Was That Lightning?

s/y Charlotte, rain and mist

We were on the move again! After a few days in Nyköping, we were now heading back out through the (slightly) tight entrance fairway that had proved a bit challenging during our nighttime arrival. It was definitely easier with the lights on.

The first hour of our trip. It wasn’t that tight, though, but the boat is a bit magnified.
The legendary gates. In between them about four meters deep. Outside, not so much.

Destination: Back South

The wind had turned again, and sticking with our not against it philosophy, it was time to go back south. Towards the southern parts of Sweden, Skåne maybe.

“To Ovekov!” Charlotte burst out with a laugh.

It was something we had been joking about for a couple of years. The name of the place was actually Torekov, but it got funnily renamed to Ovekov in the (brilliant) series Solsidan. So we used that, too.

“Yes sure, to Ovekov!” I confirmed. “Well, it’s far away, so at least to Kalmar,” I added.

“Will it be a night sail?” M asked?

“Well, yes, I think so,” I answered. It was well over one hundred nautical miles to Kalmar, so we wouldn’t get there in one day. “We’re going to have good weather, so let’s see how far we can go, ok?”

“Ok,” she replied.

Some berries from Nyköping. And perfect weather to go with them.

09:30 am — Hävringe

After about four hours of sailing, our route took us through a small group of cute islets surrounding the old pilot station island Hävringe. They had a few visitor berths (and it looked really beautiful!), but we were just getting into the sailing groove, so it didn’t feel like a good time to stop.

Passing Hävringe in the background. M looking the other way.

2:14 pm — 4+ Knots of Wind

A bit later in the afternoon, and we didn’t have very much wind.

The wind angle, however, was great for flying the code zero. And the speed was quite encouraging. Between 3.7 – 3.9 knots of boat speed with 4.6 – 4.9 knots of true wind.

2:15 pm — 5 Knots of Wind

Then, with the true wind hitting 5.0 knots, the boat speed increased to 4.0 – 4.3 knots. Going over four knots with five knots of wind, that was pretty decent!

Looking at about one hour’s worth of data, it seemed that between 4-5 knots of true wind, and keeping the AWA <90, our Hanse 388 (with us in it!) was averaging about 87% of the true wind speed.

TWS on the left, SOG on the right. Averages are shown for the selected, darker area. (The time is off by one hour.)

3:54 pm — 6 Knots of Wind

More light air sailing data points. When the wind got to six knots (and above), the boat speed followed to five — and above.

4:30 pm — 8-10 Knots

Our track so far with speed colors. Yellow means average speed >= 6 knots.

It was about ten hours since we had left when the wind started to build a bit more. It was also inching forward slightly, adding increasingly more power to the sails.

SOG in the foreground (right axis), TWS in the background (left axis). Both in knots. You can see how the wind is increasing quite linearly, but the changes in SOG show diminishing returns until both lines meet up next to the right axis.
TWS 10 knots, TWA -103°, AWA -62°, SOG 7 knots. (O feeling slightly queasy.)

9 pm — 12+ Knots

Red = average speed >= 7.0 knots.

One hour before sunset, and the wind was still slowly building.

With more than ten knots of wind just on the beam (or forward of it), the code zero started to feel powered up, and that was visible in the boat’s heeling as well. Too powered up is somewhere between fifteen and twenty knots, though, so below fifteen, it was mostly just terrific going.

Wind speed and SOG on the same axis.

And then the wind went to over fourteen knots, and we got to eight knots of boat speed!

With the autopilot on, it was both relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. To feel the boat rushing forward at hull speed, but doing it very delicately and effortlessly.

“Good job, auto!” said the passenger who was peacefully admiring the beautiful sunset.

Just after sunset, with the golden hour still on, Charlotte took some hero shots of me. We thought it would be funny to get some pictures of the chiseled captain looking out over the broad ocean.

It was, indeed, quite funny!

The chiseled captain.

2 am — Was that … ?

We were sitting outside in the cockpit with Charlotte, and it had got all dark around us.

Looking at the chart plotter, though, we knew that we had just passed the northern tip of Öland. And that we were heading down south, about a third of the way from Öland to the mainland.

Charlotte was looking at the dark sky further down to the south.

“Hey wait,” she suddenly said. “Was that lightning?”

I turned to look the same way myself. Just dark. Nothing there.

“I don’t know? Maybe?” I said.

And then it suddenly lit up again. Very far away, somewhere behind the sea horizon, but high enough to reflect a slight flash all the way over to us. “Yes!” I half-shouted. “Now I saw it too!”

“But it’s very far away, and I don’t think we have to worry about it,” I added.

Knowing, of course, that I had already started to do just that.

We were close enough to Öland to get slow but intermittently working mobile coverage, so I opened the Swedish meteorological organization‘s lightning tracker to check out the situation.

It loaded for a long while, and when the picture finally appeared, it didn’t look very good.

The thunderstorm area to the southeast. The red dot is our position between Öland and mainland Sweden.

There was a huge area of rain and lightning southeast of Öland. We were far from it, obviously, about eighty miles or so. But where was it going? And were we heading right into it?

I dragged the history slider backward and waited a bit anxiously for the data to load. Looking at that, I thought, I could get a better idea of how the lightning area was moving, and where it was going.

About ten minutes later, and after having fiddled through the last hour of the lightning area’s movement multiple times, it didn’t look very good. We were in fact heading right into the worst of it.

We and the thunder and lightning all heading towards Kalmar.

“I think…” I said, a bit hesitantly, to Charlotte. “I think we’d better just head into an anchorage somewhere, and dodge the thunderstorm.”

“Yes, absolutely,” she replied. “Good idea, and getting some real sleep would be good too.”

And so we, once again, chose to abort or journey south. Better safe than sorry, though.


