Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore sailing seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Mahina Expeditions, Offshore Cruising Training

Tromso, Norway; Ellos, Sweden

August 14, 2007, 0130 hrs, 58.17 N, 10.20 E, Log: 111,442 miles
Closehauled at 7 kts in 14 kt SE winds, 1’-2’ seas
Baro: 1008, Cabin Temp: 72F, cockpit 71F

Racing to Sweden!

Leg 4 is one of our most ambitious high-latitude coastal legs ever. In 17 days we cover 1200 miles from Tromso, Norway (1300 miles from the North Pole) to Ellos (just north of Gothenburg, Sweden) in an area of volatile weather conditions, even in mid-summer. For the past five days we’ve been closely monitoring the weatherfax and GRIB file charts watching a low track across the North Atlantic. Knowing it is forecasted to stall just off Norway’s southern coast tomorrow after combining with two more low pressure centers, then intensify to 978 mb we skipped Bergen, one of our favorite cities anywhere, to press on south.

Alex, Roy and Jack studying the weather
With a steady winds, and clear water it’s only now, in the early hours of the morning, that Amanda and I have few spare moments to write an update. The weather has been the controlling influence of our itinerary and we have been greatly aided by the GRIB files (grided binary files from which have given us the ability to see wind speed and direction, wave heights and precipitation with surprising accuracy as far as 7-10 days ahead. Our other asset has been our newly-installed Furuno NAVTEX receiver which gives us coastal weather forecasts in English every six hours.

Amanda and I had so much enjoyed our sunny between-expedition sail to Senja, SW of Tromso, that we planned to share the rugged west coast with Leg 4 crew. But when crew joined in Tromso on August 1st the weather forecasts for the exposed outer coast stated strong headwinds. We opted for an inside passage to the Lofotens choosing a series of channels we hadn’t

The harbor at Flugoya Island
previously sailed. Our personal goal of visiting new anchorages and towns was achieved. We enjoyed Risoyhamn, a small village north in the Vesteralen Islands, berry picking in Sandvika, on tiny Flugoya Island just above 67N, and Ringholmen - a deserted fishing camp near Kristiansund.

Special adventures included meeting a lovely English family and rafting up to their handsome Hoeck cutter Josephine at Trollfjorden to share lunch followed by fruit cake in the magical fjord.


Vicki, Jo and fruit cake aboard Josephine

A couple days later on Monday the 6th we met up with three-time former expedition member Lore Haack-Voersmann in Hollandsfjord where we together with her crew we enjoyed hikes, laughs, glacier exploring, knots and berry crumble pud.

Orion and MT docked in Hollansdfjord

“Malibu” Bob is thankful L.A has no glacier caves.

Crew of Orion enjoying pud

Our plan was to make a long 380 mile non-stop offshore passage from Hollandsfjorden directly to Alesund, but after we ran into nearly gale force headwinds early the next morning we changed tactics and headed south on the inside channels. In Roan we caught up with Joyant - who we’d cruised Spitsbergen with - and rafted together for a short night before an early start south. A great thing about most of the coast of Norway (and similar to Patagonia) is that there are often several parallel north-south channels. When faced with headwinds and large seas offshore you frequently have the option of choosing an inside channel and motorsailing in calmer seas and less wind.

The weather forecast according to “Malibu” Bob

Kitty enjoying a rare downwind channel sail

Friday afternoon we arrived in Alesund, the amazing art-deco city, rebuilt with the help of Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany after a devastating fire. We rafted up to a Bavaria 45 whose owners were from the Lofoten Islands and enjoyed visiting with Gunnard and Helga. This was their first summer vacation on their first sailboat which they had recently purchased sight unseen on the internet. Previously they had owned several cabin cruisers, but they found sailing quieter and much more relaxing. They own a 55’ whaling and fishing vessel and Gunnard had just returned from a busy season of whaling in the waters around Spitsbergen. At first they were a little reluctant to talk about whaling, but after awhile they explained how the fishery works, and how closely it is regulated. With an ever-increasing Minke whale population, Norway continues this fishery that they have pursued for many hundred years. Many grocery stores and all fish markets sell whale meat; you cook it as if it was beef.

