“Dance ti’ thy daddy, sing ti’ thy mammy,
Dance ti’ thy daddy, ti’ thy mammy sing;
Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy,
Thou shall hev a fishy when the boat comes in.”
Traditional Geordie folk song.
I have a term of my own to describe a passage that is comfortable, relaxing, and sheer pleasure: Paradise Sailing. This is when the wind is gently consistent without any gusts, the sea has a lazy swell, just enough to remind you that you are flirting with the water element, and the sky an endless, sun-kissed blue. The sun warms the skin as you potter about, making tea and light snacks while the boat sails herself…
These moments are very rare, but for me provided the icing on a summer of magnificent sailing, in all weathers, punctuated by a series of challenging technical problems and angelic intervention when all seemed lost. It was a tale of two summers: one of low pressure and the other of high. The former, challenging and often breath-taking forays into the art of sailing an old motor-sailer in rocky, shallow channels amidst gusting, temperamental strong breezes, with pin-point navigation; the latter, gentle and lazy ‘paradise sailing’ along the southern stretch of the Jungfrukusten, from Gävle, back to Borka.
Sandwiched between these climatic episodes the almost metaphysical intervention of angels, Roger Lundqvist and his friend Jussi Kahti in Gävle. I’ll never forget them for they remind me of the true bond of sailing folk, who live for their passion and go the extra mile to help, no matter what the cost.
The time must come to return to your home ground wherever that may be, and for me, that is Borka and the special friends I have made there. A part of me is sailing on forever, into that space where time has no meaning and every moment is beautifully focussed on the teasing interplay of the elemental realm; however, I am also a practical, experienced sailor that is only too aware of the cruel nature of the Gulf of Bothnia during the oncoming winter. To abuse one’s good fortune is the height of poor seamanship, and yet one can be seduced into moments of recklessness just by the raw emotion of life under sail.
Winding my way northward through the Jungfrukusten Skärgård, into the bright blue skies of late summer with that ever faithful light sou’easterly breeze on my starboard quarter, I rested on tranquil anchorages in Trödjefjärden and Sundsmars, near Axmar, until arriving back at Söderhamn. It was here that I wanted to modify my fuel system by adding extra sediment traps directly after the fuel tanks before the water separator.
Without wishing to dwell too much on the technicalities of marine engineering, I need to emphasise the importance of avoiding the effects of impurities in the form of sediment and water. This can stop your engine dead, leaving one in dire, life-threatening danger. The more protection one can install, the better, for old boats have metal fuel tanks which get shaken up in rough weather, thus allowing all manner of impurities to enter the filters. Should a filter become blocked then the engine is naturally starved of fuel.
I knew this was going to be expensive and that Söderhamn was the only town in this part of Sweden that had a proper marine workshop. Åkerstöms Mekomarine, is only a few hundred metres away from the town moorings and it was a little presumptuous to assume that they would just do the work straight away. I know that in Britain, one must wait for weeks sometime before anyone will work on an emergency problem; my own experience has been thus. So when Tommy and Michel turned up one hour later to start work, I was amazed. The following day the whole job was finished, despite the fact that the parts I had were non-metric. Tommy went the extra mile to locate the offending articles and arrived exactly when he said he would. When I arrived at the workshop to pay the bill, I was amazed to learn that they had knocked off thirty per cent of the price. Incredible, and a huge thank you to the wonderful Åkerstöms Mekomarine, a proper old-fashioned type of company, catering not just for the wealthy but also for budget sailors such as myself.
After a few days, it was time to leave Söderhamn and the town moorings, where I met the delightful Caroline, a talented local artist who was managing the pier for the summer months. Typically for the north of Sweden, she made my stay a real pleasure and we had coffee together while she showed me some of the wonderful work from her website.
The final gift from Father Njörd was a stiff sou’westerly breeze that enable me to sail from the river in Söderhamn all the way back to Enångers fjärden and Borka, without the engine. Well-reefed for the first half due to the gusting nature of the powerful seventeen knot, breeze, I was eventually able to shake out all my sail to run on a close reach at a healthy five and a half knots, remaining thus while passing between the islands of Sörön and Vitön. This was truly a gift from the Gods and I couldn’t help wondering if they were rewarding me for all my resilience under sail!
‘You’ve done your bit, now we shall do ours.’
And so they did…
The majestic sunset ahead was complemented with a full moon in Free’s wake as we glided between the islands into the Enångers fjärden. Oh, if only it could have gone on forever. Maybe my romantic nature will be my demise, one day; however, seamanship called and I gently hove-to just before the lateral buoys, motoring the last few miles into Borka as the darkness bathed the surrounding hills with their pine-scented garnish.
So Free has come full circle, with a return to Borka. I was welcomed by Eva and Mats, who were waiting in the dark as I weaved my way alongside, taking my mooring ropes for me. My special friends then invited me to their house for sandwiches and coffee which was well appreciated after the thirty mile passage from Söderhamn.
There is a reason for returning this side of September and they are three fold: firstly, Eva’s birthday on the twenty ninth of August, secondly for Lysskväll (light evening) where the local people celebrate the end of Summer by showering the harbour in candle light, and thirdly the visit of my old friend Christian from London.
So the boat has indeed come in, and this Geordie for one, shall reflect on a life lived with the heart and those wonderful folk who have graced my presence during a most challenging passage; a thrilling fusion of perfect sailing and mind-baffling technical problems.
‘May the Gods bless you one and all’