Author Archives: margaretlynnie

All About Zzzzzzeees

Sunday, September 23, 2018

“Do you know the rest of the alphabet too?”

That caption comes from a book just hitting stores now. Yes, it’s in Dutch and yes, there’s no English translation… yet. But, what we find so wonderful about this book is knowing one of the faces on the cover:  Deborah Freriks!

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Deborah penned VAN DIT BOEK GA JE BETER SLAPEN (literal translation:  FROM THIS BOOK YOU WILL SLEEP BETTER) with her friend and colleague, Catelijne Elzes. Not only did Deborah co-author the book but, being an artist, she also created all of the illustrations.

We’ve witnessed her creative powers over the past two years as she’s researched and crafted this book. And, then last fall they had secured a publisher, one who also represents the Dali Lama (!).

So, to see this appear in a hard cover complete with a book tour launch and multiple promotions on TV, radio, and magazines gives us goose bumps :)

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The formal book launching occurred yesterday, September 22, in Amsterdam at Scheltema, the biggest Dutch bookstore chain.

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We attended the event with Tika and Thijs (whose blue suede shoes called for a photo).

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This past week we had a mini-celebration aboard JUANONA with Deborah, Thijs and Tika as we toasted her accomplishment.

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Knowing many friends who join me in sleepless nights, I crave an English translation of this book.

Other friends of ours we’ve met cruising are published authors as well, such as Daria and Alex Blackwell, to name two. Pretty wonderful to think of people achieving such a feat! So, here’s to the written word and those who make me want to read them.

 

 

PASSAGE PLUS

KIEL CANAL

Friday-Sunday, August 31-September 2, 2018

With a favorable Nothwest wind we left the luxury of Denmark’s Vejrø Island for Germany’s Kiel Canal. The canal is 60 miles long and night-time travel is not allowed for pleasure craft, which usually necessitates a stop at one of the few designated mooring spots along the canal. We chose to moor at the 85.4 km mark near the east end of the canal, a place we’d tied up twice before; last year heading back from Sweden, and this year heading into the Baltic.

Eight hours of steady motoring gives you a lot of time to dwell on important aspects of life such as what’s for dinner… how close can we get to shore without running aground… are we far enough away from the passing ships… are the folks cycling along the canal ‘wave-worthy’… did the folks considered wave-worthy wave back… and, when all of those thoughts run through one’s head, what do our belly buttons look like. 

In short, the first time through the Kiel Canal (end of last year’s cruising) offered a new experience. The second time traversing the Kiel Canal (beginning of this year’s cruising), we knew what to expect. The third time, well, we know what to expect… and it’s a long canal.

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So, reaching the town of Brunsbüttel near the lock on the west end of the canal meant an end to the sameness and the thrill of turning off the engine. 

During our day-long motor several boats going over six knots passed us. We decided to up our speed for now we were afraid the docks at the end may get a bit wee too crowded.

Sure enough, entering the small docking area we slowly edged in trying to find a friendly boat, i.e., one with fenders hanging over the side, welcoming rafters such as us. Spotting one free space alongside the pontoon we aimed for that only to decide at the last minute it looked too small to squeeze into and then easily get out of the next morning, which is probably why it was free. 

Fortunately, the beautiful new 57-foot sailboat in front of that space skeptically said we could tie alongside them. By this point we were pretty much alongside them already so they didn’t really have much choice in the matter. So, we decorated JUANONA with our travel-weary fenders, which used to be bright white but have morphed into not-so-bright-and-definitely-not-as-white hue. We then tied to the shiny boat who now had quickly put out perfectly coiffed fenders complete with pristine covers nice enough that I’d be happy to use for pillows in our main cabin.

This also meant we had to traipse over their lovely you-could-eat-off-of-it deck to reach the pontoon. It was at this point we learned this was Hull #1 of a brand-new Hallberg-Ratsey line, on its way to be introduced at the Amsterdam Boat Show. We quickly told them we would never walk on their boat using our shoes and could even put on clean socks to do so. They laughed and kindly said no need to do so.

With that we headed for the German Tourist Information Office to pay the dockage fee. While providing the necessary info on JUANONA and length of our stay (one night) a young Italian man inquired about the shower code (most marinas use a digital keypad for their shower and toilet rooms). 

What transpired could have been a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit. With a certain disdain and lack-of-customer-service the woman behind the desk reported that he needed to see if his captain had paid the mooring fee in order to obtain the code. The young man said he wasn’t sure if he had paid but the captain was on the boat and would soon be in to pay if he hadn’t already. 

Even though the woman could have asked the name of the boat and then easily checked her records (she had all that information since it’s required when paying the fee), she didn’t. She just kept repeating to the young man’s code request, ‘the captain needs to pay the fee.’

At this point both Max and I were waiting for the sailor to leave so we could follow him out and give him the code. Yet, then the guy asked, “is the code 7492?” (He evidently had the code but something wasn’t right).  In response the woman replied, “yes, but it doesn’t work. I need to unlock the shower with my key.” ! I felt like we had just walked through the looking glass into the realm of the Red Queen… Poor fellow. If he had realized the woman was suspicious and not adept in helping others, he probably would have asked, “Is something wrong with the code 7492?”

Since shops closed early on Saturdays we only found a few fresh ingredients in the one Turkish store still open, then headed back to the boat where we discovered the shower guy was crew on our raftee boat. We began conversations with him and the other crew and the captain, all extremely friendly. Mike, the captain, worked for a delivery service and had been hired by the new owners of the boat to take this to the boat show in Lelystad, Holland.

Both of us planned to catch the early lock-opening out the next morning, which meant an early night; yet, we wished we had had more time with them. At least we exchanged information and travel ideas with Mike who was heading back to Wales after the boat delivery. He did leave us a boat card for the delivery service company saying they’d be thrilled to have someone of Max’s experience as part of the crew. Hmmm, I’ve heard of golf widows… :)

PASSAGE

Sunday-Monday, September 2-3, 2018

The next morning Mike and crew left and managed to catch the lock (the big, beautiful sailboat posing for a shot is the one we rafted to).

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Not everyone was as fortunate. A large powerboat zipped up and nosed a waiting sailboat out of the way resulting in a loud shouting match as the the lock gates closed with the powerboat in, the sailboat out.

Exiting the lock we left for our overnight passage. Originally we had planned to stop in at Cuxhaven, located 14 miles from the canal, then leave the next day for the Netherlands. But the wind forecast looked increasingly favorable to just keep going, and we had entered the river right at high tide, allowing us to ride the current all the way out the Elbe River before it turned against us.

The reason for coordinating sailing with favorable tides lies in the amount of current they generate: up to 4 knots in the Elbe. A favorable current added to our typical cruising speed of between five and six knots, frequently gave us over eight knots over the bottom.

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Having done this passage twice before, this waterway, like the canal, now seemed familiar. The first time (last year) we had to leave Cuxhaven at 3:30 A.M. with a passel of boats jockeying for position in the narrow channel between the beach and the shipping lanes. Not fun (except on that passage we later had a visit from s/v ADIOS with Dick and his son Leo aboard also heading back to the Netherlands). 

This time the overnight passage felt comfortable and straight-forward. With a decent Northeast wind, until the last five hours, and no customs boat hailing or boarding us, we cruised through the day

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and night. Even the main cabin stayed clutter-free.

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We kept the mandatory one-mile buffer between us and the shipping lanes (so called TSS or “Traffic Separation Scheme.”)

 

And kept clear of the fishing boat dragging their nets as we made our way to the Frisian island of Vlieland.

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VLIELAND

Monday-Wednesday, September 3-5, 2018

Within 28 hours we had changed our courtesy flag from German to Dutch

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and landed back at one of the barrier islands between Wadden Sea and the North Sea. Vlieland’s marina has served as our starting and/or ending point for the past two years of summer cruising. And, like Brunsbüttel it, too, appeared much busier than we had expected for early September.

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We discovered that the good weather had kept people sailing combined with a weekend festival, “Into The Great Wide Open”, which we had just missed.

