So, on day three of the cruise through the Finnish hinterland, we had come up with a slightly revised plan.
Leonie and Martin needed to take the train to the airport from either Stockholm or Kalmar, the latter being two hours closer, by train!. The problem is that two hours on the train is two DAYS on Dauntless.
It would be five days of hard cruising to get to Kalmar and we would have virtually no time in Stockholm.
Now, having ended up spending more than 7 days in Helsinki; I did not want to give Stockholm, the short shrift. I grew up near the Swedish-America line. My second grade teacher was on the Stockholm when it sliced the Andre Doria in half. Stockholm is in my roots more than Helsinki.
And lastly, this may be the last opportunity to spend any length of time in Sweden, even if only two weeks, therefore we modified the plan.
We would continue west northwest, over the top of Aland Island, and thus take a leisurely route to Stockholm.
So in planning today’s route through the billion islands of the XXX, I noticed our chart warned of a magnetic anomaly. Nothing to worry about, the three boat compasses never seem to agree, anomaly or not.
But then in the pattern of islands, I noticed was clearly an impact crater, 2.5 miles in diameter, near Angskärs Fjärden. The magnetic anomaly is caused by the iron core of the meteorite.
So today, we are heading for the crater. I’ve never driven a boat in a crater before.
Well, the crater was interesting. The little town was thought may have a dock, may have had a dock a hundred years ago, but all the kids have left town.
A dozen red painted warehouses, boat ports, and no people.
Almost like those ghost towns of Southeast Alaska.
So, we beat a slow retreat and a few hours later, we were anchored on the north side of a big rock. Well, we thought it was an island on the charts, but alas, it was a big rock island.
Figuring that we would have plenty of opportunity to anchor, visit beautiful, pine treed islands, I convinced Leonie and Martin that this was once in a lifetime opportunity.
OK, a bit of a stretch, but an hour later, after having moved the stern anchor twice, we finally pulled it up totally and dropped 300 feet of chain on the hard rock bottom, figuring if nothing else, the weight of the chain would hold us in place.
So far it has.
And it did.
The next morning, we awoke to a 5 knot easterly wind and Dauntless was facing the east. Hauled anchor and there was some seaweed, but no mud.
In particular on anchor, I wake up about every two hours. This past night was no exception, so I decided to take advantage of the end of summer light. Just in the last week have we experienced dark nights, albeit for only short periods? As we near the equinox, the nights will not only get longer, but also darker.
Last night, in the clear air of the Gulf of Bothia, it was a marvel to see all those stars. The Milky Way was quite evident.
The evening of the [first] grounding, Julie and I, along with our NYC friends, Karen and Jason, were joined by our English sailing buddies, John and Jenny on S/V Shaka.
We celebrated our second successful tie to shore with a stern anchor with a bottle of Prosecco followed by a tasty dinner of roast pork shoulder, onions and red peppers all grilled on the Weber Q280, washed down by at more Prosecco and some Cotes du Rhone.
Good food, good company, good wine; no one can ask for more of life.
So I felt far better about the day’s fiasco and remembering my new life’s motto, All’s Well that Ends Well.
That’s what crossing the Atlantic has done for me; my sense of perspective was totally recalibrated, e.g. crossing the street, get run over by a bus, first thought, well, at least it didn’t happen while crossing the Atlantic!
Next day, we awoke to another beautiful day. Blue skies, westerly winds, which were calm in our protected cove. I had never slept so well on “anchor”.
The day’s plan was to move about 10 to 15 miles further east towards Helsinki, as we needed to return to Helsinki the next evening as Jason and Karen had a plane to catch to attend a wedding in NY in two days.
The challenge in Finland is finding a sheltered (from the wind) spot that is not in front of someone’s house, or even visible from said house. In fact, they are a bit particular about that and in just a few days’ time, we would learn just how particular. But that drama is for a different day.
The challenge is to motor relatively slowly around islands that are everywhere, to find a sheltered cove, that we can safely motor up to, get someone on land to put a line around a tree and then deploy the stern anchor. All the while also watching for houses, flag poles, stern buoys, docks and other signs of human habitation that must be avoided.
Not an easy task.
So as we enter a wide channel between a few islands, maybe a third of a mile apart, we spot some locals sunning themselves on the rocks. What better way to find a place than to ask them for suggestions!
Another stupid idea that will cost me $$$, but how much is still to be determined.
So, once again, I am driving the boat, as we yell over to these Finns, hoping someone can not only speak English, but can give us a suggestion as to where we can go and not intrude on anyone’s space.
It didn’t seem we ever got an answer that we could understand, though I do remember they pointed out a rock to be avoided, about 200 feet off the end of their island and 200 feet in front and to the left of our heading.
No problem I say, I see it clearly marked on our charts. I’m certainly not going to run over the little “+” that denotes a rock this time.
And I don’t! But alas, it turns out I didn’t have to actually hit the “+”, but like tossing horseshoes, close also counts.
I’m turning the boat in a lazy 180° aiming along the route we had just come in on, I aim right of the rock going again about 3 knots. But not far enough to the right.
The wind is strong, 25 knots on our starboard quarter, about 120° relative to the boat, and when I look at the chart seconds later, I see that we are getting close to that rock and shallow area just off our port side.
I steer the boat more to the right, but not in that imminent danger mode, in which I push whoever is at the helm out of the way, and spin the wheel faster than the wheel of fortune; no this was more like, umm, that rock is getting close Jeeves, maybe we should wander a bit more the other way.
So in no haste apparent haste, just as the boat turns, we feel the now too familiar thumps announcing we have struck land once again. Dauntless rises out of the water, but not like Moby Dick this time, more like a humpback whale, as we rise, but then slide off to the right.
