Real waves again!

After three days out in the islands in 30c plus temperatures, we were in need of fresh milk for our tea, fresh water and probably showers if we were ever to come into contact with other people again!

Sailing through the islands!

Arkosund, a sail of 15 nm through the islands and which would take about 7 hours sailing could also be reached through an open water route, which although 20 miles we could sail faster in about 5 hours. And of course it would give us a break from the precise pin point navigation required when sailing through the islands.

Once out in the open water we rather questioned our decision, after the gentle winds and calm water of the Skargard, out at sea was all a bit lively! However we made brisk progress and were soon at the Nora Fallbaden light. Turning on to 292 for our approach into the Arkosund. This all coincided with an increase in wind speed, a change to sailing close hauled and carrying a bit to much sail – so we fairly tore down the well marked channel towards Arko island that acts like wind break and protects the mouth of the Sund. We were there so quickly that getting the sails in was a bit of a fight in the strong wind and deep swell. The Sund is a large pilot and lifeboat centre so I guess if it had all gone wrong then we would not have had to wait very long for help!

Approaching Arkösund

Disappointingly once in the Sund, the sea and wind remained relatively rough! The new guest harbour is rather exposed but as it was peak season they had people on the pontoons to take your lines and hold the bows. Absolutely essential in the big swell and strong cross winds and while I got to grips (or tried to) with our 9th new method for mooring – Lazy lines! Not so lazy in fact as they are big, heavy, weed slimed wet ropes that run from the pontoon out to a sinker. You are supposed to come in bows first, pick up the line at the bow and then run along it to the stern where you haul it in and cleat it, all in a 12 knot cross wind while you are still trying to secure the bow, which by now is wanting to wander and swing away! In addition you have the angriest one armed man I’ve ever met (not that I have met many on reflection!) on the boat next to you, pushing at your guard rails and yelling rather than offering to help. Not the smoothest of landings!

Arkösund

Once ashore my quest for Camping Gaz continued and spying a gas storage locker I found it was empty except for one gas bottle but it was the right size! Reluctantly, I swapped my nice shiny new gas bottle for last remaining one. It was obvious why it was the only one left – it was the most rusty and dented one I have ever seen! It will be a miracle if anyone will let me swap it next time…….but at least we now had gas!

So on the trip this year just how many different anchoring/mooring methods have we done?

⁃ Swinging at anchor

⁃ Mooring alongside a jetty

⁃ Mooring to a jetty with a stern buoy

⁃ Mooring to a jetty with a stern anchor

⁃ Mooring to a jetty with lazing lines

⁃ Mooring between booms

⁃ Mooring to a finger pontoon

⁃ Mooring between posts

⁃ Mooring to a buoy

The only method we have not done is mooring bows to rocks with a stern anchor – as Swedish a method of mooring as lkea meat balls, although those are supposed to have been a Turkish idea!

Arkosund was quite an interesting place, it developed as a holiday resort for rich people from Stockholm in about 1900. Becoming more popular as the railway arrived with many fancy villas being built and a boardwalk around the bay now the only thing left of the train is an old engine shed and a few metres of railway line. It also has rather a nice restaurant which we were force to try out as what had been billed as a supermarket was anything but super and only seemed to have bags of crisps and fly swatters. Any excuse will do!

Arkösund

Stockholm was now just about 30 nm away and in rather lively conditions we made for Ringso, a natural harbour that was well sheltered from the southerly winds. The approach itself was quite interesting as what we took to be a leading line on a large rock at the entrance to the channel turned out to be two women doing naked yoga in the sunshine! Downward facing dog and all that! After a very comfortable night at anchor we set off for Trosa.

Off Oxelösund

Ringson

We knew this to be a very pretty place but also one that in recent years has been silting up and so depth could be a problem. A few years ago they extended the mole using mud dredged from the harbour rather than more expensive stone or concrete but of course nature is now taking its course and is steadily returning the mud to where it first came from! However if we could get in then this would provide a handy start point for Stockholm by the island route rather than going outside past Landsort and into the open sea again.

Heading to Trosa

The approach was really pretty, a wide open Fjord with gentle hills sweeping down to the waters edge, very different from the deep gorges around Valdemarsvik or indeed Arkosund. We eyed up several useful places to anchor if we could not get into Trosa itself. As the town and its central canal came into view we spied an unused blue SXK buoy, so headed for it without delay!

The harbour guide – a brilliantly detailed reference for navigating to these places!

Cormorant HQ just behind our mooring!

As we made a beeline or it the depth fell, first to 2 m then steadily down to 1.4 m, by which point we should have been firmly aground! However we ploughed on through the mud until reaching the buoy where we stopped with our keel gently held in the silt. It was all very nice and stable and we certainly would not swing about too much! Inflating the dinghy we motored in through the canal and up to an empty bit of harbour wall, clambering up it we tied the dinghy to a very handy lamppost and set off to explore. The town was lovely, brightly painted timbered houses lined the canal, everywhere had scented roses growing round the doors and window boxes full of cheery tumbling geraniums. The town like many others on the archipelago was completely burnt to the ground in the 1730’s by the Russians out of frustration when they failed to capture Stockholm.

Trosa

Fortified by drink and big bag of shopping, we realised that it was rather a long way back down to the dinghy and the harbour wall we had scrambled up was all rather smooth on the way down! I went down first with the shopping, ending up in a heap on top of the groceries (oh well omelettes all round tonight then!).

Our dinghy against the harbour wall – it is a bit of a drop!

Just as Anne was about to descend a helpful American helped to lower her down into the boat, in a slightly more elegant fashion than me! However in his enthusiasm, he cast us off sending us bobbing into the middle of the canal, with boats zooming past us in all directions I pulled at the starter in the hope the outboard would fire up! It’s a Honda so of course it did, second pull and we chugged our way back to Grace.

Steamers from Trosa to Stockholm

Stehpinklers stand up and be counted!

It is now mid-August and we are storm bound in a tiny marina, Kastellholm at the head of a river overlooked by the only castle on Finland’s Åland Islands. Wrapped in my fleece as the wind howls through the rigging of the four yachts sheltering here. I am thinking back to just a few weeks ago and to the seemingly endless unbroken days of sunshine and sweltering 34 c temperatures that greeted us on our return to Vastervik from a few days back in the UK…….suddenly, everywhere now really has the end of the season feeling!

Sailing out of Vastervik

I can remember feeling surprised by the way Vastervik marina and waterfront had been transformed in just a week by the liberal application of either Bennie or Bjorn from ABBA’s money and just in time for Bennie or Bjorn from ABBA’s music festival! The new pontoons were in, paths repaved and everywhere were notices about everything, even in the men’s toilets where Andreas, the harbour master had put big new signs in German that featured the word ‘Stehpinkler and urinal’ quite frequently. After a few minutes on Google Translator I discovered that the gist of it was that if you like to stand up to pee, then use the urinal!

The much hyped music festival was rather a tame affair, we had a ‘ringside’ seat from our boat and by 11pm they had all gone to bed! I guess Bennie or Bjorn from ABBA are well into their 60’s now and staying up late is no longer an option!

