2,020 Nautical Miles From Stockholm To Oslo And Back

A quest for zero plastic waste and zero carbon emissions.
Seagulls circle pink straw bales, American cars are parked in driveways leading to big red farmhouses, a fish eagle perched in a dead tree, blurs with the train’s motion.  I jump off in an industrial town, finally collapsing in front of a beer, the 17 hour travel merging with a sleepless night of revelry, topped with the draconian sanitary measures of 2020 made for a challenging escape.

Looking up from the pizza out to an empty marina peppered with tiny jellyfish, the huge angular machinery flanking the scene only adds to the otherworldliness of the floating invertebrates. “Where am I? Did I get off at the right place?” Surrounded by merry blond people without masks, makes me think I got the right country at least.

As twilight dissipates to grey, a small silhouette detaches itself from the ship yard’s shadows, in the gloom the brightly coloured hull glows like a beacon. I grin, home at last. 

The following days came and went with the regularity of tides yet, apart from being together on our vessel, everything was in constant flow. Time turned to rubber, 6 days onboard, mistakable for months, a lifetime in a nutshell, we were a tiny tribe of salty haired nomads adrift from the world and its global pandemics yet, on a mission to make it a better place.  

Sailing 2,020 nautical miles from Stockholm to Oslo as a climate statement through Scandinavian waters on a 34-foot Smaragd sailboat built in 1991, powered by 100% Sun Wind Water.
Bjorn Bertoft, Guri Bigham and Kaikane’s idea is to promote fossil fuel free alternatives, toxic-free coating, zero waste practices, solar food cooking, conscious local food sourcing, gender equality, art and sustainable lifestyle alternatives. The project is participating in 4 major sail racing competitions with an all-female team, as well as long distance legs with invited crew – Racing awareness for Agenda 2030 "Humanity's most important to-do list" – the United Nation's 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals. “Bringing the issues to surface by sailing” Goal 14 #act2020 art is painted on the stern. The hull’s art work, designed by artist Julia Pinwina, and painted on by the crew in SeaBoost toxic free coating. Once the boat picks up speed the skeletal other half of the sea creatures is revealed.

The vessel features an electric pod engine by Torqeedo supplemented by solar chargers. A strict no single-use-plastic policy resulted in minimal plastic waste, despite accommodating a crew of 3-7 people over two months with all biodegradable hygiene products provided onbaord. The comprehensive planning extends to food organization, incorporating a solar oven by GoSun, a DIY onboard composter and herb garden, a WonderBag slow cooker, a Berkey charcoal water filter, and sourcing food from organic farms while also sustainably foraging wild foods.  

Bjorn Bertoft doesn’t fit in his ship but skilfully folds himself in like all the onboard appliances. He is an independent producer, a creative, a mover and shaker, captain of his boat and his dreams. The bleached hair, deep tan, etched laugh lines inspire trust at sea and contain the huge heart  and gentle soul of uncle Bear, as Kaikane likes to call him.  It’s easy to forget this little guy is 6 years old, the unadulterated vision of the young who views the world as it truly is, without society’s inbuilt filter lenses, make him wise beyond his years as he swings off every hanging rope.
Leaving the containers staked in their docks, we make for the closest isles. We are greeted with a quintessential Swedish summer’s day in the archipelagos, afloat with rubber rings, bbq’s, kids, wide boys on speed boats all richly spread out on rocks and private cabins; we navigate the parties and extreme shallows to claim our kingdom for the night.  
Blueberry Island  

Gleefully diving into the murky waters to escape the crushing heat, I’m surprised by the lake aroma. Born following the Pleistocene glaciations, the Baltic is a youthful sea of 10 000 - 15 000 years old, its upbringing has been a tumultuous too-ing and fro-ing between being a freshwater body and a brackish one.

It’s a tiny sea with a humongous catchment basin 4 times its size (spanning 9 countries) so the abundant freshwater runoff keeps the salinity low and contributes to its stratified waters, which sees dense seawater suspended towards the surface. Over time a unique biota of fresh and salt water species have adapted to the gradated salinity of the waters, living in precariously balanced conditions of natural factors aided with anthropogenic impacts, over-fishing, pollution, sewage and agricultural chemical run offs. These man made spills promote huge algae blooms, starving the sea floor of sunlight and oxygen as its decay creates anoxic conditions unsuitable to life under the surface. To this day an estimate of 97% of the Baltic sea suffers from this condition named Eutrophication... Hence the campervan toilet, only emptied in marina facilities or buried in holes on land. The fish are too toxic for human consumption, the water’s health is clear as I effortlessly crush a mussel as bait for Kaikane’s fishing pole, far from a sumptuous tangerine, the content is a shape-less gooey brown.  

Evening light now, thick as honey, pouring east across our island. Hands stained purple by our berry haul. A crackling fire of juniper flavours the lamb picked up from an organic farm on Gotland. Cooking is a slow process, almost ritualistic, over an open fire.  In her own words Guri Bigham is a Writer, Recipe Developer, Locavore and Zero-Waste Advocate – devoted to living in harmony with earth in the midst of the climate crisis. As teenagers we’d throw wild dressing-up parties in her Dad’s legendary chalet in Les Frasserands, skip school on powder days; we were partners in crime entering the adult world and today she’s a Mother; a free-spirited, nomadic, world-schooling, forager, earth protector mama, no less.

Night doesn’t fall at sea, it rises from its depths. And just like that, the boat blacked out.  Bjorn and I exchanged glances. The green buoy we’d been aiming for an hour age of twilight, still unseen to port with shallows to starboard over which the distant glint of warm lights beckoned.

We’d chugged out of a busy marina with an escort of sea otters at first light, happily slapping over a pastel pond for breakfast, poking fun at the world on a breathless breeze. I regretted asking Bjorn if he was afraid to capsize, as we drank Prosecco zooming along at 5knots late in the afternoon blasting Scandi pop. He’d laughed, of course, and said “no, I’m afraid of lightning.” As a huge storm brews to the south, we bob motionlessly in utter silence and darkness. With only iPhone google maps we navigate wordlessly, the lightning drawing in, a sudden crack of thunder too close prompted Bjorn into action; he sprang up, rummaged and emerged with a rescue battery.  

Safe in the marina passing a bottle of whisky, Guri emerged from the cabin blurry eyed, “What did I miss guys?” I left my seafaring family on their voyage, onto where the Atlantic drinks the Baltic, onto Oslo and well beyond; inspiring people all over our blue marbled earth.

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