May 12, 2008
BORN ON THE WINDWARD SIDE
Had AnckarstrĂ¶m seized power after killing King Gustav III of Sweden, I would not have been sailing the seven seas in small boats and you would not be reading these lines.
But, the coup failed. He was arrested and publicly flogged; his right hand was put on a block and chopped off. When the crowd got tired of seeing him suffer he was at last beheaded. Thereafter, his heart was carved out and his private parts were cut off. His estates were confiscated.
A surviving part of his family wisely and quietly left the capital to settle on a tiny island on the wild and far away North Sea coast.
It was Aliceâs motherâs grandfather who killed our King. Now Alice did her best to raise me to be a man, together with her daughter and granddaughter -my mother.
The male side of our family was at sea, peacefully earning our living. As a boy, at the age of thirteen, grandfather had left Sweden on a square rigger and rounded the Horn; five years later he was back, now a man, with a bag of money in his hand. He went straight to navigation school and graduated with Captainâs papers, first in class. Soon he got a command and married.
My mother, his only child, often accompanied him on those voyages to interesting lands, far away. As a young woman on one of those trips she met my father, the shipâs first mate. In April 1939, when she was 22 years old, she gave birth to me.
A year later I was on a train heading inland. These were evil times. The seemingly invincible Nazi army was marching. On 9th April they had overrun Denmark and Norway. It seemed only to be a question of time before Sweden would be invaded. The authorities had advised children and women to evacuate the coastal area. We hid in the deep woods. I explored a new and interesting environment and learned to walk. There I celebrated my first birthday. But the grown ups, they were bored. They took walksâ they prepared food and tried nervously to follow news about the war. Father and grandfather meanwhile were seamen on a ship in the Far East
* * *
On the 10th of May the theatre of war moved to France. But we were still threatened. Sweden created a coastal defence zone. Not before mother had obtained passes were we allowed to return to our island.
Our days were quiet. Most fishermen used their oars. Blackout was proclaimed. Light could guide enemy bombers. During dark clear nights I enjoyed looking at the friendly stars.
The ship with my father on had left on January 15th; on September 21st a sister of mine was born.
The male side of our family was living under considerably more dramatic conditions. My Grandfather was Captain and my father First Mate on the M/S Ningpo, one of Swedenâs proudest cargo ships, now in Singapore. Father worried about his young family in war-torn Europe, but soon he had problems of his own. A drifting mine exploded against the shipâs side, blasting a great hole. Quick work by the crew saved the ship from sinking, but the rudder, propeller and engine were damaged.
The local shipyards would not touch a Swedish merchant ship while British warships were queuing up for repairs. Trying to save their ship, they jury-rigged her and, despite the typhoon season, somehow managed to get her towed the thousand miles across the South China Sea to Hong Kong.
Their arrival coincided with the attack on Pearl Harbour. Hong Kong came under fire. Bombs fell close to Ningpo. To save his ship, grandfather asked the authorities permission to tow her to a safer place.
Hong Kongâs harbourmaster was not obliging, on the contrary:â
We are going to sink the Ningpo.â He said. âWe donât want her to get into enemy hands.â
-âThis is a Swedish ship. Sweden is a neutral country. She carries no contraband. You have no right to sink her. That would be against international law,â answered grandfather.
No quarter was given however. Rowing the lifeboat, the crew left the sinking ship. On the shore they had to fend for themselves while the Japanese forces advanced.
One day fatherâs ashes arrived home in a little box. I must have had a small father, I thought.
Despite the troubled times, or rather thanks to them, life on our island was peaceful. I liked being by myself. It was fun to comb the beaches for driftwood at that time, before plastic and oil littered the shore. I built forts among the rocks and rafts in our small cove.
When I could swim and make a few basic knots I was allowed to use our rowing boat. With it I explored the nearby skerrys and islets. When weather was good I rowed to the fishing village across the water and bought milk and bread.
I picked berries and collected mussels. I became an expert on mushrooms. I fished and caught shrimps. I learned to sharpen and handle my knife without cutting myself much. I realised that it was important to have powerful tools.
But most importantly, I craved to understand the world. Luckily, mother and grandmother were always close by to help me sort my thoughts out.
When I was seven years old a new and important phase in my life started. I was going to be educated. We were now going to spend the winters on the mainland because there was no school on our island.
For next to nothing, grandmother bought a house close to the naval base. The war had caused real-estate prices to hit rock bottom, especially the in the most threatened areas.
Unfortunately, it did not take long before it was revealed that I was a problem child. I for my part discovered that school was hell; that it meant sitting for hours at a time on a chair in a classroom and being told to learn things by heart. Because it was thought I could not read and write properly, I was classified as stupid. I resisted and declared that I wanted to be out playing.
In Sweden in the forties, if a child did not know his homework, the teacher would box his ears or whack him with her ruler. I was selected as a prime target. When my classmates saw that the teachers were beating me I was considered fair game.
Luckily, I could run fast and stand quite a lot of punishment. And at home my sister, mother and grandmother gave me all the love I needed, so it could have been worse.
My teacher soon sent me to a psychologist who had no trouble finding out that I had:
ââŠdifficulties in taking in the teaching, was infantile, peculiar, strange, showed bad results. Was clownish. Quarrelled with his classmates. Fought. Had school fatigue. Was a nail-biter. Self-absorbed. Wanted to be outside playing…â
The diagnosis did not help me, but it convinced the teachers that their ruthlessness was justified, that it eventually might turn me into a good citizen.
It did not work. After four long years, the situation had become intolerable. But there is always a solution. Mother found out that on the other side of Sweden, north of Stockholm, there was a progressive boarding school.
Its name was Viggbyholmsskolan. Its purpose was to help children with problems. Its pupils should learn for life, have freedom and responsibility. It was with pedagogy, not with might, that the teachers should infuse their knowledge. Teachers and pupils were equals.
That children should be respected and treated as grown-ups appeared bizarre and controversial at the time.
For me, the new school was Paradise. I got along nicely with both teachers and children. The teachers were creative people who respected different thinking. The school was the first one in Sweden that understood and had special education for dyslexic children. I was in my element.
It was during this time I became interested in physics, chemistry and mathematics. It started when I got hold of some wires, batteries, bulbs, buzzers and a few switches. Soon with simple connections I could make noise and light.
My interest in electricity soon gave way to chemistry, which was like magic, but real. Fantastic vistas opened up. By mixing two liquids I got a third with completely different properties. I made tar out of wood. I made plastics out of milk. I made explosives out of charcoal, saltpetre and sulphur.
Chemistry became my passion. I began to collect test-tubes and chemicals. I learned complicated formulae and the atomic weights of the chemical elements.
My teachers soon saw that I had a special gift for chemistry. I was encouraged and given a key to the schoolâs lab. While my schoomates were out playing I read chemistry textbooks. During the summers, I worked in the laboratory of a paint factory.
Through chemistry I began to realise that mathematics was a tool that could give my mind great power. Soon, I was way ahead of my class in chemistry, mathematics and physics.
Unfortunately I was still a total failure in languages. Writing compositions was disastrous. My English teacher told me that even if he gave me the test one week in advance there was no way I would pass.
Finally, after six good years at that fine school, the truth had to be faced. I was incurable. Everyone, including myself, realised that I would never get a degree. School law stipulated familiarity with languages, even for engineers.
At seventeen, I had to start work. I got a job in a small mechanicâs workshop. It was situated in the basement of an old apartment building. The workforce consisted of me and my boss. We had a welding torch, a lathe, a drill press, a vice and a few hand tools.
Boss was one of those self- taught wizards who only had to put their hands on a broken piece of machinery to make it happy. Luckily, he was also an unhurried didact. He showed me how to improvise and get along with few tools.
When not working I spent my time on my new interests- girls and speed. I bought a motorcycle and joined a bike-gang.
One evening when I came home, a fast- talking extrovert seller of used cars was sitting there talking to mother. They had been to school together. He had gone bankrupt and his wife had left him. Now he was going to make a fresh start by selling a car to mother.
It goes without saying that to survive as a used car dealer you have to have charm and be a good talker and Olle had both to a high degree.
Since mother had become a widow there had been no other man in her life. She had dedicated her time to raising my sister and me. But now I was seventeen and almost grown up, seldom home, always out on my bike or doing something else. She often begged me to stay home in the evenings to keep her company, but I was too eager to be out chasing girls.
Not yet forty, mother still had a lot of life left in her. Soon she had fallen in love with Olle and he had moved in. I was old enough to understand love. I was happy that mother had found a man, but very unhappy that he was a seller of used cars.
Grandfather, who had barely survived the war, believed that a person should earn his money by hard honest work, not by tricking people.
Olle on the other hand was only too happy to make a good deal on a bad car. When he succeeded he came home laughing, using his favourite expression, âI told you the last idiot is not born yetâ. He tried to sell cars to everyone. He had no morals. I was ashamed to live under the same roof as him.
About that time, grandfather died and a few months later, grandmother too. Mother, their only child, inherited their two houses
Grandfather had not believed in debt and had no loans. Olle had different views. He convinced mother that it was no use having a lot of money tied up in houses. He persuaded her that she should take out a big loan so that they could start a company and get rich. Of course, the company went bankrupt a few years later.
Olle was a man of big plans. He began to change our houses, the one on the mainland as well as the one on the island. He tore down walls, rebuilt the attic, he changed the plumbing and lightning. He installed a TV-set. He dredged the cove and built a new harbour on the island. He started many projects, he finished few.
Grandfather had been an upright, quiet- spoken, kind man, but highly intelligent and with an iron will. That had enabled him to run his ships with clockwork precision and survive the war in China under the Japanese occupation.
Olle was the opposite. Where before it had been order it was now chaos. I was seventeen, trying to become an adult and I needed security. Instead I became a stranger in my own home.
One cold evening in December when I felt more terrible then usual, without telling anyone I left on my bike for Stockholm. After three days I arrived with no money and very little gas in the tank.
My first priority was girls. I begged for quarters on the streets. After a few hours I had enough for the entrance fee to Nalen, a famous jazz club. It sure was nice to dance with the beautiful girls. But when the club closed I was out on the street with nowhere to sleep.
It was December and the Swedish winter was ice- cold. I walked the streets for about an hour before seeking shelter in the waiting room of the main railroad station, the only place open all night in the capital. It was big and warm. There were lots of busy people. I prepared for a quite night on a bench.
After a while, two plain-clothes men spotted me. They told me that they were not policemen but social workers looking for juvenile delinquents. They said that they had a place for homeless young people, that they would give me a bed and food and that they would drive me there, and that it was all free.
Not expecting that Stockholm had that kind of excellent service, I was sceptical, but accepted their generous offer. It was, after all, ice-cold outside.
They drove me to a rather run-down industrial building in a working-class area. At the top floor we entered a brightly lit big room where a group of youths was having an evening meal. I was seated among the boys and given food.
Once we were left alone I was bombarded with questions. I told them my story. No problem, they said, we will teach you how to get by here in the capital. I soon realised however that this was not the kind of education social workers wished anyone to learn.
Next day I had a job in the post office. Now before Christmas there was plenty of work.
A few weeks later I saw an ad for a job as a laboratory assistant in the department of paint chemistry at the Royal Institute of Technology.
I phoned and got an appointment. My end-of-term report showed that I had the highest marks in chemistry, physics and mathematics, but also that I had the worst ones in other subjects, including discipline.
Behaviour is important, so my future boss was at first sceptical. He also had fifty other applicants to choose from. What worked for me was that I was the only one experienced with that kind of job. I had had summer jobs in the laboratory of The International Paint Company and they had given me good references.
In my interview I was asked to explain an instrument called theâswinging beamâ, a tool used to measure the hardness of paint. I had worked with it many times and knew its handling and theory well. I gave a clear account of it and the professor was pleased. I got the job- to the social workersâ surprise.
Professor NylĂ©n became my boss. His doctorate dissertation about paint chemistry had been so good that the government had created a personal professorial chair just for him.
My envy blossomed. Imagine having your own lab, assistants, and librarian and being a well paid and respected citizen to boot!
I did not dream of winning the lottery. I did not dream of a date with Miss Sweden. I dreamt of a personal professorial chair with a laboratory and a librarian!.
The atmosphere at work was intellectual. There was no rush. My two most important tasks, besides assisting the research personnel, was to collect the mail in the morning and in the evening buy sandwiches and make coffee for the afternoon break.
I donât drink coffee and had never drunk it then, but the procedure for making it was simple. In addition to learning much interesting chemistry I became an expert coffee maker.
As I came out of a cinema one late Sunday night In September I felt the darkness and the warm air. From a nearby park came the autumn smell of leaves and grass.
I slowly walked across Stockholmâs bridges and along its quays seeing the city lights reflecting in the quiet waters below with the films images still burning in my head, suddenly I had an epiphany; I know that I was not going back to work next day.
I was happy in the lab, but realised that the natural sciences did not answer all the big questions.
On the one hand I was completely convinced of Newtonâs clockwork universe theory, that if a supreme intelligence was armed with knowledge of his laws and the position and velocities of all particles, he could deduce every coming event. In other words, life was absolutely deterministic.
On the other hand, I was equally sure that I had a free will, that my values and feelings determined my actions. I knew that I was a conscious individual.
I also knew that the physical world influenced peopleâs feelings and morals. Alcohol for example, could temporarily make timid men violent, and a simple and popular method of making anxious and depressed people permanently tranquil consisted of knocking an ice-pick up into the brain through the eye socket and wiggling it a bit.
Evidently mind and body were one, and life without the body was impossible. The big question was: the embodiment of mind, or how to reconcile the personal subjective and the objective universal views of the world.
I had tried to make my friends interested in these profound questions but they were too interested in bikes and girls to care.
I too was interested in bikes and girls, but for me the fundamental questions were more important.
I felt alone. I searched for kindred spirits, preferably a girl with a heart that beat with the same rhythm as mine. I felt an urge to learn more about the world. I wanted to travel and met new people with different views.
The film had taken me far away. I know that in Paris there was a river called the Seine. One of the engineers at the paint lab had told me about it.
He had also told me about a group of people called clochards that lived on its banks. They were dressed in overcoats and slept under its bridges. Bread they found in garbage cans. Fruit and vegetables they found in a big market called Les Halles. During the days they were seated by the river. There they drunk vine and discussed the big questions. That the philosophers and the artist lived in Paris I knew from before.
Grandfather had left me a big overcoat so that was no problem. I had the equivalent of one dollar twenty five cents in my pocket. I was ready to take on French culture.
Next morning I rose early. I took the tram to the outskirts of the town. I began to walk south. Now and then I got a ride with a car. Towards evening I reached Helsingborg. I took the ferry across the Sound to Denmark. There went fifty cents. I wrapped myself up in my big overcoat and slept under some scaffolding.
The night was rather cold so I woke early and continued south. On my way towards the Jutland peninsula I got a ride with a salesman. He did not think I was normal when I told him I had slept outside in my overcoat under some scaffolding and was on my way to Paris to take on French culture.
Grown-ups are like that. They employ priests who teach us not to worry; like the lilies in the field and the birds in the sky and when they meet someone living like a bird in the sky they donât think itâs normal.
I also told the salesman that my hobby was chemistry. He remembered a little from his school days and decided to test me. It did not take long before he realised that I know much more chemistry than he would ever learn. That convinced him that I was an upright person and he became very friendly.
I had no map so he wrote down the principal cities which I had to pass through to get to Paris. When we came to the ferry he paid for my ferry ticket over the Great Belt and during the crossing invited me for a meal.
On the other side, with my feet resting on continental Europe, I knew that I had passed the biggest hurdles. In my stomach I had a meal and in my pocket I still had seventy-five cents. I walked and got rides and, eagle-eyed, looked for food on the streets and in dustbins.
