Apr 29, 2013

Plans for the season: Sandhamn and Lökholmen

Located in the outer Stockholm Archipelago, Sandhamn is one of the most legendary sailing destinations in the Baltic Sea, especially among the sail racing folks. Sandhamn is probably best known as the main scene for the prestigious Gotland Runt sailing competition, which gathers every year around 300 boats to take part in the race around the Gotland.

My first visit to Sandhamn was in the summer of 2009. This was actually my first trip to Stockholm Archipelago as well, so approaching Sandhamn after 80 nm singlehanded Baltic Sea crossing from Kökar felt particularly thrilling. There were a lot of boats at the sea, but one could tell from a good distance, that Sandhamn was full of masts already in the early evening, so I was a bit anxious if I would find a berth from the harbour. Also the sea charts and marks in Sweden are a bit different, so that required some extra attention. The Stockholm Archipelago appeared to be very lively, and the contrast was large to quiet Åland Archipelago, which I had left early in the morning. Don't get me wrong, I love those quiet anchorages on Åland, but Sandhamn is a place, which should be experienced during the high season: the harbour with almost 200 guest berths is filled every night with boats of all-sizes, coming from all over the Baltic Sea and further.

Sandhamn is actually the name of the harbour on the island called Sandön, that is a Swedish expression for 'sand island'. Indeed, the whole island is basically made of sand. Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine, that the island has originally been barren and treeless. Pine trees were planted on the island to anchor the sand, and nowadays the island is covered by lush forests, which give Sandön a somewhat exotic appearance. The middle part of the island is scattered by numerous trails which offer great walks to the different parts of the island.

During the summer season it may be a good idea to look for a berth from a nearby Lökholmen, also owned by the Royal Swedish Yacht Club (KSSS), which is one of the oldest yachting clubs in the world. The atmosphere on Lökholmen is quite different than on the nearby Sandhamn: the island has kept its natural state better and the overall feeling is quieter and more like on a wild/natural anchorage  even if there are fairly good facilities and berths for about 200 guest boats. Sandhamn can be easily visited from a nearby Lökholmen, since there is free ferry boat running hourly.

If we have enough time during this season, we would like to make a detour to Stockholm Archipelago, when going to or coming from Gotland. Visit to Sandhamn/Lökholmen is almost a must.

Old guard tower on Lökholmen 

Sandhamn seen from Lökholmen 


Dolphin Dance in Sandhamn (early June 2011). Strange to see Sandhamn so quiet.  

Ericsson 3 and 4 in Sandhamn after the Volvo Ocean Race 2008/2009 

Start for the final VOR leg to St. Petersburg near Sandhamn (2009).

Apr 27, 2013

Weekly maintenance update

We have still about three weeks to go before the launch, so I think that we are quite well in the schedule  assuming of course that there are no unpleasant surprises lurking behind the corner. The keel project is advancing according to the plan: the keel is now coated five times with Teknos Inerta primer 5 (epoxy primer). After the underside of the keel is antifouled twice, Dolphin Dance can be lowered on her keel. The underside of the keel is difficult to operate during the normal winter haul-out, so it is good, that it is now properly made. We try to avoid scratching the keel in the coming season.

DD's topsides were polished and waxed already last autumn, so this saves quite a lot of time now in the spring. The plan is to wax the topsides once more (with a hard wax), but that is pretty straight-forward and quick job compared to the rubbing stage.

The teak deck is one of the most time-consuming projects during this spring. Now that the air is dry in the shed, one can see the places where the caulking has separated from the teak. When the teak gets wet, it expands and therefore it may be difficult to locate those areas during the season. Furthermore, all the repairs to the teak deck should be made, when the teak is thoroughly dry, which may be impossible to achieve during the sailing season. In addition to replacing some caulking at few spots, I also tried a bit different approach this year: I bought Capt. Tolley's Creeping Crack Cure, which I injected to all the seams, which looked potentially leaky. Crack Cure has a very low viscosity, so by using capillary action, it finds its way even to the fine cracks. When cured, it should make flexible and strong bond. I will report later how well this method works.

In general, Creeping Crack Cure is easy to apply. However, according to some internet discussions, the Creeping Crack Cure can leave nasty black spots on the teak, which may be impossible to clean later. Therefore, I cleaned all the spills instantly with a cloth and acetone. This quick action seemed to be sufficient and fortunately we did not have problem with teak turning to black. Also, it is wise to try to avoid the spills in the first place; an injection needle, which can be purchased from pharmaceutical store, helps a lot in accuracy of application.

