Dec 31, 2014

Season 2014 in Thirteen Photos

Today is the last day of the year, so it is a good time to look back to the sailing season 2014. So here are the thirteen photos that in our opinion represent best the DD's year:

1. In the end of May, we made the first longer trip of the season to the nearby archipelago. After a warm early summer, the weather turned colder and windy and we got a fast sail from Nauvo to Houtskär.

2. Our summer holiday started in the end of June. In the first night we stayed in a wild anchorage at Kaskis island. After watching Brazil beat Chile in the World Cup quarterfinals, I flew the quadcopter to capture some aerial images of the anchorage. This was actually something that I did in many of the harbours during the season.

3. Sailing from Aspö to Utö. After many cold and cloudy days, the sunny weather felt 
especially good. 

4. We visited Kastelholma guest harbour (near the Kastelholma castle) in mainland Åland on way to Mariehamn. We liked very much the friendly service in the harbour and good food in the nearby Smakbyn restaurant, so we decided to come back there also when returning from Sweden.

5. After crossing the Sea of Åland, we stayed the first night in a wild anchorage in the outer Stockholm Archipelago. The evening was perfectly calm and the anchorage one of the most beautiful during the trip.

6. We stayed for two nights in lively Sandhamn in Stockholm Archipelago. After Sandhamn it was time to take a course towards north and begin the return journey. 

7. Found a quiet anchorage in the outer Stockholm Archipelago (not that easy in July).

8. Simskäla in northern Åland was one of the most exotic and original places that I have visited in the Baltic Sea. The waters are uncharted near the island and we did not see any other leisure boats during our stay there.

9. After two nights without electricity in remote islands, we decided to head for the luxuries of the HavsVidden, which is also a 4-star hotel. The hotel's pool area is included in the harbour fee so we spent most of the warm evening there. 

10. We sailed from northern Åland to Kustavi via Åland's northeastern route. This beautiful area offers splendid and quiet wild anchorages.

 11. In the last week of July, we made a two-night trip to Isokari island. This time we also had a record number of people onboard for an overnight trip, since my brother and his two children joined us for this lighthouse island adventure.

12. Friday evening sail at Airisto. Warm and summer-like weather continued to mid-September, so we made a lot of shorter trips during the Autumn.

13. This year, we decided to extend the sailing season by chartering a boat from Italy in mid-October.

Happy New Year 2015 for everyone!

/Antti & Minna

Nov 2, 2014

Sailing in Italy – Epilogy

The 5-day cruise in the gulf of Naples and Amalfi Coast in October was my first chartering experience abroad. Now, after two weeks of trying to get back to the routines at home, I think that it is a good time to write down some thoughts about the trip.

1. The Boat

I had heard and read about some bad experiences regarding the conditions of the Mediterranean charter boats. However, we did not encounter any problems with the boat during the week. Naturally, there were scratches and signs of heavy usage here and there, but technically speaking, everything was working fine. Perhaps the sails had seen their best days and given the light wind conditions, a downwind sail would have been a nice addition to the boat's sail wardrobe.

The boat Beneteau 37 was actually too large for the two of us, but it was the smallest that was available at that time. In general, most charter boats tend to be quite large, so this might be a problem if sailing with a small crew. However, we got the boat at fairly good price since it was off-season.

Did we fell in love with the roomy French lady?

I guess that the answer to this question is yes and no. The boat was named Femme Fatale, and indeed, she definitely had some nice qualities for the relaxed sailing under the sunny skies and warm winds of the Med. All in all, that is what this boat is designed for. The large bathing platform, a huge cockpit protected by a large bimini, large foldable cockpit table, a simple rig and large galley all made the life very comfortable onboard. Stepping on to the boat was very easy from the open stern and the cockpit shower was great after a swim in the salty Mediterranean.

However, for me who is used to sail more traditional boats, the large open cockpit felt a bit unsafe in a swell. I am sure that this is something that one gets used to, but still, if one happens to miss a handhold, you can fall from quite high. In Dolphin Dance, the cockpit is much more narrow and feels safer as the high cockpit coamings give better protection for the helmsman and the crew.

What I did not like in the boat, was the design of certain details like the teak handholds on the cabin top. They look nice, but you cannot put your fingers around the rail, so the grip is not as firm. Furthermore, one cannot use the handrail to lash things like dinghy or boathook on the rail.

Design of the teak handrails is questionable

Also, the cabin roof did not have handrails in the saloon, which is a minus, as there is so much open space down below.

The two sinks are large enough and the drained locker for drying dishes is very handy. 

2. Cruising grounds

The Amalfi Coast is said to be one of the most beautiful coastlines in Europe if not in the world. I don't think that this is an overstatement. The scenery is outstanding with the high mountains rising to over 1000 meters almost straight from the sea. Also, there are many lovely small villages along the coastline. There are also some world-famous tourist destinations like Capri and Positano, but with sailboat one can also visit villages and areas, which are not destroyed by mass-tourism.

The food is cheap almost everywhere, but not in the most tourist-crowded places. For example a three-course menu in Marina di Cassano cost 10 euros and 1/2 litres of wine about 3–4 euros. That is about one third of the price that one would pay in Northern Europe. On the other hand, the harbour fees are much more expensive compared to the Baltic Sea. We were expecting to pay more for a night in a marina than in the Baltics, but 2 to 5 times more was beyond our expectations. The mooring buoy outside Positano cost 50 euros (bargain price) per night – and this was during off-season! Think about high-season when one can expect to pay more than 200 euros per night for a berth during a weekend in Capri for example.

If spending more time in the Med, the high marina prices become a greater issue. Another problem compared to cruising in the Baltics is the lack of good anchorages. The coastline is totally open, so it is difficult to find sheltered anchorages. At least during our stay, there was so much swell, that when on an anchorage, the boat was constantly rolling from side to side.

