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Sunday, August 17, 2008, at Martinsson boatyard, in Henån, Sweden

Hi all. Well, we’re back in Sweden, at the boatyard where we stored the boat last winter. Last Sunday, we were in Arendal, Norway, awaiting an opportunity to cross back to Sweden.

Our forecast gave us two opportunities in the next six days. The weather was wrong on Monday. We could leave on Tuesday with light winds. Wednesday and Thursday would be terrible. We could leave on Friday with light winds. Saturday would be terrible. We needed to be in Sweden by today, because there was a chance that a worker would stop by and install some electronics.

Tuesday was too early; Friday could be too late. What if the weather Friday was not right? Furthermore, with a crossing looming, it’s hard to live in the moment. The conservative answer was to leave on Tuesday, and we did.

We pulled away from the dock soon after 4:30 AM. It would be a long day, and we were heading for a popular harbor. We’d need to arrive as early as possible, leaving ourselves a window to find something else if we were shut out.

The winds were light, and we motored. But Monday’s winds had riled the sea, and they hadn’t subsided. So we rolled around in the sea, with no steadying sails to keep the contents of cabinets from rattling around.

Soon after we were at sea, Art turned around and looked at the stern. “Where’s our flagpole?”

The pole and the US flag were gone. It was an odd feeling, seeing them gone. The flag isn’t incidental; it’s about five feet by three feet in size. The pole is varnished wood. The pole fits into our davit, and it’s never faltered, not in strong winds, not in high seas. There’s no chance at all that it could have fallen out or blown out of its holder. Someone must have come aboard and taken it. In this country where we’d seen a man leave his warehouse open to the office parking lot.

On the other hand, it could give us a great opportunity to solve the US oil crisis. Just two patriots like us, serving our country. Here’s the logic: A documented US vessel like ours is technically US soil when it’s overseas. So an act of belligerence had been committed against our country in Arendal. Art had been looking at all those oil platforms and remarking that we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq; we should have attacked Norway. His assessment? “I think we can take 'em.” Now here was our chance.

My best guess was that some teen decided that a big US flag would make a nice wall hanging for his room, and that it probably wasnt the work of a rogue Norwegian state. So we made plans to replace the pole and flag, and continued to Sweden.

The swells took their toll on my well-being. Though I didn’t get sick, I spent the first two-thirds of the journey under a blanket on a berth in the main salon. Art stayed alone on watch for about sixty miles before the seas calmed down enough that I could sit up for more than a moment.

It rained on and off during the day, but we were covered by the dodger. The rain began again just as we were docking at Smögen, where there was only one space available, and it was just barely our size. We tied up, got the canvas house up, and the skies opened up. Inside of a half hour, someone rafted to us.

We’d been in Smögen twice before, once in 2000, and once in 2007 after the season had wound down. Wed also visited by automobile once, on a dreary Sunday in 2000. It’s a resort town, with shops along the harbor filled with summer clothing and nautical trinkets. I was happy to be there. The crossing back to Sweden was the last stressful sailing we’d have during the season, and I was happy to have it behind us. Even if we had another possible window to cross later in the week, I was happy we hadn’t taken the risk that it wouldn’t materialize when we needed it.

The harborside at Smögen is alive on any sunny day with ice-cream-eating, shorts-wearing visitors. In the evening, all these people must go somewhere else; there was no ice cream to be found for Art. In cold weather, the visitors still wear shorts, but they wear sweatshirt jackets over their tee shirts. The harborside shops actually sit outside the land, on wide wooden docks, giving Smögen a rustic, homey look.

Smögen wouldn’t be the perfect place for us to cocoon for days on end. Internet service was virtually unavailable, including our onboard device that had provided service to us in mostly every other place we’d visited. There was no supermarket in walking distance. In its favor, there were several decent restaurants, with lower prices than Norway’s and a better exchange rate.

