The last 10 days has seen slow progress south, due mainly to the elements, but also to some technical issues.
The island of Oland is about 90 miles long, and separated from the mainland by the Kalmar Sound; which is about 10 miles wide at either end, and (the navigable part) about 100 metres wide in the middle. It’s the obvious way south, but when the wind blows from S to SW, boy, is it a long way?! To add insult, the whole of the Baltic has been beset by gales for the last week, so that 90 mile beat has been arduous; but as I’ve said before, we’re not heroes; so we broke it up into bite-sized chunks, spending some time on the island, and some on the mainland.
Geographically, the island is a complete contrast to what we have experienced over the last couple of months. The land is lush and fertile, close to the shore, and it has a far more gentle feel; and it is excellent cycling terrain i.e. few hills! Wind has always figured in the islands history; as can be demonstrated by the evolution of the humble windmill.
Half way down the Kalmar Sound stands the city of the same name, which we had expected it to be as empty as everywhere else; however, the place was heaving with boats of every nationality – they obviously broadcast the weather forecast in languages other than English! If you ever wanted the ideal harbour to sit out a gale, it would have to be Kalmar – while the storms were raging throughout the Baltic, you could have held a feather-counting competition inside the harbour. Not only a safe haven, but also the best yacht chandlers in Sweden (the legend is Johnny Billstrom; look him up if you’re ever in Kalmar; well worth the effort). We had been here on the way north, to replace Louise’s non-waterproof trousers (but I’ve only had them 10 years!); and on the way south it served as a postal address for a replacement wind transmitter from Raymarine – it’s funny how quickly you get used to sailing the boat, not looking at the instruments!
Just a short pause for smugness. We beat the whole way; unlike the rest of the fleet; and during the process we seem to have perfected the art of avoiding the rain and thunderstorms. When we saw a black cloud approaching from the west, we would tack inshore before it arrived. Miraculously, we completed the entire journey with dry oilies!
On leaving the Kalmar Sound, to head west, you can either stand-on further south, outside all the islands; or take the shortcut through the rocks, and under the (very) low bridge. I had my doubts, but words of encouragement from my pal Ian (currently holed up in Warnemunde) gave me more confidence. After all, no-one can hop rocks quite like a guy from the Channel Islands. So buoyed-up with more fierce pills we scraped our way across the shallow plateau, to the be confronted by the spectre of the ‘low’ bridge. Despite the careful calculations to determine your air-height, and the sign on the bridges saying 18 metres – meaning you have at least two metres clearance – it is a truly buttock-clenching experience. It was Gummi bears, and clean underwear all round afterwards.
And so we find ourselves (again) in Karlskrona, waiting for another spiteful bit of wind to desist. We are currently interloping on the German pontoon – all those guys who were with us in Kalmar (but used their engines to get here) are stacked up, line abreast, waiting for the right weather to make the flight south.
Flights are now booked from Hamburg on 24th September, so that should leave us plenty of time to see new places, and sit-out any more bad weather – famous last words?