From Stockholm to Poland 2017

Leaving Stockholm on July 30, 2017

Isabell sailing south 2017

The original plan was to sail down to the islands of Gotland (SE), Bornholm (DK), to Polish coastal harbours, to Klaipeda (LT) and back to Stockholm. As shown in the map on this picture. Our trip started from Bullandö Marina on Sunday July 30th. The wind blew from the south and was very unstable. We started with one reef in the main. What we did not know then was that we would be reefing down most of the trip. Winds varied from storm down to stiltje during the whole tour. Our first night on board was spent at an anchorage at Braka island in the Stockholm archipelago. We are on our way!

Preliminary harbours we will visit are Burgsvik on Gotland, then Svaneke and Nexø on Bornholms eastern coast, from there we sail to Poland, town of Kolobrzeg, on to Darlowo, then Ustka, Leba, Wladyslawowo, Hel, Gdynia, and Gdansk. Somewhere along the way we are meeting up with family who are out roaming the Polish coast with a camper. From Gdansk we will try and sail north by northeast to the port of Klaipeda in Lithuania. From there we either sail home via Gotland (Fårön) or via Latvian ports. We will see where the wind blows once we get there.

Anchorage at Gotska Sandön July 31, 2017

During the evening the wind picks up and we are slowly getting used to the rough sea, and beating into the wind with reefed main and small staysail. Though, so therefore we decide to tuck in on the leeward side of Gotska Sandön, an island that does not have any jetties. But there is a sandy, deep inlet on the northeastern point of the island, at Kyrkviken. We find it in the dark, partly with the help of our AIS monitor that shows other boats already anchored there. Here we get a good nights rest after 88 NM of tacking.

Beating our way to Fårön August 1st

And we are on our way bright and early in the morning. At daylight the anchor comes up and we sail east around the island of Gotska Sandön. The wind is still south by southwest. As we come around the southeastern tip the wind dies down and heavy rainclouds are growing ahead. We try to motorsail as far west as we can get, and most of the storm goes past us in the east. Thankful for that, we sail south by southwest, meaning we are still hauling close. Understandable as to why, we are quite alone on the sea. Late in the evening we reach our destination, the harbour of Lauterhorn. Press in Isabell at the nock of one of the jetties. It is crowded, but we are happy to find a spot. Raining all night, we are glad to have a roof over our heads and get a good nights sleep.

Gotland, here we come

In the morning we visit the little library where sailors can exchange books free of charge. We had a bunch of pocket books aboard, that are now in the library shelves. And we took a few new books so we have new reading materials. After breakfast we cast off, and use the sanitary pump in Lauterhorn harbour to clean out our septic tank. Then we are ready to go. We sail down to Gotland on the 2nd of August. Wind is from the southeast. First about 15 knots wind, and as we go along, it starts gusting between 15 and 25 knots. When we are crossing the mouth of a large inlet to the town of Kappelshamn, the wind picks up to gushes of over 30 knots (max 34). We put a second reef in the mainsail and continue south. But it is getting rougher and rougher on the sea surface. So we head into the bay and continue to beat down to the town of Kappelshamn. We find the harbour in the afternoon and decide to stay. Only a few boats here. Lucky, because it is a small harbour with only a few places for visiting boats. Still, the harbour is so shallow that we have to moor on the outside of a big german Hallberg Rassy. The older couple in the HR do not mind. They are also hiding from the big winds and are a bit stressed about the weather during the coming week. Not good news, since we are going the same way as they are.

The next day, the wind situation has not improved, so we decide to stay and wander about a bit. First we wander to the bird sanctuary east of town (see sign in picture). Find it, and climb the watchtower to see all the birds. We do not see any. They must be hiding for the weather. Sign the guestbook and continue our tour of the town. We walk along the main road westward and finally come to the bakery shop that sells fresh buns. We buy a few and head back to the harbour. The sun has come out, but it is still mighty windy. So we decide to follow the pebble beach along the southern edge of the high cliffs that go southwest from the town. We walk a few miles and find many fossilized stones. Eat our bread and drink coffee behind an old fishing shed (see picture), and then return to Isabell in time for dinner.

