The ecstasy and the agony

Seafaring is a dangerous life…An obvious statement of fact but painfully true. When you are in your element you also stand on the edge of hell, as was revealed off the island of Iggön on the evening of the twenty-seventh of June.

Helgoland was the last episode of misfortune where I found an uncharted rock in the Sudhafen back in 2013. Since then there has been an unblemished, glorious accumulation of sea miles amongst Archipelagos from the south of Sweden, up into the waters of Lapland and then down the scary, rock-infested coast of Finland.

My nemesis in the harbour at Helgoland.

Always in the back of any sailor’s mind is the thought that this time may be the last, for who knows what lurks beneath the surface? Make no mistake, humility comes with experience, for armchair yacht masters are always lecturing on what should and should not be done from their bar stools. The reality is somewhat different, of course.

My good fortune finally ran out after two days of wonderful light-wind sailing from the island of Agön in the Enångersfjärden, southward to Iggön just north of Gävle. One moment of madness, a fatal lapse of concentration and that was that – taking the ground in the anchorage. I missed the transit marks to take me safely into the center of the anchorage for the first time in five years and… well, just that.

Painful rest knowing that Free is wounded. I wait for the morning…

It is so difficult to rest on the anchor while your friend is wounded below the waterline, not knowing how much water she will take in during the night. Such beauty above and such hell below. I will always remember this fateful night as one of extreme beauty; a pristine full moon and a glorious sunset. Isn’t that the nature of things? The ecstasy and the agony. All of this at the end of thirty miles of pure sailing, a memorable dance with a tricky light breeze, harnassing her the best way I could – pulling out all of the tricks of my lifetime’s experience. All of this concluded with a disastrous lapse of concentration. Oh if only time could be reversed for ten mad seconds.



The end of another battle: alongside in Gävle after a hell of a fight from Iggön.


The following day I had to run the gauntlet in a powerful sou’ westerly, in an attempt to reach Gävle, where I knew there were facilities to examine the damage. This town lies in the awkward southwestern enclave of the notorious Gävle Bight, capable of some really rough stuff.

This was a good time to be reunited with Roger Lundqvist, an old friend who has helped me so many times. He knows all there is to know about this area, especially boatyards with technical facilities. He knows the right people, for such an affair. If I had to choose a location for impact then it would have to be here – truly fortuitous.



Roger Lundqvist, ‘The Angel of Gävle’. 


Roger and the local guys are all related to the local boat yard Fliskär, just outside of the town, and it was here that I took Free the following day. This is the perfect place in this part of Sweden to haul a boat out of the water without having to find a local crane driver and then the wood, plus carpenter to complete the task. Within an hour of arriving, the yard had my poor old sister out of the water and out onto steel supports.



Out at Fliskär boatyard.

The prognosis was as bad as I thought. The keel had taken a real wallop and cracked in several places. Ironically, it seems as if this incident has revealed further previous damage as the keel’s cement filling appears to be waterlogged, possibly the result of my intimate meeting with a reef of the coast of Ithaca in Western Greece back in 2007. Of course, it might have been even before I bought her in 2006 – who knows?



The cruel sea…

So what’s next?

What can I say?

Perhaps Roger and the guys can work a temporary miracle. Maybe Free can continue her voyage south, in the twilight of her life. Seafaring is unpredictable by nature and no sailor can tell when their last voyage will be. There are times when I feel so tired of this life and yet, the feel of a gentle reach and fair breeze with the sun sparkling in the wake, makes this better than anything else that the world can offer.


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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20 Responses to The ecstasy and the agony

  1. Liz Poole says:

    Hi Poppy,
    So sad to hear your news. At least you got yourself and Free to safety.
    Thinking of you and hoping the cost of repair will be in bounds of reason.
    Wishing you all good things, Liz x

    • Viking Queen says:

      Thanks Liz… so good to hear from you again. Offsets this whole affair somewhat. I am lucky to be near a good friend of mine, Roger Lundqvist, who lives here. Roger and his friends are very capable in these matters and are helping me, so I am very grateful. I suppose three major groundings in 20,000 Nautical miles isn’t too bad.

