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Around Kattegat
-- 9 to 24 July 2016  --
After an express sailing in Danish and Swedish waters last year, we get back to the Kattegat to explore it in further details. We also add a new capital city to Saltimbanque's name: Copenhaguen!

More Danish and Swedish pictures in our page "Pictures".

450 miles sailed

Our stops, click on the names for more details:
Grundsund (marina) - Öckerö (marina) - Lerkil (marina) - Varberg (marina) - Rungsted (marina) - Ven (marina) - Copenhaguen (marina) - Helsingør (marina) - Torekov (marina) - Læsø (marina) - Skagen (marina) - Söholmen (anchorage) - Danholmen (anchorage) - Lilla Kornö (pocket port)
9 July : Lysekil Bastevik – Grundsund (8M)
The boat is now a 2h30 drive from home, and right after our day of work on that Friday we are already in holidays on Saltimbanque! We quickly prepare the boat before going to bed. Indeed first day of holidays also means first gale this year ! 35 knots of wind forecasted on Saturday afternoon, we plan for an early start and a short navigation.
We start beating against the wind as we normally do, using our jib, more practical for tight tacks in between the rocks. 2 hours later in a wind which already picks up, we enter the fishing harbour of Grundsund that we picked for our first stop. There are still many available spots at lunch time, and we moor bow to the quay and stern on a laid rope. As there is no tide here the mooring techniques are the same as in the Mediterranean Sea !
Grundsund,  a good shelter !

Wild roses, typical from the Baltic shores
The wind starts picking up, but we are admirably sheltered, right on the lee of a high island. We have no issue leaving Saltimbanque while we go and visiting the surroundings. 1 year already that we are based in Sweden, but the landscapes still appeal a lot to us. In between the round and pink rocks we find sometimes a bay with crystal clear waters, sometimes a channel where a few sailboats are rushing to a shelter before the gale, sometimes a string of rocks where the sea bursts into a cloud of foam. We walk to the lighthouse of Islandsberg that we reach by a full gale: we can hardly stand up ! We get sheltered behind the tower to get a glimpse of the natural show...
Back to the silence of the boat, still ideally sheltered. A big snake enjoys the sun on the quay, right above the water, quite unusual...
We checked, it's just a grass snake
10 July : Grundsund – Öckerö (46M)

Sailing along the rocks
The wind has dropped as quickly as it had picked up and we soon hoist all the sails in the Sunday morning. The swell though is still here, making our progression painful. We decide to cut short through the rocks to start with, motoring during 1 hour against the wind, but the shortcut is worth it.

When out of the Gullholmen channel we switch Junior off and start tacking against a 10 knot wind and under a grey sky. We hit the swell from the day before and hardly reach 4 knots. When we tack, it becomes evident that we have a good knot of current in the face. Our speed falls down to 3 knots and we do not make progress. It's no tide stream, no hope that its direction would change in 6 hours. And guess what ? Now it rains...
We are hardly a few miles offshore, but we are alone, not a single sailboat close to us. Yet all the marinas are full. When looking closely, we spot the sail boats along the coast, very close to the rocks. The shore of the Bohuslän - this area of Sweden - is bordered by rocks and small islands, creating very narrow but navigable channels. We call this the « Skjærgård » (litterally "field of rocks"), and the boats here have no intention to get out of them to sail offshore !

Comorants and geese

Landscape in the Skjærgård
Given the swell and current conditions, we decide to do like the locals and find calmer waters in the rocky maze. The wind helps us by a few degrees and we can sail in between Ramholmen and Bussholmen. And so changes the world: the sea is flat, the landscape of raw granite is fantastic, here a colony of seals, here a jumping porpoise, we can't number the cormorants and the oyster catchers... Our heading is much better in calm waters and even the current looks weaker except for the narrowest passages. Saltimbanque's hull is very clean (it must be the water temperature...) and we glide at over 6 knots in the Skjærgård…

We stop for a few hours in Öckerö to let some lightening storms getting away with the night.

11 July : Öckerö – Lerkil (21M)
The wind is supposed to pick up quite a lot in the afternoon and we would be glad to progress a bit. Let's wake up at 3am then and leave with the day light a bit before 4. We realise that we are already much further South than home, it is actually dark at night here !
We beat against the wind to get out of the Skjærgård as the wind is still desperately blowing from the South, still facing the current, then tack and tack in the great channel of Göteborg. We still manage to sail in between 2 islands just to stay tuned.

