The boat seemed very empty when we woke up last thursday. The Stanleys and Rachael had departed for Blighty on the Viking line, here shown arriving at 4am to pick them up, David and Jane going to seize gold medals at Abersoch dinghy week in their Fireball, we hope, and Rachael having used up her Brownie points, returning to her pining horses.
Terry and JK had a delightful time being grockles on the museumship Pommern, a four masted barque and the last of Mr Ericson's square-rigger fleet to carry grain back from Australia. This ship was the first one we found with Mr Jarvis's patented British bracing winches, (for details of which, click here), which are an intricate set of 3 pairs of conical wire-rope winches, all linked together by cogs, and driven simultaneously by one central shaft in either high or low gear, the object being to ease the job of slewing the yard arms around, tightening one set of wires while the other set was released. We couldn't find any winding handles to really get into trouble, but we did get told off for being considerably more "hands on" than we were supposed to be. It was so great to find skippers 100 years ago not so different from today..... the "donkey" engine, a fine device used to hoist the anchor, drive the pumps etc, was powered by steam from a boiler made by the Cradley Boiler Co, not a million miles from our homes. Unfortunately, the boiler shell (weighing about 5 tons) had cracked on one of the voyages, and a new one had been sent out as a replacement. However, the frugal skipper had kept the old one too ("you never know, it may come in useful"), and it wasn't until the loading officer in Australia made a mistake with his weights and put 50 tons too much grain in the hold that the spare boiler (along with clothes, interesting rock samples and empty gin bottles etc), was jettisoned to keep the vessel stable.
We moved out of the harbour after taking on fuel and water and found a temporary anchorage along the north-western channel leading out of the sound. An anchor on the chart was found to have been carefully positioned on top of a slab of granite, glacier-honed to a pefect flatness and with no cracks or crannies. Perhaps the Ålanders have rock-magnet anchors that grab hold of this type of bottom - ours didn't! However, the friction between anchor, chain and rock was enough to steady the boat while a diver was sent down to check the damage to the keel from our grounding. The good news was that the general condition of the red paint we had applied last October was really good - the bad news was that practically all of it had been removed from the base of the keel, along with a skiving of epoxy and glass. One rock had even jumped up and clobbered the leading edge of the keel about a foot or so higher up, leading to a largish dent the size of a baby's fist. But the main concern, that there could be damage to the bronze heel-plate and the base of the rudder proved to be unfounded. It seems we had got away with it lightly.
Now we knew all was well (relatively speaking) underwater, we had dinner and then set off in the gloaming for a night sail across the shipping lane to the Swedish coast. We hadn't quite cleared the Åland coast before the sun set spectacularly once more in the northwest. There wasn't any wind to speak of, so we got the radar going and Terry and Jenny took the first 2-hour watch and had loads of fun dodging ferries, ore carriers with the wrong lights, pleasure craft etc, and soon it got properly dark. All that could be seen in front of us was a rapidly and continuously flashing yellow light on the starboard bow as Voltair progressed into the soft blanket of night, where no horizon could be distinguished and no lights shone out. By 1am, change of watch, JK was coerced from the saloon bunk with a cup of coffee, and the odd coloured light began to glimmer ahead of us. This was certainly no well-lit coast like that of France or England, where you can expect to see lighthouses from 15 miles out. But eventually we raised the red light of Simpnaesklubb and slipped past it close to the north. In the beginnings of twilight we entered Bofjord through its narrow and shallow entrance just to the south of Lilla Anklingen, disturbing a swim of swans, who were pretending to be fishing floats, on our port side.
Anchored in 6m we turned our attention and our camera lenses to the purple and red of the impending sunrise framed by the pine-trees on the promontory and the pimple of the lighthouse with its slow, low red flashes. The waning moon flashed its silver reflection in the sea a few yards from us, the languid dance of the crescent shape distorting in lazy undulations as we watched, spellbound by the beauty of the moment.
"Time for bed", said Zebedee, and it was.
Best wishes from Jenny, Terry and JK, who now have to change their watches to CEST, rescue a damson in distress, make the acquaintance of several types of herring, and sail to Stockholm