A spruced up Valdemarsvik in the sunshine

Vastervik was the last major town before Stockholm and what followed was almost a month of island hopping in the Skargard, visiting a series of beautiful natural harbours and anchorages interspersed by an occasional night in a ‘town’ (not really towns as you or I might know them, more of a village or hamlet, after all, Sweden has the land mass larger than the UK but with 10.5 million people in it!) to run the fridge, refill with water and recharge the phones! The Stockholm Archipelago runs for about 100nm from Lansort in the south to Graddo in the north and consists of about 3000 islands. It is crossed with complex and convoluted channels and sailing routes that has provided Stockholm with its best defence against invasion for over 1000 years, and even with our 3 huge sets of wonderfully detailed Swedish charts they could have easily baffled us too as it has done many would be marauders in the past!

Sun setting at Rago

Leaving Västervik we made for Rago, a truly beautiful spot where we hung off a jetty on a stern buoy for two gloriously sunny days, the only sound you could hear all day was the rhythmic thump, thump, splash, scream as another Swede ran along the pontoon and jumped into the still icy water! It was so hot and balmy that we even ventured in for a swim, but only in wet suits! The island itself was remarkable for the diversity of its flora and fauna, from natural forests through to farmed island landscapes and every shade of green in between.

Swimming in wetsuits!

Rago Island

Pasture returning to woodland in an actively unmanaged land management policy!

Moored at Rago

It was here that I was forced to face the horror that is the dry toilet. The islands are peppered with these, innocuous looking prettily paint red sheds, they even appear on the charts too. Bizarrely, large and what would be helpful sailing landmarks like church steeples, water towers and radio masts are all ignored, but these hell holes are all shown as a little hut shape with a heart on it. These are to catch the unwary! So opening the door of the ‘hut’, I was presented with three ‘holes’, a couple of books, some squares of newspaper, a cloud of flies, a seated smiling Swede and an eye watering smell! Although recoiling in horror but needs must…….

Island hopping!

The next day we sailed onto Lilla Stora, anchoring in a natural bowl deep into the middle of the island. The holding was excellent in thick weedy mud and we spent a very peaceful night there.

A peaceful night at Lilla Stora

The next day we decided to go onto Valdemarsvik as we were short of water and also we had been told we could buy Camping Gaz there. The saga of gas bottles will continue to haunt us for quite a while yet! Europe uses 3.3kg blue butane Camping Gaz refills. They are pretty much universal on boats, caravans and camper vans! You can get them absolutely anywhere, from cafes, corner shops, supermarkets, garages, boat fuel stations and so on. And because they last a long time and are so available you never carry a spare (also why carry more highly inflammable materials than you need – the 150 litres of diesel under my berth is enough to start a Vikingesque funeral pyre!). However, as you go north it all changes, southern Sweden is fine, plenty of supply, but as you head north then the fun begins, the bottle size changes as do the connections and it becomes propane not butane as propane won’t freeze. The propane is fine, it boils water just as well as butane but it is the bottles, they just won’t fit, they are 2kg dumpy bottles, even Swedish Halberg Rassy yachts use Camping Gaz! So when we heard that Camping Gaz refills were available in Valdemarsvik we had got to go!

Approaching Valdemarsvik Fjord

It was slight detour up a 10 mile long, narrow and steeply wooded fjord that provided welcome cooling shade from the afternoon sun, and with the smell of the pines that lined the deep gorge it was all rather lovely. Valdemarsvik was an old iron ore town that had been literally quarried out of the solid rock to form the harbour and an area big enough for a few workers homes. Later it had become a leather goods trading centre and there was a rather fine late 1870s factory building overlooking the quay. Sadly now empty, with the exception of a useless chemist in one corner of the building! The sail up the fjord was really nice, with the wind funnelling up the fjord we gently glided up it just on our genoa alone at about 2.5 knots, only taking the sail in to squeeze through the buoyed channel marking the shallows, which also explained why ultimately Valdemarsvik lost its importance as a port – anything bigger than yacht will run aground. As we moored up, pretty much in the town square itself, there was a familiar if tuneless racket going on and a crowd of about 2 people had gathered around an improvised stage…. yes it was the ‘artists’ that we had first heard at the Bennie or Bjorn from ABBA’s music festival at Västervik, now on tour and bringing musical misery to the provinces.

Steep sides of the fjord rise around us

Valdemarsvik

We doubled the size of the audience!

Within a couple of hours, the colds we had been brewing since leaving London struck and we were both laid low! A thoroughly unpleasant few days passed as we lay around in 30c temperatures, but feeling better we went off in search of the elusive Camping Gaz cylinders, wheeling our empty cylinder up hill and down dales in our trusty shopping trolley! At each place we called in at, we were told that the next garage would have them for sure, so on and on we went getting less and less hopeful at every stop! Exhausted and hot we realised this was a fools errand and we trudged back to the boat wheeling our empty gas cylinder behind us but buying a small portable gas stove on the way…..so at least we could make tea if all else failed!

Taking it easy while we recovered, our next leg of 13 nm found us gently swinging of a blue Swedish Sailing Club SXK buoy at Stora Alo, our yellow membership burgee flying from the backstay to let everyone know our entitlement to use them. It is in a lovely little place, tucked in a small inlet between Stora Alo, Skaget and Blanko. It is reached off the ‘main’ buoyed channel to Stockholm through a series of unmarked passages and ghostly ‘dead’ cormorant islands – nerve racking at the time but lovely when you are safely moored up!

The bin boat arrives at Stora Alo!

Cormorant island, all the trees have died and the stumps are used as roosts. Powerful stuff is cormorant guano!

Next day and ahead of brooding a thunderstorm cloud and with occasional flashes of lightning behind us, we ran up the Sund past Fango with our genoa poled out for the 13 nm trip to Håskö. The entrance channel is very well hidden in the rocks but fortunately we followed another yacht doing the same thing, although we almost missed the opening into the bay itself on account of it being a gap in the rocks just 4 metres wide and less than 2m deep!

Håskö is a popular stopping point, with a mooring pontoon, lots of rocks to go bows to and plenty of good places to anchor. It is a lovely shelter bowl in the middle of the island, protected from strong winds from virtually every direction. We lined ourselves up head to wind, allowing space to swing freely away from other boats and dropped our anchor in 7 m of water letting out about 30 m of chain. By nightfall there were about 40 boats in the anchorage and just when you though you could not squeeze another one in, another one came in and as is always the way with these things, a space was found! Rowing ashore we had to squeeze our way through a herd of Jersey cows drinking at the waterside. So off to explore the island, which did not take very long and back to sample ice cream made from the local milk. It is nice to step on dry land now and again…..if only the ground would stop moving!

Almost missed gap into Håskö!

A very popular stop over!

Cows were everywhere, in the water and on the jetties!

Seriously big bird boxes!

Our next night we spent at Harstena, we had been recommended to visit it by a very chatty Swedish couple we moored up next to at Rago. Apparently the smoked fish and cardamon buns are worth the journey, which from Håskö was only 4 nm! We headed for the main anchorage, avoiding the village quay as this was clearly packed and very tight to manoeuvre around! We had strong east winds forecast so the main anchorage would be ideal. Our lovely charts, even at 1:50000 or the detail view on our chart plotter left us uncertain as to which side of the rocks to go!

