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Sunday, 24 June 2018

Vastervik - Nynashamn (24 June 2018)

We left Vastervik under an overcast sky heading SE out of the Sound directly into a fresh breeze. But after about 45 minutes we turned towards the N and were able to get the sails out and silence the engine. In fact we sailed for over five hours sometimes in open sea but more often between islands and rocks searching for buoys, cardinals or lighthouses to identify the course
Light marking rocks on port side of channel

Some of the channels were very wide, others as little as 15m so careful navigation was essential.
Another lighthouse in the distance and a sailing boat coming towards us.
Swedish tall ship passes by.
Around 1400 we turned off the main channel to head towards the island of Boko. This unspoilt island has a very sheltered bay and after looking at a few possibilities we dropped the anchor about 40m from the rocky E shore. It was a delightful spot with herons stalking the waters edge and later fish jumping for flies as we went into the evening.

Anchored off Boko
One other sailing boat came into the bay and they anchored on the opposite side about 700m away. A work boat also visited to collect what appeared to be a forestry worker and his tools.
Work boat hurries through.
Thursday morning was brighter and we weighed anchor and headed out of a different entrance. This was only about 15m wide between the rocky edges and around 3 to 4m deep so we were rather tentative! This was a morning of light winds and we then headed E and then N into a 8nm fjord leading to Valdemarsvik.
Through the 15m wide shallow channel
Summer house with grandstand position half way along the Channel!
This is quite a diversion from the usual S-N route as the town is at the head of the fjord; but the scenery is very attractive, some of the passage being open and some quite narrow but throughout a mixture of steep rocks, forests and summer houses!
Steep rocks line the fjord
Approaching Valdemarsik
Valdemarsvik itself is an ordinary small town but with plenty of cafes and a waterfront which is being improved.
Old Volvo outside a cafe
There were also some attractive wooden boats which were clearly maintained to high standards.
Highly varnished sailing boats
Restored traditional boat
Friday morning was sunny and we headed back down the fjord with a light and fickle wind. But we were sailing again. It was a little slow at times but delightful listening to the birdsong as we meandered our way back past Boko and resumed our northerly heading.

Close to more rocks ....

....and more guarded by a lighthouse
In fact we only went a further 10nm N this time to the island of Hasko. Here was a nature reserve and another well protected bay but this time more popular with about a dozen boats by the end of the day. This time we put out a stern anchor and tied to a jetty. We could see hundreds of small fish in the water around the jetty.
The bay on Hasko
Here was a small kiosk that sold smoked fish from the small scale processor on the island so naturally we bought some; salmon and herring (packed that day). Delicious!
We enjoyed a walk along part of the island and were quite startled when we disturbed a deer hidden in bracken feet away. The deer bolted!

Moss and lichen abound, may be wet here in the winter

Some of the farming equipment had seen better days
The fish were jumping for flies here too in the evening; huge numbers, water being disturbed everywhere!
We slipped our mooring just before 0900 on Saturday and resumed heading N on a sunny, still morning.
A modern summer house
We were only travelling about 17nm to the town of Arkosund. This is very much a holiday village providing ferries and other services to the numerous islands in the archipelago. The large marina was relatively quiet so rather than having to moor bow to the quay all boats were laying alongside.
The marina charges were expensive, around £25 a night; but then I thought that is by Swedish standards! At this time of the year we would probably have to pay £35-£40 for a marina mooring in the Solent! In addition the price included (unlike in the Solent) free use of washing machines and tumble driers so with a freshening breeze it was laundry time!
I had been watching the forecast for the coming days and had noticed the risk of some unsettled weather. Now the forecast was showing strong gusty winds from Monday afternoon until Thursday morning. Generally I only rely on predictions for two or three days ahead so I was a little concerned that if the unsettled weather continued it would make our plans to be at Nynashamn by the following Saturday more difficult. Also we wanted to be in a secure harbour if the weather deteriorated, not on an island in the archipelago which would probably be much more exposed. So we decided to miss out one planned port thinking that we could call there on our return down the coast.
Instead early on Sunday morning, with a fresh E breeze, we headed NNE towards the small island of Oja. We soon had the sails up and made good speed averaging around 6kn for our 35nm passage. We were aiming for a small harbour on the NW coast and when we arrived there was just one other boat, from Finland, tied up. Again it was a case of grabbing a buoy as you passed, holding that at the stern and then mooring bows to the quay. As it happened just two more sailing boats joined us there later, both Swedes. A water taxi arrived shortly after us and a small group of people with many possessions came ashore. One guy was in a wheelchair and ended up being lifted on to a trailer for his onward journey to his home.

