West Coast Sweden: Summer 2003
The day had finally arrived, after much anticipation. We were going to take delivery of Ocean Harmony, our brand new 42 foot Sweden Yacht. We were on a Ryan Air flight leaving Stanstead at 7.00am. We arose at about 0345 and the prearranged taxi picked us up at exactly 0445am. Loaded with three very large carry bags containing various items for the boat. We were overweight at the check in which cost us an extra 20 pounds.
We got to the yard at about 1130 and went straight down to the dock and, there she was, Ocean Harmony, tied up alongside and ready to go! We had some paper work to do and then an afternoon of technical briefings covering all aspects of the yachts internal workings. Ocean Harmony is fully equipped for extended cruising, with all the usual navigational equipment and necessary liveaboard items such as freezer, fridge, Spectra water maker, hot water heating, TV, stereo system etc. There is a separate section that gives the technical details of Ocean Harmony.
28th and 29th June
Peter Johansson, the Sweden yachts agent, and his two daughters arrived promptly at 1130 to join us on the maiden voyage from the yard at Stenungsund to Marstrand, a trip of about 20 nautical miles. We motored out of the harbour and under the enormous span of Tjorn Bridge, which joins the island of Tjorn to the mainland. This bridge was rebuilt in about 1980 when a freighter crashed into the span causing the bridge to collapse resulting in several people losing their lives. I had actually crossed the bridge in 1976 when I visited this area on business.
The wind began to freshen and we soon had the sails hoisted as we tacked into a freshening breeze. Raising the very large mainsail is a breeze with electric winches! Ocean Harmony has a self tacking jib, so one person can easily sail her to windward. To make a long story short, she sails like a dream and displays her thoroughbred racing pedigree of Sweden Yachts.
We arrived at Marstrand which is a picturesque Swedish village on an island which has a large fort. It is a popular tourist resort with many restaurants along the sea wall. We tied up alongside the sea wall and were met by Peter's wife and their six month old son. We had a lovely dinner together, sitting outside and overlooking the harbour, with Ocean Harmony tied up directly in front. Very soon, a yacht rafted up alongside us, and then another and another until we had 6 other yachts rafted. This led to much consternation as people had to cross our boat to get ashore and so we had people walking overhead our cabin until 2.30am and then starting all over again at about 5.30!
We had to wait until the last rafted yacht departed at 1130 before we could untie our lines and head back to Stenungsund. Leaving the dock with a strong wind blowing us against it was difficult, even with the bow thruster in action. The yacht felt so much bigger than what I was used to. Lovely sail home in a strong north easterly. We reefed at about 25 knots and believe it or not it was easy. (power winches are the way to go)!
July 4th to July 9th
We spent 4 days at the dock completing minor work on the boat, provisioning and buying various and sundry items at the local Chandlers shop. Thursday was totally rained out.
But on Friday 4th, we were ready to leave. Once again the wind was blowing strongly from the North, pushing us hard against the dock and we had difficulty getting away. Resolved to practice this manouvre at an early opportunity. Soon we had the sails set and were broad reaching down the fjord toward Marstrand. We actually sailed all the way around Marstrand Island to a small cove called Utkaften on the island of Klaveron, sheltered from the northerly that was still blowing strongly. We anchored because of our draft and size. But this is not the norm in Sweden. Most boats are under 30 feet in length and moor with their bows right up against the rocky sides of the cove, with stern lines holding them off. People then leap off the bow directly on to land. This avoids the necessity of having to have a dinghy in tow. The Swedish custom seems to be for everyone to gather ashore for a barbecue. After dinner, one then climbs to the highest rocky outcrop and gazes for hours at the very slowly setting sun. At this time of the year that takes until after eleven o'clock at night. I am assuming this is to compensate for the very long nights during the winter months.
The only negative to anchoring is that the young boys and girls just love to roar around in dinghies with outboard motors going at top speed. Also, the novelty of a Canadian flag in a Swedish anchorage attracts a lot of inquisitive visitors. The next day was fine and warm, and we decided explore the island by climbing to the highest point and taking some photographs of Ocean Harmony at anchor. The afternoon was spent sorting out and testing the dinghy.
The following day we sailed northward, on the east side of Tjorn Island, where we experienced some ocean swells as we were exposed to the open seas in the Kattegat (see historical note below). After a full day of very good sailing we anchored in another cove, Soholmen on the north side of Inston Island, which offered some protection against the strong South Westerly that had blown all day long. We experienced winds over 20knots in the anchorage, but were reasonably snug behind some rocky islets.
We returned to Stenungsund on Monday 7th, to be available for the Raymarine expert who had agreed to come up from Goteborg on Tuesday to fix our Raytech navigational software system. As it transpired, we had two problems, one was a faulty connection and the other a faulty radar instrument. It took the whole day to troubleshoot and correct the faults.
