Sweden, Stockholm Archipelago (August 2008)


The route from The Alands to the Gota Canal, Stockholm is in the centre


The landscape

We sailed the 35 miles across the Åland Sea from Finland and found it was similar to crossing Lake Ontario in distance, wind and sea state.  We saw half a dozen large ferries and one tanker, but did not have to dodge any of them.  We arrived in Sweden in the rain, and experienced much more precipitation in Sweden than we had in Finland.



More rain means greener grass and trees … and bugs    


 Most of the eastern islands are low, rocky and covered with sparce vegitation


The landscape in the Stockholm Archipelago is different from Finland.  More green (trees) and less pink (granite) and lower terrain in general.  Where there are rocky cliffs they often glimmer in the sunlight, showing a small spring in the rock, reminiscent of some places in the North Channel where small springs keep the rock wet most of the summer.


Pilgrim at anchor in a nature reserve


The islands are green and lush.  Pine needles and moss cushioned on feet, and there were many kinds of ferns and mushrooms along the path.  The blueberries were past their prime and we have no idea if they were better than the Finnish ones this year.  We also saw wild strawberry plants (no berries) and some wild raspberries.  There are orchids near the shoreline and in boggy areas, but of course the flowers were long gone.  There are more coniferous trees than in Finland, and the deciduous trees are not yellow with shriveled leaves.  However, there were many trees that had been blown down; some of the dead wood had been cut and stacked, but most was just lying on the forest floor. 


Hood up, hands in pockets exploring the island through a haze of mosquitoes




Mushrooms and ferns of all descriptions


A week before we arrived a major wind blew this tree over


To accompany this lushness, there were many flying insects.  There were some mosquitoes, but most of the bugs were annoying rather than biting.  The mosquitoes became a bigger issue in September in the Göta Canal.


A happy group off to feed the mosquitoes


 There were a few areas where we saw swarms of ants, and then we noticed a few anthills, one that was about 2 ½ feet high!  The ants were red, so we did not stand quietly around the hill and take pictures, especially when we noticed them crawling on our shoes.  Dragonflies, butterflies and bees are delightful.  The wasps in late August were persistent and an annoyance.




Red ant hills … the mounds simply teem with live bodies … ants are everywhere in the surrounding area




Butterflies and bees dominate the open areas



another mushroom we did not pick and eat


but the raspberries were a different matter


The waterfowl continue to enchant us.  Swan families, Eider ducks, Chaffinch, barnswallows (who loved to perch on our lifelines)


Swans are ever present … as singles or in groups of up to 6 adults … one pair usually provides daycare for the groups young


The harbour bottom in the Stockholm Archipelago is extremely soft.  Anchoring cannot be rushed.  Our 60-pound CQR anchor usually sinks about 6-10 feet into the muck, and that holds us well even in strong breezes, but getting the anchor up and cleaned off is a challenge.  Think of Jello that has not quite set to a depth of 10 feet. (Geese with diarrhea as I would say).


Slimy … icky … a pain to clean off … a challenge to set an anchor in …


Turns out there are two kinds of boaters in this environment … the Rockers and the Swingers. The Rockers prefer to toss out a stern anchor and motor to a rock face in the hopes of finding an attachment point on the rock. It is interesting to watch what happens when the attachment point is not readily available. The skipper usually assigns this “on shore” duty to the youngest member of the crew … the one without strength or weight and then proceeds to yell at them when they can’t pull the boat close to shore. Even thought the boats are tightly packed on the rocks there appears to be little if any social interchange between or among the boaters … strange.   The Swingers are a different breed. They prefer to drop an anchor and stay apart from the cheek by jowl mooring on the rocks. They may even wave at each other and heaven forbid venture over to say hi. Germans are big Swingers. Finns and Swedes are big Rockers.



A group of “swingers”    the safer approach to securing your boat to something solid


                                                                                                         A nest of “rockers” that love the hot rocks … one would start to think of them as somewhat cold blooded


The Anchorages

Idő.  This island used to be agricultural land, but now the few houses / barns are holiday homes and the island is a nature reserve


A few homes, a regular ferry service makes for a quiet but convenient Island sanctuary


Granő (south of Hogmarso).  Calm, secluded anchorage.  The restaurant in Hogmarso was closed for the season.  The village used to have a shipyard, now a junkyard




Closed for the season … in August … how can you earn enough in a 3-month season to make it worth while?


Själbottna – Storflarlen.  Shortly after we anchored, a moderately large commercial boat came into the harbour and headed directly for the rocks near a cabin.  The boat was basically run up on the rocks, then a conveyor belt was dispatched from the bow, and about 2 cubic meters of soil was deposited on the rocks near a cabin.  Quite amazing. 