It is now Friday, the 4th of August. We have seen all there is to see, and are going to sail on. We cast off already at 0630 AM. At first sailing is fine, since we are in lew of the land-tongue that we have to come around. But we have one reef in the main and sail with tacking foresail up. As we come around the corner, we have two reefs in the main and reduced foresail even more. And the waves are higher that 3 meters (over 10 ft)and relatively short. Tough going, but we are slowly moving in on our next target, the small fishing village of Lickershamn. We can see it ahead almost the whole time, but beating is going slowly. We get into harbour and are tied up around midday. It feels like we have been at sea for three days, but actually it was not more than five and a half hours. This place is more lively that the former was. So here we can sit and wait out the weather.

Lickershamn, sheltered for low depression high winds

So here we are, behind the sea-wall of Lickershamn, a nice and tourist friendly fishing village with a well protected harbour. Only a stone throw away is Gotlands highest rauk (rock pile), the Virgin Stone. We have a place where they sell smoked fish in the harbour. What a feast. It is mostly sunny, but extremely windy, even in the rather sheltered bay around Lickershamn.

From here we wander the coastline both south and northeast. Beautiful! On the land-side of the town are several iron age settlements still visible in the landscape. When we arrive at the next village north of Lickershamn we find that the local restaurant on the beach recently burned down to the ground. It looks horrible. Now they serve food from a big tent set up next to a pile of black rubble on the beach.

Saturday we wandered the coast, and Sunday we get up early to take the buss into the major city of Visby, about 40 minutes away. It is Medieval Week, a very enjoyable arrangement in the walled city. We have a great day. Monday we wander some more. Then the wind becomes a bit less and we decide to continue south on Tuesday.

Visby again, this time by boat

On Tuesday, 8 August, we sail away from Lickershamn early in the morning and have decided to try and make it to the industrial harbour of Klintehamn along the western coast of Gotland. At first we are going at a good rate, fair wind from the south and little need for tacking. But as we proceed to sail southwest bound the wind turns to the southwest also and we have to tack back and forth. We are just outside Visby harbour at 1400 hours and decide to go into port at Visby. It is rather quiet in the harbour this time, a lot different from when the captain was here before. A nice young harbour master helped us to moor and gave us clear directions. We walked into town to have a good meal and wander about a bit more. A beautiful city this is. Always great to come back to.

Visby to Grönhögen Öland

We sail from Visby and have given up on our plans to sail directly to the southern tip of the island Gotland and then to Poland from there. The wind is just not helping us in that respect. We have changed our plans to try sailing to the southern tip of the island Öland, and from there to Bornholm instead.

At 9 AM on Wednesday August 9, we leave port at Visby and sail southwest by west in a very high sea, waves are breaking now and then and higher than 3 meters. The wind vane is steering without any problems, so we are getting somewhere. As time progresses the wind settles a bit (less uneven) and the waves become more pleasant. In the early morning of Thursday August 10 we sight Ölands coast in a fog. All of a sudden we pass a dinghy turned upside down in the sea. Scary! Monica is sleeping, but after a while I decide to waker her up and we discuss what to do. We agree we must notify Sweden Rescue. Captain calls Sweden Rescue and tells them about the position of the dinghy. After about 20 minutes a rescue helicopter swivels back and forth through the mist around the boat wreck. They do a fly over and then disappear after searching for about half an hour. We continue south and get to Grönhögen late in the evening of Thursday, after dark. Lucky they have an excellent light navigation aid in the harbour entrance. We are almost out of electricity, but by using the starter battery as a backup, we make it into habour on all the necessary instrumentation. Time for a good rest.

Öland to Nexø Bornholm

Crossing from Grönhögen to Bornholms eastern coast takes us directly across the main deepwater route for all the baltic shipping. It is going to be a rat race across. Giving us the feeling as if we are trying to cross a major highway with a filled shopping cart. Sweaty experience. We are on the lookout all the time, and have to adjust our speed and direction continuously. The weather was clear and wind ok, so this went very smooth. During the night, as we were closing in on Nexø it started raining and we sat looking at the lightning flashes along the eastern horizon. We could not hear any thunder, but the light flashes lit the whole sea.

We reached the coast of Bornholm at 0700 hours (7 am) and decided to drop the sails and motor in the last bit. To our surprise the wind picked up from 10 knots to more that 25 knots. And of course right in our face. So we got the sails up again (second reef in the main) and tacked into port in little over an hour. Port had plenty of space, was nearly empty. We tied up to the dockside and went shopping and touristing the town. A nice little town it was. Since the wind had become very strong again we stayed here for a few days and walked the hiking path that follows the coastline around this island. First day we walked north to the town of Svaneke along the rocky beaches. The next day we walked the path southward to the sandy beaches of Duoudden. The sand is white and so finely structured that it makes a squeeky sound when we walked in it. That walk was a bit longer so we rode the bus back to the boat. Duoudden was very touristic and a bit dull. The north coast is much nicer and very much worth hiking along. We also visit a second-hand market near the marina and it is a trip back in time. Great fun, and we cannot leave it without buying an old storm lantern and clock/barometer set in brass.