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“Thankfully” according to one guy’s description of the music.

Yet, this scenic island serves as a popular vacation spot for many, as seen by the tent city we cycled by the next day.

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We managed to meet up with another cruiser, Peter, whom we had briefly met two years ago in Enkhuisen when discussing how to over-winter in his country. A lovely and fun night aboard with him and his partner, Lisbeth, enhanced our Vlieland stay. 

They left the next day for Terschelling, the Frisian Island just to the east, while we rented bikes for some land cruising along dune-laden beaches on the north side and marshy fields on the south.

 

AFLUISTDIJK

Wednesday-Thursday, September 5-6, 2018

Calculating another timed departure with favorable tides, we wove our way through the well-marked channel from Vlieland to Harlingen on the mainland and on to the gatekeeper of Holland: the Afluistdijk at Kornwerderzand.   (if anyone has read the book “Riddle of the Sands” or seen the movie, this screen grab of our chart plotter would appear familiar with green representing very shallow waters that can become land depending upon the tide.)

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We’ve maneuvered through this bridge-and-lock combo several times: at both the high and low season. Unfortunately, we found ourselves at one of the high points equating to jam-packed waiting areas both before the bridge opening and then after, waiting for the lock.

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We initially opted to motor around for over an hour, until the first batch of boats went through. The screen grab below shows our course…

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The only highlight was meeting up with Peter and Lisbeth at the lock, allowing us to exchange ‘motoring-boats-navigating-the-Boontjes-fairway’ photos and for me to snap a close-up shot of our friends.

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After an hour+ and waiting for the first crowd of boats to go through, we caught the next bridge opening. They then were able to make the next lock opening while we just missed it.

Another half-hour wait and then it was our turn with only two other boats. Yet, one of them happened to be a large schooner whose wake made it difficult to get lines around the bollards alongside the lock. While we were wrestling with lines, the other boat, a large beamy sailboat, inched in just managing to snuggle alongside JUANONA as they tied to the other side of the lock wall. 

Both boats got lines secured, and it was then that Max noticed no cooling stream of water jetting out of JUANONA’s stern. We often listen and look for the sound of spitting water. Strong gushes of spitting water means A-OK. No spitting gushes means ‘oh s _ _ _ T’ and a big Uh-Oh because no cooling water equals overheating engine. Great. 

He quickly shut the engine down as we waited for the lock’s water to adjust to the level outside the lock, and then for the doors to open. Max turned the engine back on and we darted to the first outside mooring area where we quickly docked before the overheating buzzer shrieked its alarm.

Luckily he was able to fix the problem (either something had covered the intake pipe–a plastic bag or jellyfish–or the impeller, a small rubber gasket, had stopped working). Huge sighs of relief accompanied by big grins meant JUANONA was a happy boat.

 

HINDELOOPEN

Thursday-Monday, September 5-10, 2018

The next morning we motored-sailed the 14 miles to one of our favorite Frisian towns, Hindeloopen, on the IJseelmeer, Netherlands’ large lake formed by two dikes. We had arranged to rendezvous with our friends, Helen and Gus Wilson aboard their boat s/v WINGS. They live aboard WINGS in London’s St. Catherine’s Docks, a harbor we had checked out in 2014 and definitely would have stayed if not for heading to Norway the next summer (easier to stay in Ipswich on the east coast).

Gus and Helen write detailed cruising notes we have religiously perused, along with others’. They also manage to scout out interesting activities wherever they land. Trust me, accompany them to any locale and you’ll be happily discovering information not many find.

Unfortunately, we missed out when visiting another Frisian harbor, Stavoren, 6.5 miles south of Hindeloopen. The four of us trained it to the town Sunday afternoon and neglected to stop in at the Tourist Information Office. But, Helen and Gus returned the next day with WINGS and explored this small town thoroughly for four hours (!) with a self-guided tour. (The lead photo of the lady looking out stands on a pedestal in Stavoren’s harbor reminding folk of a local tale.)

We were able to spend the previous day in Leeuwarden and Sneek on Monument Days, a weekend holiday they had told us about. On Saturday and Sundays the Municipalities provide access to buildings normally not open to the public. Thinking the capital of Friesland offered the most options, we headed there by train. Well, Leeuwarden’s Monument theme centered on school buildings, and after checking out two of the monuments the four of us looked at one another and made an unanimous decision to skip the “monuments” and head for lunch. Which is how we ended up at Max’s favorite Turkish donor vendor. :)

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In lieu of entertainment via the monuments, we happened upon some fellow Cruising Association members, Americans Mike and Robin aboard their powerboat m/v MERMAID (during the summer, while wintering aboard s/v MERMAID in the Caribbean, a frequent cocktail gathering place fondly called The Mermaid Lounge).

We also caught some large Dutch schooners navigating a narrow lock.

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Note the fender off the bow: they literally use these to bump the canal’s side in order to turn the boat. Quite a surprise to see this maneuver!

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The smaller city of Sneek did provide more interesting monuments, such as the tower view in the city gate….

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and, City Hall with its beautiful Asian murals in the upstairs conference room.

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A bonus was meeting a Swiss trumpeter waiting for his girlfriend who had been working in front of another monument that had just closed. He treated us to a private recital, the Frisian Anthem, accompanied (sort of)…

(I apologize as I can’t load the video correct-side up, but you’ll at least be able to hear the trumpeter and his enthusiastic accompanier…)

He even yodeled when I asked if he did that as well. Although he said his voice had changed so couldn’t really make the proper sounds.

Traveling around these Frisian cities and towns also enabled us to check out several of the recently erected fountains. Because Leeuwarden has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2018 (similar to the Danish city of Aarhus last year), special events and artwork appeared throughout the city as well as in some other Frisian towns.

One provincial art exhibit connected the 11 towns famous for the Netherlands’ skating race, the Elfstedentocht. An old tradition became a formal race in 1909 with skaters covering around 200 km (160 miles) without stopping. Think Hans Brinker and the silver skates.

The ice has to be at least 15 centimeters (6 inches) thick before the race can be run, which due to climate change has in recent times only occurred in 1985, 1986 and 1997. When it does, though, it seems the whole country participates. In 1997 over 300 speed skating contestants and 15,000 leisure skaters joined the fun.

If we ever had the chance to watch, we would definitely join the over million viewers as it would be hard to avoid catching the Elfstedenkoorts (the race fever).

Of the seven fountains currently erected we managed to see four:

Leeuwarden’s…

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Sneek’s…

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Stavoren’s…

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And, Hindeloopen’s (difficult to photograph but there are exotic birds spewing water on the tree limbs surrounded by horns representing the town’s name which loosely translates to running female deer).

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While in Hindeloopen we also managed to catch a concert performed by a young ensemble, Friese Odyssey, who cruise to various locales on one of those traditional Dutch schooners giving free concerts. The four of us enjoyed an hour of classical strings basking in the melodies and the enthusiastic playing.

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On Monday, we sailed the 28 miles back to our winter port, knowing we were home when we spotted Hoorn’s ancient tower.

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Good to be back, especially with a special event coming up…!

Some island hops before we sadly say ‘farvel’ to Denmark

RØDVIG 

Thursday-Sunday, August 23-26, 2018

After an amazing week of friends and festivities we sailed out of Copenhagen. Like many visitors, we, too, felt as if we could have stayed for a much longer time. Yet, we vowed to return, which eased the pain of seeing our home for the past week disappear in the distance. 

By now the steady stream of sunlight and favorable forecasts from summer had transitioned to a mix of weather systems. We seemed to be alternating between easy cruising and dodging stormy weather, causing us to seek out shelter in ports offering not only secure tie-ups but also an element of interest, which is how we picked our next destination, Rødvig.

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Good winds made for an easy traverse of 33 miles, and within 6 hours we docked alongside amidst a blend of fishing boats, wind farm tenders, and other cruisers like us (JUANONA is on the opposite dock from the big red boat below)A quick perusal of the one-street town reminded us of an earlier Rockland, Maine with its underpinning of a working waterfront overlaid with a few cafes and shops serving seasonal tourists. 

