36 THE SWEDISH RIVIERA
July 30, 2008
After my time off the ship in Copenhagen and the intense emotional experience of reconnecting with my Danish friends, I had a hard time getting my mind and heart back into the ship and the voyage. My thoughts and feelings were elsewhere, and it took a few days to get fully re-engaged in the voyage. That may have been part of my problem with our next stop, the Swedish resort island of Marstrand. When we came into the harbor my comment was, “This looks like the Swedish Riviera.” Of course, I’ve never been to the Riviera, so maybe I’m being unfair to it, but the warm weather, the rocky hills with few trees, the many boats, the red tile roofs, and the fortress looming over the town reminded me of my mental image of the Riviera. The harbor was fairly small for a ship of our size, and the Picton Castle had just enough room to swing at her anchor.
When I got a chance to go ashore after a day of on-watch heavy labor on the ship in the hot sun, at first I felt like a tourist. Then I realized that in this resort town not far from the major Swedish city of Gothemburg, everyone is a tourist, and if I didn’t look like a tourist, I would be even more out of place. To be totally truthful, I never really got into Marstrand very much. Sure, I strolled along the waterfront people watching and looking into some of the stores that sell what stores in tourist towns always sell. I had a great lunch with my friend Thomas—the second mate—of smoked mackerel, smoked and baked salmon, and a seafood pate, washed down with the local beer. We explored the fortress and walked along the rocky shore where the Swedes were enjoying the sun and the water, but my heart wasn’t totally into it. Maybe it was because my heart and mind were still in Copenhagen, or because I don’t know any Swedish, or the people weren’t that friendly, or I have absorbed some Danish antipathy towards the Swedes, or I was frustrated because I spent a lot of time trying in vain to get wifi to get on the internet to send my journal entries to you. But while it was interesting to see how the Swedes play, Marstrand wasn’t my favorite place. I think I will like Norway better.
My low opinion of Marstrand may have been shared to some degree by other members of the crew, but they are a resourceful bunch who could find fun in a barrel. As usual, once ashore they all scattered to find their own experience. Most explored the I town and hiked the island, two checked into a grand old hotel, a number spent a night ashore camping in the woods, the usual group hit the local bars to drink beer and meet the locals, one made his usual exploration in search of the seedy side of life, two spent all night at a big party set up in a cavern—a “rave in a cave,” Thomas and I enjoyed the local seafood and explored the castle, many swam from the rocky shores and dove from a small dock, and some enjoyed the topless Swedish women. Back on board—since the weather was hot and the water was warm—some of the crew rigged a line to the end of the foreyard, to use as a swing, launching from the height of the foc’sle to swing out over the water and drop into it. Nate, who grew up on an island in Puget Sound, did fantastic aerial acrobatics. The evening brought a quiet, lingering sunset.
Our passage from Martrand to Norway was a fairly slow one in light air. Once at sea we re-established the rhythm of the watches and resumed our usual duties of helm, lookout, scubbing the deck, washing the dishes, cleaning the heads, etc.
On this passage the Captain held the last of his periodic classes on making a ditty bag. Not only does each participant come out of the class with a useful storage container, but more important, he or she is introduced in the process to the basic skills of the sailmaker: seaming, tabling (hemming), making grommets and sewing them in, and sewing on a rope at the top as you would sew a rope on the edge of the sail. In this final class, the Captain showed us how to make and install a sturdy wooden bottom, and slice on a rope handle, called a becket, and serve the splice with marlin tightly would around it to protect and preserve the splice. We all gathered in a circle around the Captain and watched with rapt attention, eager to learn these traditional skills.
During our night watches we enjoyed the almost midnight sun. This far north, the sun sets after nine o’clock, with a long lingering sunset, but the sky never gets completely dark. There is always a glow in the sky, as the sun—which has set in the northwest—moves across below the northern horizon to rise in the northeast.