We had made such fantastic progress through the Gota Canal that we were at Sjotorp and the entrance to Lake Varnen just after midday. We had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast and there was some nasty weather due later in the day that was predicted to last for a few days. We would not have enough time to get to a safe berth on Kallandso, a spur of land that projects up into the Lake. We also did not want to be trapped at Sjotorp – definitely a one horse town if there ever was one!
Our last lock on the Gota Canal
Heading down towards Mariested under the Torso Bridge
We could sail about 12 nm south down to Mariestad – one of the largest towns on Lake Varnen and the home of Mariestad beer which is available everywhere in Sweden and for which I had developed quite a thirst! So leaving our convoy friends we set off on a course of 180. Taking up a broad reach, we were soon flying down the buoyed Karlsgr channel and under the Torso bridge towards Mariestad. Keeping well to port so as to avoid entering the Tidan river by accident, we entered the harbour following it right up to the centre of the town to moor up along the town quay wall. As the weather closed in we quickly put up the cockpit tent and for the first time in the sailing season, turned on the diesel heating. Soon we were as snug as bugs in rugs!
Mariested in sight!
Secured alongside with the cockpit tent up and prepared for the storm
For the next 48 hours we settled in on Grace, restocked supplies from the supermarket, we visited what must be the smallest cinema in Sweden to see a rather worthy film in English and strange museum of local shops and cardboard box manufacturing!
The big screen! The smallest cinema in Sweden?
Museum of cardboard boxes!
Old Ox – the closest thing I could find to the brewery!
Mariested Church – the tallest tower on this part of the lake and a very welcome landmark!
Mariested is an old town, its charter dates from the 1530s
Lake Varnen is the largest lake in the EU and the third largest in the world behind a couple in Russia. It is so big that it creates its own weather systems – it can be blowing a gale on the lake and brilliant sunshine elsewhere in Sweden…….which it was now!! In fact, Lake Varnen even has its own weather forecast on the TV! Another day passed, I had failed to find the brewery, the biggest in Sweden and we were getting desperate to get going. Although we still had a few days to spare we knew we could not get trapped on the lake for much longer if we were to meet the delivery crew in Gothenburg. And this started to weigh heavily on our minds. I went crazy with the Dymo tape and labelled everything in anticipation and even started to write an instruction book for Grace! We had to get going! The pressure was now on, as the Trollhatte Canal announced that it would be closing in just 10 day time for two weeks for essential repairs to the lock gates at Lilla Edet. This was all starting to get a bit serious!
Next morning seemed a little brighter, still windy but definitely better. The yacht behind us cast off and left, so we packed everything away and did the same. The plan was that we would head east towards Kallandso, a big spur of land that projects into the lake, finding somewhere to stay in amongst it’s many islands at its tip. This should provide some shelter until we could cross the lake on the far side to make the dash towards Vannersborg and the start of the Trollhatte. We also reckoned that we would have to cross the lake towards Mellerud or Dalgasa as sailing down the far side of the lake we would have the shelter of the Eastern shore but also keep us out of the shoals that lined Kallandso. We definitely did not want to have those as a lee shore if the weather turned really nasty!
The light on Onso
But first we had to get away from the shelter of Mariestad and through the gap between Viknas point and Onso and into the wide open part of the lake to start our crossing. We sailed north for 3 nm up the Mariestad channel then sharply east at an unusual triangle of buoys for 4 nm towards the light on Onso that marks the gap into the open part of the lake. With the motor to help us we made a series of short tacks up towards Onso, adding a second reef to genoa and main. This did not bode well! We were still in a relatively sheltered spot and we had two reefs in the sails already. Grace was pitching sharply, slamming her bows down in the steep swell. It was all beginning to get a bit uncomfortable!
Out through the gap between Viknas and Onso…..if only we could get there!
Just then the yacht that had left earlier that morning came screaming past us, her crew well wrapped up but focussed on getting back to harbour! We persevered for another few minutes then made a quick U turn and followed them! Absolutely flying as the wind rose again. Oh well, lets try again tomorrow! Which is exactly what we did, with exactly the same result! The one benefit from all of this to-ing and fro-ing was that we discovered we had left the bag with all our money and passports in a restaurant and we could go and get it! It would have been terrible to have made the trip across the lake, only to have to return again to Mariestad to pick up the bag! It must have been fate!