Better late than never I suppose, at least that is probably what most Swedish folk are feeling right now. I am genuinely happy for them and it has been pleasant to witness some of the high energy they put into partying, and indulgence in all manner of water-sports. Having put into Öregrund again to finally buy some most welcome victuals, I arrived during a water fest involving huge, high-powered craft screaming around the vicinity. Rather than protest, I just let it wash over me and allowed myself to be a tourist for the next few days. The sun is hot and a blue sky without a rain cloud in sight, and nothing in the forecast either. Mind you, in my experience, this is when one has to be really careful up here in Scandinavia, for the hotter it gets, the more likely it is for a huge, violent thunderstorm.
My sacred wind for the Åland Sea crossing arrived and I was blessed with a beautiful strong breeze that saw Free make her fastest ever passage over thirty eight miles. The crossing had everything: half of it under full sail with a moderate sea, and the second, a huge side swell causing Free to almost leap over the wave crests. I was forced to hove-to after passing the Märket lighthouse thirteen nautical miles out from my starting place, Finbo Island, on the north west of the Åland chain, just over half way across to Sweden. This was necessary to enable me to reduce sail, as she was definitely over-pressed, despite a spunky sailing performance.
Free is an old vessel and I would hate to damage the rigging by sailing her too hard in these challenging conditions; so lowering the stays’l was enough for her to maintain a speed of over five knots until the Öregrund channel, where the islands shielded us from the full extent of the breeze.
There is good news and bad news…
The bad news is that the engine has to be started by bypassing the normal ignition system and a new spare ignition switch failed to repair the problem. The good news is that I have been able to sail with the battery fully charged due to the realisation that my solar panels, ‘the twins’, have been dormant all this time. Whilst testing my electrical system with the voltmeter, I discovered that there was nearly twenty volts coming from ‘the twins’, failing to reach the batteries.
In theory the combination of this and the wind generator (Wendy) should keep the batteries fully charged so that the autopilot can steer Free while I do other tasks. Eventually I located the fault; it was the voltage regulator unit, which stops the solar panels over charging the batteries and literally cooking them. This rather expensive piece of kit has only lasted since 2012, which is disgraceful. What’s the point of investing in something to save energy when it costs you more than using expensive fossil fuels to replace it? Alternative energy sources have to be viable or folk will never take them seriously and who can blame them?
So what is a girl to do? She must rig up a switch to engage the panels, and remember to turn it off when the batteries are charged, to avoid an unwanted barbecue! Still, better that than yet another expensive replacement. This woman’s war against consumerism continues unabashed!
Tomorrow I aim to pick up a mooring buoy off Björn (bear) Island, a favourite of mine for its sheer aloneness and elemental power and then a slow, laid back, meander up the Jungfrukusten (Maiden’s coast) towards Söderhamn, just south of Borka.
This nice little town has a useful marine workshop and the moorings are almost in the town so it is a valuable chance to bypass the endless need for lifts and relying on the goodwill of local folk to procure equipment for repairs. This is the main problem with sailing up in the north of Scandinavia, unfortunately.
Until then, I hope for some kind winds and beautiful sunsets to relax and sustain me, and hopefully, my friends, you too.