No matter how many times Free has set out on another voyage, the fluctuating emotions somehow convince me that there is nothing else I should be doing, and that a life without this passion would be shallow indeed.
Thus the departure from the beautiful Borka, and my haven the Enånger Båtsällskap, left me with sadness at not seeing my friends again for a while; and yet the thrill of the open sea again and running my easting down towards the Åland Islands. Such conflicting emotions! Over the past few years, Borka has become like a home for me, a mixture of peace and clarity, with friendly, reserved folk, who have welcomed a seafaring stranger into their midst with a friendliness not even afforded me in my own land.
The seas of the Gulf of Bothnia have become my local sailing ground and have fashioned and faceted this raw but determined sailor into someone approaching an unorthodox competence. Surely I would never be passing my yacht masters certificate, but thousands of miles have passed under my keel since those shaky origins in the Mediterranean Sea; a tapestry of storms, hair-raising navigation, stormy personal relationships; in fact a full kaleidoscope of a life lived to the full without compromise, leaving me reeling with sheer joy and yet smitten with the sword of shipwrecked heartaches by people I just cannot fathom. No RYA classroom has that in its syllabus.
This time I was sailing south with a friend of mine, Christian, on holiday for a while, although it was still a single-handed affair, as he relaxed in the sun on deck after a long and difficult previous year in his life. Our first port of call was the delightful little town of Söderhamn, approximately thirty nautical miles south of Borka. A beautifully vigorous close-hauled sail in a stiff breeze saw Free excelling herself at six knots for mile after mile. Rarely has she performed so well. I was constantly shortening sail to ease the pressure on her old rigging and deck fittings, but as usual her seaworthiness enable us both a reasonably comfortable experience.
The following day was a less exhilarating affair with a frustratingly light South-easterly breeze finding Free sailing too close to the wind to be effective. Rarely did she make more than four knots and dear old Polly my trusty Perkins engine was called into action occasionally, to add a bit of oomph to round some very tricky, rocky headlands, so typical of the Swedish coast. Rocky shallows have a nasty habit of creeping up on you, especially on anything approaching a lee-shore.
Eventually we covered the thirty-two nautical miles necessary to reach the quirky little harbour at Norrsundet, where Christian will finally leave to carry on with his travelling. He is certainly no sailor, failing to appreciate the skill to actually use the wind to cover distance. On arrival in Norrsundet, he failed to understand the point of spending so much time to travel such little distance. His attitude is a reminder to the speed of the modern world and how most folk need instant gratification, which they call progress. For me it is a nightmare that I hope to keep awake from as long as I can.
The next few days promise high South-easterly winds, so Norrsundet will suffice as a peaceful backwater for me to retain my calm and reconnect with my soul. As soon as the window of opportunity presents itself I will sail east-southeast towards Björn Island and Öregrund, before making the twenty nautical mile hop across to the Åland Islands.
At least that is the theory… As you’ve probably guessed by now, what actually happens is often very different!