The wind is handable, sailing with mainsail and jib, and Laure goes in to have a few minutes of rest. She has hardly closed her eyes that the wind picks up. We take the first reef, then the second reef, and we prepare the 3rd one as we now reach a good 25 knots of real wind. The sea is covered with white puffs.

We get the latest weather forecasts: none plans for so much wind so early in the morning, but all the models see it getting stronger in the afternoon. It seems like the gale is a bit ahead of schedule... What is the closest harbour ? Lerkil, 4NM on portside ? We keep our 2 reefs and pull the tiller by 10 degrees.

The end of the Skjærgård
The follows half an hour at 6-7 knots constantly and we arrive in the small harbour of Lerkil. The swedish neighbour asks us for the wind force outside. We do not have any anemometer, but we explain that we were on the verge to take the 3rd reef, so probably 25. He turns away without a word and with a weird face, leaving us a bit perplex. We will understand later that if we from southern Europe naturally use knots to talk about the wind force, Scandinavians only use meters per seconds ! Our 25 - knots - have been understood as 25 m/s, which is 50 knots ! Not surprising that the neighbour thought we were totally mythomaniac ! We also meet a Belgian fellow based in Zeeland, who took the summer off to discover Scandinavia. The vast majority of the boats we meet are from Scandinavia, to which you add about 10% of Germans. We find a few lost Dutchs but that's it. We are out of the Brits' territory.

The landscape has already changed, flatter, greener
In Lerkil, there is... nothing ! We then decide to walk for a few kilometers to check that nature reserve further North. Nice landscapes which are already different from the ones of our port where granite rules without sharing. There are still a few rocks of course, but we start seeing meadows, shallow bays, swamps. The reserve hosts various animals, birds, cows, but also snakes and adorable ticks: we will spend the entire evening to remove them from our clothes... Finally there is no more drama and the topic is closed the next morning.

12 July : Lerkil – Varberg (32M)
The wind struggles to drop this morning and we decide to stay longer in bed ! We leave at 13h30 with a manageable 5b which makes us powerful enough to pass through the swell. There is no more rock here, we have to face the sea... The wind has veered a bit to the South-West and we can sail on a direct course ! Great News !
Second great news, all the more that it was totally inexpected: we have the current with us. We sail over 6 knots and the sun almost shines. We left the port thinking we would have a shaky and rainy evening, and we hardly had time to enjoy the conditions that we already arrive in Varberg, only 5 big hours after we left !

Then we can even visit the citadelle and the small town of Varberg. We enjoy the idea of having an ice cream, but it's still quite chilly...

Arrival in Varberg
13 July : Varberg – Rungsted (78M)
No gale forecasted for several days, we can finally sail without stopping ! Let's head to the Sound, the channel in between Denmark and Sweden in the middle of which we find Copenhaguen, the Danish capital city, most southern objective of our summer cruise.

Entering the Sound, view of the Swedish side
We beat to get out of the channel, then bear away slightly towards the South, direct course to the entrance of the Sound. Bob steers, the sun shines and Saltimbanque sails fast at close to 6 knots. The current is still with us in a manner that we do not explain but that we do enjoy !

The shore line of Sweden gets lower, further, and comes back as a high rocky head: this is already the entrance of the Sound ! For sure when you sail at 6,5 knots over the ground everything goes faster... but the distances are also shorter than we thought.
The wind drops slowly at the end of this day, the sun sinks very slowly over the horizon, the sea gets flat. We pull the tiller to the entrance of the Sound. A bit of cosy music (Pink Martini) as we sail along the Helsingør fortress which inspired Shakespeare for Hamlet. Evening of an intense poetry... We also change the courtesy flag: we are in Denmark !

The wind turns in our favour slowly and we reach Rungsted at 2am on a perfectly calm water. We can sleep for a few hours.

Maritime poetry...
14 July : Rungsted – Ven (5M)

Ven, Swedish but flat like Denmark right on the other side
In the middle of the Sound we find the small island of Ven, Swedish, which looks particularly interesting. But the guides are very clear: the harbour is totally packed in the high season. We decide to use the strategy that had already worked in Grundsund: arriving around 10-11 am when all the boats who have spent the night there will leave for their day at sea.

