Lake Malaren – Part 3. Team Grace to the rescue and the Vikings!

Next morning we slickly exited from the stern buoy and executed a perfect figure of eight to end up on the pump out station. Although it is mandatory to pump out the heads holding tank and not just dump this station clearly had not been used all season! Suitably gloved up and with some trepidation we set the pump going…….I was confidently expecting to need a change of clothes as there is always an opportunity for an unpleasant shower and a tsunami of back flow running down the deck if you don’t get the valve opening right! As the only boat in the marina at least there won’t be an audience to smugly watch us! But oh no, just as we turned on the pump, a coach load of Chinese tourists arrived, streaming off the bus they started to take photographs and videos of us. However, instead of a video nasty, it was all accomplished without any unpleasant drama!

Berthing at the pump-out station – second time lucky!

Heading down the Gripsholm Viken we set a course for Bjorkfjarden, on the the way to the Södertälje canal and the sea again! With a gentle southerly we take a series of gentle gybes as we make a training run towards Bohus.

On a training run down the fjord, Grace is keeping pace with a large yacht.

There were three Viking kingdoms in Scandinavia, of which Birko was the capital of the largest. Bjorko became a major trading post but also key defensive position. At Bjorko we went alongside, there was a strong cross wind building and the jetty provided very little protection from the waves but we were well fendered up. Just as we were securing Grace’s lines to the jetty, a small biscuit tin of a dinghy bobbed its way in to the harbour on the swell. It was packed with 2 adults and 3 children and they were rowing very inexpertly and were not looking very happy! I quickly threw them a line, which they very gratefully grabbed, pulling them in, we lowered Grace’s swim platform and we got them onboard and then ashore! Apparently they were returning to Rastaholm after a day on Bjorko when their outboard stopped and they could not get it started again, they then had a frightening row back into the harbour across the swell. One of the children was English, she was so grateful to find other English people especially when she had given up all hope of rescue! The lady asked if I could fix the motor, saying that her husband clearly could not! We moved the boat around to calmer water and examined the motor, did they have fuel? Yes! Was the fuel flowing freely? Yes! I then suggest that they turn the throttle to the RESTART setting and low and behold it fires up first time and runs smoothly! They ask if we are returning to Rastaholm tonight and if so, can they follow us! We say that unfortunately we are not but they could stay with us tonight and we will take them back in the morning. It was quite a trek and getting dark and the wind was building. They said they had to go tonight and we had to wish them well but advised them against it. I do hope they got back safely.

Moored in Bjorko.

Going to pay our harbour dues, I got a big surprise, I was greeted by group of 4 very authentic looking Vikings, armed with swords, spears, beards, axes and tattoos but also a credit card machine! Then half an hour later ‘Mr Misery’ sailed in! Sailing single handed he dropped his stern anchor and moored up bows first – all very slick! We took his bow lines and helped him get secure. Once ashore, he said we should go ‘bows to’ like him as two large ships were scheduled to pass into the Södertälje canal that night and there would be some large and disturbing waves. We were well fendered and with spring lines in place so I felt happy we would be fine. And then a bit later as he wandered by on his way to find magic mushrooms, which apparent grew all over the island, he said he hoped that our hatches wouldn’t leak as heavy rain was expected in the night!! Hopefully he would feel happier after eating the mushrooms and become a ‘fun-gi’!

Spring lines set and well fendered for a comfortable night.

The gateway into the Viking fort!

View towards the burial mounds on ridge.

Viking village

Trading boats

Monument to St Ansgar who brought Christianity to the vikings in Sweden.

Walking around Birko was really rather interesting! The land had risen by 5m due to glacial tilt revealing the shoreline with a great defensive Viking fort and trading post. Taking to the high ground it was easy to see how the whole island would have looked in 800AD.

Sailing down the Sodertajlie Canal towards the sea again!

It was now time to leave Lake Malaren as we needed to get to Mem for our trip across Sweden through the Gota Canal. We timed our departure from Bjorko to arrive at the the Sodertajlie Canal which would take us the 30 nm back to the sea. We had to make the bridge at the top of the canal which opened at 1100 and then every 2 hours. We arrived 45 minutes early and moored up at a jetty outside the Astra Zeneca HQ at Sodertajlie. They were repiling the banks of the canal and there were large barges, tugs and piling machines everywhere. At 1055 we cast off and prepared to get going but suddenly the tugs and barges started moving into the centre of the canal. We thought that they must be going through the bridge so we took our station behind the tug as commercial traffic always have priority on the canal. Only to realise that they had chosen just that time to move the piling machine and not pass through the bridge! Fortunately the bridge keeper had seen what was happening and that we were trapped behind the tug so he held the bridge for us! We had almost reconciled ourselves to spending another 2 hours sat in front of Astra Zeneca watching people make PowerPoint presentations in their meeting rooms!

Waiting for the bridge to open outside Astra Zeneca HQ!

Stuck behind the piling barge!

….But the bridge keeper waited for us!

This meant that we had a quick dash down to the lock, which opened exactly 15 minutes after the bridge, first mooring up to pay the canal fee at the machine! Once through the lock we were back in the Baltic Sea again!! Before going any further we stopped at Sodertajlie to restock with food at the supermarket and with booze at the System Bolaget! Three large ships passed through the lock while we had our lunch! We certainly would not have wanted to share the lock with these!

