From Fog to Unclear Destinations

Julius sailing on s/y Charlotte, Hanse 388

After a bit less than one (very enjoyable!) week in Visby, we were all ready to head onwards and in the general direction of our next destination. We didn’t really know what that destination would be, though. “Maybe Kalmar?” we had loosely discussed the day before.

Destination: Downwind

“This season, what if we just go with the wind, wherever that might take us, and not against it?” I said to Charlotte. “You know, so that the children will see how easy and relaxed this can be?”

The season before, it seemed like most of the places we wanted to go to (no matter what the weather forecasts said), ended up being upwind of us. So what if we’d just turn the tables this time around? Skip, at least a bit, the planning of where to go, and replace that with the listing of where could we go— what good anchorages, harbors are there?— depending on where the wind ends up taking us?

“Sure!” Charlotte confirmed. “Sounds good.”

M was listening to our discussion. “But will it be a night sail?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “If we go all the way to Kalmar, then yes, but we’ll see.”

Having loose and open plans felt liberating, but perhaps also a bit scary.

Zero Visibility

We left early in the morning.

Charlotte woke up for a brief few moments to help with sorting the boat out from its mooring (it really was quite tight, so thank you bow thruster, for helping!). Then, she went back to sleep, leaving me out there alone to start our open-ended sail with a loosely defined destination.

Suddenly, a couple of hundred meters later, while still in the harbor basin, all surrounding reality disappeared into a thick fog. In addition to not knowing where we were heading, we had now also lost all visual indications of where we were currently at. Thanks a lot, fog!

Well, we did of course have our instruments, so thank goodness for those.

“Even with the radar, would you ever knowingly go out sailing in the fog?” one prospective Hanse buyer had asked me in the spring.

“Yes,” I told him, “no problem!”. And that was true. I had quite a lot of pure-instrument sailing miles on the log, either in fog or in pitch dark, and I had grown very comfortable in relying on the instruments alone for determining our position and course. And, obviously, the AIS transponder was great as well, to let other boats in on that same information.

It’s always a bit exciting, though!

And it certainly was this time as well.

To share the fog, there were the Destination Gotland ferries, who blasted through ever so often between Visby and mainland Sweden, doing up to thirty knots or so.

And out there on the water, surprisingly, there were also about two hundred other sailboats— some of them likely also somewhere in our fog— who were participating in “the world’s largest yearly offshore race”, Gotland Runt.

It’s about eighty meters to the Destination Gotland ferry in the background. The fog was so sudden and so thick that it was almost funny.

Radar to the Resuce

Having navigated out of the harbor, I started checking the radar more carefully for any boats without AIS showing up.

And, lo and behold, there was one!

The leftmost mark, a boat being tracked by the radar and heading east. The middle mark, a boat showing up both on the radar, and the AIS. The boat on the right: that’s us.

I set up the radar to keep track of the boat using B&G’s MARPA system, and it worked beautifully!

Now, this isn’t exactly new technology, but it is very cool technology on a simple production-built recreational sailboat. The B&G 4G radar (using a few supporting devices) is able to lock on to a target and then provide information (for chartplotter visualization) about where this target is going and how fast.

The CPA (closest point of approach) above seemed good at about six hundred meters in five minutes.

But then:

Either they turned, or the radar got a better hold of where they actually were heading, and now we were passing each other too closely.

To prevent a collision (or rather, to avoid too close a fly-by!), I changed my course to starboard.

Better!

A few moments later, to my delight, I heard that they were using their fog horn. Usually, the smaller boats don’t do it (although everyone should, according to the COLREGs!), but as they did it, I went inside to get our fog horn out to reply.

TOOOOOOOOOOT!!

Again, another few moments later, and we had passed each other.

Safely, and without ever actually seeing each other, using a bit of (quite cool) modern technology, and a bit of (rather hurt-my-ears-loud) old technology.

Safe travels, to you, whoever you were!

Easy Sailing

The fog didn’t last for very long, and when the wind picked up a bit, we had exactly the relaxed downwind sailing conditions we had hoped for.

Smooth sailing with the code zero. Not too much, not too little wind. (Press play!)

J, O, M, and even Little L all took their one-hour watchkeeping turns while we were steadily pushing forward in the general direction of Öland and the Swedish mainland.

The weather was beautiful, and I think we were all enjoying it.

J’s watchkeeping.

Except for some odd ships crossing our track, chugging along well away from us, and a couple of Destination Gotland ferries racing by at majestic speeds (“look at the big wake they make!”), nothing very special happened.

One thing worried me a bit, though.

After the fog, when I hoisted the mainsail, I noticed that there was something not quite right with the starboard primary winch. Instead of going tic-tic-tic-tic-tic like it should go, when rotating it with the winch handle, it went squeek-tic-tic-bump-tic.

It seemed to still be working, but it wasn’t feeling well, and I knew I had to open it up and try to locate the problem. That wasn’t something I wanted to do while out sailing, though, and risk losing some small but critical piece of the winch overboard.

“So will this be a night sail?” M asked again.

It was an easier question now, with the newly found winch problem at hand, and really no need whatsoever to get to anywhere but where we spontaneously wanted to go.

“No! We can find a good anchorage and go there for the night,” I replied. “And then you get to swim from the boat tomorrow!” I said. And I get to fix the winch, I thought to myself.

“OK, good!” M said. I thought she looked a bit brighter and happier than a few seconds ago.

Kråkelund

Using the excellent Harbour Guide (the books are better than the online site, but the site is ok as well), we located and set course for the small Kråkelund anchorage.

A bit later in the evening, we arrived at what seemed like a really cozy and beautiful place. There was one other boat there, and an SXK buoy (which one cannot use without joining their club), but there was just enough room for us to squeeze in as well.

So, we had sailed downwind of where we had started. It had been a nice day out on the water for all, and also a quite exciting foggy morning for me. Without fixed plans and firm destinations, I think we had managed well enough to accomplish exactly what we set out to do!

(Good job, everyone! Pats on shoulders!)

“What a beautiful evening,” I said to Charlotte, as we sat outside and watched the violet-orange-reddish sky and its brilliant performance of colors.

Trip Data

https://charlotte.lc/boats/2zGrCQC2X9X2LbkzMhFm/trips/qFUTmtI3Nvv6EfnfsSCj

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