siobhan sailing yacht
siobhan sailing by Martinique
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 Captain's Blog

5 August 2013, Corpach, and it feels colder in Scotland than wherever....!! Well, it's actually quite warm for Scotland but have had a few "scottish" = soaking days already
More than a month has passed since the last update; do I need to apologise for those not present being a lower priority than those present (including Siobhan and me)?

Leaving Nykoping, and nearly a week to go with Manfred and Ernest, we started off with some sailing. With a route specifically planned to include sailing, more than to get anywhere in particular, we set off North for a big U-turn south. And sailing we did, far enough out to see seals (only their noses), big ships, and rain squalls approaching, yet close enough in for evenings anchoring in little peaceful corners of paradise. Probably the best island sailing yet was had even if motoring was a regularly recurring theme. Then on the last evening's spot I decided that since our musicians didn't appear to be "musicianing" much I'd get my guitar out anyway, and so it happened (contagion can be a great thing) that the "song of Siobhan" was born, directed by Ernest, loosely based on a wee lick I had been playing, and with instrumental support of all! It is now up to me to come up with "voyage-bluesey" lyrics, at which I've been slow to get started. So back in Valdemarsvik, a farewell beer and pizza in the hamn-pub, and an early departure as the lovely free berthing spot turned out to be the "rescue quay" and harbour inspection commenced at 0900 at which point the harbour master approached me in the supermarket and in an extremely friendly manner apologised and requested I get on my way.  Which I did. Alone as planned and long due!

Starting off my "free week" between here and Copenhagen I realised I needed some peace and spent a whole lovely sunny day at a secluded anchorage (I'd been before) with no visitors, passing boats, or even kayakers do disturb me. Glorious warm weather (sunshades only). Next day a long stretch for Kalmar so I could be in wifi range for skyping Alex on his 3rd birthday! So I "decorated the ship overall" so to speak, hanging out all the flags of countries I've sailed to in Siobhan (two masts full!) before making the call to show there was a party for his birthday in Sweden too!
Picked up spares and shopping and on towards Copenhagen, one overnight anchorage in the tiniest of windy rocky patches (this was definitely a night-time entry I'd only do with the chart-plotter) and an overnight sail/motor to be in Copenhagen by Friday to pick up Mariette and Bouke.

Forward plans to sail to Orkney had been jeopardised by late-"cancellation" of other crew members, so an open plan with a strong desire to end up in the UK somewhere... We started with a warm day in Copenhagen, and due to the insistence of both crew that "sailign into the (force 7) wind out of the Skagerak to Scotland was still the best idea, we set off north with my intention to illustrate to them what sailing into the wind is like in the much more sheltered waters of the Kattegat. A message got through, and with one crew seriously seasick most of the trip and the other at revealingly low activity levels (be it with a brave stance), the anchorage was the turning point for a route south to the Kiel canal again; this would give a better approach in prevailing winds for the UK, leaving the Holland option open for crew schedules. I witnessed an 0400 arrival of a UFO 31 as I used to have, which reminded me of an altogether different sailing-to-maintenance ratio!
Down to the canal lots of good sailing was had, including a day of dinghy-only, pottering, and a rather large amount of beer consumed by the crew... We ended up inadvertently alongside a large shiny plastic powerboat at one point (sailors tend to go alongside sailors for some strange reason), and the particularly friendly and civilised response prompted us to try that again later with even better results! Though the second time -in Germany- the initial response was  luke-warm to put it mildly, perhaps something to do with Siobhan being substantially larger and heavier than theirs, the next biggest boat there, we left with many more interesting conversations yet to be had.

An uneventful light-wind trip to Den Helder in Holland, my back damaged and only partially restored (a bit too much sail-hoiking the last week), a visit from good friend PM, Holland getting on my nerves at a tremendous pace(*), and an opportune showing up of a crew (Rob) to share watch-keeping with meant rapid departure for Inverness as my further solo-pottering window rapidly shortened. (*: see as an example the story of the Van Speijck mast outside the Navy college: proud hero worship for a murderer and suicide bomber)

Once again it was often the engine which kept us moving north. Especially the last stretch from Peterhead to Inverness was a bit of a race to catch tidal windows and also stay on the good side of suddenly forecast cyclonic then westerly gales all around us! Plans to make use of the increasing winds for a blistering passage came to nothing as the wind turned but failed to increase.

