Escape!

At last, the spell of poor weather broke.

Passing the Onso Light and then out into the main body of Lake Varnen.

The next day was beautiful, bright with a crisp autumnal nip to the breeze. The wind had come round to the north, blowing a steady force 3. We now followed the now familiar along the Mariestad channel turning to the east towards the Onso light and the open water. Then turning south east our next leg of 16 nm took us starboard past the Storebanken cardinals and then on down to Lacko on Kallandso with its famous castle. It is possible to moor up in the castle moat but our pilot book warned of all sorts of potential disasters to catch the unwary, we thought that having made it this far and being so close to our destination that we should not chance it! Our plan was that we would moor in Spiko and walk over the hills to see the castle. On our approach to the harbour the rains came down and visibility disappeared, as did the depth and we grounded several times on the muddy bottom. Realising we could not stay here, there just was not the depth of water and we could not figure out where to moor we went on to Granvik, built as a winter refuge for trading ships in the 18th century it had an easy approach with plenty of deep water around its pontoons! A very welcome place to stay the night!

Sailing towards the Storebanken Cardinals.

Lacko Castle in sight

It is possible to moor up in the moat of Lacko Castle – but it is full of concrete blocks hiding just below the water! So better to give it a miss.

Granvikken – This has always been a popular winter refuge for coastal trading ships.

We then took the eastern route across the Navens Grund, a narrow channel through what on the chart seemed a rock strewn wilderness, exiting into the lake at the Navens lighthouse. This route was definitely not for the faint hearted, a channel barely wider than Grace’s 3.4 m girth twisting its way through vicious looking inky black rocks that broke the surface in clouds of white spray. For several hours we sweated our way along the channel until we could see our goal, the lighthouse and the open water. This just filled us full of dread. Huge waves pound the surrounding rocks, until then we had been relatively sheltered but now we got the full force of the wind and Grace became quite tricky to steer and the narrow confines of channel. Oh well, we could not turn back, there just was not room to turn and in the swell we would never find the start of the channel again, we would just have to go on. I am so glad we did this at the end of the trip and not at the start – I’d have wrecked the boat, I just knew that Grace would keep us safe.

A nightmare of a channel out into a rising force 6!

Sailing out into the open water we realised that would have to make a long leg to the north west sailing deep towards the centre of the lake, we were at 45 degrees to the waves making for a slightly more comfortable ride in the now force 5/6 wind and the very steep swell. We could then make a turn towards the relative shelter of the eastern shore passing the cardinals around Utskottet to port and heading down towards Dalbergasa. Sailing in the shelter of the east shore became very pleasant as we headed down the fjord towards Vannersborg. Every half an hour or so we were passed by ships coming from or going to the Trollhatte. It all seemed to going well and we were in the right place! Time to quit while we were ahead of the game. Dalbergasa seemed the ideal place to stop.

Dalbergasa is strange place! It is a camp site on the banks of the river with a small rickety wooden jetty to moor up to. To mark the river mouth and the way in is a large red pyramid, without it, you would never find it in a month of Sundays! There is then a sharp dogleg turn through a narrow opening in between two cliffs, which if we had not just done the Navens Grund passage would have caused a bit of panic! But once through, it suddenly opened up into a wide green meadow with a gently flowing river through its middle. It is a completely different world and a complete contrast to the roar of the wind and the waves. Opening up in front of us was a positively bucolic and tranquil scene that Constable would have happily painted. We were just missing the hay wain! Oh and there were two thundering great wind turbines right in front of the view!!

Dalbergsa – so peaceful out of the wind!

That night was a celebration, it felt like we had broken free of the grip that Lake Varnen had on us. We would have a relatively short sail down to Vannersborg and the start of the Trollhatte Canal. Barring mishaps we would make to Gothenburg in time.

Next morning started bright and sunny. It was definitely autumnal with the trees on the far bank starting to turn many shades of red. We had had a lovely peaceful night, with just the gentle hum of the wind turbines for company! The only problem was how were we going to turn Grace round in such a narrow river without ending up grounded in the trees on the far bank! I knew that if I could get her bows round then the flow of the river would bring us round okay. It is times like this that a bow thruster would have been perfect! Anyway we don’t have one and it was back to our trusty spring lines! I rigged plenty of fenders on the stern and slip lines to the jetty and we cast of our bow lines, the current flow and engine taking us back against the fenders, slowly Grace’ s bow eased out, then mores quickly now as the current caught us. It was a good job too as the jetty behind began to collapse under Grace’s weight! Releasing the stern slip line, wheel hard to starboard and plenty of engine revs we came round gently and were heading back to the lake. A quick jiggle through the gap in the cliffs and we were met by a brisk force 5 and a sharp swell! Clearly the lake was not going to give us an easy ride on the last leg across her!

Vannersborg is at the head of a deep bay. It is well buoyed through a series of reefs and easy to spot by the stream of ships going either leaving or entering the Trollhatte. We had about 20 nm to sail to the south and then through a lock and railway bridge to reach our berth for the night. We had a lovely sail down the bay, well reefed we tacked through the shoals making an easy 4.5 knots. Finally taking in our sails at the first large green buoy at the start of the shipping channel. This was the last time we would be actually sailing Grace and it felt sad that this part of our adventure was over.

As we motored in the rain started. Perhaps in sympathy with our mood! But no time to mope, we were in a stone lined channel with lock gates and a railway swing bridge at its far end. We radioed the lock keeper and they told us to wait 10 minutes – back to the usual stooging about then! 10 minutes came and went, clearly Swedish trains are not always on time, then finally after another 10 minutes the train came and the bells and whistles began, the bridge very slowly swung open. And then almost immediately started to swing closed again. Okay so this was how it was going to be! Off we went and popped out into a large basin. The canal path marked by a line of wooden posts. Avoiding the temptation to cut across to port and to the marina we followed the line on the chart. Making a sharp turn to port and almost double backing on ourselves close to to next bridge. Making for the opening of the marina you could really feel the strong gusts – not ideal and sure enough while try to find a space we got caught by one of these suddenly blasts and almost clipped the stern of a large motor boat! Simplicity rather than clever was called for here and we just went alongside on the outer pontoon – it was not going to be sheltered but at least it was easy to moor to!

The start of the Trollhatte Canal from Vannersborg Marina.

The next step towards Gothenburg.

Made it! We were in Vannerborg, it would only take two days to traverse the Trollhatte. We had made it before they closed it and we would be in Gothenburg on time! Brilliant!!

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