Nov 14, 2016

Winter ahead!

Sailing season 2016 is officially over for us as Dolphin Dance was lifted out last week. I was a bit worried as the winter set in early this year: the night time temperature dropped to -10 degrees during the weekend before the lift out, but the sea remained open and I had the heater running through the coldest nights to avoid damage to the engine and water system.

This year, Dolphin Dance is wintering inside in a warm shed, as I am planning to do some maintenance work during the winter. More about that later.

When emptying the boat and removing the sails on the last weekend of October, the weather was still relatively warm. Only a week later the temperature dropped to -10 degrees. 

DD was lifted out on 7th of November, just in time before the stronger snow fall. 

Oct 10, 2016

Sailing on the Lago di Garda

This September we travelled to northern Italy to end the sailing season 2016 on warm waters of Lago di Garda. This was going to be my first lake sailing experience, so at first I was a bit concerned whether this 28 nautical miles long lake would offer enough 'challenges' and places to see and visit during the week. Fortunately, I was wrong as Lake Garda turned out to be a sailors' paradise with very steady wind conditions, breathtaking mountainous landscape and beautiful small villages. However, the lack of natural harbours and shortage of good marinas hinder possibilities for cruising.

The wind conditions

There are two dominant winds on Lake Garda. The northerly Pelér wind starts to blow usually at night or early morning and continues to late morning. After that the wind normally veers to south as the afternoon Ora wind takes over around 12:00 and 1:30 and blows until fading away with the sunset. Based on our short experience, the southerly Ora wind works almost like a clock and it is strongest in the northern part of the lake whereas the winds are generally weaker in the middle and southern part of the lake.

The Boat

We sailed the week with an older charter Bavaria 31. Ten years of age is quite a lot for a charter boat and this was also visible in various parts of the boat: the instruments were not working properly and the boat had some other electrical problems: we actually ended up taking the electricity down from the whole marina during the first evening after plugging in to the shore power!

Lake Garda is about 28 nautical miles long and one to six miles wide, and the winds usually blow along the lake to either direction, so you are mostly beating to windward or sailing dead downwind – both of which are not the most pleasant points of sail. Therefore, the most notable problem on the boat was the poor condition of the sails. During the week the winds varied from very light winds to strong winds up to 26 knots. The light wind conditions would have required a larger downwind sail in the garderobe whereas in the strong winds it was impossible to sheet the main sail nowhere near as tight as it should have been.

Harbours and marinas

One thing that bothered me on Lake Garda was the lack of information on marinas and harbours. There are many idyllic looking small towns along the coastline and some of them also have small harbour basins with breakwaters and mooring facilities. However, without a pilot or harbour book, it was impossible to have information whether there are guest berths and more importantly, if there is a sufficient depth for a sailing boat.

On the other hand, there aren't that many marinas either and some of the few are also quite expensive (we paid up to 85 euros per night in Marina di Bogliaco). Furthermore, they are often located further away from the old town centres and marinas seem to have only some guest berths for visiting boats. The end of September was already an off-season, so we did not have difficulty in finding vacant berths, but I can imagine, that the marinas can get crowded during the high summer.

In the next blog post I will deal with the marinas and harbours that we visited during the week.

Lake Garda is a sailor's paradise as the wind conditions are predictable. 

Almost all forms of sailing and wind sports could be spotted on the lake

Castle of Malcesine

Sep 13, 2016

Birsskär-Konungsskär: Natural harbour in the Archipelago National Park

In mid-August we visited Birsskär-Konungsskär, which is located in the northern part of the Archipelago National park, about three miles south from Korpoström harbour. Birsskär is a popular wild anchorage especially during the high season. However, the week in August was very windy and the main holiday season was already over so we were the only boat overnighting in the anchorage that night.

The nature on the uninhabited islands is very beautiful and there is also a nice nature trail running around the Konungsskär island which offers great views to the nearby islands.

 We deciced to set the bow anchor and use the dinghy for visiting the islands. 

Anchorage seen from the top of Västra Tvigölpan. The best places for mooring can be found from the north shore of Birsskär island.

The bridge connecting Birsskär and Konungsskär

There is an open wilderness hut on Konungsskär

Aug 16, 2016

Sailing to Kylmäpihlaja Lighthouse Island

On Sunday evening the 17th of July, we hoisted the sails after a couple of days' break and took a course from Kustavi towards north and the Bothnian Sea. The southwesterly wind was favourable until the late evening so we decided to continue to our cruising association's skerry harbour, located north of Uusikaupunki. We arrived there just after the midnight. On the following day we had still about 20 nautical miles leg to Kylmäpihlaja island, which was also going to be the northernmost point along the Finnish coastline, that Dolphin Dance has ever sailed.