One of the main attractions offered a step back in time. Actually a GARGANTUUM leap:  the coastline is noted as one of the few places in the world to actually touch a world-changing event. To get there you simply had to walk a couple miles along a bluff. 76EF8FC4-08E7-4C95-9884-B521CEF84DC2In doing so we passed by underground bunkers one mile long and 59 feet deep from the Cold War. Active from 1956 to 2000, they served as another reminder of how these countries, unlike the USA, physically feel the tension between the USSR and the West. Another time we may have taken the hour-long tour of the Stevnsfort but opted instead to stay above ground and keep moving back in time.

In addition to fishing, the earlier inhabitants of this area mined chalk and limestone; and we spotted several structural remnants –a cement factory

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and two quicklime kilns–

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of this once-thriving occupation. 

We finally reached the point, where three friendly cyclists told us exactly how to locate the desired spot, which, in hind sight, we realized we never would have found on our own.

Descending to the shoreline

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we scurried up some rocks to the right and stood in awe looking at the cause of the demise of the earth’s dinosaurs over 65 million years ago! 

The view? A horizontal line varying from two to four inches wide of so-called fish clay.

The composite? Dead dinos and other creatures along with debris The cause? Dust (from a 10-km meteorite crashing into the earth along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula) and ashes (from the colliding of India and Asia causing volcanic eruptions) blotting out the sun’s warmth, soon rendering two-thirds of all species extinct.

CFC5B023-8EF0-41F6-9E7D-1E5748B6D834The cliffs of Stevns Klint (‘klint’, Danish for cliff) run just over nine miles long and over 130 feet high, presenting a water view of soft clay (composed of limestone shells from algae) topped by hard limestone (thanks to remains of moss animal skeletons that lived on the seabed) interspersed with black lines of flint and topped by 20,000 years of glacier debris. 

Separating the white clay from the white limestone is the thin, gooey, gray-black strip discovered by a scientific, father-son team, the Alvarez’s, in 1978. With a composition of no signs of life and a high level of iridium, an element rare on earth but common in space, Walter (a geologist) and his father Louis, a Noble Prize winner in science, connected this thin line to the meteor and the dinosaurs’ extinction. 

After oohing and ahhing while touching the damp clay we climbed back to the top, only to step into a more recent time, an 14th-century church.

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Part of it fell into the sea in 1928 due to erosion but is now safe to use. We only peeked in as a small wedding ceremony was going on.

Not wanting to make the long walk home, we considered returning to the harbor via a local bus. We soon decided using our thumbs gave us more options; and, within ten minutes a car – the first to pass us- stopped to pick us up. The driver was not only friendly but also the ex-mayor. He had just officiated at one of the 300 weddings held in Rødvig annually. Which explained why we kept seeing matrimonial groups during our weekend there.

One other interesting site sat outside a Thai restaurant.

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Having seen a lot of these painted by artists in 2010 I asked the proprietor where he got it. Not quite understanding his answer I believe the elephant originated from a similar group, basically an event raising awareness of the plight of the Asian elephant. The elephants were then auctioned off with proceeds donated to their conservation. At least, that’s my translations of his answer…

MØN

Sunday-Wednesday, August 26-29, 2018

By Sunday, the storm passed and we left Rødvig for another geological wonder:  the cliffs on the island of Møns.

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A brisk sail ended with 5 miles of pounding into the wind and short steep seas, making us grateful to reach the tranquility of Klintholm. Over the course of the afternoon and evening other boaters joined us to wait out a forecasted storm. Which arrived as predicted the next day.

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But, it didn’t stop us from hopping a bus to explore several sites around the island. Two being churches from the 13th-century, and both sporting murals and frescoes by the Elmelunde Master, and later carefully restored.

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Thankfully the Fanefjord Church provided a helpful chart so we actually understood what we were looking at.

One of the frames caught my eye: ‘Careless words during service’.

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It made me chuckle as I could so believe my doing the same. I also knew some good friends, one recently deaconized (if that’s the correct term), who most likely would have added my name under one of the women…

Located in what is called a fjord (a pretty flat one at that) this church was quite large and impressive for the relatively small population it had served;

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but, the harbor served as a safe trading spot for the Hanseatic League who obviously believed in giving thanks for getting rich.

Having walked to the site in pouring rain we knew a wet slog back to the bus stop awaited us. Yet, exiting the church we noticed a sign pointing to a Stone Age site less than a quarter-mile away.

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We headed up the road, stopping where a sign indicated straight ahead was the Crøn Jaegers Høj (Green Hunter’s Mound) or Fanesalen (Fane Hall), a long barrow named after a legend of King Green and his wife Fane. However, peering through the gray skies across a farm all we saw was a field ending with the beginning of an arbor. As we kept staring all of a sudden we saw what we had thought was a row of trees morph into large boulders punched into the sides of a long earthern mound.

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Although we couldn’t enter, a plaque described the interior as holding three burial chambers. Rectangular stone coffins possibly held one individual each, placed in their passage graves with, what is thought, representations of the sun and light via white flint found in each coffin.

If we looked like drowned rats before entering the church, our route back to the main road only enhanced our sogginess. Yet, it was worth trying for a ride. And, the first car that passed us actually stopped! Two older women on their way to the grocery store assured us it wouldn’t be a problem depositing our wet bodies on their car’s seat. A short ride later we found ourselves sussing out potential lunch items at the store and joining a young German couple backpacking via their unique bike-for-two. I didn’t envy their ride or accommodations in this weather.

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Within an hour we caught the bus to another church where we saw a repeat of the first church’s paintings while also getting a chance to dry out some.

The next day we headed in the opposite direction to experience the geological wonder of this island:  the Møns Klint, soaring white cliffs similar to those at Dover on England’s southeast coast.

Hearing from several cruisers that the museum associated with these cliffs was expensive, we decided to pay the entrance fee anyway based on recommendations from other cruisers, one being a geologist. And, we were glad we did. The explanations increased our understanding of what we experienced in Rødvig and our exploration of these cliffs.

Needing to kill time before the museum opened we headed for the cliffs. Once we descended 497 steps (but who’s counting) of the wooden staircase,

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we now stood at the bottom of these impressive white cliffs seen from sea two days prior.

After a few photos…

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a stroll along part of the four miles of rocky shoreline…

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where we tested the clay

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and spotted lines of flint…

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We returned to the stairs and back up we went, albeit slightly slower.

At first the museum appears to be fairly limited in scope, however the slide shows on computer screens and accompanying displays easily led us through the complex evolution of Møns Klint. That, alone, was worth the price of admission.

Millions and millions and millions, okay, gadZILLIONS of minuscule creatures named coccoliths formed this white chalk. The chalk is separated by horizontal lines of flint, which sat 1.5 feet below the seabed. Surprisingly there still isn’t an explanation of exactly what caused these black lumps to morph into flint, which occurred irregularly.

The museum showcased one of the most prevalent dinosaurs of the area, the mosasaurus.

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We had passed a fossilized head when entering the museum’s lobby,

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and saw a mosasaurus’ tooth considered a ‘treasure trove belonging to the Danish state’ according to the Copenhagen Geology Museum. 

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Like many fossils in Denmark this tooth was found by an amateur fossil hunter on July 25, 2007.

A small room off the main exhibit area highlighted the importance of chalk in our lives. White chalk is very pure limestone, the latter being calcium carbonate or CaCO3. From cement (which requires 82% limestone) to gum, we depend on this sedimentary carbonate rock. And, one startling realization for me was not only how often we used this resource but also that it is a finite resource. Yet, another reminder of how much we are gobbling up our round ball we inhabit.

Another room found on the next floor showcased some of the bizarre critters that lived during the Triassic Period*. Interactive screens explained some of each dinosaur’s unique features.