The soil delivery vessel … the only way to get soil/sand/rocks to an island without roads


 The red pails designate the place where the soil was to be dumped … wonder if they got the right property


In Sweden, the public right of access is entrenched in custom and legislation.  Anyone can walk on private property as long as they do not disturb the owner and do not do any damage.  This is great in theory but each day we run into examples where the public has been forbidden to access land by the landowner. In today’s example a rock face that is clearly marked in cruising guides as being available for tying up to has a set of strung together buoys that prevent getting near the rock face.


On the charts this rock face is shown as an anchorage/tie up … obviously the neighbors had different ideas


We were hit with our first thunderstorm of the year.   We had one gust of 17 knots of wind, but the harbour is so sheltered that most of the wind passed over us.  We were pelted with rain (cleaned the decks).


Our first really hard rain and thunderstorm of the year



This is a popular, well protected, but large anchorage.  Even though it was after “high season” for holidays in Sweden there were 25 boats within view, most of them with stern anchors and bows tied to the rocks.  The Nature Reserve had built a “trampoline” or diving board off the rocks, and although the water was cold, both children and adults were swimming.  We hiked on two of the islands forming the harbour and saw some free range chickens, some mighty oak trees, a not so free-range pig, a hornets nest and a youth hostel. 



Trampoline in action … kids having a great time in 60 degree water … Ignition







The entrance to this well-protected “hurricane hole” was narrow, but gave us a good home for a two-day blow.  After the storm passed, we hiked to the one village on Svartsö..  There are virtually no cars on the island, but people do have motorized bikes, tractors (year-round residents are farmers) and ATV’s.  As we approached a cluster of homes we saw two deer.  At first we thought they were lawn ornaments because they were so still. 



Pilgrim at anchor while we explore the country side


 A deer that was jus as surprised to see us as we were to see it


We took a footpath through yards and pastures to another road, and finally got to the village with a restaurant and general store.  The restaurant had a Swedish specialty:  air-dried lamb. The haunch was on a carving board near the bar.  The waiter, who turned out of be Hawaiian (Los Angles born) with a Swedish mother is doing University in Sweden because it is tuition-free.  He recommended we try the Mediterranean platter, which featured the lamb along with olives, peppers, cheese and a basket of bread.  It was delicious.  Except for the masses of wasps / yellow-jackets / mud-hornets, it was a delightful lunch.  These pests are as vicious and plentiful as in Toronto in September.


A very popular restaurant catering to the summer crowd


Träsko Storö

This is another very popular anchorage; some of the larger sailboats are swinging on anchors with us, and there are about 18-20 boats tied to the rocks. 


A lighter than average nest of rockers


This is the last weekend of the holiday season, so this crowd is light compared to July.  The land around the anchorage is mainly nature reserve.  We noticed lots of teenagers and sailing dinghies on shore.  The man on a large powerboat was in a scouting uniform, and sure enough, on Saturday morning the jamboree was over and at least 100 kids were ferried off the island in Nature Reserve and private boats. 


The trails were well marked but we still managed to get turned around


Saturday afternoon we had a good hike on Träsko Storö and were amazed how well the scouts had cleaned up their camp.  There was a blazed trail, and we enjoyed the landscape that included a large pond, marshes, rock ledges, oak trees, moss and ferns. 


One 40+ foot, triple spreader sailboat arrived late evening and was bound and determined to moor to the rocks.  The space for such a large boat was limited on the rocks that allowed you to face into the wind.  After 3 or 4 tries, the boat deployed a stern anchor and attached its bow to the stern of a moored boat!  A new twist on rafting:  bow to stern.


So when a rocker can’t get to a rock … raft to the stern of someone who has … that’s a 40 footer rafted to a 30 footer.



This was our last anchorage before going to Stockholm and picking up Amelia (Jane’s daughter) for a week of cruising.  En route we saw our first seal of the year near one of the main channels. 



Our first seal sighting an indication that we are entering saltier waters                                                               


The ever present cormorants


Stockholm (Vasahamn)

We stayed in a marina in the heart of the east section of Stockholm near the Vasa Museum (see below) and an amusement park.  The Stockholm skyline with its spires, baroque buildings and masts of tall sailing ships is beautiful.  Tour boats and cruise ships vie for water space.