One treasure stands out. As I walked through No Mans Land from Belgium into France, I spotted a promising-looking paper bag- thrown out from a car window, I guessed. I investigated and found two buns. To my joy, they were filled with chocolate.
Later in France, I was picked up by a fast-driving salesman. Suddenly we saw police stopping cars in front of us. âThey are looking for weaponsâ he said.
I was not impressed. My delinquent friends back in Stockholm would have been happy to drive right through a roadblock- if they were armed.
But when we stopped, I saw sharpshooters flat on the ground behind bulwarks. Their rifles were equipped with telescopic sights. Other policemen were mounted on idling motorcycles ready to take up the chase. I changed my mind, and decided not to fool around with the French police.
Already I had seen a lot of signs with three letters on them, âOUIâ. My driver had explained that an election was going on and that OUI meant YES. A man called de Gaulle wanted to be president. The political situation was tense. De Gaulle wanted to free Algiers. The French generals in Algiers did not like that. It was not good for la Gloire, the honour.
Now they planned to send their paratroops into Paris. But also de Gaulle was a general, maybe even the best general in the world. My driver told me that the week before, a demonstration had gone out of hand. People had fled into the Metro, got caught in the gates, and been mowed down by submachine-gun equipped riot police. One had better look out!
My next acquaintance was a Dutchman. He was a traveller like me, but more experienced. Work, he said, was plentiful at this time of year. Millions of grapes waited to be picked. No work permit was needed. Money, bread and board, plus eating as many grapes as you liked was the salary. It suited me fine. He gave me the address of an organisation: Jeunesse et Reconstruction at 137 Boulevard Saint-Michel.
He himself planned to make quite a bit of money that way. That he had done before. Then he was going to Africa to buy a horse. Also that he had done before. That something had been done before guaranteed that it could be done again. Such was the world. It was a fundamental principle; maybe the most fundamental one. The one every other was based upon.
To buy a horse! That was a new thought. A horse needed no fuel. I had seen plenty of cowboy films. You just let them loose after a dayâs ride and they fed themselves on grass. Grass was growing everywhere.
Next day I was in Paris. There were three things on my list: The River Seine, with its bridges and banks where I could sleep, the Arc de Triomphe with the Unknown Soldier and the 300-meter high Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel tower was the most easy to find. On the clear day I arrived it was visible from the outskirts. Unfortunately it cost money to go to the top so I had to be satisfied with looking at it from below.
The river was right nearby, complete with bridges and clochards. There was also plenty of old bread in the garbage cans, especially outside the many small restaurants. I felt rather pleased with myself when I went to sleep late at night below one of the bridges.
Coldness woke me early the next day. After doing a bit of philosophy I rose, reluctantly, forced by shivering. Not many people were about. The ones who where all walked in the same direction. More people joined them. Some had hand carts. A destination for many might be a destination for me, I reasoned.
Finally we were all enclosed by a huge system of market halls. Everywhere there were enormous amounts of slaughtered animals. Fruit and vegetables abounded. The place was packed. People pushed and pressed. Arguing and bargaining was fast, loud and noisy. This had to be Les Halles, the place the engineer had spoken about.
I looked around. Sure enough, right there next to my feet, in the gutter I found a squashed tomato. I looked around, a bit embarrassed, then picked it up and ate it. Delicious! It was sweet and ripe. No one had reacted.
Encouraged, I searched on. At one place a box of peas had split. A group of housewives scrambled to get as much as possible of it into their bags. I began to understand the content and legality of the enterprise. Fascinated, I walked about, eating my fill, having a good time.
When a few hours had passed it was time to look for the address where I hoped to find work.
Boulevard Saint-Michel turned out to be a well- known street and Jeunesse et Reconstruction had work for me on a vineyard near Dijon. I got a stamped paper with the farmerâs address.
There was no hurry. The grapes needed a few more days to ripen and I was not yet done with Paris.
My next project was the Arc de Triomphe with the Unknown Soldier. The street leading to it, the Champs Elysse, was the broadest I had ever seen. I could have put ten good-sized Swedish parade streets side by side into it.
The inscription on the grave started with ici. I figured out that ici meant here. I felt rich and proud; I had begun to learn the language. Ici meant here. Oui meant yes. I knew that from before. Now I could make a sentence. âOui ici.â Which meant: âYes here.â
Satisfied, I sat down on a bench to watch people. I did a bit of philosophy while I was eating a piece of bread. Maybe an hour passed. Suddenly, a man in a trench-coat appeared. He showed me a badge. âThe secret policeâ flashed through my head. Suddenly I was surrounded by three men dressed in the same kind of trench-coats.
First they wanted to see my passport. Then they asked me about my money. I showed them my coins. They looked serious and thoughtful. Then came a lot of questions I could not understand.
Slowly I began to understand that they wanted to know what I was up to. From my limited vocabulary I chose the word âtourist.â Apparently it was an excellent decision. Their serious faces cracked up in big smiles and they began to laugh. They saluted me and wished me good luck in Paris with my seventy-five cents.
* * *
Done with Paris, I made my way south on narrow roads. At one time I was walking on a seemingly endless road lined with trees. Eagle-eyed, I found something resembling a chestnut beneath one of the many trees. I picked it up. To my surprise inside the green case I found a walnut. The first live one I had came across. Sweden is too cold for that kind of tree. Having discovered the first one, it was easy to find more and I realised that all the trees were walnut-trees.
How nice it would be if parks everywhere grew fruit trees. In spring there would be beautiful flowers and in the autumn beautiful fruits.
After travelling for two days I found my destination. It was a small village. It had a church with a bell that chimed every fifteen minutes, telling the time. It had an open square. It had a school and a few houses. There might have been a hundred inhabitants, not more.
A gate in a wall led to the enclosed farm house. The family consisted of the farmer himself, his wife, a son with his wife and another son. Cheese, bread and wine were put on the table. I ate the bread and cheese, but asked for water instead of wine.
Not drinking anything containing alcohol was part of my philosophy. It was mother who had given me that insight. Late one night, walking home with her, I had seen a man lying in the street.
âMotherâ I said. âShall we help him?â
âNo Sven, watch out! He is drunk!â
âNever drink alcohol. If you do, you will end up drunk on the streetâ
She took the opportunity to warn me about smoking too. She said:
âIf you never drink the first glass, if you never smoke the first cigarette, you can never become dependent on alcohol or nicotine. It is a fundamental principle.â
I am so grateful to my mother for enlightening me on this subject that I would like to pass it on. Never smoke your first cigarette; never drink your first glass. If everyone follows this simple advice more than ten million lives will be saved every year.
* * *
On the farm, the grapes were not yet ripe; in the meantime I would assist the farmer with other things.
I was shown my bed. It was among the hay, in the barn, above the goat and the pig. The toilet was a hole in the ground.
At six oâclock I was woken. Bread, cheese and coffee mixed with goatâs milk were served. Normally I do not drink coffee, but now with plenty of goatâs milk I liked it. It was served in bowls. I liked that too.
I also liked the goat. It was like a cow with horns and everything, but smaller. It did not take up much space either. You gave it grass and out came milk. I decided that one day – if conditions permitted – I would own a goat.
At seven oâclock I and the farmer went out to the nearby fields and started to work. Some was easy, some hard, like clearing fields of prickly thistles without gloves. I complained and said that it hurt. The farmer laughed.
âYou have a womanâs handsâ he said.
I surely did not want to be compared to women. I thought of the hands of my grandfather. He had told me that when, at the age of thirteen, he had rounded the Horn on a square-rigger in freezing weather, they had handled rigging wires with bare hands. He had told me how broken wire ends like meat hooks ripped up their skin. Grandfather would have been glad to have been picking thistles without gloves. I blushed and felt ashamed.
At nine oâclock the women gave us warm food for breakfast. After that, more work waited. At twelve it was lunch. That was the most important meal of the day. In its scope it was comparable to a Swedish Christmas dinner. This was La Bourgogne, the center of French cuisine. The lunch lasted two hours. Then there was more work. At five p.m. it was time for a snack. After that, we had to be quick to finish because at eight oâclock we were going to have the last meal of the day. We finished around ten p.m. Then, tired and full, I went to bed after having washed off the dayâs dust at the farmyard tap. There were no inside washing facilities.
One night I had a nightmare. There was a terrible scream, someone was getting killed. Frightened, I woke up. But the screaming continued. I did not dream. Confused but wide awake I realised that I was far from home, among the hay, in a barn in France, above a pig and a goat and that someone below was fighting for his life. Terrified I quickly got my clothes on. In the dark I rushed down the wobbly ladder.
There, on the uneven dirt floor, I was dazzled by the naked light bulb. When my eyes had adapted I saw the family surrounding the pig. Its right hind leg was tied to a post. The farmer was holding one end of a long, one-inch iron pipe in his strong hands. The other end was rammed through the pigâs mouth, down his throat all the way to the stomach. Thanks to the long leverage, the farmer had perfect control over the fighting animal. Its main artery was split open. Blood rushed from his throat into a basin, which his wife held with one hand. The other she used to stir the blood, preventing it from coagulating. The pig was still screaming, but the screams got weaker and weaker as more and more blood collected in the basin.
When he was dead he was dragged out to the farmyard. There, some buckets of boiling water were poured over him. A butcher arrived and started to cut him up while I and the rest of the family had coffee and bread before starting the dayâs work.
Two hours later, when I and the farmer returned for breakfast, his wife gave me a piece blood sausage. It had not been bought at a supermarket.
During the days I followed the farmer like a dog, helping him with whatever needed to be done. I understood more and more of what was going on. But one thing I could not figure out was why every day before lunch he went into the messy barn, lifting lids off scruffy barrels and putting old apples in them.
One day I asked. Without a word, -most of our conversation was by sign language, he quickly put his hand into a barrel and fished out rabbit. He held it dangling by its ears. âLapinâ he said, adding -letâs have him for dinner. He put Lapins head close to the wall and with a swift blow with the back of an axe broke its skull. Then he hung Lapin by his back legs and skinned him. After lunch the wife took over. For dinner we had rabbit stew.
Among the food on my plate I found a small ball. They laughed and said âthatâs one of Lapins eyesâ.
Finally the grapes were ripe, but that work was to boring so my plans to become a cowboy in Africa never materialised. I returned to Stockholm having learnt that not everything has to be done the Swedish way. This happened in the autumn of 1958 and OUI, de Gaulle was elected president.
In the spring of 1959 I turned twenty years old. It was time for my compulsory one year military service. I had often been to cinema enjoying war films from Hollywood. The soldiers seemed to have such a good time shooting, blowing up things, killing enemies, becoming heroes and being admired by beautiful girls. I looked forward to that interesting army life.
I was given a train ticket to the military camp. I arrived on time. I was examined by a doctor. He checked my height, weight and eyes. He listened to my heart and lungs. I was found fit. I was given shots against lockjaw and other diseases. I was ordered to collect my outfit.
At the store-room there was already a queue. I joined the line. More people filled up from behind. I was given one item after another. All nice things, except the boots. They looked big. I tried them on. They did not feel comfortable. I asked for a smaller pair. I was told that the army did not care if I was comfortable or not. I looked the man in the eyes and said:
âI will be a better soldier if I have the right boots.â
âOKâ he said âWait over there. Iâll deal with you when I am done with this lot.â
When he had served the others he was very friendly, and carefully selected a pair which fitted me perfectly.
Happy, I walked to the barracks. I found my room with the three other recruits who I was going to spend the coming year with. They had already changed into their military clothes.
I undressed to do likewise. I was naked when the Sergeant opened the door and shouted âformationâ. My room-mates marched out to comply with his order.
âYou too,â he said and pointed at me.
âIâm coming.â I said.
He got angry.
âWhen I order formation, I mean formation nowâ he said with a mean voice.
âIâll come when Iâve got my uniform on.â I said.
âGet movingâ he said. I grabbed my underpants and joined the others.
After he had given his speech and checked our names we were released.
Humiliated, clad only in my underpants, I went back to my room to dress while my mates looked on amused.
Later, we had drill. We were taught the importance of instant response to orders and the necessity of teamwork. We were marched around with our weapons, back and forth, left turn and right turn. Attention and stand at ease. Then we were ordered to clean and oil our weapons.
As I was sitting down complying with his last order, the sergeant came up to me and in a friendly voice, asked how I felt.
Maybe he is a nice guy after all, I said to myself naively, not realising that he was playing a dirty trick on me.
Before I had gotten a word out of my mouth he was over me roaring:
âBastard! In the Army you stand to attention when you speak to an officer.â
I stood up and heard him out. True, I dressed sloppy, I walked sloppy, but I had arrived with the best of intentions.
That was just the beginning. Week after week, he continued to pick on me. I was too slow. I did not hold my head right. I did not have the right expression on my face.
He ordered me to do my tasks again and again, faster and faster. Instead, I smiled and did them slower. I had my pride. That infuriated him.
One day we had target practice. We were each given six bullets. My interest in survival had made me interested in weapons. For years I had been a member of a gun club. I had learned to control my breath, and how to slowly squeeze the trigger.
I got myself into a comfortable shooting position. I loaded my rifle. I aimed well. I squeezed the trigger slowly. My first shot was right in the bullâs eye. I did not get nervous. All my others shots were also perfect hits. My score was far better than the others.
When I reported, the sergeant did not believe me. He signalled to the man at the target to signal the results again. The signalling was done manually for each shot. It took a bit of time and the other boys in the squad were looking and laughing. He was making a fool of himself. When it became evident that I had told the truth he became furious.
The sergeant knew that I had weak knees. To punish me he ordered me to do knee-bending. After doing a few I told him that I did not think that more was good for my knees.
âWe know how to treat thatâ he said, and marched me to the doctor.
The doctor was only too willing to help a fellow officer discipline an unwilling recruit. I was put in one of the regimentâs sick beds and told that I had to lay there until my knees were fit.
I could not stand to be in a sick-bed when there was nothing wrong with me. It was like being in school and sitting for hours at a time on a chair in a classroom.
I felt that I was being treated unjust. I was an idealist. I believed that you should not do wrong to other people; neither should you let other people do wrong to you. I decided to do something about it.
When night came, I waited until everyone was asleep. Then quietly I got up. Barefoot, dressed only in the armyâs white nightshirt, I noiselessly opened the window and climbed out. I knew that there were sentries with dogs about. Sneaking and hiding, I reached my barracks without being noticed.
I had got into our room and started to change into my civilian clothes when one of the boys woke up.
âIs that you?â he whispers. The other ones continue to sleep.
âYes, I am leaving. They have no right to do this to me. Go back to sleep.â
Quietly I went out into the night again. The compound was enclosed with barbed wire. Conveniently, I found a big tree growing nearby, just inside the fence. I climbed it, crawled out along a limb and dropped to the ground outside the fence.
With a wonderful sense of freedom I walked through the hated garrison town. Everything was quiet. It was a beautiful night in May. I continued south on the main road out of town for a few hours. Then I went into a wood. Under a dense spruce tree I made a bed of branches and covered myself with some more. It was cold, but I fell asleep. I was in good shape. The army had fed me well. During the first two weeks I had gained thirty pounds.
Because of the cold I needed no alarm clock. I woke up early. In the month of May the northern night is short and it was already light. I tried to get as much distance between myself and the regiment as possible before my desertion would be noticed.
Luckily I got a lift with an early car. I knew the police were looking for me and that I had to leave the country. I headed for the Continent.
Later in the day I met another hitch-hiker. He belonged to the Jehovahâs Witnesses. He held a rather unhopeful view of society. It was going down the drain, he said. Now he was leaving all evil things behind.