*I’ll attempt to explain the three different Dinosaur periods comprising the Mesozoic Era: The Triassic, 237-201 million years ago (mya); the Jurassic, 201-145 mya; and, the Cretaceous, 145-66 mya. The Møns Klint’s chalk was formed 150 mya.

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One of the first in this period was the Coelophysis (seen above), a carnivorous dinosaur with hollow bones suggesting they were warm-blooded. The hollow areas were either filled with air (like birds) or marrow (like mammals). I don’t care what these creatures had or the fact they probably ate small reptiles and amphibians. I just know I wouldn’t want to have run into one of these nine-foot tall animals.

 

Interspersed around the museum were fun activities, some appealing to even big kids.

 

In the gift shop another opportunity presented itself for a portrait shot. And, with that, we walked back into the 21st century. Well almost.

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A short bus ride took us from the frightening world of things that could munch on our bones to one where a fairytale setting offered a place to soak up the serenity after the imagined horror of becoming a dinosaur’s meal.

We mistakenly entered the private courtyard of Liselund Gammel Slot, a Danish ‘castle’ (really a manor and its grounds). Named after the French owner’s wife Elizabeth, this beautiful estate was built in the late 18th century.

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We soon found ourselves in the public area complete with the large manor, now opened to visitors,

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guest cottages, such as the one complete with an aristocrat posing, 

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and sublime landscapes of tranquil ponds and velvet lawns. 

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Catching the same bus driver home, we spent another evening with a cruiser friend, Nicholas, whom we first met at the beginning of the summer in Kalmar, Sweden. Since then we had enjoyed spontaneous meet-ups in Visby, on the Sweden’s Gotland Island, and in the Stockholm Archipelago at an anchorage in Utø. This time he introduced us to some of his fellow Brits sailing these waters:  Richard and Linda on s/v SEAHORSE OF THE SOLENT and Malcom and Joanne on s/v LADY HAMILTON. 

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Needless to write, it’s always been wonderful to share time with Nicholas and any other cruisers he’s met.

VEJRØ

Wednesday-Friday, August 29-August 31, 2018

Paul and Gwyneth on s/v BLUE ORCHID whom we also had met early in our summer cruising told us of the lovely, yet ritzy island of Verjø. This property had been bought and developed by a wealthy Dane and the buildings and amenities certainly lived up to its reputation.

Typical Danish architecture lent itself to the restaurant (we only got breakfast rolls and coffee, the cost of the latter making me almost spit out the brew) and lodge…

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And was echoed in a bunny warren Peter the rabbit would have deigned to inhabit.

 

We rode mountain bikes provided free of charge (or, more to the point, included in the docking fee…) which took us past farmlands of sheep and hogs to decorative, yet functional, greenhouses.

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Noticing blackberries along the way we picked some but didn’t manage to save any…

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But I returned the next day in the rain to collect some for our fruit larder.

Poor WiFi aboard but free laundry (always a welcome amenity) and a luxurious shower and bathroom facility made up for lack of easy Internet connections :)

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Plus, we could sit in the lodge just a short walk away where the signal was stronger.

We were glad we stopped, happy it wasn’t crowded (allowing for four loads of wash),

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and now we are ready to leave Denmark on a fresh breeze to reach Germany and exit from the Baltic to the North Sea.

Next, back to the Netherlands (well, eventually)…

Swedish coastal cruising continued…

Sweden’s Southern Coast

Tuesday-Tuesday, August 7-14

After spending five days exploring Aspo and Karlskrona, we hopscotched along the Sweden’s southern coast for a week. JUANONA berthed in three different marinas as few spots along the outer coast offered protected anchorages. Although eager to reach Copenhagen for a wedding, our cruising offered opportunities to visit some interesting sites; some more so than others, but all worth the tie-up.

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This town surprised us as the waterfront just seemed like one big marina for people making their way along the coast. Yet, behind the street ringing the harbor a lovely little town awaited our strolling.

we passed street art adorning utility boxes and drain pipes

 

As we made our way to St. Nicholas Church built in the 12th century, and explanded over the years.

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Inside, the brightly colored pulpit shone in start contrast to the stark white walls.16BB599A-254C-40D1-AEB5-9D6166AC25D3

What I found interesting is this church served as one of the pilgrimage stops for those early Christians making their way to/from Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Vadstena in Sweden, and Nidaros in Norway.

The hub of this Pilgrim Way was Lund Cathedral in Lund, Sweden. The powerful Archbishop had quite an impact. I remembered how this religious head basically ruled over the Danish island of Bornholm with Hammershus, a huge fortress located on the northwest coast of that island, an important stronghold.

And, you can imagine the Danish King didn’t jump up and down with joy to have such an influential guy serving as a de facto ruler…

Anyhow, as always, I enjoy connecting the dots even if I can’t always remember much about each mental dot.

Having read about a great pizzeria (yes, I DO search these out), we managed to grab an outdoor table

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just before a rain storm hit (thankfully, we had just run back to quickly close Juanona’s hatches).

Although delectable, it didn’t beat our favorite of the summer: the pizza pie we ate at the family-run cafe located on the Aland island of Kokar :)

YSTAD

With a forecast of gale-force winds for Friday through Sunday, we wanted to stop in a town offering more sites to see. Ystad, 27 miles down and around a point, provided the perfect harbor.

Before turning the corner we spotted a site we had earmarked ever since reading about it in some cruisers’ notes: Ale’s Stones.

These stones impressed us as we sailed past and we could only imagine how it’d feel to be amongst them.

 

Once we got settled into our berth, we made plans to take the local bus to see them. Which is how we ended up standing amidst this ancient stone outline of a ship a few days later.

Comprised of 59 boulders, this ‘sunship’ is 67 meters long and 19 meters wide, with the bow and stern featuring the tallest stones.

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Although there is no definitive explanation of why these stones appear here, historians surmise the orientation relates to the earth’s calendar of solstices and equinoxes.

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Constructed between 500 and 1000 C.E., the ship uses some stones from a nearby Neolithic burial chamber from around 3,500 BCE.

Remarkably this historical site has survived hundreds of years without much damage. Even when the military used it for an air reconnaissance facility during the 1940s (!).

We checked out the view looking out from the coast.

 

 

With such a splendid, unencumbered view it’s not surprising to learn that this landmark served as a navigation aid as noted on a 1684 chart.

To ensure this site cemented itself in his memory Max performed a feat his father Abbot used to do. :)

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But, Ystad itself had some interesting sites to see, such as the Greyfriars Abbey. Built in 1267, forty-one years after St. Francis de Assisi’s death, this Franciscan friary served as another strategic support for the archbishop in his power struggle with the king.

In the mid-1500s during Martin Luther’s Reformation, the Lutherans tossed out the brothers, and the abbey became a Protestant church. Over the next three centuries it served as a hospital, a crown distillery and finally a crown granary (where the king stored the grain that farmers paid as taxes).

When cash replaced grain in 1871, the abbey fell into disrepair with the town making plans to demolish this ‘eye sore’.

 

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Luckily a group of town folk protested and raised funds to restore the buildings and grounds to its past glory.

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The museum did a wonderful job of explaining the history of the abbey and its inhabitants.

A self-guided tour led us along cobble-stone streets to half-timbered buildings (and a lot of brick) from the Middle Ages, such as a place where pilgrims stayed.

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The Mayor’s house where King Karl XII (who fought Peter the Great in the early 1700s and who bankrupt the country) stayed…

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Another landmark stood in the center of town: St. Mary’s Church. A wedding prevented us entering; yet, what we really wanted to experience was hearing the famous town watchman’s bugle sounded from the spire.

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He began at 9:15 PM and continued until 1 AM at fifteen-minute intervals, a service begun in the 17th century with no interruptions except during WWII. Hard to believe but supposedly true.

For those who have read the Swedish author Henrik Manning’s mysteries, you’d recognize Ystad as the locale his protagonist, Inspector Wallander, frequented. The town offers a tour, but we passed on taking it. Yet, I do want to rewatch the BBC series starring Kenneth Branagh as the Inspector.

