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Sunday, August 24, 2008, still at the Martinsson boatyard, in Henån, Sweden

Hi all. We’re still at Martinssons, getting some work done and waiting out weather. Last week, we had just arrived here.

There was a chance that our electronics technician would come by on Sunday, but he didn’t. We learned on Monday morning that he’d be there at the end of the day. There was no sign that the boatyard would get to any of our maintenance items on Monday, either. That gave us our first weekday in the boatyard free.

The first thing we noticed when we got off of the boat was the large Finnish (Swan) sailboat tied to the dock. Its bow had a puncture through the fiberglass that was the size of a beach ball. We learned what happened from the boatyard owner. That Swan was docked in the usual Swedish way, with its bow to a quay and a line from its stern tied to an anchored float with a ring on top of it. It’s the same way we’d been docked a few days before at the Hallberg-Rassy yard. The boat was in the same weather that had wrecked our toerail just a few days earlier.

Apparently there was something that wasn’t quite smooth on the ring holding the Swan’s stern line. As the waves pulsed the boat again and again, the thick dock line chafed against the ring and eventually broke free. The boat’s bow then pounded against the dock, carving that big, horrible hole.

We took a bus to the nearby city of Uddevalla, where we retrieved a rental car. We���d need transportation from Martinsson, as it wasn���t walking distance from anywhere. Somehow we managed to be productive (Art much more than I was) for the rest of the day.

Our electronics technician stopped by at the end of the day, mostly to inform us that the earliest he’d be around was late in the week. Hed be coming by in the evening anyway, so our days were mostly free. Furthermore, though the boatyard had a few tasks to do for us, they were quite invisible during the workday. This could prove to be a problem; one of their tasks was to make up a wooden piece that the electronics technician would need before he could do any of our work.

It was August 21 and we watched a boat be hauled out of the water for the season. In places like this, the boatyard scurries around in May dropping boats into the water for a month or so, and nearly as soon as they’ve cleared out the sheds, they start filling them back up again with boats that have finished. Our season is about five months long, but there’s no doubt that we push it on both ends.

We had a car, so we spent our days doing errands and enjoying the neighborhood. This area of Sweden is a quiet seaside island, populated with four well-known boatyards and hundreds of small farms. The farms are tranquil and petite. You can see a farm from end to end as you pass along the road. It’s not like the endless agriculture of America’s midsection, which has its own attraction. Here on the island of Örust, cattle graze their way across undulating terrain. Fields are dotted with neatly wrapped cylinders of hay. Other farms devote themselves to small plots of vegetable crops. On others, horses wander aimlessly; at least they appear to be aimless. Horses dont look like they could manage an aim.

Another sign to me that the season was wrapping up was the sight of some horses in jackets. The fact that owners would already cover their horses in blankets actually surprised me. Even I’m not wearing jackets yet. But it’s a portent, and there is still more than a month of shortening days ahead of us.

We visited a local shop called, as I understand it, “The Cuckoo’s Nest.” We’d gone through the place during our first visit in 2000. My recollection was that it was a medium-sized variety shop. Since we had lots of daytime to fill, we visited again when the shop was on our way from one place to another. We noticed immediately that it’s quite a bit larger than it was before, and it’s clear that a new wing is under construction. It’s the kind of store into which Mom could disappear and not emerge for half a day. They sell anything that you can think of that costs less than ten or twenty dollars, and quite a lot of items that cost more than that. They also sell clothes, furniture, and garden supplies. It’s hard to imagine going through that place and not buying something. We walked out with some cleaning supplies and some barrettes for my hair, paid for with barely one note. On our way out, we passed the café that had also been introduced in these intervening years. It’s a smart idea; people could get tuckered out walking up and down the many aisles of paraphernalia, all those things you didn’t know you hungered for until you saw them on a pegboard. I could imagine that we’ll be back in another eight years, and by then there will be tour buses in the parking lot.

On the day before Hallberg-Rassy’s open house, we offered our services to our friend Vickie, whose parts shop would have a booth at the show. Art had a more difficult assignment than I did. He had to research and price parts that would be sold at clearance prices. I heard him say things to Vickie like, “I don’t know. I think that the new model of this transponder, the 60 model, doesn’t have this fitting on the underside for the bracket attachment.” This sort of talk was way above my pay grade. My job was to write up price tags and stick them to items. When I got more experienced, I was promoted to sale items, writing and then crossing out the retail price, and then adding a new tag with a lower price. Shopping voyeurism. I felt doubly perverted.

Though the main boat show on Örust would take place at the Hallberg-Rassy boatyard, other manufacturers on the island would also have shows during the same weekend, and there were billboards all around coaxing people to visit all four shows. Though we’d have an electronics technician working onboard during the days of the shows, we didn’t need to spend all day with him, and it was probably just as well that we got out of his hair and let him work.