18 m clearance so no problem for our 15.5m airdraft!

Ships in the canal!

We continued down the Fjord until we hit Skansholmen. This is a great little marina in the centre of what must have been a small volcano. Getting into it, the approach is only 2 m deep but once inside the almost totally enclosed pool, it becomes at least 25 m deep! Paying our harbour dues we joined a surprisingly long queue at the till especially as we were the only boat in. However we soon realised why, people, waiting for the ferry to the mainland had stopped off for ice creams on their way home! No Swede can resist and ice cream!

Grace at Skansholmen

Next morning we set off for Svardskova, we had tried to stop here once before but failed! It has a really good restaurant and a small pontoon to moor to. However no sooner as we entered the Hummn Fjord towards the open sea than we could sea a dense bank of white fog start to roll towards us! Not wishing to be caught out in it amongst the shoals we gave lunch at the restaurant a miss for the second time and we headed towards Trosa. A seal stuck its head out of the water and took a quick look around, nodded his approval at our caution and then vanished! It must be a good sign as it was the first one we had seen all season!

Although flat calm today, this was a dog leg that the large ships in the canal had to negotiate. We took to the shallow water to starboard to let a large ship pass us.

Sailing down the Fjord and back out to the sea, these houses were built on the old lime kilns for commuters to Sodertajlie.

I was quite happy with our decision to head for Trosa as I knew they had a diesel pump in the marina. I was beginning to suffer from range anxiety as we had run the engine for 48 hours since we last refilled the tank earlier in the season. Our fuel gauge has never worked but you should never every rely on them and trust engine hours instead and the number of hours per litre you burn per hour! We have never used more than about 1.3 litres per hour so assuming we had the 150 litre extra long range tank we should have enough fuel for over 115 hours, however I discovered in the boat’s specification sheet it said we should have a 90 litre tank but then on another page it said 150 litres, as I had originally thought, so only enough for less than 70 hours. Plenty of fuel really but we did not want to run the tank down too far and risk blocking the two fuel filters!

Our surprise visit to Trosa meant that we could get a 10 litre fuel can from the big chandlery on the canal! It, along with the liferaft was a special request by the delivery crew we had arranged to bring Grace back to the UK – at least this request would be cheap!

Back in Trosa

We must be on our way home! The first news we had heard about Brexit for 4 months!

At 0900 we were at the fuel dock waiting to refill. Unfortunately all we got was a mass of bubbling diesel foam and about 6 litres of rather suspect derv before the pump stopped working altogether! We planned to go back to Svardskova and stay overnight after dinner in the restaurant, but if we hit the forecast high winds and rain then we could go on to Oxelsund for better shelter to ride out the storm……but would we miss dinner again? Our progress was so swift that we were at Svardskova by 1300 and with the increasing grey skies and building winds we decided to go on to Oxelosund….so no Svardskova dinner for the third time! We’ll just have to come back!

Tricky approach around Oxelosund

At anchor off Oxelosund

Grace was now on a beam reach, her fastest point of sailing and we were storming up past Nykoping weaving our way through its alarmingly rock strewn shipping channel – fortunately we only met one ship coming towards us and one waiting at anchor. With nothing to slow us down we were passed Oxelosund by 1400. So with just 12nm to reach Navekvarn, with Grace really flying and the weather getting decidedly iffy we pressed on. It was not a difficult decision as with its huge steelworks and clouds of orange dust, Oxelosund was not the most attractive proposition if we were trapped there for a few days by the weather! Navkvarn was an all weather marina, a cafe, well shelter from all wind directions and with a diesel pump!!

Navekvarn ideal to place to ride out bad weather.

Grace is secure in Navekvarn.

By 1730 Grace was safely in a visitors berth on the main pontoon at Navekvarn, secured between two Y booms in a very well sheltered bay and we were in the Cafe enjoying toasted cheese sandwiches! Back on Grace we put up the cockpit tent just as the torrential rain that had be following us all day finally started and continued for the next 24 hours without stopping! Navekvarn is also one of those places that people store their boats over winter and we were surrounded by British boats packing everything away for storage! The enforced 24 hour layover gave me plenty of time to find out just how big our fuel tank really was, by dismantling the rear berth we could clearly that 150 L was printed on the tank so I really need not have worried!

Definitely a long range 150 l fuel tank! No more range anxiety!

The Q Star fuel pump station was a bit unusual as day and night, cars would pull up and fill their tanks – it was certainly the cheapest diesel we had used all summer and apparently the only diesel pump for 100km!

Navekvarn is trying to re-invent itself, from about 1760 until the 1970’s, copper had been smelted there and there was a large iron foundry famous for cooking pots, fireplaces and stoves. It has all gone now and the buildings are used for winter boat storage! All over there are signs warning that the ground is toxic and that nothing should be eaten from the ground due to arsenic residues.

By way of complete contrast to the industrial landscape and just on the opposite side of the bay there is also the People’s Park, a 1930’s holiday camp that brought ice cream and crazy golf to the masses – a job it still does today!!

After refuelling with 60 litres, and confirming our fuel consumption to be the usual 1.13 litres per hour at our typical cruising speed of 4.5 to 5 knots at 1500 revs we have a range of about 120 hours motoring or 480 miles, enough to get us through the Gota canal and all the way down into Goteborg!

Tomorrow we leave for the last leg of our trip and home……

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