National Geographic : 1950 Nov
Baltic Cruise of the Caribbee BY CARLETON MITCHELL WHEN a pleasant dream comes true, it is nice to dream again. No sooner had my wife Zib and I returned to Annapolis after cruising the islands of the Caribbean * than we began to dream about the skerries (little islands) of the Baltic. "It's cold up there," warned one friend. "Pilotage is difficult," said another. "There are unswept mines," contributed a third. "The Cold War will engulf you," added a chorus. But the idea persisted. We thought of the archipelago around Stockholm, hundreds of little islands flowering in the brief summer; of isolated Finland and its courageous capital, Helsinki; and the storied walls and battle ments of Sweden's ancient Visby and Kalmar. True, the Iron Curtain had already closed off one shore of the Baltic; newspapers car ried headlines that showed hazards were not all navigational. And we could learn of no other American cruising yacht that had ven tured into the Gulf of Finland since the war. Cruise Begins at Oslo However, on the afternoon of July 12, 1949, the United States ensign flew jauntily from the sterns of two yachts lying off the Royal Norwegian Yacht Club, Oslo. On one moor ing was our Caribbee, on another Argyll, owned by William T. M1oore of Oyster Bay, New York, our cruising companion for the summer. Both were ocean racing yawls, fast, able, and comfortable. That morning the yachts had gone over board into the waters of Oslo Harbor from the foredeck of the S. S. Mormacwave (page 615). Masts and rigging were in place, the stains of shipping from New York removed. We had chosen Oslo for the start of the cruise so that we could sail down its beautiful fjord and cross Sweden by the famous Gota Canal. I had always wanted to see rural Sweden from my own deck and sail its lakes in the mountains (map, page 608). It had been ten years since Zib and I visited Oslo. Our last memory was of Karl Johans Gate, the principal avenue, thronged with silent crowds while sirens howled the first practice blackout. Since then Norwegians have weathered war and occupation. Yet we found their lovely capital little changed. Shops were well stocked, restaurants crowded.' Every weekday evening steamers carrying commuters to their homes on Oslo Fjord race dramatically for the harbor narrows (page 623). We dropped our lines and followed the fleet. There was not a breath of wind and the sky was cloudless, of the depthless blue found only in high latitudes. Oslo was red and white against a background of pine covered green slopes. About 15 miles below Oslo, where the fjord narrows, we passed the small island of Ka holm. Soldiers inspected us from lookout towers. Hidden in the rocks were bunkers, narrow eye slits barely visible. Where Nazis Got a Surprise These were the guns that upset the time schedule of the Nazi invasion of Norway. When the cruiser Bliicher came abeam, the fortress opened up. Surprised Nazi generals drowned in dress uniforms donned for the grand entry into Norway's capital. A few miles farther we saw a rusting monu ment to the Norwegian underground move ment-the German freighter Donau lying at a steep angle on the shore. While this troop transport lay at Oslo, the resistance hero, Max Manus, worked for three days under the dock among rats and filth attaching homemade limpet mines to her hull. When she was well down the fjord, the mines blew holes in her bottom, and her com mander drove her on the rocks, full speed. However, all those in the afterpart of the ship, including many Nazi soldiers going home on leave, were lost. That night we anchored behind Hank0y, a center of Norwegian yachting. The Crown Prince has a house perched on a hill over looking the harbor. He is an ardent racing sailor. Beyond Hank0y-literally "Hank Island," as the termination 0y means "island"-Oslo Fjord widened into a huge bay. Just after lunch, at 1:02 Saturday, July 16, I took bear ings and found we had crossed a watery border and entered Sweden. For the night we stopped at the fishing village of Havstenssund. As we sat in the cockpit talking over our navigational problems * See "Carib Cruises the West Indies," by Carleton Mitchell, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, January 1948. t See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Midshipmen's Cruise," by Midshipmen William J. Aston and Alexander G. B . Grosvenor. June, 1948; "Norway Cracks Her Mountain Shell," by Sydney Clark, August, 1948; "White War in Norway," by Thomas R. Henry. November, 1945; "Norway, an Active Ally." by Wilhelm Morgenstierne, March, 1943; and "Norway, A Land of Stern Reality," by Alfred Pearce Dennis, July, 1930.