Five hundred miles to Sweden (Hej då Skottland!)


Today is kind of the day Mia and I have been waiting for for almost five years now. Today we’ll set sail for Sweden, the final leg of our voyage ‘home’ that started in earnest in the spring of 2008 when we first laid eyes on Cybele, the boat we saw in Oxford and which I knew would be ours the minute I pulled into the parking lot where she was hauled out.

The voyage proper began last year on July 4, the date we’d set for ourselves as D-Day, when we’d leave the dock no matter what the state of the boat, adhering to the old adage that a yacht is never truly ‘ready’ for the sea, and at some point you just have to cut ties and go. Notable events surrounding our departure? It was exactly a week after our USA wedding party, less than two weeks after our actual wedding in Sweden, and the day after our friend’s Dana and Ben’s wedding. We left their party up at Heidelberg Country Club early because we knew what was looming the next day.

It was 10:30 in the evening by the time we actually cast off the dock lines from Sarles Boatyard in Annapolis and said goodbye to my mom and dad (who’d taken us out for one last dinner ashore), and it was closer to midnight by the time we rafted up with Micah and Adam in Whitehall Bay (we we did leave the dock, we only went about 200 feet before having to wait for the drawbridge to open for nearly an hour, thanks to the fireworks display in the harbor that evening and the traffic jam across the bridge). Well, the boat wasn’t ready for sea, and neither was I – I’d forgotten the charts of all things on Sojourner, my mom and dad’s boat, and had to hitch a ride at 2:30am with Micah into Back Creek and cycle over the Sarles in the middle of the night, fortified with rum and pineapple juice that we’d been drinking in celebration. There was no way Arcturus was going to return to the dock – it just wouldn’t have been right.

Fast forward about 3,000 miles and a year and a month later, and we’re getting ready  again to make for sea. This time is decidedly less stressful – the power tools never got put away until the Bra D’or Lakes in Canada last year (we hadn’t even had blocks installed for the small jib, forcing us to run downwind off Nova Scotia with my mom and dad aboard and run for shelter in Shelburne. The boat wouldn’t sail to windward with anything but the genoa), yet for the last two days in Scotland, we’ve had enough free time to start training for a marathon again and get two coats of varnish on Arcturus’ exterior teak. As I write, I’m standing in the laundry room doing one last load of clothing and Mia just stopped by to ask me if there is anything left to do. It’s only 11:15 in the morning, and we won’t be leaving until high tide around 5:00 this evening. So yes, decidedly mellower.

The boat is in the best shape it’s ever been in (knock on wood). I added 60 feet of chain to the main anchor rode here in Inverness, reorganized the anchor locker to get some weight out of the bows of the boat, cleaned out the lazarette (again to remove weight from the stern), and readied our second anchor rode under the main settee in case we ever need it (it had been buried under the vee berth previously, basically useless). With the diesel now chugging along fairly reliably (again, knock on wood), the rig all squared away (I finally added turnbuckles to the last two mizzen shrouds that didn’t have them) and new lee cloths just installed this morning, I actually feel ready to go.


The goal originally was to head to Shetland from Inverness, take a peek at the UK’s northern most plot of land and learn a little Viking history on the way. That’s the main reason I got so involved with the anchors, thinking we’d need them up there if the wind got up, as it does north of 60º. But the longer sat here in Inverness, waiting on a package of Swedish charts we’d ordered from Stockholm, the less inclined I was to visit Shetland and the far north of the UK.

Initially the plan was to head up that way and write an article about it for SAIL magazine, which they were to run in their adventure cruising issue in the next couple of months. We’re close enough, I thought, to make a go at it, have a little adventure and a little mission along the way, a purpose beyond merely sightseeing, which Mia and I really need on trips like this. But Shetland, as much as I hate to admit it, wasn’t my goal. It’s been Sweden all along. I’ve now know Mia for over five years, and yet I haven’t spent more than a month or so enjoying the summertime there. I’ve only sailed for two and a half days in the archipelagos (with Ryan, in September 2009), and the way our work schedule is panning out, it might not even happen again next year.

It was only really when we made the decision a couple days ago to forego Shetland that I allowed myself to realize the next stop would be Sweden. All morning today Mia and I have been high-fiving with excitement – ‘we’re sailing to Sweden!’ we kept repeating to each other. So in the end, there never really was a decision to make. It was made all along, we just took a little while to find it.

My mom’s mantra was always to follow your heart, do what you love and the rest of it will fall into place. Now, more than ever, I believe we’ve finally figured that out. So the immediate future sees us with just about five hundred miles through the North Sea from Inverness to Marstrand, and we aim to sail it directly, foregoing stops in Denmark or Norway on the way and pushing on towards Sweden, which has been the goal all along. Thanks mom, for helping us figure it out.