He and a friend had bought a lifeboat in Italy. They were going to convert her to a cruiser. That done, they were going to sail to an uninhabited island and start a new society. Their only problem was that neither of them knew how to handle tools or boats.
They were in fact looking for a third person to deal with the practical side. I told him that I was born on the windward side of an island, that handling tools came naturally to me. I also told him that I was a deserter.
He said that Jehovahâs Witnesses were absolutely against all wars, except, of course, the immense and imminent final battle against Satan at Armageddon. He said that God must have led me to him. I was signed on.
Hitch-hiking was slow. We made no progress. Car after car passed. My new friend analysed the situation. People were egoistic he concluded. That was another sign of these evil times. The end was near.
Suddenly there were policemen everywhere.
âSurrender! You are surrounded,â shouted their commander.
My capture was not dramatic. I gave up without fight, yielding to their superior force. Their action was well-planned. When my new friend had signed me on, I had made a collect call to mother to say good bye. Olle however had had other ideas. To prevent me from getting into further trouble, he had tipped-off the police.
I was handcuffed and put into a police car, leaving my friend to contemplate still another example of the worldâs evilness.
I was driven to the regiment and interrogated.
- I told them that I was an idealist. That for me it was important to live my life according to my values. That I had planned to sail to an uninhabited island and start a utopian society.
- They told me how much I was costing society, how much trouble I made.
-I tried to educate them by telling them that if they had been friendly instead of harassing me they would have had no problems and that if everyone was friendly to each other there would be no wars, and then we would not need an army. But it was no use. They put me in a cell.
One day I was driven to the courthouse. There I was accused of deserting, of disrespect to officers and now also of refusing draft. I was sentenced to one month and fifteen days in prison. If that were not enough to make me regret my crime and change my now pacific views, they would put me back in jail for another three months, then six months and so on, until I changed my mind.
But even criminals have rights. They let me out and gave me three weeks to appeal.
I had other plans. In three weeks I would be far away. Sweden has summer only once a year. Prison living would be better around Christmas and there I wouldnât have to suffer the festivities that disrupt normal life.
I took a ferry to Denmark, hitch-hiked to Hamburg in Germany. There I found work on a building site. When I was bored with that I worked my passage across the North Sea on a small cargo ship to England. There I stayed for three months holding a variety of more or less legal jobs. After that, I hitch- hiked to Austria and lived there until the middle of December when I decided that time had come for me to head back to Sweden and serve my sentence.
I went into a police station and told them that I was wanted.
âWe can arrange so that you can do your term after Christmas.â I was told.
âI am an atheist and a misfit and I have chosen to serve my sentence during Christmas because I hate Holidays,â I said, with some satisfaction. I got a ticket to my destination.
First I took a train to Falkenberg, a small town where I changed to a bus. It let me out at a crossroads in the middle of a big field far from any civilisation. A signpost directed me along a small road, which lead up through a wood.
From the top of a hill where the landscape opened up, I saw the prison, my new home. It consisted of several buildings beautifully arranged near a lake.
When I got closer I saw that there were no fences and no bars. It was intended for conscientious objectors, drunken drivers, and rapists- in other words, for lesser criminals.
I was to share my cell with a rapist, a nice guy, but rather bitter, they told me.
He told me that he was trucker; that he had picked up a fifteen year-old girl; that he had made a square deal with her that she should pay the way girls without money pay. Naturally he wanted payment in advance. That was OK with her.
At the end of the drive he thought he could do with a bit more payment. As he took his time enjoying himself, for no reason at all the girl had started to scream so much that people had come running. It was because of her ungratefulness, he said, that all the trouble had started; trouble with the police, with his boss, with his wife and trouble with his three teenage daughters.
The next day I was lead to a workshop and told to work. Work was not included in my plans. I told them that if the judge had intended me to work he would have sentenced me to work.
I told them that I had been to the cinema and seen criminals sitting in their cells doing nothing and that was the way I intended to serve my sentence.
My refusal upset the wardens. I was accused of mutiny. When they realised that my decision stood firm they contacted the police.
They did not like to have troublemakers like me in their little quiet prison. I was treated as a dangerous person and transported to a high-security prison.
During the drive, the policemen told me how stupid I was, that I now would go to a prison where they knew how to deal with real, hard-core criminals.
Towards the evening of the short winter day we arrived at the new jail. It looked like a real prison. It had high walls topped with barbered wire. It had barred windows. There were heavy doors and plenty of guards.
I was put in solitary confinement and told to start sewing mailbags, which I of course ignored. The jailers told me that only days of work counted as punishment. If I did not work, they would keep me forever.
After about a week, a man with a white coat and a soft voice came into the cell. He said that I was going to be transferred to another part of the jail where there were prisoners undergoing examinations by forensic psychiatrists to determine if they were psychopaths.
My new mates had been accused of being murderers, pyromaniacs, swindlers and paedophiles.
This group, the dregs of society, now also included me.
When I arrived they were sitting at a long table eating, talking about the latest football game. It surprised me that they all looked normal. It was not like on film where the good guys looked good and the evil ones looked evil.
After thinking about it for a while, I realised that they all looked normal because before they had been caught, not many weeks ago, they had been respected citizens. Many of them in fact had been caught only a long time after they had committed their crime, and then, only by change. I began to speculate about how many respected citizens were in fact criminals.
Life in the new ward was actually an improvement. It was only between 9pm and 7am that we were locked in our cells. We spent a lot of time in the common room, talking. Because I was âgreenâ many older prisoners were eager to teach me new professions: how to rob banks, how to blow up safes, how to burgle. My new friends encouraged me and predicted an excellent criminal career for me, as I was well-organised and technical, curious and a good planner.
My best teacher was my neighbour, a special person even among these special people. On his cell door he had hung a sign:
DO NOT DISTURB
He was an aristocrat with strong political views; right- wing political views. He had decided to dedicate his life to finding knowledge. For that he needed a quiet and peaceful place. An opportunity arrived one day during a argument with an opponent..
My neighbour thought that nothing would be more logical than to stab a long sharp knife into the back of his adversary. His long membership of the Hitler Youth had given him good military training.
He did not try to hide his crime. The purpose of the action was twofold. One: to get rid of a communist. Two: to get free bed and board.
Society thought otherwise. They considered him insane- insane but highly intelligent; intelligent and dangerous.
I did not disturb my aloof neighbour, but after a week he decided to check me out. During one of our meals he placed himself next to me and opened a conversation. He searched my mind and found it to his liking. I became his protĂ©gĂ©.
Being an aristocrat and politician it was natural for him to rule the ward. Mostly it was his demeanour that gave him power, but he also used small tricks to make other prisoners do menial jobs for him. For example, one prisoner made his bed every morning. He was paid a cigarette. I am sure that it would have been more convenient for him to make his bed himself, but that was not the point. The point was to show us who ruled.
He had many books in his cell. Now that we were friends he often invited me in to discuss the big questions.
One day he said, âSven listen carefully: Never do what I have done because the solution to problems is not violence. It is in books that you will find the answers and they are written by the wisest men in the world. Any time you have a problem you should go to the library and find a book about it.
For example, he said, if you are going to France there are books about that.
If you are going to build a radio receiver there are books about that.
If you want to know about life after death, there are books about that too.â
He started to guide me in the world of knowledge.
âAn excellent start of a good education is the history of philosophy,â he said, and lent me a book with many pages. It was âA History of Western Philosophyâ by Bertrand Russell. After philosophy came psychology. He lent me âA General Introduction to Psychoanalysisâ by Sigmund Freud. After that came books by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Strindberg, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and many more.
Another day, he told me that it was important that I get an unabridged dictionary so that I could look up all the difficult words. He emphasized the importance of having full control over language, of understanding the exact meaning of every word.
He also told me that it was important to write:
âWhen you write, you purge your thoughts of inconsistencies. Most ideas are too complex for the brain to handle. The brain can only grasp one thing at a time, but reality is complex, made up of multiple layers of fundamental principles. A system or plan which is not one hundred percent consistent with reality is of no use. Write things down. It reveals the errors of your thoughts.â
âNot a day without a lineâ was his motto.
He made me conscious of the enormous power of education. As a misfit, I had lots of problems. One thing was for sure. If books could help me to solve problems, then I would read many books.
* * *
I passed my time getting pleasantly edified. One day, I was escorted to the office of the man with the white coat and soft voice.
He had received reports that I still refused work and the draft. He said:
âI can write a testimonial confirming that you are a psychopath. Then they will let you out and you wonât have to go back to the army either. That will make you a free man. Free, but realise, always an outsider.â
One frosty morning in February 1960, seven oâclock on the dot, I stood outside the prison gates- a free man. Free, but a confirmed psychopath. I wore my own clothes. I breathed fresh air. They had even given me thirty-five dollars to get a new start in life.
I took the tram to the public baths, went into the sauna and sweated out the smell of prison. Later, I walked up the main street. Beautiful girls passed. I smiled.
* * *
A SMALL CHEAP FUNCTIONAL HOME
My time in prison had not turned me into a hard core criminal but given me a passion for reading books. That did not make it easier to fit in to society. On the contrary, the reading took up most of that time which normal citizens use to pay for their living. I had to find my own way of living cheaply.
I decided to live simple in a small boat. A boat would give me a small reading place. It would also give me a home in which I could subsist while sailing around and getting to know many countries and cultures.
For thirty dollars I bought a nice, open, traditional, clinker-built rowing boat with sails and oars. It was 4.7 meters long, (15 feet 5 inches). It had a beam of 1.6 meters, (5 feet 4 inches). It cost me thirty dollars. I used my remaining twenty dollars to adapt her to a floating home.
I built a boxlike superstructure out of tongue and groove pine boards; I made it as wide as the boat and high enough to give me sitting headroom. At the aft end I built a door. To make its roof waterproof I nailed on a bit of canvas and painted it white. The rest of the boat I decked, except for a small non-draining cockpit. I did not give her a name.
To make her point high when riding out storms I cut down a small spruce tree without getting noticed. I roughly branched and barked it with my ax. Out of it I made a second mast. I placed it behind the cockpit in front of the aft deck. I rigged it with bits of fence wire I had found lying about. As the aft mast was taller than the foremast it upgraded my rowing boat to a schooner. At the forward end of the boat I added a bowsprit. The extra sails came from a lifeboat that had belonged to grandfather. I had used them as a child to build forts.
The mainsail was a bit too big so I cut it down to size. The jib fitted as it was.
That was all. These small undertakings promoted me from psychopath to the rank of Captain.
Although my boat now was very functional she would not win a beauty contest. In fact one girl who I had invited for a sail in my schooner changed her mind when she saw the mess.
âYour boat is too ugly.â she said and walked away, leaving me looking forlorn.
Soon afterwards a divorced mother who had an old fifty-foot fishing boat with a broken engine up the coast gave me a summer job looking after her fifteen year old boy Alan and her boat Kronan during the summer vacation. She provided money for food.
Alan and I loaded my boat with tools and camping gear and sailed north. The first day the wind was against us. We kept tacking back and forth between the islands and made some, but not much, progress. The next day the wind had turned to our advantage so the going was good and towards the evening we reached the fishing boat. She was a typical traditional west-coast double ender, very beamy. There was a lot of space in her hold which had been converted to a saloon.
She was moored in a natural harbour on a fairly large island with no land connection. The island was uninhabited except for one old man, Victor, and his cow, but they lived on the other side so we were on our own. There was about one mile of open water to the mainland. We reported our arrival to Victor, who had been looking after the boat during the winter.
During the summer there were a lot of tourists on the coast. We visited open-air dance floors, tent cinemas and yachting centres. We were where the action was! Occasionally we also worked on the boat, scraping and painting and without success trying to start the ancient, big, rusty, crude oil hot bulb engine.
Most of the money and time was used to achieve maximum pleasure. Food was not given priority. Little food and lots of activity kept us thin and fit. Our biggest quarrels were about washing up.
During a dark quiet night when we were drifting back to our island, Alan sleeping in the cabin, me dozing at the rudder, I heard a bang, and then the boat heeled over. We had been hit by a massive squall. The sails flapped, water rushed in over the gunwale. The boat took in a lot of water. In fact she was sinking. It was pitch dark and the night wind howled. Soon the boat was half filled with water and more kept coming in at an even faster rate. Despite this, Alan managed somehow to get out through the narrow cabin door, pass me in the cramped cockpit and find his way over the roof to the foredeck without upsetting the boatâs precarious balance. Instinctively I grabbed the bucket and began to bail like the proverbial frightened man.
When I had built my boxlike superstructure I had used the boards as they came from the lumberyard. Of course they did not fit the boatâs sheer. Thinking it was bourgeois to do fancy woodwork I omitted to fill the gap – after all the boat had sailed well enough without a superstructure. Now I realised that my thinking had not been so clever. Now with the boat almost awash a lot of water was rushing into the boat through that gap.
As hard as I was bailing I made no progress. I began to tire. Suddenly I heard Alanâs voice, âYou are gaining on itâ. It made me realise that it was now or never. I made one last Herculean effort and sure enough, slowly the boat began to rise. Exhausted and more in control, I let Alan finish the bailing.
The squall passed. The eastern sky began to brighten. The short Nordic summer night had come to an end. In the light of the dawn I could see that the forestay had broken. It must have been that which had caused the bang. Inside the cabin there was a mess. Once we had sorted things out there was a flat calm, so we got out the oars and began to row. When we reached our mother ship both of us were dead tired. We went straight to our bunks.
Next morning over breakfast when we talked about the previous nightâs adventure, Alan admitted that when he had seen that more water was coming in than I was bailing out and that I was tiring, he had told me that I was gaining on the water just to encourage me. I guess that sometimes a lie is justified.
He also told me that he had planned to use the sprit, my biggest wooden spar, to help him float when swimming to the shore. That made me angry because I had planned to use it to mark the wreck so that I later could find and salvage my sunken floating home.
I spent the morning fixing the headstay and closing the gap between the hull and superstructure.
Time went by with our days so full that we did not notice how quickly the summer was wearing on, but the days were getting shorter and Alanâs vacation was coming to an end. In the beginning of August it was time to head south.
The day we planned to leave our island there was a strong westerly wind which would give us a nice beam reach, but before we could take advantage of it we had to tack out of the fjord and pass a headland.
We started our sail by beating back and forth between two islands. We were making very slow progress, hardly gaining anything at each tack. What was maybe even more discouraging was that an old fisherman (who was rowing his heavily loaded boat against the same wind) kept up with us for about an hour until we were finally able to pass the resisting headland and could ease our sheets.
Towards evening our route lead us through a channel with high mountains on both sides. Naturally the wind once more turned against us. Finally we came to its end. It was only a narrow gap between two islands with a fishing village occupying both shores.
Our tacking duel against the elements had attracted a group of people who stood watching our lack of proper progress. Finally in a do-or-die effort to break out, we set more sail. To prevent the boat from heeling too much, I being the heaviest one hiked out by hanging in the shrouds. With the help of some lucky wind shifts; at last we were able to sail out into more open waters where the windâs strength forced us to reduce sail.
Before they disappeared into the distance I could see some indignant people shaking their heads at the odd unseaworthy boat and its obviously foolhardy crew. Some had well-meaningly shouted that we would never make it.
About an hour later we could see a coast guard boat coming up from behind. They draw up alongside and told us that they had been alerted by worried people up the coast. They talked to us in a very indulgent manner, obviously under the impression that they were dealing with people who did not know their own best interests.
They told us that more bad weather was coming up and that it was not wise to try to reach our planned destination, which was at least another seven miles further south. They offered to tow us to their base at a nearby fishing village. It was getting dark and we were getting tired after a long day, and those last seven miles might take a very long time, so we gladly accepted their offer.