Historical note: The Kattegat (a lovely sounding name) is a narrow channel between Sweden and Denmark. It was in May 1941, in this strip of water that the famous German battleship, Bismark was sighted by a Swedish Cruiser and reported back through the Naval Attache in Stockholm to the Admiralty in London. This sighting triggered the 5 day chase to “sink the Bismark”. The famous British battlecruiser, HMS Hood was sunk by a single 15 inch shell fired from the Bismark. Eventually, the Bismark met the same fate, being sunk by heavy bombardment from the British battleships, HMS Rodney and HMS King George V.
July 9th to 13th
We revisited Sohomen on July 9th and then on to a very pretty anchorage at Hattan-Karrson where we finally experienced some real summer weather with light winds and warm sunshine. This was commemorated with my first swim in the ocean. The water is surprisingly warm about 20 to 23 degrees centigrade at this time of the year. The warm sea is a result of the long hours of sunshine and very little tidal movement. After sailing in British Columbia it is a shock to experience tides of less than a foot. Gone are the constant references to tide tables and calculating the right depth to compensate for a falling tide! One of the nasty consequences of the warm water is the very large number of jellyfish floating about in the water. We observed several hundreds at a time drifting by our boat as we sailed along. They also appear in all the anchorages but do not deter the Swedes from swimming. In fact they love the water and swim under all weather conditions. Along the rocky coastline cottages abound and almost all of them have swimming and diving platforms where you will see adults and children in the water.
The next day Friday, 11th dawned overcast and the 0930hr marine weather forecast from Stockholm indicated a cold front approaching with strong winds of 15 to 28 knots. We were faced with a decision whether to ride it out at the anchorage, which was well protected from a south westerly, or return to the dock at Stenungsund and tie up for the night. We stayed.
The forecast was accurate. It blew all night long gusting over 25 knots in the anchorage at times. We did anchor watch until dawn when the wind eased somewhat, although it remained unpleasant with lots of motion. It was an uncomfortable night but we certainly gained confidence with our ground tackle which is comprised of a 30 kg Delta anchor and 80 feet of 10mm chain. One of the difficulties was that we had not yet marked the chain so I did not know how much rode we had out during the blow. I estimated scope of about 4 to 1, but when we brought the anchor up, it seemed like a lot less. We waited until the afternoon hoping the wind would ease, but it never did, so we upped anchor at about 1400 hours and set a reef in the mainsail. The wind was even stronger than expected in the fjord, so we very quickly added a second reef. We were broad reaching at about 7.5 knots and the boat handled extremely well with this sail setup. Docking proved to be a difficult job because of the wind. Despite the help of the other 5 new Sweden Yacht owners it took me 4 tries before we finally got her tied up. We made shipshape and had an early night.
Next morning, which was our last day before returning to England for a week, was beautifully sunny. Just our luck! We did at least get the anchor chain painted with red stripes at every 10 metres. My idea was followed by the other Sweden Yacht owners, who proceeded to mark their anchor chains as well. We spent the rest of the day tidying up and preparing for the return visit with Susan in just over a weeks time.
July 22nd to August 3rd
We returned to Sweden with Susan on Tuesday 22nd. After provisioning, we left Stenungsund and sailed south under the now familiar Tjorn bridge returning to Hattan-Karson anchorage. Susan enjoyed being at the helm as we enjoyed a fresh south westerly. Lovely evening. Dove under the boat to free the knot meter which must have been fouled with seaweed as it had not worked on the trip down. Barbecued fresh Swedish crayfish which had claws and looked like tiny lobsters. Delicious.
Our plan was to sail north past the islands of Tjorn and Orust, to get as far north as time would permit and then return on the inside of Orust island to meet Rob and Jo a week later. On the first day we sailed up Kurkesund, which is a long, narrow channel between Haron and Tjorn islands which was lined with picturesque Swedish cottages and occasional pubs and restaurants. In some places it was less than 20 metres wide. A a procession of boats followed one another northward and another procession moves southward. It almost felt as though we needed traffic lights! A good thing the wind was light otherwise sailing would have been out of the question. We anchored in a cove behind Lyr Island. Overnight we had heavy rain and thunder with sheet lightning. I told Harmony to stay well away from the mast as we are not protected against lightning! We plan to earth the mast to the keel bolts before we ship Ocean Harmony to the Mediterranean in October.