Underside of the keel coated with epoxy primer

Apr 21, 2013

Plans for the season: Isokari island — the jewel of the Southern Bothnian Sea

The Isokari lighthouse island is located in the Southern Bothnian Sea, about eleven nautical miles north from Kustavi. My first visit to this island was in the beginning of the 21st century with our family's small sailing boat. Although located next to the open sea, Isokari is rich in flora and fauna and the middle part of the island has lush forests. However, the kilometres long western shoreline of the island is barren and treeless and offers a great view towards the Bothnian Sea. This western part is my utmost favourite place on the island  especially in the evening when the sun starts setting. Actually, it was on Isokari that I first experienced (and became addicted to) the beauty of the open sea; it is rare to find that kind of view in the Southwestern Archipelago, where one can see no islands in the horizon. Well, actually there is one very small island (or islet with a lighthouse) called Sandbäck, located about 8 nm to the west, but it is barely visible.

On that late summer evening in 2000, I remember dreaming how it would feel to sail towards that endless horizon of the Bothnian Sea. That dream was realized last year, when we set sail from Isokari towards Sundsvall in Sweden. Unfortunately, the weather was less romantic than on that beautiful evening over ten years ago.

My second visit to Isokari was in 2007 and after that, I have visited the island every year except in 2011. If we have enough time, we would like to visit this great island also in the coming season, especially as our previous visit was a rather quick one.

The sheltered harbour is on the east side of the island and the  guest pier is located quite close to the pilot station. During the high season, there are daily guided tours from the harbour to the lighthouse. The lighthouse, built in 1833, is the second highest in Finland (49,4 m). From the top, one can enjoy a magnificent view to the Bothnian Sea and all the way to the outer islands of the Northern Åland.

Also, check out this great blog (in Finnish) by a pilot. The blog frequently features photography and stories from Isokari.

Isokari in sight!

It is said, that spray from the waves may reach the top of the lighthouse during the strongest storms. 

Kilometres long rocky shoreline

Dolphin Dance and a pilot boat

In July 2007, I spent an extra day on the island due to the northwesterly gale. 

Apr 17, 2013

Dreaming... about sailing in the Caribbean!

Antti has been there twice. I have not. I would like to go! How would it be to sail, when it is warm? When you do not have to wear that lovely Helly Hansen foul weather gear, woolen socks and two layers of underwear? I do not know, but would like to experience it.

Antti will have his 30th Birthday next winter. Wouldn't that be a great reason to travel and sail? ;) Do you have experiences on chartering a boat in the Caribbean?

Green Island, Antiqua

St. Barths

Îles des Saintes

Îles des Saintes

The third most dangerous airport in the world (St. Barths)

Photos taken by Antti in 2006 and 2007.

Apr 13, 2013

Maintenance update: Refit project full speed ahead

This week it was time to face the facts: there is about a month to go until the planned launch and still plenty of things to do. In the imaginary world, everything would have been done already during the winter and one could just wait for the ice to melt from the harbour. However, I guess that it is a law with boats, that one needs to have that spring rush to get everything done. All in all, it was time to roll up the sleeves and start tackling the undone projects.

Now that the temperature is higher and the air drier in the shed, I noticed that some of deck caulking has lost its grip of the teak and needs to be replaced. Teak expands when wet, so later in the season it might be difficult the locate the potential problem areas on the deck. Especially as it might take a week for the teak to dry thoroughly. The area around the anchor windlass looked suspicious so we decided to remove the windlass and replace all the caulking there. The (manual) Lofrans Royal anchor windlass needs also some maintenance, since it is only working at half speed (i.e. only when the handle is pushed forward). I took the windlass home to give it a closer look.

Jarkko Marsh borrowed us his Fein Multimaster tool, which has a special blade for removing teak deck caulking. It proved especially handy in opening straight seams; it is many times faster than the screwdriver/carpet knife method, which I have been using previously. However, opening curved seams is also difficult with Fein and needs still some practice.

