Sign up here with your email address for notifications of new posts

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Uto - Visby, Gotland (27 August 2018)

 
We left Uto on Saturday 18 August. We had a prompt start just before 0700 but it was already a sunny morning. After retrieving our stern anchor and trying to get some of the clay off it we headed SW down the coast. Unfortunately the light wind was also SW so for the first three hours we had to motor. 
A little while after we changed course to a generally E direction; I say generally as we had to navigate round and through a succession of islands and rocks as we skirted the mainland. Our course was now generally more WNW so we were able to sail for the second half of our passage, after 33nm we were making our way up a shallow and narrow buoyed passage to Trosa. By now the wind was quite gusty and we opted to stay in the river and go alongside the long promenade that encloses part of the harbour. This was to be a mistake we discovered later!



Main river entrance to Trosa
Trosa has a well preserved town centre with some attractive buildings. It has been established for many centuries and achieved Township status in 1610. Although Russian invaders burned the town down in 1719 it was soon rebuilt and many of those buildings are still in evidence. The small river flows through the town and adds to its beauty.
River meanders through the town
Hotel in town centre
When we returned to Whileaway after an afternoon walk around the town we discovered that the historic steam ship Juno was right in front of us on the pontoon. We had almost intruded on their space! So we decided that maybe we should move to the other side of the pontoon and give them more room.
 

 
More traditional, older, homes in Trosa
Monday was dull, overcast and still as we cast off at 0735. Within about half an hour it started raining and that lasted until we reached our next destination of Nykoping, some 28nm to the W. 
On the way we came across a couple of areas occupied by hundreds of cormorants.  We were quite surprised as usually, on England's S coast we perhaps see two or three together at the most.
  1. Cormorants fly off as we approach
Standing room only on this rock!
Here we decided to moor up on the almost deserted town quay, being the only visitors.


Whileaway on the town quay

Nykoping is a large modern town with a wide range of shops and restaurants. There are some historic buildings but it has developed more commercially than Trosa.
Old and new Council House in Nykoping
Traditional housing in the town centre
And modern flats
It does have the remains of a castle. It was originally built as a defensive tower in the late 12th century to protect the trading centre that had grown up at the mouth of the river. It was expanded into a lavish fortress in the 13th century. Apparently one of Sweden's power struggles took place here in 1317. The King had invited his two brothers, with whom he had a long running feud, to the castle to celebrate Christmas together. The King had the brothers thrown into a dungeon and left them to starve to death. The castle was largely burnt down in 1665.
Remains of old castle wall and newer additions
As we left the next day we called at the fuel pontoon before motor sailing further W, in light winds, past the industrial complex at Oxelosund, to a sailing club at the little settlement of Navekvarn.

Cafe and grounds
This is a very friendly place in spacious grounds and with a lovely cafe. The sailing club members were keen to make sure that we had everything we needed. Just to seaward of the harbour was a small uninhabited island reached by a footbridge. This turned out to be a nature reserve but also with facilities such as steps to walk into the sea and bbq equipment. All lovingly looked after by local volunteers.
The nature reserve island behind Whileaway

On the island itself
Beyond the harbour area was what was for 400 years a factory that had produced china or porcelain. It had finally shut in 2010 but the buildings were now being made use of for winter boat storage. Walking around we found there was an archeological trail related to the industrial past of this small settlement.
We noted that the channel that passed by Navekvarn had quite a lot of commercial traffic, hence advice not to moor on the outer pontoons because of wash!


Shipping in the channel
On Wednesday we headed S down the coast. We had a SE wind to contend with, in fact it became more S as the time wore on. So after some motor sailing we were forced to just rely on our engine as we threaded our way through the archipelago. Our destination this time was another small settlement with a harbour, Fyrudden. We arrived about 1330 and tied up next to a Swede, who, it transpired, spent most of the winter in Florida.


The harbour - Whileaway and Swedish yacht on the right
Fyrudden is an important base for supporting the islands in the archipelago. So although the harbour is not large there are a number of small passenger launches, water taxis, water buses and some small freight ferries capable of carrying plant and small items of machinery. There are also one or two larger freight ferries capable of carrying one or two vehicles. In addition residents of local islands come in their small cabin cruisers or ribs to get shopping or collect visitors.
The local ferry arriving

Work boat with tractor and trailors

Beautifully kept traditional rowing boat
We spent two nights here, some time for doing boat related tasks and some cycling around the nearby countryside. The nearby village of Grynt had a particularly interesting old chapel, with a sea theme, next to the church.