Church and City Hall towers dominate the Stockholm skyline                                                                                 


A tour boat and a cruise ship … each steered by only one person … and it’s not the captain or skipper 



The amusement park right beside the marina … the screems could be heard rain or shine day and night     


The History Museum right beside the Vasa Museum and marina


Contrast of old and new


Gamla Stan.  The old city with its narrow, cobbled streets, buildings spanning across streets, and large open square hosts cafes, restaurants and shops.







Royal Palace 




From the sublime to the ridiculous except that the guard on the right has a real bayonet attached to his (loaded?) rifle … the various phases of Swedish military life


Vasa Museum:  On 10th August 1628 in Stockholm, a warship ordered by king Gustav II Adolph was launched. At that time the Vasa was to be the greatest of all existing ships. A thousand of carefully chosen oaks were used for the construction; the hull was covered in hundreds of sculptures covered with gold. 64 cannons were placed onboard, including 48  24-pounders.  It had taken three years to construct.  Instead of using calculations, the 17th century shipbuilders used so called reckonings, which recorded certain ship-measurements.  However, the reckonings used in building the Vasa were intended for smaller ships with only one gundeck. The Vasa had two gundecks with heavy artillery on the top deck. The standard rules obviously did not apply here.


A model of the Vasa under  sail with port side guns extended … after this broadside the boat sank              


  The stern castle of the real Vasa … paint gone but the detail remains in the wood exterior carvings

Deep down in the Vasa several tons of stone were stored as ballast to give the ship stability. However the ballast was not enough as counterweight to the guns, the upper hull, masts and sails of the ship. In the inquiries after the Vasa disaster it was revealed that a stability test had been performed prior to the maiden voyage. Thirty men had run back and forth across the Vasa's deck when she was moored at the quay. The men had to stop after three runs, well before the test could be completed - otherwise, the ship would have capsized.  Later the Vasa set sail on her maiden voyage and fired a salute. The ship began to heel over. She righted herself slightly - and heeled over again. Water started to gush in through the open gunports. And, to everyone’s horror and disbelief, the glorious and mighty warship suddenly sank! Of the 150 people on board, 30-50 died in the disaster. When Vasa had been salvaged in 1961, archaeologists found the remains of 25 skeletons.


It is interesting that this maritime disaster is now celebrated in one of Stockholm’s most-visited museums.  http://www.vasamuseet.se/sitecore/content/Vasamuseet/InEnglish/About.aspx


Skansen:  Arthur Hazelius founded Skansen in 1891, the world’s first open-air museum.  He spent time walking the countryside of Sweden and realized radical changes were happening in the traditional forming society due to an increase in population, with more tenant cottagers, servants to the gentry, indentured labourers and fewer independent farmers.  Land reforms destroyed villages and transformed life in the countryside. There were crop failures, and people began moving to the cities and immigrating to North America.  This rapid change caused Hazelius to start collecting clothing, household utensils, furniture and hand-tools, which eventually led to the founding of Skansen. The open air museum also has a zoo for animals indigenous to Sweden. http://www.skansen.se/



The shoemakers house … note the grass growing on the roof … birch bark makes it waterproof                     


The site is well laid out and documented but it can take many days to cover all the buildings and activities



Very well preserved church with a rare attached bell tower  



 Amelia at the Zoo with one of her favorite domesticated animals




We heard the gentle tinkle of little bells, and then saw three sheep grazing on the shoreline, walking boldly over the rocks.


Where sheep may gently graze … not even a squirrel exists on the island to harass them



When we arrived at Hallskär, our intended anchorage, the islands surrounding the anchorage were sparse of trees, the anchorage was full of rocky islets, allowing for skimpy scope, and we were unsure of the hold of our anchor.  We decided to move another 2 miles to a better anchorage for southwest winds, and are the only boat in this long inlet formed by multiple islets, a couple of islands and rocks.  The islands on the outside (east) edge of the archipelago facing the Baltic Sea lack the lush green of the inside islands.


Fewer trees and flatter islands on the Baltic side


We passed Sandhamn, the 19th century island home of the Royal Sweden Yacht Club, a very prestigious club.  There is a small community on the island and large, expensive cottages in addition to the yacht club.  Otherwise, there were few boats and inhabited islands on our route. 


Jungfruskär – Granskärsfladen 

We went ashore on Jungfruskar.  The treed area was so open that it was difficult to find / follow a trail.  We ended up with a couple of dead ends, and got back to the boat just before it began to sprinkle.  There were thousands of tiny moon jellyfish.  It must have been a hatchery for moon-jellies.  They, along with 62F water kept us from swimming.