  2. Pelle says:

    Hi Poppy!
    I hope you will soon find your inspiration and joy for sailing again after this “little missfortune” 🙂
    and that Free till be in the water soon.
    Right now i`m experience the wonderful kindness of people in Torshamn, Faeroe Island. There are places like this that makes hazardous sailing worth wile. Places where people just greats you welcome to their country and asks if you want something to eat after that long sailing.
    Fair winds to you and Free so you can continue to experience the wonderful things about nature and meetings with so many lovely people.

    • Viking Queen says:

      Thanks Pelle… I have no choice really! Congratulations on reaching the Faeroes! An amazing feat to add to Nordkapp. A true Viking!

  3. Viki Moore says:

    Ouch poor Free! I hope she gets well soon, and you too of course! Must have given you both a terrible fright! xxx

    • Viking Queen says:

      Thanks Viki… My luck finally ran out, but considering my crucial lack of concentration, I probably got off lightly.

  4. Claus Højlund says:

    Dry it out or move what is wet , and new fiber 😉 Best luck to both of you 🙂

  5. david says:

    Poppy……on offer…..we are in Wales. A long way above sea level…..with a spare bedroom….. think about this seriously for this winter……..We would love your company for the winter……….we have four cats….and a 99 year old Mother………you are more than welcome.
    Lots of love and support……Penny and David…xxxx

  6. Rosemarie Nitschke says:

    Hi Poppy, I can’t help but see that with all the trials and tribulations of your rock encounter with Free, you must still have Freya and the sea gods of the north with you making sure that you and Free are taken care of. That’s an amazing story that you wrote and especially the part where you mention how fortunate you are for this ‘disaster’ to hit you in the best possible places along the coast of South Sweden. I will get in touch with you tomorrow. Love and hugs, Rose

    • Viking Queen says:

      Hi Rose, I feel the you are correct. I have always felt their presence and this could have been so much worse. Always new lessons to be learned. If I’d have been alone I dont think this would have happened as I’d have been more focussed. I take full responsibility for what happened, of course.

  7. Arcady says:

    Hi Poppy,

    I have just seen this post. My commiserations to you. It’s a horrible feeling when you hit something hard! I too have imperilled my last boat through a momentary lack of concentration. I think that if one spends enough time on the water, it’s almost inevitable, statistically speaking. Don’t berate yourself unnecessarily! It looks like the damage is not too bad and you seem to be surrounded by some very decent people there. Things could be far worse. I have no doubt you and Free will continue your journey soon!

    Best wishes


    • Viking Queen says:

      Thanks Keith. I can tell you fully understand as only an experienced sailor can. If one sails enough, then it is inevitable that concentration will eventually be lost. My only surprise is that I have lasted this long! You have obviously gleaned from the post my good fortune to be near some pretty competent friends! Ironically, it was Roger who helped me back in 2015 with my electric issues after a scary but beautiful visit to the Åland Islands. I had been patching up a slowly failing battery and starter motor many miles from nowhere. Some would call it character building, me? I’d call it terrifying!
      Now I am faced with two options: southward to the Netherlands for winter or staying here and then beginning again next May, giving me more time. I have other issues in the UK of a financial nature to consider, so I have until next week to decide. Thank you again for your interest and encouragement.

  8. So glad “Free” is back in the water, you were so fortunate to have such skilled boatbuilders to hand after the misshap. Looks as if they made a great job of repairing “Free”.
    Wishing you fair winds and calm seas on your onward voyage of discovery,


    • Viking Queen says:

      Hi John,

      I seem to have accidentally blocked you on Facebook! Sorry, I hit you instead of someone else! Thanks for your good wishes. Fortune favours the brave, they say, and I was, to be sure, especially as Gävle has a pocket of good, kind friends. Still a small weep from the rudder housing but when she comes out for winter that will be located and repaired. Next year, I will begin a southerly passage towards the Netherlands and alone this time, to avoid the distraction that ultimately led to my error!

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