Kylmäpihlaja lighthouse is located outside City of Rauma in western Finland. The archipelago on the coast of Bothnian Sea is only a narrow belt between the mainland and the open sea so the conditions can be harsh especially during the autumn and winter. This adds some rugged beauty to these outer islands: the landscape is barren and the few trees are mostly small. The landscape on Kylmäpihlaja reminded me of the western part of Isokari island located some 30 nautical miles to the south. However, the Kylmäpihlaja is a lot smaller island and it is mostly treeless whereas Isokari has thick forests in the middle part.

Here are some photos from Kylmäpihlaja. Check out also the short video, which I filmed during our stay on the island.

 The lighthouse and the pilot station were built in 1952

View from the lighthouse tower, which rises 36 meters above sea level

The beacon light range is nowadays 17 miles

 The harbour basin is sheltered in all winds

Here is a short movie from Kylmäpihlaja (watch on YouTube):

Jul 30, 2016

Sailing from Åland to Kustavi

The last night in Åland: it was nice to visit beautiful Kumlinge Remmarhamn after a few years. 

Very Ålandic scenery in Kumlinge

Sailing to Kustavi: the only rainy day at the sea. Fortunately the rain lasted only a couple of hours.

After the rain, we got one of the best sailing legs of the season while broadreaching in fresh southeasterly wind along the Kihti fjard. 

Moored on our cruising club's base in Kustavi. The pier is located on a small rock.

Our Tour de Åland ended up in mid-July and we left the boat to in Northern Kustavi for a few days. After a couple of days at work, we headed back to the sea on Sunday the 17th of July. 

We had a late start, but decided to take an advantage of good southerly winds and long daylight and take a course towards north to Bothnian Sea. 

Jul 17, 2016

Sailing around Åland

The main sailing trip of the season 2016 took us to the Åland islands and we actually ended up sailing clockwise around the main island. Although I have visited Åland every year since 2008, I have never really sailed around the main island so it was nice to spent more time in the different parts of the Åland islands, which is definitely among the best cruising areas in Europe (if not in the world) in my opinion.

Our initial plan was actually to sail across the Åland Sea over to the Stockholm Archipelago, but the winds were not favourable during our first holiday week for this leg so due to the tight timetable, we decided to take more relaxed schedule and go with the wind instead.

Here are some photos from Åland. More up-to-date photos can be found from our Instagram or Facebook.

Käringsundet, Eckerö

Strong northerly winds kept us in HavsVidden for two nights

Jun 23, 2016

Sailing in 360 degrees

In the online video scene the 360 video is something that has definitely been a hot topic during the last year or so, especially as Youtube and Facebook launched support for 360 videos last year. 360 stands for 360 degrees or spherical video where viewer can freely decide the direction that he or she wants to see. This brings of course a completely new world both for a video-maker and for those who are watching the video.

In one of our first sailing trips of the season, I had a chance to finally test out the Ricoh Theta S in action. The filming is very straight-forward as there are not too many manual options available. Also post-production is rather quick as Ricoh Theta's application stitches automatically the two images of the super wide angle lenses into one file, which can then be edited with a normal editing software such as Final Cut Pro.

So here it is: our first 360 video. Have a look around by clicking and dragging with your mouse (if using a computer) or by moving your smartphone or tablet around and/or use your finger to change the viewpoint.

Previously filming 360 video required some expensive gear such as Nokia Ozo (about $60 000) or for example a rig for multiple GoPro cameras. Also post-production is complicated in these multicam setups as the 360 video has to be stitched from multiple videos which have to be in sync. 

Recently we have seen a rise of inexpensive 'consumer level' 360 cameras which have two very wide angle cameras shooting in opposite directions. Ricoh Theta S was one of the firsts and the recently Samsung and LG have launched their 360 cameras. Unfortunately, the Samsung's camera work currently only with their newer smartphones and with PC based editing software. It's a pity as the camera has better video resolution than its rivals.


I was a bit disappointed about the video quality of Ricoh Theta S as the video is soft and blurry. Despite the camera is shooting Full HD resolution the actual video resolution is much lower as the image is spread over 360 degrees. Thus, the true video quality is not even close to HD, more like a reminscent of the Youtube quality ten years ago. Thus, Ricoh Theta's 360 video looks best when watched on a small smartphone screen, but the resolution is not enough for larger screens or for VR classes. 

It is also possible to take 360 photos with Ricoh Theta S and this feature become recently much more interesting as Facebook started to support 360 photos on their platform earlier this month. Furthermore, the image resolution of still photos is greater to videos so the photos have better quality and they are sharper. Thus, I am especially interested about this 360 photo feature.