Back to School, Ep. 201

Each summer, it feels a bit like returning to grade school. I guess you could call it summer school. There is the excitement, coupled with a bit of unease, about the new classroom. We are headed north into Norway this summer, far beyond the comfort and warm waters of the Med where we started this whole affair. So far, we have yet to retrace our steps. Even when we headed back out of the Med in 2021, we made a point of visiting new harbors, going around the opposite sides of islands we had been to before, and rounding peninsulas like the Peloponnese instead of running the shortcut through the Corinth Canal of Greece again. No two classrooms are exactly the same, and that can be invigorating and it can be a nail-biter.

There is often a new bus to ride. We were ferried across the Atlantic by SAS to the city of Copenhagen onboard an Airbus A321, with 3×3 seating. Oh, how I miss those grand ol’ widebody 747’s with enough space inside to make you think you were sitting in an auditorium. But I get it. Widebody versus narrowbody means a lot more fuel versus a little bit less than a lot of fuel. Which means a little bit lower fare prices if by chance you beat the post-Covid ‘I’m-not-going-to-postpone-my-European-vacation-one-more-time’ surge. When we landed, Karen and I were trying to work through the unique cerebral fog that is jet-lag, this time from a 12 hour time difference after attending a family member’s wedding in Hawaii. You have to be careful on the first day. If you show too much vulnerability, the school yard bully will make you his mark.

The Copenhagen airport is a gem of engineering. They located the train station right below the airport. From here, you can travel by land where ever you need to go. In our case it was on the Swedish rail line to Kalmar. Remarkably, in our impaired state, we found the right ticket kiosk and the right side of the train track to wait. It is no fun watching the train you are supposed to be on arrive at the opposite side of the station, an athletic endeavour I confronted more than once while backpacking across Europe during the pre-Hoka sport-shoe rage.

And, speaking of attire, everyone knows it is important to look your best as school begins. Last year’s old sweatshirt and ratty jeans won’t do. Well, for some self-proclaimed fashionistas, the rattier the jeans, the better. For us, heading into the Arctic, holes in clothes – jeans or otherwise – would lead to an immediate ‘F’ on the report card. Instead, we scoured our closets back home for extra wool socks, polypropylene underlayers, a variety of gloves, and, for good measure, a pair of ski googles. Our boating friends back in the Med wouldn’t recognize us. New year, new look.

Sea Rose along the waterfront in Kalmar

The crew at Baltic Kalmar Marina launched Sea Rose into the Baltic after some minor drama; I can’t recall a launching that hasn’t had some element of surprise or mishap that encourages one to finally finish that tome from Thich Nhat Hanh. The guest harbor at Kalmar was surprisingly devoid of boats given the Swede’s fascination for taking vacation all at once in July. We hurried around town in our rental, a zippy little all electric Nissan Leaf, disgorging the contents of our storage unit at the port. It always amazes me how much crap goes into a sailing expedition, and we are by no means pack rats. Sea Rose, bobbing high on her waterline fresh from the launch, seemed to shutter at the sight of all the gear on the dock. As parents are fond to say, ‘Suck it up, buttercup’!

The sassy all electric Nissan Leaf taking a big gulp of fresh electrons

It was super windy as we pointed Sea Rose out of the harbor and down the Kalmarsund, with 25 knots of wind on our nose. But we couldn’t put off the start of classes any longer. The syllabus was packed full of content by a voracious instructor, a disciple of the ‘no rest for the weary’ school of discipline. Ahead of us lay the southern tip of the Swedish peninsula, followed by a U-turn to the north — out of the Baltic Sea and across to Norway for what promised, with its deep fjords and tall mountains to be an adventure like no other. For tonight, though, we would lay at anchor along a nondescript part of the Kalmarsund, waters still and silent except for the faint whirring sound in the cabin of pencils being sharpened before class tomorrow.

End-of -day view along the Kalmarsund

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