Our crossing of The Gulf of Bothnia from Finland to Sweden took into account the forecast of light, predominantly westerly, winds so we chose an anchorage bearing SW, once clear of the islands south of Marihamn. Although we did experience some current in places, the sea was flat and Melodrama happily slipped along on a close reach until the wind completely died shortly before entering the many rocks and islets of the outer NE Stockholm Archipelago.
Our first anchorage on the island of Inre Hamnskär was a real introduction to the Swedish method of mooring in rocky places. We were one of about 6 boats in the small anchorage but the only one to have dropped an anchor from our bow in the middle of the bay and swing to it. All other boats (see picture at the top of this blog) had dropped their anchors from the stern then stepped off the bow of their boat (in most cases using their steps hanging from the bow) onto the rock. There, they either used an existing hook or hammered a new one into the rock on which to tie their boat. Fortunately there are publications that clearly indicate suitable locations for mooring in this fashion, because one certainly cannot tell from looking into the water what might be looming under your bow!
The next couple of days saw us doing fairly short hops/wriggles through various passages, some with plenty of room for sailing and others with not so much. We had another night at anchor (no, not the Swedish way) in Möja, a busy, very pleasant little harbour, that encompassed a trip ashore in the dinghy to top up our supplies and a refreshing beer as well as a cooling off swim. Summer had definitely arrived in Sweden!
Then we headed to Ekholmen, which was a very special place that William and Karen had visited twice last year because they had enjoyed it so much. It is home to the long established Vikingarnas Yacht Club who welcomed visitors onto their pontoons with stern buoys and use of their facilities. We enjoyed eating an ice cream on the clubhouse patio with the beautiful views and joining other members for our BBQ …. but we opted out of taking our chances in the wood-fired sauna this time. We have seen many Folkboats while sailing these waters, reminding William and Hope of our early days cruising with our parents. It was also fun seeing pictures in the clubhouse of Folkboats racing.
From Ekholmen it was a short hop to Vaxholm, the busiest of any port we have visited in the Baltic but a fascinating place and a great stop for refueling and re-provisioning. I thought we were fairly brave about sailing through the winding passages but we were overtaken while tacking through the approaches to Vaxholm by a larger yacht, clearly with local knowledge because he seemed to enter shallow waters before tacking. But that wasn’t the most exciting part! The Vaxholm castle is on an island separated by a narrow passage from the town. There is a cable-driven ferry that crosses between the island and the town as well as numerous other ferries that run to and fro the outer islands. Negotiating all of these as well as the numerous sailing and motor boats and then enter the narrow marina to find that all spaces were taken was a test of one’s nerves but thankfully one we came through unscathed. Having successfully exited the marina we realized a space may have opened up so back in we went and secured a spot just big enough for us, whew!
Our next day’s sail was a bit further, heading back east to Sandhamn, the home of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club, established 1850. Some pictures helped us visualize what it must have been like in the early days of the club where the elite, including the Russian Cazar, in their beautiful yachts gathered to compete in races up and down the Baltic, while those ashore enjoyed the sandy beaches. It is also a coast guard station and home to a small year-round community.
During our days in the Swedish archipelago, we had some lovely sailing, sometimes flying Melodrama’s Code Zero headsail instead of the genoa. It too is a furling headsail, stored in a bag on the foredeck, but is somewhat fuller than the genoa so is perfect when sailing slightly off the wind or on a beam reach, in relatively light winds. In these conditions, Melodrama shows her stuff and leaves the pack behind, at least that’s what it felt like as we encountered more and more boats and managed to pass most of them! William was very generous at offering others the chance to helm but very understandably, clearly he just loves sailing this boat.
Our last couple of stops before heading to Nynashamn, our last port, were two lovely large anchorages, the first on the island of Grönskär and the second in Östermarsfladden on the island of Nåttarö. Here, plenty of other boats swung to their anchor from the bow, just like us, but we did see an interesting variation where one boat swung from his anchor at the stern! It seems many Swedish boats only have stern anchors. Unfortunately the weed and a few jellyfish in Grönskär prevented us from taking a dip but there were no such issues in Östermarsfladden ….. one cannot miss out on another chance to swim in the Baltic! A lovely walk across the island was followed by the best barbecue yet of chicken legs, corn, salad and toasted pita bread using W&K’s little round BBQ. What a super introduction to sailing in these waters!