Category Archives: Adventure

Aboard the Dragonfly (pt. 2)

As it turned out, the conditions on Thursday, the 7th of April, were far heavier than anticipated. Shortly before we decided to head back to port, we saw 32 knots on the wind instruments. We were up against pretty steep 1.5m sea, despite deliberately having chosen a route which was just 2-3 miles leeward of the coast, and with good water depth. Having motorsailed out of Middelfart with the jib, we had the headsail up. In those conditions we would probably have needed no jib at all and the mainsail in its second reef. Due to a jammed roller we’d have to tie in the 2nd reef manually though, which would have been problematic to say the least, in those conditions.

Under jib alone, the center of effort was way too far forward, and as a result could make only very limited progress to windward. After driving the bow through a wave, the anchor locker was flooded, and we were concerned about the locker’s hatch being damaged if we did that a few more times. Further along our route, we’d have been in much more open water, where the wind and the seastate likely would have been heavier still, so Daniel decided that discretion is the better part of valor, and we headed back to Middelfart once more. It was the right call to make. Heading back, was like any afternoon sail, with the wind and waves form behind, things were pretty relaxed and we made port shortly thereafter.

The rest of the day we just hung around and had a relaxed day in port. On a side note, I’d taken seasickness tablets (50mg dimenhydrinate) twice the day before, and once that morning (and they really worked), but despite being far below the maximum recommended daily dose, I really felt their side-effects that afternoon. Common side effects (>10% of cases) include sleepiness and muscle fatigue, and while I had a bit of that the day before, I wasn’t of any use when we docked that day, I was just lethargic to the point of not wanting to even move anymore. On top of that I was feeling down and a bit depressed, and ended up wandering off on my own for well over an hour, to try and clear my head a bit. I certainly recognized that gloomy state of mind from many years ago, but I couldn’t really understand why I suddenly felt that way again, and why I was having such a hard time working my way back to a positive mindset. Later that afternoon I read through the list of side-effects: depressive mood, in 1-10% of cases… Go figure… A few hours later I was right as rain again. It’s certainly something to take note of for the future though!

The next day we got up, and looking at the wind we knew that all of our efforts of that week were going to be royally rewarded! 🙂 On Friday we had perfect sailing conditions with 10-20 knots of wind at a true wind angle of 90-110° for most of the day. We never sailed higher than 60° or lower than 120° TWA, despite threading our way through several islands and channels. We had waves on the beam or on the stern the entire time, and even had as much as a knot of favorable current at times. That day we sailed 63 miles in just under 10 hours, without jibing or tacking once. That was pretty neat!

Overall I learned a tremendous amount on this trip, especially about the interior layout of a 9 meter boat, which is knowledge I’ve been busy applying to my own design, since I got back. I think Daniel, who intends to circumnavigate the Baltic Sea in his boat this summer, has picked a great vessel for the job, and I think he’s got a great experience infront of him. I’m really thankful to have had the opportunity to sail with him and Hilke so early in the season, and I’m eager as ever to get out there on my own boat!

— Marco

Aboard the Dragonfly (pt. 1)

Recently Daniel and Hilke, two friends of mine, bought a Larsen 28. It was stationed in Hobro, Denmark, and they asked me if I wanted to come along to get the boat from there to Kiel in Germany, its new home port. Despite some concern over the low air and water temperatures at this time of year, it was an offer I was happy to accept. A little after noon on Thursday the 31st of March, the train roared out of the station, carrying me toward Eckernförde in northern Germany. It’s Hilke’s home town, and after rendezvousing there and loading all the gear and ourselves into a larger car, we headed for Hobro on the morning of the 1st of April. I’m sad to admit I didn’t get up to any mischief this year, but the trip went smoothly and we proceeded to clean and do some repairs on the boat, as well as loading it up and getting it ready for craning. It was in the water Saturday evening, and after some final preparations and a test sail, we headed off on Sunday afternoon.