Alesund is always a favorite stop and not to be missed are the 418 steps to a spectacular lookout which most of our crew reached. Speaking of crew...

Here they are:

Alexander Khasanov, 44
Alex grew up in Siberia and learned to sail on Optimist dinghies as a child. His job with a large bank moved him and his

Leg 4 Crew: Alex, Roy, Jack, Malibu, Kitty & John
family to St. Petersburg, Russia a few years ago and he started racing on a friend’s Swan 45 and has completed many ocean races since then. Six years ago he bought a 50’ custom-built catamaran in St. Martin which he sailed in the Caribbean for four years before selling it recently to look for a less high performance boat better suited for ocean cruising. He contacted us as a consultation client to help him find the best boat for his cruising plans including Spitsbergen and a world circumnavigation. He chose to have a Hallberg-Rassy 48 built, and looks forward to taking delivery April ’08 before setting sail for Spitsbergen.

Roy Massena, 56
With my children off to college, there is now more time to pursue long-held dreams of sailing to distant lands. I am fortunate to live in Spokane, WA and own a small software company. Dinghy racing and club ocean racing as a youth sparked an interest in the sea and I was optimistic that time with Amanda and John would help me understand the methods, procedures and equipment suitable for safe ocean cruising. My expectations were exceeded, and I am now looking for a 40’ boat for worldwide cruising.

Jack Scott, 68
I am a retired but am still active in the Denver, CO business community. I owned and cruised several boats over the years in the BVI’s with my wife and children, but I wanted some offshore experience and my objectives were thoroughly satisfied. I can’t think of a better way than this to learn about offshore sailing.

Bob Edler, 52
After 25 rewarding years in program management around the globe, a career sabbatical affords me time to “fill in the blanks” on my more creative yearnings – sailing for one. John & Amanda whip up a wonderful blend aboard Mahina Tiare as they demystify the cruising life. Soon, I’ll return to the work-a-day world, refreshed and with the experience to better make my sailing plans a reality. Bob has recently been splitting time between living aboard his Beneteau 411 in Marina del Rey and a home in Arizona while studying screen writing. With a love of the sun and the finer things in life Bob quickly got labeled with “Malibu”.

Kitty Elton, 54
I teach English Literature and English as a second language at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, Canada. Except for recent chartering in the Caribbean, most of my sailing dates back to the BC coast 25 years ago. Cruising on a boat of my own seemed like an impossible dream at that time. Though it may still be wildly impractical, John and I have decided to dust off our dream ad take a serious look at cruising – at least part time – in the not too distant future.

John Beal, 54

I am a family physician in New Brunswick, Canada and have practiced medicine there for the past 27 years. My past sailing includes lots of small boat racing and instructing. This voyage aboard Mahina Tiare is the first step for my wife and I gaining more knowledge about ocean cruising.

From Alesund we planned an overnight passage for the 160 miles to Bergen, where we would enjoy the vibrant city before setting sail for a small port somewhere on the southern tip of Norway.

August 16, 2007, 1910 hrs, 58.18 N, 11.27 E, Log: 111,478 miles
At anchor, Stangenas Island, Sweden
Baro: 998, Cabin Temp: 73F, cockpit: 72F, wind 20-22 kts SW

Kitty Elton:
Part of learning about cruising is learning to be realistic and flexible about the inescapable challenges inherent in a life lived in weather—learning when to make a run for it and when to stay put. We’d spent the night at sea underway and were 20 miles from our destination of Bergen when—even with our crew’s relative meteorological inexperience—we understood the scenario told by the weatherfax chart: a nasty 977mb low pressure system approaching the coast of Norway from the Atlantic. The predicted three day forecast was for substantial gale force headwinds just when we would be rounding Norway’s southern tip.