Also the keel project has taken leap forward this week. Earlier this year, we discovered that there was moisture in the area under the bilge. Multiple holes, that were drilled into the keel, are now filled and laminated. Also the bilge area has been modified quite a bit: Jarkko came up with an idea of filling the back end of the bilge with epoxy foam. This is practical for two reasons: first of all, the back of the bilge sump is deep and narrow, so it is very a difficult place to operate and laminate properly. The second reason is, that due to the deepness, it is also difficult to keep the sump clean and dry. After all, I believe, that the bilge water is to blame for the moisture in the keel. With this modification, there will be slightly less volume in the bilge, but it will be much easier to keep the sump tidy.

Removing the anchor windlass 

The back end of the bilge filled with epoxy foam. Needs still to be laminated over. 

Still plenty of volume remaining in the bilge after the modification.

Apr 11, 2013

Plans for the season 2013: Jurmo

It was about fifteen years ago when I first visited Jurmo, one of the southernmost inhabited islands in the outer archipelago of Turku. I instantly fell in love with this barren island, located close to the open sea. However, it took ten years before I had a chance to visit the island for the second time in 2008. After that, I have visited Jurmo twice in 2009 and 2010, but unfortunately, during the last two seasons we have spent less time cruising in the southern archipelago. Thus, in the coming season one of the main goals is sailing to Jurmo  especially as Minna has not been there before.

The distance from our homeport is about 50 nm, so one can even make the journey during the weekend if the conditions are right. However, the nature on the island is so unique that one could easily spend a week just photographing there. Thus, it would be nice to have a bit more relaxed schedule.

Jurmo is one of the most popular harbours in the outer Archipelago and one can expect to find the harbour full in July. Thus, if one wants to experience the more original and tranquil face of Jurmo, the best time for visiting is early summer or August/September. In 2009, I visited the island as early as May, when there were only two other boats overnighting in the harbour. Although planned (and tried) many times, the autumn in Jurmo is yet to be experienced.

Jurmo is part of the third Salpausselkä, which is a moraine ridge system, formed during the ice age. The long rocky beaches on this five kilometres long island offers great walks and there are several walking trails on the island. However, the western part of the island should not be accessed during the bird nesting time. The landscape on the island is barren and almost treeless; for me it has the same rugged attraction as northern Lapland has.

More info on Jurmo at outdoors.fi

S/Y Iida-Klaara in Jurmo (June, 2008) 

Kilometres long rocky beaches on the island

The small chapel is from 1846  

How many alpacas can you spot from the image?

Apr 7, 2013

Dream Sailing Yachts from the North

When I was a kid, one of my favourite hobbies in summer was to cycle to a local harbour to check out the boats, that were mooring there. I was especially fond of sailing yachts that looked capable of handling the most demanding offshore conditions. I was also a keen reader of boating magazines and sailing books, and many of these were dog-eared from heavy usage. Once I happened to come across an article on the Swan 40 (Germán Frers' -design), which became my ultimate dream boat.

Not too much has changed in twenty years, since I still love to check out sail boats in the harbours and boat shows or read about them on magazines, books and blogs. However, the criteria for the 'perfect boat' has perhaps evolved a bit during these years. For example, I still consider the Swan 40 a great yacht, but I wouldn't consider her an optimal choice for shorthanded sailing. Especially, if taking into account the price and yearly maintenance costs.

What I still share today is the passion for Nordic (or Scandinavian) boat building tradition. It is great, that there are still so many top sailing yachts built in Finland, Sweden and Denmark.

This blog post lists six of my 'dream boats' in the size category of 34 to 37 foot, which I consider roughly the ideal size. None of these models are manufactured anymore, so the only way to find them is from second-hand markets. A problem with the new and hand-made Scandic boats is, that their price has elevated compared to their rivals from central Europe. However, if looking for about twenty years old boat, the price is not astronomical. Often the choice might be made between new (or almost new) central European boats, or 20+ years old Scandics. It is good to note, that this listing does not attempt to be a realistic list of options for us  especially as we are not searching for a new boat at the moment. Merely, the boats listed here are ones that have caught my eye somewhere, and I have wanted to find more information on them.

Baltic 35

Press image by: Baltic Yachts
This boat might be a rather hard to find on the market, but there was one Baltic 35 (Judel/Vrolijk design) from 1985 actually on sale last year in Finland with a price tag of about 100 000 €. With a recently replaced teak deck, she looked just stunning and I was hungry to seek more information. Based on the plan and photos, the interior looks very cleverly designed and roomy for her size. There is a decent chart table, the galley is very well organized and the aft cabin is spacious due to the fairly large bridge deck. On the other hand, the cockpit seems to be a bit small and sprayhood does not give good protection for the cockpit and helmsman. There is also a shortage of locker space in the cockpit according to the test article by Vene-lehti (9/85). The boat has sandwich-structure in the hull and deck with balsa as a core material. This is a minus in my books, but I think that Baltic Yachts  if any yard in the world  knows how to make a proper boat with this structure.