In those days, before people got their entertainment from TV, coast guard leaving to rescue boats in strong winds was an exciting event for the locals and the boatâs return often worth waiting for. So when it came back with its catch a large part of the islandâs male population was already assembled.
Again the grown-ups were shaking their heads at the sorrowful sight of my vessel. I could hear one old man telling the others.
âLet us praise the Lord, who on this tempestuous night has shown such mercyâ then I saw them lower their heads in a silent prayer.
To the teenagers on the other hand, we seafarers who had braved the storm were already heroes. They invited us into a cave they had constructed among a huge pile of fish cases.
They asked if we were hungry. We had been hungry the whole summer! Having not eaten anything since early morning, we did not turn down their offer. One of the boys went aboard a trawler and got fish. Others went home and raided their motherâs larders. I fetched my single burner kerosene stove and the frying pan. We ate our fill and more.
Next day the weather was excellent. We continued towards Marstrand, the yachting centre of the Swedish west coast. As we crossed another fjord the wind died down. Our sails flapped and it got very hot. Towards evening a dark cloud came up. It got bigger and bigger, darker and darker. Our spirits rose.
âWind at lastâ, we said light-heartedly to each other. Then suddenly we were hit by a thunder squall whose strength surprised us.
I scrambled to lower the mainsail, but the lacing had got stuck up on the uneven surface of my home-made mast. With Alanâs help I managed to climb the fortunately not very high spar and get the sail down without upsetting the boat.
The squall passed as soon as it had arrived without causing us any mishap. The air was now clear with a nice fresh wind. Close to us a sailboat had lost its mast. A passing motorboat gave it a tow.
When we reached port I felt proud that my small cheap functional floating home had, without damage, ridden out a squall severe enough to dismast a bigger more conventional boat.
Bad weather with contrary winds kept us in Marstrand for a long time. It soon became evident that my pride in my stout little craft was not shared by other yachtsmen, summer visitors and local fishermen. That judgement went for its skipper as well. I had long hair before it had become fashionable sandals without socks, and on cold rainy days I wore my grandfatherâs long overcoat which showed some of the action it had been through when I had used it as a home in France. Also as the cabin of my boat was too small for two I slept in my plastic bag on its roof.
The days passed and we were running out of time. One day, when the weather seemed to give us a chance, we made a frantic try but did not get far. Rain and contrary winds stopped our progress, so when some teenagers we had become friendly with passed our boat with their daysailer and offered to put my mate, who had gotten wet and cold, ashore on the mainland where he could take a bus back to his mother, we gladly accepted. I kept at it for a few more hours experimenting with different sail combinations.
Towards evening I sailed back into Marstrand. As usual a group of idlers gathered to stare at the misfit and his foul boat and ask questions. When one of them asked:
âWhat happened to your friend?â I thought he was too nosy, so I answered curtly with a straight face,
âHe fell overboard and sankâ. He must have thought I was serious because a few minutes later two uniformed police officers appeared and asked:
âWhat happened to your friend?â
I told them that he had been wet and cold and had jumped aboard a passing boat which was going to put him ashore so that he could take a bus home as he had to be back in school soon. The policemen must have trusted the respectable-looking citizen who had informed them so swiftly about the tragedy more than me, the Captain, because to the crowdâs approval I was escorted to the police station for interrogation.
They soon found out that I was a psychopath recently realised from a high security prison. That strengthened them in their suspicion that I had pushed my friend overboard. Finally after much urging they agreed to phone Alanâs mother. Luckily he had arrived home.
She told them that he had been wet and cold and had jumped aboard a passing boat which was going to put him ashore so that he could take a bus home as he had to be back in school soon.
They kept questioning her some more but finally they reluctantly had to give up and admit that I was telling the truth and her son was alive. They grudgingly let me go, but warned me not to give them any more trouble.
More days of contrary winds followed, but my boat was well protected in the snug harbour and in those days there were no harbour dues. During the windy days I took long walks among the rocks, picking blueberries and raspberries; a favourite pastime of mine. I lay on my bunk and read. I got along well with some of the jeunesse dorĂ© who invited me to parties where we discussed the big questions. Time passed.
One day, a journalist and a photographer happened to be on the island. People must have told them about me because they came for an interview. I demanded a two dollar fee which upset them. After they had handed over the cash the interview started.
Next day I read about myself in the newspaper. I was described as a deplorable and indolent person; too deviant to take care of myself. I should therefore be placed behind bars.
My floating home fared no better. It was described as a highly dangerous pile of wood, a wreck held together only by nails, strings and faith. Did the article lower my social standing? Not much, I think.
By this time I was almost resigned to the fact that the summer was gone and that the weather was going to stay hopeless, when one morning I woke up to find that the sun had returned. Looking at the flags I saw that there was a gentle wind blowing from the north west. It would give me a nice beam reach. I had a hurried breakfast. Then I quickly hoisted my sails, cast off, waved goodbye to an imaginary crowd and sailed south. In the afternoon I tied up at our dock below my motherâs house.
Mother gave me a bilge pump. I found a piece of plywood with which I could cover the cockpit in heavy weather. I fixed a few other small things. I obtained a chart and finally, well prepared and well fed, I was ready for the grand departure.
One day when I woke up the sky was crystal clear. There was hardly a breath of wind. The morning promised a perfect day. I hoisted all my four sails and as we slowly drifted away from the windward shore my sister took some photos with the sea like a mirror reflecting the boat. And slowly the playground of my youth retreated. I had my small, cheap, functional, floating home. I felt free.
Out of the lee of the land a puff of wind gave me steerage and allowed me to lay my course. Soon I made good progress. At noon some high clouds had come up and the wind started to increase ever so little. The sky was getting a bit hazy. In the evening I dropped anchor in a protected bay. By then a few small drips of rain had started to fall and the breeze was no longer gentle. I had made good about fifteen miles to the south. I did not go ashore, being content in my cosy cabin.
The next morning was grey with drizzly rain. The wind was much stronger but still fair. I got into my oilskins. I closed the door to the cabin. I covered the non-draining cockpit with my piece of plywood. It was blowing offshore so the sea was smooth. I hoisted my sails. I got up my anchor and continued south, hugging the coast.
I was now south of GĂ¶teborg where the big river empties itself into the sea. Here there was not any longer, deep water, islands and rocks, as further North. Instead I was now sailing along a coastline where about a million big stones lay on a sandy bottom. They were a danger to shipping but not to my small boat, which had a strong traditional long shallow keel and did not sail fast. I sailed very close to the shore, a thing I enjoy. The summer was to all practical purposes past. Only much further out did I see some shipping.
I kept going the whole day. At dusk, only a peninsula connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway separated me from the town of Varberg. I anchored at its tip were a hook of land encircled a pond of quiet water, making it a perfect natural harbour for my small boat. Like the day before I had made about fifteen miles.
Also that night I was content with my cabin. I lit the oil lamp. I had a meal and read a book for a while. Before going to bed I went out into the cockpit and watched the grey, windy, desolate landscape. Only in the far distance did I see the town with its light indicating that I was not alone in this world. After a while I went below and got into my dry snug sleeping bag. I put out my oil lamp and slept well.
Next day the sky was clearer but still blowing a fresh wind. I sailed around the peninsula to Varberg and tied up on the lee-side of the pier which was also a breakwater. Not long after, the wind turned sharply to the south and started blowing very hard but now the weather was clear.
This was at end of August 1962. I was twenty-three years old, but strangely this was the first time in my whole life I had been alone for more than one day. Had I been bored? Certainly not! On the contrary, I had had a sense of wellbeing and fulfilment. I began to realise that the sea was a kind of wilderness which I liked and that the idea of a floating home was definitely a good one for me.
Gales were keeping me and an English yacht weather-bound. Its crew consisted of three people, two men and one woman. They were professional military people, gunners stationed in Kiel, Germany, part of the allied occupation force. The yacht had been seized by the English as spoil of war and now belonged to the gunnerâs yacht club. They told me with some pride that GĂ¶ring had been sailing on it. They had a more open minds than my compatriots about my floating home, though as one of them said, âIt is not my cup of tea.â – A curious expression they had to explain.
While waiting for better weather we spent much time together. The woman showed us the twist dance which was new and had became popular. We went rock climbing. Their tiller had broken so we fixed that.
When planning their trip, they had stocked the boat with plenty of tinned army rations. Each of them, without telling the others, had loaded the boat with far more tins than they ever were going to need. Every locker of the big boat was filled with the ubiquitous green army tins. Now they realised that during their careers they had already eaten so many army rations that they were fed up with them. They could not return the boat with the tins because the next crew would find out that they had used army rations on their non-military sailing vacation, a thing they were not really supposed to do. I volunteered to relieve them of their burden. Thus my economy took a giant leap foreword.
I also met a woman. She was a weaver artist about ten years older than me. Besides love and food she contributed a pair of shoes her previous lover had left behind. That a woman as old as thirty could enjoy sex so much shocked me.
The public library provided me with a reading room and lent me books. The blueberries and raspberries were gone but the blackberries had ripened.
A near gale was blowing the day I left Varberg. I should really have waited it out but I felt ready for new vistas. I prepared my boat for heavy weather by covering the cockpit with my piece of plywood. I pushed off, and after a few tacks I had left the breakwater behind.
It was an onshore beam wind. The coast to my lee, not far off, consisted almost entirely of nice, deserted beaches which stretched south mile after mile. The stones which had been so plentiful further north were gone. Some waves broke heavily in the shallow water, hitting the boat and me hard. One of them nearly swept me away so I tied a rope around my waist.
I had planned to sail to Falkenberg, about fifteen miles down the coast, but when I was outside its breakwaters there was still a lot of day left which I did not want to waste. The problem was, I was on an open coast with a strong onshore wind whose force might increase, and once committed, the next port on my small scale chart, Halmstad, was another twenty-five miles away.
But I was exhilarated by the boatâs speed, the screaming wind and the breaking waves, so with mixed feelings, and against my better judgement, I continued. Towards evening I approached Halmstad. I rounded a headland and with a following wind ran up the river Nissan right into the centre of the town where I tied up my boat to the quay. I had made forty miles that day, a record.
After only a few days I continued across a big bay to the next port, Torekov. The distance was about twenty miles but the weather turned against me during the day, so it was not before about two in the morning that I approached the port. It was very dark and I had no idea of its layout. I discovered two leading lights which I followed towards what I thought was the harbour, but run aground on a rock instead. The rudder fell off, but luckily I had tied it to the boat with a piece of string. When I jumped into the water to lift off the boat I saw the real port and another pair of leading lights at ninety degrees to starboard.
I tried unsuccessfully to get the rudder back on its gudgeons but could not see what I was doing and the waves rocked everything too much to let me align boat and rudder. Cold and disheartened I climbed back on the boat, trying to think of another solution.
At home we had a model of a square-rigger and I remembered that I had asked my grandfather how they could steer such a big ship with such a disproportionately small rudder.
âWe used the sails. The rudder was only for adjustmentsâ is what he said, and told me about centre of lateral resistance and centre of effort.
In the dark, that rainy night, I now, to my surprise and for the first time, succeed in steering a boat with only her sails. By sheeting in the sail on the mainmast behind the cockpit I could make the boat head into the wind. By sheeting in the jib I could make her fall of. In this manner I sailed her the remaining distance into the harbour, the rudder happily trailing behind, attached by its string.
Torekov was much smaller than Halmstad and Varberg, only a fishing village which in the summer expanded to become a holiday camp. Now with most of its summer residents gone it was quiet. It did not take long before a new boat in the small harbour got noticed, especially one as distinctive as mine. I was hailed by two locals, Emil and his friend, an artist with the sobriquet MĂ„laren. (MĂ„lare is Swedish for painter.) MĂ„laren could not live on his art. He therefore helped Emil who, as a complement to his fishing and other activities was the summer residentâs Man Friday. They repaired houses, took care of boats et cetera.
MĂ„laren, an idealist himself, recognised me as a soul brother. He and Emil took me under their wings. Emil had a boathouse in the harbour. It was the hangout for the locals. It was of course off limits for the summer residents, but I was invited. I helped them with small jobs. In return I got fish and food and was lent books and in the boathouse my ears sucked up the local lore.
One evening, Emil told me that it looked like it was going to be good weather the next day. I got up early and raised my sails. There was no wind so I rowed out of the harbour. Suddenly there was fog, lots of fog. Everything disappeared. I had a small pocket compass, but it was not much good because the needle frequently got stuck.
With no wind and not knowing in which direction I should head, there was not much to do, and after a few hours I got bored. To occupy myself I started to fish. To my great surprise, as soon as I had put the hook in the water there was a fish on it. I hauled in the line, unhooked the fish and put it back in the water and sure enough within a moment I had another fish on the hook. The sea must have been filled with them.
After a few minutes I had more than enough. Although I had my kerosene stove I thought I would experiment with eating them raw like the Japanese. Knowing about eating raw fish might come in handy in a survival situation, I reasoned. As it turned out it was not bad. That proved that a stove was a luxury, not a necessity.
Hour after hour passed; the fog was persistent. I had no clue as to where I was. Finally towards the evening the fog lifted. To my surprise I was right outside the breakwaters of Torekov. There was still no wind so I put out the oars and rowed back to my place, tied up and folded my sails.
Next morning when Emil and MĂ„laren saw my boat in the same place they pulled my leg about my navigation.
A few days later with a northwest wind I left for real. In the fresh following wind I made really good progress. In the sound between Sweden and Denmark there is often a current whose direction depends on the weather. I guess that on that particular day a depression over the Baltic Sea must have sucked me and the surrounding waters south because towards evening I reached Copenhagen, about fifty miles distant.
In the harbour I got into an argument with the Danes. They forbade me to sail. It was a rule they said. They made me lower my sails and get out the oars. This was stupid because I was less manoeuvrable under power than under sail.
The Danes are friendly people though, and soon a sight seeing boat picked me up and gave me a tow right into Nyhavn, the colourful old sailorâs quarter. There I spent my night among the hard-drinking Swedish tourists. Next day after having got my bearings I rowed across the water to the quieter surroundings of the Christianshavns canal where I tied up opposite the Royal Greenland Trading Company, among an odd assortment of boats.
For a young man bent on discussing and reading about the big questions, Copenhagen in the autumn of 1962 was a heaven. She welcomed me with open arms. Soon I had an efficient basic structure for my day.
I woke up late. I had my breakfast. I walked to Stroget, Copenhagenâs long, world famous pedestrianised street. I followed it all the way to Nyhavn. There between all the bars and noise was an obscure door with a small notice: âSjĂ¶fartens bibliotekâ. It was the library which supplied the Danish merchant navy with books, but it also had a reading room. It was never visited by anyone except me so I had it all to myself. The librarian, who sat in another room, must personally have been very interested in all kinds of strange boats, like me, because I found books like:
The Junks and Sampans of the Yang-tzee-kiang by C.R.G. Worcester,
Canoes of Oceania by Haddon and Hornell, the Amateur Yacht Research Societyâs publications and more of the same kind. Shelf after shelf was filled with rare nautical books. It was a treasure-trove.
After four p.m. when they closed I had some âyesterdayâs breadâ and very old cheese. My budget was tight. Alanâs mother sent me two dollars a week. I still had most of the tinned army rations given to me in Varberg. I paid no harbour dues so lodging was free. There was still plenty of wear left on the shoes given to me by the woman in Varberg so transport was also free. My meal did not cost much, the old bread I got from a friendly baker; the cheese was leftovers smelling so strongly that they had to be kept outside the delicatessen shop where I found them. With my meal I drank water.
