Dec 27, 2012

Top 10 Sailing destinations in the Baltic Sea - part II

The Baltic Sea is an unique area located between the Baltics and Scandinavia. It is one of the largest brackish inland seas (i.e. mix of salt and fresh water) in the world.

For a sailor, this area offers unique cruising with plenty of islands and sheltered waterways. It is impossible to put these such different areas in order, so I decided to list our favourite places from north to south.

In the first part, the first five sailing areas in the northern part of the Baltic Sea were presented. Now in this second part, I look at the interesting cruising grounds in the middle and southern part of the Baltic Sea.

Feel free to comment and suggest new places, which you think, should be included in the list!

6. Visby — a medieval city which does not sleep

I have been in Visby only once (with a sail boat). It was at the end of the June in 2010, which was an exceptionally warm summer in the Baltics. I remember sitting on the old medieval stone wall, which encircles the city, and enjoying the beautiful view to the glittering sea. Especially when the weather was so great, one could have easily thought of being somewhere in the Mediterranean  it is not a typical North European view!

Visby is the best preserved medieval-city in Scandinavia and it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also a legendary sailing destination with a harbour right in the heart of the city. It is a little wonder, that during July, it is a busy place and one can find boats from all over the Scandinavia and Northern Europe. There are a lot of nice restaurants and the night life is lively during the summer season.

7. Northern Öland  the land of the Sun 

Öland has a special place in our hearts; we visited the island twice in 2011, and both times found the summer there. Especially on our way back home in early August, the hot and sunny weather felt luxurious after many days of sailing in the rainy and windy southern Baltics. Our experiences could be just a coincidence or maybe not, since the northern part of the Öland is statistically the sunniest region in Sweden. Therefore, the island is also popular among vacationers. There are also some great beaches on the east coast of this long and narrow island.

The west coast of Öland is open to the Kalmarsund, but there are some good, sheltered harbours in the biggest villages. Our favourite ones are Byxelkrok and Sandvik.

The feeling and the landscape on this island reminded me of Fårö   there are also a few rauk (limestone) formations in the east coast, although they are not as big as the ones on Gotland and Fårö.

Bicycle is the best vehicle to explore the great nature on this island. One can even tour the whole island along the well marked Ölandsleden-route. On the west side of the island, the route goes near the coastline and offers great views to the Kalmarsund.

8. Bornholm  a green island in the middle of the Southern Baltic Sea

I have visited Bornholm twice; the first time was just a quick stop in mid-May 2010, when delivering Dolphin Dance from Denmark. For a fist-timer, approaching Bornholm was an unforgettable experience: the silhouette of the Hammerhuis fortress ruins over the hills is visible from a good distance and when sailing closer, one starts to see the green hilly coastline, raising steeply from the sea.

We stopped for provisions in Allinge, which is a popular harbour in the northern Bornholm. However, it was still pre-season and the harbour was almost deserted. The case would have been a bit different in July, when the harbour is every night fully packed with boats.

My second visit to Bornholm was in late July 2011, when we stopped in Hammerhavn also in northern Bornholm (we had sailed past this harbour a bit over year before). It is a great small harbour in the nest of green hills. There is a nice, forestry path from the harbour to the Hammerhus castle ruins. On the walls of this fortess, one can absorb information about the interesting history of this island, or just sit down to enjoy the magnificient view over the coastline to the Southern Baltic Sea. I had the same kind of feeling when sitting on the stone wall, that I had had in Visby a year earlier — that this place is not in the Baltics, but somewhere further away...

Bornholm is an island, where we will definitely visit again in the future and I would like to round the island someday.

9. Rügen  the island of famous chalk cliffs 

We have not yet been sailing in Germany, but have heard a lot of positive storiea about the area of Rügen from fellow sailors. Rügen is the biggest island of Germany, and the area is especially famous for the high chalk cliffs, which rise well over hundred meters above the sea level. Rügen and the Danish island of Møn, some 30 nautical miles northwest, once belonged to a large chalk plateau. During the years, the erosion has removed the vast majority of the land mass, leaving the famous chalk cliffs on both islands.

