… and suddenly we are in Sweden – don’t you love it when a plan comes together, we knew heading West would work.
The first hour out of Aland Islands was motor sailing to get around the last few islands before the water opened up and allowed full sails and good cruising all the way to Sweden – a mere 32 nautical miles (about 6 hours).
This day hopping, coastal sailing in a sea without tides is pretty damn attractive and dare I say quite easy!!
There were other yachts in sight pretty much the entire journey, with it being such a popular sailing area and the middle of the sailing season as well as multiple large passenger ferries in sight most of the passage. In fact I called Phil up on deck when a ferry that had passed us on a parallel heading (about 2 miles away) suddenly slowed and turned heading straight towards us (still a fair distance off), but a very strange thing for him to change his course so dramatically by 135 degrees when he was so obviously heading towards Stockholm (south of our heading). It all became obvious when the search and rescue helicopter buzzed overhead, the ferry had turned directly into the wind to allow for the helicopter transfer to take place (we assume an evacuation from the ship). The helicopter then peeled off and headed towards Stockholm, the ferry by then had passed our stern and then completed a full circle around us crossing our bow (at a fair distance out) to resume his course.
We were arriving North of Stockholm and dropped anchor in a sweet little bay off the island of Idofladen, with 4 other yachts. It did take us two goes to get the anchor to set (still wishing for a Rocna) in the soft bottom before we cracked a cold drink and toasted “skål” (cheers) to our new host country Sweden.
The next day again proved good for sailing under both main and head sail in gentle but consistent winds and was fabulous to sail amongst the islands (they were not as restrictive as they had been in Finland), so much to look at as we made our way south.
We stopped for a hour on the island of Blido for a few grocery essentials before continuing on and anchoring in a sheltered bay off Storfladen. Again very popular with about 12 boats (yachts and motor boats) secured to the rocks with stern anchors out and another 5 yachts already at anchor in the bay, but we were arriving pretty late (just after 7pm) so didn’t expect it to be empty. There were holiday homes in the rocks all around and above us also hidden amongst the lovely lush vegetation.
The next morning we had a specific destination planned, which was different to our last few weeks where we marked all possible anchorages on route and then pulled into one when it looked really nice or when we had had enough for the day – so many options.
Our plan was to meet up with a local Swedish friend Jonatan (made via my brother Scott in Tasmania). However, it was quite a shock when we were all prepared to leave the anchorage and the engine didn’t start?
An hour and a half later, after some great work by Phil in swapping the engine start battery with the windless battery (thats the one that winds in the anchor) the engine started and we were off. Further investigation since has revealed the battery is fine but is being drained somehow by something when not in use – strange as it’s a single function battery (so until we can figure what exactly that is when we stop we disconnect the battery to keep it’s full charge – working well so far).
We arrived at the island of Galtholmen where Jonatan’s family have a summer house, and anchored in the sheltered lagoon at the back of the island (just a short walk from the house). That evening we enjoyed a fantastic meal with Jonatan and Anne at the summer house and discussed everything Swedish. So many iconic companies/brands; Volvo, Scania, Atlas Copco, Sandvik, Ikea, Roxette, Abba, Ericsson, Electrolux, Swedish Furniture Design. As well as two words that we can credit to Swedish origins; Smorgasbord & Ombudsman.
Jonatan had planned on spending the week sailing his own small yacht but unfortunately his mast had broken spoiling his plans, but turned out great for us as he was then able to come on board and sail with Red Roo, showing us all his favourite local secret spots – fantastic!
This is the first time we have sailed with anyone else on board and we really enjoyed the few days & nights Jonatan and Anne spent on board with us, and they also turned up in uniform – wearing Red Roo Corporate Red!
Our first night was a place called Storö-Bockö which under no circumstances would anyone who wasn’t a local attempt to visit. It is riddled with rocks just under the surface (many uncharted) and we were happy to have Jonatan onboard as our local pilot to steer us in. It was worth it, a great spot. A BBQ on the rocks for dinner and the next morning enjoyed swimming and relaxing in the sun. We actually felt like we were on summer vacation.
Eventually around lunch time, we set off again sailing, and really enjoyed Jonatan’s local knowledge allowing us to sail where normally we may not have (in the narrower channels), it was great having a third set of hands to allow smooth, quick tacks through the channels criss crossing our way forward.
A second day of perfect wind with loads of sunshine gave us another fantastic day on the water, enjoying the scenery, the company and of course the sailing.
We later met up with some of Jonatan’s friends at a spot called Ostholmen. We were in for a treat with summer celebrations well underway and loads of new people to meet and socialise with.
