2010-05 to 2010-09

The route. Sweden-Ireland

2010-05-03 Gothenburg. Written by Mark
I'm back in Sweden living on Mare. The magnitude of the project is still sinking in. I constantly find myself thinking about small issues at my old job and realizing that it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter in such a fundamental way. I have never felt this free. Ever. Everything I do is for myself, no one cares if its good or bad - I'm the only one that will be impacted and I'm the only one who cares. It's a new and good feeling to be my own judge and the lord of my own destiny.

Today I have been installing myself in the boat and the coming month i will set everything up for the navigation. I was happy to note that some important structural reinforcements have already been done by the previous owner. However the gelcoat (paint) is in an awful state, the length of all the hairline cracks is probably from hear to the moon and back, the only cheap solution is to repaint the whole boat - the finish wont be the same but at least it will be better then the spiderweb it's now.

I'm also happy to note some kind soul who lives nearby haven't password protected their wireless connection so free internet here I come!

2010-05-17 Gothenburg. Written by Mark

'Sanding, cleaning, painting, varnishing again and again. Plumbing for freshwater, salt water and bilge pumps. Rebuilding interior. Wiring vhf radio, second radio, batteries. Reinforcing hatches, restoring rudder, repairing machines, shopping and work work work work. I have been so busy the last 2 weeks, most of the tasks are new to me (more or less) and so its interesting, challenging and generally fun. No disasters yet, I'm getting suspicious by now something should have happened! Just wait until the boat is in the water :D (its still on land). The original estimation to start sailing the 1 of June seems OK, I might even be ready before that. As long as the rigging is OK...

I'm writing this sitting on top of the boat and looking at the sunset but now my fingers are starting to get so cold its hard to write. Goodnight everyone, I miss you all! .

2010-05-18 Gothenburg. Written by Lena

This Saturday, I landed in rainy cold Gothenburg and got picked up by a black SAAB with Mark at the steering wheel.

First to Hornbach to buy some tools and paint. They have this ad on the radio, that goes like "Hornbach - how crazy is your project?" Hm, I think it's crazy allright...

Then off to Amundö Marina - and finally I got to see what is to become my home for a time ahead. The boat is small and in need of rebuilding and reparations, but she will do.

I had a bit of a trouble climbing up to the deck (I'm not 195 cm tall like Mark is, and definitely not a circus artist or a climbing monkey) but we borrowed a ladder and soon I was up and working as a peon too.

So, the task was to abrade (scrub) the boat's coating. At first, it was loads of fun, I went berzerk with an abrader shaped as an ironing device. It felt somewhat like polishing a giant tooth that never ended - the yellowish outer layer with the cracks disappeared, and the nice white color under it started to show, it also buzzed like at the dentist's (but much louder of course). However, the device could only be used on surfaces that were flat and large. So when it comes to small smart drainage paths, all the gear that sits on the decks, and the bent areas - there, I had to scrub by hand. Or by finger. With tiny bits of sandpaper, which is about the same feeling as trying to clean your entire kitchen with a toothbrush.

At the end, my knees were dead, all my clothes were covered with a thick layer of white dust, and the fingers looked like dried salted beer sausages - wrinkled and white. But most importantly, I was done with the decks - all the rest is a piece of cake, and can probably be done in no time.

Unfortunately, my camera died just moments after I started taking pictures, but I will attach some here. As you see, the roof hatch garage is so dirty you can write foul words in it, which is the definite symptom that it needs to be cleaned. All of that is done, cleaned and scraped and polished.
The rest of the week would be rainy, so I left for Stockholm on Sunday night. On Thursday, I'll go to Gothenburg again - and this time it will be time to do the painting, hope for good weather!

'Sanding, cleaning, painting, varnishing again and again. Plumbing for freshwater, salt water and bilge pumps. Rebuilding interior. Wiring vhf radio, second radio, batteries. Reinforcing hatches, restoring rudder, repairing machines, shopping and work work work work. I have been so busy the last 2 weeks, most of the tasks are new to me (more or less) and so its interesting, challenging and generally fun. No disasters yet, I'm getting suspicious by now something should have happened! Just wait until the boat is in the water :D (its still on land). The original estimation to start sailing the 1 of June seems OK, I might even be ready before that. As long as the rigging is OK...

I'm writing this sitting on top of the boat and looking at the sunset but now my fingers are starting to get so cold its hard to write. Goodnight everyone, I miss you all! .

2010-06-01 Gothenburg. Written by Lena

Great weather in Göteborg, so I finished upo the painting of the bottom of the boat, now she's half white, half black and really beautiful. After a fast lunch I proceded with hand-painting the boat's name. When trying to google info on the internet, I only got advice not to do it by hand, and to order sticker letters. But being an artist, it was more attractive to do it by myself. It's a piece of cake if you're steady at hand, and have sketched the letters before. It takes a few hours too, but the result is beautiful and very satisfying.

What's left now is to put ApoEx logotype on the boat. ApoEx is a newly founded pharmacy in Sweden, that recently engaged in a sponsor-based cooperation with us, and will provide us with basic medical supplies. Since they are specialized in Internet-based ordes and remote delivery, they will be able to fill up our medical supplies when we are away. This is something we could only dream of, and are very thankful for the cooperation. The guys that run the company are adorable, and what are the odds of that they also are sailors? Incredible. A very appreciated cooperation indeed, I hope they will come over and sail a bit with us.

While I was painting, a man came walking by and said hello. He was 60+, white-haired and white-bearded, had blue short pants, white shirt, red suspenders, and suntanned legs. He had talked with Mark before, and was curious about our boat. We invited him into the boat for a cup of coffee.

His name was Björn and he had a boat quite near to ours. He had just come back from New Foundland, sailing by Faroe Islands, Island and Greenland. He was quiet and humble, but the stuff he talked of over the coffee cup was completely insane. He had sailed off with a crew, but they had to leave the ship since they wouldn't handle storms - they were too scared. Oh, were you struck by a storm, we asked. Two storms actually, and an orcano, he answered. The boat capsized twice; once he was thrown over so badly he broke his rib. Wasn't that quite rough to sail with a broken rib, I asked. No, not at all as bad as it was when he had ripped off a tendon in his arm so he couldn't use it all.

He doesn't have so much equipment on the boat, and he sleeps 7-8 hours a day even when sailing alone. He actually collided with another boat when he was inside, making coffee. But it was OK. The ice was not either a problem. Once, he anchored to an iceberg and floated along with it over the night - of course after making his weapons ready, for the ice bears. When he woke up, he was caught in the ice so it took him a good day or two to break loose. He talked about the women in Greenland that got into a fight over him, and how he'd like to sail more but he can't because of lack of money and threat of divorce. Suddenly, our little trip sounded like a hike with the scouts. And that was only one of the many, many long-distance sailors we are going to meet..

2010-06-02 Gothenburg. Written by Lena

Our mast has been away for a technical inspection for almost a month now I think, the workshop has had too much to do - it's high season now. Yesterday we finally got to know that it's OK! However, we would like to strenghten up some of the rigs, and that is not possible to do until next Friday.

Not an option! We will look for another workshop that can change those for us. Nothing's wrong with the old stuff, we just want to have heavier rigs before the rough seas. Which means, we have the whole of June to look for another place. So the date still holds; we'll be in the water on Thursday early morning, then we'll put on the mast, Friday will be practicalities and returning the borrowed car to Mark's father, and on early Saturday morning we will sail off!

Friends, shopping an mast delays
1/6 finished off with a nice barbeque night on the island of Amundö with an old friend Findus that came over to visit with some warm words and a cake. We sat around the fire, the sunset was wonderful, actually the first time this summer I barbequed out in the wild. A good moment to sit back and enjoy.

2/6 A visit to IKEA. A lot of space-saving storage solutions were bought. Back to the boat, finish up all the last touches, a friend who is planning to visit us later on came in the evening to say hi and look at the boat. Then, I headed to a friend to take a warm shower (finally!!) and eat some home-made food, which was great.

In the morning of 3/6, Mare Liberum was set to sea! She was celebrated by pouring some first-class Russian vodka on it, the captain and the first mate taking a sip each as well, as the tradition calls. She swayed gracefully on the water, man I was proud! We stayed nearby for some preparations and I started tinkering with the engine, while more boats were set to sea. The one after us went well, but the larger boat that went after that resulted in a disaster. It was dropped by the lifting device, so the keel hit the asphalt, and continued slipping with the risk of smashing a couple of people. To get it up straight it had to be pushed upright by a forklift truck and the port side did not look too well after it. It was a complete nightmare for a boat owner. That's one of the moments when you really are thankful this is not you.

I have done some reparations in the carburator but needed to visit a workshop to get some spare parts and advise; sometimes it's not as easy to put things back together than to disassemble them ;) That would have to wait for tomorrow since the workshop was closed. However, we had visited a sailing store, buying a lot of needful stuff, like a new barometer, self-inflatable vests (oh the robbery prices!), foreheadlights, etc.

