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Stockholm and the archipelago
 
-- 4th to 12th of August 2018  --
 
From the densest of the capital city to the wildest of the archipelago, from urban life to the silence of a desert island, this is the full experience of Stockholm and its archipelago.

More pictures of many diverse landscapes in our page "Pictures".


147 nautical miles
2592 miles sailed since the start


Our stops, click here for more details :
Aspöfladen (anchorage) - Vaxholm (marina) Stockholm (marina) - Saltsjöbaden (marina) - Härsö (anchorage on a rock) - Utö (marina) - Lille Marskär (anchorage on a rock) - Stora Rammklöv (anchorage on a rock)
 
4th August : Mariehamn – Aspöfladen (51NM)
Thunderstorms are passing over Åland Islands regularly now, not the best conditions for sailing… but we have to move forward... So today we set sails under a lead-dark sky, with a shade of purple. The clouds eventually open and pour down torrents of rain as we leave the channel.

Looks like it's going to rain...

It did rain !
On the road again! We were expecting a moderate northwesterly wind, which was ideal for a quick crossing to Sweden. Instead, we get some gusts from the Southeast – and then nothing. We have never used the engine so much as during this summer in the Baltic…
Two more showers come to rinse off the deck and the sails - fortunately without lightning - before the wind finally accepts to come back and blow as expected. Entering in the Stockholm archipelago is all the more pleasant, sailing between islands orange in the evening light. We are only 40M from Åland and yet the landscape is very different: the islands are higher, greener and more inhabited! Huge villas succeed one another along the channel, each equipped with a private pontoon and some smaller garden houses or sauna.

Superb sunset now that the squals are calming down

Ferry captains of the area know how to maneuver in narrow channels !
The huge ferries that crisscrossed the waters around Mariehamn are with destination Stockholm for the most. Some even bigger cruise ships come in addition. The channels are narrow and we need to keep an eye out and follow the main informal sea traffic rule: might is right! 
As the night is falling and we would prefer to enjoy the rest of the route by daylight, we pull the tiller and join to the nearest sheltered bay to anchor for a few hours of sleep.

5th August : Aspöfladen – Vaxholm (23NM)
Leaving again at dawn, we continue our way in the Stockholm archipelago. There is no hint of wind this morning and Junior is hard at work. In the morning light and the relative quietness before most traffic resume, we have time to enjoy the pretty islands, much greener than their Finnish counterparts. Suddenly in the middle of all the green, one island is covered with dead woods. Only the trunks remain and became the favorite dwelling place for cormorants, seagulls or eagles!
Like in the finnish archipelagos, some islands are devastated and become the property of various birds

Arrival at Vaxholm
The closer you get to Stockholm, the bigger the houses along the channel, the more traffic there is. Big storms are forecast and we decide to stop at Vaxholm, a small town self-proclaimed “the capital of the archipelago”.

It is a cute village indeed, with a fishing past and some military history still visible in the fortress. We knew it has been a popular seaside resort for centuries. And yet, we had not expected to be surrounded by so many humans... Ferries, tourist boats, holiday-makers buzzing around and making us almost long for Vasa’s deserted archipelago…
Entering into the harbor is a funny game between all the traffic. It is a bit bumpy along the outer pontoon with all the waves… mooring is on mooring lines (unusual!), we pay 260 SEK for the night. Quite a coincidence: we meet in this harbor with 3 other fully female crews, a first on this trip! Our neighbor, the skipper of a beautifully maintained old Hallberg Rassy, explains that she belongs to the Finnish Female Scout Association. Female crews are not uncommon in Finland… and they always come to sail around the Stockholm and Åland archipelago for the summer. Very knowledgeable about the area, she gives us plenty of good tips.