We were also next to another group of summer vacation holidayers (mostly University Students) on a real party boat. They had a great set up moored along the rock, a great bbq spot, a huge deck, great music with large speakers and a sensational inflatable tube, which as someone jumps on one end – it launches someone off the other end into the water – great fun!
We enjoyed the afternoon drinking, eating and socialising on the rocks with all our new friends, so much so that when the invitation came at around midnight to join them in the sauna on the island, we were happy (or drunk enough) to join them.
The sauna was an electric sauna, a short walk through he bush in the next bay of the island. With about 25 of us, we were taking turns cycling through the sauna, the dressing room outside the sauna (which itself was really quite humid and hot) and also jumping off the jetty into the cool Baltic Waters to complete the experience.
The temperature inside the sauna was a little over 70 degrees and obviously very very humid. Once the clock hit 1am it was time to enjoy some traditional Sweedish drinking songs inside the sauna and although we didn’t know the words, we certainly joined in the choruses.
You may remember a few blogs back in Estonia and then also mentioned in Finland how it didn’t get dark at night, well, it does now, and I found that out when I attempted to get back to the boat from the sauna alone, once into the trees I found it very very dark, any how I eventually made it with a little help from a local and Phil appreciated the fact that once I made it back I turned our deck light on to assist him in his return.
The next day rain set in for most of the day, which worked well as we lounged around the boat reading and doing (recovering). It brightened up for the evening allowing more BBQ’s and socialising but not being as young as we once were, we gave the sauna a miss on the second night (the booking being from 10pm – we were ready for bed by then).
We stopped back at Galtholmen in the Lagoon for a night and a final meal with Jonatan and Anne at the summer house before heading into he big smoke of Stockholm.
We motored into Stockholm with hardly any wind to be of assistance. The passage takes you past Vaxholm an island famous for its fort. Originally built by the King in 1548, he also filled in all the sounds expect one with stones and poles (meaning any enemy ships could only take the one passage past the fort). The Danish fleet failed to break through to Stockholm and even the Russian were deterred from passing Vaxholm after they had burned most of the archipelago in 1719. The Swedish navy guarded it as the last line of defence and no enemy has ever got past the fort.
It was demolished in 1833 when declared out of date and the present fort was built over a period of 30 years by convict labour, it was hardly completed before it was again outdated. By then the grooved bullet had been invented and was considered a major threat to the fort, and this was tested by the ship Hildur anchored at Vaxholm who were ordered to fire a single shot from their brand new 24 cm cannon with grooves inside the barrel, the result – the outer and inner walls collapsed! Whoops!!
Jonatan told us another funny story regarding the fort, that being the stern general field marshal von Moltke who visited Vaxholm in 1881 is said to have laughed only twice in his life; once when we saw the Voxholm fort and then when is mother in law died!!
We didn’t stop at Vaxhom we continued on into Stockholm and secured ourselves at the Wasahamnen Guest Harbour. A great location close to everything. It is right in front of the famous Vasa museum (more on that shortly), about 100 meter walk to the ferries taking you to the old town or into the city centre, and beside the big amusement theme park. Alternatively if you are like us and too cheap to pay for the ferry it is a brisk but pleasant 20 minute walk into town.
We visited that very afternoon the Vasa museum, Phil having visited many many years ago when he was backpacking the world and remembers being very impressed by it.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Vasa (this was me) the Vasa is a Swedish Ship built in Stockholm and on the 10th August 1628 it set out on her maiden voyage and sunk 20 minutes later about 1100 meters from the dock in the Stockholm harbour.
Not exactly a success story for what was to be the Kings flagship. It sunk simply when a very slight breeze filled the sails (they were only using 4 of the 10 on the ship) and the ship heeled over and water came in the gun ports (cannon hatches) which were open and on display for launch celebrations. Basically to keep it short and simple the boat had been built too narrow and didn’t have enough ballast (weight) in the bottom or depth to balance her, especially as she was carrying more cannons than any other ship had ever carried before this time a total of 64 heavy solid cannons.
Remember this in the years before they ever had things such as drawings or plans, or engineers for ships construction. The ships architect actually died during the first year of construction so it was finished by the captain and others (who were not ship builders) to the Kings orders/specifications (the King also not being a ship builder or engineer). The captain did however suspect that the ship was unstable and duly performed a stability test (men running back and forth across the deck) which was stopped after only three runs back and forth as the ship was rocking wildly and in danger of capsizing. They however proceeded on with the build and launch.
The inquiry into who was to blame for the failure and ship sinking didn’t find anyone at fault (as mentioned the ship builder had died during construction), however they did order his widow to reimburse the king for the cost of the lost ship – which over many years she actually did!