The following day we sailed north into the open sea, in 10 to 15 knot South Westerly winds. We anchored in Saxen-Hampholmarne (58 21' North). And then the rains came! A low pressure system passed through overnight with more lightening and heavy rain. We hunkered down the following day under the cockpit tent as the rain continued to pour down. At least we know the boat doesn't leak! The following day, still raining , we decided we needed to start moving. We arrived at the north end of Orust Island still in heavy rain and anchored in Rorbacke-Kile in front of a small cottage, which we had chosen because it was well protected from the forecast south westerly. Too bad the wind was gusting 20 knots from the north! We were very exposed to this wind direction with a long fetch of water. We could feel Ocean Harmony tugging at the anchor as the wind gusted. It was not comfortable. Suddenly, we were alerted by a shrill whistle. Rushing on deck, the Swede from the cottage was standing on his dock gesticulating wildly. It was very clear that we had dragged our anchor and were in danger of colliding with the dock! I started the motor and we immediately raised the anchor and moved about half a mile away behind a large bluff that protected us from the northerly wind . And then, guess what? The wind began to back to the forecast south west. We upped anchor again and, thanks to Susan's research, went a little further into the large cove, past where we had previously dragged and found a well protected spot. We were all very tired and stressed from the experience, but finally in the evening the rain stopped and we could relax.
The next day was fine and we sailed around Orust island enjoying the wooded landscape and occasional meadows with cows grazing. This part of the coast reminded us of British Columbia because of the forests. Returning to Stenungsund, we met Rob and Jo the next morning and once again re-provisioned before setting off again on a repeat circumnavigation of Tjorn and Orust Islands. We revisited many of the same anchorages as we had done previously and enjoyed the lovely warm weather and light winds. Rob enjoyed taking the helm. Jo, also, had her first experience of sailing and was a quick learner.
Whilst anchored in Hatten-Karsson the Tinker dinghy was rigged for sailing. The Tinker is a British made dinghy that is multi purpose: it carries a 5 horsepower Honda outboard, it has proper oars and oarlocks and it has a sail rig. Rob and I sat in the dinghy and rigged her in about 30 minutes. Our test sail was a bit of a joke as we seemed to be unable to sail to windward and ended up further and further away every time we tacked! We eventually rowed back and discovered that we had stepped the mast in the wrong position. Once we had corrected that we were able to make quite good progress and had some fun.
Because of the warm weather swimming was great, provided you could overlook the jellyfish! They definitely don't sting but Sue was never quite able to overcome the thought of it. Rob and Jo seemed to have no such qualms. We also hiked up to the top of Lyr Island and enjoyed the spetacular views. (see Photographs) Susan left us on Friday, August 1st to return to Calgary. The four of us sailed north around Orust Island and anchored in Karston. Rob and Jo went for a long walk on the island which is a marine park. By about 7.30pm we were about ready to send out a rescue party when they finally returned. They had got lost and ended up on the far side of the island. We had barbecue steak for dinner with some very fine red wine.
The next day we sailed south on the outside of Orust. It was a rough ride in a 10 knot south westerly wind. The waves were chopped up and the motion a bit unpleasant. We returned to Lyr Island. In the evening the wind picked up and blew 20 knots. The anchorage was quite crowded, so I was unable to let out more rode. Consequently, anchor watch was needed. Next morning we had a short sail back to Stenungsund in very brisk 25 to 30 knot wind. Rob really enjoyed handling the boat and we spent an hour sailing back and forth before finally returning to the dock. We flew back to London in the evening.
August 13th to 18th
We returned to Stenungsund for our last long weekend of sailing as well as to meet with Sweden Yachts regarding preparations for transporting Ocean Harmony by truck to Portoroz in Slovenia for winter storage. In order to fit under the various bridges in transit between Sweden and Slovenia, everything above the height of the mainsheet traveler will be removed. She will then be shrink wrapped in plastic to protect the hull and decks. We plan to leave the boat with the protective wrapping over the winter and then re-rig her next spring in preparation for our sailing plans next year. Our decision to move the boat by road rather than have a professional crew sail her around to the Med was to avoid the wear and tear and to meet our desire to have the boat in the eastern Mediterranean for next summer. We have contracted Van de Wetering Transport to move the yacht the week of September 22nd.
We spent a very pleasant weekend sailing north around Orust Island. The landscape was familiar and we enjoyed a quite anchorage and bright sunshine. In fact we spent a whole day anchored peacefully, swimming and sunbathing. We left Stenungsund on Monday morning with such fond memories of a wonderful summer. We enjoyed Sweden and the whole experience with Sweden Yachts has been an absolute pleasure. They have done everything possible to meet our various and sundry requests, tolerated our changing minds and generally provided excellent advice on a multitude of issues. Harmony and I have been made to feel part of the Sweden Yachts family and we have very fond memories of all the staff that we met. Thank you Sweden Yachts!