It was sailing upwind in light air, which was a good start to get to know the boat a boat. With a bit of motoring, we made it from Hobro to Hadsund by nightfall. In the following days we sailed to Grenaa, Hou, Middelfart, Middelfart (again), Damp, and finally Kiel. Conditions started off with light air upwind sailing, with the wind increasing significantly over the course of the week. On the leg from Wednesday Hoi to Middelfart we sailed upwind in 13-18 knots for most of the day, but encountered sustained winds over 20 knots later on, which hindered us from continuing under sail. The boat doesn’t have any storm sails yet, and the jib with a double reefed main proved too much when sailing to weather. Thursday morning was peaceful, and with the same forecast as the day before, but better shelter from land and deeper water, we felt pretty optimistic about the day.


I even took a few minutes of video, reflecting on the trip so far, and looking forward to another day’s sailing.

— Little did we know just what we were heading into…

A Little Winter Adventure

Call me a fool, but amidst the snow and ice at -3°C, I decided to go canoing on Tuesday. Canoing in the winter is something I’d never done before and really wanted try out. The past few weeks I’ve been using my morning showers as an opportunity to harden myself a little against temperature shock in preparation (brrr!!!), just in case, but regardless it was a decision I didn’t take lightly. I was quite concerned by the risks involved; accidentally falling into the water at freezing temperatures, without a drysuit on (only a wetsuit), doesn’t have to end well no matter how well prepared you might be. After taking a good look at the conditions on the river on my way home from university, and sticking my hand in the water for a while, I decided to go though. I took spare clothes and a cell phone (packed watertight) in my backpack, and I also decided it’d be a good idea to check in with a friend a couple of times. I also took a mylar blanket, headlamp, a very bright flashlight with a strobe function, extra batteries, a lighter, some extra clothes to put on for the duration of a break, and strapped a knife to my lifejacket as well. An icepick would have been better, but I had to make do. A package of crackers, some liquorice, and two bottles of warm water completed my equipment.

When I finally got on the water a little around 16:30 in the afternoon, the sun was already setting, but I’d been out in the dark before (and I did have my headlamp) and with all the snow I wasn’t worried about visibility in any case. The sunset put on a fabulous display of colors. Even in the fading evening light, after sunset all the ice lining the shores and hanging from the trees as icicles or pure transparent spheres was simply gorgeous. I can only imagine what it would have been like a few hours earlier in the direct sunlight.

After the first few hundred meters I encountered my only impassable obstacle: I had to get onto land to get around some fallen trees blocking the way. I had the river on my right and a flooded meadow, totally frozen over (which I was not about to set foot on), to my left. Right in front of me was an elevated stretch of the meadow, which looked like it was free of the flooding, but it was full of shrubs, branches, and those fallen trees. My first thought when I got there was that it looked like the surface of the moon, and that I was never going to get across there, but after scouting ahead a little it turned out it was only a short stretch. I went back for the boat, which just slid right over everything with all the snow and ice, and pretty soon I was back on the water again.

Having to get out, in combination with the moderately strong current, did make the going a bit slow: it took me almost an hour and a half to work my way 2 kilometers upstream to my destination, a meadow just northeast of Querum. I played icebreaker a bit to get myself and the boat into a sheltered niche by the shore, and ultimately just forced the canoe up onto the ice, which allowed me to get out onto dry land, for a well deserved break at my destination. The blade of my paddle had a coating of ice on it at this point. I checked in with my friend, ate a little, drank some warm water, and after about half an hour was eager to get on my way back. Despite a fair bit of extra clothes I’d put on for the break (a lesson I learned the hard way, back in the Finnish Army), I was starting to get cold regardless. I took the extra cloths off, hurried back onto the water and started rushing downstream. A few minutes later it was all was good again. The trip back was really quick: getting back, including hauling the boat back over the trees and branches, took me just over half an hour, and then after jogging a kilometer, with the boat in tow like a sled, I was back home safe and sound, with a huge grin on my face.