There was no dissent aboard when John suggested we should to skip the planned stop in Bergen to press south and round Lindesness—known as the Cape Horn of Norway—ahead of predicted gale force headwinds that could have held us stormbound in port for days. After two consecutive overnight sails covering 237 miles we were happy for a break in the cheery resort town of Mandal, to shower and celebrate with a nice dinner out. However, the same large system was still nipping at our heels, so we decided to make a three am start to make the run across the Skagerrak, 120 miles to Smogen, Sweden before darkness falls at around 2230.

Our goal was to keep the boat speed above 7 knots and with fair winds and favorable current we made 5-8 knots. I even nudged 8.8 knots thanks to some surfing action. Norway, Sweden plus Denmark all issued gale warnings on VHF Ch 16. Though we continued to be surprised by mostly sunshine and even practiced taking sun shots with the sextant while watching marching lines of thunderheads behind us on the horizon. After a long day, we made our way through the tricky channel entrance to the well-protected harbour at Smögen and were rafted up at the dock before ten pm in the twilight. The low pressure system

John takes a sight
caught up with us during the night, and the wind was blowing quite a gale by morning. It rained hard most of the day with the wind careening up to 30 knots. We were quite content with our decision to make those early runs ahead of the weather systems and to stay put for two nights in Smögen—especially after we heard the report that a three-masted German schooner had been blown onto the rocks outside the harbor.

We used the time in Smogen to concentrate on class and enjoy walks around the island between rain squalls. By Thursday morning winds inside the harbor dropped to 15-22 so we took off. After threading our way through the narrow, rocky channels under power we then set sail in clear water first close-hauled, then on a glorious fast reach south for about 10 miles south to a bay we nicknamed, “Leon’s Mum’s Bay”. In 2000 we anchored here on the advice of expedition member Karolina - her mother in law has a summer cabin here. After setting the anchor the wind piped up to 20-30 kts, blowing directly in the narrow bay. John Beal had been mentioning how he would like to try setting a second bow anchor, and this has provided the perfect opportunity, and in very real conditions!

Alex and John take-up the slack on the second anchor

Two bow anchor set

August 19, 2007, 0100 hrs
Ellos Sweden

All night it kept up, gusting to 30, even with a clear sky. The forecasts were now calling for Force 8 gale conditions over the entire area and by morning looking out the narrow entrance we saw nothing but whitecaps and rollers. We had nine miles including some very narrow channels and exposed coastal stretches to reach Ellos, and the Hallberg-Rassy marina. We briefly considered raising a triple-reefed main but with the wind directly on the bow in many of the channels we knew the sail would flog. Instead we chose to motorsail directly to windward. With everyone looking out for shrimp pot floats and fishing markers as well as rocks and nav marks we charged through the narrow channels, reaching Ellos by 0900. We have really grown to appreciate the latest Nobeltec Visual Navigation Suite and excellent Passport charts. Although the Swedish and Norwegian charts are generally quite accurate, the Passport charts were actually more accurate than the latest original paper charts in several instances. So, we are saying a big THANK YOU! To Scott Fordice at Jeppesen/Nobeltec for letting us test their latest and greatest platform and charts.

Roland Olsson, Hallberg-Rassy sales manager lead our crew on a detailed tour of the yard patiently answering many of their questions regarding construction details. Some were surprised to learn that bare hull and decks are only 15% of the boats value, but once they had an educated grasp of the building process they soon became aware of were the expense goes. An interesting feature of seeing a bare hull is the internal horizontal tabs amidships. These not only provide a base to attach the salon seating but also a ledge to stow lead. With all owners now selecting different options (the most is 400, the average 200) there is way of knowing how that the boat will sit when launched so lead is sometimes needed to trim the boats flat once in the water.

The 40ft plus line up

Bilge and keel bolts

The weather forecast according to “Malibu” Bob

This crew was extremely keen on learning and we successfully accomplished their learning objectives but had to stop the diesel engines video so they could run to catch their bus to Gothenburg!

Alex splices an anchor snubber for his new HR

Before going aloft Kitty’s safety line is checked by Amanda

Over the few six days we will be getting MT into top shape for her appearance in the Sweboat-Orust Boat Show and Hallberg-Rassy Open House the 24-26 August. With 22,000 people attending the show, we look forward to seeing new and familiar faces!

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