One of the greatest things with this day was the trip to the fishing store! El-Ge Fishing in Göteborg near Wieselgrensplatsen is Sweden's largest fishing store. They supported our trip, and gave us a generous discount. We got great help by Martin, a charming guy with a lip piercing (we like!) who had fished in most cool places in Central America, Asia etc, and also by Björn - very helpful and nice guide who showed us through a forest of fishing rods, a tingle-tangle of fishing lines and a whole surrealistic zoo of different baits. And all the stuff that comes with it. And all the other stuff you need to fix the stuff that comes with it. And all of the good-to-know stuff, the tips and tricks and the big-game fishing stories. It was a Christmas eve of both me and Mark, who love fishing.

Now, to the sailing-off date. Unfortunately, all the mast workshops are completely choked a long time ahead. So no other choice than to wait for another week. Hopefully it will be done by then.

But as I said, we don't want to wait - at least on land. So the plan is to go by motor, between the different islands and also up to central Göteborg, and back. It's also a good way to really test out the motor, and take it easy a bit after the last days of high activity.

2010-06-05 Gothenburg. Written by Lena

The whole day of 4/6 went to fixing with the engine. Not much progress. In the morning of 5/6, we went to Fiskebäck by our spare motor for some help. Beside the sailing shop called Viking, there is an Albin workshop, with Stefan The Boat Doctor who is an incredible person and mechanic. After a consultation, and changing some parts in the motor, it worked fine! I reassembled it, the leakage is gone, we're game! Now, to Eriksberg and maybe Rockbaren next?

Just before we reached Amf4 (Gothenburg's marine regiment), the motor (which is an Albin Vega O-21) started losing revs and finally died. After filling it up with some gas it was cooperative for a while, but then it died again. Bad place to die - just in front of a military area! With a Russian onboard! Actually, I've already been to Amf4 a lot of times, taking several military courses, but still I don't think our emergency landing there would be much appreciated. We started the outboard engine and continued a bit, until it also died. I couldn't find the spare fuel, it turned out that Mark threw the petrol can away because there was a crack in it. So we moored the boat near Nya Varvet, had a quick snack, filled up the engine and hit it.

So now we're in Eriksberg, we're making freaking progress! Just need to fix the engine that's all ;) A friend has a boat place here, so now we're enjoying some nice calm weather, beautiful scenery, a couple of beers, and (most important of all!!) internet, while sitting in the boat.

Tomorrow, I'll start off tinkering with the engine again. now the carburator is OK, after changing the float, the float chamber gasket, throttle gasket, needle valve, rearranging the choke settings. Now, I will continue tuning the rev volume, and above all clean the fuel pipes and filters, which seem to be causing the problems. It's also good to check the fuel tank air vent, could be that simple.

Mark will install a new battery. We have two; but one of them seems to be leaking. I think I'll let Mark tell how he found that out... So hopefully, we'll be all set at the end of tomorrow. Otherwise, we can stay here for a couple of days, since the mast will not come until Friday, and continue fixing and preparing it all. Due to sailor traditions, you do not sail away on Fridays, so we will break the champagne bottle and sail off the day after. Will keep you posted!

2010-06-05 Gothenburg. Written by Mark

Freakin’ out on acid
Mare (the boat) have been taking in a small amount of water. I suspected that this wasn’t an external leak but an internal one from the fresh water tank. A good way to test this seems to be to just taste a little of the water in the bilge to see if it was salty or fresh. Said and done. What I didn’t think of is that the batteries (we have 2 car batteries just next to the bilge) also drain into the bilge, so if they for example would be leaking battery acid it would end up in the bilge first and then on my tongue. Oh man what a taste it had, totally far out duuude! The tingling and burning sensation afterward wasn’t as much fun but no damage done except that I will never be impressed by super sour candy again.

The last couple of days have been very busy with lots of small adventures as you can see from Lenas posts. I spend my time fixing and thinking, I’m getting more and more eager to finally start sailing. Hopefully we will be of on Saturday the 12 June if the mast is not delayed. Again.

I have lived in Mare for 35 days now and I’m quite happy with the primitive conditions. The only thing I’m missing is a shower (“and some clean socks for gods sake” Lena says) but that will improve once the water temperature rise.

2010-06-07 Gothenburg. Written by Lena

Engine updates: I have cleaned and double-checked all of the engine piping, the gas filter, the tank air valve, fixed new gaskets and drained the tank of the dirt. Nothing leaks gas now, and the fuel supply to the carburator is free and constant.

However the fuel/air mixture seems to be uneven, which causes the engine to rev up too much on neutral gear, and to eventually lose revs and die after being run for a while. This is supposed to be easily adjusted by a control screw, but does not seem to have much effect. Waiting for the Albin workshop mechanic to call me up, he seemed to know exactly what to do. There is light rain outside and everything has turned to gray (just as typical Swedish summer should be), so feels OK to just take it easy and stay moored and indoors. It's the second Monday I do not have to painfully get up in the early moring and be stuck in traffic jams and look forward to the hours in the office, and I still just can't beleive it's true.

Finishing up the practical stuff; have been to a medical check, have looked at sailing/flotation overall suits to order, bought a vice, some rechareable batteries, and a all-weather suit to keep the cold and dampness off my skin in the harsh climate of North Sea. We have been stoving and sorting the stuff on the boat; the current converter has been installed, small fixes are continuously made to make our home better. Mark still has some errands to the bank, and needs to take the last vaccination shot, but the list of things left to fix is shrinking fast.

But all problems are to be solved, and I will continue listing all of the reparations in the blog in order to make them searchable for other Albin owners, someone's gotta be the first one.

Round the Hising Island
Alright - free Internets again, so here I go with an update. A complete carburator and fuel system service later, the motor did not leak gas or go uneasy on the neutral gear, but died after leaving the harbour every time we made a test run. To say it was ennerving is not to say anything.

"Mark", I said. "Are you sure that the fuel tap is opened in the horisontal position?"

"Yes, sure it is".

"Mark... I'm just asking to doublecheck. Are you really really sure that it's opened?"

"Yes, definitely sure".

But since when does the mechanic listen to the simple mortals who do not know anything about gasoline engines? ;) A turn of the lever, a fuel deliverance check, our troubles were over.

So now, with Albin motor purring like a happy cat, we shot for Nordre älv. Passing Kungälv and turning West, we took it easy, were anchored at a couple of places and rounded the Isle of Hisingen. This took several days, thus no Internet, thus no updates. My cell phone is feeling unwell and is not on anymore. What a feeling of detachment and freedom!

During a day at the water, without the TV, Internet, phone or work to stress or delay stuff, it's really relaxing. In a day, I do more than some people do in a week's vacation... Below noted one day's harvest of summer must-do's:
  • Eat breakfast in bed
  • Browse all radio stations (yes, from the Kungälv Church Music to some dance bands from Finland and three people discussing children's books and the non-syntactically correct news on the Rock Radio and the Call-Us-And-Whine programme at P1 at 09:20...)
  • Go around in the inflatable dinghy up and down the river
  • Walk around an uninhabited island
  • Go shopping at Willys
  • Visit the Göteborgs Kex Cake Factory Outlet
  • Eat cakes!
  • Prepare food on board the ship
  • Go fishing and catch the year's first perch (yeay!)
  • Lose the fishing rod into the water (goddammit to hell!)
  • Rig fishing rods for pike and daydream about breaking records; of course not get any pike but that's OK
  • Read, take a nap, watch some movies
  • Go barbequeing on the beach
  • Have a chat with friends to visit us in Scotland
  • And go to bed just as the sun sets, about midnight. And no mosquitoes, that's amazing!
Rounding the Hisingen is not really like rounding the Earth, only 60 km or so, but you gotta start somewhere ;) We lay in Fiskebäck for a couple of days, to get some last fixes - the gas kitchen for example. Now it's Eriksberg again to get some food, gas, shower and surfing, and tonight we'll go for Björlanda, where we'll finally get our mast tomorrow morning. We'll head directly to the North afterwards, more updates may come within the week. Sea you!

Sea Legs
Since Mare Liberum has been put to water, it has been harder and harder to stay on land. Nowadays, after one and a half weeks, I almost start to feel sick when I'm not on the water - everything rocks up and down and sideways! Hope this is a sign of that I won't be bothered by sea-sickness later on, but it's still left to tell.

Now - time to make supper. We are making a lot of Indian food, since both of us are great fans of it. Apart from being very tasty, it's cheap to make, very healthy, and the ingredients last for a long time. We're making all kinds of dahl, and aloo and chole curries. But today, we've just been to the shop and bought some food so we'll go for a bit of luxury - after all, last day before we go off from Göteborg. Which means a big home-made shrimp sandwich!