I have to admit I’m pretty beat, and today I took the day off today just for rest and recuperation. Come spring, my canoe might need a bit of paint here (scraping along ice at the sides is not so good for the paintjob), but overall it was a great trip! If I ever go canoing in the winter again, then with a drysuit, or at least with a second boat around, but I’m glad to have done it solo once. It was a cool experience, and it was good to be out there and really be doing something again! 🙂

— Marco

The Netherlands (pt. 2)

Sven didn’t have forever that Saturday evening unfortunately, and so I found myself back in Den Haag by the early-mid evening, a good couple of hours earlier than I’d planned. That was just as well though: it being Thanksgiving, some of the students in the dorm at the Leiden University College had decided to celebrate with a Thanksgiving dinner. It was great to be amidst a group of really international students again, people who have lived all over the world. It was fun to get the same puzzled look I always give people, when they ask me where I’m from. 😀 Between the twenty or so of us we probably had almost as many nationalities, but everyone brought a dish of food, or some wine, and a really nice evening of talking and playing games ensued.

On Sunday my sister showed me around Den Haag a bit, and we went to the North Sea as well. On that windy overcast day, the sea looked anything but welcoming for a sailor, but it was good to hear the rustling of sand and the crashing of the waves again, it had been too long.

Overall, meeting Sven and the Thanksgiving dinner turned out to be the most memorable experiences of the weekend. I’m really thankful for my sister and for Sven, for both inviting me over! More often than not, the best part of a voyage are the people you meet along the way, and this trip was no exception. I think that insight is something I would do well to hold on to for future voyages, sailing or otherwise.

— Marco

The Netherlands (pt. 1)

In part, my trip to the Netherlands was exactly what I thought it would be, but in a few regards it also really surprised me, and that for the better. After an early start at on Friday, I headed for the train station and hopped on a train to Hannover at 05:20. From there via Amersfoort I arrived in Den Haag about six hours later.

Underway before dawn on Friday.
Underway before dawn on Friday.

My sister who studies in Den Haag took me see the old city of the nearby Delft. The historic town center is a mix of narrow streets and countless channels, and now for the Christmas season, they are all illuminated with chains of white lights. It was just absolutely gorgeous. Passing by, I just couldn’t help but think that the many small restaurants overlooking the channels, would be a perfect place to take your special someone for a candlelight dinner. Maybe one day!

The arrival of Saturday, took me to Breda, which is about an hour away from Den Haag by rail. Once there I met up with Sven Stevens, a naval architect and huge proa fan. His 38 foot proa ‘Pacific Bee’ is one of the largest pacific proas in all of Europe. 38 feet (11.5m) sounds like a big boat, but my first impression upon seeing Pacific Bee was the exact opposite: it was much smaller than I had imagined. A long slim canoe body, even if it’s 38 feet long, is still a pretty small boat, at least compared to a monohull of similar length. That said, once we went inside, I was surprised to find a very cozy and roomy cabin. It even has a full 2 meters of standing headroom in the middle of the boat.

This is what Pacific Bee looks like assembled, but derigged. I only saw Pacific Bee fully disassembled, but this gives a better idea of what the boat looks like as a whole.
This is what Pacific Bee looks like assembled, but derigged. I saw Pacific Bee in a fully disassembled, but I think this picture gives a much better idea of what the boat looks like as a whole.

Pacific Bee was completely disassembled for the winter, but I had the opportunity to see the cockpit, lee pod, beams, rudders, and ama as well. We talked a great deal about Pacific Bee though, its capabilities, its limitations, some of the changes made to the boat over the years, and what could still be done to improve it. Overall the boat was in excellent shape, despite already being over 30 years old. Well built wood-epoxy boats just don’t go bad, and Pacific Bee proves it. Sven intends to sell the boat to help finance his next one: a beautiful 53-foot proa, designed for real ocean cruising. At over 5 tons displacement, the boat would be nearly ten times as heavy as the little ~7 meter proa I am tinkering on, and it’s a good deal more expensive than that, but it was great to see just what’s possible.

Sven Steven's 53 ft pacific proa design
Sven Steven’s 53 ft pacific proa design.

I left Breda with a lot of food for thought for the new design of my own boat. We run the proaforum together, and at times Sven has been like a mentor for me in this whole project, so it was great to finally meet in person, and also to get to poke around the boat with a tape measure. 😉 What really surprised me though was that the one of the most memorable parts of the weekend was still to come. More on that in part two!