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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Volvo Ocean Race

What a thrill to be living in Stockholm when this amazing around the world sailing race came to town. This is the first time the Volvo Ocean Race has stopped in Stockholm. We figured out that on Wednesday afternoon there would be a "city sprint" from one of the closer islands in the archipelago into the center of Stockholm. When we looked at the route, we realized that the boats would sail right past an area that is very easy to get to in our little Finnmaster. So we grabbed our youth pastor and our summer intern, called it a staff team building outing and dashed out to our boat! We really had no idea what was in store for us! It happened to be a lovely day after days upon days of really crummy weather so we were thrilled to even be able to get out on the water. The sun shone brightly and the sea glistened and we were filled with anticipation.
Once we turned our little corner that leads us out of our harbor into the open water we began seeing signs of the race. A helicopter pulling a huge Ericsson sign flew overhead and we could see boat traffic in the open water ahead. Once we arrived at the open water we could scarcely believe our eyes. Literally hundreds of boats pouring through the water, huge motor boats shadowing the towering sailing boats that were a part of the race. The water was unexpectedly choppy. A friend who was watching from the stability of her balcony that overlooks the water made the comment "Watching from above it looked like a boiling cauldron of waves and boats." Boiling cauldron is a great description for what we found ourselves in! After marveling at the sights and trying to snap photos, we realized that we were in over our heads...literally. The waves created from all the boat activity were huge and rolling right over the sides of our little Finnmaster. The churning waters made our boat feel feather light and when I noticed the six inches of water in the bottom of the boat, we realized that we needed to get out of that churning wave pool! Tanner was not a happy dog. He was extremely nervous and started wimpering! The last thing we needed was a dog overboard so while Doug skillfully steered the boat up and the down the sizeable waves, I try to keep Tanner calm. Chris and Kelsey got soaked when a huge wave came over the front of the boat and seconds later we were all drenched by a whopper that came up and over the entire boat!
In the midst of the hundreds of motor boats, police boats, racing boats and news crews a giant Celebrity Cruise ship was making its way into Stockholm as well! Those passengers definitely got their money's worth by being on a huge ship that was surrounded by all this excitement. I could only imagine how awesome it would've been being on the deck of that cruiser!
Still...the thrill of being in the middle of it all was invigorating. Doug was very skillful and did not panic. I was the driest of everyone and had actually taken my shoes off so fared better than the rest. Wet feet are easier to deal with than soaked shoes! Even so, the Baltic sea water was chilly and I was happy that we weren't going overboard.
Once safe, in the calm harbor, we dropped anchor and reveled in our luck. What a treat to get in the middle of one of the greatest ocean races in the world! We were cracking up thinking that we'd just drive up, sit peacefully in our boat and watch the lovely sail boats run on by! I never imagined that hundreds of boats would be following this race creating the choppy waters that we had to contend with. As we sat in the very calm waters of the little bay, far from the tumult of boats that were now screaming into Stockholm, we enjoyed the warm sunshine on our faces and tried to get our clothes dry! Lunch tasted great and that warm cup of coffee went down well.
The boat performed beautifully with the bilge pumping out all of the water in less than a minute. It gave us all a new respect for the sea and how even calm waters can get churned up into a dangerous surf that can be hard to manage.
There are many more events in the week ahead and next Thursday the boats leave Stockholm headed for St. Petersburg, Russia for the final leg of this race that began in Spain back in October!
It's pretty cool that we got to get right into the middle of it all and experience the thrill of ocean racing.
(Thanks to my friend Marilyn, who watched safe and secure from the confines of her lovely balcony and was able to get much better photographs than I! Many of my pictures came back and they were of the sky, the bottom of the boat, nothing at all. It was tough to keep a steady hand!)