Nexø Bornholm to Kolobrzeg in Poland

Finally, it was time to set sail for Polish coast on the 15 August 2017. Counting on our regular bad luck with the weather on this trip we leave Bornholm at noon. Counting the miles we plan to get to Kolobrzeg at early daylight the next morning. We motor out of the harbour at Nexø, set sails, trim in the windvane and sail in a straight course down to Poland. Without any adjustments to sails or windvane we arrive at the polish coast at 0130 hours on Wednesday 16th. A fine sailing. As we do not dare sail into port in the dark, we anchor in 12 m deep water on the sandy coast, about an hour due west of Kolobrzeg harbour. The whole coastline is lit up by flashing red lights. It is a bit spacy looking. In the morning we see that these where the lights on hundreds of wind power turbines. Mighty. After having slept into daylight, we eat breakfast and at 8.15 AM continue into the harbour. Easy navigation into it, the marina is a bit hidden, but big signs point the way. We are in Poland! After checking in at the harbour office, we go explore the town. It is raining lightly, but we treat ourselves on some cakes and coffee and visit the cathedral. In the afternoon we walk along the beach walk (many Polish tourists) and enjoy more Polish food and coffee, and a free international festival concert.

Kolobrzeg marina is new, roomy and clean. Interestingly, it shares space with a very active ship-building yard. So if you wish to sleep into the day, this is not the place to berth your yacht. Otherwise it is quite alright.

Kolobrzeg to Darlowo on 17 August

The next morning we set sail for the port of Darlowo, about 15 nautical miles to the east from Kolobrzeg. After a decent sail we get to Darlowo around 17.30 PM and have to wait for the opening of the blue bridge that opens every whole and half hour. Even here, as in Kolobrzeg, we are surrounded by the typical Polish pirate ships, with loud music and cheering, happy Polish tourists aboard. The marina is nice. Lots of spaces to choose from, in fact it is almost empty.

We decide to follow the river to the town situated about 4 km upstream. Following a wide and nice boardwalk up the river, we find the town that still has its original Polish atmosphere. A cosy little town centre with a few small shops, and some restaurants (mostly pizza, that seems to be very popular in Poland). This is a nice place. We eat some traditional Polish food and drink more of their fantastic beer. Then walk back to Isabell, to have a beer in the cockpit, before we turn in for the night.

Ustka next, Polish Border Patrol

The next morning, Friday the 18th of August, in the company of grey weather, we leave the dock in time to make it through the bridge opening at 10.00 a.m. Filled up the freshwater tank and are all set. Very little wind at sea, so the old Volvo Penta is runningand for the first in a long time we experience low waves, less than a meter high. But then again, without the engine we would not be getting anywhere near Ustka. Just as we are appoaching the port, we hear our ship name being called on the VHF. Scary! It is a call from the Polish Border Patrol. We answer and hear that we are about to enter an area that is closed today. The area is not on a charts, but we get instructions to go out to sea at least 4 miles. So we sail out 4 and continue east for another 4, before we turn into the coast again and sail into port at Ustka. We have seen no action inside the closed area. Anyway, the happening of the day, it was.

The town itself is as the others are, touristic, small, very commercialised. we wander around a bit through the dunes and along the wide sandy beach. Fenced off everywhere, because here is the famous Blucher bunkers site from the second World War. We do not go inside, because you must pay a steep fee, and we are not that much into warfare business. In the evening the weather turned out rather nice, 25 degrees and sunny. Shorts weather at last! We feast on more Polish beer and local food. Great!

On toward Leba, family reunion

Up early, getting ready to cast off for the next port Leba. Today is Saturday, the 19th of August. Weather is nice, sunny and warm. Westerly winds 6-8 m/s. A great sailing day. We reach Leba already at 14.30 p.m. and have time to scout the harbour area, which is rather big. Then Johannes's sister and her husband Joep are coming in with their camper truck, and park it on a spot right next to the guest habour. We are neighbours! In the evening we take a walk through the town. It is still nice and warm, and sunny. A lot of bikers (Hells Angels type) are gathered here, because they had an annual meet in town. We see all kinds of cool bikes (and interesting people on them).