On Friday, we arrived at the Hallberg-Rassy yard just as the show was opening. We took a perfunctory tour through two or three boats, including one that’s nearly identical to our own. We walked the docks, where other manufacturers’ boats were on display. And we walked the rows of supplier tents, looking for upgrades to equipment that we already have, getting answers to questions about our onboard performance, and delivering a DVD of our boat damage to our insurer, who had a booth in the show. All of this is a repeat of our day at the open house last year and the year before that. Every year, Art tells me that we won’t be at the open house, and every year we magically and coincidentally attend. We didn’t think that we’d be back in time last year, but we were. This year, Art decided that Open House week would be the perfect time to have work done on the electronics.

Secretly, I don’t mind. The open house occurs at what Sweden thinks is the end of the summer. Even though the weather can be lovely and even warm, by the end of August there’s a much better chance of storms or cold snaps. I’m perfectly happy to stay within an easy day or two of our winter storage.

In the afternoon, HR opened up their factory to visitors. There were a few employees around, and we could watch them operate the robot that varnishes large pieces of wood, or the numerically-controlled tooling machine that cuts infinitesimally accurate pieces of wood. It’s so like Scandinavia, and so unlike home, that visitors had nearly free movement within the designated areas on the shop floor, by stores of stainless steel fittings, prepared teak trimmings such as pencil holders or small bookcases, and high-quality tools.

The next day, we visited another of the four participants in the open house weekend, the next-largest boatyard in the area, Najad. As the event took place at the guest harbor in Henån, we decided to do some laundry while we were wandering around. The show would open at ten in the morning. At about five minutes to ten, we walked around the utility building and opened the door to the small room that housed a washer and a dryer on one side, and a sink and counter on the other. There were three people asleep in the room. One was asleep across the tops of the washer and dryer. One slept on the counter with her head adjacent to the sink. The third took up the narrow floor between them.

This is Scandinavia, where homelessness isn’t common. I don’t know who was more surprised by our encounter, the three young adults in the laundry room, or us. They weren’t living there, we concluded. They had handbags and cell phones and cigarettes. They looked a wee bit Gothic, just like the kids we see shopping on Saturdays for Levis in Gothenburg. Judging from their age and their general level of tidiness, we decided that they’d been out too late partying in Henån and couldn’t get themselves to wherever they lived. Never mind that we’ve been to Henån many times, and the restaurant that’s open the latest closes before dark in August.

And now a word about the non-human animal life we see here. There isn’t much. It’s rumored that there are seals scampering around the rocks at sea. There are seals on postcards, in logos, and shaped into cement slabs in small resort towns. For all the time we’ve been in this area, and for all the time we’ve been at sea, we’ve never seen a single seal.

On the road north from where we are now through the crossing to Norway, there are “moose crossing” signs. But no sign of moose.

We’ve seen plenty of magpies, though. Magpies are everywhere, and the locals treat them with the same warmth as we do for pigeons. Swedes find it amusing and a little perplexing that I think magpies are cute. The birds have sharply colored black and white bodies with a bright blue streak, and the body ends in a tail that doubles its size. So they look as though they’re always trailing a bridal train, which they amazingly never seem to drag along the pavement.

Another flying friend that’s inside the boat this time of year is something like a flea. Now, I don’t actually know the name of this insect, but it is very tiny. I thought I’d brought them in with some herbs, or that they germinated in some standing vinegar I had around, but Art remembers them from last season, and they do seem to be everywhere we go, when it’s indoors. They don’t bite, but we spend a lot of our time down below trying to clap them into the next world.

Our boat was somewhat torn apart while the electronics technician was working. It wasn’t nearly enough to require that we have dinner out somewhere, but we’d only have a car for a few more days, and that was a good enough excuse for me. We went to a pizza place in Henån, in the center of town where we’d been at the laundry and the Najad open house. Pizza in Scandinavia is constructed a bit differently than mostly everywhere else. There’s a translucent layer of tomato sauce, the height of a piece of lettuce. The sauce that’s dolloped above the pie is often béarnaise, which is a butter sauce, or in this case, rémoulade sauce, a relative of Russian dressing. Pizza parlors have more of a Greek/Turkish influence than an Italian one. Instead of offering calzone or pasta as an alternative to pizza, there’s kebab, served with tzaziki.

We weren’t the only ones at the restaurant. Besides the staff, there was an outdoor table occupied by two young women. I recognized them, even though they were sitting up, as the kids I’d surprised in the laundry room that morning. I hoped that they didn’t recognize me. Yes, just as we had concluded, the party life at Henån was enthralling. I wondered if they thought that the laundry was a coin-operated motel room.

At this point, we’ll continue to sail when the weather is right, but we won’t go very far or stay out for very long. By this time of year, the weather can be troublesome offshore, and we don’t like to have long journeys in front of us. So this means that we’ve changed from being cruising travelers to being local people who happen to have a sailboat. So I expect that this will be our last update for this season.

Hope you’re all doing fine.

Love, Karen (and Art)