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Sunday, August 16, 2009, at Hallberg-Rassy boatyard, in Ellös

Hi all. Well, that was fast. Last week, we had only just left Poland and were headed up Sweden’s coast, and before you know it, we’re just about back where we started in May. Whoosh. Our update this week will be shorter than in previous letters, because first we sailed, and then we sat. There’s not a lot of sightseeing going on.

This philosophy of sailing with good winds and staying put the rest of the time was working well, almost too well. We’d sailed nearly the entire distance from our farthest point, Latvia, and were within about a hundred or two miles from home base. Our Sunday sail was another masterpiece, beamy winds, just high enough, from the land, which meant there was no sea, and temperatures that were best confronted with shorts and tee shirts.

We ended up somewhere north of Varberg, a town we’d visited on another Sunday two years earlier. We considered docking there again and taking a lay day, but the weather would be good again for a northward sail. Instead, we anchored in a large bay, ringed with beachgoers and shared for the evening with a single outboard towing an indefatigable waterskier. Another quiet night at anchor, awaiting a sailing day.

That day, too, was a nearly full day without requiring an engine. The first part of the sail did give us a small following sea and the threat to me of an unpleasant ride. Either I got used to it or it subsided, because I didnt succumb to it, and we anchored again, this time just south of the town of Mollösund. Our original plan was to spend the night at anchor (we���d arrived too late to bother with docking), and to dock in the town the next morning for a day of laundry and lunch out. But the winds were good for sailing again, and we decided to sail the short distance back to Hallberg-Rassy’s boatyard.

The day was fresh and sunny, and the winds were behind us. Within a bit more than two hours we were docked at our familiar boatyard, and our circle around the southern Baltic was, for all intents, complete.

We’d timed our arrival so as not to miss our favorite Swedish lunch at the Sjögården hotel next to the boatyard. It had been months since we’d been able to tuck into a plateful of herring at a salad bar.

In the afternoon, we visited with four brothers from Chile who had just taken delivery of an HR43, and who planned to leave in days for a trip that wouldn’t end until they arrived in Santiago.

There was an issue with our rudder that we needed to check with the yard. Art hadn’t been happy with some movement he’d noticed while we were under sail and the rudder was under load. Our plan was to stay at the yard until this problem was resolved.

Art was doing some of his own troubleshooting as well. He sent me below to retrieve his Allen wrenches so that he could tighten something on the engine throttle. I went to the cabinet where he keeps his small tools and turned the handle. It came off in my hand.

Actually, this wasn’t a great surprise. Something was wrong with the cabinet handles when we got the boat in 2007. Handles were breaking on a bi-weekly basis, and cabinets were stuck in the closed position until Art could pry them open with a slender tool. The yard investigated, and discovered that the supplier had a faulty part inside the handle, and the whole thing was fixed when they handed us a basketful of new parts and Art changed all of the cabinets onboard two years ago. There are more than seventy of them. (This is one of the big differences between sailboats and powerboats. Sailboats have lots of storage space behind, under and over the already-limited living space. Powerboats of the same size tend to have a lot more elbow room instead. There are sofas on power boats the size of Second Wind.) So apparently Art missed this one cabinet; when he looked at the broken handle, he could see that the old internal part hadn’t been replaced. But this was a particularly vexing problem. The tool he needed to open the cabinet door was inside the cabinet.

If I ever wondered why Art permanently carries a tiny Swiss army knife (which he forgets about so often that half a dozen have probably already been confiscated at airport security), this was the validation I needed. Cabinet opened, handle replaced, Allen wrench obtained. Cross it off the list.

The yard figured out our rudder problem and made the repairs as we enjoyed the yard’s hospitality, its wireless access, and its proximity to Vickie’s HR Parts shop, a good supermarket and a fine lunch at the nearby hotel. We spent some time with Vickie and Roland, and made new friends among the HR owners who passed through the harbor. I took advantage of the spa in the hotel one day and got a Swedish massage (which simply is a massage from a Swede, as far as I could tell.) I could pretty much live there forever. Art, nonetheless, reminds me often, “It’s s SAIL-boat.” And so we began to contemplate more travel.

In mid-August in Sweden, summer is officially over. Hardy boat owners (a group that doesn’t necessarily include me except under protest) continue sailing through September. Our approach is to choose our weather carefully and not stray far from home base.

Our plan is to sail to Oslo, Norway for lots of reasons. We’ve never been to Oslo or much of the coast that leads to it, though we’ve covered much of the rest of Norway’s coast. Also, the coast between western Sweden and the Oslo fjord has a barrier of islands, which gives us lots of choice when we plan itineraries. On a day with great winds without much of a sea, we can choose a route outside the islands. On days with strong winds from the wrong direction, we can stay inside the protection of the islands. The sea option lets us set a course and head straight or nearly straight to the day’s destination. Inside, there are shallow spots to avoid, ferries to monitor, and a zigzag route to follow. Our last good reason for a trip to Norway is simply financial self-interest, to leave the European Union and reset the Customs clock. We can take our time, and the whole excursion will take about two weeks, taking us into September and the beginning of shutting our season down. And we’d leave, as soon as it stops raining long enough to make it appealing.

There’s something Zen-like about closing this circle, and it might well be that this will be the final update for this season’s cruising. From here on out, we’re kind of just staying within the neighborhood. But we’re quite reachable here in Scandinavia, with our endless Internet and more leisurely lifestyle (if such a thing is possible.) So please reach out, one way or another, and let us know how you’re all doing.

Love, Karen (and Art)