Rocking the Baltic Sea
I have bumped into the ad on Facebook - 500 EUR, and you can sail from Klaipeda, Lithuania, to Gotland Island, Sweden, on Ambersail, an authentic Volvo Ocean Race yacht, VOR 60 ex. „ASSA ABLOY“ 2!
That yacht has an interesting story - a group of Lithuanian weirdos decided to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the first mentioning of the name of Lithuania by circumnavigating the globe, and called it “The Millennium Odyssey”.
They didn't get any money from the government back then, so they have funded themselves a purchase of Assa Abloy. Well, actually there are rumors that they got this particular boat because the second option was 40 kg heavier. Yep, each detail counts on the race! Long story short, they have sailed around the world, promoting Lithuania as a marine country, meeting Lithuanian communities, city mayors, and ambassadors.
But it's an expensive beast to maintain. So nowadays they take a crew of "tourists", "sailors-wanna-be", and "Instagrammers" on board. For some big money.
Of course, I took a bait. And I have convinced my sailing buddy Algis to come with me - it took me a while... I think his wife was pregnant at that time.
And here we go - two sailing geeks on the way to Klaipeda port! So, we are at the harbor, meeting the Captain, saying hi to the crew, and suddenly we realize that we are the only ones among some 10 wealthy and cocky "tourists", who are actually interested in sailing, not Instagram photos to brag about after the return! And even if there were two men who called themselves captains and boat owners, the way they behaved... Let's say I have some doubts.
We've left Klaipeda at noon, it started to rain cats n' dogs instantly, I've got some water under my sleeve which didn't dry until we've reached Gotland. It was bloody cold and stormy at some point, all my fleeces and my sleeping bag were wet, and I was freezing my butt. When finally the sun came out, I've burned my nose and lips so badly I still have a scar... (I couldn't take a sunscreen out of my pocket - I've been steering the boat!). But these were 3 days of my entire life that I would go back to instantly if I could, without even thinking! Those were 3 days of plain enjoyment!
The Captain divided us into watches - 4 hours per group. Those two "captains and boat owners" took the best one - 8 to 12. Algis and I took the "dog watch" - 4 to 8, both PM and AM. And it was the best decision. Why? Well, you are overexcited to fall asleep anyways (and the waves are shaking too badly, and it's too noisy, too), but you get to see both sunset and sunrise.
And strange things happen at those magical hours: on my first morning watch, I saw a flying penguin! I couldn't believe my eyes, the sailor who was together with us on our shift had a good laugh. It turns out that it was a puffin - there is a colony of those rare birds on tiny Stora and Lilla islands just next to Gotland Island. Locals say, that only male birds live on one, and female - on the other island. They pay each other a visit from time to time, that's why it's forbidden to sail between those two islands - some blinded by love puffin may smash into your mast.
Oh, and going to the bathroom is another story! Imagine this: the yacht is constantly on one side, close to 45 degrees, it goes 12 knots per hour (22 km/h), and at the very same moment you decide "it's time", the wind becomes much stronger - that's the rule! The head (the toilet on the boat) is located on one side of the boat which is up in the air at that moment, so you must climb to reach it. So, you climb up that little "Everest", somehow manage to close the door behind you, fix your feet wherever it's possible just to keep yourself inside, lower your pants... When suddenly the boat jumps on the wave, and you smash the door and fly all the way down, into the arms of another sleeping sailor. After repeating that procedure several times (and FINALLY managing to pee), on our way back I've simply decided to avoid drinking any liquids. It's manageable for 17-20 hours, trust me.
Oh, did I mention that I wouldn't be able to survive this one visit to the head without my proper sailing Gill dropseat trousers? Yes, dropseat is the keyword in intimate situations like this! If you ever aim for a Nordic adventure like this - my only advice is: dress properly. Nothing else matters out there, and it will be worth every Euro spent.
LONG WAY HOME
And almost home, when we saw Klaipeda in a distance, we started joking whether an encounter with dolphins is included in this "cruise". The funny thing is that couple days later there was an announcement on the news - a dolphin was noticed close to Klaipeda for the first time ever. Damn climate warming!
Everyone left the same second we've moored. Guess who were those two weirdos who stayed for a few more hours? The Captain is simply amazing, he passed Cape Horn for more than 5 times and saved a man overboard in extremely difficult conditions. He told us many stories, signed our log books for mileage recording, oh, I wish you all could be there!
There was a story how one lady from an official delegation stepped on the boat wearing high heels. She pierced some pipe with her heel, but shhh... officially it's a secret! But she almost sank the Ambersail.
AT THE HELM
Steering that yacht, oh boy... Actually, it's really easy - it listens to every movement of your hand. But that's why it demands all your concentration too. That's why I couldn't take the sunscreen out of my pocket - I had to hold the helm all the time, both hands! I don't think it's possible to describe it. If you love sailing, you must experience it at least once. But one thing I can tell - you simply can't stop smiling.
Algis made a short video about that trip. I have no idea when he managed to film that, but he found a few moments when the weather conditions were milder. Wanna see? Check it out:
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