That done, I walked to the big public library. There I read for general knowledge. They had not only books but also lots of magazines. They closed at eight p.m., but the reading room with its reference library was open to ten p.m. There I read the classics.
After the libraries finally closed their doors on me I went to a nearby cafĂ©, the Pilegaarden, to discuss the big questions with students and bohemians. They closed at one a.m. From there a group of us went to the Montmartre jazz club.
That late they charged twenty cents in entry fees. I stayed to three or four in the morning, and then I walked back to my floating home. On my way home I bought a pint of milk in a milk shop. In Denmark they open extremely early. Before turning in I had a bite to eat.
Sadly, this satisfying routine was interrupted by boring weekends. All was not lost however because Copenhagen had a lot of interesting museums with free admittance. As a last resort there was sightseeing.
Occasionally there were also world events which stirred the emotions. During the Cuba missile crises the students took to the streets demonstrating against American imperialism. After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion Castro had became a hero; before, America had been seen as the land of freedom.
In Copenhagen I realised that I was on the right track, that my ideal reading place was a boat. If I only could make her seaworthy it could take me to the ends of the world. Then it could give me both theoretical and practical knowledge of the whole world, but such a boat demanded a unique design.
To effect it, I realised that I had to go back to the fundamental principles, to start all over again.
Furthermore, I realised that before starting the construction I must learn much, much more. To get access to knowledge I had to learn more languages. Besides the Scandinavian languages I needed to read books in German, English and French. I also needed more mathematics, especially calculus so that I could understand the meaning of those snakelike symbols called integral signs that crawled across the pages of technical writing.
One of my student friends gave me his set of mathematical books. Every day I spent part of the day reading them and doing the exercises. In the evening at CafĂ© Pilegaarden we met and he explained what I did not understand.
September had passed, so had October and November. Now it was December. It was getting colder and colder and damper and damper in my floating home.
Sometimes at night before getting into my sleeping bag I started the kerosene pressure stove to drive out a bit of the dampness and heat my tiny cabin. One time the flame on my kerosene light went very low. I turned up the wick. It went low again. Strange, I thought. I had just filled it. As I was trying to find a solution to the mystery, by chance I pushed open the door with my foot to get some fresh air, and the flame of the lamp went up. The reason for the low flame, I now understood, had been a lack of oxygen. My floating home had not much ventilation.
I thought it was a good thing that the internal combustion of me, a human being, used oxygen more efficiently than a kerosene lamp, but it taught me to be more careful.
Life is full of surprises. One day I found a letter at the Post Office. It was from my mother. She wrote that she had won a court case versus the Swedish Government and had gotten money for me my sister and herself. Money the Japanese Government had given to relatives of the crew of Ningpo for their sufferings during the war. The Swedish Government had not recognised my father as a seaman as he was an officer and had refused to pay mother.
That money gave me a chance. My wise neighbour in the prison, the assassin had told me that although you had to have a formal education to be a student at a university everyone had the right to go there and listen to the lectures, provided that the professor gave his permission. You could listen, but you could not get an examination. I was looking for knowledge not for a qualification, so I decided to give up my present floating home, and go back to live in the attic of my motherâs house and listen to lectures in mathematics in preparation of the design of my ideal floating home.
* * *
When mother and Olleâs company went bankrupt Olle collapsed, but mother took charge and sorted things out. She made a deal with the creditors, found work for herself in an office and for Olle as a teacher.
With mother running our home again things were better. I was given a room in the attic and to avoid Olle, rose when he had gone to work and came home when he had gone to bed.
For a few years, as an outsider without the right to take a degree, I followed the lectures in mathematics at the university. I became deeply engaged in the wonderful mysteries of the axiomatics of the real number system, Rieman and Lebesgue integrals, conformal mapping and much more.
Despite my lack of degree, my mathematical knowledge did impress. People began to talk about my talent. One day to my surprise I got a letter offering me a teaching position in a school attached to a child psychiatric clinic.
The background was as follows. Some of the patients feared going to school. They were intelligent but shy; they blushed and had pains in their stomachs; they were bullied by their schoolmates.
A developing child is not static, and sometimes, when the situation became too painful, a child would in desperation fight back with a savage force they did not know they possessed and beat their oppressors.
This is what we love to see. The problem was that this success often turned the oppressed into an oppressor- the previously timid child became the terror of the school.
Dr Agrell at the Hisingens Child Psychiatric Clinic, who had sent me the letter, had had the excellent idea to try to treat shy children before they got into the aggressive phase. They were to be placed in a new school at the clinic.
There, in small groups, they were to be given love and understanding by caring teachers. This would give them self confidence, thereby curing their blushing and stomach pains.
Dr Agrell thought that I had the right personality to become a good teacher for those children. I gladly accepted the offer.
My position as a teacher at the clinic school was of course way beyond my formal qualifications, as was my status and pay. I only had to work a few hours a day. I thus had a lot of spare time.
My fellow workers, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, were all women, but they seemed to like the idea of having an adventurous young man among them.
With plenty of money coming in and free summers I started doing practical experiments with small boats.
* * *
I bought an eighteen foot traditional double-ender for two hundred dollars. After fitting her out I launched her in early summer.
One day a friend and I decided to sail to Denmark, a passage of about forty miles. The sun was out, the wind was fresh and everything looked nice.
We had cleared the coast when suddenly we were hit by a gust. The boat heeled over and water flowed in over the coaming.
The mainsheet had jammed at the lower block, which slides on a horse to leeward. When I dived down to undo the sheet more water poured in.
My friend, a pleasant but maladroit student of philosophy who had never sailed before, panicked, and instead of leaning out to windward came down in the lee intending to help me. This of course made the boat heel over even more.
Within minutes the boat was sinking and I had to shout to him to jump clear to avoid getting dragged down.
We were about a mile offshore. There were no other boats about. We began to swim towards land. After about half an hour we began to tire and get cold. The shore did not seem to have come any closer.
Suddenly I heard a hoot. Looking behind me I saw one of those big excursion ferries that steam back and fourth between Denmark and Sweden loaded with tourists consuming tax free alcohol. It was bearing down on us.
As an idealist I had always condemned the practice. Now, glad to see the big ship which stopped close to us, I forgave them their immoral business.
The rail high above was lined with passengers watching the drama. I could see that two crewmembers were letting a rope ladder down.
When we had swum up to the heaving shipâs sheer topsides I could see that my friend, not used to any physical activities, was shocked and exhausted.
Still, at the rope ladder he insisted that I should climb first. I told him in no uncertain terms that this was no time for courtesies.
The rescue was of course a big event aboard, hundreds of more or less drunk people thronged on the deck. When we were helped over the rail they applauded. It was very embarrassing.
We were led to a cabin and given dry clothes, warm drinks and food.
Back in GĂ¶teborg the crew asked if we would like to speak to waiting newsmen. Given the choice, we declined. An ambulance drove us home. Next day our rescue was big news in media.
* * *
After that embarrassment I started to look for new solutions concerning a small cheap functional boat.
To help me in that quest I had became a member of the AYRS, the Amateur Yacht Research Society. They occupied themselves with the development of new types of boats and gear, such as multihulls, hydrofoils and self-steering- just the thing for me.
Through their publications I got interested in multihulls. They do not have ballast, therefore they cannot sink. Without the heavy ballast, multihulls are light and consequently very fast. In addition to these advantages, their lack of heel makes them comfortable. With decks between the hulls they are spacious too.
Multihulls come in many configurations: single outriggers, catamarans, trimarans and proas.
Proas are different. I fell in love with them. They have only one outrigger, and it is always to windward. The boat is not symmetrical about its length axis, but about itâs athwart axis. It has neither stem nor stern, but a windward and a leeward side.
Instead of tacking as an ordinary sailboat they work to windward in a unique way. They âshuntâ or change ends- stem becomes stern and vice versa at each tack.
I was convinced that the proa was the boat of the future. During the spring of 1966 I started to build a ten foot proa in my motherâs basement. I gave her a deck on each end and a superstructure in the middle.
The outrigger was a crude box-shaped plywood construction filled with Styrofoam. The crossarms were lashed pieces of wood, the sail a polyethylene sheet. The workmanship was makeshift- nothing to be proud of.
The boat was very experimental, just an idea to try. She had no ballast so I knew she could not sink.
I had read multihull pioneer Arthur Piverâs books Transatlantic trimaran and Transpacific trimaran as well as his articles in the AYRS publications.
There he had given cocksure assurances that a multihull could not capsize. That gave me complete confidence in my new boat.
With the help of a bicycle, I carried her to a small harbour at the mouth of the river and assembled her. I loaded her with books, a transistor radio, a camera, some food, a girl, and not least, my passport.
That done, we paddled her out into the river, raised the sail and continued out into the fjord.
Everything was going well, but when we neared some islands a gust from the wrong side capsized her.
Just like the year before I was in difficulties swimming with a friend in the approaches to GĂ¶teborg harbour. Unlike the previous year, the boat did not sink. It was a Saturday afternoon and there was quite a lot of traffic.
After a while a powerboat came alongside and helped us to right the boat. It was early in the summer and the water had not yet become warm. My friend was getting cold so they took her aboard.
I was cold too, but on the other hand I did not like to give up my boat so I waved goodbye to them. After sorting out the mess and wringing out most of the water in my clothes I started to paddle to the nearest land downwind.
The paddling produced some heat and towards the evening I was able to pull the boat up on land in a small boat harbour. By now I was more tired than wet.
Once on land I had a final go at getting the saltwater out of her. That done, I took a bus home, carrying as many of my wet things with me as I could.
After a good nightâs sleep I was back the next morning. When I had cleaned her and straightened things out, I relaunched her and set out.
This time I was prepared for sudden wind shifts. When I had plenty of space I shunted her like a proa. In narrow waters I tacked her the normal way like a single outrigger. Without any problems I arrived at our island.
She worked OK, but the air had gone out of the project, the girl had left me and my passport was reduced to pulp.
On thirteen of May 1967 â it was a Saturday- when reading in the newspaper about the tension leading up to the Arab-Israel six day war, I happened to see an ad for a fourteen foot clinker built open sailboat. The price was one hundred and sixty-five dollars. A long summer vacation waited. She was sound, and surprisingly, the sails were made of the new strong rot-resistant material Dacron, not the more common cotton. I bought her.
From quarter- inch plywood I made a deck fore and aft and in the middle a one-foot high superstructure.
I made six windows out of Plexiglas, two on each side, one facing forward and one aft. They were three inches by five inches in size. Though not big, they let in a lot of light and with the eye close gave a good view. Their small size also gave some privacy.
I did not build a cockpit, thus increasing her seaworthiness and giving a lot of useful space below. To keep me aboard I surrounded the aft deck with a painted steel pipe.
I shortened the mast and stepped it on the superstructure. It eliminated any risk of leaks and would be safer if a stay broke.
I caulked her seams. I oiled her on the inside and painted the outside. I got a kerosene lamp for lightning and a small single-burner kerosene stove. I put on the antifouling and launched her. To my satisfaction she did not leak.
Finally I patched up her sails and sailed out to mother on our island.
* * *
During a couple of days I tried her out. In a cove I found a twelve-foot long wooden board, just what I needed. I was going to tie it across the boat, to use it as a hiking board.
I screwed on cleats and extended the tiller with a stick. Now I could control my boat from the hiking board.
After a few more odd jobs I sailed north, up through our many coastal islands. There during a few weeks I tested her more thoroughly.
It takes a while to make a new boat into a home. One day when I had made a nice salad I discovered that I did not have a fork to eat it with. My eyes fell on an orange crate which had floated ashore. With my knife I converted some of it into chopsticks. It was not difficult to learn to eat with them and they served me well for many a year.
When I was convinced that the boat behaved well in all kinds of weather I returned home.
Next, I decided sail to the Danish island of Laeso about twenty-five miles distant.
In 1967 that was still a test of manhood among sailors who owned offshore cruisers. I plotted the course. I measured the distance and estimated that the sail would take me about ten hours.
I left BrĂ€nnĂ¶ six oâclock one morning. A rather too strong northerly wind was blowing, but it came from a good direction, giving me a close reach. Being eager to get going, I left.
It soon became apparent that there was about as much wind as I could handle, but I made good speed and had the satisfaction of seeing the land receding astern. Finally, for the first time as Captain of my own ship, I had an unbroken horizon all around me.
I was sitting on my hiking board three feet to windward of my boat. I was dry in good oilskins. The boatâs only hatch had a high coaming. I felt confident that it would not let in any water.
Sometimes waves broke all over the boat and obscured her from view. At other times she lifted over the breakers like a duck, not taking any water on her deck.
Hour after hour passed. Finally the ten allotted hours were gone and I still did not see any sign of land. After fifteen hours, and with the sun setting, I realised that something was very wrong.
I began to worry that a current had carried me to the north and that I not only had missed Laeso but also the Danish peninsula and that I was now on my way across the North Sea, heading for England.
I had not eaten since five in the morning and after hiking out on my board all day without a break I was tired, but kept sailing for another hour.
The water between Sweden and Denmark is very shallow. I had a fifteen-pound CQR-anchor, thirty feet of chain and a hundred feet of rope. I decided to try to anchor in the middle of nowhere.
When I let out the chain and the anchor hit the bottom, it dug in right away. The boat headed into the wind. I took down the flapping sails.
Prior to getting below I relaxed and watched the sun set. With fast flying low clouds, breaking waves and a howling wind it was wild scenery.
During the day I had so focused on dodging the breakers that I had not noticed the boatâs violent movements. Now I felt seasickness knocking on my door, but it never got a grip on me because there were too many other things on my mind, especially hunger. I devoured nearly a whole loaf of bread and drank some water.
Then I got into my sleeping bag. With outstretched arms like a crucified sailor, I wedged myself in the narrow hull. Sleep came quickly.
I woke early next morning. The sea was empty except for a trawler far away. The wind had moderated and the sky cleared. I ate more bread and got under way.
The wind kept decreasing. My boat was Bermuda-rigged, but I still had an old cotton square sprit-sail from the boat that had sunk, which fitted her nicely. I now set it, using my boathook as a sprit. Its area was twice that of the Bermudan mainsail. In the light wind the boat went much faster, but what was more interesting (and contrary to current dogma) she also pointed markedly higher.
A few hours later, to my joy, I saw a lightship. I sailed closer, trying to identify her.
There was now very little wind left. At noon I was close enough to read Aalborg Bugt painted in big letters on her hull.
Despite scrutinising my chart I could not find any reference to her and to my shame I must admit that I had never heard about Aalborg Bugt.
I sailed up to her. The crew, who were on deck in the fine weather, was surprised to see my small boat.
When I gave them my chart and asked them to mark my position on it, they laughed.
I was way outside my chart. I had passed Laeso far to the south and was now a long way west of it.
They told me that I was not far from the mouth of the Limfjord; a hundred mile long sound which cuts across the Jutland peninsula. They told me that it had many beautiful bays and islands and that it was an interesting place. I decided to make it my next goal. They gave me my compass course and distance and waved goodbye.
The weather kept getting nicer and nicer. The sea was now almost flat, with just the lightest of breezez sweeping across it. There was not a sound, and after the lightship had dipped under the horizon I had the now- flat sea all to myself.
By three oâ clock in the afternoon the last of the wind had left and the boat stopped. It got very hot so I took a swim.
After I had dried, I went below, had a bite to eat and listened to the radio. Then I sat in the hatch and watched all this wonderful emptiness I had to myself. I felt rich and at home and at one with the sea.
Here was plenty of emptiness for everyone. I thought it was strange that only I was out here enjoying it.