Photo: © Tourismusverband Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Messerschmidt)
Rügen is also a named for a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a popular holiday destination with many long sand beaches and holiday resorts. After seeing some photos from the area, Rügen will definitely be included as a part of our southern Baltic tour in the future.

10. Gdansk (and other traditional seaports of the Eastern Europe)

Last but not least, the eastern side of the Baltics deserves to be mentioned as well. The landscape on this area is very different from the west side since there are very few islands along the coast. Due to the lack of good natural harbours, the prime interest in this area for a sailor lies in the great historical cities and seaports. Furthermore, the area is developing rapidly and new marinas are opened every year.

Eastern side of the Baltic Sea is also an area, where we have not sailed, but visited by other means. Last May we visited Gdansk (Poland), which is a very beautifully restored city with an impressive history. There is a new marina in the heart of the city center, so it would be great to visit this place by boat someday.

There are also many beautiful old cities in the Baltic countries, for example Tallinn in Estonia and Riga in Latvia, which could be on this listing as well.

When writing this article and searching information on different areas, I have started to appreciate, if possible, even more the beauty and the diversity of the Baltic Sea. However, the article about the Baltic Sea cannot be just a happy story, but one must recognize the great environmental challenges, which this area is facing and which are endangering the future. Baltic Sea is very vulnerable sea area due to its special characteristics: low salinity level, slow water turnover through the narrow Danish straits and shallowness; Baltic Sea is basically a shallow lake compared to the Mediterranean Sea for example. At the same time, there are 90 million people living around the Baltic Sea and this is a huge burden to the sea's ecosystem. The biggest threats the sea faces are for example eutrophication and risk posed by maritime traffic. Fortunately, there are many good projects going on, which are aiming for concrete improvements in the state of the sea. For example, John Nurminen Foundation and Baltic Sea Action Group have achieved some remarkable results already with their projects. 

Dec 23, 2012

Merry Christmas from s/y DD!

We would like to thank all of our readers for the year 2012 and wish you all a Merry Christmas!

We would like to also thank you for all the comments, practical hints and questions in the comments section or sent to us by e-mail. It is always encouraging to get feedback from the blog posts! This year we have also set up a Facebook-page for the blog, which has gained delightfully many likers. We will share more photos and quick, on-the-spot updates on our Facebook-page, whereas this blog is mostly dedicated for a bit longer articles, which take some time to write. Therefore, our FB-page is often most 'up-to-date'.

We will keep updating the blog through the winter as usual about various sailing related topics. The second part of the Top 10 Sailing Destinations in the Baltic Sea is almost ready, and it will be published a few days after Christmas. Also on the agenda is a short movie about the sailing season 2012 and also after Christmas it is a good time to start planning the season 2013.
/Antti & Minna

Dec 16, 2012

Top 10 Sailing Destinations in the Baltic Sea - part I

The Baltic Sea is an unique area located between the Baltics and Scandinavia. It is one of the largest brackish inland seas (i.e. mix of salt and fresh water) in the world. For a sailor, this area offers unique cruising with plenty of islands and sheltered waterways.

What I most like about the Baltic Sea area, is the diversity of the nature. When sailing from the south towards north, one can experience a totally different landscapes and sceneries  for example, from the long sand dunes in the south, to the barren, rocky islands and higher landscape in the north.

It is impossible to put these such different areas in order, so I decided to list our favourite places from north to south. This first blog post lists the first five sailing areas and the second part will follow shortly!

And I would like to add, that we have not sailed round the whole Baltic Sea yet, so there is probably something essential missing. So feel free to comment and suggest new places, which you think, should be included in the list.

1. Höga Kusten  the High Coast of Sweden

This area on the Swedish side of the Bay of Bothnia offers the highest and perhaps the most scenic landscape in the whole Baltic Sea area. The nature in the High Coast has been affected by the latest glacial period, when the land masses were depressed by the weight of a huge glacier. After the ice age, the land started rebounding and is now rising at rates that are among the highest in the world.

