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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Stralsund - Bornholm, Denmark - Karlskrona, Sweden (21 June 2017)

We returned to Stralsund on Saturday 3 June. The only direct flight to Hamburg from Bristol is early evening but instead of getting a direct flight from Heathrow we opted to try KLM from Bristol via Amsterdam. Interestingly the scheduled journey time was nearly identical and the price only marginally more once trains had been taken into account. However it did look as if this was the wrong decision when the KLM plane arrived only 10 minutes before our scheduled departure from Bristol resulting in late boarding and loosing the slot. Result nearly an hour late taking off although thankfully the flight time was quicker but still only 30 minutes for the connection at Amsterdam. Luckily we were able to avoid the long queues for passport control at Schipol as we had an EU passport (another benefit that we are all likely to loose soon!). So we made the connection with a few minutes to spare. We also made our train connection in Hamburg so arrived on the boat just over 11 hours after leaving home.
As readers of the last blog will recall we had left the boat with an engine problem. during our absence in the UK I had been in touch with the mechanics. Because of pressure of other jobs they had only looked at Whileaway in the week before we returned. They had firstly diagnosed a failed thermostat, then when that didn't resolve the issue, the cylinder head came off and a blown gasket was identified. This also necessitated skimming the cylinder head which had happened the day before we arrived. On boarding it was clear that the engine was still work in progress. so we expected the mechanic to arrive on Monday morning, then discovered that it was a public holiday! However we were able to enjoy the Harbour Festival which took place over the long weekend.
The mechanic returned on Tuesday morning. The original water/coolant problem had been solved solved but engine running then a compression test showed one valve with a problem. The cylinder head was again examined in the workshop and minor corrosion in a valve sorted out with a view to all being put back together on Wednesday.
We did see more of the area around Stralsund but as I said to the Harbour Master, "you have a beautiful town but we have enjoyed it enough now", a sentiment he readily understood!

Main town square, Stralsund.
It wasn't until lunchtime on Wednesday that the mechanics returned and over the next two and a half hours reassembled the engine and ran it up at the pontoon. All looked good so off I went to pay, resulting in a nasty pain in the wallet.
Our plan for Thursday was to go E then N to Sassnitz on the island of Rugen. We needed to get under a low road and rail bridge from Stralsund to the island and there was an opening at 0820. Once through we were soon sailing in a brisk breeze largely behind us. There was quite a period of sticking to buoyed channels in the sea between the island and the mainland before we turned N up the east coast of Rugen. About 3 or 4 nm from Sassnitz we dropped the sails and restarted the engine only to discover within minutes that once again the coolant was being pumped out into the bilge! We couldn't believe it. I phoned the owner of the maintenance firm who also couldn't believe it! Sassnitz is 45nm from Stralsund, about 35m by road. He said that he would send the mechanic immediately. So not long after we tied up he was there. An hour of checking this and that ,scratching of head, ringing the boss, followed. Eventually he thought that he had found the problem and we ran the engine at high revs on the pontoon successfully. I said that the next day we'd circle the bay for a few hours to check. "Go now" was the response! So with the mechanic on board we sped around the bay for 45 minutes without incident. Fingers crossed all round.
Then a big decision. Our next passage was 55nm to Bornholm, a Danish island between Germany and Sweden, across open sea. The weather forecast was good for Friday, less so Saturday.
So off just after 0700, motoring for 3.5 hours to start with and checking the engine every 15 minutes. No incidents! Just as we passed a huge offshore wind farm under construction we were able to sail and just after 1600 we were entering the yacht harbour at Ronne, the main town on Bornholm. Phew!
Ronne is typical of a ferry port and main town but with some attractive buildings.
Cottages in the historic cobbled streets of Ronne
Some of the older buildings were lost at the end of WW2 when the Germans, who had occupied Denmark at the start of the war, refused to surrender as the Russians advanced. Bombing ensued. Interestingly the Russians wouldn't leave Bornholm until 1946, so the locals still debate whether they were liberators or occupiers.
On Saturday we cycled on a purpose made path through woods N to the village of Hasle. Traditionally a fishing village at one time it had a huge number of smokeries, now just one active one remains. As it happened there was some sort of sea festival on that day with lifeboats, kayaks, fishing, jet boards etc. We opted for the smoked fish buffet at the smokery, not cheap (not much is in Denmark) but with a big choice and excellent quality.
Traditional smokery, Hasle
On Sunday morning we motor sailed 15nm around the N tip of the island to the W coast and the village of Allinge. We arrived to discover hundreds of big and small tents being erected as there was a political festival taking place later in the week. More disappointingly a notice in the HM office announced that the harbour would be closed from Monday. We had planned to stay 3 nights. The weather forecast for Tuesday was terrible with gusts to F8 so we were not wishing to go anywhere that day! A discussion with the HM suggested that he could find a place in the outer harbour for us for Monday night.
In the inner harbour at Allinge, "Whileaway" on left
In the meantime we looked around the pretty village which apparently attracts many tourists in high season. That Sunday evening preparations continued apace erecting tents and other temporary buildings for the coming political gathering. We learnt that Bornholm (population 38,000) were expecting 100,000 to attend the convention which started on Thursday! No wonder there was some much preparation activity.
The next morning we opted to move 2nm down the coast to the harbour at Tejn. Not as attractive as Allinge but a good deal quieter! We had to move at that stage as the strong winds forecast for Monday afternoon and through Tuesday had already started to build. Tejn was busy but we rafted up to a German boat with a very pleasant couple. Bikes out in the afternoon for a cycle across the island, visiting an unusual round church, the tallest on the island.