After a few hours an ever-so-light breeze came up and I continued on the course given to me by the lightship crew. About seven oâ clock I could see land as a faint line on the horizon.
About midnight, I anchored in shallow water near a beach. Next day I passed Hals, at the entrance to the Limfjord.
There I had to head into the wind and start beating between the banks of the narrow, almost river-like sound. I was trying to reach Aalborg town.
Before I had gotten that far, it became dark and the wind died, but as there was no tide I just sailed in among the reeds and dropped my anchor.
The reeds hid my boat, only her short mast was sticking up. I lit my kerosene lamp, ate, read and felt snug in my little magic boat.
Next morning, sunbeams split by the reeds woke me up and I continued to Aalborg. After passing a bridge I saw a lot of masts on the left shore and there was the yacht club.
A small crowd gathered, watching me tie up the boat. I had now lashed my hiking-board lengthwise on top of the superstructure to be able to come alongside. When I explained its use, and that I had been sitting out on it for sixteen hours in heavy weather, one of the crowd commented that it would have been more comfortable to sit on if I had rounded the hard edges.
I smiled behind my moustache, because it made me remember that today most people demand that the joy adventure must be free from hardship.
I was very well received. They hoisted the Swedish flag to honour my proud little ship. They took me sailing in local races in the evenings, and they showed me charts and gave me local advice.
One day when I was walking in town I met an old friend from the bike-gang days. He was riding his big Harley Davidson.
âWhere is your bike?â he said.
âI have given up bikesâ I said âIt is too dangerous.â
I proudly told him that I now was a yachtsman and Captain of my own ship and that I had sailed to Denmark across the Kattegat and that it was cheaper and safer than biking.
I jumped up on his Harley and we drove to the yacht club, where I showed him my yacht and told him about my crossing. I did not convert him however.
After a few days in Aalborg I started my return trip. The predominantly westerly winds gave me an easy, pleasant sail downwind. I spent the night in Hals.
From there I sailed north along the coast towards Fredrikshavn. Navigation was easier now that I had seen charts of the area and had an idea of how the land lay.
The day was sunny with a light offshore breeze. I sailed close to the sandy beaches in flat shallow water. Seagulls were circling up above, laughing.
I reached Fredrikshavn in the afternoon. The next day had the same good weather and excellent visibility.
I was now in an ideal position to reach Laeso. In addition, there was a caisson lighthouse to guide me.
Confident, and with a following wind, I set my course. This time I did everything right. In the afternoon I tied up in the well-protected Osterby harbour.
I was now back in waters covered by my chart. I plotted my return course to the characteristic Vinga lighthouse, a good landmark and a symbol of GĂ¶teborg. I have grown up with it on the horizon.
During the night I heard the wind increasing. In the morning, together with some fishermen, I tried to estimate the state of the sea further out.
It is difficult to judge from a protected harbour looking out from a lee shore just how a boat will behave in the open sea, yet much is at stake, as once committed it is hard to return against a strong headwind.
It was only after much brooding and some apprehension that I decided to sail. But once the decision was made I acted quickly and was soon on my way. Having cleared the harbour and gotten away from the protecting land I began to get uneasy about the strong wind, but I liked the swift progress. I was on a broad reach and the boat behaved very well.
The wind kept increasing, the boatâs speed kept increasing, and so did my uneasiness.
After a few hours the Swedish coast became visible, but I could not see the familiar lighthouse.
It was only after I had gotten much nearer land that I realised that my image of the lighthouse had been that of a landlubber. It looked very different from the sea and I had in fact seen it for a long time without realising it.
In the joy of finding my position, I became philosophical and said to myself: âThis is a good lesson, I must look at the landmarks of the big problems not only with the eyes of the landlubber, but from many different angles. That will help me to find my philosophical position. That done, I can solve them.â
Happy as I was with my newly gained philosophy, my situation was quickly becoming precarious. I was fast getting too close and too much to the northern side of Vinga Island. The water was shallowing and the already big waves were beginning to break. My boat was now surfing down their faces.
For fear of broaching I did not dare to gibe, but kept my course until I could get shelter behind the island.
That added about ten hard windward miles to BrĂ€nnĂ¶. Later on, mother phoned the lighthouse. They had registered winds of thirty-five knots- force eight.
The sail to Denmark was that summerâs main event. One day in the autumn when the water was higher than usual, I grabbed the boatâs mast and heeled her over. With her draft thus reduced I floated her into our small cove and righted her up against a vertical rock. After covering her with a tarpaulin I felt she was safe for the winter.
* * *
The summerâs cruiseâs had been joyful and edifying; but back in town I found a letter with a note saying that I had been fired. A teacher with the proper qualifications had applied for and got my job.
The following reference was enclosed.
Sven Yrvind, born 22 April 1939, has during the time from 11 March to 11 June and during the fall semester 1966 and spring semester 1967, worked as a non-permanent teacher of natural sciences at the Clinic School at Hisingens Child Psychiatric Clinic GĂ¶teborg.
He has also each week taken part in conferences concerning patients and treatment.
The pupils of the Clinic School consists of children and adolescents with psychiatric problems of different kinds, especially school-anxiousness and other kinds of timidness, reserve and worry. Also, children with concentration problems and aggression in their diagnosis have been taught.
The pupils have willingly gone to Yrvinds lessons and made good progress. By his calm and considerate conduct he instils confidence and peace.
In his work with aggressive and disciplinary- problem children Yrvind has shown remarkable patience. He does not let himself be provoked. Even in difficult situations he takes up a positive and friendly attitude.
Yrvind cooperates well in the clinicâs psychiatric work, and is interested and ambitious. He seems to have natural gifts for further studies in psychiatric child and adolescent care, especially as pedagogue.
I recommend Sven Yrvind for further studies and work in psychiatric child and adolescent care.
GĂ¶teborg 15 June 1967
Inga-Greta Agrell Registered Doctor
I was sad to lose my job, but happy to get such a good testimony, because it showed that not all psychiatrists considered me mentally ill. It contrasted nicely with the following ones given to me by the Stockholm social workersâ psychiatrist at the Child Custody Board, the military psychiatrist at Santa Maria Mental Hospital and the psychiatrist of the Department of Forensic Psychiatry at HĂ€rlanda Prison:
Yrvind is extremely gifted and would have the requirements for getting an advanced education, if he had endurance. He is however grievously afflicted with neuroses and he has outspoken subjective problems and difficulties giving normal expression of feelings of discomfort and opposition.
Social Medical Officer at Stockholm Child Custody Board.
Yrvind behaves similarly to my examination of 15 May 1959. However his lack of psychic balance and his labile affect is now more evident. He shows an extremely unusual mix of maturity and the utmost puerility. He is chameleonic and strange. I do not hesitate to give the diagnosisc psychopathia gravis ( cyclothym, infantile ).
Holger Garsten, Medical Superintendent
S: ta Maria Mental Hospital HĂ€lsinborg
Yrvind was sentenced on the 10 of June 1959 by Halmstads Municipal Court to 1 month 15 days imprisonment for insubordination, desertion and misconduct. He reported at the open prison of MĂ€sshult in the middle of December to serve his sentence. There he declared that he did not want to work as he had not committed any crime. Instead he wanted to continue to study philosophy and get a deeper understanding of life and prepare for a settled life. As a consequence of his refusal to work he was transferred to HĂ€rlanda Prison and was on the 29 of December admitted to the department of forensic psychiatry because he needed treatment. It had become apparent that he was unable to serve his sentence in the ordinary manner.*
Yrvind is a mentally extremely immature, pubescent deviant with excessively bad ability to adapt to reality. He lives exclusively in his daydreams.
His self-study in philosophy seems to have given very meagre results with respect to both knowledge and the desired moulding of character. His plan is to eventually get high school competence and then to become a teacher, not at an ordinary school but at a university.
Today he is released after having served his sentence, but I have wished to communicate these observations as it seems completely out of the question that he ever is going to adapt even tolerably to military demands and I have the impression that his psychic abnormality is so pronounced that a zero classification is indicated.
GĂ¶teborg. The Department of Forensic Psychiatry, HĂ€rlanda Prison
3 February 1960
Lars-Ingemar LundstrĂ¶m, Chief Medical Officer.
[FOOTNOTE *In 1959 an internee had legal rights to refuse work in Swedish prisons. A law making work obligatory came onto effect only much later, on the First of January 1965. By then I had been released a long time.]
* * *
The loss of my pleasant, lucrative teaching job was a dissapointment. On the other hand, the summerâs cruise had confirmed that a small boat was an excellent reading place and a good platform in my quest to learn alternative ways of living from people in other cultures.
Furthermore, as a misfit living in a hostile enviroment, I needed to migrate to a safe, tranquil habitat, where I would be protected from societyâs arbitary rules and regulations so that I could live a true life according to my own unorthodox morals and values, and in acccordance with Natureâs functional, uncorrupted laws.
I realised that the sea was a more truthful touchstone of honest life than human society. I began to plan for a more extensive cruise.
I now knew that to sail to France, even to the Mediterranean, would be quite possible in my little boat, because once I had reached Kiel in Germany by way of the Danish islands there was a network of canals and rivers leading all the way to Marseille. But first, somehow I must endure another Swedish winter.
I was back to living cheaply. I made a bit of money here and there. Sometimes I photographed children and sold the pictures to their mothers. Sometimes I gave private lessons in mathematics. With limited success, I tried to get money from social security.
Now and then I worked on my boat. I made a yuloh from a drawing in a yachting magazine, but did not get it to work to my satisfaction. I decided that I had to be content with a paddle and when I reached the continental waterways, try to get tows with the many barges transporting cargo all across Europe.
To get a strong point of attachment for a towing rope, I took an eight foot long flat iron bar, bent it into a U-shape and bolted it to the stem and keel planks, low down.
To protect the hull when coming alongside I got four used, small scooter tires and painted them white to be able to use them as fenders.
After that, as my boat already was in good shape, there was not much more to do than to get her a certificate of registry to satisfy foreign bureaucrats- a thing I found to my surprise that I could not do without first giving her a name.
On our banknotes we donât write IN GOD WE TRUST. We write HINC ROBUR ET SECURITAS. That is Latin for: âFrom this, strength and safety.â
To propagate small boat strength and safety, I baptised her HIC ROBUR ET SECURITAS, a derivate meaning âHere is strength and safety.â I was pretty pleased with my wit as I filled out the application form.
A few days later a very indignant elderly gentleman from the Swedish Cruising Club phoned.
âWe have received an application for a certificate of registry for a boat with the name of HIC ROBUR ET SECURITAS. We do not approve of the name. It is an affront and insult to the Swedish Nation and it is against the spirit of the Swedish Cruising Club.â
I heard him out. When he had calmed down he continued:
âHIC ROBUR ET SECURITAS is a complicated name. You will have many problems with it. Sometimes you have to shout the name to a passing ship. Many times you have to write the name down on official papers. There are so many good names, why not choose one of them?â
For weeks I had tried doing just that; finding a good name for my boat.
I asked him to tell me one.
To my great surprise, without hesitating a second, he reeled off a long string, starting with Anna, Beata and Cecilia.
âOK, stopâ I said âletâs name her Anna.â
He must have been a true gentleman; a staunch believer in a boat ownerâs right to choose a name for his craft. He hesitated.
âIt is not the intention of the Swedish Cruising Club to name its memberâs boats,â he said.
I realised that to enter foreign ports I needed a name for my boat so I told him to write Anna down. Besides, it reminded me of Hanna, a sweet girl I had been much in love with.
After receiving the registration papers I painted ANNA with big bold letters on both sides of her superstructure to make the name visible from far away- now quite happy that it was short and that the letters were easy to draw with the help of a ruler.
Finally, on the 8th of May, the day of departure, I was standing on the dock with a heap of luggage wondering how to stow it all. But few things are as miraculous as a small boatâs ability to swallow baggage and after a bit of puzzling I had found a place for everything. That Anna had no cockpit gave me much needed space under her aft deck.
At one oâclock I hoisted my sails and was off. There was a twenty- five knot north wind blowing. It was no problem, because now it was more heavily loaded, the boat had more stability than the previous summer and my course gave me a broad reach, so we sailed quite dry.
The fierce north wind was cold however, so after a while I stopped at a small island and put on an army surplus sheep-skin jacket inside my oilskin.
I kept sailing the rest of the day. At six oâclock I moored in a sheltered little cove. It was only 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the cabin. The cold contrasted with the long days, giving light from three- thirty in the morning until nearly nine in the evening.
Next day, with the same strong, cold, northerly wind, I continued southwards. I had one reef in the main and my sheepskin jacket still inside my oilskin. I reached Varberg at three oâclock in the afternoon.
That was good timing because I had no more than gotten inside the jetty before the wind swung around and started blowing strongly from the south.
I was weatherbound for a few days, the same thing as had happened on my first cruise. This early in the season there were no other boats about. Still, I was content. Varberg with its big library was the same nice friendly town.
Soon, the weather turned better and I sailed on to Halmstad, which I reached in the evening.
Next day there was a twenty-five knot southerly wind and driving rain. The next port, Torekov, was fifteen miles across the Bay of Laholm. I was confident that I could reach its well-protected harbour before dark, despite the headwind. I was eager to meet my old friends Emil and MĂ„laren.
I started out with confidence. But it was not as easy as I had expected. For hours I kept beating against the dark windblown waves. Rain and spray was hitting my face. Far away I could see a blue ridge of mountains which did not seem to come any closer.
I tacked out to sea. I came about, headed inshore once again, back and forth across the bay the whole day.
I was close to the shore when I heard a sudden crack, the boom hit the deck and the mainsail started to flog. The boat started drifting towards the rocks.
It was the clew, which had pulled out of the main. Luckily, in my pocket I had a four-foot long, quarter- inch diameter string, made of polyester. It was my first piece of man-made fibre. A kind salesman at the GĂ¶teborg Boat Show had explained its wonderful properties to me. When I had told him that I planned to make a long voyage, he had said âTake it, it may come in handy one dayâ.
Now I took the clew side of the sail twisted it, made a bight, put the string into it and tied a double sheet bend. With the help of the other end of the string, I attached the sail to the end of the boom.
In a moment I was back in business and with a bit of margin to the breakers, I tacked and headed out to sea.
Each time I approached the shore I was disappointed to see how little progress I had made. The wind and current thwarted me. It was getting late. It was getting dark. I was getting tired.
Finally, I came in under the lee of the BjĂ€re peninsula. Its high cliffs sheltered me from the waves. Unfortunately, they also sheltered me from the wind.
I was getting concerned. The coast was wild and uninhabited. There were no lighthouses or anything else to guide me. I kept tacking out to sea until the waves became big, then I headed back towards the shore as far as I dared, until the smell of land and the sound of the breakers told me that I was close.
Finally, on one of the tacks out to sea I could see the lights of what must be Torekov. The rain was letting up. The stars were beginning to break through the clouds. The visibility was getting better and best of all, the wind was freeing, enabling me to ease the sheets, to lay a better course and gain speed. At long last I could see Torekovâs leading lights which guided me into her safe harbour.
It was now two oâclock in the morning. I could see a faint light on the eastern horizon. Dawn was not far off.
I tied up and went below to sleep, but although very tired, the smarting pain in my face and on my hands kept me awake a long time before I finally dozed off.
After having slept my fill, I went to see Emil. I updated him on the events of the past six years. He fed me, took me fishing, and not least, he gave me a lot of advice as to the best way through the maze of Danish islands to Kiel.
After a few days in Torekov, on a day with light winds I put up my big spritsail. I aimed for Kullens Lighthouse across the bay. The wind increased as the day progressed. After two and a half hours I had the lighthouse abeam.
I continued towards Helsingborg where I spent a night.