Also, this is probably a good place to give our great thanks to Tobbe, a really great guy that I got to meet through Mark. He's been welcoming and generous and helped us with shower, internet, and also gave me an almost new Sony Ericsson so my phone troubles are fixed!

About the mast
In the evening of the 13th, we went to Björlanda harbour to get our mast. Tobbe was onboard, with a bottle of Amarone raising more and more memories as the wine filled my mouth. I do long back terribly to the wonderful spring sunsets over Vasastan, and it's an undescribable, terribly bitter-sweet feeling.

The wind blew in our faces, we were going against the current, and Albin gave up already at Eriksberg, once again failing to start at all. Very happy to have a spare engine, we we making only 2-3 knots. Soon, the gas ran out and we had to fill it up while riding the waves, a tricky procedure probably best done accompanied with circus music. The motor started and we continued, and just minutes later the coast guards caught up with us. They must have been puzzled by our sudden maneuvre (or maybe they saw a wine glass or two on board and wanted to double-check if we weren't dead drunk all of us) but no matter what the reason was, they were nice and wished us a pleasant journey. We arrived to Björlanda by the time the night fell.

Tobbe went back to Eriksberg and we spent the next day tinkering with the mast and talking to other sailors. While I'm writing this (11 em), Mark is still going on with the mast which had to be driven back to the workshop to make some final preps, and arrived back just some minutes ago. So tomorrow, we will finally weigh anchor and get the hell out of here!

2010-06-13  Björlanda, By Lena

We've got a lot of books on board, both for reference and fun. The iReader has loads of fiction literature for the bored mind on a windless day in the middle of the sea, but right now I'm feeding myself with all kinds of manuals, reference literature and stories on journeys made, to get inspired (and above all to learn from others' mistakes ;)

The first one I read was "Jorden runt with Coquette" / "Around the world with Coquette", by Gunnel Möller, a story from an older Swedish couple who sold their house and all belongings, quit work and sailed around the world 1990-1993. Of course, the story's 20 years old and a lot has happened since then, especially when it comes to technology, but still the book gives a great overview of what to expect when setting of to a global circumnavigation. Storms, exciting foreign shores, the everyday life on board, all is described with detail and is great to read. I would be surprised if anyone would not dream of sailing away after reading this book...

The second circumnavigation story, actually a must, was "Alla sa vi skulle dö" / "Everyone said we were gonna die", by Danjel Henriksson, Kajsa Björn and Jonatan Bonthron. A Swedish crew of three, with no sailing experience, bought an Albin Vega and went boldly around the world. The boat is the same as ours, and the age of the crew is closer to us too. The trip was also more recent, 2005-2007, and the issues they meet are a lot like we're experiencing. Really good reading, exciting stories, not only from the crew but also from those they met along the way. Highly recommended if you're really considering going, and also very good if you want to know in advance what Mare Liberum's crew are going to go through. There are stories of disasters and victories, personal tension, quarrels, romance and down-to-earth realism like authorities that want to be bribed, seasickness that just won't disappear, and doing number two tied to the stern of the boat.

Prior to sarting the trip, I got a present from a friend and ex-colleague, a book called "Survive the Savage Sea", a tale of survival when a boat carrying a couple of adults, their young kids and an extra crew guy was sunk in moments, and they had to survive in a life raft with vurtually no food or water. This is definitely not a story for the easily frightened or weak-nerved, but a great study in survival - in the 70's, there were no EBIRBs, hand-held waterproof VHF radios etc, there were blunt knives, bad-quality rafts and strong wills. I had a hard time to put the book down after the first few chapters.

Next, I started up "The manual to blue-water sailing", but it is highly race yacht oriented, of though it surely contains a lot of important tips. It is a good-to-have reference book, especially if you have a big crew and are intrested in big-scale pro sailing.

"Handling storms at sea" by Hal Roth, on the other side, is brilliant. A skillful narrator, he talks of the techniques to take on the different weather conditions, mixes with practical tips, psychological remarks, and loads of real-life stories. Very much recommended to all sailors!

"Total loss" by Paul Gelder is definitely not for the easily frightened, either. It deals with 40 stories of yacht losses, some costing lives. Collision, storms, keels falling off, it has it all. Recommended as a check-list reading for a sailor that is tough enough not to dream nightmares afterwards, or may be as a book for a calm, sunny and drowsy day at the beach for those who likes to stare at road kills and read pocket thrillers with detailed accounts of deaths - but got tired and want something a bit more dry, IRL and fact-based.

What's more on board? Some must-haves that I've read time and again, for much-needed reference: "Oskrivna Regler" / "Unwritten rules" by Catharina Forslund, telling of customs and traditions abroad country by country. "Actionhjältinnas handbook" / "The handbook of an action heroine", by Borgenicht/Worick, when you want to know how to do a stoppie on the motorcycle, fight zombies, dance stunning tango, or strangle a man with your thighs. Rock ballades and diverse chords and texts... Some Paulo Coelho for the meditation techniques... Petra Östergren's "Slå Tillbaka" - a great guide in both mental and physical self-defence... Garrett Soden's "Hook Spin Buzz", very much recommended for businessmen and enterpreneurs... And of course, the bible of basic wild life survival and sharp discipline - SoldF, the Swedish Army Soldier handbook which I kept from my service in Berga 2002 :)

A lot of new books to go, above all Bob Bond's "The Handbook of Sailing", which I plan to learn by heart. Also more sailing stories, a sail guide, meteorology and a huge guide to all the world's kinds of fishes, including the cooking recepies. And a big fat book with Pirate stories! It's OK - I'll have plenty of time...

2010-06-17 Lysekil. Written by Lena

We got the mast on time, and in the evening the same day, we weighed anchor, and left the huge harbour of Björlanda, where the sailing boats are aligned in many long neat rows with a near German precision, and the water is cooking from activity around the three mast crans.

We had put on the mast with the help of Janne, a truck driver who had his own boat in the same harbour, and was extremely nice to give us a couple of hours of his time helping with manpower and advice. The rig was new, reinforced and shiny (and expencive as hell), and we were finally ready.

We left the harbour for engine, moving towards the setting sun, the wind blowing in our faces. A splendid sight, and a tickling feeling of that we are finally on our way! The sails were set and the engine turned off; our course lay right towards the wind so we got to tack which didn't bring us far; Albin Vega handles head wind worse than similar boats, of the cost of being more stable. The wind was strong; Mare Liberum was heeling heavily as she fought her way westwards.

An underwater cliff on the way, it's time to change tack, to turn 90 degrees to take a new angle against the wind. I was at the rudder and Mark beside me, looking at the GPS to find the turn point and the new course.


I looked behind Mark.


The rig has come loose; the metal cable with a heavy iron attachment device at the end was swishing through the air.

- Watch out! It's come off!!!

Mark makes himself aware of the rig cable; it's now swinging uncontrollably, forced up with the hard wind.


It hits something on the deck, and ends up in the water. I turn the boat up towards the wind to give us some time. At the same time I glance at the map on the GPS, in order to locate the underwater cliff, since I now have now idea what is where and which way we're going.

The GPS is off.

- Helvete!

The "pang" before was the rig hitting the GPS, not damaging it but separating it clear of the power chord. At the same time, we hit the wind and jibed with force. More concise swear words, trying to retain the course... Mark looks up...

- OK, now we're losing the mast!

Frankly, I considered crapping my M90 pants, but the mast was not aware of the fact that it was to fall, and it stayed on. Actually, with the powerful rig that we put on, it probably could have standed much more punishment. But how could we know that beforehand? We quickly pulled down the sails and made a school-book example of coming back to the harbour by engine with the tails behind our backs as fast and safe as possible.

So here's what happened. A brace holding the stern rig in place had broken clean in two. It was the one that hasn't been replaced. A spare brace could be found and attached the morning after, and we took a decision to promptly replace all the braces before we'd sail in any harder weather again. We sailed off the morning after, and thus the mandatory First Disaster was over, so we could go on sailing the Mare Liberum for two days in a row, averaging 6-7 knots, sometimes with the job only, top speed up to 8+, and once 9,9 knots - all rigs in place and the mast steady!

Progress up the Swedish coast
All of you who turned up to say goodbye, and all of you who supported me, and wished all the best, I think of you back with gratitude and admiration. Everywhere around me there are things that remind me of those back home who gave me strength and support. Thank you.

We've sailed off from Göteborg and reached the small island where captain's father has a summer house - on the West coast of Sweden, just near the Norwegian border, by the town of Tanum. This took two days of sailing with a stop just outside Lysekil. We had a dinner on an island, grilling the two mackerells we caught n the way, with some ash-grilled potatoes and a bottle of wine. Simple life, the way I adore it.

