Sweden’s Stone Ship – Two Ports in One Day

A new day another country . . . back to Sweden (mainland) which you can’t quite see from Bornholm (Denmark) but it isn’t far 28 nautical miles (that’s 32 of the land based miles or 52km for those of us trained to imperial measurements), anyway Sweden came into site about 2 hours into the sail.

We left Danish dirt at 06:00am as the wind was on early and fading as the day progressed.  We started out with F5 (17-21 knots) from the South and sailing well, as the hours slipped by the wind died off decreasing to F4 then F3 however we still managed to sneak along under sail, we were in no hurry the sun was out, it was a pleasant day.

We arrived at our first stop for the day Kåseberga at 13:00.

Our reason for stopping here was two fold, firstly we “just had” to see the Stone Ship (Phil loves these things – I really don’t get it but …) and secondly between Kåseberga and our final destination for the day Ystad is an active military firing zone, and we didn’t want to put ourselves out there as a target (being red we would make quite the ideal target).


Once secure in the small harbour we hiked up the hill to see this marvel “Ales Stenar” (the stone ship) which is actually 58 granite rocks that are placed in the form of a 67 meter long and 19 meter wide ship – apparently a powerful symbol of power and faith (myself would have called it an oval shape rather than ship).

Professional shots of the stone ship (obviously not our own)

It is thought that Ales Stenar was created during the time of vikings around 800-1050 AD.  The sun sets at the north-western end of the ship on the day of the summer solstice  (longest day of the year) and rises at the opposite end on the day of the winter solstice (shortest day of the year) so in my humble un-educated opinion it might just be a calendar come clock rather than a ship – just putting it out there!

Ales Stenar

I should explain myself . . . it’s not that I don’t appreciate it, as I honestly do, I marvel at how old it is, how it was built without modern lifting machinery, the science behind the exact placement of the stones to align with the sun and the years it would have taken to be a success (summer and winter solstice can only be checked once a year) I really do appreciate it but what you actually see is stones in a paddock, and trust me we have seen a lot of stones in paddocks all over Europe in the last two years, some a lot better than others.

I am telling you it’s NOT a ship!

I must say this one was impressive, and funny enough one of the easiest to get to that we have visited (some we have walked half a day to see and been really quite disappointed upon arrival).

I will include a couple of pictures from the story boards which give more information (zoom in for the english text which is every second paragraph).

We strolled back down the hill to the boat debating the stones and the “believed meaning of many that we have visited” to the accompanying sounds of hundreds and hundreds of shells continually being fired from the military zone, some being a bigger bang than others (with the sound being amplified over the water), it really did confirm we would wait until the zone reopened for transit at 5pm.  What to do in the mean time . . . an ice-cream and a nap were in order.

Walking back to the harbour


Come 5pm we motored in zero wind the 10 nautical miles (2 hours) directly to Ystad.  We could have left earlier and gone around the exclusion zone while it was active (adding many additional miles to get around it) but with the wind easing it would have been a motor journey anyway so we waited and went direct.

Ystad is a bigger city and a transport point for passenger ferries to and from Bornholm (the Danish island we just left) as well as high speed ferries to Poland.

There are quite a few really beautiful old buildings in town, similar to many we have seen in the baltic but they never cease to amaze us how old and beautiful they are and that people live in them (wonky and all) and how we would both pick a really old character house like these than a new build any-day.  I have no doubt they are worth a lot of money and they are always right in the middle of the towns so maybe to us at least that makes them not as appealing as a country cottage.

The older buildings of Ystad

The highlight for us in Ystad was the Night Watchman.  Every night of the a year, a long muffled signal hangs in the air over central Ystad.  With a single note every 15 minutes, blown to each the North, South, East and West the Watchman in Saint Mary’s church declares “All is Well” a living tradition that dates back many hundreds of years.  No one knows how old this tradition is, although they know a Watchman worked in the tower in the 17th century when it was built.

The man with the horn – Ystad Night Watchman

Originally the Watchman’s job was to warn of unwelcome visitors by land or sea and to report any fires in the town.  Today the Watchman is a sign that Ystad cares and watches over it’s citizens and guests (although now he phones emergency services if anything untoward is seen or happens).

We went out one evening specially to witness the Watchman do his thing, and right on time a small window opened from just below the clock at the top of the tower and out poked the copper horn and the accompanying sound, then he shut the window and went to the next one working his way around the tower (north, south, east and west).  He does this every 15 minutes from 21:15 to 01:00 every night.  I encourage you to click here to watch a really great 2 minute video on the tradition and to see the Night Watchman.

Sorry but I just have to say it …. my tip for any unwelcome guests to town would be to wait until after 01:00 to arrive otherwise your cover may be blown!!

