Date: May 21st to 28th 2006
Distance : 0 miles
Weather : Rain - well it is Sweden!
"We had ice here until April" said Bengts, the crane driver. "At times it was 18 inches thick".
And its only May now...
Still, in Sweden, summer comes quickly. The ice may be only gone a month but the skies are blue, the sun is out, and the breeze is, well, chilly.
We lost one crew member before we started. The skipper has decided to jump ship this year, in order to stay at home and watch the footie on the telly. The ferry company were delighted, as he sits in the car for the crossing and his grumblings tend to set the car alarms off.
The year we bought the boat, 1999, DFDS generously cancelled the Harwich to Gothenburg ferry route, the one which would have been most useful to us. The day we leave the Baltic, they will probably reinstate it. In previous years we've driven up to Newcastle and got the ferry from there, but this year we decided to go to Denmark and drive overland. Ironically, it's probably more expensive, but it takes no longer, and the drive across Denmark and Sweden is so much more preferable than the race track known as the A1. Also, its a few years since we've been to Copenhagen, and Pat fancied some retail therapy. We also wanted a special Danish lamp, of which more later.
The ferry to Denmark was fine, and half empty. (Oh dear, another route in imminent danger of being shut down...). Getting to Copenhagen now entails a drive across the Great Belt bridge, a 15km aerial extravaganza, the privilege for which is £20. There's another similar bridge across from Denmark to Sweden (and another £20). It pays to drive these routes yourself, because, with a UK car, all the payment machines are then on the wife's side!
Received wisdom used to be that if Germany was the cheapest place to buy booze, Denmark was next (about the same as the UK) and Sweden the most expensive. We planned to fill the car up with Danish booze this year, but I have to say we were disappointed with the Danish prices. We actually found some wines cheaper in Sweden. Beer however, IS cheap, with a crate of 30 bottles being about £20. (The guy behind us loaded up 6 crates onto his trolley - what do they do with it all?)
When we arrived at the boat (about 5 days after leaving the UK!) it was to find a boatshed full of Brits! Either side of us was a British couple getting their boat ready for the summer. Fortunately for us, the yard had already painted the boat so all we had to do was give it a quick polish. Because the boat lives indoors all winter, the amount of maintenance is trivial compared to leaving it outside in the UK. (If it goes in clean, it comes out clean). We could actually have been ready for launching the day we arrived if we'd chosen to.
Obviously there have been some Windex incidents at the yard recently, as they've now started taking off the windgear at the masthead before stepping the mast. It now means that some poor yardhand has to routinely visit the top of your mast in a Bosun's chair immediately after the mast is up. Still, I wish my chair was powered...
One thing surprised us is that the yard worked through the Swedish holiday. They claim that they are so busy they have to, to get everything done. If you wanted to launch on a Bank Holiday in the UK it would probably cost you triple. Like much of Europe, Swedish holidays fall midweek. This gives everyone an excellent excuse if they want to take long weekends off.
One of our ongoing sagas has been the cockpit cover (we call it the 'shed'). Ours is now seven years old and all the stitching is breaking down with the UV from the sun. I spent all of last summer sewing the damn thing up and promised myself a new one. Unfortunately, due to lack of time and severe scrooge syndrome (they cost nearly a grand) I put off getting a new one. We'd only been in the water a day before I was sewing up some more of it. Its getting like the Forth Road bridge. I have a feeling that an email to Aunty Vickie at HR Parts is imminent..
This year, I promised myself I'd do some jobs that have been waiting for years to get done.So we now have a nice light by the Chart table showing when the mains electricity is on, and hopefully by tomorrow we'll be able to put the echo sounder on without the GPS alarm going off (don't ask).
However I did manage to drop (yet another) vital part from the jib furling gear in the drink, so its off to Vastervik tomorrow to see if we can replace it...