6:30 am — Heavy Rain

After anchoring, I had jumped into our cabin and passed out.

Now, though, I was suddenly wide awake again. To the sound of rain hitting the deck. I crawled out of the bed and walked over to the saloon window to have a look outside.

It was really, really gray. And although the rain wasn’t exactly pouring down in buckets, it was still raining, a lot.

Then the sky suddenly lit up with a bright flash of lightning, followed just a few moments later by a loud crackling and terrifying thundery explosion.

Crap, crap, crap, I thought to myself, while looking out the window in disbelief. Why is the thunder here? It didn’t pass to the south? Crap.

Another bright flash of lighting. I started counting. One… two… three… A majestic, layered, and crackling thunder explosion cut my counting short. Ok, that was close. Crap.

I opened the lightning tracker. The network was better now, so it appeared quickly.


Instead of passing well south of us, the concentration of lightning strikes was heading exactly to where we were anchored. We hadn’t dodged the thunder system at all, we had positioned ourselves right in its path!

Charlotte had woken up as well. “This is terrible,” she said with a frightened voice, looking first at the lightning map, and then back at me.

7 am — Scared Witless

The flashes of lightning with accompanying explosions were getting so near that I didn’t bother counting.

I turned off the electrical systems and threw both my and Charlotte’s mobile into the gas oven for protection.

Then I just sat there in the saloon, feeling my heartbeat shaking my whole body, jumping at each of the more and more frequent lightning explosions, and praying to god that none of them would hit our boat.

There was a small pause, as if the thunder was taking a deep breath in before breathing out again. Then a really loud and towering explosion very near us. And then it suddenly got all quiet.

Charlotte was still in our cabin. “That was really close,” I heard her saying with a shaking voice.

I waited for a while, holding my breath. Nothing.

It couldn’t be over yet? No, surely it couldn’t?

I stood up and looked out through the window. It was still gray and raining. But no thunder. I let out the air from my lungs as well, slowly, closing my eyes, feeling my heartbeat go down a bit.

And then it happened.

I had my eyes fixed on the island just forty meters from our boat and within a few tiny fragments of a second, I heard a loud tearing sound, like someone was rapidly and violently parting the fabric of reality like a large paper, then I saw the actual laser-cannon-like lightning striking the ground, creating a loud and immediate explosion when doing so.

I was shuttering. Please, please, god, don’t let the next one hit us.

7:30 am …

The next one never came.

Strangely enough, the strike on the island next to us had been the last of it. There were some distant rumblings, certainly, but nothing near us.

I turned the electricity back on. Then grabbed the water pan, filled it with some water, and lit up the gas stove to make some coffee.

“Good morning,” said M, a bit sleepily, from behind my back. She had woken up and was there standing at the entrance to their cabin, looking at me with a small smile on her face. “Where are we?”

Even more strangely, the children had all slept through it. Yes, thank you god, again, for keeping us all safe, I thought to myself.

9:01 am — 16+ Knots of Wind

TWS 16 knots, TWA -130°, AWA -100°, SOG 7.3 knots.

After a quick breakfast, we headed out again to continue our journey south.

The wind was still coming from a great angle. So, after we had navigated through the Oskarshamn exit fairway and were able to turn downwind, we got to roll out our favorite sail again. The Elvstrøm code zero.

And with sixteen knots of wind, the boat felt great!

9:05 am – 18 Knots

Then, quickly, the wind increased to over eighteen knots. And the boat speed went up to eight knots. No loud sonic boom there (yet), but more than our hull speed, yey!

9:21 am – 20 Knots – Whee!

A few moments later and the wind had increased to over twenty knots. For the boat and us, it was completely effortless sailing, however, since the apparent angle of the wind was well behind the beam of the boat.

“It went to nine!” I shouted to the others, smiling more broadly than ever.

1:18 pm – Deep Downwind

The wind got up to twenty-four knots true before backing down a bit to settle somewhere slightly below twenty.

As our route turned a bit more downwind, and we were getting a bit of following wind waves, it started to feel like a good time to relieve the autopilot and steer the boat by hand.

“Oh cool waves!” J exclaimed.

Then he sat down on the aft bench to, sort of, silently take it all in. I thought it was quite a beautiful moment.

2 pm — A Break

After a bit less than one hundred and fifty miles of sailing, we decided to call it a day and turned in towards a small anchorage about fifteen miles before Kalmar.

After the thunderstorm and the deep downwind by-hand sailing (including several gybes), it felt like a good idea to take a break. And to enjoy the afternoon and evening without having to worry about sailing into a new harbor and docking with (perhaps) twenty knots of wind coming from the wrong direction.

“Maybe we’ll continue to Kalmar tomorrow, ok?” I said to the children. “You get to swim today and see the Öland bridge in the morning.”

“Yes, I want to swim!” O said.

“And I want to go an island with the dinghy,” said Little L.

Muddy Waters

It was a bit tricky to find a good place to lower the anchor since the depth sensor was all over the place.

It was supposed to be more than three meters deep, but the depth gauge kept saying 1.5, 1.9, and so on. With our keel depth of 2.1 meters, we were still floating freely, though, not stuck anywhere, so I assumed the readings were wrong. Maybe because of some problem with the seabed or the muddy water.

“Can we go swimming now? How warm is the water?” J asked.

I had just secured the anchor and turned off the engine. “It’s about twenty-three degrees,” I said.


A Serene Evening

The sunset spreading its golden colors over the darkening sky, it looked really beautiful that evening.

In many other places in the world, though, there would be ominous clouds forming. Building up towards towering heights, and their chaotically irrational but unforgivingly inevitable discharges of mighty, fear striking power.

Strength, courage, and good wishes to you all.

Fare well, and good night.

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