Saint Mary’s Church the Nightwatchman’s Windows (N, S, E & W) are just below the clock

I couldn’t help myself the following day I invested in a small ceramic souvenir Night Watchman, complete with tin horn and the accompanying certificate which listed the rules (dated 1748) of the Night Watchman; he is to keep sober and awake and carefully look for threatening fire.  If that occurs he must toll the bell & through his mouthpiece call which block is on fire.  By tolling the bell more rapidly or more slowly as long as the fire is raging he will tell weather the fire increases or decreases.  Negligence in the form of coming late to work, falling asleep, being drink or smoking tobacco whilst on duty could be punished by a fine of varying amount, by being whipped or being dismissed and in grave cases being executed!

Höllviken Beach (Anchor) Falsterbo Canal

32 nautical miles south/west took us 9 hours which of course equals a rather slow sail managing just 3.5 knots but a sail none the less – a LOT more pleasant than motoring, and it was a nice day, a bit of chill in the wind early but bright and sunny.  The highlight of the journey was spotting 2 dolphins off our stern.  We have not seen any dolphins in the entire Baltic Sea until that moment (you may have notices from earlier posts our concern about lack of critters and sea life).  They didn’t play in the bow as previous porpoises have done but broke the surface a couple of times showing their beautiful shape so elegantly in the water.

We got ourselves to the entrance of the Falsterbo Canal (which is a great short cut, cutting off Falsterbo a great chunk of land making the distance to Copenhagen Denmark a lot shorter) and anchored outside the canal a little to the east off Höllviken Beach.

Sensational Sunset

The water was amazingly clear, we could see the anchor chain and anchor on the bottom, such a magical blue/green colour and a wonderful sandy bottom.  Lots of people on the sand relaxing or walking the length of the beach and heaps of beach huts just back off the dunes.

Summing Up Sweden

Arriving in Sweden on 23rd July we spent 42 days in this wonderful country exploring the south eastern coast of Sweden.  We have by no means seen it all – we missed a huge chunk of the north east up in the Gulf of Bothnia and didn’t do the western coast, nor did we go inland BUT we loved what we did see on the south east coast and have racked up just shy of 700 nautical miles (thats around 1,200 km).  Refer coloured patches on map to reference where we have explored.



We have spent some magical nights on anchor in scenery that the camera just doesn’t do justice.  Explored some great historic towns and buildings, learnt a lot, been in awe of the storybook settings.  We have found some places that we think are unknown gems (being cheap or even free and had a lot to offer) and of course stopped at some places that we found ok but not so good value overall (I am still using my $325 kroner bookmark from Utkilppan which whilst a unique place to visit, offered only a long drop toilet – no showers, no power, no internet and was one of the most expensive places we stopped . . . but they did give us a sticker to put on the boat showing we paid our fees – hence I am using it as my most expensive bookmark ever).

Again (an ongoing theme) we have meet some wonderful people, too many to name them all but a few that stand out are most certainly Jonatan and Anne who so generously shared some of their summer vacation time with us on the water showing us the best local spots.  It was fantastic to have people on board sailing with us (our very first sailing guests) they also welcomed us to their summer house and introduced us to some of Sweden’s best food.  We have done a huge stock up on some of our favourites before leaving; Västerbolten Cheese, Senapssill, Kalles Kaviar, Lingonberry Jam & of course meatballs (to which I proudly make my own traditional Swedish brown sauce from scratch to eat with them).

Brenda and John, although we haven’t actually seen them in Sweden, we have been communicating with them and appreciated all the texts and notes on good anchorages along the way (they were ahead of us).

Roger and Kristin sailing Badger whom we met in Stockholm and again in Nykoping, wonderful people with a wealth of experience and very generous with information and recommendations.

Bertil and Gisela our Aussie comrades, it was fantastic to spend time with people from the mother land – fellow adventurers.  A great few nights with a drink and a tale or three shared, we do hope to meet again.

P1070001Back to that good old subject of food, we declare that we haven’t eaten Surströmming (fermented fish) in a can (read; rotten) also note that Jonatan and Anne (Swedish locals) didn’t recommended this to us, neither did Bertil (born in Sweden), but Gisela said we should try it as she doesn’t mind it.  Anyway we see it the supermarkets and each time we look at it and spend 5 minutes ummm-ing and arrrrr-ing about trying it and then always decide we would need to do it with locals who knew about it and shouldn’t attempt it on our own.

Next stop is Denmark right into the capital Copenhagen, it will be the 9th country we will visit this year since leaving England in March – wowsers!!

A little mud map below details our last few sailing legs (this blog post and the previous) from Sweden to Denmark, back to Sweden and then finally into Denmark full stop.  Note numbers 1, 2, 3 & 4 were from last blog post (Dropping in on some Danish Dirt).



1 Utklippan (Sweden)
2 Christiansø (Denmark)
3 Svanke (Denmark)
4 Allinge (Denmark)
5a Kåseberga (Sweden)
5b Ystad (Sweden)
6 Falsterbo Canal (Sweden)
7 Copenhagen (Denmark)

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