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Apsara: Messages From The Boat:

s/v Apsara and the Swedish High Coast

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Date: June 7, 2003 Lat: 63° 17' North; Longitude: 18° 42' East
On the quay in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden the Hoga Kusten ("High Coast")
Wind: NW @ 11 knots Temp: 67 F Skies: Clear and Sunny

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Our world has changed, not to mention the weather. We have crossed the Gulf of Bothnia and are now in Sweden, the temperature is seriously pushing 70 degrees (every now and then) with sunny skies and we are no longer the littlest boat in the harbor.

Our planned start on Monday, June 2nd was delayed when just an hour before leaving we tested the autopilot and found air had leaked into the hydraulic lines. This was preceded by us flying-in our marine computer consultant, Dan Piltch of Portland Maine, to get the entire computer and navigation systems working properly. (note to self: next boat will have zero computer based systems or we will have Dan present for the first days of commissioning).

Finally on June 4th we checked the weather again, repacked the lazarette for the fourth time, sniffed the smell of the paper plant one last time and were gone. The wind was light and we motored for the first 6 hours. The boat motors at 8 to 9 knots so we were making tracks quickly on what we expected to be a 15 hour passage. By midnight, the wind had built from the north (as predicted) and while I dozed below, Nancy single-handedly set the sails and turned the engine off. The wind clocked around to the NE, picked up speed during the night and was abaft the beam and building when I came on watch. Within an hour we had 18 to 20 knots and Apsara was dancing down the seas at 8 to 9 knots. The wind continued to move aft and the steering got challenging. We gybed over to starboard and Nancy took the helm, hand steering in the slightly bigger seas. Steering downwind is always the most difficult point of sail, especially with seas which move the stern unpredictably, but Nanc had the hang of it pretty quickly. (This girl has the sea in her blood, even if she hasn't recognized it yet!)

We kept a 2 hour watch schedule, although there was one particularly narrow channel - the narrowest point of the Gulf of Bothnia - when we both were on deck (in the rain) as we passed six large ships navigating the same point in the opposite direction. We have a MARPA (mini automatic radar plotting aid) system built into our radar unit which allows us to automatically track up to nine "targets". This means that when we see a ship on radar, we can tell the radar to "lock-on" to the target. The radar will begin to track the ship, telling us: how far away it is, its course, its speed, the closest point of approach to our boat (based on the current course and speed), and the time of the closest point of approach. This was really helpful and gave us some confidence that we would not be run down without a least some warning. We also used the VHF radio to call the ships in closest proximity, and they all answered and were very friendly. They had ARPA (nothing mini about these 600 foot monsters) and were watching us on radar, and could tell our position and heading.

After 120 miles and 17 hours we made land fall around 9:30 am at a small idyllic island, Trysunda and went to sleep.

In the evening, we had an incredibly warm welcome to Sweden. "Karin", a Bavaria 42, owned by a local couple, invited us over for coffee to show us good spots to see in the area. Rolf and Karin are in their late 50s ish, and their nephew and his girlfriend were visiting from Switzerland. At their insistence, the visit extended to a wonderful Swedish dinner on their boat, cooked by Rolf, who was an impressive chef, and we had the best meal since we departed California! We then had them over for dessert and some more wine. Rolf, who has sailed his boat from here to Greece and back, was offering strenuously to be our cook for the Atlantic crossing.

The area we have been cruising in is called the "Hoga Kusten", or High Coast (see www.highcoast.net). Apparently, it is a World Heritage site due to unique glaciation effects. Since the end of the last ice age and the glaciers began to melt about 20,000 years ago, "no where else in the world is the total land uplift as high as here"

It is very beautiful, with many small green and rocky islands that rise abruptly and steeply from the clear seas. They remind me of downeast Maine without the fog, people, or , unfortunately, the lobsters. There are small fishing communities on many of the islands (or tributes to booming fishing communities of days past), and some evidence of tourism, although we are still early in the Swedish boating season. 98% of the buildings are painted dark red with white trim. This is the same paint we saw all over northern Norway; the color must be subsidized by a coalition of Nordic paint companies.

One area we particularly enjoyed was Ulvohamn, a picturesque old fishing village, where fermented herring was the source of the town's livelihood in days past. The fishermen's homes have since been remade into picturesque summer homes, and the village is still filled with charm. "Strekt Stromming," or Fried Herring is now the delicacy of choice.

The deep waters make anchoring challenging and we are still getting accustomed to dropping our big boy Bruce anchor (all 110 pounds of English galvanized steel) into 40 to 50 feet of water and then paying out nearly all of our 330 feet of chain. The challenge is to find a protected enough spot with enough swinging room so that, when the wind changes direction, our 9 foot rudder is not crushed by the rocky shore as we slumber (not that we slumbered much the first few nights). The sea bottom is clay, which can make for difficult anchoring. Scott is becoming an expert at testing the anchor by using the engine to simulate 50+ knots of breeze; Sometimes the anchor pops out under the load, and we start all over again (usually in the rain!)

June 11th, Lustholmen, near Harnosand, north of Sundvall (N 62° 40.7/E017° 58.3): The weather has improved a great deal since Finland, and while no one has broken out his or her shorts the sun is warm when it is out and our skin is getting tan (or maybe wind burned). That said, when sailing into the wind it is cold and we wear thick Gortex gloves and ski hats. We have had some good sailing and about as much good motoring. Yesterday we motored about 25 miles into a nice 12 knot wind that should have been on our beam and then had a sweet little sail into a deep bay where we are now anchored. A nice end to a day that began with a 2 hour hike and lunch of fried herring (it is better than you think) in Ulvohamn.

Contrary to any thoughts that we might be on a relaxing, easy street "vacation," we are working pretty hard during the day, and get pretty exhausted. A boat is hard work, and complex; We are still trying to work out some system glitches, and since everything is new, we aren't particularly efficient at problem solving -- but we are learning!! Today Nanc scrubbed the hull of the boat and the waterline by standing in the dingy and holding herself next to the boat with big suction cups (only took 4 hours) and I changed oil and filters on both the engines ( a regular Gomer Pyle). It is work, but we have time enough and the results are immediately tangible.

This is likely now our last stop in the High Coast. We have spent about a week here and covered 130 miles. We now are waiting for favorable winds to sail the next longish passage of about 250 miles to Aland Island between Sweden and Finland. With the current forecast (and current winds) straight out of the south we will be here for at least a night or two.


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