In addition to the historical places to see we were thankful to be escaping a pretty rough ride out on the water. We woke one morning to find sand covering the boardwalk along the marina. Walking to the showers we had to keep our mouths shut to avoid swallowing grit.

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And, of course, whenever we hear of a good chandlery a stop-in is a must.

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FALSTERBORKANALENS

With the winds abating and a favorable forecast we left for our last overnight stop before landing in Copenhagen.

The one-mile canal shortened our route by 10 miles. Max borrowed one of the marina bikes to use up our Swedish Kroger’s on beer and wine, while I opted to stretch my legs walking through a neighborhood filled with a mix of vacation and full-time residences in this resort town. But, not much else attracted us.

COPENHAGEN

Tuesday-Thursday, August 14-23, 2018

We awoke the next morning and left Falsterborkanalens for the 24 mile sail to Copenhagen.

Along the way we passed to leeward of a wind farm,

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which literally took the wind out of our sails and dropped our speed by a half knot.

 

This city is so close to Malmo, Sweden a bridge connects the two, one featured in another series, ‘The Bridge’. And, no, I don’t just watch TV series…

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We entered a marina, formerly a Tuborg brewery, now aptly marked by port and starboard beer bottle beacons.

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One of the two dates we had scheduled for this year’s cruising landed us in Copenhagen for another special event on August 18. We’d been extremely fortunate to attend three spectacular weddings during the summer, beginning with Chris and Karina’s in St. Croix, followed by Brook and Micah’s on Orr’s, and now Nina and Peter’s in Copenhagen. 

A friend from Maine who introduced us to Nina joined us aboard over the four days of celebration.

We flew code flags on JUANONA, and Max decorated the dinghy as our ferry to the ceremony, including Norwegian and Danish flags in honor of the wedding couple’s birth countries.

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The pictures say it all :)

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During our visit we pedaled around the city on the marina’s free bikes, revisiting neighborhoods we had last toured in December.

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The summer crowds made us very appreciative of being able to travel off-season.

Since we had seen many of the popular sites our time was spent just cycling around. Doing so we spotted two new places to explore: the graves of famous Danes in Assistens Cemetary, also used as a beautiful park.

 

In addition to Hans Christian Anderson and Soren Kierkegaard, one of Max’s heroes, the physicist Niels Bohr (1885-1962), was also buried here.

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While searching out those famous Danes’ resting places I noticed one named “Fred”.

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I thought that seemed both odd and, yet, pretty cool that someone had used their nickname for their grave stone.  However, when I saw a second “Fred”, it really seemed odd so I google translated it only to learn it’s “Peace” in Danish…

On our way back from the cemetery we happened upon the Niels Bohr Institute.

Max returned the next day and asked the receptionist if it was possible to peek inside. Someone overheard the request and took him to Bohr’s office and lecture hall, left as they were in the 1920s and 30s when this was the epicenter of Quantum Physics.

Not only did Max get an impromptu tour of Bohr’s office and classroom, this guide turned out to be one of the three physicists who created the current building display out front which is connected directly to the CERN accelerator.  

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Definitely a highlight of Max’s cruising summer :)

But, what really made this port so memorable were the people. In addition to Nina and Peter and their family and friends, such as some Aussies sailors with their young daughter Raphaela (the latter making me miss our grand nieces Vivian and Olivia),

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we were lucky enough to have some Orr’s Islanders aboard, namely Steve Arndt as well as a visit from Sarah and John Birkinbine who had just finished a Baltic Cruise.

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With August drawing to a close it was time to leave this city and head towards the Kiel Canal. However, Copenhagen remains a destination we to which we definitely intend to return. 

Next, dinosaurs and a reunion…

King Charle’s Crown

KARLSKRONA

Thursday-Monday, August 2-6, 2018

As mentioned in the previous post the pretty island of Aspo served as a strategic defense for Sweden’s naval base, Karlskrona. Named after the Swedish King Karl (or ‘Charles’) XI who founded the base in late 1600s, Karlskrona (Karl’s Crown) grew into a thriving port. Only a 20-minute ferry ride–a happily FREE ferry ride, this city became our off-island excursion four out of the five days we stayed at Aspo’s boat club.

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We had read about the stellar maritime museum located here, no surprise considering this area’s history; so, on our second day of touring we made it our first destination.

 

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I know I have a tendency to yada-on and on about our museum visits, so I’ll endeavor to maintain a quick walk-thru…

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its naval history, Karlskrona spreads across three islands, Trosso, Bjorkholmen and Stumholmen (the Naval or Maritime Museum being on the latter),all protected by the fortresses on surrounding islands:Kurrholmen, Godnatt, Koholmen, Ljungskar, Mjolnareholmen, and the two sisters mentioned in the previous post, Aspo and Kungholmen.

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One reason for the immediate success of Karlskrona came from King Charles XI (1655-1697)

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forcing burghers and merchants to relocate there by pulling their licenses to trade in their own boroughs. Instant populating of a town, especially when considering the folks needed for the new dockyards and shipbuilding industry. From its founding in 1680 Karlskrona’s dockyard and navy base became one of Sweden’s largest employers.

Sweden’s military prowess owes a lot to Gustav Eriksson Vasa I (1568-1607) who became king in 1523 after rebelling against the Danes. To counter Denmark’s stronghold on the region’s trade and to defend against Danish invasions, Gustav began building a fleet of fighting ships and a strong army. His imposing Renaissance castle (below) is the one we visited in Kalmar earlier this summer.

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A partner in Gustav’s efforts was the German Hanseatic League, which wanted to protect its prosperous trading routes and bases; thus, it supported Sweden’s growing military might with loans for shipbuilding and the hiring of mercenaries. This is a bit ironic considering 120 years earlier Denmark formed the Kalmar Union, an agreement with the Swedish and Norwegian aristocracies, to protect themselves from that League’s dominance…

Add in the British and Dutch whose foreign policies were guided by ensuring that none of the Scandinavian countries would control trade in the Baltic and you have, well, a squabbling mess of warring factions. And, of course, Russia’s navy created by Peter the Great (1672-1725)

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had to join the fray. A great cartoon of the time would be these rulers huddled around the board game RISK throwing dice to see who invaded whom. Some things never, ever change.

So, is it surprising that Sweden chose ‘Dominum Maris Baltica’ (supremacy in the Baltic) as their guiding principle in international strategy?

British and Dutch shipwrights initially influenced Sweden’s shipbuilding methods. For example, King Charles X (1622-1654) recruited Francis Sheldon (1612-1692) from England in the 1650s. Sheldon, known for his temper, quit in 1672, only to return five years later to work in Sweden’s dockyard. (He designed the KRONAN, a ship whose recovered artifacts we saw in Kalmar). Eventually, his quarrelsome personality got the better of him and he exited the scene in 1686 (after being arrested and discharged from the Swedish navy) only to pop up as a senior shipwright with the Danish navy. Now that’s what I call hoisting a middle finger…

But, Sheldon left quite a legacy amongst Master shipwrights, with his sons continuing to play important roles in Sweden’s maritime industry. His son Charles Sheldon (1665-1739) built 59 ships during his reign as Master shipwright.

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It was during his time that the prominent Swedish inventor and industrialist Christopher Polhem (1661-1751)

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built the innovative dry dock at Karlskrona. In non-tidal waters the building and launching of ships becomes more difficult as you have to continually keep water out, as opposed to water that ebbs and flows.

Completed in 1724 it is known as the Polhem Dry Dock. FYI:King Charles XII (1682-1718)-note the pouty-lip resemblance to his dad-

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wanted to connect the east and west coasts, and Polhelm began to design it; yet this waterway-the Gota Canal (aka ‘Divorce Ditch’ among boaters due to the number of locks one goes through to reach the end, and, no, Max and I haven’t taken it)-didn’t come to fruition until 100 years later.