Also the highest island in Sweden, Mjältön is also located in the heart of the High Coast. In addition to the beautiful landscape, there are many picturesque, red painted fishing villages, where one can enjoy the calmer and more tranquil atmosphere than in the south. Here is more information about the High Coast.

2. Northern Åland archipelago  the last wilderness of the Baltics

Åland is an autonomuos, demilitarised region of Finland. It consists of about 6 700 islands, but only 65 islands are inhabited and 90 % of population lives on the main island. Due to the legislation, it is difficult (or impossible) to own real estate in Åland for people who do not have the right to domicile in Åland. Therefore, there is significantly fewer summer houses, than in the archipelagos of Turku or Stockholm, and the area has been kept in its natural state to a greater extent. This is especially true in the northern part of the Åland archipelago, which is one of my utmost favourite places in the whole Baltics.

The largest islands in Åland are forestry, but the shoreline and outer islands are rocky, since the area is mostly open to the winds from the Baltic Sea. One special characteristics of the archipelago is the Åland's bedrock's red granite, which is especially visible along the coastline and on the islands.

3. The Archipelago Sea  20 000 reasons to visit

There are over 20 000 islands in the archipelago of Turku alone. Many of those are small, uninhabited barren islets. Of the larger forestry islands, many are inhabited and have picturesque, small fishing villages. The fisherman tradition is still living in the area, and some of the islands are inhabited all year round.

Many of the traditional fishing villages are located in the southern Archipelago Sea, which consists of the intermediate and outer part of the archipelago. In the intermediate part there is more open sea compared to the inner archipelago, but the outer islands and islets give shelter from the waves of the northern Baltic Sea. For a sailor, this offers an amazing cruising area with a lot of choices for mooring. One can basically spend a lifetime sailing here, and still find new anchorages. Examples of the most popular islands are Aspö, Helsingholmen, Berghamn and Björkö.

4. Stockholm the city built on fourteen islands

Sometimes referred to as the Venice of the north, Stockholm is built on fourteen islands, connected by 57 bridges. Thus, the sea, the archipelago and boating are very present and visible in the capital of Sweden. Approaching the city on a busy summer day is an experience: large cruising ships, hundreds
of small and large sail- and motorboats, ferries and Waxholmbolaget's connection boats are all navigating the same waterways.

The location of Wasahamnen guest harbour is ideal for visiting Stockholm: it is within a walking distance from the city center, but located on a beautiful Djurgården-island, which is a city park consisting mostly of parkland and forrest. There is a direct ferry connection from Djurgården to the beautiful Stockholm Gamla Stan, the old medieval city center. The ferry runs until late at night and seeing all the lights of Stockholm at night from the sea on way back to the Wasahamnen is a great experience!

5. Fårö  a far away island

Fårö is a small island northeast from Gotland, which is a popular holiday destination for Scandinavians. While the majority of the boats sail to Visby on Gotland, on Fårö one can find more peaceful and original atmosphere of Gotland. It feels almost like time has stopped beating in Fårö. The island is scattered with old stone fences, which were built to keep the own sheep from mixing with the neighbour's. Also traditional grass-roofed houses and windmills are a typical sight on the island. Sheep farming has been and still is an important industry in Fårö; a sheep is also pictured in the island's flag.

There are some great long sand beaches on Fårö. Sudersand in the south is the most popular among the vacationers. However, the white rocky beaches around the island offer great scenery and walks as well. Gotland and Fårö are also known for rauks (limestones), which are rock formations caused by erosion. Perhaps the best known rauk area is Langhammar, located in the west coast of Fårö. Langhammar was also the setting for Ingmar Bergman's film Through a Glass Darkly. This famous Swedish film director was also the most famous resident of the island for fourty years.