On the right course to Harstena, with the help of cormorant guano!

However a big splat of white paint reassured us that we should keep the rocks to port on our approach. It was only as we passed it that we realised that the white painted mark was just cormorant droppings! Clearly the birds knew the right way as we were then into the narrow 500 m long entrance channel which just seemed to get narrower and narrower with a sharp chicane at the end. I was so focussed on the rocks lurking just below the surface and avoiding the yachts moored in the channel that it came as a complete surprise to find we were suddenly into a big beautiful and totally enclosed natural basin packed with boats and people swimming in the crystal clear water or lying sunbathing on the surrounding rocks. After anchoring in 3 m of water, we inflated the dinghy and rowed to the shore in search of smoked fish!

A packed town quay!

Local smoked fish and Harstena Crisp Breads

I alway worry about how well we are held by the anchor, our bow anchor is a large plough type attached to 70 m of heavy chain, so should stick well into anything soft! However this does not stop me from taking endless bearings to the shore to see if we have moved! We haven’t and never have so far! I need not have worried about Harstena as next morning when it was time to go, the anchor required some effort motoring forward and back to break it free and 6 weeks later we are still chipping chunks of dense clay off the anchor flukes!

The Blue Coast

From Figeholm for about 120 nm up to the Stockholm Archipelago is the area called ‘The Blue Coast’. It is a mass of narrow waterways between small islands and natural harbours that we spent the next month or so exploring, popping into the occasional marina every two or three days to restock with fresh milk for tea and to fill the water tank!

Passages through the Blue Coast

Sailing through the islands!

This is a whole new kind of sailing, large scale charts are essential to show the passages and rocks and probably the most important item, a supply of post-it note arrows to mark exactly where you are! Sailing is usually just on the genoa making gybing and tacking easy as well as keeping our speed to around 2.5 knots – plenty fast enough when you are weaving your way around the tiny channels and avoiding ferries and motor boats at the same time. Tearing along at 5 knots, all sails flying through a 10 m wide gap with a another yacht coming towards you requires strong nerves! But sail almost everywhere we certainly did, moaning at those people who motored past!

Keeping an exact position is essential!

So our first call was Bradholm, an old logging station, but we soon made a rapid exit when we saw the partially sunken pontoons with rotten and broken posts sticking out of the water to catch the unwary!

Swinging off a buoy at Kintemala

We moved onto Kintemala and spent two days swinging off a buoy and riding out 30 knots winds that were scooping down the fjord. The only thing to watch was the series of naked Swedes jumping into the ice cold water from the floating sauna moored off the shore.

Floating sauna!

Now with a strong northerly wind set in we motored up through the islands towards Vastervik, stopping for lunch in a secluded bay at Stora Kuggan for lunch. Vastervik is the only large town before Stockholm and is famous for being either Bennie or Bjorn from ABBA’s home town. Anyway which ever one it is he has built a lovely waterside hotel and upgraded the waterfront.

Anchored at Stora Kuggan for lunch!

Andreas, the harbour master was very helpful and as we wanted to stay for 10 days while we returned home, he put us on a berth where he could see Grace from his own boat. However it was a virtually unusable berth in about 1.6 m of water and surrounded by rocks! Getting out will be fun!

Vastervik waterfront and marina

Vastervik St Pauls

Hiring bikes from the shop – after hiring bikes across Scandinavia I made the fundamental error of not picking the bikes myself. I thought I had nothing to worry about as there was a rack of shiny bikes outside. They were obviously only for show as from round the back, the owner bought out two of the most ratty and rusty bits of junk that could be called bikes. She assured us they were here best and most popular bikes. In fact, they were so popular that we should pay extra for insurance!

Swedish roads. Disappearing into dust!

Wobbling off, our vague plan was to reach Almvik and a cafe and an old brickworks museum. It all started well, a nice smooth cycle path along the edge of the Gambly Fjord. This then became a dirt track all getting less good then a set of no entry signs and barriers. Not to worry, this is Sweden and we have the right to roam. After a further mile the track finally disappeared. Suddenly there was a rustling from the bushes to our left as a large animal disappeared into the dense undergrowth. We decided to follow the telegraph poles, this was rapidly turning into a tick infested swamp. I knew I should not have worn shorts! Eventually with the help of google maps we made it back to civilisation and all a bit saddle sore.

Back to civilisation!

The Almvik brickworks was founded in the 1650’s, finally stopping production in 1979. The most fascinating thing was the huge wooden drying shed, which had 3 floors. A man cutting grass had worked on the water powered brick extruding machine and was full of stories from the days when they filled the drying shed three times a year with 1.5 million bricks at a time. The kiln itself was a chamber one, which was fed by wood chips from the local forests.

Almvik brickworks

Water powered brick extruder

Massive wooden drying shed

Chamber kiln

Wood chips feed the kiln!

For our return journey we decided to take the easy route back! Our first was a lovely swimming spot of the Fjord. Our idea was to pick up an ice cream on the way back. It was 18 km home and despite the Swedes love of ice cream there was nothing, not one ice cream shop! We even stopped at a very unconvincing Bronze Age crematorium in the hope of finding an ice cream!

A rather unconvincing Bronze Age crematorium!

However, all was not lost and once back in Vastervik, saddle sore, insect bitten, muscles aching and bruised we made up for it all with a Bennie or Bjorn from ABBA special ice cream!

A Bennie or Bjorn from ABBA special!

The international regulations for preventing collisions at sea or COLREGS. Rule 5 lookouts or should German yachts be allowed autopilots?

