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Bohuslän and Oslo fjord
-- September 2nd to 11th 2018  --
That’s the last leg, a small and easy trip in known waters. Yes but… we are in September and the weather conditions in the Nordics are becoming less and less agreeable to sailing...

More photos, first without wind then with too much wind in our page  "Pictures".

263 nautical miles
3345 miles sailed since the start

Our stops, click here for more details :
Öckerö (mooring buoy) - Långedrag (marina) - Lysekil Nord (marina) - Fjällbacka (marina) - Vikerhavn (harbour) - Naersnes (marina)
2nd-3rd September : Hornbaek – Öckerö (81 NM)
As if it was still summer, a high pressure zone decided to inflate on the Kattegat, promising a series of 4 days with little or no wind. Not ideal when you have to sail back somewhere... A few hours of easterly breeze are expected this night though, and departure is set for 18:00.

The wind is weak and from North at start and we are moving slowly at 40 degrees from the direct route. No worries, that's going to change. We enjoy a quiet start on flat sea, watching the porpoises hunting in the stream.

Calm sunset tonight, it's not yet 20:00...
The night is beautiful, calm with a cloudless sky and rather warm. The wind turns as planned, even a little more than expected, so that around 01:00 we decide to send up the big spinnaker. This is routine, we know the drill. The spinnaker is hoisted at the top of the mast, there is nothing left to do but pull up the snuffer so that the spinnaker inflates. The snuffer is stuck a little, but it happens: it is usually enough to pull hard... So we pull, a little harder. Harder and harder... The spinnaker stays stuck in the snuffer – but the halyard carabiner opens! And splash, one spinnaker in the water ...

We recover the spinnaker quite easily (still not too windy luckily!) and we manage to put it back together in some kind of order and into its bag. On the other hand the halyard is still dangling open at the top of the mast, taunting us. There are only 5 knots of wind, a flat sea, a very clear night: we decide to go for it and climb up the mast to pull it back. The climb is easy (the mast is short ...) and the halyard is soon down without problem.

Ok, so what now? The wind has headed a little but we send the big spinnaker back up regardless – to dry it a little if for nothing else. To our surprise it goes up smoothly, never better! Maybe it just needed a bath...

Approaching - once more - Sweden, with the asymmetrical spinnaker
Around 0300 we switch for asymmetrical spinnaker, more adapted to our course (almost abeam). There we go, a long and beautiful 6-hour run pushed by the current and with a few gliding runs as the wind increases to force 4 in the early morning.

The weather forecast said it would blow until 1100. At 1045 the spi is pitifully hanging down like wet laundry and we have to turn on the engine for the last 3 miles.  This is only 3 miles though, and we are impressed by how accurate the forecast was!
We are back to an archipelago with many possibilities of moorings: so let’s find a beautiful rock where to tie up Saltimbanque’s bow. Unfortunately, our habit of getting closer to rocks catches up with us this time: we come a little bit too close during our approach and scratch the keel. Nothing serious as we were going slowly ... just dents in the paint. But this is the first time we hit ground with Saltimbanque and we are sad.

Scalded by the failed mooring, we resort to the safer option of the visitor buoy in the middle of the bay. It is meant for members of the Swedish boating association - but we are off-season and alone ...

Saltimbanque, alone in the bay...

We suppose these are mouflons
A much needed nap later, we become aware that the landscape around us is quite nice actually. Very different from the Baltic archipelagos, higher and with much fewer trees. The island is teeming with life. Some grazing mammals are the main features, which we will identify as mouflons. Plenty of geese around too, but also heather in bloom, and on the rocks of the seaside (o joy) periwinkles !!! We have really left the Baltic Sea ... by contrast, we now realize how different that ecosystem was from the open and salty seas which we are used to.

Mouflon, geese and stunning landscapes...

Periwinkles in the cockpit at what will be the last anchorage of the trip

4th September : Öckerö – Långedrag (20 NM)
Still no wind, let’s go and visit Gothenburg then. We will motor up all the way, in a flat calm.

Once again we are impressed by the differences with the Baltic Sea. There are fishing pots everywhere, fishing boats, seals... Trawling a line behind the boat is a guarantee of catching a mackerel for lunch (in 10 minutes tops). We’re busy watching the jellyfish when … black fins are coming closer ... Porpoises! A school of them, dancing around the boat! So happy!

