One of the bigger islands in the central archipelago is Moja. A place rich in history, but like most of the islands now almost completely dependent on sailing traffic for its commerce. It marked the northernmost point of my journey with Franz and based on the forecast winds from the north west, we opted for two small harbors on the east coast, either Kyrviken or Loka. I’d been forced to turn Arcturus around in tight quarters in a very compact channel opposite Sandhamn harbor the day before so I was feeling my oats a little bit and not daunted by their compact size, clearly visible on the Arholma-Landsort guide. However, with sailing there is very often a fly in the ointment and in this case there were two; the winds and current had shifted to easterly. Instead of rethinking my plan I pressed ahead, confident that the dogleg nature of both harbors would afford me some shelter. I was wrong.
As I entered Kyrviken I was left with very little time to both select a mooring and plan my approach to it because of the wind and swell. And did I mention there were no moorings left anyway? To my left, right and dead ahead were small sailing vessels, motor boats and a couple of working boats. I had perhaps one and half boat lengths between myself and obstructions on all sides. Amid rising stress I was able to turn the boat 360 degrees within the tight and challenging confines without damaging either myself or anyone else, and we headed out gratefully and turned left towards Loka. Turns out Kyrviken was just the appetizer for a smorgasbord of issues facing us down the road. Loka has a tiny harbor entrance – barely twice as wide as our beam, and the unwary will find fiberglass meeting with unyielding Swedish granite if they get it wrong. Here I made my second error. I saw there was one of the many inter-island ferries approaching and decided to duck in quickly rather than wait till the big bruising boat – and its swell – passed us by. We made the entrance okay, only to see there was just one available berth (of an alleged but doubtful 15), and that was right by the harbor entrance basically not sheltered in any sense of the word. A combination of finger piers and mooring buoys constrained my room for maneuver, and as with Kyrviken, wind and swell kept pushing me forward. There was really no time to idle the engine and consider the situation. I was already in a problematic situation.
At this point the ferry arrived and the swell doubled. On the plus side Swedish ferry pilots are like Formula One drivers in a pit stop. Full speed in. Full speed out. Absolutely no hanging about. So although dealing with the swell was nerve wracking, it was short-lived. But it certainly added to the stress level. The hardest part of his whole episode was accepting that I needed to give my boat plenty of throttle to complete my turns while battling wind and waves. It’s counter intuitive to do so because of all the potential collision points around you. Twice I lost my nerve when trying to turn the bow to the harbor entrance, and was both times blown back to where I started, just a few feet from other craft. I finally got the courage to do the right thing, and amid much urging from Franz, jammed the throttle forward and managed to get the boat around and facing the exit. Which I surged towards gratefully.
No more moorings on the east coast for us. Amid a rising wind and the promise of driving rain we motored to the northern tip of the island about a mile away to Langvik, a small fishing harbor with (allegedly) 6 moorings. We were not optimistic about finding a spot, but our luck turned. Immediately to the right of the harbor entrance is a small ‘allman brygga’ (guest dock) for half a dozen boats and there were a couple of empty spots. And best of all by now we were perfectly sheltered and docking was a breeze (or rather, a lack of one). Time to breathe, tidy up the boat and perhaps crack open a beer.
Langvik is a pleasant spot to stay overnight. And after the challenges of the previous hour, it felt like a godsend. The guest harbor has outhouses, water and electricity and makes for an interesting ten-minute walk from our dock. If you are feeling more ambitious, it will take you half an hour to make it down to Kyrviken, where you can rent bikes to tour the island. We enjoyed another quiet night in situ. I for one was very happy that the lessons I had learned cost me only a little stress. And no gelcoat scrapings. Or worse.