Every vessel shall maintain a proper look-out. It is really quite simple and is the most important rule! So in answer to my question “Germans and autopilots” I am against it after having been almost run down twice by unattended German yachts in the space of an hour! We have left Sandvik on Oland and are tacking across the Kalmar Sund in a pleasant 8 to 10 knot NE wind. We are heading for the Skargard and the Blue Coast. This is an amazing array of narrow and rock strewn waterways in amongst the hundreds of thousands of tiny islands where you can sail in relative shelter and calm water.The approach to Figeholm was a gentle introduction to the Skargard!Grace is flying! She is almost at her maximum speed, loping along across the swell (not like a greyhound, she could never be mistaken for one – she’s more like one of those big fat rabbits!) at 5 to 6 knots. We are watching a yacht motoring north in a perfectly straight line converging with us on our starboard side.“Oh it’s okay, they will turn away in a second, you watch”, I say. “He will I think”. Then as there is no sign of action, “Don’t worry I’m sure he has seen us” and then “Oh, I don’t think he will! Quick! Let’s tack!” Just as we start to tack, winch handle on the port winch, “ready about….”. No wait, he is turning away. Leaving it a bit late! There was a flurry in cockpit, a head emerged from the cockpit and I could see the panic when he suddenly saw us. With the German flag flying he swerved away.Continuing on our course for a bit we started to relax until another ‘ghost boat’ came into sight and definitely heading towards us! I checked with the handbearing compass and the angle remained the same – they would hit us. No worries they will turn away, won’t they? We puzzled for a bit – “can you see anyone in the cockpit?” We puzzle for a bit, “Yes, there is someone moving about, they must have seen us! Quick tack!”. It was a towel we had seen moving! I realise that towels are good at reserving beach loungers but are no good at keeping watch on a motoring yacht. We tacked away and back on our course once the danger had passed. The yacht, it’s German flag flying carried on in a dead straight line at 6 knots. Slightly shocked and annoyed we watched as the boat sailed on towards the horizon!I had only just finished exhausting my tirade about beach towels, deckchairs and boats when in the distance coming up steadily behind us was another motoring yacht! This time we were ready for it, the absolutely straightline course is a giveaway for the autopilot. We were not sure why they were motoring, the wind was perfect and we were sailing almost as fast as they were motoring! Here we go again, get ready to dodge. But in good time, he made a clear and positive manoeuvre, just as it should be and we saw the Swedish flag and a but body less hand waved cheerily from the depth of the cockpit as the yacht returned to its original course and was gone.Goose winged and flying across the SundAs we pressed on across the Sund, goose winged we ran past Bla Jungfran, it is basically a pillar of granite that emerges from the seabed, the top of which is only about 500 m in diameter and the water surrounding it is very deep. The pilot book advises to keep away as there is nowhere to moor to it or anchor close by. Personally I’m not sure why you would want to anyway!Bla JungranCrossing into Figeholm bay everything settled down once we had our usual bit of ferry dodging as the super fast ferry to Gotland belted past. There seem to be two immutable truths of sailing; the first is that if there is a ferry near by we will find it! I think this is covered by Sod’s Law and the second is that after a day’s sailing just as you are coming into your berth the wind always gets up to make it ‘interesting’. This I understand actually has some scientific truth behind it that wind currents are generated as the land draws colder sea air across it generating the ‘sea breeze’ and then after sunset this reverses and creates a ‘land breeze’.If there is a ferry we can find…..or it can find us!Once into the bay we entered the calm and very blue waters of the islands and our first experience of the Skargard and sailing Swedish style in amongst the rocks. Our trip to Figeholm was a good start to break us in gently to a whole new way of sailing!The approach to Figeholm, the rocks really are quite close!A very peaceful place to spend the night!

Oland

The best way to describe Oland is that it is a big wave break for Kalmar! It is an island 85 miles long and for most of its length less than a couple of miles wide. Running north to south along the coast it forms the Kalmar Sund and makes the area such a nice place to sail with several good harbours. The exposed east side of Oland is open to the Baltic with only a few miserable places to stay and is only really okay to sail in fine settled weather, which as it was a bit lumpy we decided to give that part of the island a miss!

Sailing under the Oland Bridge

Our intention was to sail from Kalmar to Borgholm, the big harbour and marina on Oland, however there is a good reason why in my logbook under the destination heading it says “towards”, as we ended up in Pataholm due to so rather unhelpful winds! Pataholm is a tiny fishing village on the mainland side and is directly opposite Borgholm. It has a tortuous entry and shallow anchorage but also a Swedish Cruising Club buoy, which if free, we are allowed to use. It was. And we spent our first and very peaceful night swinging gently off the blue SXK buoy.

A peaceful night on an SXK buoy

Pataholm

Next day we sailed the 12 sea miles across the Sund and into Borgholm, the main harbour and town on the island. The place is dominated not by the Borgholm, the large castle on the hill which ironically you can see for 20 nm up the Sund but is completely hidden from the harbour! Instead there is a rather unlovely 1970’s hotel which gives the place the feel of Rhos-on-Sea. The marina is well organised and we easily found space but sadly not next to Picklehalbe, our German ‘friend’ from Kalmar whom it would have been fun to torment further!

Borgholm

I was keen to go and explore Oland as in Kalmar museum they had a display on a mysterious massacre at Soby on the eastern side of the island. A whole village had been destroyed and all the inhabitants killed and left exactly where they had died. Apparently, a very unusual occurrence for the Iron Age where all dead were buried or later burnt. Your enemies might kill you for a pig and a few bowls but they would at least bury you afterwards! All the archaeologists are baffled and they have produced all sorts of completely unprovable and fanciful solutions for why this happened!

Rune Stones in the church yard at Soby

The hotel, apart from having the world’s coldest indoor swimming pool, did have car hire and we were soon driving towards Ektotop at the southern tip of the island to see the reconstruction of an Iron Age fort – one of 19 on the island and the only one to have been excavated – so plenty still to go at! Never quite having time for lunch, I did get to make Iron Age cumin bread and when eaten with wild honey it kept the ‘wolf from the door’!

Making Iron Age bread

Ektotop Iron Age Fort

House martins, a very traditional resident of Iron Age thatches!

Determined to get our monies worth, we then sped off to see:

The largest number of Iron Age boat burials in one place. Oland has become a bit of an Iron Age theme park, with fort reconstructions and huge graves and burial sites aplenty. We stopped and explored the first two, and it was all quite atmospheric, perched on the windswept crown of the island with far reaching views to the sea on either side. But as they say, when you have seen one ‘largest ancient burial site in Europe’ you have seen them all and one pile of stones starts to look like another!

Ship burials

Portable windmills! In the late 1800’s there were over 2000 of these all over the island and they provided the power for harvesting – they were simply moved about the fields as they were needed. The place is still full of them, remains of them litter the roadside, they are in the corner of car parks and lay-bys, just mouldering gently to dust.

Portable wind power!

A Traditional farmstead. Then we called in on a traditional Oland farm featuring the latest in 6 room house design that every 18th century gentleman farmer aspired to! They feature 5 small comfortable and heated rooms that the family lived in with a large central, austerely furnished and unheated room to meet guests! On a winter’s evening you would not want to linger long! We knew it must get very cold as in the barns they had a fabulous collection of sleighs!

The latest in farms!

Ikea’s best?

Cold Winters!

The Royal Summer Residence. On our way back, we just had time for a quick call into the Summer Palace, it is built in the early 1900s in the grounds of the Borgholm Castle for Princess Victoria who had “bad lungs”. It is used every summer and its not unusual to run into a King or Queen in the gardens. As part of a ‘corporate’ what the “Royals do for you”display, they had an interesting feature on King Carl John of Sweden and Norway. He was in fact one of Napoleon’s generals who was elected (much to his surprise as he was about to leave for a posting in the West Indies) as heir presumptive to the heirless Charles 13th. Charles had two children who died so he adopted a Danish prince who also promptly died – so on the face of it not a great gig if you fancied a long life! Carl John soon endeared himself to the locals by using his vast person fortune, amassed during some successful and lucrative military campaigns for Napoleon to prop up the disastrous Swedish economy, introducing science and agricultural colleges to try to make the country more productive. They had a display of miniature farm machinery that were sent all over the country to show farmers the latest in ploughing technology and all available at reasonable rates from Carl John farm machinery inc no doubt!