The NE harbour on Oja
Local transport
This island is about 5km long and 400m wide. It was settled in the sixteenth century around the lighthouse and the pilot station. Today most of the 20 inhabitants apparently earn a living by working for the ferry company or the National Maritime Administration which has a large, modern and very ugly coastguard tower. There is only one "road" (a shingle track really) that runs N-S and we cycled about 3.5km down this to the main settlement of Landsort. Landsort has an even smaller harbour but there is still a pilot boat based there as well as the ferry.

Landsort harbour
Beyond this, on the S cliffs, is the lighthouse, said to be Sweden's oldest built in 1669.
Lighthouse, electrified 1938 and automated 1963
Immediately around the lighthouse is Batteri Landsort, a major WW2 defensive gun emplacement and look out built to ensure Sweden's neutrality in the war. Apparently it saw very little action. There is the opportunity to peek inside the main lookout post where there is an explanation of the operations. It continued in use until the 1990s and the end of the cold war. Apparently much of the installation is buried in the rocks, with the entrances now sealed off.
Gun turret above the rock

Coastguard tower on left, together with local houses
The defence installation seems rather incongruous compared to the rest of the island, including the Bird Observatory.
Apparently during the autumn migration large numbers of birds pass through Oja with tens of thousands of wild ducks, wading birds and smaller birds passing every day. Of course some stay as residents. In the evening we noticed a bird we had not seen before in the harbour, perhaps building a nest in the reeds.
A Slavonian grebe?
Plenty of bird life including geese
Although the harbour was relatively sheltered from the wind some swell worked its way in during the night and the next morning it was a little more bumpy. So soon after breakfast we cast off and resumed our journey. Once again we had to begin by threading our way through channels and between rocks and islands but after about half an hour we cleared the last tight gap and set the genoa as we had a brisk SE F4/5 behind us for the 11nm to Nynashamn.

Nynashamn and the harbour
Nynashamn is only a small town with a modern town centre. But it is perhaps the southern most point in the Stockholm archipelago and has good communications with the city including a train service. We were leaving Whileaway here at the end of this leg but for now the priority was to sit out the strong winds which had already began to build during the afternoon.
One of the ferries and tourist boats

After a windy night we enjoyed a morning walk towards the south passing a local folk museum where we had coffee and glanced at a few buildings and old photographs.

Ludde's cottage, said to be the oldest house in Nynashamn
Old skis leaning against another house

Whilst there was a lull in the winds that afternoon the forecast for the next day was not good so we were staying put.
The next morning we got the bikes out and cycled further south through a nature reserve between two coasts. It was delightfully unspoilt with some beautiful coastal landscape.

Coast in the nature reserve
That evening the sky was spectacular as a succession of dark clouds rolled through.
Threatening clouds

