Kvark’s first crossing


The past week was very adventurous for Kvark the homebuilt microcruiser. Namely, it sailed across the Gulf of Finland and back again, covering about 150 km! This was the longest trip so far for Kvark and the first trip on which the crew lost sight of all land and had to use a compass to keep bearing. It also marked an important point in the history of Kvark, as crossing the Gulf of Finland was one of the catalysts, which started the construction of Kvark.

The crew consisted of captain Uku (writing this text) and deckhand Victor. Yet another set of physicists to sail with the boat. We sailed from Käsmu in Estonia to Sandholmen on the island Pellinki in the Finnish archipelago. On our way there, the wind was from the West,  blowing 3-7 m/s. We sailed all of the big sea, but used the 1.7 kW Honda outboard motor for the final push in the archipelago, since the wind calmed to a near still and we wanted to be at the port before darkness fell. It took 12 hours to complete the trip there. Our sailing speed varied from 6.5 km/h minimum, 7.5 km/h average to 9 km/h max. Motoring speed was around 7 km/h.

The first excitement on the way there was sighting cargo ships. The Gulf of Finland has rather heavy traffic. We sighted our first ship rather soon after leaving Käsmu. It was a “medium” sized container ship with the letters “KMC” on it’s side. Adrenaline starting kicking in from thereon.

“Is it moving?”, “Which way is it going?”, “Look, I see another one!”, “It is coming straight for us!” were key questions and statements for hours to come. Luckily we managed to pass traffic without incident. These behemoths move at 30 km/h compared to Kvark’s 7 km/h and are pretty much infinitely larger. And infinitely larger they do feel.

Pictures (more below) really cannot describe the awe of meeting a steel giant on the open sea. It feels.. overwhelming. We realized that Kvark’d better get a radar deflector for longer voyages in traffic zones.

On our way back, the sea was mirror calm, all the way to the Estonian near coast, when a breeze picked up from East, enabling us to sail. Listening to the motor run for 9 hours in a row is.. pretty frustrating. Silence, hearing ambience of the sea and hearing your friends talk are a strong bonus of sailing when compared to a motor.

However the calm sea provided us with other entertainment. We saw lots of seals near the coast of Finland. In fact, in one flock, there were over 20 of them (on the picture above). They were very curious of the boat, some of them surfacing (and immediately disappearing) very close to the boat, at 10 meters distance perhaps. They seem very curious animals, looking and inspecting, driving their head high out of the water. It seemed as if the calm sea was also interesting for seals, as they could bask in sunlight and see far and beyond. A hard thing to do in waves.

The second day of sailing was in very calm seas. This enabled us to see the massive cyanobacteria bloom. We saw them the whole way from Finland to Estonia. There was more of it near the Finnish coast. It was like ploughing through moss.

A cause of visual applause was also the very massive bloom of cyanobacteria in the whole Gulf of Finland. Namely the sea was throughout the way back covered in a highly green “film”. It looked like thick soup, but gave no resistance to plough through. This bacteria blooms in warm sea and gives off toxic compounds. Not good for swimmers. Interesting to
look at, though!

Lessons were learned from this trip and memories and emotions welded into the core of the brain. Who knows, maybe a trip to Sweden next year? Sailing at night is something that really frightens the beginner. We’ll see! I also filmed several video clips of the passage and will cut, edit and upload it in the near future.

Here are more pictures of the trip, there and back again:

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Preparing for third season on the sea: 2

Season preparation this time was quite similar to the last: consisting mostly of work. However we did celebrate Kvark finally landing on her custom built trailer! Now all that is left to get her waterborne are some additions to the trailer chassis. After that we plan to explore the nearby ports, preparing for some longer legs later this summer.

As you see, we opted for the classic “Egyptian” style of work: using levers to slowly creep Kvark upright into her trailer. The first night of this work ended in a slight frustration due to exhaustion and mosqitoes. But then, things took a seriously positive momentum when we met the local Pruuli family who gave us shelter, wine, sauna, tall tales, a good nights sleep in an actual bed and morning coffee. Thank you very much, family Pruuli! In the morning we had a fresh breeze of ideas, plus the help from an hydraulic jack and the local museums men Titus and Virko. Up she went!

We also did some painting. Of course on the freshly welded steel on the trailer and the anchor, which Uku welded up three years ago.

This time in Käsmu reminded us the need to acknowledge and be thankful for all the good people that we’ve met when building and sailing Kvark. She is like a silent bystander and matchmaker, getting the odd look and the very frequent question “Why does she look so.. strange!?” Then we say:”She was built this way.” There is a saying that a weakness can be a virtue. This is very true for Kvark. Build a boat and you will not win prizes in money or pristine looks, but you will win in all the stories you hear and the compassion that people have for your ambition and story – and the inspiration you can give to others.

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Preparing for third season on the sea


We spent our last weekend getting fried in sunlight, preparing the launch of Kvark for the coming season. Many thanks to Magnus Otsa and Katrin Nigumann for the help!

Kvark in Käsmu, early June 2018. Uku standing on deck and Magnus standing by.

Our previous launches have either been very expensive (order a large truck with a large crane, 350+ EUR per time) or very tedious (half a day of Ancient Egypt style construction work and labor). The idea of building a custom trailer has been in the air ever since Kvark saw daylight a number of years ago.

This year we finally took the time to act and start the construction of a custom Kvark trailer. For this, a Volkswagen Golf rear axle was purchased from a friend, and some 20 meters of steel profile in 3 meter segments.

All the brake calipers had to be removed from the drums first. The wheels would otherwise most certainly rust shut. It took a ton of grinder work to get all the rust off the axle. It came off of a junkyard car.

Next up will be adding four arms to the trailer, two on either side, to hold the sailboat in place. We’ll add some rollers under the keel to make it easier to get the boat off the trailer.

Katrin working on oak and varnish.

We also sanded the exterior oak parts of old varnish and applied three new coats. Some painting was also done, plus a few patches of glass fibre on the rudder.

Next up will hopefully be launching!

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