The Summer Palace

Then he had a real stroke of luck when in 1812 his former master invaded Russia and in doing so occupied an obscure and very woody part of Sweden. Suitably outraged, the Swedes signed up with the allies, GB, Russia and Prussia and a few months later what turned out to be the winning side. By way of reward, Carl John was given Mauritius, which was subsequently returned to France for £34m – a colossal sum in 1816! Carl John then lent the money to the government to pay off the national debt. It was not an altogether altruistic move as he was paid a generous rate of interest in perpetuity. It was only in 2009 that these payments stopped and the Royal family received a grant from the government.

The Borgholm. Then finally we drove down the drive to the castle, to tired to get out of the car we wound the window down as we were ‘all sightseen out’! There is not much to see. Built in 1640 it was burnt down in 1806 and is now used as an open air concert venue, mainly for hasbeen pop stars of the 1980s and 1990s.

The Borgholm

The only thing we had missed on our day out was Scandinavia’s only 8 storey windmill and mini golf centre. But no worries we would pick that up when we visit Sandvik tomorrow!

Scandinavia’s tallest windmill

Sandvik

Kalmar, breaking our speed record and the German who just does not understand the English and mid summer ‘madness’!

We had a storming sail up the Kalmar Sund – reefed most of the way we cover 20 nm in less than 3.5 hours “door to door”. That is an incredible (for Grace) 5.7 knots! We left Bergvara at 7 am to beat the 25 knot winds that were forecast for that afternoon and not wishing to be trapped in Bergvara.

A record run up the Kalmar Sund

We had exhausted the delights of the region within about 2 hours. That included a bike ride to the next ‘town’ through some amazingly fragrant pine woods – where the air was heavy with the scent of pine disinfectant!

Exhausting the delights of Bergvara!

We got some fresh milk and supplies but decided to call into the rather cosy looking cafe and bakery opposite the supermarket. We were tucking into some excellent cakes and possibly the best coffee I have tasted since arriving in Sweden. I was helping myself to more of this delicious coffee from the seemingly limitless supplies available from a large copper urn when a man on the next table said; ‘your English, we don’t often here that here!’ His accent was slightly odd and i assumed that he was a Swede practicing his English, it turned out he was from Norfolk which explained a lot! He had left England 30 years ago to teach English during the summer and had somehow forgotten to return home!

Approaching Kalmar Castle.

Kalmar is a particularly easy place to find, at the entrance to the harbour is a 150 m long sign that says ‘Kalmar’! All very reassuring and a bit of a relief! At Kalmar, the Sund becomes very narrow and the channel rocky. It is easy to see why the city developed such a strategic importance as the ‘gateway’ across the Sund itself. No wonder it has a large and impressive castle. Ships not wanting to pass fortifications at Kalmar would have to sail all the way round the outside of Oland (the island that forms the other side of the Sund). A lengthy and inhospitable journey out into the Baltic Sea.

We are in the right place at least!

The channel itself into Kalmar is well buoyed, with a big lighthouse to aim for! This was our turn point for the main harbour but as we did so in the strong wind we were met with a dust storm from a ship loading grain, we just had to sail in blind and trust to luck that we did not meet a boat coming out! Turning sharply to starboard we found ourselves in the guest marina. We had plenty of space to choose from but unfortunately I chose a berth next to a German yacht strangely called ‘Picklehalbe’. He had a complete fit at my ‘kamikaze’ mooring technique and ran around his yacht hanging not just fenders but also fender mats as well and yelling that we were too close but also that he did not understand why we were next to him. Grace, although shorter than his boat towered over him and as the wind caught us we would swing towards him, he would tut loudly. It was all quite entertaining as there was nothing to be done other than enjoy his obvious discomfort by our presence! At least we paid our harbour dues, which is more than I can say for some of our close neighbours!

We reached Kalmar just before the midsummer festival. Everyone we spoke to used midsummer as an excuse for everything and always said with a chuckle!

“It is wet and windy, it is always like that at midsummer”

“The shops are all closed, it is always like that at midsummer”

“The harbour master is away, it is always like that at midsummer”

“Oh we Swedes go crazy at midsummer!”

Midsummers eve started very quietly, Kalmar was deserted, no cars, no trains, no buses, no people and no signs of madness…yet! Only the COOP was open! Asking in the tourist office where all the madness was happening the girls in the office laughed, marked a couple of spots on the map where we should go for midsummer ceremonies and the specific time, 1300. I was all excited, what was going to happen, what was going to happen? Animal sacrifices? Naked dancing and drinking strong alcohol out of bulls horns? Setting off on some borrowed bikes for Stenso we looked forward to some of the fabled Swedish madness!

Not much Midsummer madness at Stenso

I have to admit that I had not set my expectations very high, or indeed high at all as I had been questioning people (in now what I realise must have been a bit creepy!) that I met in the COOP, the Chandlery and various cafes what people got up to and they all said exactly the same…..Oh yes we Swedes go pretty crazy at midsummer, but I’m a bit old for that now so we’ll go to our favourite restaurant on Oland for lunch then have a barbecue in the evening…..Wild stuff, young or old the answer was the same. So unless ‘barbecue’ is a euphemism for something altogether more sinister then the only thing that was going to get sacrificed would be a lot of sausages!

So arriving in Stenso at the allotted time the place was deserted, except for the occasional person with a garland in their hair. They would then disappear and another reappear! So following their general direction we arrive at a holiday camp! But there, in front of the cafe is a sort of hoopy cross covered in flowers with families holding hands and singing favourite nursery rhymes as they dance around it! All good fun to watch in the sunshine with a drink!

The other thing Stenso is famous for is that it was the place where in 1520 Gustav Vasa landed back in Sweden after a period of exile and start of Sweden’s journey to independence from Denmark. There is a big stone kern to mark the spot and just out of sight of Kalmar Castle where he landed. Lots of historic and not so historic places were marked in the Great Depression of the late 1920’s as part of the government’s unemployed alleviation programme. Gustav Vasa declined the invitation to attend the coronation of Christian 2nd aka Christian the Tyrant (the clue is in the name!) in Stockholm in November 1520. Christian was Danish king who naturally wanted a united Denmark and Sweden. This was not universally popular with many Swedish nobles and there had been much fighting before the ‘Kalmar Union’ was eventually signed.

Gustav Vasa was here!

Christian announced that he was prepared to ‘bury the hatchet’ and everyone should come and celebrate his coronation with a 3 day feast. Little did the Swedish nobles know just how literally he intended to bury the hatchet and 83 of the most troubling Swedes were beheaded including Gustav’s own father! The Stockholm bloodbath did Christian little good as within 3 years Gustav Vasa became King Gustav 1st of Sweden!

The Slott is very impressive, especially from the sea, which I guess is where it was always meant to be approached from. It had had been modernised to embrace new technologies such as cannons and gunpowder and although it had been besieged a few times it never fell through being overrun. In fact you can still see cannon balls embedded in the walls from the last time someone had a go! Lavishly appointed, the castle has beautiful ceilings, decorative woodwork and painted walls but as the Swedish Royal family seemed to have spent all their money on building the place they had to use furniture captured from the Danes from Helsingor Castle! So, to make sure that any unlucky ‘spirits’ that might lerk within and cause upset were safely allowed to escape, all the human sculptures on the queen’s ‘new’ bed had all their noses removed! Apparently the castle still is in defensive use and there are some ‘secret’ (so secret that even I found out about them!) tunnels out to a island in the Sund from where torpedoes would be launched if the Russians had invaded during the Cold War.