Purpoises dancing through the mirror of water...

Granite, heather in bloom and large marina in the neighbourhood of Gothenburg
We are approaching Gothenburg now. The bays South of the channel are home to a gigantic marina offering over 4 basins with more than 550 places. The northernmost basin is open to visitors, who are welcome to take any place marked with a small green sign (not red). It’s a dolphins mooring system. 190 SEK (low season) to pay by app. Electricity is included, and even sauna! There is also a visitor harbor in the city center, much more expensive (310 SEK) it requires to go up the river facing the current over 5 miles. We will take the tram!

5th September : visiting Gothenburg (onshore)
Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden after Stockholm, known for its commercial port and university. Few ancient monuments, the city has developed in the 19th century and they chose the functional over the artistic. Gothenburg is appreciated for its quality of life and its atmosphere. In this gray morning of a September weekday, the atmosphere was hard to perceive… we had to force ourselves a bit to do credit to the center harbor and the opera. 
Gothenburg harbour, the 4-mast-barque "Viking", the building nicknamed "lipstick" and at the forefront, Evert Taube, you remember? The troubadour of Stockholm !

Nice atmosphere in the old streets of Haga
The city museum is very well done however, full of interesting facts about the region. When we come out, the sun is out, warming the outdoor cafes and giving the whole city a more attractive appearance. Our steps lead us from funny statues, to a botanical garden, a bastion standing on a granite hill (it's hilly here!), to a lively neighborhood of old typical houses (first floor in brick to comply with the anti-fire law, then upper floors in wood to house the increasing working-class population). We end the day with the maritime museum (of course, they have boats…we are not to be changed now!)

6th September : Långedrag – Lysekil (43 NM)
The weather is getting worse and worse. After days of flat calm, a series of gales is announced from Friday, leaving us with no obvious weather window to go home. We will have to fight to the end ...

Last day of dead calm then, but we must move forward. We motor along in the familiar skjaergård towards our former home port in Lysekil.

Also plenty of birds in the Bohuslän, sprinkled on the rocks of the channels

Marstrand fortress, very conspicuous landmark of the skjaergård
An easterly breeze allows us to sail for one hour South of Marstrand and to catch our daily mackerel before lunch. Then we go turn the engine on again. Finally a west-southwesterly breeze rises, perfect for our asymmetric spinnaker (it's really the favorite sail of this trip)! 
It falls at the entrance to the Gulholmen channels and Junior resumes his work. The channel is always so beautiful, especially in the bright light after a storm in the afternoon. 
Stormy light...

Fishing village on our way to Lysekil
The wind settles in the East again and we can sail, passing Grundsund then Lysekil, these places so familiar. The granite is very pink, as in Åland, but completely bare: no tree, no bush, hardly a little lichen. Maybe as a result of former fishing villages installation: houses are densely built together, concentrated on a few spots and not spread throughout the archipelago like in Stockholm. We rediscover our good old Bohuslan and we find it impressive, a little austere also in the early autumn.

The easterly wind is supposed to increase and we choose the northern port of Lysekil for shelter. Great choice, there is the only shower for visiting yachts in the city open in this season!


7th September : Lysekil (onshore)
From now on and until we reach our homeport in Oslo, our energy will be focused on one goal: to identify weather windows that allow us to get home on time and in one piece, playing hide and seek with the low pressures swiping the coast in the next days. Easier to write than to do. What is an acceptable weather window? Where is the limit? When sailing offshore it is often possible to run away in front of the wind, pushed by the storm for days if necessary. The challenge there is to manage to sleep, take care of the equipment and know how to cope in case of problems. In coastal navigation, there is always a rocky shore close by: it is imperative to be able to luff, to pass over the waves and to follow a precise course in order to avoid it. The slightest problem can translate into a significant risk of being driven aground.

So we watch the weather reports, nervously, we study the wind and the sea in a state of increasing stress as time passes... The difficulty is not really the sailing itself, as much as judging the level of acceptable risk, and making the decision to leave – or not...

