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Sunday, August 26, 2007, in Mollösund, Sweden

Hi everyone. We’re in a harbor that’s very close to Hallberg-Rassy. Last week, we’d just arrived in Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden.

When Gothenburg was founded in 1621, Denmark controlled most of the land south of it, so it was in quite a strategically important location. The area was marshy, so Dutch city planners were contracted to build it. Until 1652, the Dutch were so influential politically, that Dutch laws were in place and there was a movement to make Dutch the official language.

The marina was just across the road from our favorite Gothenburg destination, a mall that’s adjacent to the central train station. An overhead breezeway eliminated the need for us to cross the large expressway by the marina. We walked through the mall to our first errand, the train station. We���d learned earlier in the summer not to take for granted a seat on a train. Dave and Patti were leaving us in two days.

Then we all took the train tickets for a long walk to the marine store. Art steered us by the pedestrian shopping streets and along a city park. Gothenburg is the greenest of Swedish cities, in keeping with its Dutch layout. Marine store errand accomplished, we went back to the shopping streets to explore the shops. We were fairly familiar with the layout, as we’d spent many a Saturday downtown, but we managed to find a restaurant we���d never seen before for our lunch in town.

Gothenburg is a great place to wander around, and it has its fair share of city museums: art, city history, and maritime, but none among us was keen on the tourist type of sightseeing. While we were at lunch, Art had a brainstorm, that wed rent a car for a day and take our guests to the boatyard in Ellös. That gave us another errand – to arrange for a car – and meant that we’d had to finish our visit to Gothenburg in a single day. For us, of course, we’d be living an hour away for the next five weeks, and we’d have a car for about half of that time.

In the morning, we walked to the Avis office near the central train station and picked up our car, then we left for the highway north. We’d taken that ride in mid-April, from the airport, and it was a little asymmetrical to repeat it without the ride south, like going around the world to the right to make a left turn across the street. We stopped first in Stenungsund, to finalize the arrangements for the car that we’d get three weeks later. It was kind of bizarre to sit in the Avis lot, making arrangements to rent a car, from the comfort of our one-day Avis rental.

We arrived in Ellös just in time to find our friend and parts supplier Vickie with some packages she’d received on our behalf, and some parts wed ordered from her. Then we made our way to the boatyard, and met with Roland, to summarize the list of action items for the next month, and to enjoy his sardonic wit. He arranged for Jonas (pronounced Yonas), a junior (yunior?) sales representative to take us all around the factory and show us the many boats in progress.

I’d taken this tour before, but we visited some corners I didn’t remember, and Jonas did a fine job of describing the production process, demonstrating a command of operational details and answering our questions succinctly. He’d helped Art put up the sails when we’d picked up the boat in the spring.

Somehow we managed to find time for touring the fortifications at Kungälv on the way back to Gothenburg. Kunglv, a medieval town between Gothenburg and Ellös, was the site of a fortress called Bohus. At the time, 1308 to be exact, this part of the world was the southernmost area of Norway. The fortress was built to protect Norway from the Swedes. It’s still standing after 700 years, never having surrendered in its long history, even though it’s witnessed fourteen sieges. An outer wall was added in the 16th century. The only reason that some of the structure is now missing is that it once served as a stone quarry to the townspeople.

We returned to the boat to survey how hard it would be to leave in the morning. We were tied to the dock on the starboard side, and another sailboat took up most of the rest of the quay. Though the sailboat directly on our port side had left, we’d need two boats to his port side to leave their berths to give us enough room to get out. They both agreed to vacate their slips for us at eight the next morning, when Dave and Patti could leave us for their train, and help us with our lines. But the weather forecast didn’t look great for the morning, and the weather in the evening was a grim indicator of what we’d see.

There wasn’t anything we could do until morning, so we all went to dinner at a lovely place called The Palace. It was never a palace; it had been a hotel in the early 19th century. The architecture was charming and the meal was delicious for our last night with our guests.

Art really hadn’t slept well for two nights, anxious about our departure. He gathered up the electrical cord and the now-unneeded spring lines, and set a line from the port stern across the vacated space on our port side. We took our guests’ luggage off and laid it all on the dock. It started to rain. It paused, and drizzled again. Patti and Dave moved their backpacks from the dock back under the protection of the dodger on the boat. Then we waited for the two boats next to that space to leave, as they’d promised.

The closer one was also the larger of the two, and if only he left, that would give us enough room to get out. He emerged into his cockpit, and he and his wife began to leave. Their rudder got stuck in one of the mooring lines. This happens more often than anyone wants, and probably is more common in the narrow berths of Gothenburg’s marina.

