Spanked in Finland

60° North; 24° East, probably as far east as we will get in Europe this year.

Our first night in Finland
Our first night in Finland, bow to shore.

Since leaving Latvia, Estonia and Finland have been interesting.  Later this summer I will have to have a Baltic Sea recap, but for now, just a little saga that we have probably all heard before.

We got beat up a bit going between Tallinn and Finland, but what else is new.  Maybe we should have named Dauntless, “Windfinder”, because she certainly does that well.  The Dog Days of summer, high pressure, hot and windless; not.

We have the Cat Days, high pressure, but not so hot and always windy, 12 to 18 knots.  Why “Cat Days”?  Have you ever held a cat too long? How do you know it’s too long?  One second they are purring contently in your arms; then the stealthy too long switch clicks on, the nails come out and they use your body to spring away, faster than you can say, “kitty, why didn’t you just tell me you wanted to me put down?”

The Wind is Always Blowing
The Wind is Always Blowing

So why Cat Days, because you get up, go outside to marvel at the beautiful sky, just some wispy cirrus at 30,000 feet, not too cool, not too warm, you think it will be a perfect day for being on the water.

As you get underway, it is perfect.  You have managed to get out of your tight dock space without hitting anything, you call Port Control asking for permission to leave (mandatory in all eastern European ports so far) and they respond in accented English, yes we may, with a tone that says:  thanks for asking and knowing our rules, have a nice day.  A feeling of satisfaction comes over you.

It’s mid-morning, you want to make 40 miles, and winds are less than 10 knots, with little 1 foot waves.  The Kadey Krogen is slicing thru the water with that reassuring hiss that tells you all is well and this is child’s play.

Sunset in Finland
Sunset in Finland
The Cat Building of Riga
Speaking of Cats; The Cat Building of Riga

An hour or two later, not quite halfway, you’re feeling a bit off; not queasy, just not right.  You realize the winds are up to 15 knots, the seas have now built to 3 feet and you’ve lost a knot of speed as the combination of wind and waves slows the boat.

Paravanes out to reduce the roll, immediately, the roll is reduced 50 to 90% depending upon wind direction (less for a following sea, more for a sea on the beam).

Now you look at the speed and see that your speed is further reduced, the birds on the paravanes reduce our speed by 0.6 knots.

Umm, our 6 hour trip has become an 8 hour trip.  I contemplate increasing power to make up for the loss, but it just kills me to burn 50% more fuel to go an extra knot faster.

8 hours it is.

Today, since Tallinn, we are travelling with our new found sailboat friends, John and Jenny.  It’s nice to have thinking partners in new waters like this.  But they stay safely behind us.  What do they know that we don’t?

By early evening, our first time in Finland, we found a sheltered spot with no houses in sight, one of the criteria for anchoring in Finland.  The problem is, there are billions of islands and many times, it is unclear if there are any houses until the last moment, which means we must then turn around and keep looking.

The cove we find is OK, but we decide to try to find a more sheltered cove for the next day.

We use a stern anchor with 150 ft. of rode out.  I then slowly motor up to the cove, until our bow just barely kisses the rocks.  Some intrepid person must then jump on to the rock or land, and we take a line to a tree and return it to the boat, so that we do not have to get on land again when we depart.

So the next day, our first full day in Finland, we are scoping out a place to stop with simple criteria in mind: a house should not be in sight, especially an occupied house and it has to be on a lee shore.

Since there are millions of islands, there is a lot of choice, clearly too much choice for some simple folk like Julie and I.

Mid-afternoon, we are slowly motoring, looking for a place for the night, I see on both my Navionics and C-Map charts the cross signifying a rock dead ahead, about a half mile ahead, 2 minutes at 4 knots.

I’m steering and I say to Julie, we must watch out for that rock.

Julie sees that point I am talking about and acknowledges it.

We both promptly then forget about it, as we go back to trying to figure out where we can stop.

Until two minutes later, with a large bump, dauntless’ bow rises out of the water like Moby Dick.

We had been going slowly because there are so many obstacles, so dauntless stops as soon as I put her in neutral in about 20 feet, with the weight of the boat on the keel on the rock.

I put her in reverse and we slide right off.  I spend the next hour trying to feel any change of vibrations and berating myself for seeing a rock, plainly and correctly marked on the chart and then hitting said rock.  No vibration, no holes in the boat.  Could have been worse. Far worse.

Julie summed it up best:  Richard Sees the Rock; Julie Sees the Rock; We Talk About the Rock; We Hit the Rock.

My first mistake, was that I could have altered course a bit, but instead I tell Julie, make sure I don’t hit that rock.

My second mistake was to then totally forget about the rock.

In hindsight, knowing we were in rocky waters, I was going just above idle speed, about 4 knots, maybe a bit less.

This enabled me to get the boat stopped quickly, so I did not run over the rudder or propeller.

That was about the only thing I did correctly.

When I first saw the rock, I should have altered course so that in the “unlikely” event that I somehow forgot about it, I would not be heading directly for it.

So an hour later, as we had our dinner, we celebrated another day that ended well.

And I vowed to never do that again.

But as Sean Connery learned, never say never.

And my “never” didn’t even last 24 hours!

Author: Richard on Dauntless

I’m an eclectic person, who grew up in New York, lived overseas for many years and have a boat, Dauntless, a 42 foot Kadey Krogen trawler yacht. Dauntless enables me to not only live in many different parts of the world, but to do it in a way that is interesting, affordable, with the added spice of a challenge. Dauntless also allows me to be in touch with nature. As the boat glides through the ocean, you have a sense of being part of a living organism. When dolphins come to frolic, they stay longer if you are out there talking to them, watching them. Birds come by, sometimes looking for a handout; sometimes grateful to find a respite from their long journey. I grew up on the New York waterfront, in the West Village, when everything west of Hudson St. was related to shipping and cargo from around the world. For a kid, it was an exciting place of warehouses, trucks, and working boats of all kinds: tugs and the barges and ships, cargo and passenger, they were pushing around. My father was an electrical engineer, my mother an intellectual, I fell in between. I have always been attracted to Earth’s natural processes, the physical sciences. I was in 8th grade when I decided to be a Meteorologist. After my career in meteorology, my natural interest in earth sciences: geology, astronomy, geography, earth history, made it a natural for me to become a science teacher in New York City, when I moved back to the Big Apple. Teaching led to becoming a high school principal to have the power to truly help kids learn and to be successful not only in school but in life. Dauntless is in western Europe now. In May and June, I will be wrapping up the last two years in northern Europe, heading south to spend the rest of the year in Spain & Portugal. Long term, I’m planning on returning to North American in the fall of 2017 and from there continuing to head west until we’re in Northeast Asia, Japan and South Korea, where we will settle for a bit. But now, my future lies not in NY or even Europe, but back to the water, where at night, when the winds die down, there is no noise, only the silence of the universe. I feel like I am at home, finally.

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