Today Friday, the wind is easterly, blowing force 7 offshore. It blows from the shore and therefore the immediate surroundings of Lysekil are relatively calm and the sea is flat. But what about a little further? We could sail to Smögen, which is ill-sheltered from East, but then all the next harbors are upwind. Unless we take the Sote channel, which cuts through the granite islands north. Yes but it is oriented towards the North-East, maybe the wind will be funnelled in, too strong for us to motor against it? Our engine is only 10 CV...
A weather window of a few hours, associated with the wind veering south is forecast tonight. We decide to wait and spend the day watching the sailboats at sea, wondering anxiously if it was the right decision...

On the bright side, the coast here is absolutely stunning and we enjoy walking around the typical huge pink rocks.

Weather interrogations from the pink baren granite of Lysekil
8th September : Lysekil – Fjällbacka (27 NM)
Alarm set at 0200, departure at 0300 to take the weather window identified the day before. The wind seems very strong, but maybe because it has veered south and so we are less protected.

We start with the engine in a damp, cloudy, moonless night, in a word: dark! Skjaergårds rocky islets are perfect for breaking the waves, but they are not very well lit and in the darkness it is harder to navigate than usual.

The wind is strong, about 25 knots. Laure is watching in the front, peering into the dark to see if there are fishing pots to avoid - Camille is at the helm. We have half a mile to sail upwind before joining a lit channel and being able to bear away. It's blowing hard. We are wet, and we are shaken by the surprisingly choppy and strong waves. It is difficult to progress, the wind is more south-west than south and we are dead into it. The engine is not strong enough, we are stuck on the spot. A southwesterly wind will also be a problem afterwards because we will be upwind instead of being abeam.

This will not work ... we decide to turn around and return to the harbor. Let's go and sleep for one hour, at 0600 it will be daylight at least...

Not only we have day light, but it's actually sunny ! It changes the world...
With the day, all the passages between the rocks can be used and we can hope to reach Smögen before the next gale arrives (35 knots, that's a force 8, expected from noon). So we set off with the front sail only, in a wind still from the south-west, which seems however a little softer than a few hours ago.

The good point of the strong wind is that we sail fast, especially when the current also is with us. It is not yet 0800 when we reach Smögen. We phone the gatekeeper of the Sote Canal swing bridge to inquire about the conditions: the southwesterly wind does not funnel in, it is safe to sail and the bridge will be open for us. This convinces us to continue through the unknown channel. There is still 4 hours before the next forecasted gale…
Past the Kungshamn High Bridge, this is a different world. The small passage between the rocks and the narrow channel is extremely well protected, to the point that we need to turn on the engine sometimes to help the sails and make a reasonable speed. What a contrast with the open sea that we see washed with white waves in the distance! We pass rocks, then fields, then “hytte”, and 3 Swedish ladies bathing in the sea who shout out "good day".

Once behind the swing bridge, we can shelter in Hunnebostrand. But it is only 0900, another 3 hours of manageable weather. The next port is 12M… it’s a bit tight but doable, especially inside the skjaergård where we will be protected. So we continue.

Entering the Sote canal

We'll have to come back to explore this area of the Bohuslän properly, now we are passing through in a whirlwind way... litterally !
And once again we are amazed by the shelter provided by the rocky islands. We motor-sail most of the route (engine+genoa), so as not to maintain a good speed in the lee of the many islands. Clouds are gathering in the south, the first squalls seem to be over Lysekil now...

Hoping to arrive in time, we don’t enjoy the beautiful scenery as much as we should. We’ll have to come back! One last turn, we leave a big black cloud to starboard and two seals to port: we enter into Fjällbacka harbor.
This port - very picturesque - is extremely popular in summer (and overpriced! In September it is more reasonable, but still 250 SEK!). Off-season it's quiet! People are ignoring the stern buoys and just moor alongside. We choose the best spot near the showers and as close as possible to the huge granite cliff. 45 minutes later, the wind gusts and the clouds break into a shower of hail! Actually, we can only assume that the wind is blowing, because sheltered as we are by the cliff, the water is flat as a mirror!
Fjällbacka off-season during a gale from the South-East

Pizza with a view over Saltimbanque
We are torn between the relief of being safe and having progressed, and again the stress of finding the next weather window. The constant deluge is turning the cliff into a waterfall. Between two squalls we sneak out to grab a pizza. September is rainy in Scandinavia!