Now, we've been at the island for about a week, doing the last preparations. We've been off to a sailing tour with a friend's boat, a marvellous X-43. My parents were visiting to say goodbye and to look at the boat. A trip to the grocery store to get food to be able to survive for months, to an Indian store to get more spices, lentils, dry milk and all other things you can't live without, like a huge can of Mixed Pickles, and to a building store to get the last tools.

We have got the ApoEx medical kit to have on board, and we're extremely happy about that! Once again, it feels wonderfully safe to have such a back-up, and the contact and service from them has been wonderful.

The life boat, Sea-Safe self-righting raft, has also finally been delivered. This I have to thank my company Ferrologic for, and I remember and miss the last time I saw all my colleagues, on the final day of the Spring conference, around the bar signing my captain's hat I got from them as a good-bye present.

Now, we will celebrate Midsummer and try to sail off to Norway as soon as possible - maybe on Sunday, or at least in the beginning of next week. Our plan is to go south of the coast, and end up at Farsund. I'll try to get some internet on the way, to report of our progress.

2010-06-24 Havstensund. By Lena

The islands of the West cost are like a mixture of Valium and Prozac. The nature is grand, the Scottish highland cows solemnly standing around chewing, their red long hair turning them into ZZ Top lookalikes. And of course the sea, the islands, the sea-gulls, the late sunsets, it's all here. There is no internet available, no updates can be made and have to be posted afterwards, not much can be done apart from fixing with the boat, reading, and relaxing, and suddenly days just fly by.

We're still trying to stay on the budget of 50 SEK per person per day when it comes to food, and knowing the prices will shoot right up as we enter the rest of Europe, we're trying to cut down the costs. Nevertheless, the food we can prepare here is just as luxurous as it would have been if we would dine at the best restaurants. It's just a matter of getting out the fishing rods, or the net, or putting on a diving suit (it's still stunningly cold in the water) and snorkeling goggles and go out for a hunt. Or trade with the local fishers, if that makes you tick, but personally I say that the food tastes better if you caught it yourself.

Then it's just your fantasy (and how much time you want to spend on preparing the food when you're dead hungry after chasing it around or pulling up the net...) Freshly caught clams with olive oil, crushed garlic cloves and sea salt, sprinkled with some white wine, are great with pasta or in a creamy soup. A freshly-cooked giant crab claw, that tastes quite like a lobster's, or butter-fried flat fish, just melting in your mouth, an eel, grilled slowly over open fire with a branch of juniper for the flavor... Of course I regret that I never did take that shellfish plate at Wasa Hof but I think this could be better. And some huge Japanese oysters as a precourse maybe? We managed to get two extremely huge ones (pix will follow!), and I couldn't help opening a bottle of KGB champaign, from the box that I got as a present from them. Oh the nights down at KGB, in Stockholm... Lenin's statue illuminated in red. The sweet stuff and all of you who I've met there, all the people that I have got to know and dearly miss, those were the days...

I have been dreaming about this for a long time, and always picturing how we would leave the harbour in Göteborg: a lot of people waving good-bye, some music tracks I'd play in the background (Fastball: The Way, or for some reason "By the Sword" from Slash's latest album), and just sailing into the sunset. But you can just forget that. No planning on earth could be enough to make that click, I mean only the weather is a extreme factor that you cannot count with. The take-off has been gradual, and the largest step I had to take was actually for a long time ago, when I definitely decided to do this. But now - we're on the way.

2010-07-03 Lyngöfjorden, Norway. Written by Lena

So, no internet for a while, and now the motherload of updates comes in.

We have just sailed over to Norway, trying out a 18-hour leg in order to get ourselves ready for the 5-day crossing of the North Sea. It's a hard work, painful, wet and dangerous, the worst is the waves that give sea-sickness and drowsiness, but hell it's great to sit here in a small Norwegian village in the sun, and know that we made it.

I'm looking at flying to Moscow to attend a funeral, a very beloved person has left us and I really want to be there. However it's hard to plan a trip with a very limited budget and extremely limited time. It's very frustrating and sad.

2010-07-03 Farsund, Norway. Written by Mark
Lena is at a funeral at the moment and I have been solo sailing for the last few days. Its difficult to solo sail sine the engine requires one mate full time and another one is required for the anchor and sails and a third one for the rudder but I manage to pull it of by going reeeeealy slow. In my “old” life I would be stressed to bits by that but now I t d o e s n t m a t t e r! I got all the time in the world and it’s a beautiful thing. I have been sailing around at walking pace but what do I care? The sea is full of fish, the cupboard full of food and the library full of entertainment. If this never ends I wouldn’t mind (Im bound to regret those words at some point). I’m in southern Norway and it’s the most beautiful coastline I have ever seen. the people are friendly and its warm. I could almost consider staying here forever if the Norwegians weren’t such a bunch of good looking, rich, oil-stealing bunch of w*nkers ;)

I'm going to stay here in Farsund and wait for Lena to catch up with me and then if of to Scotland where I promise to scream FREEEDOM as high as Braveheart himself!

Oh I forgot to talk about the fishing. Its awesome, today I decided 2 small mackerels would be enough for lunch so I threw the lure in the water and got the first one after 30 seconds. For some reason the second one was reluctant so I waited for 30 minutes more and just when I was ready to give up I hooked not one but three large mackerels at the same time. I’m so full of fish (not the other word you were thinking about you nasty person) right now I must look like Moby Dick in the cockpit.

I hope you are enjoying this summer too, all my love for the lot of ye’!

2010-07-06 Egersund, Norway. Written by Lena

I have been expecting having to get away from the boat in case something needs to be done, but I was not  expecting that it would happen so fast. But what's to be done needs to be done, and there is never a good timing. To get to the funeral in Moscow, it took me one and a half day with several buses and two planes and more buses and trains, at the end of the journey I was quite disoriented, not really knowing what time it was, what day and what country. The trip back took one and a half day too, and I got acquainted to the hotel of Central Station in Kristiansand (no stars).

When I got to Farsund, the weather report was great so we set off to Scotland, which in the best case could take two full days, while five being more realistic. However, a report from a friend, and a VHF ch 16 broadcast warned us of possible gale winds in the middle of Northern Sea so we chose to tack starboard into the little harbour of Egersund, to wait off the winds and get my satellite phone to work. We have been recommended to go here, because of the nature or the lighthouses or the convenience - I do not really remember, but upon arriving I cannot recommend this place to anyone except if they would ever close the fish oil factory down. Oh the stench!!

We might weigh anchor already tomorrow. There's decent cell phone coverage at the North Sea because of the proximity to Norway, Denmark and Scotland, and also near the oil platforms. Fixing the satellite phone isn't my highest priority right now, but getting to land in good shape is. So if we might get a few days of favourable winds, we might go right away, so that the next post will be from Inverness or Petershead. We'll see!

2010-07-03 Peterhead, Scotland. Written by Lena

We finally made it to Peterhead, Scotland at 03:30 this morning, almost three full sailing days after leaving Egersund. More text may follow - right now we prioritize food, beer and sleeping.

The North Sea was not as scary as it sounded... Hard waves met us at the exit from the Egersund fjord, but the rain and waves decreased and during the evening, we found ourselves sailing in a beautiful dusk, with shallow waves and 90 degree wind, making great speed and enjoying the scenery. The sun was going down, leaving the sky and the sea with vivid pastel colours, just as if they were from an italian ice-cream parlour: melon, mango, peach, strawberry with cream, blueberry and blackberry sorbet. Gently rocking in the warm Southern wind, with a cup of hot chocolate in our hands, we were making jokes of how North Sea is a freaking Sunday cruise for beginners and sissies.

Until Mark opend the keel box.

Everything was afloat, the ham, butter, sausage and everything else stored there to be chilled.

The boat's taking in water and it's getting dark fast... What to do?

The answer for Mark was: to go to sleep. The answer for me was: check the leak and the amount of water coming in, bilge every hour and keep on going. It turned out to be a minor leak and we relaxed. The lookout time was about 4-5 hours each, depending on what we felt for, and during the day both were awake and could actually socialise which is very appreciated if you don't want to go completely nuts.

The Northern Sea gave us great weather, stable Southern wind and beatiful scenery. And some cell phone coverage! Right in the middle of the passage, there were oil rig platforms, one of them being so bored that they even called us on the VHF which I thought was marvellous. All in all, a nice ride down to 30 km from Peterhead. We were already half-celebrating. And suddenly..

The wind died out and the tide waters took on the boat. We were drifting at 4 knots past all civilisation, and the outboard engine mounting plate was about to give in. Some three thrilling hours, and we made it anyway, but three hours at black night fighting the sea without sleep are not really three hours at a project meeting with coffee breaks and well-placed jokes from the team and internet access.

Anyways, we made it into the harbour, slept on the wet and cold beds, payed the harbour fee (for the first time since we sailed away, Yaaarrr!), took an endless nice warm wonderful shower each, opened up the longed-after bottle of champagne, and yes, the first serious leg was over. How hard could it be???

