I write this from the southwest of Finbo Island, the final one in my Åland odyssey, and of course, you guessed it… I am anchored! But after threading the needle between the channels and islets from Djupviken on the island of Geta, to here, I encountered a full on ‘scary monster’ scenario just to remind me that paradise can also be littered with tiny nasty surprises. Ask Adam and Eve!
The ‘poison apple’ in my case was an over active starter-motor (oh no, not that old chestnut) which decided to start running while my engine was under power. Most folk will know that the former is only to get the engine started, then it ends its function until the next time one needs the engine. In sheer desperation, I turned the engine off by lifting the full pump and turning off the battery isolation switch. Fortunately for me (thank you Njörd) it happened while I was manoeuvring in the anchorage and not when losing the wind in a rock infested channel! Without meaning to bore you with the technical details, I have worked out a way to by-pass the starter motor so that the alternator will charge the engine when running, this I did by isolating the live terminal once the engine was running; it’s a bit dangerous, but hey…. So are rocks when the engine won’t start. I suspect that the battery selector switch has a malfunction, either that or the starter motor has an internal short circuit. I hope it is the former hypothesis.
Even with all the time in the world, I doubt one could see everything in the Åland Islands; it would take many voyages, for sure. I have barely knicked the surface of this stony paradise and yet something deep within me has changed forever. Could it be the sense of aloneness; the feeling that one has sailed through a portal into another time? When perusing the charts, it doesn’t really do it justice because it looks so near to Sweden and Finland, and yet…
Why can’t I capture their essence with words and film? And the time… Where has it gone? I’ve been here for just a short while and yet it seems longer. A sense of deep cleansing, a huge space that balances mind and soul, so that the infernal mental chatter ceases. Emotions are washed like water colours as the night creeps into an anchorage, and all one can do is just be humbled.
Leaving Bomarsund left me in a dilemma, North or East? With so few places to re supply, food has become a major factor in determining my departure, that and the topsy turvey weather patterns. When you’ve been sailing a long time, experience is vitally important; I know that without last year’s northern voyage and my northern Finland episode, a single-handed affair in these islands would have been very unwise.
I sensed that pushing further east this year, may have left me struggling on my return across the Åland Sea to Sweden, which is tantamount to poor seamanship. Maybe a series of shorter voyages using Mariehamn as a base would be an alternative thought for the future, who knows? So I decided on a northern route up to the more remote islands and anchorages, to Länsmansgrund, Djupviken on Geta, Dånöfladen and finally Finbo, the last island, to wait out the wind for the crossing. I allowed two to three days of anchoring in each location to sample the little creeks and rocky shores in my little tender, ‘baby’, meditating, harvesting firewood, and investigating the local creatures and fauna. It is possible to spend hours just pottering around on the smooth granite outcrops of this remote, appealing wilderness.
The skill and pure sailing ability needed to negotiate the channels and multitude of rocks and islets has been immensely satisfying. To sail a sturdy, heavy motorsailer like Free, with her large leeway, between the islands and shallow ground has been exhilarating and sometimes downright terrifying!
Now I wait for that wind again, cultivating patience and presence. A brisk southerly breeze would be ideal for the Åland Sea crossing with some reduced wave height (wouldn’t that be nice?) but I’ve yet to find that perfect wind. I hope my temporary solution to the new starter motor problem will hold until I can repair the problem, but there’s always bloody something, right enough.