We leave at 8am in a wind which has dropped a lot. Where are our usual 20 knots ? It's an easy 3b from the West that let us jumping up the large spinneaker to sail the 5NM that lead to the cute little island.
Correction, the VERY cute little island ! The streets are full of flowers, the yellow fields reflect the grey sky and the red houses. It's very bucolic. We visit the ruins of Tycho Brahe's observatory. This great astronomer from the 16th century falls in between Copernic and Kepler in the history of astral science. Scandinavian - thus accomodating - he can concede to the first one that the other planets turn around the Sun - but not the Earth! It stays in the center of the universe, the Sun turns around it, and the other planets around the Sun. Thanks to the support of the Danish king (who liked horoscopes...), Tycho Brahe maintains during about 30 years a small society very advanced in science of the time in his castle on Ven. Then the King dies, and his heir is not found of the influence of such communities. So he seizes the castle. Tycho Brahe leaves in exile in Praha, and dies there from a bursted bladder the legend has, in the antechamber of a king who liked to have his visitors waiting a bit too much...


The view from the terrasse :o)
Back to the boat, but not before walking all around the island. Laure takes the time to jump in the water, first swimm of the holidays ! She is blue when she gets out, it is so nice over the yellow fields...

Back to the harbour in the evening, we gaze at the sunset lights on a magnificent stormy sky.


15 July: Ven – Copenhague (14M)
It's hardly 15 NM to the Danish capital city, we can already see the chimneys of the factories on the horizon. The wind blows from the North-West at about 15 knots and the trip is just a matter of a few eventless hours. In the middle of the morning we turn around the small fortress at the entrance of the canal and head to a small marina in the city center. More precisely right by the little mermaid ! The statue (ordered by the owner of the Carlsberg brewery as a tribute to Andersen's tale) is a bit disappointing: very small, close to shore, and mostly lost in a continuous flow of tourists. But we like the symbol: after London, Amsterdam, Lisbon, here is one more European capital for Saltimbanque :o)
The famous little mermaid and... the famous little Saltimbanque !

The old town Copenhaguen
We had hoped that in this large city of the South (everything is relative...), the blue gaz bottle CampingGaz (butane) would be easy to swap. Further up North, we only find propane. We load the empty bottles we want to get rid of in the backpack, cross the canal to the largest shipchandler of the town. It's hopeless, they would not buy our empty bottles back. Well let's keep them... we will go back to Brittany one day or another...
But for now: let's visit the new city !
The local city bikes are electric ! With a touch screen and a GPS of course... What a luxury ! We can bike the beautiul city without getting tired.

Controlling the maritime traffic gave much wealth to the Danes from the 15th to the 18th century. Beautiful palaces, many barracks and nice towers remains from this golden age. Today, Copenhaguen is rather a young and dynamic city, full of art, music, restaurants, bars... and bikes !

16 July: Copenhague – Helsingør  (22M)

The famous squat of Christiana
Our - electric - wheels carries us onto Christiania this morning. This district of Copenhaguen, on the other side of the canal, is a "micro-state" self-declared independant since 1971. Previously a military barrack now abandoned, it has been colonized by a band of hippies, peace and love smoker types. The authorities tolerate it as long as it stays in this area (the sellers on the streets wear masks not to be identified on toursists' pictures). Outside of the main street a bit artificial, the atmosphere seems more authentic, the colorful sheds surprise us in the woods along the canal.
But it is already time to leave again (the fully-booked marina doesn't joke with departure time !) We get out of the canal, turn again around the fortress... and we sail to the North !
We wanted to see Copenhaguen, we have seen Copenhaguen :o)
And now... let's get back home!

Enjoyable short navigation, on a direct course on calm waters for once, beam reaching in 25 knots of wind decreasing... Everything goes well until we reach the Helsingør castle, and want to switch the engine on.... but nothing! A small boat sailing by helps us getting in the closest berth. After a few attempts, Junior wakes up... but we are now keeping a serious eye on him!
The walls of Hamlet's castle shine under the sunset. This fortress was built around 1420, to collect the tax imposed by the Danish king on the maritime traffic through this very narrow passage linking the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. This tax was only suppressed in 1857, after a few dozen years of insisting diplomacy from the British. We can still see one of Nelson's canon ball in the roof apparently...

To be or not to be... in Hamlet's castle !
17 July: Helsingør – Torekov (30M)
Navigation in these nordic waters is full of surprises. In particular, an ever revewed surprise is the direction of the current. As there is no tide as such, the current follows its own weird laws under dark influences, function of the atmospheric pressures in the North Sea and in the Baltic Sea, of the salinity, of the wind of course... and finally only the Murphy law wins: it's always facing us whatever our direction :o)
(Actually the Danish website http://www.dmi.dk/en/hav/# has perfect current charts, but we didn't know about them yet at that point)

At sea...
Anyway, in this nice morning so much water wanted to enter the Sound while we were trying to get out of it, that we need 45 minutes to make the 400 meters between the marina and the first buoy. No choice, we call Junior for help, and it starts perfectly well this morning.