2010-07-14 Inverness, Scotland. Written by Lena

Well, after waiting off the gale winds in Peterhead, while doing a bit of sightseeing and provisioning (haggis and scones!) we headed off to the Moray Firth. A day's sailing later we made a stop in Whitehills, a small village with a big marina that everyone had talked about. Surely, the marina was good, with a service-minded harbour captain, but heck, we did not count on a fee of £17! Especially considering that the village itself was not so much to look at, not even an ATM machine to find. Oh well, we visited both of the pubs in this metropole, had a couple of pints and headed off early in thah morning. 

Had great luck with the tides, but not as lucky with the wind - sometimes the air was completely still, making the scenery surrealistic as the Northern Sea lay in front of us flat and calm, like a giant mirror. Very beautiful, but extremely frustrating since the trip towards Inverness took us 18 hours in total. 

Passing the impressive military fort of Port George, I was enjoying a quiet evening moment steering the boat through shallow and calm water, when a splash just beside the port side made me look. A dolphin! Just an arm's length from the boat! It dived down, circled the boat and jumped up on the other side, making sure we have seen the show, and continued jumping and playing around the boat. Suddenly, there were two, simming simultaniously side by side. No, three! No, four! They stayed near the boat, and dived and played around it for a while. Beautiful and smart animals, they are believed to mean good luck. At least, just the sight of them made me very happy...

Now, we have entered the Caledonian Canal, and have passed the first canal locks. They are closed during the evening, some are closed for lunch or during the rush hours, and of course when the tides are extreme, so this will take a while. Anyway, we are just in front of the Loch Ness lake, and soon it's time to fish for Nessie! And may be to bathe and go snorkeling, but we'll see about that - the weather is just like a regular Swedish summer (that is to say about 15 Celsius, and humidity stretching from heavy rain to almost rain or just have been rain). The internet rates here are draconical, I have just spent about a day's budget on 90 minutes of surfing... So, until next time!

2010-07-14 Fort William, Scotland. Written by Lena

So, here we are at the end of Neptune's Staircase; the Caledonian Canal is finished and we are soon off to the sea again, with Jussi Björlings voice in the background. It has been a few cloudy and rainy days, but the company has been great - two friends from Stockholm joined up at Dumnadrochit to follow along the way.

We have fished for Nessie, bathed in the ice-cold Loch Ness, drunk beer, gone through sluices, and been photographed by tourists a couple of hundred times. Met another Swedish boat yesterday, a big one with a crew of six, and had a pint (or five) with them at the local pub in Bunavie, had a great time. The ginger ale here is great, the label brags about it being both an aphrodisiac and a cure for sea-sickness, don't know about either but the taste was excellent.

Today, we will hopefully proceed southwards via Oban to the islands of Jura and Islay, and spend a day or two there exploring the distilleries before the boys will fly back home and me and Mark will head for Ireland.

The outboard engine decided to give up just before entering a lock, luckily there was a workshop nearby where we could get the tools needed plus some start gas, which together with 5-56 and some Russian swear words did it. I will try the same treatment on the inboard, which is still not cooperating, so wish me luck. It's preferable to have as much engine power as possible at the coast here, because of the strong and very tricky currents. Well, nothing is too tricky with a generous dash of Laphroaig to it, so we hope for the best as always ;)

2010-07-21 South Scotland. Written by Lena

Mark has gone off to a vacation for the week, leaving me as the captain of Mare Liberum, with two friends of mine that came visiting as the crew. Our objective is to reach Islay as soon as possible and indulge in whisky, so today we're about half-way between Oban and Islay.

Oban was a great little town, but they did not have any gasoline (only diesel) in the marina at Kerrera side (very much recommended, there is a free ferry taking you to the city of Oban every hour and a bar where you can wait for it while sipping on a Kilt Lifter IPA). The boys went over to Oban to get som fuel, but it costed about 15 pounds to get the fuel containers transported (a separate ferry had to be booked), but even paying that it turned out that the UK law prohibits filling plastic containers larger than 5 litres with fuel. WTF?

Leaving Kerrera, we were low on fuel and low on GPS batteries, heading to one of the most dngerous areas of the coast. But it's a Yo-ho-ho (etc) and a lot off pirate spirit, very impressed by the boys' crewmanship, so we made it through the fast current, the boat making over 7 knots on just the main, and later on without the sails and just a slight bit of engine power to be able to steer. The winds were to become stronger, with a near gale warning in some parts of Scotland so we decided to put anchor at Easedale. Navigating through the extremely narrow channel we mad plans to moor up at a buoy, when, suddenly, the engine just died. What a great time to stop working - cliffs on one side, shallow water within tens of meters and a current of 2,5 knots! And it would not start again for a while. Now both the inboard and the outboard were dead, great!

Well some andrenaline had never killed anyone! But luck was with us and we got the engine to run, all the way to Craob Haven Marina where we are now warm and dry, free-surfing in a lovely pub called The Lord Of The Isles. There was no gasoline here either, and we're down to one litre to spare or so, but the harbour captain got a 20-liter container to be delivered, just telling me to stick around the pub unttil eight. Wonderful service.

The crew is all right, and we might just reach islay tomorrow. Then you will probably not hear from us for a couple of days...

2010-07-25 Craobh Haven, Scotland. Written by Lena

The harbour of Craobh Haven, my friends, is a great place. Situated in a protected bay and secured by piers made of natural stone, it's a joy to enter, calling them at VHF channel 80 and getting a berth with complete parking directions. Unlike most of the harbours in Northern Scotland, there is no locked iron grid door at the marina entrance, and no barbed wire in between the boats and the very well-kept facilities, which means that you can reach them without visiting the harbour office which makes it easy to skip paying. In this harbour however, you would not want to skip paying since they are so kind and helpful that you would probably be reincarnated as a seacockel if you would try.

There is also a very nice bar there, called "Lord Of The Isles", and a few houses, and that's about it. Upon arriving, we met Paul, who has been sharing the same route ever since Loch Oich, so we have been double-stalking each other all the way to down there, and we once again had the privelege of having him over for the supper and some drinks. Hope he got his gear box fixed!

We had less luck with fixes though. Waited for the right tide to give us a nice current, we were all set to go off, but the outboard would not start. At all. Even after sweet-talking and Easy-start and spark plug change and fuel system cleaning and 5-56 just about everywhere. Luckily, we had great weather, so I could go around and swear in sunshine instead of rain, for once. Paul got me a cup of coffee, which cheered me up and it was time for action. Talked to the harbour office about the problem - and it did not take more than a half a minute to locate John the Mechanic, a local celebrity it seemed, a Viking-like fellow that took the outbouard on his back not unlike some female captive and briskly proceeded to the cave, I mean the workshop.

The carburator was the problem (damn carburators! Enough already!). He did not work out how to fix it, so I headed for Crinan, determined to get a new carburator or a new outboard engine. Asked a couple of gentlemen on the pontoon whether they had an outboard for sale, just in case, and one of them was going to Crinan so I got a ride there! Dave turned out to be a principle at the Yacht and Sailing school, I got a map and some advise and he had to get back, while the Crinan mechanic still tinkered with my carburator. A plug was missing; he replaced it but did not know if that would do it. Time to get back and try it out, but before that I wanted to visit the second-hand outboard shop in a village nearby, to raise the chances of heading off tomorrow.

There was a decent 6 hp ourboard for 400 pounds, and he'd drive it to Craobh. So, now for heading home. There were no buses since it's summer vacation, and it's a long way to walk, especially with that strong sun. Everyone seems to hitchhike, that's the public transport in Scotland, so after getting that advice a couple of times I went for it.

Unfortunately, there were no cars in my direction for a good while, and those that came later would not stop. I had walked for several hours, in the middle of nowhere, wishing desperately for a shop with some water and lunch, and covered some kilometers, setting sores on my feet. Luckily, later I got two rides in a row delivering me straight to the harbour. The carburator worked. We set off. Finally!

The boys would be let off at Islay and Mare Liberum would continue further south. We made a stop at a mooring in Jura, just outside of the distillery, the pub was alive, and the whiskey was great. However, the shop was closed, there would be no food at the bar, and there was some rowing distance to the pier and back (very beautiful at night though, with sea gleaming of fluoricent plancton that drifted by after every stroke of the oars like tiny starfalls).

In the morning, I sent the boys off to get some petrol. Myself, I was sleeping extra since I got a cold and was feeling quite miserable - but the captain cannot get a sick leave so I needed to get well, the sooner the better. The boys seemed to really take their time, I had slept well and had breakfast but they were still not back. I smsed them asking how it went but I guessed they were discovering the distillery... Suddenly, reading down below, I heard some voices, and came cheerfully up to meet the boys, just to hear an engine of a big boat just beside ours, bumping into our side. I threw myself up the deck to fight off the intruders, but that was the Jura passenger ferry, droipping off the boys and the dinghy they went with. The boat turned and went away - before Daniel got onboard, leaving him hanging over one of the sides, risking his pride and his mobile phone. We pulled him in.