Another key figure was Fredric Henric af Chapman (1721-1808). King Gustav III (1746-1792) commissioned a new fleet of ships in preparation for war with Russia (during Catherine the Great’s rule). Thanks to his standardizing of production and mathematical methods, Chapman cranked out 10 ships of the line (the latest battle ship at the time that would line up opposite enemy ship to unload a barrage of fire power) and 10 frigates (faster and lighter and used for escorting and patrolling) in three years. Previously it would take several years for just one! As a museum guide later told us, forget Henry Ford:  Chapman was the true father of automation.

Thanks to King Adolf Frederik (1710-1771)

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this historical knowledge was preserved. Recognizing the importance of collaboration, in 1752 he designated three cities–Gothenburg, Stockholm, and Karlskrona–to maintain an inventory of ship models and construction drawings. However, his creation of shipbuilding repositories is likely overshadowed by the unfortunate fact that he ate himself to death. 

The exhibits featured not only models of ships

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but also other inventions, many of which never went beyond the prototype stage, such as this wooden submarine (attributed to a pupil of Polhelm) powered by four paddle wheels.

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The dockyard employed an international crew of craftsmen, many of whom were illiterate and/or didn’t understand Swedish. Which is why visual art-scaled models, paintings, and drawings-provided the instruction of how to build the ships.

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Karlskrona gained a reputation for its shipbuilding, resulting in espionage by other countries. Proof of such was found relatively recently at Denmark’s Naval Officers’ Bureau: a November 1721 copy of the above dry dock plans. For those countries lacking tidal waters (like Sweden) this document would prove invaluable.

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By now my brain was overloaded with details of shipbuilding. Time for upstairs with its exhibits on life aboard in the early days with displays depicting such gruesome events as amputating a sailor’s leg (note the expression on the guy holding the leg…)

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And the Cold War years (the political climate is fairly chilly now with regards to Russia and the other Baltic countries).

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With Max checking out the buffet lunch (he loves those buffets like I adore pizzas), we opted for a lunch break

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before entering the next exhibit: the submarine hall highlighting submarines.

Here two subs, the high-tech HMS Neptune and Hajen, aka ‘the Shark’, filled the room with a timeline of Sweden’s 110-year history of submarine development lining the walls.

We could walk through the large sub

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and see part of the smaller one but what caught my eye were the black-and-white photos placing Sweden’s evolution of its submarines within the larger context of key events, both in Sweden and internationally.

I barely noticed the submarine drawings as my eyes alighted on the array of images. For each decade there were at least three or more photos documenting notable occasions (and, it was interesting to note many highlighted women). Below is just a sample:

1909 The first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature:  Selma Lagerlof 

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1936 Unemployment and homelessness during the Depression in the U.S.

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1950 North Koreans flee to South Korea during the Korean War

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1958 Apartheid in South Africa with separate stands for blacks and whites

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1961 Margit Claesson becomes the first female bus driver in Sweden

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1967 Sweden switches to right-hand traffic at 4:50 AM (its neighboring countries drove on the right).

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In addition to the photos the description of life aboard both fascinated and made me thankful I wasn’t on one:  The first submarine had no bunks, no way to prepare hot meals, and-even worse-no toilet. Yet, I also learned the early subs would patrol on the surface, diving only briefly to engage the enemy.

Today, two crew members do ‘hot bunking’, i.e., one sleeps in a bunk when the other is on duty, have hot showers once or twice weekly, and eat every six hours. Still, you are submerged in a metal sausage floating in the ocean.

Exiting this exhibit we went for a quick stroll by two ships docked outside, then left with a boatload of info swimming in our heads.

Yet, we did visit another maritime building a few days later. Max had read about the Ropewalk, once the longest one in Europe and still Sweden’s longest wooden building.

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Since 1692 tradesmen made rope here from scratch to use as lines aboard their ships. The building we were going to see stretched to more than 300 meters long and had been in operation until 1960.  We had seen a display about this trade on the Maritime Museum including photos from the 1900s (the one below shows men getting ready to spin the carded material).

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Intrigued, we thought it would be a mistake to overlook this site.

Because the island of Lindholmen is part of Karlskrona’s active naval base, we needed to use our passports to book the tour. Transported by the hop-on-hop-off boat, we were met by a volunteer guide associated with the Karlskrona Dockyard Society. His organization was responsible for a lot of the preservation of these historical naval structures. A current project is the construction of a square-rig hull to demonstrate the shipbuilding techniques before the use of modern equipment.

*In 2017 the 2009 marketing idea to install webcams overlooking Karlskrona backfired when a local noticed the comings and goings of Sweden’s fleet of five, non-nuclear subs. After a bit of a spat, the town agreed to remove them. We had spotted radar-deflecting ships like the new ones built at Bath Iron Works when on the ferry from Aspo but, once on the base, we couldn’t take photos of the vessels.

Since only two tourists had signed up for the visit-that being we-the guide treated us to a private tour. This meant we peppered him with questions, the poor guide, as he unraveled the process of rope-making. We even had the opportunity to make a piece of rope using a contraption we’d seen in the historical photos.

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It’s easy to forget the pipeline of supplies needed to equip a navy, but standing in this building quickly brings the importance of trades, such as rope-making, to the forefront.

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Because the materials shorten as they’re twisted, the building’s length matched the specification for making the standard length of rope. He pointed out the measurements noted on the wall, with one dating from the origins of the building.

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**Rope on boats is renamed a bunch of different terms. If just sitting there, it’s just a rope but once it’s used for a specific task it becomes a ‘line’. (Www.Boatingwithdawsons.com).

And, trust me, there are a LOT of those terms… A line for pulling sails in/letting them out is a ‘sheet’… rope running up the mast is called ‘halyard’ and ‘downhaul’ for pulling it down… The lines, sometimes steel cables, keeping a mast in place are ‘shrouds’ or ‘stays’ specified ‘forestay’ and ‘backstay’ depending on whether fore or aft… Ropes for tieing up are ‘docklines’ or ‘warps’. And, there are ‘anchor lines’ fender lines’, etc. Two exceptions of a rope actually called a ‘rope’ are ‘bolt rope’ (attaches to end of a sail) and ‘bell rope’ (rings a ship’s bell) www.universalyachting.com. But, it does start out being called ‘rope’! Hence, our standing in the Ropewalk.

Several different raw materials were used, and he pointed out one of them, hemp in its natural state.

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Like making yarn, the men carded it, spun it by walking backwards, then wove it together.

The last step is what we did, which is twisting it, bringing one end of the contraption towards the stationary end as the rope shortens.

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We discovered our guide was one of the few authentic ropemakers as he demonstrated what constitutes a satisfactory rope:  letting it hang to create a loop, then bringing his hands together to create a circle. If the rope hung evenly and didn’t twist, we’d passed our exam

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with his final test:the old rope trick :)

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Handing it to us with Max exclaiming how he loves that tarry smell (me, not so much).

Running a bit long due to our questions, we quickly went through a second construction building, along with a quick walk-by the Polhem dry dock.

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Hurrying back to the ferry for our pick-up, we thanked the guide and wished our time had been longer. I have to admit I almost passed on joining Max for this tour and am so thankful I didn’t. Plus, the rope trick was pretty special :)  

 

During our trips into Karlskrona we strolled around other parts of the city. On Friday and Saturday the Skargardsfest Festival was on. Begun to celebrate some specific event or another, it is now held annually just because, as one Swede told us, who wouldn’t want a party? Made perfect sense to us. 

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We also stopped by one on our way back to the ferry to Aspo (which we always seemed to be running to catch).

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This festival promoted environmental issues including a recycled fashion show, the best being an outfit of stuffed animals serving as large odd-shaped pompoms.

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And, although comprised of teens and twenty-year-olds, some of us oldies enjoyed the occasion.

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Our last stop had been on my list since landing in Sweden. Although New Zealand, United States and Australia rank highest in  per capita consumption of ice cream, Sweden’s right up there. I had to try it, right?

So, we located a shop that always had a line the door and added ourselves to the queue (I have to say people are very patient line-waiters In this part of the world; makes for a very relaxing and refreshing standing time, one I hope will rub down some of my normal impatience).