9th September : Fjällbacka –Vikerhavn (30 NM)
A new but intense and probably stormy gale is expected in the night, after midnight. But the current gale is supposed to decrease before 1500. So in theory we have 9 hours of force 4 to 5 between the two systems: we’ll have to take it, small steps…

In the morning we have a coffee and a nice chat with friends from Oslo, visiting their family cottage for the weekend. They will be back to the city in a matter of hours, they have a car… for us it will be a bit more humid !

Humid we said ?
Departure at 1430. The wind is firmly South and we sail downwind with genoa alone, gliding between the rocky shores. Some passages are a little less protected and give us a glimpse of the 2m high waves raging outside. The swell is longer than in the Baltic Sea, it is not the Atlantic yet but it is already more pleasant!

We stay inside and between the rocks as much as possible. Very good choice: the wind is still (around 20 knots, more in gusts…) but the sea is flat and we are running fast! At regular intervals a curious seal comes out and shows its pointy nose next to the boat, to see who are these weirdos still on the water at this time of the year.

Nope ! Actually we'll have a bright sun ! Laure even had to use her "nose-hat" :oD
Leaving the skjaergård, we pass inside the Koster Islands, where there is over 200m sea depth. The current reaches over 1 knot here, it helps! The wind was supposed to decrease at 2000. But we have the impression that it increases rather, and we take in a little of the genoa.

With more than 5.5 knots average, we reach Vikerhavn by daylight. We have the genoa up and furled quite a bit. A big catamaran comes in just before us, to take shelter behind the stone jetty of this small harbour.
We run into the basin, pushed by the wind and waves. We only have to turn around and motor upwind for 20m to the jetty. Yes, but the gusts are strong (25-30 knots). The sea may be flat, Junior does not manage. Full speed, we are stuck on the spot. Between 2 gusts we manage to progress a few meters, enough to be a little sheltered by the jetty and finally get Laure on the dock with a mooring line. Phew!

The crew of the freshly moored catamaran comes to help: the water is shallower along the jetty than on our map (1.5m of water further inside the jetty), we have to pull back a little outside to find 2m. This is good enough, we are moored, with 6 lines and all our fenders out.

We look at each other, a little shaky. We look at the weather reports. 40 knots (force 8-9) from the South tonight, veering southwest at the end of the night. Tomorrow Monday 20-25 knots (force 6) from southwest blowing 30 (force 7) in the afternoon. Tuesday 40 knots from west. Wednesday 40 knots from west. Thursday maybe 20 knots southwest, and probably quite a swell. We fall asleep with no idea of when or how we will manage to get out of here. We are awakened at 0400 by howling gusts shaking the mast and a torrential rain.

10th September : Vikerhavn – Naersnes (51 NM)
No sooner we open one eye, then we turn it to our smartphone to watch the weather files. 20-25 knots from southwest expected this morning, then 30 from 1600, but only south of Oslo Fjord. It could be ok, we hurry to get up and get dressed to watch out at the sea and get a feeling of the waves. The wind has veered southwest already and the harbor is better sheltered: we should be able to get out. Then we have 3 miles to go upwind and then we can bear away towards the Oslo Fjord. We need to leave now, in order to make it before the afternoon. It is tempting to try. We can always go back to the harbor if it doesn’t work.

We set off with 2 reefs and the jib. It is going well actually, the wind is less strong than it seemed, we tack without problems and the first squall washing over us is wet but not windy. Running downwind, rocked by the 2m high well from the beam, we remember that Saltimbanque is a strong boat meant for high seas and long swell. After sailing in a closed sea for so long we had forgotten. We are happy when we enter the Oslo Fjord.

Saltimbanque sailing with 2 reefs and the jib, approaching the first islands of the Oslo fjord

Drøbak's channel, we are happy to be reaching !
Running downwind through the fjord, pushed by the current, we are constantly sailing at more than 6 knots, sometimes 7. We fly through these familiar waters: Hankø, Moss-Horten and its ferries, on to the Drøbak sound. The wind begins to rise as expected, but contrary to the forecast, it doesn’t not stop at the fjord. It is actually funneled in the narrow sound. We swap the sails: from 2 reefs+jib, we turn to the genoa, a little furled up to start with. Then more furled up. Then almost entirely furled up. The wind is peaking over 30 knots in the narrow narrow Drøbak channel. The sea is flat however and we are running safe and fast.
Our maps show a harbor that seems perfectly sheltered from the south-west just behind the islands of Drøbak. We hope that the wind will calm down a bit for the arrival. To our relief the high islands offer a complete shelter from the wind outside, and we suddenly find ourselves in a little 15 knots - which seems like flat calm!