3. The Climate 

This was our second visit to the area in mid-October, and both times the weather has been perfect. The temperature was around 24-27 degrees, and even during the nighttime it did not drop below 20 degrees. The sea water was still around 25 degrees.

We did not have any rain during the week, but the weather was mostly a bit hazy. The wind conditions were not perfect, even though we got at least some wind everyday for sailing. However, mostly the wind was unstable and around 10 kts (5 m/s). However, during one afternoon the wind shoot up to 30 kts (15 m/s), so the old saying about the Mediterranean that there is either no wind or too much wind seemed to be truthful. 

However, we liked very much the climate in mid-October. The days never felt too warm, but the nights were still pleasantly mild. Also the charter and marina fees were lower, and there were always vacant places in the marina. So this seems to be a good time to visit the Med, if one wants to avoid the crowds.

In general, chartering is a nice way to get to see new cruising grounds and to have experience on sailing different kind of boats. Of course this way of sailing cannot be compared to sailing with your own boat, which you know inside out.

Oct 29, 2014

Sailing in Italy - legs 4 & 5: Ischia – Procida

We had two more days to go, but as we were less than ten nautical miles from the charter company's base in Procida, we decided to take a relaxed schedule and sail around the island of Ischia counterclockwise. We overnighted in Marina Casamicciola, in which we were planning to stay already the day before, but decided to pass the harbour then due to the sudden increase in the wind speed.

The wind increased again in the afternoon, but not as much as the day before. When arriving to Casamicciola, I contacted harbour master with VHF and he showed us a berth in a pier, which is normally reserved for a bit larger yachts. However, as it was an off-season, there were plenty of vacant berths and this pier was the closest to the harbour master's office. The mooring lines were double as thick as normally, and it was a bit difficult to tie the rope to the small cleat. As usual we were the smallest boat in the pier.

Coffee and swimming break on an anchorage near Castello Aragonese

Marina Casamicciola

On the last sailing day, we had only a short leg to Procida left, so we were not in a hurry and took a bus to the Ischia Porto. 

In the afternoon it was time to say arrividerci to Ischia, and start the final leg. The wind was light, but we did not mind the relaxed sailing conditions. The boat (Beneteau Oceanis 37) logged the total of 100 nautical miles during the week.
/Antti & Minna

Back in Procida 

Amazing Marina Corricella was a filming location for the movie 'Talented Mr. Ripley' 

Oct 25, 2014

Sailing in Italy – leg 3: Positano – Capri – Ischia

After a badly slept night in a rolling mooring outside Positano, we continued early in the morning towards Capri. Last year, when visiting Capri, we stayed in a hotel overlooking the Marina Piccola, which is a beautiful popular anchorage on the southern side of the island. Thus, we were planning to anchor there for one night this year, but the conditions in Marina Piccola appeared to be even more bumpy than in Positano. As another night in a rolling boat did not seem like a tempting option, we decided to continue to Ischia island for the night. However, we took about half an hour swimming break in Marina Piccola and also lifted the dinghy on the deck for the leg to Ischia, as towing the dinghy appeared to be slowing us down a bit too much and we did not also want to risk capsizing the dinghy as there was quite a lot of swell. The dinghy had a rigid V-bottom, which made it much more stable under motor than our Plastimo, but it was also much more heavier to handle. Thus, lifting the dinghy on the deck in large swell turned out to be surprisingly difficult, although the large bathing platform helped a lot especially when handling the outboard engine.

Last glimpse of Positano

Approaching Marina Piccola

The wind picked up around noon, so our longest leg (40 nm) turned out to be also the best one in terms of sailing, although the wind slightly eased in the afternoon. However, we could keep on sailing all the way to Ischia.

Just a couple of miles from the port, the wind started to increase again and after about 10 minutes, the gusts had increased to about 30 knots (15 m/s). This sudden increase in the wind was totally unexpected. The wind was blowing over the island, so the sea remained almost flat. However, I did not feel comfortable with maneuvering this boat in an unknown port in such a wind, so we decided to continue to the next port on the other side of the island. I guess that the high mountains on Ischia accelerated the wind since the wind speed dropped to about half when arriving to Marina di Forio on the western side of the island.

S/Y Femme Fatale at Marina di Forio


 A wildfire broke out on a nearby mountain in the evening. 

Oct 21, 2014

Sailing in Italy – leg 2: Positano

On the second day, we continued towards Amalfi Coast which is located on the southern shore of the mountainous Sorrentine Peninsula. The shores are steep and the highest peaks reach up to over 1000 metres, so the scenery is dramatic. We decided to stop by at Positano, which is said to be the most beautiful village on the area. Consequently, it was also the most crowded and the most expensive place that we visited during the week. Nevertheless, the village and the surroundings were also breathtakingly beautiful.

Positano does not have a port so boats are anchoring or mooring about a couple of hundred meters from the shore. When arriving there, a marinero came to us with a RIB and showed a mooring buoy that we could use. The price for one night on the buoy was a bit on the high side – 60 euros. Although we could negotiate the price down to 50 euros, it is still by far the most that we have ever paid for a mooring without any services!

Positano is open to the sea so the anchorage can only be used in settled weather. The wind was calm during the day, but there was some southerly swell remaining. However, the number of passenger boats which drove almost at full speed to Positano were mostly responsible for the awkward cross-swell.

Like often seems to be the case, the swell worsened during the night and the boat started to roll uncomfortably on the mooring. First I tried sleeping in the fore peak without success, then in the aft cabin, but the most comfortable (and the quietest) place was eventually found from the cockpit. Luckily the night was warm...

Passing the island of Capri on the way to Positano 

Approaching Positano 

Swimming with the GoPro