We have dinner together, after a cold beer in the front of the camper truck. Local good greasy, food. Fun!

The next morning, we go for a long walk through the woods (dunes) with the dog. End up in a national park, where we must pay an entrance fee. Here, we climb up on a big tower and are able to look out over the inland lake that is huge. All along the coast there are inland water bodies just behind the sandy dunes. Beautiful. Monica and the captain decide to walk the next 7 km to the Floating Sands National Park, with the largest wandering sand dunes in northern Europe. Willy and Joep turn back to the town instead. It turned out to be well worth the long walk through the woods to see these Laczka dunes. Fantastic! See picture. It is an enormous area, and all along the edges you can see that the sands are moving, killing the trees around it, as the trees are burried.

Back in the town, we eat dinner together with Wil and Joep, who are going to continue inland with the camper, while we are going to continue eastward along the coast. The bikers are also gone. Now the town is just filled with ordinary Polish tourists, and us...

Wladyslawowo, a nice port and free concert

It is Monday 21 August 2017, high pressure, little wind from the west with a slight haze across the sea. We have an easy sail into port, which is big. To the farthes west inside the port is the space for the guest harbour. Not well-marked, but as long as you sail west and more west, you see it. Still a lot of fishing activity here. Reminds us a bit of the Bornholm town of Tejn. The weather is still fantastic and we go into town to find someplace to eat. Very touristic here too. We see a huge concert scene being build up in the town. The concert is tonight and free. We make a mental note to come back, which we do later that evening. The funny concert i a rock band singing in Polish, which is difficult to follow. But there are lots of people gathered, and it is a nice atmosphere. The lead singer is dressed in a yellow and blue Swedish national ice-hockey jersey, which makes him look very Swedish, hahhah!

And now on to Gdansk, our final destination in Poland

From Wladyslawowo we decide to sail directly into the port of Gdansk, as we are a little behind on the time-schedule we skip Hel, Gdynia, and had no intention to begin with of doing Sopot (since the marina is owned by bloodsucker company Promarina, with which we do no business). We cast off at around 10 AM and reach Hel at 15 PM. From there we sail diagonally across the Gdansk bay to stay outside the deepwater routes. Late in the afternoon (19 PM) we sail into the city of Gdansk, after having sailed a little detour through the harbour area (captains map reading skills were a bit shaky here, he should have listened better to the advice of the navigator). There is a opening bridge right in the center of Gdansk, opens twice hourly. It is open when we come in. Such a wonderful experience to sail past a huge commercial harbour with huge ships, and right into the heart of the old city. Amazing! As soon as we are in port, we cover Isabell with the cockpit tent. Not a minute too late, because we receive an enormous thunderstorm, while we sit in the cockpit and drink a cold Polish beer. What a treat.

Fantastic Gdansky days

We spend two and a half day wandering around in the beautiful city of Gdansk. So much to see and do here. Great!

(1) Sailing up the river Motlawa to reach the Gdansk marina, (2) The passage is free under the bridge in the city center, (3) Isabell always looks very small in the harbour, here at the dock of Gdansk Marina between two boats from Lithuania, (4 and 5) The river front of the Old City, (6) Many beautiful gabled houses in this old town, actually restored after the Russians blew up the entire town in 1944, (7) A little remnant of the old town wall, (8) The famous statue of Cupidus at the great square, (9 and 10) Second World War museum, which we saw from the river as we sailed into town, and (11) The pontoon gas station were we bunkered diesel (12) We are leaving, here crossing the Bay of Gdansk on our way north.

Sailing home, a scary experience

We waited out better weather reports, and find a slot of about two days in which we have to make it across the Baltic Sea. As the winds have been near-stormstrength during three days, we expect big waves. But not as big as they turned out to be.

Friday the 25 August we decide to sail homeward bound. Waiting for the worst wind to die down, we go shopping for our last Polish money in the morning, shower and get the boat ready for the sea. After lunch we empty the grey water tank at the harbour pumping station, for which we have to pay extra. Almost nocking down an electricity post as we tie to the dockside. We have to wait for our receipt on the fee, no matter how much hurry we are in to get through under the bridge before it closes. Even though we insist in not needing a receipt, the harbour master insists. OK, we make it through in the last minute. Bridge closes behind us. We fill up with diesel at the marine pontoon tank station after the bridge. Cheap diesel and friendly service.