The next day, I sailed over to Copenhagen. Like 1962, they forbid me to sail in the harbour, so I started to paddle. Again the Danes were friendly and soon a boat gave me a tow.
I made my way into the Christianshavns Kanal where I tied up to the same Baltic trader as last time. The same owner was still working on her.
I took up my old habits; going to the same interesting libraries, meeting many of the same friends.
One day I met a French girl, Martine. She was on her way to North Cape and the midnight sun. I told her that it was still very cold up in northern Norway. I succeeded in persuading her to come sailing with me until it got warmer.
When we left port the sunshine was splendid, but the wind light, and as we were about to pass the approach to Kastrup, Copenhagenâs international airport, it died completely.
For hours we were becalmed under the stream of airplanes coming in for landing. Their ear-splitting noise made me angry that I had been so stupid, that I had not gotten any proper means of applying my strong, idle muscles to propel the boat to a quieter place.
Eventually the wind returned and we began our cruise through the many beautiful Danish islands.
Martine smoked and drank coffee. I tried to teach her how to live a clean life, but without success. Every evening as soon as we had furled the sails we just had to find a place where she could indulge in her vices, even if it meant walking for hours.
In towns of any importance we also tried to find Le Monde. This was May â68 and in France there was a revolution going on. De Gaulle disappeared. Victory was in the air. But what we did not know was that de Gaulle had not given up. On the contrary, he had secretly gone to Germany to discuss military intervention with General Massu.
When he returned, he surrounded Paris with troops and tanks. Then he addressed the nation on TV saying: âThe country is threatened with a communist dictatorship.â
A million people made a counter-revolutionary demonstration down Champs Elysse. The riot-police retook the Sorbonne. The revolution was dead, and so was something inside Martine. She cried. She was disgusted. She called her compatriots âmoutonâ, sheep.
The revolution and a better world had seemed so close.
As we sailed towards Germany, I and Anna and the beautiful islands did our best to console her.
One day we had difficult weather. Calms with nice sunshine were followed by rain squalls and wind coming from every direction.
âWhat did the weather report say?â asked Martine.
I told her they had said the weather was going to be variable.
âIt sure isâ she said laughing. It was nice to see her happy again.
We entered Germany at the small harbour of Schleinemunde at the mouth of a long fjord. Immigration and customs were very relaxed but at our suggestion they reluctantly stamped our passports, legally entering us into Germany.
The next morning we continued towards Kiel. There had hardly been a breath of wind, but as the day warmed up the wind increased.
We were running under the big sprit sail and made excellent progress the whole day.
When we approached Kiel, the wind had gotten so strong that I told Martine, who was steering, that it was time to reduce sails, but she was having a great time at the rudder. The speed excited her.
âNo letâs hang onâ she said.
I also felt the fun, but as the Captain I had the responsibility.
âMartineâ I said âif the mast falls down? Will you fix it?â
My attempt to transfer the responsibility made her thoughtful. Before she had time to answer there was a crash, everything went overboard: mast, sprit, boom, mainsail, jib, halyards, sheets, stays, shrouds, the lot. The water became a mess of floating things.
A second had separated joy from confusion. The boat now lay broadside to the waves, drifting downwind, the sails acting as sea-anchors.
The tangle was attached to the boat by wires and ropes. I pulled in the mast and took off the sprit and mainsail. The eye screw which had held the windward shroud had sheered off. I jury-rigged a new shroud, raised the mast and set the jib.
That was enough. In the strong wind Anna shot off downwind with what seemed nearly the same speed as before. I donât think the incident had taken more than half an hour.
Soon we were tied up in Holtenau, a suburb of Kiel, at the beginning of the 61-mile long canal linking the Baltic to the North Sea.
It was now the beginning of June and time for Martine to leave for Norway. I tried to convince her to continue with me, instead of hitch-hiking to North Cape and the midnight sun, but unfortunately she had a will of her own. So we said goodbye and I had to be content with the good time she had given me.
* * *
One is not allowed to sail in the Kiel Canal, so I hung around trying to find a tow.
A record heatwave had settled over Kiel. I was in Annaâs small cabin fixing things when I heard a voice from the dock.
It was a customs officer. With him was a big German shepherd dog. He demanded to come aboard and search my boat. To say that he was big would be polite. He was fat.
Anna had a small hatch and it did not take long before he was sweating profusely.
âEin Boot fur kleine Leuteâ (a boat for small people) he said. His loyalty to the state was heroic, but I knew he would not stay long.
Being an idealist with a pure conscience, I am always surprised when someone picks on me.
While he was looking over my boat it dawned on me that one day a man had flattered me by saying that he admired my boat and my courage and that he would like to do something similar. He had invited me for a meal.
During our talk the ever-present problem of finances had come up. He told me that he knew of an easy way of making money. I was interested.
He said that he had a small package he needed to have delivered across the border to Denmark. If I could sail it up to Copenhagen, both of us could make a lot of money. No one would suspect my little boat.
Evidently someone had, because now I was woken from my reverie by the customs officer asking:
âDo you have opium aboard?â
âI have neither opium nor hashish or any other Rauchgift (smoking poison). I am a health freak, like the blessed Chancellor of the Reich, Adolf Hitler.â I answered.
Now he seemed to understand why I sailed a small boat.
Annaâs cramped cabin and the one hundred degree temperature persuaded him not to linger.
* * *
Many interesting yachts stopped at Holtenau before transiting the canal. One of them was Neptun from Stockholm.
She was an old, beamy, wooden, double-ended, ketch; a traditional workboat, typical of the Swedish west coast. She was 48 feet long and on her way to the Mediterranean.
Aboard were the two owners and two paying guests. This was âle Grand Departâ for all of us. We therefore had much in common and soon became friends. This lead to them offering to give Anna a tow.
The canal was a milestone on our quest for freedom. As we passed through Kiel we could see thousands of office windows, imprisoning people with their typewriters.
âSvenâ said the skipper âPity those poor people wasting irreplaceable days of their life.â
Pulled by Neptun, Anna made good progress. In the evening we reached Rendsburg, about halfway, where we stopped for the night. Next day we continued to Brunsbuttelkoog at the western end of the canal.
There, on the other side of a set of locks was the river Elbe, with fifteen-foot tides and a current of four knots.
In Sweden we do not have tides, so this new phenomenon was very intimidating. In procession, the crew of the two boats marched to the top of the dike and in awe viewed the miracle of low water and the extensive mud flats caused by the dot-like moon, far away in the firmament.
Six hours later we were back to see how high tide had changed the landscape into a long lake whose muddy waters had now risen high and slapped the top of the dikes.
We could hardly believe our eyes. We spent a lot of time discussing how to deal with those ever-changing tides.
We were weather-bound for several days. Everyone was very friendly towards my little boat.
With a twinkle in his eye the harbour master said âI saw Anna coming in towed by Neptun. I assume she is her tender, and we donât charge tendersâ
Anna was moored next to the coast-guard boat. The coast-guards gave me a twenty five-foot long piece of Dacron rope. I made a nice splice in it. Now I had a very strong towing rope. After repairing my mast I was ready for the Elbe.
Every day I checked with the coast-guards as to when would be a good time to leave. Finally one morning they gave me a time in the afternoon when the weather and tide would be right. My friends on Neptun stayed on, waiting for even better conditions.
I sailed Anna into the lock, tied her up to the wall and went to the keeper to pay my dues. I was back just in time to see Anna being pulled under by the rising water.
I was getting my first basic lesson in lock handling. Luckily I was able to undo my new, dear, super-strong rope.
When the lock opened I was faced with a twenty knot headwind. There was no room to tack. Angry shouts from the loudspeaker commanded a powerboat to tow me out.
Out of the lock, with more room to manoeuvre, I short-tacked her out through the arm which connected the lock and the river. The crew of Neptun watched and waved. One of them was filming.
Once out in the main stream, the boat was picked up by the four-knot current and following wind, giving me a good speed down the river.
Luckily, before the river opens up to the sometimes angry North Sea there is another little-known and much smaller canal at Ottendorf, a few miles downriver from Brunsbuttelkoog. This canal connects with the river Weser at Bremerhafen. That was the canal for me.
With no experience of sailing in tidal waters, I was worried about being swept past its entrance, because there would be no way I could sail back against the wind and current.
The arm dredged in the mud to the lock was well marked by withies. It was easy to find it and I just made it.
Relieved, I tied up outside a small barge which was waiting to enter the lock, a thing that could be done only at low water, because it had to be done through a tunnel under the dike which protects the countryside from flooding.
To get through the tunnel I had to take down Annaâs mast. The bargeman watched me as I undid one of the three stays and tied mast, sprit, boom and hiking-board in a neat package to the superstructure.
He told me that he was going to Bremerhafen. Naturally, I asked him if he would give me a tow, which he willingly promised. I was back to my old trade of hitch-hiking.
* * *
This was the first of many tows I got behind barges through Germany and Holland. In those lazier days, before trucks monopolised inland transport, there were many friendly skippers and hardly any small boats asking for tows. Things went easily.
Many people were surprised when they realised that I had come all the way from Sweden in my little boat. Their surprise turned to disbelief when I told them that I had at times been so far from shore that I had had an unbroken horizon around me.
One beautiful woman embarrassed her husband when she told me that she did not feel safe if her waterway did not have one wall on each side of their big, rugged boat.
Peopleâs tastes are different. After the novelty of being towed on rivers and canals had worn off I began to feel fenced in. I was glad when I reached the North Sea at Vlissingen in Holland.
From there it was a dayâs sail to Ostende, which I reached one evening after a foggy day with light winds.
The next day there was a westerly gale. That was followed by more, and for weeks I was weather-bound.
But that was OK. Ostende was a crossroads, a meeting- place for many travellers. There was a ferry to England, there were beaches and there was a yacht harbour. There were hitch-hikers, cyclists, and people living in cars and of course, all kinds of yachtsmen.
We discussed the never-ending gales, money and the ongoing Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Some of us made a bit of money by street painting. My artistic gifts are not great, and I therefore made abstract paintings – triangles which crossed each other in colourful patterns. It earned me a bit of money for food.
Finally, the westerly gales were replaced by nice easterly winds.
Before leaving, I made a last visit to the post office and found a letter from a friend. It had been forwarded from Kiel to Bremerhafen, from Bremerhafen to Oldenburg, from Oldenburg to Groningen, from Groningen to Amsterdam and finally from Amsterdam to Ostende. To my surprise and happiness it contained thirty dollars.
With my sails drawing nicely, I passed Dunkerque and Calais, then crossed the Channel in dense fog. Three days later, tired after a worrying passage, I arrived at Newhaven on the English south coast instead of Marseille having had enough of inland waterways.
After a good sleep I went to the customs, who were not too happy to see me. They calmed down a bit when they realised that I could not have smuggled in many Arabs in my small boat.
Their next problem was that they did not think that my newly-acquired thirty dollars was sufficient for a yachtsman to live on.
After arguing with them for two hours they got soft and stamped my passport.
One of them even invited me to his home for a meal, and to teach his wasteful wife how to keep a tighter budget.
Next day, with my thirty dollars still in my pocket and a full stomach, I sailed on to Cowes on the Isle of Wight. This was Englandâs centre of yachting and they received me kindly.
I had no dingy, but Souterâs yard let me stay on their pontoon. That gave me a chance to study their cold moulding technique, which they had pioneered together with the famous designer Illingworth. It was a form of wood construction, done by glueing thin veneers diagonally across each other on a mould. Several layers gave a light strong monocoque hull.
I had now finally replaced my paddle with an oar and after about a week I sculled, helped by the tide, up the river Medina to Folly Inn where I made many friends including Allan, the harbour master and Murray, the publican and his wife.
I did not keep my eyes in my pocket, nor were my ears filled with wax.
Cowes was a very interesting place for a young man interested in yacht design. Murrayâs uncle was Uffa Fox, the dean of English yacht designers. Allan showed me many interesting yachts and there was a library, very well-stocked with yachting books.
I organised my days to be as efficient as possible. The library visits of course took much of my time. I searched it systematically with the help of the card index.
Many of the books were stored away. After a few days with me nagging the staff to get this or that book out, they let me into the stack and placed me on a chair.
It was a veritable treasure cave. The room was filled with books. The walls had shelves up to the roof with books. The floor was covered with piles of books. I forgot time completely.
After a few hours, the staff came in asking if I was alright. I was alright until they closed for the day.
Next day I was back and asked to be let into the stack again. This continued for a few days. Finally they said I must stop. I guess they thought that my passion for books was not normal.
Another of my daily pleasures was to go to Souterâs yard and follow the progress of the world-class ocean racers they were building
Foraging was also a delight that took up my time. To my joy, when wandering about I had found a disused railway track overgrown with blackberries.
It was September and they were ripe. For hours I walked along the track, filling my stomach and thinking about the big problems. Strangely, no one else was about to take advantage of that abundance.
* * *
The voyage, so far, had gone well, my appetite was whetted. But I was no longer satisfied with coastal cruising. On the other hand, I did not think it prudent to continue out into the Atlantic with Anna.
With feelings of guilt and sadness I decided to replace her.
One day, when the tide was high, Allan and Murray helped me to put Anna ashore and cover her. Allan said he would try to find her a buyer during the winter.
I went back to Sweden, intent on coming back, next summer, with a proper ocean-going yacht.
* * *
A BIG BOAT
Back in Sweden I was met by grey cold weather. My sail to England in Anna had taught me much about sailing. I had experienced tidal waters and met many accomplished yachtsmen who had showed me their boats and given me useful advice.
Everyone had agreed on one thing. Anna was too small. I must get a bigger boat. A bigger boat, they said, was more seaworthy, faster and comfortable. Interestingly, I had also noted: the bigger boat a person had, the more respect he was met with. By selling most of my cameras I raised 500 dollars and was ready for boat-hunting. I hoped to find an old wreck with nice lines and, like Captain Slocum, rebuild her into a world-girdler.
One day I was sitting in Alanâs car, chatting with him about the future. This was the same Alan who I had spent the summer of 1962 with. Now, in 1968, he was twenty-one, had a car and driving licence, but was already bored with Sweden and was trying to figure out a way to get to the US and become rich.
I suggested: âWhy donât you help me rebuild an old wreck into an ocean-going boat, then we can sail there.â
He found the idea excellent. No time like the present, we reasoned, so with the help of his car we started to search the yacht harbours.
It was a grey Sunday in November and most of the boats were out of the water. My friend drove fast among the laid-up boats. Coming around a corner he braked and stopped for two small girls playing between the boats.
Their father was covering one of the boats. He was angry that we had driven so fast. I went out to talk to him. I apologised and admitted that yes, young girls were very valuable. He was a friendly man, only he did not want to see his daughters run over by rowdies.
I complimented him on his boat and he started to smile.
âIt is a nice old boatâ he said. âMy plan is to convert her into a motor yacht and sail to Kiel in Germany where one can buy liquor tax-free. Not that I am a heavy drinker, but I am against the idea that our government taxes everything.â
I told him that during the summer I had sailed to Kiel in a fourteen-foot boat, that Kiel was a pleasant place and that I was now looking for a bigger boat.
âIn fact, this boat is for sale.â He said.
It was a cold and grey November day. It had been raining. Now there was ice in the bilges, winter was coming in, and it was a long way to Kiel and tax-free liquor.
âYou can have her for 300 dollarsâ he said.
He must have interpreted my silent consideration as hesitation, because he continued eagerly:
âI have a lot of equipment at home, like lead for ballast, ropes, a toilet, a fire-extinguisher and much more, which will be included.â
âItâs a deal.â I said, and got out 300 dollars from my pocket.
He was surprised and began to hesitate.
