have you seen it? Wow, it really makes me realise just how fine the margins are in this kind of life. I appreciate your encouragement and interest. Fair winds to you.

      • Viki Moore says:

        Yes I watched it about a month ago. Hope my Mum doesn’t watch it or she would be forever worried! Life is a risky business isn’t it. People think that sailing can be dangerous but are quite happy to jump in a car, which is far more likely to kill them, but for some reason people aren’t scared of driving in cars. I wonder why that is!?

      • Viking Queen says:

        Good point. I think it was the resourcefulness of the character that made me identify with it. I can see me doing similar so the film really rang true. Containers… like a metal iceberg. Chilling.

      • Viki Moore says:

        Absolutely! We set off some flares in a demonstration the other day, they don’t burn for long so I could totally appreciate why those ships missed him completely!

      • Viking Queen says:

        Yes, that was worrying. When my father was at sea, there was always a crew man on the bridge wing in addition to the officer of the watch. I noticed a complete lack on the ship that came very close. Also, in the Red Sea, I noticed that many of the ships seemed to be the same and much faster than in my father’s day. I believe that watch-keeping on merchant navy vessels has become very poor, possibly due to excess automation.
        I noticed a ship completely disregard the buoyage in Sundsvall harbour and take a short cut! Terrifying, as I was under full sail, close hauled on a lee shore! I had to hove-to, absolutely unnecessary if he had followed the proper channel.

      • Viking Queen says:

        Didn’t mean to be negative… but it was an unfortunate, accurate reflection of most money driven, low skilled ships these days. I’m sure that’s not going to affect you Viki. My experience with southern hemisphere sailors is one of guts, determination and ability… go for it girl! ;0)

      • Viki Moore says:

        Absolutely! Want to follow in your footsteps! 🙂

      • Viking Queen says:

        No… you guys are ocean sailors… I’m just a coastal plodder in a ropey old motorsailer! ;0)

  4. cornishtim says:

    I have loved sharing your journey so much. Doesn’t sound like your lovely boat is ready to stop her sagas and, as you seem to be so integral to her successful passage it looks like you are the one destined to work her sheets and reefs! Good luck in your search to get published.
    By the way – the Tall Ships event was mind blowing. A friend had got passage on a German boat with a young German female Master. On his way to Greenwich as I speak. May you have a restful and event full Winter.

    • Viking Queen says:

      The pleasure is mine Tim… Your feedback has always been thoughtful, challenging, and perceptive. I wish you a fruitful winter too and be careful out in the Roads!

  5. Rose says:

    What a feeling it must have been, celebrating the end of summer and also knowing your glorious and challenging journey on Free in the Gulf of Bothnia has almost come to a completion. I got goose bumps, looking at the photo of the little tea lights on the rocks. Feeling the power of nature and its dormant forces, so peaceful in the evening light, and man’s respect and love for her. This is just the end of one episode, nothing ever really ends, does it… I am sure you are enjoying the blueberries and wild mushrooms – they must taste all the better for the struggles you’ve successfully undertaken at sea. This is the time for reaping!

    • Viking Queen says:

      Very perceptive, Rose. Being a sailor connects you with these cycles and rhythms. The slightest changes in elemental patterns become one’s second nature, as it were. One becomes integrated with the subtle transition and then swept by the power of the change. I actually remember the exact moment, in Finland, when summer ended.

  6. Ingrid says:

    Hello Poppy! Dont know if you remember me, we met shortley at Trysunda island. We had the day Cruiser, “Green Pearl” a fairline and you helped me to jump onboard our boat after the big ship Poseidon left. We have been reading your log with fascination and thought we could surprise you at Borka, we where pasing by on our way back from Stockholm last sunday. We missed you with a few hours. 😦
    Hope to se you in the future, best of luck to you and Free.
    Best from Ingrid and Ove.
    (Hjem is the same word for home in norwegian)

    • Viking Queen says:

      Hej Ingrid! Glad you wrote… Sorry to miss you. It was lovely to meet you on Trysunda. What a lovely place. Yes, I knew it was Norwegian because we are nearer there than Sweden. I hope you follow my voyages and write again. Regards to Ove. You never know we could meet again, let’s hope so!

  7. rollinwithcarro says:

    Hi Poppy. Back at Borka your seconnd home.. will you leave Free there for the winter? Miss you.♥

    • Viking Queen says:

      Yes Caro. I will leave her there and am repairing some things from the storm damage. Lovely to receive your message and I miss you too. What a shame all this happened. I miss both of you and often remember the good times. Px

  8. What a lovely, atmospheric and fitting end to your journey. But one’s journey is never completely over. The next door awaits. It has been so kind of you to share a little window into these voyages with us here in the blogging world. I hope you enjoy your well earned rest over the winter. What an achievement!!! Can’t wait for the book. 🙂

    • Viking Queen says:

      You are most welcome, Amanda. You have won my most prolific contributor award… if I had one! If it wasn’t for you, most of my feedback would have vanished. I have a lot of interest statistically, but mainly from Sweden and other European countries, from folk I don’t know. Unfortunately, most of my old friends have vanished. I guess we just have such different realities that it is inevitable.
      I find myself asking the question ‘why bother’? And the reply is simple… folk like you, the beautiful Swedish and Finnish people who I have met on my voyages, and finally because it is a story that I enjoy writing. Do we write to accumulate statistics, to swell our own ego; or is it something more fundamental than that? I’ll vouch for the latter.
      We are living in ever more ‘virtual times’, so much so that the old ‘Viking’ spirit… of adventuring has become somewhat sanforised. It’s all in films and books. The modern world is contracting everything and romance has become about relationships rather than the elemental realm. I hope that my Saga has challenged this view, but mainly we do it, if we’re honest, for that small, quiet voice within… our own truth and the steely, refusal to abandon our integrity. The romance of reality is all to me.

  9. Poppy, I don’t know sailing but I do know we share that mysterious blood of adventure. The not knowing what is on the other side of the wave is an excitement that words can’t express. But, I know you will capture that emotion in your book. You are a talented and gifted writer. Thanks for sharing your experience that you are having with mother nature and yourself. Your challenge has helped me to keep on putting one foot in front of another.

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