We are on our way. Motoring down the river, we pass many huge ships in the commercial harbour. When we get to the river mouth we set sail, one reef in the main and storm fock. The wind is westerly, about 14 to 17 meter per second. In the bay there are hardly any waves, and we make good passage to the Hel peninsula. There we put a second reef in the mainsail. Wind is still going strong, about 25 knots. As we sail past Hel, the sea-waves build up quickly. At first we are still in lee of the land, but soon enough we get out on very rough wavescape. Waves are breaking high and steep. We set the windvane on a steering course close to north, as close to west we can sail, hold our breath and let Isabell go. She beats through the waves very bravely. We are less brave. Once and again, waves break over the deck, pitching tonnes of water in the sails and cockpit. We have closed all the hatches and valves, so the boat is safe. Now we just hope nothing breaks.

A lot of commercial traffic around us. We call a huge tanker om the radio to see if they see us. Answer is a short DA! from the ships bridge. So we are safe. We continue north, and after 5 hours the waves start to become smoother and more comfortable. Or maybe we are just relaxing and getting used to the sea state? Whatever, we are happy about that. After sailing 105 nautical miles in the same direction, we consider which is the best and quickest way to get home. We have more than 100 NM to Lithuania, same to Gotland, and same to the Swedish coast at Karlskrona. We decide it is as far west as we can sail that is the safest. So we adjust our course and continue to the NW. Good for us that the wind has started to rotate to the SW from W. The risk is increasing for the wind to die down altogether, according to the weather forecast. So Isabell sails, and we relax and follow along. Very little ship traffic now, and calmer seas. After it gets dark the wind slows down to below 10 knots. We start the engine and motorsail with a full mainsail. It starts raining. We continue to motorsail all night. On the approach to the southern tip of Öland there is some ship traffic, but not too much. We clear the deep water route and get into port in a grey morning mist.

Grönhögen on Öland

On Sunday morning around 9 a.m. we sailed into the port of Grönhögen, after more than two full days at sea. Sailed 203 nautical miles, partly in heavy weather, since Gdansk. Slight damage on Isabells deck, but nothing serious. Everything inside is dry, everything outside is very wet. Only two other boats at the dock. Plenty of space. After breakfast at the dockside we go on a hike to the village of Ottenby. It has stopped raining, but is very cloudy. We wander around in the countryside that is the scene of many iron and bronze age burial mounts. They are everywhere. We pass the heavy stone wall, called the Kings Wall. After we have walked around for a few hours, we have lunch at the seaside in leeward of the big wall. Then it is time to head back to the harbour and go shopping on the way. The town has a little grocery store just a stone throws away from the harbour. Handy. Then it is dinner and getting the boat ready for the trip home.

North through Kalmarsund, all alone at sea

We sail north with the help of a decent SSW wind, reach Borgholm for our first overnight after a nice days sailing. The harbour is almost empty, and the harbour office already closed down for the season, so we stay for free. We go out to a nice little restaurant in town to have a great dinner. We sort a miss the Polish beer. The next morning we go shopping some more in town, the wind has picked up good and is from the SSW, perfect wind for us. We run on the foresail only, and have an average speed of more than 6 knots. We are all alone, no other boats. In the early evening we decide to anchor at Kråkelund, a beautiful anchorage we share with two Swedish sailboats. Sadly enough the wind changed the next day. We have to reach Arkösund, with shitty wind and rain almost all day. We get to practice a good deal of night navigation to find our way into the Arkösund archipelago. At last we find a jetty with some sailing boats in the dark, and mooring for storm, we get out of our very wet gear and go to sleep. The next morning we find that even this harbour is closed for the season, lucky for us. We try to empty our grey water tank, but the pumping station is out of order. Settle for bunkering diesel and drinking water instead. And we are on our way again. Now it is Thursday, the 31 of August. We have two days to get back home. Decide to sail to our summerhouse at Mörkö instead of back to Stockholm. The wind has shifted back to the direction we have to go, NE by East. We sail into the southern archipelago late in the afternoon and find a little anchorage near the town of Trosa, in the middle of a flock of cormorants. Now we are only a few hours away from home.

The next morning the wind is blowing from the west. We get to sail home with full sails set, and it is sunny. What a treat! We get to the dock at Mörkö just in time for lunch. Our trip is over. It did not go exactly the way we had planned, but it was full of adventure and lots of experience gathered.

Isabell sailing south 2017

So here is our final route, the red line is our way south, and the violet line our route back home after Gdansk.