The castle

Cannon balls embedded in the walls!

Lavish decorations!

Nose-less to let the spirits escape!

After sheltering from the rain with coffee and a cake in the Dammgatan, a lovely garden of a private house we went on to see the remains of the Kronan.

Coffee out of the rain!

The Wasa in Stockholm is much better known but the artefacts from the Kronan are fascinating as it shows a fully equipped fighting ship with everything from wine flasks, musical instruments, cheeses and the pile of gold coins that was the admirals pay whereas the Wasa was on her maiden voyage and not kitted out! The Kronan was the biggest ship in the Swedish Navy and sank in battle with the Danes when there was an argument about which way to turn (a common problem when sailing!), flooding the lower gun deck causing the ship to capsize and then explode! It was the only ship in the navy to have all bronze cannons, bronze guns were the ‘ultimate’ weapon of the time and they can from all over the place including the Danes and some were already 100 years old when they were installed on the Kronan! Bronze cannons being so very very expensive that after the ship sank, 60 were recovered using diving bells over about 20 years. By then English foundries in West Sussex were making better quality cast iron cannons, much quicker and cheaper, making bronze obsolete.

A rather cheery King Gustav figurehead!

A set of silver flasks – found still full of 64% proof spirit! No System Bolaget then!

Just some of the beautifully preserved items – they even found pots full of cheese, although it looked a bit past its best!

Submarines, statues and the islands…..and a new fridge! Karlskrona, Torhamn, Kristianopolis and beyond.

Once out of Hano and free of the ‘bin’ boat we set a course for Aspo, with a F4 from the south west we sped along on a board reach, we had left the bad weather earlier in the week and were enjoying a swift sail with Grace flying along at over 5 knots. The wind was gusting 15 knots and we reefed both the genoa and the main without any loss of speed as we surfed across the bay on the deep swell. We were soon on the ‘A’ approach to the Karlskrona fjord on a bearing 012 degrees. This takes you through the large barrage that runs across the entrance between the islands of Aspo and Tjurko that was built in the 1600’s and re-inforced regularly ever since. It is still the home of the Swedish Navy and there are plenty of warnings in the pilot books to look out for the 70 knot patrol boats that can suddenly appear! There is a fine looking stone fortress on the Aspo side, behind which lies a small marina.

The fortress at Aspo guarding the barrage across the Fjord to Karlskrona.

By now the wind had built up to 20 knots, and the narrow entrance to Aspo marina would not have been practical because of the strong wind and cross currents. We went onto Karlskrona, the wind only dropping until we were almost in to the Gasthamn! We had planned on a few days stay as our fridge had broken down and needed a replacement which I had ordered from the Chandlery in the marina. I was sceptical as to whether they would actually order it as the only details they took were ‘the English people from Grace’. At 0900 next morning I was at their door as they opened and sure enough there was a fridge unit with a label on it saying ‘English Grace’!

The fridge failed last year on day 2 of our trip and had to be changed in Dunkirk so it was particularly annoying to have to replace it yet again. However watching Pierre ‘the fridge expert’ install (bodge?) it last time and with the benefit of YouTube I felt confident that I could not do any worse! And later that day after an hour, a couple of skinned knuckles and bruised elbow we did indeed have a fully working fridge and cold milk for our tea! The only consolation was that with the weakness of the Kroner it was not quite such eye watering expensive as last time! But we clearly had spent plenty by the time we were ready to leave the shop that the owner came out and gave us a lift back to the boat with all our purchases, some of which have actually been rather good!

Finally a useful purchase! A boarding ladder that does not break under my weight!

Karlskrona ferry to the islands.

Karlskrona has been the base of the Swedish navy since 1650’s. It is one of the best and most complete example of a navy base from the 17th century. The maritime museum is simply breathtaking, especially the gallery of the figureheads and submarines……we spent many happy hours playing with the boats. The figureheads were amazing works of art and as for the submarines, they had the first Swedish submarine, number 1 and a Holland design dating back to 1907, this is similar to the one that sank off Rhos on Sea and then a much more modern hunter killer submarine from about 1990. The Swedes always have had quite a large submarine fleet and are very conscious of their Russian neighbours. They seem to have spent quite a lot of effort trying to hunt their submarines in Swedish waters with quite a bit of success! Oh and the SEK115 Sunday lunchtime buffet is a treat!

The wonderful maritime museum.

Plenty of boats to play on!

The beautiful figurehead gallery.

The first Swedish submarine built in 1907 was still in service in 1923!

The last generation of hunter killer submarines.

View through the torpedo tube!

The winds remaining brisk, as amply demonstrated by my 3 failed attempts to tie up to the fuel pontoon we decided to take the ‘inland’ route through the archipelago as this would be more sheltered with either Torhamn or Sandhamn as our next stop. But first we tried to get fuel at Karlskrona but after 3 attempts in the gusty conditions to get onto the fuel pontoon we gave up and set off for Torhamn. With just the genoa we sailed under the OstGjarden high level bridge.

Under the high level bridge and the start of the islands.

Then suddenly the real islands begin with a vengeance! This was our first exposure to ‘island sailing’ and it is terrifying, the channels are just a few metres wider than the boat, with rocks emerging everywhere. In places the depth is only 2 m and we draw 1.6 m and the water levels here are about 20 cm lower than usual! So it is going to tight!

The route through the islands to Torhamn

It was with some relief that we arrived at Torhamn. It is a tiny harbour and our threat to raft against a large Halberg Rassey had them scrambling to help squeeze us in against the harbour wall. It is amazing how readily people are to help you when they think you might tie up to them!

Approaching Torhamn, with marquee and large screen tv for the World Cup!

It was easy to see that Sweden were playing football that night!

Sweden was playing football that night and even on this isolated peninsula the cafe had a marquee and large tv screen! However we huddled in the cockpit surrounded by mozzie coils burning to fight off the amazing clouds of midges. We had originally set off to see some stone age cave paintings but had to retreat for safety of the boat to get away from the tsunami of midges that greeted us!

Next morning, as we left a large 50 foot German yacht came in and promptly tried to tie up to yesterday’s Halberg Rassey! Their relief was palpable when we started our engine and made preparations to leave! We were now heading North up Sweden’s east coast. Again strong winds made the journey to Kristianopolis quick but not very pleasant! Grace was plunging through the swell so much so that as I cut the bread for our lunchtime sandwiches my feet, chopping board and bread were all in the air every time she fell in to a wave trough! As we approached the harbour mouth, unsurprisingly the genoa furler jammed and we could not get the genoa in! This necessitated a very unpleasant trip to the pitching bows to try to secure it from flapping and to bring it under some sort of control! Then suddenly we were in the harbour, moored bows too in perfect calm and peace!

Out of the wind in Kristianopol.

Repairing the genoa after it jammed.

Kristianopolis was originally built by Christian 3rd of Denmark and fortified with an impressive set of walls. When the area was ceded back to Sweden in the late 16th century in one of the many treaties the Danes and Swedes signed and then tore up, the Swedes promptly flattened the entire town except for the church. The church has an impressive tree painted alter and some interesting Royal graffiti!