In the afternoon, we dedicate two hours to maintenance work on the starboard genoa winch, which makes a suspicious sound. After taking it apart, changing a couple of broken springs and a few ratchets and generously sprinkling with grease, we hope to be good for another couple of years. Unfortunately a few days later the problem appears again and it turns out one of the gears is simply worn out – it will have to work with one ratchet instead of two until we can change the part…
Going for a swim always makes things better. Here the beach offers a nice view at the bottom of the battery park, but it is hard to swim far and long due to the traffic. Laure is a bit frustrated. But Camille has it worse, she sees a nice little creature crawling on her ankle coming out of the water: a leech! It’s a tiny one and doesn’t hurt at all, but still, we meet all kinds of friendly animals on this trip...
Laure confirms you should not shunt the green buoy !

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6th August : Vaxholm – Stockholm (10NM)

Arriving in Stockholm, it's hidden behind the cruise ships, ferrys and cranes !
Leaving Vaxholm with a nice little breeze, we can sail between the islands, sailboats and ferries en route to Stockholm! As we approach the "capital of Scandinavia" (or so say the Swedes...), the traffic turns to a nightmare. We are beating against the increasingly strong wind, bumping into the nasty swell amplified by the steep banks.
Arriving to Wasahamn harbor is a relief, even if maneuvering 20 knots of wind in this tiny space is not easy. The harbor is narrow but it pays off to venture into the inner basin (less swell!). We moor on surprisingly short fingerberths! In the capital city, fees are always higher: 350 SEK/ night, without electricity. Laundry is included though – and we make good use of it, after booking a timeslot on the long list displayed in the laundry room. 
Saltimbanque in Wasahamn, many foreign boats in this harbour, mostly German and Dutch, also some Brits for once ! But no French...
6th-7th August : visiting Stockholm
The last time we were in Stockholm was early December and it was cold! We had rushed through the city before going back inside cafes and museums. It's funny to see the same city under the sun and invaded by tourists!

Welcome to Stockholm! says the bard. Note the sun glasses, necessary with the warm weather these past few weeks
We take a tour of the historic district, trying as usual to connect all the dots “to see” on the map and stopping to read the historical descriptions and information signs. The only museum we want to visit this time is the Vasa museum (as for the others ... well we'll be back, it’s so close to home!)
The Vasa is a magnificent warship launched in 1627 (built at the expense of 3% of the country’s GDP at the time) ... and sunk 100 meters further, after a glorious 10-minute career. Too high, too narrow, not enough ballast ... she leant over at the first gust even before she had time to fire the guns in salute. Buried in the mud of the harbor and preserved during 333 years in the fresh water of the bay, the wreck’s location was forgotten until the 1950s. The Vasa is a magnificent and (almost) floating work of art. It is also a major tourist attraction (more than 35 millions visitors so far ...). We make sure to be there at the opening and we enjoy the splendid views and the sheer scale of the boat without too much crowd around. 
The magnificent stern of the Vasa, the more than 500 sculptures and art work were to impress the enemy. The fishes must have loved it...

Stockholm-beach, quite nice for an agglomeration of 1,5 - 2 millions inhabitants !
After the visit, we meet with a friend who lives in Stockholm. She guides us for a great biking tour around the city by bike. It's nice to discover another side of this capital made of islands along which people bathe, paddle…
Finally, we make full use of our rental bikes, pedaling up to the supermarket to stock up on food before heading out to the wild archipelago...

8th August : Stockholm – Saltsjöbaden (12 NM)

There can be current in the narrow Skurusund
It is still very hot, but the high pressures are on their way out, leaving us with more and more frequent windy episodes. We leave Stockholm by the South, through the Skurusund. This small channel is as shallow as it is wide, but it is perfect for sailboats no deeper than 2m50 and (strictly!) no higher than 30m!
Soon enough though the wind increases and we shelter at Saltsjöbaden’s nautical club. This small harbor is located a little off the city on the North side and has only 5 guest buoys. It is quite nice and well equipped with the basic showers, electricity – and even wifi onboard – for 200 SEK (to be paid online on their website). Locals are very friendly, and frankly surprised that a visitor found their harbor! 
Typical houses from the archipelago close to Stockholm: a small quay, stairs up the rock, reaching a huge house.
From the nearby beach Laure can swim all she wants. The strong winds turn into a violent storm when the night comes. 