The following day's forecast was for a quiet morning followed by a fresh SW wind in the afternoon becoming a NE near gale (as the Swedish Met Office described it) overnight and into the next day. This was Midsummer Eve, a big festival in Sweden. We decided to head for the island of Uto about 12nm away. This had two harbours and we would aim for the SW one to give us protection from the stronger NE wind. When we got there, about noon, the wind was still light. We had to moor bows to a jetty using a stern anchor to hold us off. On the first approach the anchor failed to bed in and came up with copious seaweed around it. Another try, from further out, seemed to do the trick and we had lunch. In the next hour the wind strengthened considerably and it was clear that the anchor was not holding. So we cast off and went round for another try. This too proved unsuccessful and it was clear that there was considerable weed growth. Those other much lighter boats, mainly cabin cruisers, that were tied up were using different sorts of anchors than our usually reliable one. So reluctantly, especially with stronger winds coming, we decided to go back to Nynashamn.
That night and the next day brought very wet and windy weather so we were glad to be safely tied up. We now only had three days before our return flight, so after spending a day sorting out the boat, laundry etc, we decided to get a bus to the town of Sodertalje. We had hoped to call there on Whileaway but were conscious that it was up a long fjord off our direct route. So a shorter cross country journey by bus seemed a good solution.
The old wharf and waterfront
Sodertalje is one of Sweden's oldest cities dating from the ninth century. However its fortunes have fluctuated over the years and fires, wars and plague almost eradicated it in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Most of the centre is twentieth century and little seems to remain of earlier times. It is the home to major manufacturers, vehicle maker Scania and pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneka amongst them. The canal providing access to Lake Malaren begins here and there was a steady stream of ships heading through the tight single lock.
Gas tanker edges its way into the lock
One ship of particular interest was the SS Ejdern, the world's oldest coal fired propeller driven steamer with original engine. She was built in Gothenburg in 1880 and still undertakes passenger trips each summer.
SS Ejdern
So that concluded our second leg of 2018. We shall return to Whileaway in August to explore the Stockholm archipelago and then return south.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Karlskrona - Vastervik (12 June 2018)

We returned to Whileaway on Saturday 2 June flying from Heathrow to Copenhagen and then being able to get a direct train which just over three hours later delivered us to Karlskrona. We now had just over three weeks for our next cruise exploring the E coast of Sweden towards Stockholm.

Of  course the first tasks were to get Whileaway ready and reprovision. But on a very warm Sunday, temperatures reaching around 26C, we had time for lunch at the Maritime Museum and a walk around some of the fortifications.
Karlskrona's excellent Maritime Museum
View from city wall

Town centre street
We left early on Monday and had a fresh SW breeze.Karlskrona is at the head of an archipelago with dozens of islands. The main channel out of Karlskrona heads S to the sea and is relatively straightforward. But we had opted for a rather circuitous easterly route which can only be used by smaller craft as the stated minimum depth of water is only 2.3m. In addition you pass under a bridge between islands with a minimum clearance of 18m and have to follow some very narrow channels marked to ensure the minimum depth and avoid numerous rocks. Careful navigation required but when we emerged into the open sea we had saved 15nm compared to going around the S coast. We were then heading NE with a pleasant W to SW wind behind us so made good time to Kristianopel, arriving just before 1300 in a very quiet harbour.

Quiet harbour at Kristianopel
Kristianopel is on a small peninsula and was originally a fortified town built by the Danish King Christian IV gaining charter status in 1600. At the Peace of Roskilde in 1658 it became Swedish although the Danes unsuccessfully tried to take it back by force about 20 years later! It is a very small quiet place now with a big holiday camping site.
Attractive homes in Kristianopel
We had only intended to stay a day but the forecast for Tuesday was of "near gale" with very strong N wind. So rather than battle into the wind we stayed put and did some boat maintenance. In addition we cycled about 9km N along the coast to Bromesbo. Now the border between two Swedish regions before the 17th century it was the border between Denmark and Sweden. Bromesbo was where peace between Denmark and Sweden was declared in 1645, the negotiations being held on an inlet guarded by a wooden fort. This was a Danish fort although it had been captured in 1436 by a Swedish rebel hero, Engelbreki. Today the historic fort is found along a little used footpath towards the coast and is surrounded by woods and countryside.

