Before we started our second season in the Baltic, we realised that we did not want to sail Grace all the way home ourselves. It would mean either we repeat our lengthy route out to the Baltic or we do a 3/4 day and night sail across the North Sea. Neither Anne or I like night sailing and the North Sea is not the place to make up for our lack of passage making experience. We are, and always will be fair weather sailors!
A fair weather sailor!
The obvious answer to our dilemma was to hire an experienced delivery skipper and crew. An internet search came up with a lot of great sounding candidates with glowing references. So by the end of March 2018 and after checking qualifications (Yachtmaster, Instructor Certificates, Masters Ticket) we had booked and paid (let’s call him Capt’n Bob) a professional delivery skipper and his crew to bring Grace home from Goteborg at the end of September. It should be a straight forward sail from Goteborg across through the Skagarack and then west towards the UK East or South coast. We would be happy for them to bring her to any port along the coast!
This must be the world’s largest 4 man liferaft. I keep falling over it in the saloon and it does not bring back happy memories of the Capt’n every time I do it!
So in May 2018 we set off from Augustenborg in Denmark, pleased that we had everything sorted!……With just the exception of a saga over sourcing the world’s largest and most lavish (and heaviest) life raft in Stockholm (read the blog for the gory details!). We had a great season, it had been the hottest summer for 200 years and the sailing around the Swedish archipelago was an amazing experience.
By late September, we were moored up in the Lil Bommen marina right in the heart of Goteborg, ready and waiting for the Capt’n! Grace was fully provisioned; spare gas, a full set of charts, UK Navionics Card, spare diesel, a full set of engine spares and of course the hugely expensive and large liferaft. The Cap’n was not what I had expected. I had at least expected someone who wanted to go sailing! But at least his regular crew, an ex-RN engineer seemed to know what he was doing and I was reassured that he would not sail with someone who could not Grace safely back to the UK. Disappointingly the Cap’n moaned about almost everything; the weather, the marina WiFi, our excellent Swedish charts (I’m very insistent about good charts – you need them for the Baltic), We even scoured Gothenburg to see if we could find different ones to make him happy and eventually found him another one. He then disappeared for the day to the opera house coffee shop to plan his passage……perhaps it would have been better if he had had some clue about where he was going before he arrived!
Views of Goteborg, lots of things to see
We were where we were, our plane tickets had been long booked and with lots of things to do waiting for us in our new home, we set off for the airport. We had to trust to the Capt’n to get Grace home safely.
Grace – 3 days passed and still in Goteborg!
It all went quiet, the Capt’n did not answer our calls or texts but finally after 3 days we found they were still in Goteborg due to bad weather and were planning to head down the Oresund and then to Kiel and the canal. They planned to sail out of the Elbe, skirt the Friesian Islands then hug the Dutch, Belgium and French coasts, finally crossing to Dover. The long way round! Possibly the worst possible route as you are going West all the time with the prevailing wind against you most of the way. He now kept telling us that he only had seven days left to complete the trip. Easily achievable with the shorter and much quicker North Sea route but tight on the coastal route. It was from that time that we knew they would never bring Grace home and we needed to find somewhere to overwinter her and get her out of the water before the ice formed. The daily texts started to arrive showing us just how little progress they were making as the time ticked away! Fortunately Anders at Augustenborg in Denmark, the place where we had stayed last year had a space on the his carpark where we could keep Grace for the winter. I instructed the Capt’n to go to Augustenborg which they made surprisingly quickly considering how long it had taken them to leave Goteborg. Buying 3 air fares for them to return to the UK, we were relieved that Grace was in Ander’s safe hands and that she had not been abandoned in some unknown harbour when the crew bailed out!
Grace on Anders’s car park – at least she would have lots of company!
We made a quick November dash to Denmark to clean the boat out, prepare her for the winter and to stock up with Jubilams Beer (Christmas Ale)! Fortunately there was one last space in Ander’s boat storage sheds so we knew Grace would be safe, warm and away for the snow and ice. Minus 15 degrees can do a lot of damage to boat plumbing!
Grace ready for winter
Grace needed tidying after the crew bailed out!
But we still had a problem, how to get Grace home before Brexit!? Why was Brexit a problem? As Grace had been out of UK waters for two years there was a distinct possibility of a VAT bill plus the relaxed approach to customs in all the countries we would sail through might disappear and we just wanted to have her home! Attending several the Cruising Association crew finder meetings in London we realised that we could not get Grace back before March 31st – Brexit Day (at the time!) by sailing her back. We needed another plan!
The world’s biggest boat show – in Düsseldorf
BOOT Dusseldorf is the worlds largest boat show. The worlds largest boat show requires a lot of boats……and they must get to Dusseldorf somehow. Sure enough there were plenty of boat transport companies on display at the exhibition. Based on my uncanny ability to pick winners I chose unlikely named Sleepy Jacht Transporte. Hopefully they would not live up to their name! Fortunately they did not! Based in Kiel, they quickly picked up Grace from Augustenborg. But Grace was not going to leave her adopted home in Denmark that easily as Storm Gareth struck the coast, trapping Grace at Dunkerque for 36 hours. Then as an extra large load she got stopped in Dover for a further 6 hours to await a police escort all the way to Chichester.
Grace leaving Augustenborg
Finally after an epic 4 day journey……
Grace safely back at Birdham Pool
Finally after 4 days we were able to welcome Grace to her new home in Birdham Pool, the oldest leisure marina in Britain and built in the old mill pond. A quick coat of antifouling (it actually took me weeks), refit the sails, renew the genoa furling line, recharge the batteries and top up the water…….Grace was ready to go sailing again!
Back where she belongs and ready to go sailing