From Åland to the northern islands of the Stockholm archipelago or skärgård is less than 30nm – a day sail. It also means winding the clock back one hour, so now sunset is around 9.30pm.
Arriving mid July allowed us a few weeks to enjoy the myriad of anchorages, intricate passages, nature reserves, granite islands and pine forests before we have to make our way south. The Hamnguide for this region has many anchorages and harbours conveniently numbered with good images and aerial shots. It’s a useful reference despite the Swedish text (the camera option in Google Translate helped decipher this), but when we head over to the west coast of Sweden we will buy the App version.
The geology and climate of this region reminds me of our 2015 trip through Georgian Bay in the Great Lakes within Canada, although there are more inhabited islands here I think. Small cabins and holiday homes are often obscured by trees and don’t detract from the beauty of the area. With countless islands and anchorages to choose from, each morning we would study our Hamnguide to find a good anchorage for the night. But really, you can anchor just about anywhere and sometimes we would do just that, dodging rocks as we go. In Sweden, as it was in Finland, there is legislation for the Right of Public Access (Allemansrätt) for a boater this means we can anchor anywhere, swim or go ashore, provided that we are considerate and respect the privacy of others.
Our first stop was the island of Arholma in the north where I was happy to walk around and take photos. After this pretty anchorage, each day we sailed to a new destination such as Torparo or Norrpada – mostly peacefully floating along with just enough wind to keep us moving along at a slow pace.
Further to the east is the group of islands of Stora Nassa which includes a spectacular nature reserve and bird sanctuary. Access to many of the islets is restricted during the summer months due to nesting birds. From our anchorage though it was okay to walk over the islets near to us for some gorgeous views.
The small anchorage of Krokholmsviken (#132 in the Hamnguide) is sheltered from all winds and a great place to swim. We anchored right in the middle of the bay and the others tied up to the banks. There are so many great places where we anchored so I won’t list them all. But the best thing for us is that hardly anyone anchors here, preferring to tie-up their bows to the rocks and throw out a stern anchor. The yellow algae seen further north seems to have disappeared further south through the islands making swimming more enjoyable.
On the outer skerries there are few channel markers (would be impossible/impractical to mark every channel), so it’s really important to study the chart and plan a route before we head off. A degree or two off course could spell disaster as there are huge rocks lurking under the water, out of view.
As you’ll have read in the news, a heatwave is over the entire region, including UK and Europe. Humid days over 30degC had us jumping in the cool water everyday in water that is usually around 23degC. The teak deck heats up in the hot sun and when we lay down the water steams off our skins.
The most impressive thing I’ve noticed in the Baltic Sea is how clean it is. No rubbish or food scraps are thrown overboard. Nothing. Not even a twig appears out of place. Helping keep the environment clean are Sugtömningsstation (we call them ‘poo-suckers’) – special pontoons equipped for pumping out holding tanks. There are rules up here or holding tanks and rubbish, and everyone seems happy enough to follow the rules as much as they can. As usual I sort out my rubbish and recyclables and try to get most stuff off the boat before we head out, but we always end up with stuff to drop off at the next convenient place. Reducing waste is a big thing for me! More information can be found on the Archipelago Foundation website.
This hot summer there are plenty of yachts and power boats throughout the islands, but not enough to be a problem. And there’s nothing quite like this in Australia. Summer holidays in Australia are usually spent in hot cars crawling along busy roads with millions of others on holidays until the caravan park is reached, then a swim in the nearest river or beach. Surrounding boats are generally considerate and keep the noise down for all to enjoy the environment. Sitting in the cockpit at the end of a ‘busy’ day I hear a guitarist strumming a simple tune; a child’s whimper seeking attention from a caring parent; a father playfully throws his teenage boy off the back of the power boat to the cheers and laughter of those onshore; while from Blue Heeler the smell of marinated ribs cooking on the Cobb wafts over the anchorage as Wayne and I share a beer and watch the world. Doesn’t get much better than this!
So already we have spent two weeks in these islands, and one month since leaving Helsinki. Through Dockspot I booked a berth at the Wasahamnen in Stockholm for a few nights to see the sights, but also do the mundane tasks of washing and provisioning. I figured it would be busy this time of year but as it turned out, there were plenty of berths available, as Dockspot only have a small percentage of bookable berths.
But before we left the skärgård we had to try this crazy ‘stern-anchor-tying-the-bow-to-the-rock’ caper. So we made our way to a little anchorage of Kalvholmen (#57) hoping that no one would be there to adjudicate our first attempt. The anchorage was small but had a lovely steep granite wall on the northern bank, and fortunately for us, the approach was deep and there were no other boats tied up. So in we went.
First Wayne slowly poked the boat’s nose in, me on the bow making sure it was deep enough. It’s a little unnerving anchoring this way as we’ve spent the past ten years trying to avoid rocks, and here we are literally driving up to a rock wall! Once we’d established the depth was deep enough, Wayne reversed the boat, from the stern I threw the Max anchor and 5m of heavy chain over the transom and let the rode flow through the fairlead. I gave the lazy end to Wayne to brake the boat as needed, then I went to the bow and prepared my lines. Closer, closer, then… jump! Standing on the granite I grabbed the pulpit and stopped the boat from going any further while Wayne tightened the stern line. I then tied the bow lines up to nearby trees. Sorted!
Such a hot afternoon, we jumped and dived from the rock like a couple of teenagers! What a great spot! Plus our plan of arriving before lunch seemed to work as most people are on the move by then. A few power boats came into the anchorage for the afternoon. As luck would have it, a 35’ Targa power boat promptly dropped his anchor on our stern anchor immediately snagging our rode. He then began pulling it up! Ugh, there’s always one!
This summer is reportedly the hottest July EVER in Sweden, with temperatures over 30degC for many days. On the islands the heat is not severe as on land. Sweden is also suffering from many wildfires as the conditions are dry and hot. The day we headed into Stockholm was thundery and raining and the slightly cooler temperature was actually a nice break from the heat of the previous few days.
But Stockholm surprised us both.