Thinking I’d go for gold, I ordered three scoops only to watch in dumbstruck horror that their ‘single scoop’ amounts to a packed three! Once my eyes popped back into my head and my mouth changed from an extreme 0 to forming words, I was able to stop her at two scoops. And, THAT is how I ended up with the largest ice cream cone I’ve ever held. 

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And what a delectrable mess that was :)

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And, I did share with Max, the professed, non-sweet eater. Uh-huh, right…

The next day we untied our lines and left Aspo and Karlskrona, a perfect blend of island-city touring.

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Oh, and that smelly rope? That rope remained just ‘rope’–no way was that being employed on JUANONA–so, it proudly hung on the stern in Max’s backpack, which had also acquired that sweet-smelling aroma (sweet according to my husband).

 

Next, onwards to another celebration we’d been looking forward to all summer…

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASPO-lutely wonderful!

ASPO

Thursday-Tuesday, August 2-7, 2018

As I’ve mentioned before, other cruisers’ notes provide an excellent resource when exploring new areas. The information comes from online articles, sailing organizations’ websites, and conversations boat-to-boat. Reviewing the boatload (pun intended) of information landed us on Aspo, an island described as a gem by fellow visitors. 

One reason for making this our destination was Aspo’s location relative to Karlskrona, Sweden’s primary naval port since the late 1600s. King Charles XI relocated the navy from Stockholm because the spring ice thaw arrived earlier than in the Stockholm Archipelago further north.

 

In 1998 Karlskrona, also on an island, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its  Baroque architecture and town layout, the naval dockyard, and the military fortifications. Displays at the maritime museum (yes, another one of those!) explains how the Swedish navy became such a force on the Baltic, something I’ll get into later (oh, lucky you…).

But, back to Aspo. Sitting at the entrance to Karlskrona, this small island played a fascinating role in Swedish history. Thanks to another island (Kungsholm)1200 meters (3/4 mile) directly opposite Aspo, the Swedes constructed two forts each loaded with cannon shooting balls halfway to one another. Grouped at different heights, the cannons had more of a chance to hit a moving target, ie a ship. 

This 17th-century map shows the two islands (Aspo is on the right) with Karlskrona at the bottom.)

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Max is demonstrating his juvenile side. And, if you can tear your eyeballs away from him, you may spot JUANONA in the background on the right.

In short, any hostile vessel attempting to reach Karlskrona had to first pass through this double line of fire. 

Drottingskar Citadel was designed by the military architect Erik Dahlbergh (1625-1703) who also planned the new town of Karlskrona. Built over fifty years (1680s-1730s) it’s an impressive stone building enhanced with walls, ramparts and a moat.

Several blueprints of the structure explain the different parts, which I tried to keep straight to no avail.

However, I did wonder about the high ceilings on the top (third) floor compared to such low ones on the other two floors. I later discovered the height allows the air to clear from all the smoke from the cannons lined up down the length of the building.

Along with its cousin across the way, Aspo’s citadel stood as a major deterrent – so much so that it was never involved in a battle! Admiral Nelson was reputed to have deemed it impenetrable.

The Brits weren’t the only foreign powers who avoided this bristling gauntlet of guns. OSupposedly, when Russian forces refused to attack Karlskrona because of having to sail through the strait, Catherine the Great furiously exclaimed, “If it wasn’t for that grey louse, I would soon capture Karlskrona.” The ‘grey louse’ being the low and wide, grey-stone Drottingskar Citadel.

Erik Dahlberg, if he’d been alive then, would have loved hearing that. As it was, he was so pleased with the outcome of Drottingskar he proclaimed “there can hardly be a more beautiful citadel along the entirety of the coasts of Europe.” Obviously, not shy about blowing his own horn (shooting his own cannon?), he commissioned a plaque for the entrance identifying who designed the fortress. If you notice, his name is as large as the king’s… 

Yet, Dahlberg has been linked to the famous French military engineer, Maquis de Vauban (1633-1707). He’s the guy known for his brilliance in siege craft and fortification design. If you’ve stood in a fort in France, there’s a good chance it was one of the 37 new ones he constructed or one of the 100 he renovated.

Decommissioned in 1871, Drottingskar operated as a military barracks and store. Unchanged (except for a restaurant in the commander’s little house in the middle of the fort) and undamaged, this citadel is a fascinating part of Karlskrona’s UNESCO designation. 

We didn’t know any of this until we toured Aspo. We weren’t even sure we’d be able to dock at this island because only one small boat club offered a few (six) guest moorings. The alternative being a large city marina in Karlskrona, we decided to at least stop on our way and check it out. Good choice!

Not only did a prime spot alongside the outer wall offer an easy landing,

we had a kind young man offer to help with our lines. Which is how we met Fines (accent over the “e”) and Hanna. 

Sharing cups of coffee with them we found out he’s from Miami (originally from Cuba) and she’s Swedish. They both are interested in cruising, with Fines living on his boat back in the U.S. In the midst of applying for visas (Swedish for him, US for her) they were taking a friend’s sailboat for a shakedown cruise. Always great meeting people such as them. Just wish there were more opportunities to re-meet later.

Taking a photo in our cockpit,

Hanna then offered to take some with their Polaroid. With a tripod and this little camera loaded with individual photo cards, she commemorated our meeting.

The club reminded us of our Orr’s-Bailey Yacht Club, also operated all by volunteers.

When paying for our nights there, we’ve met several members as each one takes a turn during the summer to staff the office. One was a history buff, and I’m sorry I didn’t have more time to speak with him but a needed shower took priority.

We saw a lot of these hybrids of motor bike and wheel barrow, which would have been fun to use.

But, bikes were what was available. So, we rented those during our stay. We toodled around the island, not really knowing where we were heading (in spite of a map).

Along the relatively car-free roads we spotted painted posts topped with small signs. 

One of the more memorable ones described how a large stone served as a stopping point halfway between the church and the other side of the island. A story attached to the stone described how a priest saved this piece of rock by paying a stone cutter not to use it for building a road. It was a nice stone…

Being an important military location, the citadel was only the first defensive construction on Aspo. During WWII and the ensuing Cold War Sweden loaded up the area with guns and underground structures. We stopped at one only to learn the two steel doors we were standing in front of

led to the atomic fall-out shelter of the central command four stories down (!). And, it’s still operational along with one of the three guns (minus ammunition), the electric generators, sleeping quarters, kitchen, eating facilities, medical quarters, workshops and much more. 

NOTE:  Sweden, once the buffer between Russia and part of Europe, stands ready. Its military conscription, begun in the 19th century and abolished in 2010, was just recently reinstated  (2017). The reason? Not enough citizens signing up for military service and ‘a change in security situation in the world’ (noted on a display at the Maritime Museum). With the mounting tensions in the Baltic (we’ve heard of joint naval exercises occurring in this sea), no surprise to read of Sweden’s preparation for any unknown crisis cropping up.

Thinking these gun batteries and underground forts were all the military items we’d see on Aspo we discovered the Museum for Mobile Coastal Artillery.

Appropriately camouflaged (or so it seemed to us who’d ridden by the dirt road into this site at least once before) we stumbled upon the museum after following a cycle path through the woods and spotting some big guns.

Paying our entrance fee we were handed an English translation by one of the two seemingly ex-military reception guys and began to wander through a large warehouse of artillery and support equipment. Three small rooms off to the side provided a historical background documented by portraits of former commanders, photographs of soldiers, some history of the MCA (my abbreviation), and citations. We moved pretty quickly through those rooms soon returning to the main part of the exhibit.

Even with the English notes I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking at. Of course, part of the non-understanding was I really didn’t care too much about seeing guns, trucks and accessories.

That was until one of the museum guys (definitely ex-military) headed our way. Thankfully, his explanations turned the drab objects into a technicolor of–to me–’OMGs’. For instance, initially all I saw was a big ole army truck with a big ole gun decorated with leaves.