We stay very close to the shore to avoid the strongest stream of current, and after one hour under engine power we can sail again, against the wind of course as it is turning to the North-West. Looks like the wind follows the same rule as the current...

The rest of the trip is done quietly, all sails up sometimes sailing close to 7 knots, and we make it to Torekov at the end of the afternoon. Nice seaside town whose roses are blown away by the insisting wind.


18 July: Torekov – Læsø (86M)
And here we go for the longuest navigation of the holidays ! Almost 24h, what a performance !

We leave beating against the wind of course, as this is our destiny... The sea is still painful when beating as, in this closed sea basin the swell created by the wind is short and choppy. The swell period hardly reaches 5 seconds and regularly a serie of 3 waves higher than the others litterally stops the boat. But after more than a week at sea, we are used to it and laure is not even sick ! Well, Camille still has to be in charge of preparing the mackerel we just fished...

The wind was forecasted right in our face, but to our outmost surprise we can almost sail on a direct course. Bob steers, we just need to focus on the various manoeuvres: take one reef, release one reef, take one reef etc.

The night slowly falls - not totally yet though - and the wind drops almost totally in a big and very (very !) wet squall right in the middle of the cargo rail. A few desperate manoeuvres of swaping the jib to the genoa, tacking etc. free us from the danger. The last drops of wind bring us closer the port of Østerby on the island of Læsø, then die. Junior has to escort us to the quay side. The harbour is full and it is 6am: we stop alongside the first sailboat we can find and sleep for a few hours.

8am: toc toc toc. It's the harbour master, in his morning check, making sure everyone is ready to play the "musical berths" game. It's a game with compulsory participation in July in the fully packed harbours from Norway to Denmark: the boats are piled alongside one to another on up to 8 rows sometimes, for the night. At 8am sharp, everyone turns the engine on, those who want to leave do so, the others just go for a short trip on the outer harbour and come back to the quay side. We can fit many large boats in a small place - it's only a matter of organisation :o)
8h15: we are in the end of the harbour, alongside only one boat, a beautiful Danish X-boat 36. We are probably the 2 smallest boats of the port... a quick shower and hop, let's get back to bed !

11h: The strong Danish sun is already high in the sky when we get out of the cabin. The camping near by rents out bike. Our program for the day is easy to draft: let's bike all around the island !

Early morning... errr afternoon ride !

House with roof made out of algaes
Læsø is a large pancake of about 20 km long, covered with forests of pine and grass fields ("atchoum!" confirms Camille). The South of the island dissolves itself in the sea over dozen of km2, it's a huge swamp covered with pasturelands and the largest salt marsh of Scandinavia.

The salt museum tells the story of this ancestral wealth. The water from the ground comes up, filtered by the unique rocks of the island, and reaches the surface with a concentration of up to 15%. Then, well we just need to evaporate the water of course ! As the sun is not always sufficient, the Danes built large tanks of water heated with wood oven. The water boiled slowly and the salt crust formed, was harvested, and new crust formed etc. All the water disappears in about 7 days.
During the Middle-Age, over a thousand of these little ovens for water were in service, leading to the total deforestation of the island, and the king had to put this to an end in the 16th century.
Back to the boat, we realise that the new boats piled so well that there is a triple wall of boats between us and the open sea... Well, we just have to trust the harbour master's efficiency tomorrow morning !

Game: find Saltimbanque's mast
20 July: Læsø – Skagen (30M)

Yes !! We finally fly the spi !!!
8am sharp: broum broum... all hands on deck, ready to manoeuvre.
8:20: we are out, without even a scratch :o)
And here we go towards to North-West, no much wind this morning... Junior does the job, thanks. We meet a cute seal in the shallows in the North of the Island. It's at least very sunny and warm ! Slowly a breeze blows up. Oh not very strong but... from the South ! And hop here is our large spinneaker blue and yellow proudly pulling Saltimbanque towards the end of the end of the Danish peninsula. 20 NM with the spi, it's been a while... We approach the European continent slaloming in between the many cargo ships and tankers anchored there.

