Dec 26, 2016

Season 2016 in Thirteen Photos

During the Christmas holiday it is nice to sit back in a comfortable chair and take some time to go through photo archives and video material from the previous seasons. And after spending some time on reminiscing, it is also a good time to start planning for the coming season.

But before writing about our plans for the 2017, here are thirteen photos that represent best Dolphin Dance's sailing season 2016.

1. In 2016, Dolphin Dance was launched on the 16th of May. On the 2nd of June we cast-off for the first longer trip of the season. The evening was amazingly warm for an early summer. 

2. Sunday evening in Heisala. The day had been eventful as we sailed through a thunderstorm and a hail shower, had perfect winds, no wind at all, heavy headwind and finally a beautiful sunset. 

3. Åland ahead! Our summer holiday started on the 27th of June and we took a course towards Åland islands and sailed around the main island. 

 4. In 2016, I became a member of Finnish cruising association Merikarhut-Sjöbjörnarna (MK, i.e. 'Sea Bears' in English). The association has an extensive network of almost 30 harbours along the Finnish coastline and Åland and also one harbour in the Stockholm Archipelago. We visited fourteen different MK harbours during the season 2016. 

5. Dolphin Dance in Storogskär, which is one of the three MK club harbours in Åland. 

6. This summer we used the Ricoh Theta 360 camera for shooting both 360 photos and videos. The 'real' 360 photo can be seen from our Facebook page

7. Fine summer evening at Enskär, which is located outside Eckerö next to the Åland Sea. 
Enskär was also our westernmost turning point this summer. 

8. In the evening of the 17th of July, we took a course from Kustavi towards north 
in a perfect southwesterly wind. 

9. On the following day we arrived at Kylmäpihlaja Lighthouse island, located outside 
the city of Rauma. This was our northernmost turning point this season and it was also the 
northernmost point along the Finnish coastline, that Dolphin Dance has ever sailed.

10. After the main holiday trip in July, we made several shorter trips in the 
Archipelago in August and September.

11. In August the winds were strong on many days. Here beating 
from Nagu to Korpo in 25-30 kts wind. 

12. This September we travelled to northern Italy to end the sailing season 2016 on warm waters of Lake Garda. We chartered a Bavaria 31 from Torri Del Benaco and sailed on the lake for six days.

13. The first snowfall came in early November. Dolphin Dance was lifted out on the 7th of November.

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.