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9th August : Saltsjöbaden – Utö (32 NM)
This should be a whole day without gales or thunderstorms! In order to enjoy it as much as possible, we stop at Härsö to have lunch at a small Scandinavian anchorage. Stern anchor, moored on the rock – strategically equipped with a small pontoon to ease the maneuver.

The island is known to offer a beautiful view from the top of its summit. No sooner said than done, we climb up the path following the signs “Cathedral” … and indeed, the view is majestic enough and a suitable spot for prayers. Unfortunately, the island offers now only spiritual sustenance: the blueberry season is definitely over and all the shrubs are empty and dry.

Saltimbanque at Härsö, from the top of the island

We keep on picking up the waste we encounter however (that season does not appear to be over soon...). These last weeks on sparsely populated islands left us with only 2-3 pieces every day. This is a convincing and empirical evidence that human pollution is a function of population density.  Today Laure is taking it to the next level, waste picking from the sea bottom while snorkeling! Here along this frequented mooring place, a new world of pollution reveals itself: some objects (pegs, clothes, fenders) did probably fall overboard by mistake. But what about the countless bottles, cans and food wrapping…?


Laure, well protected from the violent Swedish sun, tacks between the rocks of Stockholm archipelago
Walking: check; Swimming: check. OK, we can sail on then. Heading South, facing the wind and tacking again between the islands under a warm sun. With the good weather, all the sailboats of the archipelago decided to go on the water as well… In the late afternoon we arrive at Utö, a fairly popular island: a strong gale is expected for the coming days and we want to weather it in a safe harbor, with plenty of activities. 
Regarding the safe harbor: it is not well protected from the southwest actually, but we hope that there will be some strong jetties and buoys maybe to hold the boats in the gusts. Mmm, not quite: there is a mooring pontoon indeed, but boats are held by their own stern anchor. We make sure to pick a shallow, but well sheltered spot in the corner close to the buildings… In the end, there will be so many boats that Saltimbanque will be stuck in a compact row of hulls and well sheltered indeed!
 Fees are 250 SEK at night, without electricity, but with shower and sauna!

As for the activities… we will see tomorrow. By the sound of it, there must be at least a nightclub not far ... One of the most popular get-aways in the Stockholm archipelago they said…

10th August : visiting Utö 
Utö is known for its specific geology and we start on the hiking trail towards the North of the island, hoping to see some nice rocks (yes, yes, we like rocks  :o)  ). First stop, the old iron mines. Exploited since the 12th century, they were very damaged during the Russian occupation of the early 18th century and were abandoned in the 19th. Nearby stand a couple of rows of low, wooden barracks, former housing to the mine workers.
The former iron mines of Utö, now filled with water
Back on the shore, the path crosses small white sand beaches and atypical rock formations. No granite here, but volcanic rocks, sandstone, boulders – all smoothened by erosion. The island is beautiful and different again from the ones we have seen so far.

The shore north of Utö, looks like lava streams

Quite windy on the windwards shore !
Back in the "popular harbor", we feel oppressed by the noisy crowd. It's Friday night and many motorboats arrived at full speed from the city, loud music blaring shamelessly from the cockpit. Their firm intention is to party and get drunk – no matter what the neighbors prefer... We escape quickly to the sauna and the restaurant. From the terrace here we can see Saltimbanque – just behind the mini-golf.

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11th August: Utö – Lille Marskär (17NM)
A few hours of calm between two gales: time to resume our route to the South. Always upwind, but this time with a current of more than 1 knot against us. This is hopeless.

Thanks to the information from our neighbor in Vaxholm, we know of a couple of islands where we will be well sheltered, just East of Nynäshamn. We choose for today a small bay North of Lille Marskär, sheltered from all winds from South to West. We know that the rock is suitable for mooring, but it is not equipped with bolts and we have to get by with whatever mooring point nature provides: it is the ultimate skjærgård experience.