See also: Top 10 Sailing Destinations in the Baltics - Part II

Dec 13, 2012

Making the hull shiny again

My initial idea two months ago was to quickly wax the topsides and the coachroof before the winter and then repeat the procedure in the spring. Afterall, the hull looked pretty good after the pressure washing and acid treatment, which were done right after she was pulled out of the water. However, when talking about this with Jarkko from Airsto Marine, he suggested that I would borrow his sanding/polishing machine to remove the oxidation from the gelcoat and to restore the shine of the gelcoat. When I took a closer look of the gelcoat, I could see what he was meaning with the oxidation. Although the job was a bit more larger project than initially planned, I am glad that I followed Jarkko's advice!

So I started off with a rubbing compound, which is a sort of sandpaper in the form of a paste. I used Farécla Profile 300, which was applied with a sanding/polishing machine. The machine gives more power when applying the rubbing compound, so you do not get a tennis elbow from the job. However, one has to be careful of not to use too much power and also remember to spray water frequently to cool the surface. Otherwise, the gelcoat can heat up too much, which will leave yellow spots on the gelcoat. One has to be especially careful in the sharp corners of the coachroof and cockpit. And yes, I learned this the hard way...

The rubbing compound works like a sandpaper, so it takes away a very small amount of the gelcoat. Therefore, one can also remove light scratches from the gelcoat. However, the treatment should not be repeated too often, so that the gelcoat is not removed excessively.

A foam pad was used for applying the wax
After applying the rubbing compound, the gelcoat needs still some wax to protect it from re-oxidation. I used Autoglym's Super Resin Polish, which was applied with the machine and then polished with a cloth. To complete the process, the boat should be waxed once more with a hard wax, which gives durable protection against UV-radiation, dirt etc. However, I will leave this stage for the spring. The blue stripes of Dolphin Dance were re-painted a few years ago by her previous owner, so I did not use rubbing compound on those (in order not to remove too much paint). Therefore the stripes were treated just with the Hempel's Clean & Polish and then waxed.


 I am pleased with the outcome, since after the treatment, the twenty-two years old hull looks almost like new again.

Dec 8, 2012

Maintenance schedule for the winter

I promised earlier to write an update on our maintenance plan for the coming winter. The autumn has proceeded very quickly, and not too much has happened yet. I have been working at the boat about once per week and the hull and the coachroof is now mechanically polished and waxed - I'm planning to make a blog post on this shortly.   

Wet part clearly shows were the water is pooling in the rudder blade
But the actual renovation project kicks-off in January with the company Airisto Marine Oy. First on the agenda is the rudder. As I blogged last spring, there were some cracks on the rudder around the bronze fittings. Furthermore, I noticed, after the boat was lifted on September, that the lower part of the rudder blade stayed wet and kept dripping for days. So clearly there is some water trapped inside the rudder blade. In the past few months, I have been looking into this issue and also contacted the yard about this. It appears that this so called 'Enderlein-drip' is more or less a feature in all older HRs. So it is a pretty common problem and rarely a real structural problem because of the way the rudder is constructed and attached to the boat. But now that the boat is wintering indoors, it is the best time to fix it. Airisto Marine has a HotVac-system, which we are planning to use to dry the rudder. Let's see what happens.

Also rudder shaft stuffing box needs some care. Two years ago we had a leak from the stuffing box, but it has remained watertight since then with normal maintenance. However, now it is a good time to renew the gland packing, which I believe, is original. Rudder bearings appear to be in fairly good condition, so there is not probably need to replace those. Thus, we try to do all the work with the rudder without removing it, because it might be a bit larger project.

Small pinholes in the gelcoat
The second major renovation item is the underwater hull, which needs barrier coating after it was sodablasted clear of all the bottom paint a couple of months ago. The good news is that there is no blistering on the hull. However, moisture meter showed elevated readings at some places. Furthermore, there are some small pinholes in the gelcoat also at few places on the hull - probably caused by air bubbles during the original layup process. These are potential areas for development of osmosis/blistering, if moisture gets inside the gelcoat. So obviously it is not a good thing! Fortunately, moisture meter did not show elevated readings on those areas, so the pinholes will be just filled before applying the barrier coat.