Tree painted alter.

The remains of the walls now encompass a holiday camp! Continuing bad weather forecasts meant that we were keen to move onto Kalmar where we could wait for the weather to improve. Our first stop on the way would be Bergvara at the start of the Kalmar Sund, and then by leaving very early in the morning we planned to race up to Kalmar before the storms hit later that day.

The best toilet in the Baltic?

Hano is a small and very pretty island on route from Solvesborg towards Karlshahmn, Ronneby or even Karlskrona if you have a favourable wind! All the pilot books warn that even out of season it will always be full! So expect to raft up to other boats 4 deep!

Hano

Leaving Solvesborg we made a brisk crossing ahead of a nasty looking weather front, deciding to make for nearby Hano rather than Karlshamn or Ronneby and risk getting caught out. What had started out a gentle F3 to F4 westerly was now a vigorous F4 to F5 and we flew across the Hano Sund. By 1400 we had entered the harbour and found a berth (after a bit of rope pulling to find what I thought was the perfect slot!) alongside the well fended wall. Within an hour, two other British boats who clearly had the same idea were moored up nearby. We have never come across so many in all our Baltic wandering and we actually outnumbered the Germans!

Storm clouds over the Hano Sund

Hano is one of the few places with an active harbourmaster, most are just a ticket machines now that take your credit card and print you a sticker for the bows! So as a consequence everything in Hano is well ordered, painted and in working order…….especially the toilets which must be the best in the Baltic Sea with flower, pictures, magazines, soap and toilet paper!

A joy to behold…..and use!

The island was once a base for the Royal Navy and there is a small and rather bleak cemetery on the far side where some sailors from HMS Victory are buried from when the ship visited in 1810. Then even further away, and perhaps even bleaker and certainly sadder is a cholera cemetery for the locals who caught the disease after the Navy’s visit!

The English cemetery with burials from HMS Victory

The other claim to fame is that Hano boasts the lighthouse that can be seen at the furthest distance in the Baltic – up to 40 nm. It is not a particularly tall lighthouse, but it is on the very top of the island.

The most visible lighthouse in the Baltic!

On leaving the next morning we did discover that although quite sheltered, Hano is not an ideal port in strong westerlies and my careful ‘adjustments’ of the previous day probably made things worse! Without bow thrusters and the strong breeze blowing straight through the harbour mouth meant we were held firmly against the wall. However the arrival of the bin ‘boat’ cleared the boats around us and with the help of some willing quayside loafers to give us a good shove us off, we were soon on our way to Karlskrona.

‘The bin boat!’

Wallander, a distance record and a yachtsmans gale!

I was excited by our next destination – Ystad. This is the home of Henning Mankells detective, Wallander. I don’t like the Kenneth Branagh version, it is far too faithful to the book version. No, I like the Swedish TV adaptation which is more like a Scandi – Z Cars where they all drive Volvos and not Ford Zephyrs!

Passing Sweden’s most southerly point

We had an excellent 31 nm sail from Gislovs Lage, tacking our way up the coast passing the lighthouse on the Kullagrund reef which also marks Sweden’s most southerly point. Entry into Ystad was straightforward following a leading line of 036 degrees into the inner harbour where we moored to our first ever boom. These are low level metal booms with a float on the end, so not really big enough to take your weight and with small hoops for your lines that are almost impossible to reach and not as easy as UK style cleats which you can slip a rope over! However, I had the ultimate weapon in our locker. 18 months ago I had bought a yellow plastic stick with a hook on it and a string that you were supposed to spear all sorts of quayside mooring hardware and it would cleverly loop a line round to hold you nice and secure. Needless so say it had been a totally useless piece of junk that never worked. Its bright yellow colour only served to remind me of my folly every time I caught sight of it and it was rather too expensive just to throw it away. It did fall over the side one day but instead of having the decency to sink without trace it just gracefully bobbed to the surface and floated back to me!

This time it actually worked, spearing the loop and allowing our mooring line to go through and back on to the boat!

Grace secured to our first boom!

Ystad was a bit of a disappointment for a Wallander fan. There was no mention of it at all in the tourist office guides, no murder trail, no site of Wallander’s last arrest, nothing! What it did have was the oldest school in Sweden, The Latin House dating from the mid 1500s and rather a fine church which every night a watchman dressed in a big blue cloak and carrying a horn climbs the bell tower and emits a series of what can only be described as thunderous farts to indicate that all is well! Apparently this has been happening everyday since the 1600s (one has to assume that all has been well in Ystad since then).

The Latin House

Ystad’s gem of a church

Farting watchmen!

In the next leg we set a new record for the distance sailed in a day, 42 nm to Simrisham. It was characterised by miserable gear failure; with the fridge failing again, so no cold wine and the gas bottle regulator leaking and letting a new gas bottle empty, so no hot food.

As usual we had been monitoring VHF channel 16 and during the day several dramas unfolded! The first was a helicopter and lifeboat rescue of someone with a heart attack on a cruise ship and the other was a warship which was trying to avoid a collision! Not all that successfully by the siren sounds we could clearly hear in the background!

We passed Kaseborg, the point where we started to turn north, we could see on the headland and silhouetted against the skyline that there was an imposing Viking stone ring in the shape of a longship. It felt quite atmospheric, just as it must have done 1000 years ago.

Viking longship standing stones

The sail into Simrisham was superb, with Grace on a beam reach almost all the way from Ystad. It is her fastest point of sailing and we stormed across the bay and into the harbour. Simrisham is a rather bleak and windswept sort of place. Once through the outer wall, yachts turn sharply to starboard into a big basin and moor to booms. Simrisham marked a significant point in our journey as from now on we sail north up Sweden’s east coast towards the Stockholm archipelago.

Simrishamn

That night as we studied the weather forecast and where we might end up. It became clear that the weather was going to deteriorate over the next few days. We would need to take our opportunity to get to Ahus or Solvesborg while the weather held if we were to get Alan back to a convenient railway station for his flight home from Copenhagen and the start of the test match!

An added complication was that Ravelunda bay was closed for a week for military live firing exercises and we would have sail well offshore to be out of the prohibited areas if we were to get away from Simrishamn.

Alan steering us towards Solvesborg

Close hauled, with a rising westerly wind and reefing progressively, we crossed deep into the bay and started to feel the full force of the wind and the surprisingly big waves. Ahead of us was bright sunshine but behind us, the dark tumbling cumulus clouds showed that the weather front was catching us up. With Force 5 winds, pocket handkerchief sails, Grace was flying across the waves at 5 knots. The sky around us darkened and the wind speed started to build, first 20 knots, then 25 knots, Force 6 and a ‘yachtsman’s gale’ and then on to 28 knots, Force 7. The pitching and rolling was now becoming a bit unpleasant as Grace came off the waves and her bows dug into the troughs. We could turn towards Ahus but that would mean sailing directly into the waves with the corresponding increase in strain on us and the gear! We could run towards Karlsham or Ronneby, it would be more comfortable and we had seen other yachts make that choice but it would have meant many more hours in the gale. Continuing to Solvesborg was still the best option, although there would be a long and twisting leg into the yacht haven. Once in the river mouth we should be sheltered and out of the wind.