Ships bell and lantern in the chapel
On Friday 24 August we left early to head S. Once again we had a S wind necessitating motoring and initially had to navigate some narrow channels.
 
Between the islands

We made satisfactory progress until, after about 3 hours, the wind began to steadily increase beyond the forecast F4. It was due to be stronger towards mid-afternoon but by around 1200 it was constantly around 24-25kn, F6. The sky was threatening, gradually darkening with rain clouds. I had just got my wet weather gear on when the wind began to sharply increase and very heavy rain began to fall. Within a minute the wind was accelerating past 30 then 40kn and the rain was sheeting down with visibility reduced to about 5 metres at the most. It took plenty of effort just to keep Whileaway facing into the wind. In the following few minutes the howling wind briefly touched 50kn before it began to fall as the squall passed over. Within another couple of minutes we were down to 15kn, the rain eased and visibility returned. Not a pleasant experience!
At this stage we were only about 2nm from our destination, the small island of Ido so we were pleased to tie up in the small harbour soon afterwards. We were the only boat there but that was to change as others appeared later in the afternoon.
The harbour at Ido
We had a walk around the island. It is clearly a rock but with some trees and also some pasture.
 
Paths on rocks and gravel

There are numerous summer houses and what appear to be holiday cottages dotted around the island. Different areas were protected by electric fences and a notice explained that cattle were generally allowed to wander freely around the island.
Cows keeping the place tidy!
In early evening about 8 to 10 Swedish boats appeared as apparently Ido is a favourite place to visit at the weekend! That evening our main interest was looking at the weather forecast for the next 4 or so days as that was going to govern whether or not we set off some 50nm E to the island of Gotland. It didn't appear that there was going to be any storms in that period so just before 0700 on Saturday morning we slipped our mooring and started to make our way around the island and out to the open sea. To begin with winds were light so we motor sailed but by soon after 0800 we had a W4 behind us and cut the engine. Over the following hours the wind strengthened and backed to S5 and we made excellent speed so that we completed the 53nm to Visby within 9 hours. During the passage we noted some great depths on our instruments, 130m at one stage before the numbers were replaced with "Deep". Subsequently in Gotland County museum we saw a relief model of the Baltic and discovered that part of the area we sailed over was 459m deep! Quite astounding.
 
Whileaway in the harbour at Visby

An initial walk around the centre of the town showed that there were very attractive streets and buildings.
Just a few of the attractive streets and houses

We also learnt that Visby is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its history including over 90 medieval churches and extensive and substantial town walls from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Most of the church ruins in Visby date back to the beginning the thirteenth century. Perhaps most impressive is St Karin which overlooks the town square and was completed in 1250.
Two views of the ruined Church of St Karin
The town walls nearly surround the town and are 3.4km long with 27 of the original 29 towers remaining. They are said to be Europe's best preserved town walls. 
The South Gate
Walls around the North Gate
Also close to the town square are the Botanical Gardens originally created in the nineteenth century and beautifully maintained.
The rose garden
We spent a couple of hours in the Gotland County Museum. It covered the history of Gotland from its creation 400 million years ago, through the iron age settlements from 1100AD, the Romans, Visby's membership of the Hanseatic League, the Danish invasion of 1361 and their occupation for nearly 300 years, to the present day. Highlights were the Spillings Hoard, the worlds largest silver treasure from the Viking Age and unique picture stones from the Iron Age, Gotland having hundreds of them.

Two of the picture stones
Walking around the high eastern edge of the town also gave some excellent views across the roofs to the sea.
Across the roofs to the sea, ruined Church of St Clemens in the distance

Some enjoyable days in Visby but time to move on. The wind will strongly influence our decision on our next port of call.