Again stopping within 20 feet, tilted to the right, but still on the rock enough that I cannot extradite ourselves with a little reverse engine.
It’s a large rock.
Very large, maybe two to four feet below the surface, but at least a hundred feet long in the shape of a banana. The “+” on the chart denoted, the highest point!, but not the full extent.
All my fault in any case. I still got too close for no real reason and was again too sloppy in my helmsmenship.
Another lesson learned the only way one does seem to learn; the hard way. But then as a teacher, having firmly believed that no learning is done unless work, sometimes hard work, is involved, I take my medicine that I so liberally dished out to others.
And I can only smile at that irony, but it’s really not ironic, it’s simply a fact of learning.
So again, we got about half way along the keel before stopping, tilted at an angle to the right, bow up.
Within seconds, literally seconds, a Finn and his son appeared in a little skiff, asking if we needed help to get off. I had already put Dauntless in reverse, but just for a moment, and seeing no real movement, I did not try very hard, and stopped.
Since s/v Shaka was right behind me, I figured why run the motor and prop hard so close to rocks, when they can pull me off.
But the Finn really wanted to help, he volunteered to go get his big skiff, with 150 horsepower engine, but I told him Shaka was right there and we would try with that at first.
He helped my talking the line from our boat to Shaka. While that was taking place, I looked around and it was clear that the deep water was off our starboard stern quarter.
I asked Shaka to pull us in that direction and within seconds of him pulling, we were off.
I know there are now more scrapes and gouges, that will have to be attended to sooner, October, rather than later, the spring, but no visible damage and no holes or issues with the prop or shaft. If I get the opportunity to pull the boat sooner, I will probably do that, just to make sure and develop a plan for the winter.
But let me tell you, while I felt lucky, as I had the day before, I hated the idea that I had used all of my lucky charms in two days, with another 50 days to go in waters just as treacherous.
Like the guy who speeds through the red light, once, twice, three times, sooner or later, he’ll get creamed; and on this trip I had already sped through too many red lights.
Well the friendly Finn suggested a place for us and I asked him to guide us.
He brought us a cove about ½ mile away (maybe the same place the sunning Finns had been pointing to?), but we decided it was too windy and I was frankly afraid to approach the shore (rocks) within 100 feet to see if the wind would die down as we got closer to shore.
So, he brought us to another cove, on the SE side of a rather large island. There was an old stern buoy there, but he told us, while the island was privately owned, (as most of them are in Finland), he had not seen anyone use this mooring for years. But no house was visible, so he was sure it would be OK.
It was a very nice spot: no house in sight, the winds were calm in this sheltered location and we could motor slowly to the rocks on shore. We decided to stay.
The procedure at this point, what with my extensive stern anchoring experience (at one and counting), consisted of checking out the spot by motoring, drifting really, to nose up to shore and if the nose of the boat can get to shore with enough depth under the rest of the boat, all is good.
Next step is to back up. Make a “U” turn to return to a spot about 150 feet from shore. With the boat facing shore again and along the exact track we had just taken in to shore, we drop the stern anchor and slowly motor up the shore/rock again, letting out the rode as we go.
Then some intrepid soul, jumps onto shore or if too high, we use the kayak to get to shore to bring a line around a tree and return it to the boat so we may leave in haste if need be, without having to go ashore again.
Our ground tackle consists of a 100 foot ¼” line, a strap to protect the tree, my 40 pound Bruce with 10 feet of chain and 250 of nylon rode.
So far in the half dozen times we have done this, being so close to land, there is almost no force on the boat to push it away from land. So the bow line’s main purpose is just to hold the bow at a particular position.
Now, having the bow secure, the rode on the stern anchor is taken in just a bit. Enough to hold the bow literally inches away from the rock in front of it. This will preclude knocking, albeit quietly and slowly, against the rock all night keeping yours truly awake. (Or until I get up, and pull in the stern anchor rode to put tension in it, dressed only in my birthday suit). But that’s only happened once so far.
Our stern anchor is my old 40 lb. Bruce with the bent neck with 10 ft. of chain and 250’ of nylon rode that is really stretchy. This was my third anchor rode set that had been stored in the lazerette.
Looking at all the fancy stern rigs boats in Europe have, I decided to actually use what I had for a season before spending (wasting) any more money.
I just unhooked the Bruce from the bow rode (50 ft. chain and 250’ line, got the old rode out of the lazerette and bough a plastic hose reel in Ireland.
The anchor sits on the swim platform, its neck between the slats of the platform, the ten feet of chain in a plastic box also on the swim platform, with the rode running thru the stern hawse pipe to the line on the hose real.
Again, we had a great dinner. Salmon I think. I do love our Weber. Washed down by plenty of wine. And then our German sailing buddies, Andres and Annette, found us. The evening ended with more empty bottles than I thought existed on the boat.
After recounting my tale of woe, we followed him out the following morning, late morning, as the evening before the four men, two Americans, one German, one English, partied like is was 1999.
This was such a nice spot, we returned to it a few days later after having been to Helsinki again to change out crew. Dana and Peter, also from NY now joined us for Julie’s last few days in Finland.
But this time, within a few hours of arriving, two women in a little skiff came by and asked us to leave since their brother was coming with his boat sometime that afternoon and evening.
So we pulled lines and anchors and decided to try to spot the helpful Finn had suggested a few days earlier.
Since we were now a single boat, both our sailing buddies had to press on west towards home, the spot was good for just one boat.
It turned out to be a wonderful spot. Quiet, with a larger view to the north. In fact, the spot we had moved from to make room for the brother was only a half mile away and clearly visible.
So another great day that ended well, well, almost well. The brother never showed up.
We were worried that something may have happened to him!