The wreck was salvaged in 1961 after 333 years under the sea, at a depth of just 30 meters. The reconstructed vessel is 98% original and is adorned with hundreds of caved sculptures. It really is both an amazing story and an absolutely fabulous museum. It is preserved so well due to unique water that is the Baltic Sea and the lack of salinity (salt) in the water being neither fresh or salty a unique mix meaning it isn’t an environment that normal parasites (namely shipworm, that would have eaten the wood and leather and everything else) can survive in. Furthermore the other astonishing fact that helped with preservation is that the water around Stockholm was heavily polluted until the late 20th century, the highly toxic and hostile environment meant that even the toughest microorganisms that break down wood had difficulty surviving. This along with the fact that Vasa was had been newly built (mint condition) when she sank contributed to her conservation.
Incidentally we have now visited three very famous ships, two which have sunk and been salvaged and of course the wonderful Victory (still floating) and Phil’s vital statistics put it into perspective in relation to size weight and build, with the Victory being able to handle double the weight due to the extra width and ballast.
The pictures below show a scale model of the Vasa depicting her original colour – very bright for a ship of that time!
Day two in Stockholm we spent the majority of the day at Skansen which is Sweden’s outdoor living museum founded in 1891, it covers an area of about 300,000 meters squared. It has traditional original houses and building salvaged from all over the country preserved and reset in traditional environments. They also have traditional craft and skills at work in the homes and on the farms as well as native nordic animals on display; Wolverine, Wolf, Bison, Lynx, Wild Boar, Brown Bear, Gotland Ponies, Grey Owls, Elk, Reindeer and Seals. For those Australian’s reading it is very similar (but much bigger) than Sovereign Hill in Victoria – the same concept.
That evening we walked over to Stockholm old town (which although an island is connected by bridges) and explored the old buildings, the windy cobblestone hilly streets, government house and the royal palace. Such wonderful sights and nice to do it without the day time crowds of tourists!
Our third and final day we walked into the “new city” and caught the free bus from central station out to the worlds largest IKEA store. It certainly looked big and took up a lot of space. We didn’t browse the store however but just headed straight into the market hall to get some of the items on our shopping list and also had lunch in the restaurant – yes, Swedish meatballs.
We left Stockholm the following afternoon after a huge grocery shop and a cup of tea and big chat with two very delightful English sailors aged in their 80’s (so inspiring), whom we met when we assisted them moving berths the day before. Roger and Kristin obviously having a lot more experience than us ‘young one’s’ (yes even Phil!) and were a wealth of information for cruising Sweden. They keep their beloved yacht “Badger” in Sweden and come out sailing each year – however they confessed that this may in fact be their last season as they are getting on in years and their health isn’t what it used to be.
We anchored overnight 15 nautical miles from Stockholm (done under motor) at Ägnö (Tvättfatet), a sea scouts camp island and being summer holidays the camp was in use.
It was nice to have entertainment whilst enjoying dinner up on deck, that nights after dinner activity for the scouts was water rescues; how to throw a life buoy ring, how to assist a casualty in the water and how to get your casualty out of the water. Despite the evening cooling off there seemed to be many volunteers to be the casualty in the water – oh to be young again! Phil discussed how Scouts was very much a boys only environment when he was young (and LOVED Scouts, endless mischief in the bush with his mates), where as this day and age it’s open to the fairer sex, he decided the lads must love the girls being there, especially those in bikinis.
We motor sailed the following day to anchor at Ornö (Kolnäsviken) a very sheltered little bay tucked in behind a narrow entrance. Again very popular with about 8 boats tied to rocks/tree’s at the shoreline and we were second to anchor, by nightfall that had increased to 7 on anchor and 12 tied to shore.
The next day the wind was blowing up and of course right on the nose for the heading we wanted. It was stronger than we have had previously meaning really good for sailing (but not on the nose) and also really a bit too strong to be motoring head on into unless absolutely necessary so it was an easy decision to increase our journey distance (still going to the same destination) but heading out at an angle (adding miles) but giving us a good angle to sail on, and sail we did. Of course when we reached our furthest point before tacking back in the wind dropped completely but by the look of the clouds not for long, there she was in the distance the clouds giving notice of the incoming squall, the wind swung around a bit then proceeded to blow from anything from 6 knots (nothing) to 27 knots (a lot) and of course from various directions as well as a torrential rain downpour to top it off. The heavy rain and squalls continued on and off for the remainder of the journey and the remainder of the day. Phil had to hand steer through most of it to keep it in the sails correctly due to the wind direction and force constantly changing (well . . . there is no use both of us getting saturated – I stayed below and offered moral support, encouraging words and handed up rain jackets, beanies and towels).
We arrived at Utö and lucky enough managed to berth between downpours (stern anchor and bow to pontoon). We bunkered down for a few hours waiting for the ongoing downpours to finish doing there thing before exploring the island.