Sunday, 19 August 2018

Nynashamn - Uto (The Stockholm Skargard) (17 August 2018)




We flew back to Stockholm on Monday 6 August. This time we were joined by my brother Clive who was accompanying us for the first nine days. In Nynashamn “Whileway” was fine apart from having an army of spiders on board! We recommissioned and provisioned the boat before a fine meal at the fish restaurant on the quay.
On Tuesday we took on fuel then headed N up the coast, finally turning W into some of the numerous smaller islands that form the archipelago. This was Clive's first experience of both the beauty and the navigational challenges as we threaded our way between islands and rocks.
New helm Clive!
We did notice that there seemed to be more modern summer houses on the islands as we got more within travelling distance of Stockholm.
Black and grey become more common rather than traditional red houses

After mainly motor sailing some 30nm in light S winds we went through a narrow inlet into the secluded bay of Napoleonviken, joining about a dozen or so other boats at anchor on a fine sunny evening.
 
The anchorage at Napoleonviken
We had a shorter journey on the Wednesday of 13nm but were able to sail in F4 S winds to Malmskvarn on the island of Fagelbrolander. En-route we passed a tall ship in full sail.
Tall ship in sail
This is a sailing club harbour with a few visitors places and we were pleased to get one of the remaining berths. 
In Malmskvarn; Whileaway third from right
An afternoon walk showed what an unspoilt place this is with a couple of beautiful lakes, surrounded by predominantly pine woodland and small meadows.
Nearby lake
On the following day we headed 18nm NE into the outer archipelago to the island of Sandhamn, described as the “Cowes of Sweden” for its yachting and racing activity. Here we had a surprise as the harbour was full as a classic yachts sailing regatta was taking place. However just opposite Sandhamn is the small island of Lokholmen where there was a better and sheltered harbour with plenty of space. In addition there is an hourly free ferry between the two islands.
Whileaway moored at Lokholmen
Sandhamn had plenty of action with small and large classic yachts which were gleaming with varnish.
Classic yachts at Sandhamn
It also has very attractive buildings, some with significant history. The island having originally been established as a Customs post and a base for Stockholm Pilots.


Some of Sandhamn's houses
The next day was very windy but fortunately we had decided to stop for a second night. After reviewing the yachts in Sandhamn we returned to the N coast of Lokholmen to watch the racing only to see that it had been abandoned that day because of the conditions!
Just too gusty for racing yachts, returning to harbour
However we then had time to look around Sandhamn and see some more of the traditional and historic buildings as well as many yachts.
 
A breezy day in the archipelago
The waterfront at Sandhamn
On Saturday 11 August we sailed a short distance N to anchor in the beautiful bay of Ostholmen. Once again we had some tight navigation between rocks and islands to reach our destination.

 
Through narrow gaps

Ostholmen is in a nature reserve and we got in the dinghy and explored the uninhabited island. This really is the natural granite rock with many trees, extensive undergrowth and different types of lichen.
Whileaway anchored in Ostholmen
Bird boxes on the granite cliff face
One of the islands we walked around
The next day we had a longer trip to another nature reserve, this time in the northern archipelago. Unfortunately after a bright start the skies opened and we had some heavy rain before it lightened a little. Around lunch time, after 18nm, we arrived at Angso
Traditional pasture on Angso
And traditional fencing

Hay making has been carried out on the island since the middle ages and a crofters holding was established in 1725. In the early 20th century some of the long established oak trees were threatened with felling by the then landowner and in 1909 the Government made Angso one of the first national parks in Sweden and Europe. Today Angso is managed to conserve the largely re-created ancient agricultural landscape with meadows, pasture, fields and forest. Many of the ash and lime trees have been pollarded. Although Sunday was a very wet day we enjoyed walking around the island.
Cattle at the waters edge as we leave
On Monday morning sunny weather had returned and we headed SW. After a short while we joined probably the main shipping route towards Stockholm. However traffic was light although after a while we saw that a cruise ship, the Viking Cinderella, was making its way down the channel behind us.
Block of flats approaching!
Having crossed in front of a chain ferry the channel narrowed ahead and we slowed judging that it would be easier to let Viking Cinderella pass us before that. Then we noticed a dinghy with half a dozen young people aboard furiously paddling with hands and beach buckets! A failed outboard engine and they seemed to be still within the main channel. We called the Viking Cinderella on VHF who confirmed that they could see the dinghy and were managing to avoid them. So we moved closer and gave them a tow into shallower water seeing that a rib they had called was on its way to collect them. Not the best place to break down; and not have oars in the dinghy!
Dinghy in tow
We continued our passage SW, later turning SE, and after 18nm reached the island of Grinda. This island is managed by The Archipelago Foundation which has stewardship of a number of nature reserves which it aims to make accessible to as many people as possible.
Horses and heritage breed pigs on Grinda
Grinda has a small farm and also offers leisure facilities including an Inn and Hotel, a youth hostel, cottages and a camping site. There were some interesting photographs of the island including showing snow on the ground and horses pulling sledges.
The Vardhus on Grinda
On Tuesday we made the short passage to Waxholm. Described as the “capital of the archipelago” it is an important ferry hub and is just under an hour from Stockholm by ferry. Linked to the mainland by a bridge it is also possible to get a bus to Stockholm. There are also plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops in Waxholm.
Part of the waterfront at Vaxholm

