The Baltic Voyage

I'm in the process of writing up the whole trip in more detail. See the full story here (or as far as I have got!).

Shortly after refitting Teal in the spring of 2004, I set off across the North Sea to spend a couple of seasons sailing in the Baltic, with many friends joining me for different legs of the voyage.

We weathered a full gale on the crossing, and had an exhilarating time as we surfed across the bar on the entrance to the Limfjord. At one point we broached and were nearly swamped.

We passed through the Limfjord, grateful to be in sheltered waters. Emerging into the Kattegat, we turned south to sail past Copenhagen, and then pottered round the coast of Sweden to the Stockholm archipelago.

From Stockholm we steered east to Aland, then threaded our way through the maze of islands that lies along the south coast of Finland. By August we were in Helsinki, from where we crossed the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn.

The Estonian islands are very different to the Finnish islands - many erratic boulders and stony reefs lie a long way offshore. But they are very quiet and little visited, and we spent several weeks exploring the waters described in Arthur Ransomes book 'Racundra's First Cruise'.

Nearing the Arctic circle in the ship's canoe

I had to cross back to Finland to meet some friends who were flying out to join me there, but I had decided to lay Teal up in Tallinn for the winter. After a couple more weeks cruising the islands I crossed back again to Estonia, and she was craned ashore to spend the winter under a tarpaulin.

In May 2005 I returned to Teal, spent a couple of weeks mending and painting, and then headed back across to Finland. My aim was to get as far north as possible up the Bay of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland. Although the south of Finland is very busy, the north is very quiet, but has some equally beautiful scenery.

The head of the Bay of Bothnia lies around 1 degree south of the Arctic circle. We left Teal in Kemi, at the mouth of the Kemijoki river, and paddled upstream in the ships dinghy (a sectional 17 ft canoe that we kept on the cabin top). With two friends, I made the arctic circle after 3 days hard paddling, much mosquito-bitten. It was considerably easier returning with the current!

From Kemi we followed the coast anticlockwise back into Sweden, and turned south again. Where the Gulf of Bothnia narrows at the 'Quark' we crossed back to the Finnish side, and spent several more happy weeks in the Finnish islands and exploring Aland.

From Aland we had a long hard beat back down the Swedish coast against the prevailing southwesterly wind, but we stopped at the medieval city of Visby, on Gotland, and several places on the Swedish coast.

The journey home took us through the southern Danish islands and south to the Kiel canal. I had to get a tow through the canal as sailing is not permitted, but halfway along we left the canal via the short Gieselau canal and reached the North Sea via the winding, unspoilt, Eider river.

Soon we were back in the lumpy, tidal North Sea - but not for long. After a long day's sail down to Wilhelmshaven, gales were forecast offshore, and we opted to head inland along the Ems-Jade canal. This necessitated taking the mast down, as there are several low bridges, so we got plenty excerise towing Teal from the bank, or rowing where the towpath was too overgrown.

The mast went back up in Emden for the short crossing of the estuary to Delfzyl. At Delfzyl I passed into the Dutch inland waterways system, sailing or rowing where possible and begging tows off passing yachts elsewhere. We crossed the Isjeelmeer and then wended our way through the Randmeren to Amsterdam.

I had intended to stay in the inland waterways system as far as Flushing, but I was running out of time. We took the Nord Zee canal to the coast, took a short hop south to IJmuiden - and then, as the forecast was looking good, set off straight back to Harwich. We had light easterlies most of the way, unusually helpful weather for September! We beat slowly into Harwich harbour at first light against a foul tide and pouring rain, to anchor off Shotley spit.

After a few hours sleep we pottered up the river to have a celebratory pint at the 'Butt and Oyster'. The following day, we took Teal back down the Wallet to Tollesbury, to lay her up in a mud berth for the winter.

See the full story.