Grace’s journey home meant we had to sail right across the middle of Sweden through the Gota and Trollhatte Canals. This would take us from Mem in the Baltic Sea to Gothenburg on the Kattegat. At the close of the season you cannot travel independently through the Gota Canal but only in convoys of 4 or 5 boats along with a lock keeper. This is fantastic as you don’t have to mess about and wait for commercial traffic or hang around at locks! You go straight through, the lock keepers are waiting for you at the bridges and locks. Well worth the 5800 SEK it cost us for the pass for the Gota and Trollhatte Canals! However it does mean that you have to be at Mem, the start of the canal at a 0800 on September 8th and no later! It then takes about 5 days to travel the 190km sail to Lake Varnen, Sweden’s largest lake.
Grace preparing to leave Navkvarn
Before leaving Navekvarn we filled our diesel tank, it was strange to queue at the fuel pump with several cars, but this was the best and cleanest diesel with no bio additives for 50 km! Bio-diesel is not popular in Sweden for marine engines as it adds water into the tank as the weather gets cooler and encourages diesel bug growth and blocked filters. With a tank full of 150 litres of diesel we should have enough to get us to Goteborg without causing me any range anxiety!
Avoiding rocks and complex navigation was to be a feature of our last day in the Baltic
Today was going to be our last day’s sailing in the Baltic Sea, it felt very strange and slightly sad to be homeward bound! Our sailing adventure coming to an end! We would be sailing towards the castle at Stegeborg, where we planned to stay overnight before moving on to the first lock of the Gota Canal at Mem, just a couple of nautical miles further down the fjord. The trip was about 24 nm but required quite complex navigation to get through the rock strewn wilderness and poorly marked channels from Navekvarn to Norrkoping and Djuron through the Granso Sund and then into the Arkosund at Marviken. Marviken is quite interesting as it is a deserted peninsula with an abandoned nuclear power station on it! It was built in the 1960’s to generate power but mainly to produce fuel for nuclear weapons. However later in the decade, Sweden signed up to the nuclear non proliferation treaty and the power station was abandoned even before it was ever used! The place has been used for nuclear accident practice but a quick scan through binos and you see that the whole place was overgrown. Trees were sprouting up through the roads and creepers climbing over the fences and gates.
The abandoned Marviken Nuclear Power Station
With the wind behind us we picked up the start of the Granso Sund at the north Granso beacon. Just on the genoa alone we sailed the 6 nm on a lovely broad reach at a gentle 3 knots down to the Kuggviskar Light at the mouth of the Arkosund. Then with all sails out and on a beam reach we flew down the coast at 5 to 6 knots in 8 to 9 knots of wind and perfect sea conditions. Then changing course to WNW and close hauled for the final few miles into Stegeborg. To our surprise, the guest harbour was full and we had to tuck ourselves on the inside of the pontoon on the edge of the motor boat dock. A few months earlier we would have gone round in circles trying to find a ‘proper’ space but after a season sailing in the islands we could park on a sixpence!
Paddle boarding down the Granso Sund
Lifeboat station and Pilot training school at the head of the Arkosund
Our route down the the Arkosund
For the last week we had been the only boat in many of the places we visited but Stegeborg seemed to have a lot of boats being emptied. Boats being put away for winter probably explained why the berths were so full. Although the Stegeborg cafe was clearly the place to be as a Gota Canal steamer arrived and everybody dived into the bar, followed in short order by a float plane flown by a celeb…..I took pictures just in case it was someone I recognised…… but I didnt!
Parking Grace anywhere! Slotted her in on a sixpence!!
A celeb flew in for tea! But who?
The Castle tower
The castle at Stegeborg was built in the 13th century on an island at the head of the Slätbaken fjord. It was constructed to control and protect the access to the important city of Söderköping. As it still does today! There is a tiny gap in the ancient barrage across the mouth of the river through which all shipping must pass. The castle after being used by several Gustav Wasa’s fell out of favour and was sold for building materials in the 1730’s. It is rather amazing that so much of it remains! Surrounding the ruins were lots of wild apple trees which I promptly took the opportunity to scrumped!
A Gota Canal cruise ship
Signing walls of castles seems a popular past time for Swedish royals!!
The Stegeborg was in a very strong defensive position to protect the fjord….and charge tolls on boats going to Soderkoping!
It still commands the Fjord. Even today there is only a 30 m wide gap in the 800 year old barrage across the entrance to the Fjord!
Although only a short sail of just 8 nm down the fjord we decided to head to Mem that afternoon rather than stay another night at Stegeborg as there was dense fog every morning that did not clear until after 1000 and we would have missed our slot to start on our journey through the Gota Canal.
Stegeborg to Mem and the start of the canal
Moored up at Mem waiting to start our journey across Sweden
The first lock of the canal