Follow MV Northern Exposure on  Follow MV Northern Exposure on Twitter or  Instagram @NorthrnExpo

We'll post whenever the website changes.

Sunday, August 5, 2007, in Kalmar, Sweden

Hi everyone. We’re making our way down the east coast of Sweden, at a place we really enjoyed visiting earlier in the summer, Kalmar. There’s a gigantic castle in town, a mall next door to the marina, and great Internet access. What more could a person want?

Last week, we were in Saltsjöbaden, near Stockholm. We left on Monday morning, motored for about an hour, and got our “serious error” alarm again. Thus, it hadn’t been a fluke the last time, and it was pretty troubling. This time, the alarm had the decency to occur on a weekday, so I found the number for Volvo’s headquarters, and Art called them in Gothenburg. A few connections later, he was talking to someone who knew about the engine, and we learned enough to relax a little. Though he couldn’t categorically state that the engine wasn’t in real trouble (why would you get a serious error and then motor along happily for weeks without one?), the conversation assured me that this symptom wasn�������t a prelude to, oh, the engine spontaneously blowing up. We also learned how to save the error message to have in hand for our next call. All of this took place while we were motoring merrily along with no alarms to be heard.

We sailed as much as we could that day, but a look at our trail didn’t show much progress. The goal of the day’s sail wasn’t that ambitious. We were really only moving the boat to position us to take advantage of favorable winds the next day. How we got to this anchorage was irrelevant. Tacking back and forth at a somewhat slow speed gives you the illusion of travel, but not the mileage. Eventually, we motored again, anchoring in the nook of several islands outside of the city of Oxelosund. By this time, we were both tired and a little cold, wondering if this truly was the end of summer and the beginning of long underwear for me. I’d just finally put mine in the back cabinet, thinking I wouldnt need it again for at least a month.

We left in the morning by six, and were able to sail right away. Mid-morning, we heard the unmistakable engine growl of a fighter jet. He arrived from behind us and whizzed by above us and alongside. Then he pointed straight up and flew out of sight. And then he was back. That’s the point that we realized that we were getting an air show, and that those guys have to practice sometimes. He’d leave for a few minutes, and then he’d be back. He pointed straight up, and spun like a corkscrew into the heavens. Then he’d disappear again.

The wind was moderate most of the day, with short breaks with low winds, and one episode of heeled-over, fast-moving, rain-assisted sailing. When you aren’t in those conditions often, it’s sort of hilarious to fight your way down below against the heeling of the vessel, grabbing doorways and handholds, squirming into the head, like you’re in some antigravity chamber, or you’ve stepped into a cartoon. Its only fun for a few minutes, though, and thankfully, that’s all we got.

We had several choices of places to stop, and we chose the harbor Oskarshamn. We’d considered anchoring out again. Oskarshamn only came up at all because the Volvo person had recommended the mechanic there. So during the day, while we motored, I half hoped that the engine would fail – if only for a moment – so that we could figure out the error code and stop there and get it fixed. But I was baffled by mixed emotions: I dont want the engine to fail, and I don��t even want the winds to keep us from sailing. As it worked out, we motored a little and the engine was fine. But we went to Oskarshamn anyway.

And while we were there, we had the mechanic take a look at our grouchy engine. He found an error residing in memory, but nobody thought that was relevant, and, more importantly, he upgraded the software in the control unit. If all that the visit accomplished was to limit the number of unsubstantiated errors we were seeing, that would be fine.

It wasnt until lunchtime that we were able to step off the boat and see the town of Oskarshamn. My guidebook didn’t give it more than a mention, but we thought it might be a fine place to stop for a day or two, engine repair or not. The small city was easy to walk in a single afternoon. The large square Stortorget holds the tourist office and the town’s two main museums. One was a somewhat undistinguished maritime museum, but the other was a gallery of a local woodcarver, Axel Petersson, often called Döderhultarn, a reference to his hometown. The style of woodcarving is flat-plane, which uses a carving knife, but leaves tool marks in the sculpture.

His sculptures depict Swedish life in its raw, real state, from weddings and funerals, to town meetings, to emaciated horses down for the count, to a beating on the street. The faces of his townspeople are broad, weathered and old, even the brides in the wedding scenes. Yet there’s a humor to the scenes as well, and the visitor gets the sense that they’ve been invited into a time machine, transported to simpler, though difficult, times. He’s often referred to as the “father of caricature carving.”

At about six o’clock, antique cars began to arrive in the plaza at our marina. Apparently, Oskarshamn has a spontaneous car show every Wednesday. About 100 cars were there, a surprising number of them American gas-guzzlers from the 50s and 60s. There was a Model T pickup truck, complete with wooden sides and old milk jugs on the bed. And there were old Saabs and Volvos, and the original Morris Mini.

The next morning, someone rapped on the side of the boat. It was a young woman, accompanied by a young man with a fabulous camera. “We’re from the local newspaper, and we’d like to talk with you. Is that okay?”

It’s not really unusual for our boat to stand out in Northern Europe in a way that wouldn’t happen in the Mediterranean, or in Florida. Generally, people have no use for a 54-foot boat in an area where summer only lasts about six or eight weeks. Anyone with a boat like that would choose to keep it somewhere warm. Even we would, though maybe not this year, or next. So we’re often the largest boat in the harbor, unless we’re in the marina that’s the base of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club, or in Helsinki. And it’s not often, but it’s not unprecedented, that the local newspaper wants to talk to the Americans. At least, they do until they learn that we didn’t sail there from Fort Lauderdale. We just came by from around the corner.