Our neighbor was unable to free the line from his rudder from his cockpit, and then undressed many layers to a single Speedo and dove into the water. He came up again, tried to move his boat, and then dove in again, this time with a knife. Boats next to his and across the way tried to help by taking lines and pulling his boat sideways. Finally, they freed his boat, but it appeared to us that his propeller had been fouled by the mooring lines he’d gone over, and his neighbors pulled him back into a free berth in the marina. He’d have to dive again and get the lines out of his prop. At this point, Art felt really bad about the situation, as he’d asked the guy to help us leave by moving, and the boat owner had been very nice about it. Now he had a lot of work to do just to get back to where he was. It wasn’t really our fault, in the same way that it isn’t the fault of a really strange-looking person if they cause a car accident when someone tries to get a better look and smashes into someone else.

We, of course, had no choice but to leave. The rain didn’t seem like it would be there all day, and we pulled out into the river. We got our “serious error” message again, but this time it didn’t blow out the computer. Art pulled the error number, turned off the engine, and restarted it. We headed out the river into the Kattegat.

Our choices were to motor inside the protection of islands, or sail outside, with moderately high winds in our face. We had about forty miles to go. Our first inclination was to motor, because if we went offshore, the day would be a repeat of the sail from Elsinore to Varberg, where we were heeled over and screeching along. Then Art realized that we could use our small inner staysail that we’d bought for exactly these conditions.

The sail was remarkable. Art kept calling it “spirited”, but he had a big smile on his face all day. For me, it was as if I were watching a movie about what close-hauled sailing was like for people who don’t get seasick. The wind was coming from the direction of the land, so the waves weren’t very high. The smaller sail might have made us heel over less, although I’m pretty sure we were quite cockeyed most of the day. Our speed averaged about 8.5 knots, varying from one knot below and one knot above that. Because the sail wasn’t a huge hulk, we could see boat traffic under it, making for much less anxiety. The sky had the look of the opening shot in The Simpsons, pure white clouds on a pure blue background, and I was cool enough to wear my parka and close it up.

I made the observation that “this is certainly not the Med,” meaning that we rarely had sails like this in the summer there. During the Mediterranean summer, the wind is either absent, in which case you motor, or it’s howling, in which case you stay in port. And it’s always sunny. At least it seems that way. Here, we were having wind from all directions, strong and weak, chilly or warm, with or without rain. Art’s response was, “This place has weather.”

We arrived at Mollösund, a town we’d visited from Ellös several times. This was our first arrival by sea at the quaint resort town. Somehow a space on the dock opened up just in time for us. I made every mistake I’d ever made docking, putting four fenders on the wrong side of the boat, tossing the line improperly to a sailor helping me from the dock, and wearing too many clothes to be in harbor. From a zipped parka over a fleece shirt, it wasn’t five minutes before I had changed to a tee shirt and shorts.

We’d postponed lunch until we got in, and we finally ate at about 2:30. The next day would be a lay day, and we’d be doing some serious housecleaning, but we got a few chores done, straightening up outdoors, vacuuming the carpets, and finding a bus that could take us to the open house at HR two days later. The hotel we’d stayed in on almost the same day one year earlier offered Internet access. There was a great place to eat lunch around the corner and a much-needed Laundromat nearby. We could dig in for days.

And we might have to, because someone rafted to our boat by mid-afternoon. Summer was over, and boats were docked side-to in Mollösund, but it was still a popular harbor. If we had to ask them to leave to let us out, at least there were no mooring lines to foul.

Mollösund is said to be the country’s oldest living fishing village. Though I couldn’t attest to that fact, it’s fair to say that it’s one of the cutest places around. We’d stayed in the inn on the harbor while the boat was under construction and the hotel next to the boatyard was sold out. Seeing the sailboats tied up in the harbor, and being boatless, made us long to come back here on our own sailboat. Hallberg-Rassy was hosting a large open house, and we wouldn’t have access to their harbor, only a few miles away. We needed a place to stay that would be secure for the bad weather that was coming in just a few days.

On our first day in town, we caught up on some of our chores. The boat that had rafted to us left for a better space when the harbor began to empty out mid-morning, and we moved to a spot deeper into the harbor that had access to power and water.

Near the boat, lutfisk or lutefisk was drying on a rack next to the harbor. The local marine store proprietor said that he remembers growing up there and seeing lutefisk drying on racks covering the nearby hills. Some of the racks are still there. It’s a fish that takes some preparation, and is probably something that you have to grow up on to love.