Utö is 10km long and has a population of around 245 residents. We also read that it is the most popular island destination in the archipelago with over 300,000 visitors each year. We however noticed that since the weekend the numbers of yachts has really dropped off – we think this is the week most return to work after their summer vacation. There was certainly a lot of space for boat but actually not so many which suited us. The reasons we wanted to call at Utö was to learn more about its mining history (and we were pleased this coincided with the rough weather and a pontoon to secure to).
We learnt that they began mini iron on the island around 1150 and over two million tonnes of ore had been extracted by the time the mine closed in 1879. Times were hard and the mining company forced children under the age of 10 to start working down the pit. Miners reached the pit via two, hundred meter long wooden ladders clamped to the rock wall. Ore and water were brought up in baskets pulled by horses. Workers received part of their salary in spirits that the mining company produced locally (8,000 litres per year). Many say each day started with a drink to instil some courage into body and soul before descending into the mine. Very different to what Phil and I from a life working in the mining industry. After the mining came to an end the islands next life was one for logging and saw mills before eventually becoming a tourist holiday destination for people out of Stockholm.
The following nights anchorage on off Rȧnö in the bay of Skutviken offered great protection from an unusually choppy and lumpy Baltic Sea, the chop and swell being a reminder of the wind and wilds we encountered yesterday (that continued to blow all night). Our explorations on Rȧnö turned up (as the sailing guide had told us) Russian ovens left over from occupation and also we discovered (not in the guide) signs of some very active beavers on the island. They are very ambitious with the sizes of tree’s they were knowing at and bringing down – they must have a major construction in progress.
Our next stop was largely just one of convince to set us up to sail the following day to Nykoping (back on the mainland), we were waiting on the winds promised to come the following day to allow us to sail there so did the short motor of 15 n.miles to arrive at Landsort on the island of Öja (the southern most island in the Stockholm Archipelago).
We walked the entire length of the island (4km) and back from where were berthed at the northern end to the Lighthouse at the southern end of the island. The island is listed as the first pilot station and oldest lighthouse (lit in 1651) in the Sweden, controversially however as the Kullen lighthouse in Skåne was lit 100 years earlier but Skåne was Danish at the time!
A fantastic day on the water, firstly a lot further than we have been doing for a while with a little over 30 nautical miles travelled and all under sail – fantastic!
We started with a F5 (17-21 knots of wind) from the south east (port side of boat) and were cracking along between 6.5 and 7.5 knots (a very good speed). Still a fair bit of swell on the water making it a bit lumpy but we were at a place where the water is exposed – being nothing between us and Poland on the other side of the Baltic Sea.
When we adjusted course for the second part of the journey the wind was dropping to a F3 (7-10 knots) directly downwind (behind us) so we set up the spinnaker pole and put the main and head sail out in a goose-wing configuration (one sail out each side at 90 degrees to the boat) catching all the wind and travelled along very comfortably at 3.5-4.5 knots (and the swell no longer on our port side – yippee!).
We arrived very happily after our day sailing in Nykoping . . . now let me ask you a question, how would you pronounce it? Myself being very Australian would attempt to pronounce each letter this is very wrong in any European language but I still do it every time. However let me enlighten you it is pronounced “knee-sherping”.
And the GREAT thing about Nykoping is we have Gas – not the smelly kind from Phil’s backside but the cooking kind for the stove and hot plates YAY!! We have been heading for Nykoping (regardless of the pronunciation) since leaving Stockholm on the very good advice from the “Badgers” that we would be able to refill our English (and maybe even our French) gas bottles here.
We left the UK with two full English bottles in the first week of March and were able to refill them late in March in Holland (we had only used one by then) but nothing since. Every country has a different bottle and there is an upfront contract and investment in buying a bottle and then you of course need a new (expensive) connector to fit to the boat all adding up, as well as them all being differently shaped and not fitting in the gas locker. We haven’t ran out yet (but could anytime now) and we must credit the Cyclones of Langstone for sharing their smart solution (ever so obvious now) of buying a plug in electric hotplate for use when in a marina with a power connection. This worked very well across the south coast of the Baltic where we had to be marina’s almost every night due to the coast. We have also hardly used any gas in Finland and Sweden as we have lit the BBQ almost every night either on land or our special (cold to touch) portable bbq on deck. However we were ever so pleased to be able to fill them up considering this summer bbq weather won’t last much longer.
For those of you following along at home that are interested in our photos, I have just completed two more photo slide-shows (you can click here to view “our photo’s” or find them via the Our Photo’s on the Home Page menu). There is one for the Baltic States of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia as well as the second being of our time in Finland 🙂 (view them full screen to remove the annoying adverts and pictures in the app)