Inside the fortress
Guarding the entrance is the Fastning (Fortress) first began in the sixteenth century when King Gustav Vasa ordered the isle of Vaxholm to be fortified in order to lock the approach to Stockholm. We took the electric chain ferry the short distance to the Fortress and visited the museum which has an interesting exhibition of the defence history of the archipelago.
 
The electric chain ferry, with its long lead unwinding
Mural on ceiling of Council Chamber
Back in the town we had also visited the impressive old Council House with its interssting wall and ceiling paintings.
On Wednesday morning Clive caught the 0845 ferry to Stockholm where he was to visit the excellent Vasa Museum before returning to London.

We set off just after midday and headed E to the marina at Bullando some 19nm away. On arrival we found, to our surprise, that the huge marina was stuffed full of residents boats. Clearly the Swedes were returning to base in large numbers as it was now mid-August. The Harbour Master was sorry to tell us that he had no room for a boat of our size.

So we retraced our steps about 0.5nm to a pontoon that we had spotted on our way in. At the head of the pontoon was a restaurant called Sjoboden which we subsequently discovered markets itself as “The Archipelago Pub”. This was actually in the extensive grounds of the upmarket Djuronaset Hotel. There was no sign of activity as we moored to the deserted pontoon. Later we discovered that the pub had closed for the season a couple of days before!
The deserted pontoon at Djuronaset
We walked through some of the wooded hotel grounds and then and later saw residents who seemed to be delegates on some sort of management training or development course. They had some sort of team building exercise later, judging by the events that we could see. We were happy not to be involved!

On Thursday 16 August we travelled about 24nm SE to a larger island in the outer archipelago, Ormo. We moored in the very quiet Brunnsviken harbour on the SW coast. The HM also manages a few holiday cabins and runs a very small shop. She explained to me that it is left open during the day and prices for all the goods are displayed. If you buy anything with cash just put the money in the tin in the shop; if you need to pay by card you have to ring a bell for the HM. This is not the first time that we have come across an honesty box for payments. As Andrea and I noted it shows the difference between their society and ours – in the UK not only would payment not be made but an opportunist thief would soon make off with the money as well as many goods as he or she could carry!

Ormo is a large island but with only about 500 permanent residents. Tourism seems to play quite a small part in this islands economy. Later we cycled on empty roads to the main 'town' of Kyrkvikan. In the local cafe the owner explained that he imported Godminster cheddar cheese and Snowdonia cheeses from the UK and that it was very popular in Sweden.
One of the main roads on Orno
The next day we travelled the short distance SW to Uto mooring in the North harbour at Gruvbyn. As may be recalled from our previous blog we had tried mooring in the South harbour one windy day but had to give up as we couldn't get the stern anchor to set. This time we were successful.
 
Bouyed entrance to Uto, NE harbour

Uto is much more orientated towards tourism than the larger neighbour Ormo. Here there is a large hotel, hostel and numerous small cabins available.
Typical traditional house on Uto

The Windmill is conspicuous as you approach the coast

And during the afternoon we went for a long walk - even longer than we had expected as it followed a meandering route along footpaths and rocks reaching the E coast for a while.

Skerries on the coast
An unusual aspect of Uto is its mining history. It has Sweden's oldest iron mine said to date back to the 12th century. The mine ceased operating in the 19th century but you can still see the water-filled open-cast mines and a few surviving mine workers homes.
One of the mines
Iron ore truck
Our visit to Uto completed our time in the archipelago and from here we began our journey returning S. We had enjoyed 12 days and although we had only visited a few of the thousands of islands we felt that we had seen plenty of interest.