So now on the Caledonian Canal, where another bite was taken out of solo-pottering time by a failure of the anchor windlass. A day lost first dismantling the motor to investigate field repair, then hauling up the anchor by hand from 35m of water (120m of chain), all in the sun and drenching squalls of Urquhart bay in Loch Ness. From now on t-shirts to be used only as thermal base layers... So I write this on the train from Corpach to Glasgow, the spectacularly beautiful west-highland line, where I hope to meet up tomorrow morning with the two remaining Simpson-Lawrence windlass experts to see if the "modifications" done in the Netherlands over the winter will allow for a repair or instigate replacement. Travelling with a windlass in my bags, little change from 40kg I imagine. On return new crew will be there, so once installed (if it all works) some short days in known waters are called for... so at least I'm in the right place.

I think what I need for peace is a shack on a hill with a window, a wood fire and little else. Is this boat-thing overrated? Should I just go sail and tell no-one? Or perhaps the "Baltic" plan: sail direct to the Baltic in June, drop anchor in a remote bay, and sit there for 1 or 2 months with just the dinghy for the occasional food-shop visit? Or should I do this but in Scotland, i.e. without the 2 wee crossings? Food for pondering, perhaps my 50th next year can be a trigger...

Riding into Glasgow, I will now switch my attention to how to get to Paisley (where is Paisley?) to find a B&B, and enjoy a quiet evening with only laptop and book. Solo-time after all!

Capt'n E remains at large.

28 June 2013, Nykoping, and it's still colder in NL and Scotland than with us!!
We (Gilda, Siobhan, Roisin Bheag and I) stayed at Eko island for 2 nights, played around with the dinghy, explored uninhabited islands, enjoyed the sun, and generally loitered. Wow. Two more beautiful anchorages with sailing in between, gentle downwind, to an anchorage near Valdemarsvik awaiting arrival of Ernest and Manfred of, who arrived Sunday evening 23/6. After having spent an inordinate part of the late evening looking at the near-full moon on one side, and the fireworks of the set-but-roaming-under-the-horizon sun on the other side we decided to stay another day for some gentle dinghy amusement, persuaded by light winds from the wrong direction. (as we're sailing along the intra-island-belt channel there's not much space for tacking).
 More beautiful stuff, till we stopped at a wee harbour hoping for the possibility of a gig by our new crew. The gig was achieved, and though the "reward" was only our harbour fees, they managed an audience of some 30 people which must have been half the people within a radius of 10 miles (and that includes camping-guests). Met a great couple and (their daughter) from another boat (Saga), which made it all rather special.
And then on, after a late start. Lovely further sail dodging islands and rocks which ended up with fog progressively thickening until we sailed into a late little anchorage, barely able to see the edges! Once the fog lifted it turned out to be another mini-paradise... There's an impressive range of little nooks and crannies to anchor in here, and the weather is typically stable enough to do that. The wind direction does occasionally change, but winds are gentle and the direction changes well announced. Without tides finding the right depth to anchor in is especially simple: if you drop the anchor in 3.5 metres of water, there's still 3.5 metres in the morning!
Yesterday on to Nykoping where Gilda's friends agreed to pick her up, which they did this afternoon, and now the remaining three of us appear to be in mild remission (or is that recession?) lacking Gilda's good caring and company. Quiet night, and off sailing tomorrow again. I'm finding it rather strange to be not going anywhere even when there is wind to go, but I'm slowly discovering that the continuous drive I tend to have to go somewhere and do something does not leave much space for peace and thought. Trying to adapt to a somewhat slower pace was one of the big aims of this trip, in order to get my head around life current and future in a somewhat more constructive manner; three weeks down and the first signals are coming through. I do already realise that my 6+6week overall plan was way too short, but for now this will have to suffice.
It is a struggle being without my son Alex, and I miss his smile, attention, curiosity, and hugs (can't remember any negative points...) Difficult to remind myself he's probably not a perfect mini-adult all the time, so I don't. He is. I try to look at things through his eyes, and though of course I don't have the foggiest clue whether I'm succeeding it does make for an interesting point of view:-) Try it one day: look at the world through the eyes of a 3-year-old! (well, on 9/7 he will be).
Unpacked the books-bag a few days back, having completed Paolo Coelho's "warrior of the light" lent to me by Marjo, and have moved on to "Germs, Guns and Steel" as advised some years back by Annemarie's Tim in New Orleans: fascinating so far! But little time to concentrate between dodging rocks, navigating, etc. so slow going. Another 22 books to go (more titles another time).
Now getting (mentally) ready for a visit to the harbour's sauna..