Man up Meakins!

After a summer spent pottering amongst the Scandinavian archipelagos, seldom sailing more than 20 miles a day, we had left ourselves 8 days to bring the boat from Stockholm to Copenhagen; roughly 360 miles to the SW. Most of the early summer had seen NW winds which had caused much agitation amongst our Scandinavian friends who blamed these winds for the “low” temperatures. “ Normally we have SW winds and much better temperatures than this“ they told us. We on the other hand relished the weather which was much warmer and dryer than Scotland or Norway, but sure enough, with a fortnight to go before our return trip the weather switched to SW mode, air and sea temperatures soared and our spirits fell accordingly. The thought of beating all the way to Copenhagen loomed large in our minds and there was much muttering about the perils of setting deadlines, having to leave the boat in Sweden – you name it , we grumbled about it.

Man up guys, its only 360 miles – far shorter than a Fastnet and we do that in 4 or 5 days! As usual it was Lynda who first snapped out of this negative thinking, and following her example I set about properly analysing the problem.

The wind of course seldom stays absolutely in the SW. The approach of low pressure normally brings a backing wind, sometimes into the SE ( and if the low is South of you – even into the NE!), and then once it is past it veers to the West or NW. Getting to windward in these conditions is best thought of as a 3 dimensional puzzle on the chart, with the third dimension in this case being time. Unlike the crosswords and sudoku that Lynda loves so much , this puzzle has degrees of uncertainty built in as an extra challenge for the weather predictions are never 100% correct. Thus with 24 hours to go a plan was hatched. We would take the SSW wind on Monday and hopefully just lay Visby on Gotland by midnight on a long starboard tack.Thereafter the wind was due to back, eventually reaching SE and giving us a reach in a WSW direction to get into the lee of Öland overnight, and then fetch down the coast as far as we could until the wind veered back to the SW.

It worked ! We didnt quite make Visby in one tack and it was a bit bumpy, so it was midnight before we got in. On the other hand when we woke the next morning we found the whole town dressed in medieval costume for the annual Medieval fair. What a piece of luck! We gleefully joined in and left at 7 that evening as soon as the wind was properly settled in the SE, although perhaps a little reluctantly as the party was now really getting going. The wind however had obeyed the forecast giving us a broad reach through the night and gradually increasing so that by dawn it was over 20 knots. By then however we were in the lee of Öland and screaming along in flat water. We made Kalmar by 10 the next morning just as the wind veered into a beat , so moored up and consulted the weather runes once more.

There was no way we were going to avoid a dead beat for the next bit, but if we left at 0300 it would at least be fairly gentle, and there was the prospect of a NW shift overnight to take us across the Håno Bukt to the Southern Swedish coast. It was gentle at first , but , perhaps because of a sea breeze pepping up the SW wind, the afternoon was once more quite bumpy so 70 miles later it was with some relief that we slipped into the tiny little rock strewn harbour of Utklippan. From 2200 the wind was due to drop , and then come in from the NW so we set the alarm again for midnight to allow the seas to settle, and were soon on our way again.

A full moon and a sky full of stars accompanied us on the gentlest of reaches, and by morning the wind was veering to the N or even NE so up went the kite and we made it as far as Ystad on the South coast before the wind started to die off and we called it a day. 30 more miles to windward , this time admitedly in over 20 knots, and we were at Falsterbo, 20 miles SE of Copenhagen and with 3 days to spare .

I dont know what we were making such a fuss about?

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