The round church at 
We moved on to the little harbour at Vang and then the castle ruin at Hammershus. The castle was built in the seventeenth century and we had seen how imposing it was from the sea a few days before. It is justifiably a World Heritage site.
The imposing castle from the sea

Having covered about 25km that day the following day we took the bus an hour south down the coast to Nexo. This turned out to be a mistake as the town was very ordinary and rather commercial. Unfortunately the town was one of those that had been heavily bombed in 1945 when the German occupiers refused to surrender to the Russians. Fortunately only one resident lost their life but quite a few German soldiers did before common sense prevailed. We retraced our route and alighted at the beautiful old fishing harbour of Gudhjem where we had an excellent fish lunch and then looked around the town.

Looking down on Gudhjem
Interestingly this coast had about a dozen navy ships of various countries anchored off it. We assumed that it was some sort of Nato exercise (the Russian threat being a real worry in the Baltic) and that the strong winds had led to operations being suspended for the day.

Even the warships were sheltering from the wind!
By Wednesday morning the wind had dropped and so just after 0630 we cast off and headed NNE towards the Swedish coast. We motor sailed for the first five hours as we had relatively light winds but then as they picked up the engine went off and we had a splendid sail through the afternoon. Our planned destination was Karlskrona on the SE coast of Sweden. We saw only a few ships although we did have to cross the route taken by big ships to and from the northern Baltic. At one stage we were closely watching three ships heading across our course at an angle of about 120 degrees to 60 degrees. The first passed comfortably ahead of us; according to our AIS the second was going to pass within about 2 cables (about two tenths of a nautical mile) which is close given our relative speeds and their difficulty in changing course. The second ship, a tanker, was a bit over a mile from us when Andrea wondered what we should do and what they were thinking on their bridge. I responded by saying that they were probably snoozing on autopilot when the VHF crackled into life with “Alpine Confidence calling Whileaway”! When we answered the Officer asked if we would like to pass across his bow. Such courtesy! We responded in the affirmative and cracked on knowing that he was alert to the situation. Later as we closed the islands off the coast to the S of Karlskrona we ended up having to try to work out the intentions of both a Swedish submarine and a frigate that were exercising in some way right on our course! They didn't call us!

The submarine kept turning, difficult to ascertain which was the bow at times!
We then started following buoyed channels between islands into Karlskrona and about a mile from the marina started the engine and headed into the marina just under 12 hours and 65nm since we'd left Bornholm.
Having tied up I was shocked and completely fed up to discover that copious quantities of coolant and seawater had again been discharged into the bilge just from the last half hour of running the engine. Clearly the fault had not been fixed. So the next day was spent visiting marine engineers all of whom reported being very busy in the run up to the mid summer holiday (a big event in Sweden) and so unable to tackle anything new for at least a fortnight – beyond when we had to return home. I did find a seemingly competent guy who was willing to tackle the problem whilst we are back in the UK and fortunately the HM could find me a berth for seven weeks. At least there is plenty to see in Karlskrona. But as we also had return flights booked from Stockholm (we were planning to end up about 35m S of the city) we decided that we would get the long distance bus to Stockholm for the weekend before our return.

Karlskrona historic town
So in the meantime we explored Karlskrona. The town was founded in the seventeenth century primarily as a base for the Swedish navy. Their main base was Stockholm but Karlskrona is further S and so the waters do not usually freeze. In addition because there are numerous islands and rocks off the coast it has excellent defensive qualities. Reflecting its creation and history Karlskrona is a World Heritage site. The first day was rainy so we visited the excellent maritime museum based on the small fortified island which was originally the core of the Navy base, although it expanded much beyond it.

The Maritime Museum
When the rain cleared we wandered into town to find loud music and students dancing in the back of grain lorries parading around the town – it was graduation day!

Celebrating graduation, Karlskrona style
The town has a mixture of superb buildings from the 17th to 19th centuries plus some very plain 20th and 21st century flats! There are also areas of old fishermen's cottages, shipyard workers homes and typical red wooden early 20th century homes on island waterfronts.

Houses at 
One natural delight was seeing not one but two red squirrels on one of the islands just across a bridge from the town.
Apart from walking around the town we visited a number of islands including Aspo, at the entrance to the archipeligo and accessed by a free vehicle ferry! Quite an away from it all island with scattered homes, virtually no traffic and scenic unspoilt views. There is another part of the World Heritage site here in the shape of a 17th century castle built to guard the channel to Karlskrona.

The castle on Aspo
We now looked out on the channel through which we had safely passed.

Another yacht passes between the buoys  marking underwater obstructions
With another 5 days before our booked flight we took the long distance bus to Stockholm. We will have a few days in that city before returning home. By the time we return in early August we hope to have a fully functioning and reliable engine!

Fish Harbour sculpture

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