Sailing from Estonia to Gotland – 20 hours of rock ’n’ roll and an hour of magic

See the video and read the whole story.

What the weatherman said

Central Baltic Sea: Stronger wind the night before our planned departure, decreasing to 4-6 m/s during the following day. Wind from North, moving to North-West in the late afternoon. The wind calming down to 2-4 m/s for the night and decreasing to no wind the following morning. Wave height going down from 1.2 m to 0.3 m.

This sounded like a perfect sailing weather to us to sail from Estonia to Gotland: we would get good sailing speed in the early morning and during the day, easy night and calm entrance to the Fårösund strait at lunchtime the next day. It would not be the fastest leg we’re done but we would be able to sail most of the way.

What we experienced

We left the Soru harbor in Hiiumaa, Estonia at 0552h on the morning of June the 11th. We had a mild tailwind exiting the harbor and increasing wind from starboard side when arriving to open sea. The wind came from the forecasted direction but it was stronger then predicted.  The alternative destination harbors were discussed but a decision to keep on sailing was made because the forecast still estimated decreasing winds for the timeframe.

By afternoon the wind increased to 10m/s and continued gaining force during the day and evening. We estimate that the steady wind during the leg was 8-13 m/s with gusts of 15-18 m/s. The individual max wave high got closer to 4 meters.

We sailed with decreased sails – only the staysail and a reefed main sail. This sail combination gave us an average speed of 6,5 knots.

The forecasted light wind never arrived. The sea calmed down only an hour before we sailed into Fårösund strait when the Fårö Island gave as shelter from the Northerly winds.

End result

We sailed the 126.4 nautical miles from Estonia to Gotland in good speed but in unpleasant circumstances. It was a stressful leg both physically and mentally. The boat was rocking heavily from side to side, taking a deep dive in every 2 minutes or so. Occasionally the water flew over the deck and the cockpit got some splashes.

Moving in the boat was very difficult – you had to hold on with both of your hands. Nobody could or felt like doing anything but focusing on getting to Gotland and surviving meanwhile. So it was boring. Me or Saku kept watch by standing in the cockpit stairs.

Saku was the only one who could eat during the 20 hour leg. Sanna and Anton were seasick and had only some salt crackers and fruit. Anton even refused candy.

When evening arrived, Anton lay in the saloon seabed playing with the Ipad, I lay in the other seabed feeling seasick and Saku rested on the floor. The whistling wind and the sound of waves hitting the sides of the boat brought the hideous weather inside but shutting down the door made the inside of the boat more bearable.

We are survivors

Despite all of this, the spirit of the crew was good – nobody complained or cried, nobody panicked and nobody thru up. Also the boat performed perfectly and nothing broke. All items inside the boat were stoved away so well that we had no items flying around but items moving back and forth made a constant noise.

Gustav – our wind pilot – did an excellent job steering us the whole way. Steering the boat by hand in these circumstances would have been too much for our mini-crew and no electric autopilot would have kept the course in these waves. We simply could have not done this without Gustav.

The good news was that we arrived to Fårösund a lot earlier than estimated.

Magical moment

An hour before Fårösund strait the sea calmed down but the wind remained. We sailed in good 6 knots speed and the boat was suddenly very steady. The sound of breaking waves was gone and so was the sounds of the moving items inside the boat. After 20 hours of rock ’n’ roll it was suddenly peaceful and quiet. Sailing felt like smooth flying. The feeling was almost like we would not touch the water but fly just above it.

Anton was sleeping and Saku and I were sitting inside in the darkness having cheese sandwiches. When keeping watch, you could see that we were heading directly towards the moon that was accompanied by a single star and some clouds that made the view look like something out of a children’s book. It was a magical moment.

With the power of this magical moment – and the cheese sandwiches – we navigated the passage to Fårösund in the darkest moment of the Scandinavian summer night.


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