See, Skagen has been praised to us by all Scandinavians like the must-see of any cruise in the area. Cute yellow houses and sandy beaches, people mention these charms with bright eyes. We are then much looking foward to discovering this paradise. From distance, we mostly see shapes of factories and cargo ships. But may be once in the harbour ?...
… and in there boom, an assault of decibels right in our face and gigantic fishing vessels generating big waves on the crowded quays. Alongside the harbour, many wine and beer shops clearly show what the dozens of big norwegian power boats are here for. (the difference in price must even pay back for the petrol...)

Music everywhere and many party-animals already not sober any longer. The main streets are indeed full of yellow houses, but also tourist shops and their associated tourists. In a word, a bit too much of a seaside resort for us!

Mmmmm, beautiful norwegian power boats...

After the lighthouse, this is the end of Denmark!
Once away from the very center, walking bare feet on the long beach, between dune and sea, we start enjoying the place. The water is warm enough not to resist a little plunge, the first one for Camille ! (and we don't even fear the -numerous- jelly fishes with our swimming glasses)


21 July: Skagen – Søholmen (37M)
The nicest sailing day of the holidays ! A perfect 10 kts wind from abeam, bright sun, flat water and many sails all around us. The crossing to Sweden is only 35 NM, but we could sail days and days under these conditions... We even hoist the asymetrical spinneaker in the afternoon... pure happines of being on the water!

Easy sailing!!

Who said it was cold in Scandinavia ?
Back on the Swedish side with almost no wind, let's spend the night on our anchor like in the good old times in the Antilles... a small bay well sheltered, a good distance with the other boats, the anchor falls down, the chain follows, we jump in the water for a natural shower and admire the boat from the outside. We are just mising the lobsters...

22 July: Søholmen – Danholmen (18M)
This year the summer falls on a Friday, precisely this Friday. Great sun, more than 25°C, we plan to make the very most of it !

Our program is simple: sailing close to the rocks and try out baltic anchorages (one anchor in the stern and the bow on the rock). We start under power in the narrow channels as the wind has also left for holidays. A fishing line towed behind garantees a good-sized mackerel in less than 10 minutes, that's a done thing. The thermal breeze picks up slowly, hop just enough time to jump the spinneaker up ! Well, there are only 2 NM, but it's definitively more elegant !

The morning geese

Barbecue for lunch
Once in a large area of rocks, we sneak in with the help of our... mobile phone ! The scandinavian have free nautical charts on internet, we can't stop progress... Baltic-style anchorage then, not very comfortable as the keel almost touches the ground and the stern anchor doesn't hold. But we still have time to cook our mackerel on the barbecue and hunt some snails for the apetizers!
We are relieved to leave, ride a few extra miles with the engine, and drop the anchor in a beautiful and large open bay for the night.

What a great day of holidays !

Anchorage for the night
23 July: Danholmen - Lysekil Bastevik (17M)

The sailing highway...
In the skjærgård (=field of rocks if you remember well), there are rocks, many, and channels in between them. And in the channels, all the boats. As all the Swedes, Danes and Noggies have a boat and spend their holidays on the coast, the channels sometimes look like highways on busy days. The landscape is yet always beautiful, and we are happy to sail again in front of the small villlage of Gullholmen, that we had visited a couple of weeks before.
But right after, we take the first turn on the left and we get a bit more space outside of the channel. In the rocky crumbs outside of the archipelago, generous people have installed small pitons a bit everywhere. The objective is to bring the nose of the boat litteraly on the rock to attach a mooring line to the little pitons. This time our stern anchor holds well and we spend a few hours exploring the rocks.

The thermal breeze picks up in spite of the grey sky (yes after the summer, here comes the automn!), and we can actually sail out of the archipelago, along colonies of seals. The wind drops again at the end of the afternoon, and we get back to our home port ater 2 weeks and 445 NM of sailing,

Anchored with the nose on the rock... litterally !!
24 July: sailing around Lysekil (3M)

Lilla Kornö, pocket port just facing our home port
Last day of the holidays, let's not get sad ! The sun shines despite the lack of wind and we head to the rocks in front of our home port to train for baltic anchorages. A manoeuvre almost perfect, but the stern anchor still doesn't hold... We wonder how the locals can be so confident with this manoeuvre... Most of the boats just land on any rock and hammer their own pitons in the cracks of the rocks. Some even land alongside the rock !

We leave again and stop for a few hours at Lilla Kornö, a very cute pocket port. A last swim, and we head back home.

Finally it's been holidays in 2 parts: 10 days of fresh wind with none the less fresh temperatures to sail long distances, then 5 days of calm and warm weather to enjoy the anchorages ! When do we leave again ?....
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