The stern anchor falls, splash, we know how to do it. Laure skilfully jumps on the rock with a front line and looks for a suitable mooring point. Three options: 1) around a tree, easy and efficient when there are strong enough trees, 2) around a big rock, not bad either, unless it's sharp, 3) use one of our own bolts-to-hammer-into-the-rock , which just require a suitable crack in the rock! We test all three options with our three lines. We are well moored, the storms can come and blow! What’s more: our neighbor in the bay is a Bavaria 38 which will make an effective lightning rod for little Saltimbanque in case of thunder :o)

Our first anchorage on a rock without any infrastructure onshore

All these islands offer very good shelter !
We take a short walk on the island, very pretty and inhabited by countless red ants. Many herons are also flying around the boat. The water is beautiful too, very clear and ... heaving with jellyfish..!??? We had not seen a single jellyfish in 3 months… in Scandinavia they tend to prefer colder waters … what does the "thermo-sounder" say? Ouch: 15.7 ° C !!! The sea temperature dropped by 7 degrees in 3 days! And the water became very salty too... Maybe this is the gale, blowing up a lot of cold salty water (and its inhabitants) from the North Sea. At any rate: a wetsuit comes in handy now...

The following night is very quiet in our great shelter, despite gusts and thunderstorms. It's the end of summer...


12th August : Lille Marskär – Stora Rammklöv (2NM)
Very strong west-northwesterly wind forecast today, more than 30 knots. We decide to stay in the islands, which are high and protect from the wind. With a stern anchor and moored to the rock, we’re as safe as in any official harbor actually! 
Short sailing in the morning light

Saltimbanque sheltered in its desert island
Just a small hop early in the morning, to the neighboring island of Stora Rammklöv (it will protect us better from west-northwest winds). We are alone, no other human or boat anywhere around the island. We take the time to choose the spot, drop the stern anchor well away from the rock to get a better angle when pulling on it, and to fix the two front mooring lines - one on tree, one on a bolt hammered in a crack. We add two more lines attached at the stern to reduce the boat’s rotations in gusts from varying directions. One on a tree, one on a bolt.  The boat is attached by an anchor and 4 lines, like a big spider in the middle of its web. They use similar mooring techniques in Patagonia (yes, this is training for a next trip  ;o)  )
The wind increases and blows in gusts, shaking the trees. Dark clouds racing through the sky, waves crashing in the distance… and Saltimbanque is floating on a lake, not a breeze in the cockpit. Our only neighbors are two otters crossing the bay and a sea eagle circling in the sky. The sea is at 14 °C today, we heat up some water to wash - for the first time of the trip. The ultimate Baltic anchorage experience we said! 
Goodbye, Sockholm archipelago!
These two last days at the anchorage fulfilled our desire for wild islands and we leave the archipelago without regret – heading for the bigger sister Gotland. 

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SuDad - 15/08/2018 22:16:30
Heureusement, que vous atteignez Gotland. Ca fait bien scandinave aussi, mais au moins c’est prononçable. Parce que les autres noms, genre Saltsjöbaden, c’est à se faire des nœuds partout. Dans la langue, les neurones, partout. Obélix dirait « ils sont fous, ces suédois ! ».
Vous avez du mérite à louvoyer parmi ce semis de petites îles. Ce qui vous donne évidemment aussi beaucoup d’opportunités d’amarrage. Une nouvelle fois, nous trouvons notre ration de détails amusants. Vos commentaires sont toujours soigneusement dosés, en notations humoristiques, en relevés techniques, en précisions géographiques ou touristiques. C'est réjouissant de vous voir rencontrer constamment autant de merveilles, jusqu’au bout de l’expédition...


Mum - 15/08/2018 21:08:40
Histoire fascinante que celle du Vasa!! rencontre de la faune plus ou moins sympathique,votre action écologique sous marine tout est passionnant !!

la mamou - 14/08/2018 23:44:52
article à lire , relire , et rerelire !!!

 
 
 
 
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