We can finally look around us: it's nice here! The land around is very high compared to all that we have seen for the last 4 months! And dark green with pine forests! And there we see it in the distance, a familiar silhouette between the islands: OSLO !!! The Tryvann hill and its ski resort, our city is a dear sight :oD  It means that we are home after these 4 months. We are happy, and relieved after the stress of recent days ... Almost there, in good time - we did it! We completed our Baltic loop!

OSLO !!! We didn't believe we would make it the night before, and tadaaaa here we are !!!
The last night of this trip is spent in the harbor of Naersnes. No service at all for visiting yachts, but no place to pay a fee either… we took what seemed to be a free berth and nobody told us anything!

11th September : Naersnes – Oslo (11 NM)

Fornebu! Saltimbanque is getting very close to the finish line...

It is raining cats and dogs today, but this should stop at 1600. Perfect timing, this is when most people leave the office. We are aiming to arrive at Lysaker Brygge, the wharf located in the business district West of Oslo - just out of the windows of Camille's office.

We set off in a variable wind of 10 to 15 knots, while it is blowing more than 40 knots outside the fjord ... So yes, it's pouring rain and we are drenched and cold, but we are so happy to have made it inside that nothing could wipe away this wide grin from our face.
At 16:05 we arrive on the jetty, greeted by Camille’s colleagues waving at the windows. Some come down to the dock to see our proud boat back in good condition from this long and beautiful trip. Thank you all for the welcome committee and for making our arrival memorable!

There is 1 mile left to reach our berth. It's only 15 minutes, and here we are, back home.

Saltimbanque made it to Lysaker, with all the courtesy flags on the backstay, actually NOT flying in the wind as we are - YESSS - very well sheltered from the force 9 gale now blowing outside :oD :oD
This is the end of an adventure, as our other life will soon resume – our life onshore. Soon we will not look at the weather forecasts every 3 hours, we will eat at a fixed time and we will wear dry clothes every day...

(And once the boat is tidy and all the laundry is done, we swear, we will add an epilogue to conclude this story!)

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Your messages:

Sylvia - 22/09/2018 20:15:47
Welcome back home!

Kariine - 19/09/2018 23:14:18
Bienvenue à terre les aventurières ! Encore un joli morceau de terre ou plutôt de mer que vous ajoutez à votre compteur découverte.... Et du rêve en plus à notre compteur à nous ! Bises.

Marcello !!!! - 17/09/2018 13:55:42
Mais que du bonheur à vous lire !!! j'ai deux regrets...; celui de ne pas avoir été caché enfoui dans la soute pour partager ces moments...; et celui de ne pas avoir pris plus de temps pour papoter avec vous!!!! bon..... au prochain périple... promis...; je ne loupe rien.... euh.... vous pouvez m'aménager la soute???? grosses bises à vous deux...; trois en comptant Saltimbanque !!!!

SuDad - 16/09/2018 18:43:40
Magistral, ce récit de votre retour à la maison ! Ce livre de bord tient ses promesses: on suit les péripéties, les coups de vent, les pensées, au fur et à mesure. Le film avec les marsouins donne l'impression que vous les avez briefés pour qu'ils sachent où nager, avec une petite note de fantaisie devant l'étrave.
Ce dernier chapitre illustre les incertitudes, les tensions, les enjeux, liés à la météo, et les efforts et la fatigue qui en découlent. Une atmosphère qui clôt bien le happy end, avec le suspense parfait d'une fin de spectacle. Une fois encore, votre odyssée est exemplaire. Vous aurez l'occasion de remettre votre réputation en jeu, la prochaine fois. Commençons à attendre.
Bravo, Saltimbanque, et merci à son équipage !!! ^^

Mum - 16/09/2018 18:29:08
Bravo pour ce retour mouvementé et merci encore à Saltimbanque d'être fidèle et sur ! merci beaucoup à vous deux de nous avoir fait rêver par les photos ,les films et les récits bon courage pour la reprise

la mamou - 16/09/2018 18:12:19
plein d'émotions à vous lire ... merci pour ces beaux récits
ici c'est encore l'été , la grosse dep devrait finalement passer en mer d’Irlande
bonne "rentrée" !!!

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