Yet, he told us the ‘bullets’ it shot could travel up to 30 kilometers…

while heading for a target precisely identified using radar and laser equipment.

He pointed out a vehicle with a photo mounted in front. Turned out this was one of the many abandoned trucks, etc., on Omaha Beach rescued from rusting to death by the Swedes. They repaired them and then drove over a 100 of the vehicles up to Sweden to use for defense.

Another reminder of how a human voice can add a lot to one’s enjoyment of a site.

Our time on Aspo wasn’t all filled with weapons of destruction and times of war. One fine day (actually all of them have been fine with many a bit too hot) we cycled to a possible swimming hole on the other side of the island. Deciding another beach would be better but this one a perfect picnic spot we plopped ourselves down and pulled out some delicious tuna-fish sandwiches.

Which always reminds us of Chris and Karina who share our hankering for this meal, especially when by the water.

Checking out two other swimming sites we returned to JUANONA and simply jumped off the boat, checking for any errant jellyfish prior to diving in. In the heat this water was a godsend. Always refreshing and never so salty that you felt encrusted afterwards. Some cruisers said they didn’t even feel the need to rinse off.

Not moi. As far as I’m concerned, any salt travelling on one’s body from deck to cabin leaves a trail of moisture-capturing crystals that can turn a non-sticky seat cushion or bedsheet into a humid hot potato. For that reason I always use fresh water, which is how I ended up taking buckets from the nearby water spigot on the dock to douse myself with lovely clean, salt-free water. 

Yet, it was on one of those occasions that I noticed a snake slithering from one side of the dock to the other. Even if it was no thicker than a pencil or longer than a ruler it still counted as a snake, enough to make me keep a look out whenever traipsing from our boat to the club located on the other side of the harbor…

Aspo offered plenty of cycling routes, one where Max played Forest Ranger to clear a recently fallen tree.

Having read about a cemetery holding victims from the bubonic plague we just had to find it. After all, we will never miss an MDT (Max Disaster Tour) opportunity…

Not really finding it we did see an old tree with a navigational beacon mounted on it. A plaque nearby explained seafarers used this tree at least since the mid-1800s to navigate to Karlskrona. 

Definitely true as the government purchased it in 1861 to ensure this navigational mark remained operational. We didn’t see it from the water as our course pointed in the other direction.

During our bike rides we kept noticing a sign stuck in front of many homes on the west side of Aspo. 

Curious we finally broke down and did a Google Translate. Still puzzled, we asked one of the Swedes about the phrase. He smiled and said, yes, it means ‘Fiber for the Future’ –  fiber optic cable is coming to your street. At that, Max and I both laughed as HE thought it meant fiber as in eat-your-cereal-fiber’s-good-for-you and I thought it meant use-local-yarn-as-our-fiber-cottage-industry-is-important. Hah! You’d think we were Luddites!

With the winds aligned for making our way to Copenhagen we left for Simrishamn, a port on the coast 53 miles southwest. And, I’ll write about that soon but next up… where the ferry rides from Aspo took us… :)

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Back in Swedish waters

 

Back in Swedish Waters

STOCKHOLM ARCHIPELAGO

Tuesday-Friday, July 24-27  2018

Leaving the Åland Islands we traded one archipelago for another as we sailed the 36 miles back to Swedish waters, with a decent wind and a few rocks to watch out for, such as the one shown on our chart plotter,

JUANONA returned to the Stockholm Archipelago.

With plenty of days (and nights if need be) we began making our way to another anticipated event, one we’d been planning part of our summer cruising around: the August 18 wedding of friends Nina and Peter in Copenhagen.

After ensuring our wheel of cheese would survive another month or two,

We hop-scotched down the islands with one-night stops…

At Stora Vanskar…

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Then Langviksskar and its familial onshore activities thanks to a highly sought-out beach,

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island cabin rentals, an ice cream vendor,

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and a convenience store (run by a nice young man whose winter destination will be taking his family to Florida since he’s working his summer vacation).

BLUE ARCHIPELAGO

Friday-Monday, July 27-30, 2018

We crossed long swatches of algae bloom

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as we reached Harstensa after a beautiful spinnaker-run (the first of the season)

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where our two-boat anchorage in May had expanded to 26 boats in July.

Not until we carefully maneuvered through shallow, unbuoyed channels of Eko did we find ourselves the only ones dropping anchor amidst a cluster of islands. With the exception of a camping family on a far shore JUANONA and her crew had a sense of privacy not felt since Stora Nassa.

Here we frolicked in jelly-fish-free waters for refreshment,

Attended to some boat tasks,

Washed some necessities (and, if you note the difference between male and female undergarments, you’ll see a gender distinction on hygiene…),

And reviled in the simplicity and privilege of cruising life…

 

Heralded by a 4:30 A.M. morning moon setting


and sun rising witnessed by Max.

With the unusual continuation of hot skies and a dearth of rain-relief, our motor-cruising south brought surreal photo opportunities,

Kissing proximity to large buoys,

And a covering of everything by hatching gnats, fortunately, the non-feasting kind.

FÄRJESTADEN

Monday-Tuesday, July 30-31, 2018

Needing supplies and a laundry (for bigger items) we opted for Farjestaden, a port halfway down the west coast of Oland. This city serves as an excellent reprovisioning alternative if one wants to avoid the popular and much larger metropolitan Kalmar. Connected by a 3-mile long bridge to Farjestaden, Kalmar boasts an impressive castle and a maritime museum, both of which we had visited mid-May when heading north. Well worth a visit, not the least due to an excellent chandlery, but at this point we were seeking a more tranquil setting, and Farjestaden fit the bill perfectly.

With a grocery store close by, free laundry (yea!), friendly boaters, and an easy berth thanks to floating booms on either side versus med-mooring, we docked, did our errands and then rewarded ourselves with a family-size pizza dinner…


That should have been labeled ‘pizza-for-at-least-two-adults-and-three-hungry-kids’ or ‘pizza-for-gluttons’ size. However, leftovers meant no need for making lunch the next day. As far as I was concerned, one can never have too much of this one-dish meal, so bring it on.

Besides the pizza we enjoyed a conversation with some guys who appeared comfortably established in a corner of the outdoor seating. Turned out the group consisted of two fathers and sons. We couldn’t begin to correctly pronounce their names (much less spell them) but the love this family shared for one another was like a beacon.

The fathers hailed from Albania, and our talk ranged from emigrating to Sweden to the importance of making one’s own way to taxation that serves the people not the rulers to ‘yes, that’s a humongous pizza you ordered’.

We photo-captured three of them before we left. If the forecasted favorable winds didn’t materialize the next morning, we told them we’d be back for more conversation.

It was in Farjestaden we first learned of an oil spill that had occurred close to the beautiful island of Harstena around the time we had sailed there. Max heard various rumors that the Captain was drunk, and another that he was navigating dangerously close to the coast in order to get a better cell phone signal. The Swedish Coast Guard has apparently contained the spill.

Continuing south we anchored in a wild roadstead inside a little islet named Trotten. A line of rocks and islets formed a barrier to the sea on the other side.
Deciding to explore a bit we took off in the dinghy only to realize as we neared the shore we had neglected to bring the oars.

Avoiding those gelatin blobs Max pulled us on (my hero)

And contemplated a quick dip. Not me, thank you very much.

We later noticed what we had thought was a large building was actually moving. Mesmerized we watched as the huge mechanical box following a tug boat sluggishly made its way out of a harbor less than a mile north of us.

Thinking the tug was pulling it we realized no, this platform was self-propelled and heading to service a nearby wind farm. A fascinating sight, and, if you haven’t noticed by now, what may appear mundane or boring easily becomes entertainment for two people floating on a boat…

Continuing on to anothet anchorage in Flakskar, one ringed by low rocky islands, Max beat the heat with a dip

while I settled for a deck perch.

 

With a morning start, JUANONA up anchored following the heat south after a lovely and swimable week of cruising in Sweden.

Next, another gem of an island…