After a strenuous spring filled with boat projects, emptying yet another land based home, getting stuff for the boat and getting rid of land life stuff while working to save every last penny for our cruising kitty we were finally ready to cast off! No, the boat was not perfectly polished and squeaky clean, but it was ready to sail.
The stars didn’t seem all that well aligned for the start of our journey. Firstly, we began our great adventure on a Friday, which, according to some superstitious beliefs, is always bad luck. Secondly, we were on a schedule, and anyone who knows anything about sailing would agree that schedules and sailing just don’t mix. But a good friend of ours would join the crew for the first leg to Gdansk, Poland, and he wanted to to get back home before the end of his holiday. Thirdly, and this was the biggest factor of all, was that we hadn’t had a chance to really test sail our boat before embarking on this multi-day journey. We had done a short weekend trip in very light winds, which hardly counts as a proper sea trial, let alone a real shakedown cruise. We had docked and undocked the boat a few times, so we had some idea of how she behaved under power, but not under sail. But the engine seemed to work, the rig looked fine on a closer inspection aloft, and the navigation and other crucial electronics seemed to work reliably.
So we untied the docklines, and off we went! It was Friday the 1st of June, almost midnight, as we left the city lights of Helsinki behind and headed out to sea, bound southwest. The following afternoon we stopped briefly in Hanko, where we filled our tanks yet again, and did some calculations on fuel consumption – which surprised us, and for once it was a positive surprise!
As we continued southwest towards the island of Gotland in Sweden the wind kept increasing steadily, and so did the waves. The wind veered from southwest to northwest, leaving the seas a bit confused and very choppy. Gourmet meals onboard our boat were replaced by simple food, and the V-birth in our forecabin was no longer habitable. The off-watch would try to find a stable place to sleep behind a lee cloth in the salon, or in the lowest part of the large aft cabin bed, while the boat was tossed up and down by the waves.
We were on the east side of Gotland after sailing some two and a half days, as our visiting crew member spotted our life raft container bouncing in the water behind the boat. The rack had been bent by some wave, and it had just given up. So we had a very lifelike MOB practice, trying to retrieve the raft. Luckily there were no lives at risk, but the stakes were still pretty high, as it was a brand new life raft! The sails came down quickly and we headed for the rescue. After a couple of near misses we finally managed to catch the raft by its handle, but it took more than an hour of wrestling and struggling to get the heavy thing out of the water. We swung the mainsail boom out with block and tackle to help hoist the heavy beast, and squeezed every drop of sweat we had in our already tired bodies, as the boat rocked up and down, but eventually we made it. Success!
After the MOB episode the wind shifted to the east, then northeast, and gradually the waves started to build up from behind. The rest of the trip we had big waves, bigger waves, and huge waves from the port quarter, as we were making our way south towards Gdansk. It was very uncomfortable! The waves surged underneath the hull, and every now and then a group of steep waves would send the boat sideways down the hill, making everything inside clash and rattle. Most things stayed in their places, but the noise was terrible as everything was moving back and forth in the lockers and cabinets. But our boat just kept sailing at her own pace, she felt reliable and seaworthy, and none of us had anything to fear. Our confidence in the boat kept growing by the day.
The waves followed us the rest of our journey. It wasn’t until we passed the Hel peninsula that shelters the Bay of Gdansk, that the seas calmed down, and with the first light of the morning on Wednesday, June the 6th, we entered the bay. A couple of hours later, at 6 am, we made landfall at the mouth of the river Wisla, some 5 nautical miles east of downtown Gdansk. As soon as we had the boat tied up we walked past the yacht club into a neighbouring hotel, where they just happened to be serving a nice buffet breakfast. It felt like such a luxury after 4 and a half days out at sea in those rough conditions!
After breakfast and a shower we were feeling much more humanlike again, and it was time to indulge in the city atmosphere and spend some well-earned free time with the whole crew, before one of us would fly home the next morning. Thank you so much, Antti, for everything! We had a great crew that worked well together, and it was absolutely the right decision to have an extra pair of hands, particularly with a new (to us) boat, very little routine, and fairly challenging weather for a first passage.
We will be staying in Gdansk for a couple of weeks – for as long as it takes to get our planned projects finished. We are staying at a small boatyard by the river Wisla, with a pleasant view from our ”back porch”, and the city life just a short bus ride away. It’s a good place to rest, to sleep away the exhausting boat projects, moves, busy working life, losing our precious furry crewmate… And to take first steps into this new life of ours, with all its freedom and joy, but also the many challenges.