Circumnavigation preparations and start: Swedish West Coast

The circumnavigation starts in Sweden.
Sailing preparations do take more time than expected. The year of preparations climaxed in the end of spring and early summer. This is a combination of the blog entries I had made during June 2010, about technical preparations and the first sailing adventures as a start of the circumnavigation attempt.

Our mast had been away for a technical inspection for almost a month, the workshop has had too much to do - it's high season now. But we finally got to know that the mast is OK! However, we would like to strengthen up some of the rigs. Nothing's wrong with the old stuff, we just want to have heavier rigs before the rough seas. This will take a few days, so we had time to sail around without the mast.

The first day of June 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 bbq:ed out in the wild (but definitely not the last). A good moment to sit back and enjoy.

The next day was spent at 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 3th of June, Mare Liberum was finally 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. 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.

Upon getting the boat into the wet, we decided to move to Eriksberg where a friend lives, and do a run around Hisingen while we were waiting for the mast. On the way from Amundsö to Eriksberg, just before we reached Gothenburg's marine regiment, the motor 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. (Jokes aside, I've been to Amf4 a lot of times taking 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. We made it to Eriksberg and it was a much-enjoyed stop, with company of friends and red wine. But more work would have to be done.

The views of the Swedish West Coast waters.
A new battery was installed. We had two; but one of them seems to be leaking. How we found out? There was some moisture in the boat, so the idea was to taste it to determine whether it is salt water (boat leaking) or sweet water (water tanks leaking). It was not my idea, and I was not the one tasting. The tasting finished in screaming, shouting, and making faces, because the water was not sweet or salty - it was extremely sour...

In Göteborg near Wieselgrensplatsen, Sweden's largest fishing store can be found. I got great help by Martin who had fished in most cool places in Central America, Asia etc, and also by Björn - very helpful and nice guide who guided me 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, I love fishing.

During the whole of June, I would be doing a lot of work on the engine. I did 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 ;) I did recieve some really competent help in the end. In Fiskebäck, beside the sailing shop called Viking, there is an Albin workshop, with Stefan The Boat Doctor who is an incredible person and mechanic, as well as the only place for Albin spare parts in the world. I got a consultation and a lot of good advice.

Some more tinkering on the engine - now the carburator is OK, after changing the float, the float chamber gasket, throttle gasket, needle valve, rearranging the choke settings. I also 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 carburetor is free and constant. But still we were losing revs, and the engine died after leaving the harbor every time we made a test run. To say it was ennerving is not to say anything.

"Mark", I said to the boat owner. "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 (one of them was near the large cookie and cake factory in Göteborg, with its splendid outlet!) and rounded the Isle of Hisingen during a few days. There was breakfast in bed, listening to the radio (no internet...), testing the inflatable dinghy in the river, walking around an uninhabited island, fishing (the year's first perch! However, we ended up losing the fishing rod into the water), and grilling during the evenings. No mosquitoes. No tourist crowds. Good weather.

In the evening of the 13th, we went off from Eriksberg to Björlanda harbour to get our mast. Tobbe was onboard, with a bottle of Amarone. 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 maneuver (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.

The dramatic mast setting incident is described here.

Finally, we sailed northwards from Göteborg Area and reached the small island where captain's father has a summer house - on the West coast of Sweden, just near the Norwegian border, near Grebbestad. This took two days of sailing with a stop just outside Lysekil.

View from Havstensund, last outpost of civilization before hitting the archipelago
We stayed at that island for about a week, doing some more last preparations. During one of the days, we sailed off on a friend's boat, a marvelous X-43, an experience very different from Albin Vega. My parents were visiting to say goodbye and to have a look at the boat where I was to spend so much time at sea. 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 much more. The life boat, Sea-Safe self-righting raft, has also finally been delivered. My former company Ferrologic sponsored it, and it was much appreciated.

View from the Bohuslän island we were on
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.

Even the cows are happy, calm and relaxed
We were 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 were trying to cut down the costs. Nevertheless, the food we can prepare here is just as luxurious 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 (expanding the food budget considerably), but personally I say that the food tastes better if you caught it yourself. 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... And some huge Japanese oysters as a pre-course maybe?

Opening up some freshly caught oysters
I had been dreaming about this for a long time, and always picturing how we would leave the harbor in Göteborg: a lot of people waving good-bye, some music tracks I'd play in the background (Fastball: The Way), 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.

This is what summer sailing on the Swedish West Coast may look like.