The next day was windy and sunny, with fits of rain showers and a torrential rainstorm in the evening. The boat that was rafted to us on our first night left, and in the evening, another sailboat tied to us. The winds grew stronger, and the night was filled with troubling noises. Art went on deck during the night to check on our fenders, and he left the instruments on, so that we could monitor the wind speed and direction. We both remembered losing the dock at Eivindvik only weeks earlier, and hoped that the wooden boardwalk that attached us to land would be sturdy. If we lost our connection to land in Smögen, we’d be taking the shops and restaurants with us.

Early in the morning, I took the unusual step of going on deck to check our fenders against the dock. They were fine. The wind meter was showing less than thirty knots in the harbor. We were heeling over slightly in the direction of the dock, and the boat rafted to us was heeling over into us. Things looked fine, and I went back below.

After about a half hour, we heard a noise that sounded like it was on our boat. I was still anxious from the noises that continued all night. This one sounded as if our davit had touched the boat behind us. I went up on deck again. Nothing looked odd behind us, but a woman on the boat rafted to us was looking over her lifelines at our deck. One of the planks on our wooden toerail was shattered, the stainless steel cap twisted and pulled away.

The sailboat next to us had heeled over so much that its stanchion worked its way under our toerail, prying off the cap and pulling the teak off with it. The starboard rail was a mass of splinters. We hadn’t seen this coming at all, worrying mostly about the port side of the boat against the dock. Well, at least we were on our way to the boatyard.

On our last full day in Smögen, it didn’t rain much, but the winds hovered around 30 knots the entire day. We left the boat only to have lunch, and hoped that the winds would die down in the evening, as they’d been forecasted to do.

I woke up to the welcome quiet of low winds. Our neighbors left the dock at about 8:30, and we followed them out about a half hour later. The winds weren’t quite as light as we’d expected them to be, and Art wanted to sail outside of the channel between Smögen and Hallberg-Rassy. Art knew that the winds from the last two days would create some swell offshore. I knew that it might be uncomfortable, but the entire trip would last only a few hours. Art had been disappointed that we’d needed to motor the whole way back from Norway. I had been disappointed that the seas were so nauseating. We had a great, brief trip.

The harbor at Hallberg-Rassy wasn’t as empty as we’d hoped, and they were still launching boats when we arrived, even though it was near the Friday closing time. Kids were swimming in the shallow water across the harbor. We were in long sleeves, of course.

The harbor manager directed us to a spot on the outermost part of the harbor. We’d only be there for one night on our way to Martinsson Boatyard. The HR yard offered us benefits for which I was very hungry: good Internet access, and lunch at my favorite haunt in northern Europe, the Sjogården Hotel. This was a symbolic place for us to be; we’d left for Norway and our summer’s itinerary from the HR yard, and now we were back. We’d gone full circle. We’d be sailing again, using this area as a base, but for practical purposes, we were already settled in familiar waters for the season.

The weather was good in the afternoon, and we walked up the street for an overdue supermarket visit. I’d been stalling on replenishing our pantry at the high Norwegian prices. Ellös, the home of HR, offered everything we needed within a short walk. We’d be getting a car, but not for two days, and once we left HR for Martinsson, we’d be virtually captive without our own transportation.

The weather was beautiful again the next day, and we dawdled the morning away. In mid-afternoon, we motored north to the boatyard inside the channel between HR and Martinsson. Though the official summer holiday was over, on this warm and sunny Saturday, boaters were out in droves. Art maintained a steady hand on the steering wheel (though he never did have to use it, thanks to the autopilot) for the hour it took to motor to the boatyard. The docks were fuller than I’d anticipated, but there was no problem finding a space or finding a helping hand for docking.

So here we are, waiting for some maintenance on our lives to happen this week, and then going out sailing in short bursts like people do when they live here. It seems a little soon for summer to be over, but I think that’s the curse of the latitude we’re in. On the other hand, the rest of the time we’re here will be in the comfort of the familiar, with renewed access to local digital cable TV, occasionally with a rental car, and nearly always with Internet service. It’s almost like home.

Hope all of you at our real home are doing well.

Love, Karen (and Art)