It turned out that the dinghy has been run over while being parked at the petrol station, probably by that same passenger ferry. One of the oars was so badly damaged that there was no use for it. Luckily, the dinghy itself was fine and the petrol containers too. We set off and the boys got a breakfast.

Our plan was to get to Port Ellen, or to Lagavullin Bay, where there are visitor berths and the distilleries are lined up: Lagavullin, Laphroaig and Ardmore. The boys would get off, and get a ferry from Port Ellen, and Mark would come back and continue with the boat that now will be sailed southwards, to Ireland. We never got that far.

Past the Sound of Jura, the fog was rushing in. The head wind was fresh and we were making way by engine instead. The waves were tricky, some tide meeting zones outside of Islay's south-east coast were making them sharp, uneven and quite high. The engine was complaining, being too far up from water and revving up, or down, almost covered by the waves, stopping completely. Daniel made several attempts of restarting it, but we were making way for the shore, with underwater rocks and sharp cliffs. A fishing boat came by to ask if we needed assistance. I told Daniel to give up the engine and stand by steering, and Jocke would help with the sails. Main up - immediate fail. The halyard had got caught by the radar reflector. After some struggling, I saw that it could not be fixed easily, so I let it go and went for head sail instead. We managed to get it up in great speed, however speaking of speed I should mention the crash course that Jocke got on managing the headsail, drifting about in a boat thrown sideways, never having sailed headsail before. The boys did brilliantly, and Daniel even managed to get the engine to run on the way back, so we returned. We made two attempts and failed, I called for a course alteration northwards, since making way was neither possible (nor safe). We put anchor in Claiggan Bay, a calm protected harbour, populated with curious seals. Luckily, we had a spare oar so I could row the dinghy to the shore. It was longer than I thought from the safe anchorage area to the beach, so it took a good while. Two swans were watching us from the beach, and a seal stalked us, amusing the boys.

Port Ellen
The road on the sea chart turned out to be a narrow path enough to fit one car. The nature was beautiful, and several siamesecat-coloured sheep were trying to figure out whether to attack us, with a followed cowardly retreat to the green hills. We walked on, 20 km or so to go. We were tired and wet, hungry and thirsty.

Of course, we were hitchhiking. The second car stopped, and it was a very nice couple with lovely kids. Unfortunately, they did not have any place in the car, and told us it's a long way left. I wished them a nice day... unless they had room for three wet sailors in the trunk of the car.

I really love the kind of people who say "why not". They opened the trunk, so we sat in a row, dangling our feet over the asphalt and looking at Islay landscape fly by; hills, seal beaches, small houses, deer and distelleries, unfortunately closed for the day. Arriving to Port Ellen, we had some food and then the boys were sent off to a bar while I ran around doing magic, which was finding a ride back or accomodation.

It was Sports Day in Port Ellen. Boat races and all kinds of stuff were taking place, which meant that everyone got drunk at ten in the morning and things were not any better. I was reluctant to come in to the pubs, and that does not happen often, I tells you. The Sports day also meant that the accomodaion was extremely hard to find, all of the B&B were full, but in the end I had some luck.

The morning brough even more luck, when two gentlemen offered us a ride to the beach. I rowed back again, got the boys' bags, and rowed to the beach again, which felt something like rowing from Stockholm to Finland anbd back again, and then we tried to get a taxi. However, the taxi number we got from the hotel was incorrect, and the taxi company listed in the tourist papers was not able to help us. The bus for Port Askaig was to go in an hour, and the boys could not miss the ferry (and consequently the flight). We were prepared to hitchhike, no cars came.

More Port Ellen
When looking for a room, I stumbled across the hotel called White Hart. I don't think it's included in the tourist listings, that cover the two or three streets of glorious but small Port Ellen, but it's worth looking for. On the ground floor, there is a lounge (the weapon fetishist might squeal with joy), a dining room, a lively front bar, and a back bar with an open fireplace. You can have Scotch specialities for breakfast, and there is a great choice of local whisky to try. And for those who are not into whisky, there is raspberry sambucca!!

Having trouble getting into Port Ellen, I phoned the hotel up for a correct phone number to the taxi service. The man answering the phone said he'd pick us up. Mr Gordon did not just pick us up, he showed us the most ancient Scottish cross, told us a lot about history of Scotland and Lord of the Isles (fascinating story about a Viking becoming king of Scotland!), made a pit stop at a distillery, and actually drove us all the way to Port Askaig with a detour to Lord of the Isles Castle! A very interesting tour, and a service that would be unheard of in Sweden. Would definitely recommend a stay in the hotel, the whisky season starting in the Autumn! It's very close to the marina, the ferry and virtually everything. Here is a link.

Now: waiting for Mark at Port Ellen. Still extremely sick with cold. Westerly winds, so hoping to head off southwards soon!

2010-08-06 Wexford, Ireland. Written by Lena

I've heard that there is an Indian proverb: "you are not a real doctor until you've killed one or two patients".

I don't know if it's a real proverb or if it comes from India, but generally I am inclined to agree. How can you become an expert if you haven't made any mistakes? Being profound in anything, might that be fishing, martial arts or IT, is only about making those mistakes first of everyone, thus being able to find a correct solution and use these skills later. The same goes for sailing. You gotta rip one or two sails, run agound a few times, have engine malfunctions and water leaks and misread the broadcast and end up in devilish weather, in order to become good at what you want to do. Simply reading manuals doesn't work.

Wexford, a city by the sea, does not have a mantained harbour. It's a mess. Fortunately, we could moor beside two huge fishing boats, in the very city center, and that did not cost us one penny. However, the experience could be nearest compared to having a nice motorcycle parked at Gothenburgs main Avenue. Daytime, every single person passing would stop and stare at it, as he had never seen a motorcycle before. Some would take pictures. It's flattering at first. First five minutes or so. Then you start wondering who those people are and why the hell they are so interested in my property. A lot would stop for a chat, so many in fact that if you are doing anything important you better have a taser gun ready to be able to get some privacy. At night, drunks would lose all respect and start climbing it, and probably will break it.

I'd had two nightmare nights at Wexford, being unable to sleep. When I managed to slumber, I was awakened by unwelcome sounds. Ropes beating against the mast in the wind, boat beating against the harbour wall in the tide, anchor chain making noise agains the deck. And of course, the noises from the bars and nightclubs, with tasteless hits. Drunkards coming down to the pier to take a leak, talking loudly - Irishmen, Russians, you name it, some stayed by the pier and talked endless drunken rants, thinking no-one could hear them. And more music, and more drunks. I thought that the drunk girl in the boat (a humorous answer to the captain's prayers, I think ;) was yesterday's business, but the next night too, I woke up when a guy was trying to pull a mooring line, probably to try to get in, so I chased him away, coming back shaking with rage. If I'd see anyone near the boat again they would be keelhauled without a trial. Not much sleep that night, as mentioned.

We were to leave Wexford early in the morning, at 5 am or so, when the water was high, as the tide diff is about one meter or more. I finally managed to slumber just before that, but climbed on deck to assist. I knew that the way out was tricky, because of the multiple sand banks moving around and making the navigation unpredictible. I also wanted to see that the inboard would be doing OK.

Mark told me to get back to sleep, that it'll be OK. Have you heard of an expression "famous last words"?...

The inboard started coughing after just a short while. I decreased gas to make it go more smoothly, checked the GPS for speed diff, but suddenly we were losing speed despite engine being run!

We had run a-ground, and things were getting ugly quickly. The inboard wouldn't back. We had to act fast because the tide would turn soon. We ran around as if to Benny Hill sountrack, got the dinghy out, inflated it, put the anchor in it, Mark rowed it to the side, put the anchor down and I started pulling like a madman. It didn't help, no matter which side we pulled on, or winched, or how we shifted weight or rocked it, the boat just seemed to sit tighter and tighter on the bottom. In the end, we had no choice than to wait for the high water. This would mean that Mare Liberum would lay on her side in the mud for 6 hours or so.

We secured all lose items, filled a termos with hot water, ate a fast breakfast and went to sleep. I was so tired I could not even care to get up when a boat came by to check if we were OK. Sleeping on a 45 degree berth is actually quite OK given that you are exhausted enough.

The high water came and we finally came out with almost no effort at all, hands still swollen and burning from pulling the anchor rope like animals. Continuing in the bay, we managed to get stuck one more time, but two passing fishermen in a boat gave us a pull, while me and Mark were hanging on the boom swayed to the side, just like pirated in old movies, to heel Mare.

