På Arcturus i Sverige

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Note: This was originally from my hand-written journal, written in mid-August. I copied it to the computer, changed it to the past tense and edited/added a few things here and there...

Our friend Clint arrived on the morning of August 17th. He sailed with us across the Atlantic last summer, and left after a few days in Crookhaven, making his way back to Norway. He's a Brit - bloody wanker! - but moved to Norway last year to pursue work as a tree surgeon. We met originally in Fiji, on the same trip that I met Mia on, and we traveled together then for a couple of months. He's a special kind of friend (no, he doesn't ride the small bus Johanna) - we only see each other once a year if we're lucky, but I feel very close to him. His journey to the boat from Oslo was a long one, and included an overnight bus ride. He didn't sleep much because the woman next to him smelled bad and tried to cozy up next to him when she fell asleep.

At 6:45am, his bus arrived in Malmö, at which point Clint hopped on a train to Landskrona, followed by a ferry ride to the island of Ven (which Mia had mistakenly assumed was Danish - 'A flute with no holes is not a flute, Danny. A donut without a hole, is a Danish'). We were there on Arcturus, after a couple days of light-air (imagine that) sailing down from Marstrand, which included a small anchorage surrounded by rocks, which we later learned were covered in basking seals. Oftentimes the surprises you encounter out sailing are better than the expectations. Mia and I - unlike Clint - fell asleep before 11pm the night before - indeed before Clint's bus ever departed Oslo - and slept past seven the next morning. Clint was miffed that we hadn't the foresight to even greet him at the ferry terminal. He saw our boat and came to us. To Mia's credit, she had made a 'Welcome Home Clint!' sign on an old t-shirt which she hung in the rigging, and had 'Mini Nate' there waiting for Clint with a Kit Kat bar in his grip (incidentally, Mia and I got in a small argument over the sign's decoration. She had drawn, in Sharpie marker, an outline of a heart and an outline of a star above the words 'Welcome Home Clint!' Except the star was the star of David. I commented on this, and she argued 'why can't a star just be a star?' It can be, I said, but that, what you drew, is a star of David. It just is. She wasn't swayed). Clint was happy in the end anyway. He slept on the boat while Mia and I ran some errands.

Our progress was frustratingly slow since leaving Marstrand. By the time Clint arrived, we were something like 150 miles south of Marstrand, not a small distance to be sure, but we were truly taking our time. We tried hard not to motor, which is why we didn't go very far - there was barely any wind.

We covered 30 miles or so the first day out after winding through a narrow cut outside Marstrand. We sailed inside the archipelago for the first half of that first day in very flukey wind, at times romping along at 6 knots, then suddenly becalmed. What a beautiful change though, to be sailing inshore on flat water in the warm sun!

North of Göteborg I spotted the ketch Northern Light on a railway slip on one of the islands to our west. Her red hull stood out among the grey rocky shoreline, and I almost knew before looking in the binoculars that it had to be that boat. I'd read recently in one of the magazines that they'd recently returned to Sweden after their island-hopping excursion in the Southern Ocean. I would have loved to stop and chat.

Later that same day I spotted Mar Mostro PUMA Ocean Racing's entry in the latest Volvo Ocean Race, on the hard outside some propulsion company building on another island. "You're good at spotting things Andy," Mia commented. Too bad I'm colorblind.

Our anchorage that night was in a gorgeous harbor near the southern edge of the west coast archipelago at the head of a narrow fjord. We found a mooring buoy around 10pm, just as the last bit of dusk faded away into night. Both Mia and I slept immediately, woke at 6am and did it all over again the next day.

The weather was nice enough that we had a naked hour on the boat, and the wind light enough that the spinnaker wouldn't even stay full. It was a repeat of the day before, anchoring at dusk after covering 6 miles, sleeping until 6 the next morning and getting underway just after dawn. We sailed off the hook past a few islands covered with basking seals. From a distance they just looked like particularly craggy rocks, but up close it was seals everywhere. The sailing was great all morning before a calm spell near the narrows at Helsingborg (Mia motored for two hours while I did some work on the computer down below). When I came up, the wind had shifted into the southwest and we set all sail and tacked down towards Ven, making one long board right to the Danish coast, then back again towards Sweden. We sailed right close to the north coast of Ven before tacking again down the east side in very light breeze and dropped the mainsail just outside the breakwater, finishing off the day at 7pm, a very nice change from the long hauls of the two days prior. The next morning, Clint arrived.

It's very nice to have a friend like him. We see each other only once per year (if we're lucky), yet we connect on a philosophical level. Mia ran for over an hour the morning he arrived, and Clint and I just chatted over a few coffees at the cafe near the small ferry dock by the harbor. Clint has stuck to his alcohol-free pact he set for himself when I saw him last - at New Year's Eve in Åland (something I failed at by January 25, my 28th birthday), and he's proven very inspiring to me. We talked about the death of my mom and how it's affecting me, my sister and especially my dad. We talked about living in the moment (Clint is currently reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), and I reflected on how well he would have taken to my mom, how much he could have learned from her in his own quest for spirituality and wholeness. I showed him the Salutation of the Dawn native-American image that we used at her funeral. Clint is not like my other friends. He fills a special niche that I need in my life, a reminder sometimes of how I have lost my way at times and an inspiration about how to get it back again.