The former border between Sweden and Denmark!
Returning to Kristianopel we found preparations well advanced for the conclusion of an Orienteering race for which we had a grandstand view. According to the organisers this included many of the leading orienteers in Sweden. It was all part of the holiday preparations for the next day, 6 June, is Sweden National Day.
Orienteering event finish on the quay
On that day we headed 29 nm N again to the town of Kalmar. Approaching the town the Kalmar Slott (castle) is readily identifiable.
Kalmar Slott
Kalmar Slott was originally built in 1200 to prevent attacks on this important trading post. It was here that the Kalmar Union was formed in 1397 binding the Scandinavian kingdoms for 130 years. The Renaissance Castle has been restored and we took advantage of a tour (in English) of the apartments.
There was also an exhibition of Leonardo de Vinci's work, particularly his many mechanical devices. This was fascinating and it was clear to see ideas that were later to become important inventions (such as a tank and a machine gun).
Part of the Leonardo de Vinci exhibition
We also strolled around the old city with its Italian Baroque Cathedral, very austere buildings around the main square as well as more attractive buildings.
Town square "austere" buildings
Unfortunately the day we left for Kalmar our Heads (toilet) system malfunctioned. I started tackling the job myself but quickly realised that this was going to require considerable effort from two contortionists to replace a 5m pipe that was very inaccessible in places. So Eugene from Kalmar Marine came to assist - although it still took the two of us 5 hours to resolve the problem!
It was not until lunch time on Friday that we left Kalmar, this time a short three hour sail NE to Borgholm on the large island of Oland. On the approach we passed another Slott - but this one is in a  ruined state.

Borgholm Slott
Borgholm is very much a tourist town and was clearly developed on a grid system in the first half of the twentieth century. 
View across Borgholm to Kalmar Sound

Adding character to Borgholm
On Saturday we again headed N, this time back towards the mainland to Figeholm. Although brisk S winds had been forecast, until nearly 1300 the wind didn't get above about 5kn and was from the NE so we had to motor under the warm sun. We then could sail as the wind had backed to the S and we arrived after a passage of 33nm in the delightful harbour of this large village after threading our way through numerous rocks and islands in the approach.

Quiet and sheltered Figeholm harbour
Although a small harbour the facilities are good and the scenery beautiful. On Sunday afternoon we cycled a little way along the coast to a community of mainly summer houses in a wooded environment. What is noticeable is how much of this part of Sweden is natural and unspoilt. Also bird life and insects are everywhere (and in the latter case, biting us)!
Pink granite on the sea shore.
Monday began grey and overcast but with a forecast promising improvements later. This was to prove the most detailed navigational exercise thus far! We left Figeholm by the route that we had arrived but once in open sea headed NE for about 12nm. Then we arrived off the Tjust Skargard (archipelago) and began following narrow channels between numerous islands and rocks.
Rocks and trees close by
We focused on identifying port and starboard channel buoys, cardinals and in quite a few places small white lighthouses on rocks or islands.
Sailing through the archipelago
The passage through the archipelago was around 25nm with the final part opening up as we entered the more open area around Vastervik. We found a berth in the very quiet WSSW sailing club harbour. It was a windy and cloudy evening with some rain, a slow moving low pressure system in the southern Baltic being responsible. On Tuesday we walked around the old town centre nicely located on the fjord.
Old fisherman's cottages
Vastervik was another place that suffered numerous attacks by the Danes over the years. The last attack was in 1677 and the town and the castle were destroyed. Once rebuilt it became a major port. There are two major churches, the newest from the early twentieth century being least attractive! St Gertrude's was built in the early seventeenth century and is now only used for weddings and other events but is more interesting.
Painted ceiling in St Gertrude's
Votive Ship, 300+ years old, one of the oldest in Sweden
Vastervik looks to be a thriving town with some unattractive relatively modern buildings but plenty of traditional wooden houses and commercial buildings.
Roses in bloom throughout the town
Vastervik from across the fjord
We will be continuing to head N over the rest of this leg, hoping that the good weather stays with us.