The inboard works some 20 minutes at a time, so we alternated it with the outboard and finally got out from the hateful harbour. Even being caught between two huge passenger ferries going in opposite directions in a small channel outside Rosslair was refreshing, now we were in deep water!

We are in a small bay near Carne south of Rosslair now, it's been suprisingly sunny the last two days, I had a good sleep this night, and I am never going to Wexford, ever ever again.

2010-08-08 Carne, Ireland. By Lena

We rowed the dinghy down to the sandy beach and slowly managed to collect enough wood for a small fire to grill the evening meal. I haven't grilled on the beach since outside Lysekil, I think, so it was about time.

On the way back, it was dark, and for a change it was a beautiful, warm starry night. Mark went into the boat, but I wanted to go for a swim in the night sea, so I quickly got into the water by the ladder in the stern.

I started swimming - and there was luminescence all around me! I swam once around the boat, small glittering stars around me in the water wherever I touched the surface, firing up and fading as I passed. Then I stopped in the water and looked at the shimmering night sky, as dark as the sea. A star fell down. I couldn't believe my eyes.

Mark shouted: "Did you see that?!!"

And then another fell.

And I made a wish.

And there were still stars in the water, with every splash of the waves. Bioluminescence, or "mareld" in Swedish, it truly should be seen...

Or bathed in.

2010-08-11 Carne, Ireland. By Lena

Sailing south-west down the coast of Ireland to our jump-off point, Cork. Yes, sort of the same place as mentioned in Whisky In The Jar (here, the old Irish song is marvellously covered by my favourite band). Got no pistol or rapier to produce, but I can definitely hold up a pair of dirty socks with an authorital "stand and deliver", which could most possibly work.

The weather is predominantly sunny, and it feels like summer for the first time for ages, the smell of warm soil and dry hay coming with the wind from the coast in the evenings. It's not only the humidity (rain and clouds and abscence of sun) that makes it so cold all the time, it's the constant wind at sea. My arms are still almost as white as they were after the Swedish winter, but the hands are brown as gingerbread; it's jacket on all the time. And of course, the "racoon tan" is clearer for every day, due to constantly wearing sunglases.

The fishing is splendid, of though it is mackerel all the time, nice large fat mackerels that are not even exciting to catch anymore since they are so plentiful that as soon as you start getting them, you barely have time to throw the hooks back in the water before the next one bites. You get tired of the taste quite fast. I'm constantly coming up with more ways to make mackerel taste less like mackerel. For those interested; recommended is fish soup with fresh cream and white wine, and definitely not recommended is ceviche :-/

We are not in a hurry; strong winds over Fitzroy (area on the way to Spain) give us a lot of time to take it easy. We stopped at Sheep Island to have a stroll, and looked at fabulous cliffs and caves, for example. Hope for the weather to get better soon, which would be no SW winds (sign of a coming bad weather in Biscay bay) and no gales, and we'll be fine to go after Saturday.

2010-08-12 Dungarvan, Ireland. By Lena

As you may have noticed, sailing is not just great going and laughs all the time, it's a series of ups and downs. Or "annoys". One of the reasons is just practical. Hurting yourself is the first stage to get through; and especially on such a small boat. The most common word on the boat is "AJ!" several times an hour for the first weeks, before you get used to it. But: you only get used to it by making enough mistakes. For example, first time you jump out on deck in an urgent situation barefoot will teach you a lesson or two. Then, you learn the annoying ceiling bend just before the toilet, and the very sharp edges of the solar cell, and not to leave anything valuable on the cockpit floor, and exactly the diameter where the fishing hooks are swaying, and to duck instinctively when the main sail is luffing, and approximately how much hot tea you can comfortably have in a cup when it's moderate to fresh breeze.

The annoys today have been mainly the sores and the bugs. Here at the Irish shore, we have repeatedly run into swarms with hundreds (thousands?) of insects, mostly harmless but very annoying if you want to have a meal without a fly in the soup (or, to be more true, twenty-five flies). Finally I decided to go down below because I was sick and tired of them, where I realised I could read while IN the boat, which I never could before (I could hardly read while on deck), which means one of the annoys is mostly gone - the ever-proximate sea-sickness (of though the waves have been low for the past weeks! We have been lucky with the sea conditions compared to, say, Sweden or Norway). The other annoy is the presence of the small sores on my hands. It's been a bother since we have been working on the boat; now it has come back with full force. A part of my finger is totally missing skin because I sliced it on the oar getting onshore after the walk to Sheep Island, and beside that there are a couple of deep cuts from the fishing knife, and if you call me clumsy, then you should freaking try cleaning a fish while riding a rollercoaster without a safety harness, that's how it is to prepare food in here.

On the topic of cleaning fish - it's actually one of the ups today. Getting tired of the mackerel, we did not fish for it. Instead, Mark put in two huge wobbler plugs on each fishing rod (we have two rods out, one on each side of the aft), of though we were quite close to the coast with the chance of fish big enough to get a 20 cm bait being close to nil. I wondered if it was not just waste of plugs (they'd certainly just hook the sea bottom, what a waste), but to my surprise, after a while it freaking worked. Big fish!! While Mark fought the catch, I put down the sails in urgent fashion to slow down and make it easier to pull in the fish, and prepared the Killer Fish Hook; an almost two meter long pole with a large wicked round ultrasharp hook on it, a ~€75 thing we bought at El-Ge's just for the large fish, to get it up in the boat.

And so Mark pulled the fish to the surface and I got the fish in the boat with the hook. Oh the splatter! Oh the blood! Oh the huge mouth and the strenght of the tail! Ah, it was "only" a 70+cm Pollock (Lyrtorsk) fighting for its life, nothing dramatic at all. We killed him and cooked him, a great lot of great-tasting fish, first steaming fresh poached with white wine and black pepper and butter, and then in a hearty creamy stew for dinner.

Another definite "up" was the welcoming into the Cork harbour. Having a bit of a hard time with the engine (out of fuel, how unbelievably badly planned, having to start the outboard), suddenly I saw small fountains on the surface of the small waves.

I studied the direction, hoping I did not see wrong.

And there it came - a dark blue back fin after the fountain.

And at first nothing else. I kept on watching the spot, a few meters ahead.

And then there were fountains again! Two beside each other! And two back fins beside each other, and two curved beautiful dolphin bodies elegantly making a full round to above the surface - and slowly back again into the water.

Watching... waiting......

And again! Three fountains, and three fins at the time, and the fourth behind them, diving up all simultaniously to the surface and circling down again, and it feels like they know EXACTLY what they are doing, that they know that you are watching, and they know exactly what sight you are really going to find stunningly beautiful, and they give you just that.

And they have waited to do it at the sunset, just because they know how beautiful it will be.

The route. Spain-Portugal

2010-09-04 Baiona, Spain. By Lena

So I'm back home on Mare Liberum. I had to leave for Stockholm to fix some papers, and took the chance to pass the Coastal Yachtmaster diploma (skepparexamen) as well as SRC and CEVNI certificates, all in one go which meant a lot of studying the days before.

I think it's good to get some contrast and perspective sometimes, coming back to Spain I was delighted by the wondeful weather, the blue sea and hot sun, cheap fruits, wine and delicacies, the beautiful mountain landscape, the sandy beaches and the awesome athmosphere, while all other longsailors were used to it and were not as intensively happy. I think it's always wise to take a moment and have a reality check, to understand and appreciate what you have, not to take it for granted.

Boats from all of the Scandinavia are grouping up; right now we have a Norwegian boat and a Danish one beside ours. At Isla Cíes, where we spent a couple of splendid days enjoying the mountains and the beach with sugar-like sand, there were several more Norwegian boats.

All in all, sailing in Spain is wonderful, and if I want to live in Europe some day again, I want to live in this country. 

By Lena in La Coruña

On Friday we were ready to leave Cork to cross the bay of Biscay. However, as you remember, it's bad luck to start a sailing trip on a Friday. And I guess it's especially true on Friday the 13th...

Superstition aside, I also wanted to get a chance to feel land under my feet, and pay a visit to an Irish pub in Cork harbour. Had a great time, and met some wonderful local people, a lot of laughs, songs and a wonderful atmosphere. I was still asleep in the morning when the captain started off the journey.

I admit having been excited about the bay of Biscay; it is known for its high waves and violent gales. There was an apparent gale warning for NW Spain, just where we were heading. Yeay! Blood, sweat, tears and Kraken!

It turned out to be nothing like that. To be honest, the first day or two in Biscay were the most beautiful sailing days I've experienced. We had wind in our back, the waves were very slight, there were dolphins following our boat, playing around in front of us, sometimes together with their babies (sweet enough to melt any hard and salty sailor's heart) and at night there was the magic glitter of biolumiscence in the water, and the sky was cloudless, with millions of constellations, the great Milky Way, tiny satellites passing by, and a lot of beatiful shooting stars. It was a real pleasure to have the night watch, lie on the back in the cockpit and look at the universe spreading endlessly just above the slightly rocking mast top.

