Yes, dinghy and catamaran I have sailed from time to time. But no, I had no idea how to sail a yacht. In 2015 I set my foot on the first sailing ship that does not capsize immediately upon entering.
1000 obligatory Swiss-Offshore-Certificate-Miles later I know three yacht types after all: Hallberg-Rassy, Alubat Ovni, X-Yacht, and a catamaran: Lagoon. Superficially off course. My accumulated experience consists of five – mostly traumatic – weeks at sea, with unknown crews. After all there are blue-water areas among them, Norway, Portugal, England.
This summer 2018 there are four months time: I must learn to sail Reykja. Have to find out if there are any buried dogs slumbering somewhere. Discover and fix them before it really goes into the blue water
REYKJA shows her personality quite quickly. For example, she hates driving backwards. She is a long keeler, uncontrollable in ports. This leads to run-ups of anxious skippers, with fenders in their hands and reproachful glances. On the other hand, REYKJA loves closed-hauled courses. If you straighten her rudder, she looks for an angle of 45 degrees to the apparent wind and rages off. No more steering is needed.
My learning path is bumpy. I oscillate between self-interest and better insight. I make massive mistakes and am lucky in tricky situations. That seems to be the price, if you want to fall on your nose by yourself.
Safest I feel on the open sea. Sailing is sailing, whether in a dinghy or yacht. The problems lurk near the coast: port facilities, anchorages, wind farms, bans and restrictions on the sea map. In addition, the technical complexity of a sailing yacht. Homeowners and Motorhome owners have a clear advantage here.
There are moments when blood freezes in my veins: Why does it suddenly smoke from the drain lines? What can I do if the engine does not start off the coast? Why is the main furling sail jammed?
I behave like the bloody beginner I am. I bridge the short circuit at the starter with stronger fuses and a screwdriver – fortunately the cables never burn. The unruly large-roller sail can no longer be moved because I haul the halyard too tight. The autopilot fights loudly and nonstop because I haven’t correctly calibrated it.
Other difficulties can be simplified with planning. I study the quays intensively on Google Earth before I enter into something from which I might not be able to go backwards. I find the question central to which moorings are installed on the dock. There are models that I don’t understand – horror are mooring buoys – for my guides “Denmark” and “Sweden” this question seems irrelevant. I equip six mooring lines on the bow, stern and amidships before I dare to get close to the land. The waist breast line is central for the jump on land and the mooring of the boat.
Three times I cross with REYKJA between wonderful Farö, the island in the north of Gotland, and the Swedish mainland. These are magical moments when the land disappears and there is only sea. REYKJA, rather a larger yacht in the harbour, suddenly becomes incredibly small on the open sea. On the last crossing, I am the only one who runs out of the archipelago without any suspicion. Seasickness strikes at dusk. It blows seven Beaufort and I experience what it means when you have to vomit, but there’s nothing left to choke out.
2018 means a summer of heat for Scandinavia. Not only does it radicalise Greta Thunberg on her school strike in front of Parliament, but my deck salon also starts cooking from noon on and offers a taste of life in the South Seas. The downside: REYKJA is increasingly choking through carpets of green algae, the open sea is polluted, in Gotland people can no longer swim. I wonder why this is not a media issue and i don’t step into this water for one long summer.
Learn to sail the yacht one-handed
When I try to land on the return trip in Öland, I don’t get the engine to running. There is no choice. To out me as an emergency and to be towed by a lifeboat goes against any beginner’s honour. So I sail REYKJA in three nights and four days from Kalmar nonstop to Fehmarn.
It becomes a race against the batteries, which I stupidly strained with autopilot and radar for one night. The remaining three days I only use electricity for night position lamps to charge AIS/tablet/mobile phone, and occasionally press the electric toilet flush. If there is a calm, I lie around and hope not to drift ashore. When wind is blowing, then he determines and changes my route.
This state of affairs is wonderful. Not only can REYKJA self-drive without autopilot, thanks to its long keel. Also all the technical frills such as Anemometer, log, sonar and co. seem to be completely unnecessary. Again and again I sink into short but euphoric sleep phases, whether day or night. Only in the end I have to be dragged – a little less grandiosely – into Burgtiefe harbour. One hundred meters from the finish, and under the gaze of sceptical coffee drinkers in “Café Sorgenfrei” (Café Worry-free), I do not want to put REYKJA on ground.
More equipment for blue water
After this summer, it is clearer what to do. More redundancy is needed where ever possible. I will no longer accept for a defective motor to override everything.
A hydrovane wind control system needs to come aboard, despite horrendous costs. It makes me independent of power consumption and supplies me with a second replacement rudder.
The sailmaker shortens Genoa and Jib at the foot, because I want to see with whom I will collide next.
The skeg rudder is not in the axis and makes the control difficult to handle.
The companionway door did not withstand my violent bout of seasickness and needs to be repaired.
The technician detects a short circuit on the engine. There is also no warning of overheated cooling circuit. Finally, he installs a Separ double filter system – against the clogged pre-filters due to dirt and water in the diesel. If the engine shuts down, I only need to turn one lever. Theoretically.