Lake Malaren – Part 2……rain and toy trains!

We slipped our anchor after two very comfortable nights away from the winds in our secure little creek opposite Drottningholm. The anchor was very well dug into the mud and we had to drive Grace forward over her anchor to break her out of the mud. I was ready with a bucket of water to wash it off!

Past Helgo island and sailing towards the Ekerö and the Rastaholm Gasthamn. The weather is about to change but resisting the temptation to take a short cut and cut the corner to starboard!!

Heading south we sailed down first to the Estbrote and then on to the Slagstaholm lights. Lake Malaren is fresh water and Grace rode slightly deeper in the water – I was surprised but we had become so attuned as to how she sailed that we could feel that she gripped the water differently! Changing onto a westerly course to pass the Vallinge light, Helgo island and up towards the Rastaholm Gasthamn at Ekerö. The approach to it is really quite deceptive, the temptation is to cut across directly towards the gap between the large rock and the shore before hooking round into the harbour……….but that way leads only to disaster and lots of submerged rock and shallows!! Our pilot warned that much of the sea bed in the area had not been surveyed since the 1810 – so be warned as many rocks were also uncharted! Sod’s law kicked in here and the heavens opened, rain fell like stair rods and our landmarks disappeared in the gloom and mist. But then the rained cleared as quickly as it came and we were back sailing in hazy sunshine.

Grace in Rastaholm. Suddenly the weather clears as quickly as it closed in!

Rastaholm is a private marina of the Swedish Sailing Club (SSS) and they had put some white marker buoys out for some of the larger uncharted hazards! Other than that, it was all a bit basic outpost of the usually rather posh SSS. The exception was a rather splendid restaurant with a stunning view across the Bjorkfjarden! Surprisingly for a wet Thursday evening in late August the restaurant was fully booked and it took much pleading and that we had sailed all the way from England and then the promise of a big tip to get a table, anyway……it was a rather reluctant waitress that showed us to the table, apologising for its out of the way position…..but completely ignoring the view, and what a view it was! As the sunset and night fell across the water it was truly beautiful. The food was also delicious, especially the fish, a Gos which turned out to be freshly caught perch and was the best we had eaten in Sweden!

The excellent local beer!

The next day we set off for Mariefred, sailing down the Bjorkfjarden to the Rido Pilskar beacon in a nice F3 on a beam reach. Then turning south and in a series of short tacks between the rocks and down into the Gripsholmviken. Soon the impressive castle (Gripsholm Slott) was insight guarding the head of the fjord. All that day we spend avoiding the a white steamer, it would overtake us, then disappear into a small harbour before overtaking us again while we tacked to avoid it and the rocks as it swept past us in a cloud of smoke, sparks and soot!!

Sailing down the Bjorkfjarden

The route into Gripsholmviken and Mariefred.

We spent the day avoiding ‘Puffing Billy’!

The approach into Mariefred

The moorings at Mariefred are spectacular, just on the town quay with the Slott behind you and the narrow gauge steam train running along the quay in front of you. Mariefred really does try hard to attract visitors, despite being at the end of the season. There had been a triathlon that day and Slott houses the national portrait gallery. The bar opposite was hosting a dreadful pub singer rendering Bruce Springsteen hits in a way that I had never heard before! However all this activity was clearly working as the gasthamn was surprisingly full! We draw only about 1.6m but even then we found it difficult to find a berth with enough depth and we saw a few yachts who came in after us plough the bottom a bit to get in!!!

Moored off Gripsholm.

The gasthamn at Mariefred

The railway, which has a 60 cm gauge runs for 11km to Tillinge where you can pick up Steamboat Willie, as we affectionately called the steamer after spending the previous day avoiding it (or ‘bloody maniac’ when it attempted to slice us half!), either to Stockholm or back to Mariefred. The railway is a bit deceptive, it looks very old but it runs along the line of the disused mainline railway and was laid only in the 1960s and 1970s. It is all run by enthusiastic amateurs with whom I was able to trade Ffestiniog railway tails, giving me the status of an ‘envoy’ and VIP from a foreign railway and lead to promotion to a carriage with glass in the windows!

Our third class tickets!

Railway heaven!

The castle itself was built by Gustav Vasa in the 1530’s as a bolt hole in case Stockholm was invaded, but advances in artillery meant that it was obsolete even before he had finished it! However he liked the place so much that he had it converted it to a summer palace and it has been used by the Royal family as a holiday home ever since! A few of the rooms were recreated in the 1520’s style in the 1800’s but everything has been systematically modernised by successive kings, with bits added in the latest styles of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.


Improvements in 16th Century artillery meant that the castle was obsolete even before it was finished!

The castle is now the home for the national portrait gallery, interestingly the portraits have been arranged in order of Swedish history – it made a pleasant pictorial wander through the Swedish history that we had been sailing through for the last 5 months, from Gustav Vasa to the present day. What was interesting was that the ‘theatrical king’ had been at work here and converted one of the towers into a theatre – complete with all the sets and winches for the scene changes and sound effects!

Carl, one of Gustav Vasa’s children with a splendid comb-over!

With a spectacular lack of subtlety, one of the princes had this picture painted of his all mistresses in the Royal court! It was understandably notorious at the time, especially with their husbands!

The paintings ranged from Gustav Vasa to the present King!

The handiwork of the theatre king was everywhere!

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