Pilgrim at anchor while we go exploring … we were the only boat in the island’s harbour  



 The path starts off without problems



but the path quickly disappears over the hills and rocks           



 The path(?) finally ends at a Privat property sign … regardless of the Swedish principle of open access



We had a great 7km walk around the island on a loose gravel road.  Most of the island is a nature reserve.  There were a few houses / cottages and one farm with sheep and cows (and a pussy cat).  There were supposed to be over 60 stone ovens the Russians used in the 17th century for baking bread and heating, but we could not find them and even the map of the island did not identify their location.  The snow taxi puzzled us.



A unique way of transport … wait for snow, add a few horses and presto your own small business opportunity



  Jane and Amelia enjoying a walk while feeding the  mosquitoes



We stayed at the marina in Nynashamn where a fall fair was underway and enjoyed the sauna.  The small city was attractive and offered taxi service to the Arlanda Airport in Stockholm; this was the departure point for Amelia.


A tearful goodbye to Amelia … our boat elf



Being blow on the dock by 20 knot winds allowed us to develop some new techniques for departing         


    The town of Nynashamn … everything was available just a short walk from the dock


Getting off the dock in Nynashamn was a challenge.  The NW wind was funneled into the harbour and blowing us onto the dock.  A 60-foot, 5-spreader racing machine had docked right in front of us, preventing us from pulling out forward from the dock … we would be blown into the expensive racing machine.  There was a small boat behind us tied bow to the dock, stern to a buoy.  We were hemmed in.  The only solution was to launch the dinghy, take our 150-foot line to one of the stern buoys and winch our stern out.  All was going very well.  The stern was moving away from the dock.  We had a bowline on the dock cleat that could be released and recovered from the boat.  Brian was on the dock, but the step up to Pilgrim via the bowsprit was too high.  He couldn’t make it up!  By slowly releasing the line to the stern buoy, we could get the bow into a position that allowed Brian to ease himself back on Pilgrim.  Then a fleet of about 200 Laser-like dinghies sailed close by us for their Sunday races blocking our only exit.  We waited and waited for them to pass.  We strategized.  We talked. We agonized.  We talked.  Finally the dinghies were gone, and Brian went to the bow to release the line holding us to the dock while I backed the boat slowly toward the stern buoy.  Brian rushed back to the stern and released the stern line, recovered it and rushed forward again to recover the bow line, avoiding a potential tangle around our propeller.  An hour after we started our departure, we finally departed Nynashamn.



We passed Landsort, the southern island in the Stockholm Archipelago with few trees and inhabitants due to its exposure to the Baltic Sea.


Landsort with its military base , numerous lighthouses and a rather large gun emplacement just to the left


The charts are very sketchy in places thanks to the government and general military paranoia.  Most of the Swedish coast has been a restricted military zone until 1999, which means there are some navigation aids, but the charts are not detailed.  It was impossible for us to find a potential anchorage using the charts alone.  The Baltic Sea cruising guide gave us some information that led us to a protected anchorage.  There are few cruising guides for Sweden, especially in English, and the charts of some areas are sketchy.  With so many Swedish cruisers, it is surprising they can get by with such little detail.


Mem, Eastern entrance to the Göta Canal

The houses / cottages changed character from the Stockholm Archipelago.  More of the cottages are yellow instead of brick red, and many had elaborate turrets that seemed to have an Imperial Russian flavour. 


Yellow and white have replaced the traditional red and white colours found further East


The landscape has also changed.  The granite cliffs are much higher than in the archipelago.  The meter above the water line is bright orange-pink.  Above is a gray-pink (probably covered with lichen) with patches of purple heather giving the cliff a pink-purple hue.  There are also evergreen and deciduous trees in abundance, and pastures with cows in valleys between cliffs.  The water has turned brown and opaque. 



The hills are higher and more colourful … a clear ice scrub line on the rocks                       A narrow passage into Mem and the Gota canal … not wide enough for commercial traffic


Mem is hardly a city or town; it is a little community of houses and a marina for 20 boats with a snack bar on the side.  The marina is on the other side of the first lock, which is why we are on the staging dock instead of the marina.  None of this was made clear to us in any of the books and websites we had consulted. We began to wonder how many of the authors had actually been there. There are two other boats on the staging dock:  a sailboat facing west just behind us, and a powerboat facing east.  There are no people on either boat.  We have no idea if any other boats have reserved to begin the trip with us.  The small office is closed and the toilets are locked.  There is no shore power, water, showers, etc.  The beginning of our trip through the Göta Canal was an ominous foreboding of things to come.


Mem … The entrance to the Gota … nothing open on this side of the locks … not even the washrooms