Jarkko Marsh from Airisto Marine taking
moisture measurements
The hull has a good time to dry during the winter, before the new barrier coating is applied, so I hope that this will be enough and we do not have to use HotVac to speed-up the drying. It is a very important that the hull is dry before the new epoxy coating is applied, because otherwise the moisture is basically sealed into the hull, which could cause future problems.

Third maintenance item is the bilge, which needs also re-coating. The old topcoat will be sanded off and new coating applied (preferably epoxy coating). The problem is that the working space at the bottom of the bilge is - mildly said - quite challenging.

The fourth larger item is the teak deck, which will be carefully checked and all the suspicious caulking will be replaced.

Additionally, there are a lot of smaller items which need care and replacement after over twenty years of service. For example, all the winches including the anchor windlass, are serviced during the winter. There are also some wooden parts that need varnishing. And as always with boats, most probably new things will come up once you start digging deeper.

There were some cracks in the gelcoat under the mast step, so the step was
removed for inspection.

Jarkko drilling a test hole for checking the condition of the plywood, used as a core material
under the mast step.  Fortunately, it was bone dry, so no problems with rot etc. 

Dec 5, 2012

YachtTV video: long keeler vs. short keeler

Image: © YACHT/N. Günter

In the various internet sailing forums, there is almost a persistent debate going on about, which makes a better sea boat: a traditional long keeler or a modern flat-bottom fin keeler? German Yacht magazine decided to address this question by testing three different generation cruising boats on the steep and short waves of the southern Baltic Sea. The wind speed during the test was about 8-11 m/s (17-20 kts) and wave height about 1-1,5 meters resulting in very uncomfortable sailing conditions.  

The boats in the test were a classic long keeler Vindö 40 from 1970s, a medium fin keeler (with a skeg) Hallberg-Rassy 29 from 1980s, and a  a modern fin keeler Sun Odyssey 30i. So very interesting test set-up indeed! Unfortunately, I do not know German very well, so it is a bit difficult for me to understand the comments made on the video. But, according to the google translate, both 'old timers' did better in terms of sea-kindliness and the HR 29 was the 'winner' of this test, where the comfort was the main criterion.

The sea-kindly motion of the traditional hull shape is quite expected result. However, it would be interesting to know, what kind of differences there were in the speed, pointing angles and motion in different points of sail. One would expect a modern boat with a wider stern to be faster and maybe also more comfortable downwind, due to the better surfing qualities. Based on my own experience, the 29 is not a very good surfer due to the weight and less buoyant stern. However, according to the video, she seemed to be handling well also when sailing downwind.

Here is link to the YachtTV video from the test:


Dec 2, 2012

Vote for the best photo from 2012

As there is less than one month left for this year, it is a good time to sum up the season 2012. During the previous summer the memory card of our camera was again filled with hundreds of photos and also plenty of video material. The video editing is a time consuming process, but maybe during Christmas holiday I have enough time to go through all the material. As for the images, we have now selected 15 photos, which in our opinion, represent best the season 2012.

This summer we did not experience many of those great Baltic Sea sunsets/sunrises, that we love. Nevertheless, during the season there were some interesting moments and beautiful sceneries for photographing - for example, when an approaching rain front painted the scenery blue. Or the horizon cleared after a cloudy day and setting sun turned the scenery sparkling red. And after all, not all the photos are dark or cloudy - so I guess that there were some sunny days in between as well!

We have difficulty in deciding our favourite image from the 2012, so we would like to hear your opinion. You can vote in the poll which is underneath all the pictures.
/Antti & Minna

1. The High Coast panorama

2. Djupviken - a natural harbour in Northern Åland 

3. Mirror calm water (Djupviken) 

 4. View towards Bay of Bothnia (Djupviken)

 5. Purple horizon (Djupviken)

6. The white horse of Helsingholmen 

 7.  Cold bath at sea (Helsingholmen)

8. Blue moment (anchorage near Sundsvall) 

9. View from Isokari  

 10. Full moon 

11. Wooden boat sheds of Trysunda 

12. View from Trysunda 

13. Thundercloud (Sweden)

14. Insjön-lake on Björkö

15. Cliffs of Skrubban

Which picture do you think is the best one?