First, the fish is hung on what look like clotheslines and air-dried. Then it’s soaked in water for about a week. The water is changed daily. Then it’s soaked in a mixture of water and lye. By now, the fish is larger than it was when it was alive, and it’s got a jelly-like consistency. And, it’s poisonous, from the lye. The residue is a chemical that’s related to rat poison. So it’s soaked again for a week in changes of plain water. Then, it’s ready to be cooked, if you can stand the smell. It’s steamed, very carefully, so that the watery fish doesn’t fall to pieces. You can’t let sterling silver touch the fish, or the silver will be ruined forever. And you need to wash any dishes and pots very quickly or the cooked fish will be impossible to remove. Sounds delish.

This was our first day in port without company, so we needed to get the boat back into shape. In a flurry of Wizard-of-Oz-like grooming activities, we did three loads of laundry, vacuumed the carpets, and washed the decks down. Summer was officially over, but the weather was beautiful, warm enough that Swedes were complaining about the heat.

We ate lunch at an outdoor café on the harbor, noting that we were wearing short sleeves, shorts, and sandals, and were comfortable sitting in the shade. This was a nearly unprecedented level of comfort for me. Our lunch was a fish soup local to the region. No lutefisk, though, thankfully.

Being in a boating community makes the world a little smaller. We’d met a Norwegian couple who were selling their HR46 and waiting for their new HR54 when we were picking up our boat in the spring. I’d heard from an Australian couple who’d bought a 46 and were picking it up in Sweden. They’d asked a few questions about the 46, about cruising in Sweden, and about keeping a web site. It hadn’t occurred to me that these people were all connected to the same boat, and it never occurred to me that the Australians would recognize us when we arrived in Gothenburg. When they did, it was a pleasant surprise to meet them, and we were delighted when they showed up in Mollösund.

They are sailing with their three children, a daughter of seven, and twins (a boy and a girl) of just about six (in “this many” days.) We chatted with them about their plans and ours in the evening, and we all took the bus to Ellös to Hallberg-Rassy’s open house the next day. The bus ride was about twenty minutes on a coach that was as comfortable as any tour bus. Buses are for everyone on the island of Örust. There wasn’t a taxi on the island until a month or two ago, and apparently all he does is take elderly people to doctors. A woman got onto the bus with her golf clubs, explaining that her car was broken and she simply didn’t want to do without golf. Somehow I can’t picture the golfers in South Florida taking the bus to the local country clubs.

The ride to Ellös is lovely, swooping up and down gentle hills, overlooking clear, crisp-looking blue water with untouched islands scattered about. Every few minutes the bus would stop in a village that looked to be a cousin of Mollösund. We arrived at Ellös with enough time to indulge in coffee and a pastry before the show started at ten. Locals who stopped in the bakery with us were more likely to order an open-faced sandwich that was loaded with tiny shrimp.

Hallberg-Rassy uses the annual open house to announce new boats, as they did two years ago with the HR54, and to show off their fleet in their harbor (thus shutting us out from docking there temporarily), and to enable their suppliers and many other local vendors, including boatbuilders, to show their wares. We had timed our visit to our unfinished sailboat the previous year to coincide with the event. The open house draws thousands of visitors in a three-day weekend and garners a fair share of marine press. We used the opportunity to talk to several suppliers about issues we still have with our boat, and to go aboard the most-recently-announced member of the HR fleet. We also used our visit to Ellös as an opportunity to buy supplies at the supermarket in town. Mollösund, as cute as it is, was without even its little local market, which was under renovation for another week or two.

The next day, the weather was awful, as promised. Winds battered our little Swedish courtesy flag, whose ends were unraveling. We closed the companionway doors and stayed inside, catching up on indoor chores, and listening to the howling of the wind. But Shane, our Australian friend, tempted us with tickets to an event at the HR open house, and we took the bus to Ellös again and spent another day there.

The event was a casual dinner and a presentation by cruisers we’d met several times over the years. They run sailing expeditions on their HR46, the type of boat we had before this one. This year, we’d seen them in the spring, and then they took off up the western Norwegian coast to the edge of the icecap within about ten degrees of latitude of the North Pole. Their presentation used photos from their travels around the world (they’re logged several of those, in terms of miles) and the audience included many HR owners who’d visited the show.

Today is another howling, crisp day in Mollösund. Maybe summer is over (I make that statement every week.) The forecast is for cool weather as far out as it goes, but we can visit lots of wonderful harbors without spending a lot of hours offshore from here. Vacation season is over in Northern Europe, so harbors have lots of space during the week and even on the weekends. We’ll continue to sail around for at least a few weeks before we settle in and start getting the boat ready for winter.

Hope you’re all doing well.

Love, Art and Karen