âThis is going a bit too fastâ he said.
But the bilges were covered with ice, the November day was grey, my money was real and the two happiest days in a boat ownerâs life are the day he buys his boat and the day he sells it. Johnny, as his name was, took my 300 dollars and the boat was mine. I shouted to Alan to park the car because we now had a boat.
Together with Johnny, we finished covering her and then followed him and his two small girls to his home to get all the extras.
We quickly became friends. While his wife made tea and sandwiches he told us about the boat and its long and interesting history.
The 40â steam boat hull as we found her. She was built in 1885.
She was forty-foot long, had a beam of ten feet and a draft of three. She was built of riveted iron in Germany in 1885 as a steam launch. Around 1934 she was bought to Sweden by one Axel Svensson from GrĂ€nna. She was baptised Bris and carried passengers between GrĂ€nna and the island of VisingsĂ¶ on Lake VĂ€ttern.
During the Second World War there was a fuel shortage and she was laid up on a moring on Lake MunksjĂ¶n. During a storm she broke adrift and sank.
Editor Stenvret, of the newspaper SmĂ„lands Allehanda, salvaged her and converted her into a pleasure-boat.
During an excursion to the islands of Ombo, north of Karlsborg, fire broke out. Bris was completely burnt out and sank. After that, she was bought and salvaged by some people from Karlsborg.
The years passed and not much happened to the badly-damaged ship. In 1962 she was sold to some people in Hjo and then to some people in Tibro.
Finally, Johnny found her as a wreck in a meadow, with a tree growing through a big hole in her plating.
He transported her overland to FiskebĂ€ck in GĂ¶teborg were he worked on her until the end of the summer before realising that such a big boat was beyond his capacity.
Johnny told us about the plans and the dreams he had had. He showed us the drawing of how he had hoped to convert her to a family power-boat driven by a diesel engine.
When evening came, we followed him up to the attic and down to the basement. He had things for the boat everywhere. Now he was going to move to the countryside and never have a boat again. He was going to make a clean sweep. We and his wife were happy that he got rid of all the junk.
Once we had left, I told Alan about the feasibility of converting her to an ocean-going yacht, the chances of success, and the nature of the obstacles in our way and the immense advantages of stepping ashore in the US from our own yacht as a start to a new life of wealth.
I explained that a steamboat from the 1880âs was really a sailboat with a steam engine instead of mast and sails. Because the steam engines of those days did not develop much power, hulls had to be easily driven. Therefore, we would not need to have tall masts and a lot of sail, and without a tall rig we would not need a deep ballast keel.
Our next step was to visualise our ideas in a drawing. After much discussion and deliberation we draw her as a staysail schooner with a twenty-six foot foremast and a thirty-two foot mainmast. To prevent leeway we opted for a dagger-board.
Our plans for converting Bris to a staysail schooner.
We would each have a small cabin with five-foot headroom under the deck, mine on the starboard side of the dagger-board trunk and Alanâs on the port side.
The hull had not much depth, so to get headroom we designed two small coachroofs, like Captain Slocum had done on Spray. The aft one would become the saloon, the forward one a workshop. The ten feet of deck between them was intended for stowing a hard dingy at sea. In port, we hoped that beautiful girls might sunbathe there.
Those were the plans. We had quite a few tools and still had two hundred dollars left. Johnny lent us an oxy-acetylene welding and cutting set. For sixty dollars we bought an electric welder and rods. A friend lent us an angle-grinder. Elbow grease we would supply ourselves.
With the oxy-acetylene and cold chisels we got rid of the old engine mounts and the concrete which filled the bilges.
The deck is welded on.
When our boat neighbours in the yacht harbour saw that once again work was being done on the old wreck, they asked us about our plans. We told them innocently that during the winter we would convert her to a staysail schooner, then when spring came we would sail her to the US and make our fortunes.
This was of course rather cheeky, as at that time only a handful of Swedish yachts had crossed the Atlantic and only then after years of preparation. A rumour began to spread amongst the boat owners that two youngsters had some crazy plans to sail the old steamboat around the world.
That winter was very cold, but we doggedly kept on working every single day, from early in the morning into late at night. In February, we were ready to start with the deck and superstructures. On scrap yards we found nice angle bars for the deck beams, which we wrought into the desired curvature. Steel plates we were able to get at a good price by purchasing all at one time. After two weeks we had finished the deck and coachroofs.
Despite the cold weather, by the end of February the deck and superstructures were done and we could get some heat in the boat and lock her up.
Full of optimism, we closed-off the propeller aperture with a steel plate and cut a big hole in the plating for the dagger board, further indicating our eccentricity!
The more the work advanced, the more advice we got. Among our advisors was âSouth Sea Charlieâ who had been to sea before and explained how we should navigate if two hurricanes simultaneously approached us from different directions.
Then there was âOily-Oscarâ, who advised us to get a rudder stock of solid steel at least four inches in diameter. We definitely did not want to loose our rudder, he said.
âPercy the Perfectionistâ was a serious man, who told us that the half-inch glass in our windows would not be strong enough, and who maintained that as the boat had spent more than fifty years in fresh water it would now rust too fast for us to keep up with. He said that it would be cheaper, safer and more comfortable to keep her on land- as he had done with his boat for the past five years.
In February, though the deck and coachroofs were in place, we still had a lot of work left before our planned launch in May.
But as time passed and people saw progress and realised that we were serious, we also got a lot of help. We were lent a circular saw, a jig-saw, a router and other power tools. We were also given an echo sounder, a two-burner primus cooker and a steering-wheel.
Jan Bergman, the son of the famous film director, gave us an expensive Sestral compass inscribed with Proudhonâs words âProperty is theftâ. He proudly announced that he had stolen it from a police patrol boat. Here I would like to thank him and all the other contributors.
We managed financially by selling everything we had, taking odd-jobs now and then, but mainly by recycling waste material and by keeping the boat simple.
The 23rd of May, our launching date, passed to our embarrassment with the boat unfinished and still on land. But we worked on. We imported aluminium mast extrusions from Germany. We made fittings for the masts. We borrowed a lathe and turned the sheaves for the halyards. A trucker gave us a drum of half-inch elevator wire for the rigging. In three days, I spliced all the shrouds and stays.
Finally, at the end of July, we launched her, after eight months of work. We gave her the name Duga, Swedish for âgood enoughâ. The ballast was stowed and secured, the mast raised and suddenly one Saturday afternoon she was ready for sea trials.
Finally, at the end of July 1969, Duga is launched.
We had no idea of how she would behave, so a friend towed us to a place with plenty of sea-room where we could do no harm âwe had no engine. Our sail inventory consisted of only three sails: a main of 180 sq ft, a main staysail of 190 sq ft and a jib of 150 sq ft, a total of 520 sq ft. The wind was light so we proudly hoisted our entire sail wardrobe.
Dugaâs first sail was in light wind with friends.
Girlfriends and nearby boat owners had come along for the big event. To everyoneâs surprise she made good speed in the very light wind. She was well-balanced and came about easily. Towards the evening we spotted a renowned offshore cruiser. To our satisfaction, we draw ahead of her.
Our first trial lasted a Saturday afternoon. The next one was over a weekend, with stronger winds. Satisfied with her performance, we obtained a few small-scale charts taking us as far as England, where we knew we could get cheaper charts.
Finally, Alan sold his beloved car for five hundred dollars. We were ready.
At noon on the eigth of August 1969, we left GĂ¶teborg, heading for Kiel in Germany.
The wind was fresh from the west and we could just lay our course. We made good speed. After a few hours the wind speed rose and veered, letting us ease our sheets and pull up the dagger board. Our already quick speed become even faster.
In the evening, the wind increased to gale force and we downed the mainsail, continuing under staysail and jib. The boat behaved very well. In fact, she smoked along as if she was on rails. We passed Anholt and the Big Belt. By early morning, most of the gale had blown itself out. Still, we had a good wind for most of the day, but it was dying.
At six in the afternoon there was hardly a ripple on the surface but by then we had reached Holtenau in Kiel. We had sailed two hundred and forty miles in thirty hours, at an average speed of eight knots. The summer before, I had spent six weeks in 14-foot Anna covering the same distance. Yes, a big boat was certainly faster.
There was not much left of the gale when we arrived in Kiel.
Just like the year before, I found a Swedish yacht from Stockholm with a diesel engine. She was the Columbella, and like us she was on her way across the Atlantic. She gave us a tow through the canal.
In Brunsbuttelkoog, we had a good weather report and started down the Elbe with everything in our favour: tide, current and wind.
Soon we were past Cuxhaven and the lightships: Elbe One, Two and Three. But then we had rain and the wind turned against us and rose. We had to start tacking.
A few days later we sighted England, off Great Yarmouth. Now the wind was light again and the tide against us, so we were losing ground. The water was not very deep so we threw one of our homemade anchors in the water. It dug in immediately and the boat started making waves through the water as if being towed by a giant fish.
Next morning we were up early, half an hour before the tide turned. It was now dense fog. Bound for Cowes on the Isle of Wight, we navigated with the help of compass and log past the Thames estuary, past Dover and down the Channel.
During four days we saw nothing. We had to do our best to find our position with the help of diaphone, siren, reed, gun, explosive, bell, gong and whistle. Not an easy task for two Swedish navigators new to tidal sailing, as beside sandbanks and currents, we were in the worldâs most busy waters. When we finally arrived exhausted in Cowes we were relived. It had not been safe, especially without an engine.
We were welcomed by the people at Folly Inn and by the harbour master, who found us a free mooring. He had sold Anna, which gave us a bit of money.
There were still many things to do on the boat, but now and then I took the dingy down the river to Souterâs boatyard to learn a bit more about cold-moulded boat construction.
We were in a hurry to get to warmer latitudes before winter set in, so in October we said goodbye and started tacking down-Channel. It was a bleak drizzly day with strong contrary winds. During the night the wind increased to gale force. At dawn we were out in the Atlantic and could, to our amazement, see waves as big as houses which had built up during the night. To us, new to offshore sailing, it was very impressive and to our relief our stout boat handled the waves with ease, so we felt quite safe.
We followed the recommendations in Ocean Passages for the World and continued westward well past Ushant before turning south towards Madeira, our first destination.
We had another gale before the Bay of Biscay was done with us, but as before, our ship behaved very well.
Duga riding out a gale in the Bay of Biscay.
Finally, the sun came out and for the first time in my life I tried to find my position with the help of a heavenly body.
The boat was rolling and, new to the game, I had trouble shooting the sun, but that was nothing compared to the calculations.
We had bought a copy of Reeds Nautical Almanac because it was cheap and because (as it said on the cover) it contained all the information needed for astro-navigation. And it was true. In 1969, it was a mine of information. Besides lists of lights, tide-tables and much more, it included an ephemeris -a nautical almanac- and sight reduction tables.
The problem was that to get all that information into one book, the publisher had compressed it heavily. To unpack the information in the almanac, I needed to do a lot of interpolation, while the sight-reduction tables used the old versine functions, which are not inspection tables, so I had to calculate the sunâs height and azimuth separately.
Finally, after eight hours of intense concentration I had our position, at the price of a headache, but with a sense of relief.
We were one hundred miles east of the Azores. I plotted a course for Madeira and with all our sails drawing, we sailed straight for it.
After two days we sighted the island but the wind died. There we lay becalmed for three days off the north coast, rolling in the reflecting swell with our sails maddeningly flapping.
Alan, being of a more impatient character than me, swore at my idea of not having an engine. Finally, after 1900 miles on the log and 18 days at sea, we arrived in Funchal.
The last few miles we were towed by the pilots, who had seen us lying becalmed in the lee of the island. When we arrived, there were five other yachts at anchor in the well-protected harbour.
Most of our time was spent socialising with the other yachties to get advice from these more experienced sailors. We took walks on the beautiful island were we could see bananas and oranges and other tropical fruits growing. We enjoyed ourselves and benefitted from the results of our boatbuilding endeavours during the past long winter, but after a week, we followed the other yachts to Las Palmas on Grand Canary.
We stayed quite a long time in Las Palmas. Yachts came and went. There were usually about ten boats at the same time anchored-up on the roadstead.
We had to live on a small budget, but Grand Canary exported bananas and tomatoes, which had to be shipped before they were ripe. Ripe ones were given away, so a lot of our calories came from ripe tomatoes and bananas. Occasionally, a charter tourist would give us their excess meal tickets at the end of their stay.
One day, a huge 75-foot Camper and Nicholson ketch flying the Norwegian flag anchored up next to us. Not long after that, its young Captain and owner rowed across to us.
He told us that he had borrowed money and bought the boat in Italy. Now he was going to get rich chartering in the Caribbean. The boat was a bit run down, but with the help of paint he was now going to make her look great.
He asked us to help him scrape and sand the two masts, plus give each of them seven coats of varnish.
Although we now had no more than ten dollars between us and Alan just had to spend some of them on his Mechanico brand cigarettes each day, we laughed and were cheeky. We said we did not like to start work before ten oâclock in the mornings. We wanted free meals, and of course money. The skipper was in a hurry and quite desperate so he accepted our conditions. We started right away.
While we worked high up in the masts we noted with amazement that the spreaders were painted on the visible underside but not on the more exposed topside. Later, when we remarked about this to the owner, he said: âWhat do you expect of Italians? They knew the rich owner would never climb the mast to inspect their work, so why bother?â
After a week or so we began to feel at home on the big ketch. Consequently in the evenings when we rowed back to our 40-foot schooner we found her rather cramped. A year before, coming from 14-foot Anna, Duga had seemed huge, but now in a few days I had adapted to thinking that a 75-foot ketch was reasonable.
This gave me food for thought. Naturally, I would never be able to pay people and give them free meals for painting my masts. And as for having paying guest on my boat- it was out of the question. My boat was my home, not a hotel where I was the servant. I concluded that it was better to adapt to a small boat than to a big one.
For some time Alan and I had been disagreeing about our itinerary. When we planned the voyage I had proposed that we sail to the US, which was where Alan wanted to go. Now, after speaking with many yachtsmen, I had changed my mind and wanted to sail to Rio de Janeiro, but Alan was as keen as ever to sail to the US and get rich.
One day, a small Swedish cargo-boat anchored up on the roadstead. Its owners were on their way to the Caribbean to make a fortune. It soon became evident that the two owners did not get along however. Once things had calmed down, she was left with one owner. His problem was that he did not know how to navigate. His difficulty was solved by employing Alan as captain. Together, they would go and make a bit of money in the Caribbean. I would sail Duga to Rio, where Alan would join me later.
Soon after Alan left, I met Tuulikke, a Finnish girl. We fell in love and she decided to come sailing with me to Rio. Tuulikke is Finnish for âlittle windâ so I did not hesitate.
After Alan left Tuulikke âthe little windâ sailed with me to Rio
Our Swedish antifouling was no match for the tropical goose barnacles, so the crossing took 63 days. But the trade wind was nice and Tuulikke was nice and I had plenty of interesting books aboard. So in all, it was a very pleasant voyage.
In Dugaâs saloon.
One day, Alan turned up at the Rio yacht club. His first command had been successful and he had money in his pocket. It did not take long before he also had a girlfriend.
Now we were four on the boat, and although I got along well with my girl, and Alan with his, it was evident that the two girls were not compatible. Soon the days of bliss were gone and Alan suggested that we could get a lot of money for Duga in Florida.
We decided that Alan and his new girlfriend should sail Duga to Florida and sell her, then we would split the money.
During the crossing, besides other things I had occupied myself with drawing a new and smaller boat. Alan then bought me an airplane ticket back to Sweden, where I hoped to build her. I said goodbye to Duga and thanked her for what she had taught me.