But the next day welcomed us with the complete abscence of wind. What gale warning, where?? It seemed unbelievable that there could be wind or waves somewhere in this bay. The water was like milk; white and completely still, apart from the microscopic wavelets that our engine was making. Yes, we ran the inboard 14 hours in a row. We knew the wind would turn SW (thanks to my dear parents that were so kind to sent weather reports to the satellite phone) so we were in a hurry; SW wind in Biscay means bad weather on the way. Also, it's good to pass the continental shelf as soon as possible as things can get ugly there when the weather is bad, the waves break too easily.

But no. No bad weather, no freak waves, no nothing. The inboard gave up after that day, but we got wind again, and could go on. On the continental shelf there were lots of dolphins too, and now something completely new: whales! A huge distant fountain of water would stretch several meters above the surface, and then came the long, dark body slowly diving up and disappearing again in the same move.

We crossed Bay of Biscay the long way, in less than 5 days, which is shorter time than we counted on (which was 5 to 10 days). Approaching La Coruña, Spain, took us half a night, in the dark, with a lot of boats around and the intensive traffic being typically Spanish. The night breeze from the land smelled of spice and humid warm stone, an exotic smell that instantly makes you aware of that you are not in Northern Sweden anymore. At four in the morning, we opened a bottle of KGB champagne, and finally had Spanish ground under our feet.

Right now, we are in the first and largest Coruña yacht harbour, may be moving to the one that is a nautical mile to the South, not as exclusive and new but cheaper. There are quite a few Scandinavian long distance sailors here, so we have already met some.

Now, off to have a cerveza, and maybe some tapas tonight. Finally!!!

2010-09-08 Portugal. By Lena

Sitting in a café at Viana do Castelo. A very beautiful city, I had a fast walk around it last night when we arrived, but haven't seen it by daytime... Because today I spent all day in a café, intensivelly enjoying the fast Internet connection. I have three online courses I have to keep up with, and all of them require Internet, so I have a lot to do while I'm here. By the late Autumn, I will know all that's worth to know about classic astronomy, intercultural communications, and philosophy. The phylosophy course is the most interesting;for example, the first module is all about happiness as according to the ancients (hedonism, epicurism and stoicism) and the first essay to write is "Feelings vs reason, what is best and why". Incredible. This must be the only science that is best researched while having some good wine and some great company to talk to.

The sea outside has been choppy on the way here, a lot of fishing gear everywhere, the Danish boat Awareness that were neighbour to us in the last harbour needed to be rescued after getting fishing gear in their engine, and the French boat from the same harbour had to get back because of the strong winds. The advice is a good lookout, and a good weather report page, like windguru.cz which is absolutely great.

The Portuguese, unlike Spanish, don't have Siesta, are opened on Sundays, and everyone speaks English. Everything is also cheaper. I don't understand why they call it a lesser country... It's great here!

2010-09-10 Porto, Portugal. By Lena

Viana do Castelo was a nice little city with calm athmosphere. A glas of wine costs half a euro, and after you're done, the regular guests at the bar ask the waitress to fill it up for you, it's the Portuguese generosity.

It was a sunny day yesterday, and I have been tinkering with the engine all day. John from s/y Awareness was so kind to be a competent and helpful coach, and the inboard was functioning again to our delight. We left the harbour at the low water and run slightly aground. All in all, the harbour was a bit dangerous - the river outside runs at up to 4 knots, and the entrance to the harbour is blocked off by a tiny walking bridge that is opened from the harbour office (not always manned though). If you arrive at night and are tired or not paying attention to the bridge, you could get serious damage on the boat.

Now: sitting in the harbour in Porto. My back is sunburned, it was a sunny warm day today, and spinnacker sailing for 30 nautical miles. The yacht harbour is just beside a fishing harbour and a cargo harbour, so there are containers everywhere and it's anything but beautiful in here, but a bunch of Swedish, Norwegian and other long-sailing boats are here, and several familiar faces met us on the pontoon. We'll try to figure out whether to go up the Porto river tomorrow. Good night for now!

2010-09-14 Porto, Portugal. By Lena

We spent more days in north Porto than expected. The inboard engine was to be fixed; John from Awareness did help me to adjust the timing and to lock the screw that had loosened so the distributor was turning around thus messing up the timing. I also removed corrosion from the wires, sandpapered all contacts and the engine was running happily. For ten minutes or so, and then it started making strange noises and died again.

So this time, two Irish guys from White Whisper, a boat next to ours, came along and took the engine in pieces and back again. There was a bearing that had too much friction and it was fixed. We tried the engine, it worked again. Of course, we celebrated by a pub round, and had a great time with the lads! But just on the way out from the harbour the engine started making trouble again. The outboard did not want to cooperate either; the killchord had rusted and had to be replaced on the fly with a temporary cable solution while we were bobbing on the waves near the harbour entrance, creating an obstruction for the ships of various sizes that were coming in and out. We were almost turning back at one point, but since we could go by the outboard, we continued to Porto. (There was no wind at all, so sailing was not an option).

Porto is absolutely beautiful, and even more so when coming from the sea and into the Douro River. It's a fantastic city, and everyone is very nice and humble. We are morred by the stone wall near a bridge, and the whole of the old city is just out here. I went for a shopping and sight-seeing round, could spend several days here, but we need to get moving since Mark had promised to meet the norwegians from Fri Inspirasjon on Saturday.

Here, the food is cheap and you can find exotic stuff in the stores. I got some quail eggs (vaktelägg) for less than a euro for a dozen, and make a delicacy dish with beluga lenses, cured Spanish jamon and quail eggs. It's very warm here, and the view is astonishing. I will try to upload some pictures soon...

2010-09-18 Figuera do Foz, Portugal. By Lena

So, almost 100 days at sea. Time for a small conslusion of the trip - not everyone reads the whole blog :)

The North Sea and the Bay of Biscay were supposed to be the hardest parts of the trip.

Here on the left side you can see what they would be described as... Winds, waves, gales and storms and sea monsters and what not. Or at least that was what I was expecting.

But they were really a piece of cake. On the right: how it really was; cruising by daytime in the middle of North Sea with sunshine and no waves at all, and last the sunset in the bay of Biscay, for a whole day also still and windless.

Some really beautiful stuff we've seen was also in the bay of Biscay; bioluminescence and dolphins and whales. And upon arriving to A Coruña, there were fireworks over the night sky. Just beautiful.

The boat itself requires continuous maintenance, everything from the engines to wiping off the mold and refitting loose parts. However it's just to get used to, it's a very old boat. The lack of fridge, microwave and hot water is also a matter of habit.

Scopoderm, the anti-seasickness plaster, is one of the best things that has happened to sailors (Thanks ApoEx!) Marinas with free showers and internet are also great, although infrequent.

The countries have been very different. Norway was barely worth staying in - very beautiful but too expensive. Scotland was rainy and cold, and Caledonian Canal was nice but a lot of hassle with all the sea locks. Jura and Islay were great. Ireland was also chilly, but the sailing was better due to constant Western winds - no waves and good speed.

Spain was splendid! Hot sun, blue sea, cheap wine, nice fruits, great food - the supermarkets were filled with Spanish specialities for laughable prices, the two pictures were taken at a local store - a cured ham, the whole pig leg, can be purchased from 25 euro and up, incredble.

And Portugal is even better - it's cheaper, the people are a bit more sophisticated, speak more English and are extremely generous and friendly. A glass of wine costs a half a euro, the architecture and the palms remind of Goa, which has been a Portuguese colony. And the beaches in Portugal are sandy, warm, and reach out for miles and miles... Perfect for surfing or just walking around and enjoying the summer weather.

The best stuff with sailing must be all the wonderful people you meet. Most of them are also heading South, so there is a community of boats which we meet all the time - very nice to have friends away from home. Everyone's helping everyone else, no matter if it's an engine that needs fixing or a sea chart that is missing. It's a great sailor spirit here.

My favourite city this far is Porto. A lot of new, old, and ancient buildings everywhere, colourful and diverse, with thousands of small restaurants that come alive at the evening. An absolutiely beautiful city; here are some photos, including the view from our boat at night.
The fishing has been great; mackerel is still frequent, but we are starting to get some fish that is like a mixture of mackerel and blue marlin. Also, the menue is diversified by all kinds of other fish, mussels and octopus.

But new things are learned every day. There are new concepts; like "good-morning flies", the flies that wake up when the sun goes up and buzz and disturb your sleep better than any alarm clock. Or the differens between the word "rolig" in Swedish (fun) and in Norwegian (calm), so we have to specify (Vi ska ha en rolig kväll. - Svensk-rolig eller Norsk-rolig?) And lots more :)

In the next hundred days, I should have crossed the Atlantic and arrived to St Lucia. So, a lot to look forward to!