Grace dug in and slogged her through the waves and within 2 hours we had reached the buoyed channel that marked the deep water approach and we started to feel the benefit of the approaching land as the wind fell to 18 to 22 knots. A large ship, laden with wooden pit props was making its way out and that showed our turn point into the estuary. Past the ship dock we followed a series of leading lines down the well buoyed but thankfully sheltered channel, enjoying the now smooth water to moor between two booms.

The ship showed us the way in! And made a good windbreak too!

Grace snug in her berth

Kettle on, waterproofs off and huge ice creams bought from the ice cream ship (yes it really is a floating ship, Swedes love their ice cream and sailing, so the ideal combination!) when we paid our harbour dues. We were given extra large portions to make up for the confusion over how to pay – apparently we were the first people who actually wanted to pay!

Ice cream all round!

Relaxing we watched impressed as a blue German yacht sailed up the channel on its genoa, these must be hardcore sailors who never use the engine to manoeuvre into their berth. This will be impressive……..surely they won’t sail all the way? Suddenly there was a flurry activity on the foredeck, sheets flying and genoa flapping. They will slow down won’t they?…..No! The boat crashes into the berth next to us, its bows lifting up on to the pontoon itself and bending its thick metal frame.

Ouch!

We took the mooring lines of two relieved people. Their engine had failed. In the gales and their genoa had jammed and they were unable to reef it! Seems like they had quite a ride! Within hours, they had packed up their belongings, locked the boat and were on the train home! I suspect it would be sometime before they would return!

Solvesborg, other than having a handy train station so Alan could return to Copenhagen Airport also had an interesting fountain in the town square of a couple fondling (apparently Ask and Embla from Norse mythology), what must be the smallest tourist information centre in Sweden, ‘pussplats’ signs where you can kiss, Europe’s longest cycle bridge and the interesting 12th century St Nicholas church and monastery, now a museum.

Ask and Embla

The smallest tourist centre?

Kissing points!

Europe’s longest cycle bridge!

Rhune stones at the church

A Turning Torso, The bridge, the Baltic Sea at last and System Bolaget!

The turning torso, can be seen for miles on the approach to Malmo

After remembering to close the bridge at Landskrona as we left we were soon back out in the Oresund at Ven and heading south, with a light northerly and a 2 knot current we were soon flying along with our sails goose winged. Our next stop was to be Limn Hamn, the large marina on the outskirts of Malmo and we covered the 21 nm very quickly. Malmo’s only tower block, the Turning Torso can be seen for miles and makes a handy reference point. Passing close by the waterfront and on south for 2 nm we entered the marina that lies in the shadow of the Oresund Bridge. It’s wide fairway and plentiful berths made it a joy as did the rather nice bar! The bar was much appreciated as the entrance itself was only 30 feet wide with rocks and a sandbar to swerve between! The only other drawback was the Mozzies, and our first introduction to Swedish insects!

At Limn Hamn, super wide fairway but with mad mozzies around the pontoons!

Our next leg was only 14 nm down to Hollviken at the head of the Falsterbo Canal. Taking the small boat channel we motored under ‘The Bridge’ of Scandi-noir TV fame, conversely all the Swedes who left when we did, were all under sail, heading straight through main shipping span, totally oblivious to the approaching ships. We felt much happier with our choice.

The Bridge of Scandi TV fame!

Then with a strong F4 westerly behind us, we reached down towards the Falsterbo canal. The canal was finished in 1941 as a way of coastal shipping being able to avoid the large German minefields layed off the reefs at Falsterbo Rev. Although it is only 1 mile long, its construction had been long discussed and a few halfhearted efforts to dig the thing had been made over about 200 years! Today it is only used by pleasure craft as a shortcut to the Baltic and neatly avoids the reefs and traffic separation scheme on the peninsula, saving 25 miles into the bargain. The canal creates a wide gap in the trees that can be seen for miles and that also seems to funnels the wind directly up it. We had to take in the sails and motor down the approach to Hollviken, which is a rather haphazard marina perched in amongst the remains of the old wharfs and jetties. It does however makes a handy stopping off point to pick up Alan, one of Anne’s brothers who had just landed in Copenhagen. There were several other boats that had clearly been left while their owners were away.

The Falsterbo Canal

Next morning, we were through the canal and then with Alan at the helm we were out into the Baltic proper and on our way to Gislovs Lage. Having an extra person to help with the sailing meant we made rapid progress along the Swedish south coast, that and the favourable if strong winds made their contribution too!

Alan takes command!

We arrived in Gislovs Lage, in a rising force 4 with a deep swell having tacked along the line of the Baltic Cable, which switches electricity between Sweden and Germany and also kicks your compass out by about 10 degrees!

Trelleborg is closed to yachts due to the ferries

It had been a lovely sail and entering the still of the inner harbour we easily picked up a stern buoy and moored halfway along the leading pontoon in about 1.6 m of water. Generally water levels in the Baltic are about 20 cm below normal and we gently swished through the mud on the bottom. The place was very peaceful if a trifle smelly where the seaweed had become exposed and died due to the low water level (although apparently not as bad as Smygehamn which even has a warning in the pilot books about its smell!). Trelleborg about 2 miles to the west is the nearest town but yachts are not allowed to enter due to the very busy ferry services to Poland and Germany.

Gislovs Lage

As we were leaving to explore ‘town’, a large and well polished German yacht came in beside us and we assisted by taking the mooring lines. It is always a relief when someone is there to do it for you, although in most cases if they are coming in next to you then self interest plays a massive part…….a wayward bow with a large anchor adorning its tip can work wonders on your top sides as it scrunches past! However what caught our attention was the couple on board, mein Herr was barking instructions to an elderly Frau who was rushing around the deck in circles tidying ropes. But the thing that most impressed me was the knitted fender covers! I did suggest it to Anne but her response was rather brief and not at all positive!

Knitted fender covers would make a lovely addition to Grace!

A trip to town was essential as we had to try out the System Bolaget, the state office licence and the only place to buy booze (other than a bar) over 3.5 % proof! The way it had been billed at this year’s Cruising Association Baltic Seminar, I had been expecting some sort of forbidding yet back alley finger wagging institution where you had to prove your age and where crowds of teetotal puritans would jeer and mob you as you slunk out of the door with your single can allowance of strong lager wrapped in brown paper! No quite the contrary, it was all a bit smart in a Waitrose sort of way! Although there was a tramp begging on the doorstep which made me reflect for a moment on whether I really wanted alcohol and for me to conclude that I really did!

Trelleborg water tower and something to use the water on!

The next and probably more important errand was to buy a new kettle. Our £3 Asda kettle which had served us well for 18 months finally melted the adapter plug (our boat has German plug sockets) and so it was time to buy a new less powerful one. The only one I could find was a very smart, eye watering expensive but almost total useless Bodum Kettle! It has the right sort of plug, a low 1.3 kW power draw but won’t switch off when boiling if anywhere near full. Top tip! Don’t buy one!