In production 19842001. One example on sale (in USA) at 88 000 €.

Hallberg-Rassy 34

Press image by: HR
This model was introduced in 1990, and remained in production for sixteen years. During the years, the model has been upgraded a lot. For example, the early 34 did not have a windshield or bathing platform and the long galley was on the opposite side of the sofa. These and other features were improved during the first years of manufacture. Of HR 34's I would be especially interested in post-1994 models  that's when the bathing platform was added.

In HR34, I like especially the simple fractional rig, which is supported exceptionally well. The 28 hp engine is powerful, and tankage (water & fuel) is sufficient. I believe that she is an example of a rather small cruising boat, which is capable of taking her crew anywhere with comfort, style and relatively good speed. Furthermore, a tiller steering is a definite plus in a boat of this size. 

+10 boats on sale in Europe, early models start from 90 000 €.

HR 36

Press image by: HR
The HR 36 was only the second HR, which was designed by Germán Frers. Compared to the HR 34, the 36 is more conservative with her center cockpit, masthead rig and a semi balanced rudder supported by a partial skeg. Tankage is very generous and this, among other qualities, makes her a great choice for blue water sailing  and even sailing round the world, if you like.

In production 19892003. +10 boats on sale in Europe, early models start from 100 000 €.

Malö 36

Press image by: Malö Yachts
Malö is a top brand in sailing business. The yard is located in Kungsviken, Orust  the mecca of Swedish boat building. Compared to its neighbour yard in Ellös, Malö's production is in smaller scale, and therefore the company can offer better customization for its customers. Therefore it is rare to find two identical Malö yachts.

Malö 36 is a very beautiful looking boat, dedicated purely for comfortable cruising lifestyle. The targa arch is a trademark feature for Malös and together with the windshield, makes the cockpit very well protected. Furthermore, because the mainsheet traveler is located on the arch, the cockpit is also mostly line-free.

Malö 36 was in production 1996 - 2006. Three boats on sale, prices from 195 000 €.

Nautor's Swan 36 (Frers)

This 'Baby Swan' is actually almost 37 ft long, but was named after the classic Swan 36 (S&S). Her large cabin wraparound skylights make the new Swan 36 distinguishable in the Swan family. This model has caused some controversy among sailing folks, but I have always liked the rather modern looks of this boat.

Tankage is sufficient for most cruising sailors, but still less than half compared to the HR 36. The cockpit is large compared to some earlier Swans, and there is no bridge deck in front of the companionway. The hull is solid hand-laid fiberglass, which is a definite plus in my opinion.

Swan 36 was in production 19881996. Two boats on sale, asking prices 114 000 & 145 000 €.

Sweden Yachts 340

Image by: Yachtworld.com
The SY340 was built in Swedish West Coast for demanding offshore sailing. She was designed by Peter Norlin, and although built originally according to the IOR-rule, is fairly moderate in this respect. As always, Norlin has succeeded in drawing beautiful lines for this boat. The interior is traditional and designed to work at sea. She has a decent chart table, and the galley seems very functional and safe at sea. There is a small bridge deck, and the aft cabin is large for the boat of this size and era. Like in Baltic 35, the hull and deck are of balsa sandwich structure. The SY340 was in production between 1986 and 2002. 

Five boats on sale, asking prices between 56 000 €  116 000 €.

This listing does not attempt to be conclusive in anyway. What is common for all of the boats listed here, is that they are sturdy boats, designed especially for offshore. Also, another common feature is a beautifully made teak or mahogany wooden interior, which is typical for almost all Nordic boats – when down below, one has basically no idea of being inside a plastic boat.  However, otherwise the boat's design philosophies differ quite a lot; for example the Baltic 35 is a Cruiser/Racer of the 80s, whereas HR 36 and Malö 36 are purely designed for cruising lifestyle.  

What is your dream boat or have you already got one? What boat(s) should be included in the list? It would be also interesting to hear suggestions of non-Scandinavian boats, which are less known here.