Notwithstanding our notable lack of transatlantic sailing credentials, they interviewed us anyway. The photographer snapped photos with a machine-gun energy. It didn’t seem to matter to him that the boat was torn apart in a way it hadn’t been since we’d moved onboard. The cockpit chart table wood was off and being varnished. The cover from the wheel was lying in a pile on a cushion. Breakfast dishes were still all around the main salon. The seats in the aft cabin were uncovered while Art was retrieving tools for the various projects that were presently in progress. And Art was off somewhere paying the engine mechanic for a second maintenance visit.

Our interviewer took notes, though not a lot. They stayed and chatted with us for more than an hour, and then our journalist promised that she’d have a copy of the paper dropped off the following morning, the day of publication. We weren’t yet sure that we’d still be there. That was dependent on the sailing conditions for the next day. The weather wasn’t great, but we ventured outdoors to find a dagens lunch next door, visit the supermarket, and, in the evening, have pizza in town and see the Simpsons movie with Swedish subtitles. We got a late forecast, looked at our obligations of where we needed to be next, and decided to stay one more day.

The following morning, Art retrieved the newspaper from the cockpit. There we were, in a large photograph on the front page, and an article inside that took up half of each of two pages, with two more photos of us. We got the gist of the article, even though it was, of course, in Swedish. Our reporter, in that inimitable Swedish way, had strapped alongside the newspaper a plastic storage bag containing three teabags. Her note said, “Try our best tea if you like it.”

We puttered around the boat for the morning, went to lunch, and went to the supermarket. While we were in line, the woman in front of us turned to us.

“Aren’t you the sailors?”

Apparently the people in Oskarshamn do read the daily paper. We were celebrities, enjoying our fifteen minutes of fame, three thousand miles from home. On our way back to the boat, we stopped at the newspaper office and got two more copies of the paper. The harbormaster had seen the article, and seemed to be tickled pink about it. An American who lived in town stopped by, having seen it, and graciously translated it for us. The reporter had done a good job in reporting our conversation pretty accurately.

The weather looked good for a trip south in the morning, so we left early and headed to Kalmar. The forecast implied that we’d have good wind for our whole trip, and arrive in mid-afternoon, but the wind left us after a few hours. We motored back to Kalmar, this time arriving from the north. This was a more industrial view of the town than we’d had on our first visit, when we were greeted by the enormous castle that hosted the Kalmar Union agreement in 1397 and housed the empire of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. But we’d really enjoyed Kalmar, all of it, and were happy to come back.

We docked side-to at the outside end of the marina. By mid-afternoon, we were ready to take a walk through the shopping district. This being Saturday, and three in the afternoon, we arrived at the shops just as they were shutting down until Monday. That was fine with us; as we couldn’t find a thing on our list except a spare battery for the remote control for a piece of equipment we don’t use that often. Neither of us is a browser; we shop when we have a mission. So at this point in the summer, we don’t really need to shop at all.

We had a boat task to do as well. The boat was configured with one extra-long halyard, a line that hoists a sail. This was done so that we could use one of the large electric winches in the cockpit to hoist a person up the mast. On our previous boat, I would crank the winch on the mast. This was a long process, as the winch wasn’t that big, and it didn’t have a motor. Usually we’d wait until we had other people on board to bother. This boat, with its 80-foot-high mast, was nearly out of the question for a manual hoist. So Art set up the halyard, and I hoisted him up with the push of a button. It was also nice not to be standing underneath all of the tools he might have in his pockets, imagining how they’d feel if they fell on my head.

He only needed to go up about ten feet to check what he thought was a small tear in the sail. But it was only a little piece of tape that had been stuck on the sail, probably since it was new. So at least we’d practiced taking Art up the mast, and it had been pretty easy.

In the evening, we visited the cathedral on the Town Square for a brief concert. The musician/singers were two women. In fact, the minister was a woman, too. The percussionist played the piano or the organ, and the soprano also played the recorder, an instrument that apparently hit its stride in popularity in medieval and renaissance times, or the time of the creation of this cathedral. It’s always especially interesting to watch these concerts in churches because the acoustics round out the music, and because there’s always some carving, window, or painting to examine while the music surrounds you.

Visiting a place for the second time allows you to explore the attractions that didn’t make your first list. Sometimes those attractions were cut because of time, and sometimes they aren’t worth seeing. We found a worthwhile way to spend our Sunday morning in town, visiting the County Museum to see the remains of the warship Kronan. This ship was built between 1665 and 1672, about fifty years newer technology than the Vasa (the ship we just saw last week in Stockholm,) and about twice its size.

This time, there were no royals on the design team. Unfortunately, there was a nobleman at the helm. Admiral Lorentz Creutz was a wealthy man with no naval experience before he was given command of the ship. Seeing the Danes and the Dutch in pursuit, he gave the order to come about, which means to turn fast, but neglected to reduce the sail area first. The quick turn led to the boat heeling over, and the gun ports filled with water. Soon thereafter, the explosives on board ignited, and the ship sank fast. There were 42 survivors of the 800 onboard. The Admiral wasn’t one of them. The museum contains artifacts from the ship, including many of its cannons, objects morbidly preserved from life aboard, and the largest trove of gold coins found in Sweden.

We have guests coming next week, and we’ll meet them in Karlskrona, which isn’t very far from here.

Love, Art and Karen