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Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Visby, Gotland - Sandhamn (Blekinge) (3 September 2018)

We left Visby under an overcast sky on the morning of Tuesday 28 August. The wind was forecast to be W or SW so rather than heading back towards Sweden's E coast and fighting that wind, we opted to go 22nm S down Gotland's coast. The forecast for Wednesday was more favourable taking account that rather than heading SW we would be heading due W towards Oland.
In addition there was an opportunity to see another piece of Gotland's history.
The harbour at Klintehamn is not the most attractive as it is mainly commercial with a grain silo and a large forestry and timber operation.

The harbour, the silos are much further away than they look!
There are only a few spaces for leisure craft. But in some ways that makes it more interesting.
In the afternoon we cycled to Gannarve where, in a field, there is a late bronze age ship grave, one of around 350 that have survived on Gotland.
Ship grave, cremated remains were buried in pots within them 
More interest on the way back.
Old wooden windmill on farm
Traditional Gotland sheep
More story telling headstones, this time 16th century
Next day we set off early at 0640 as we had a long passage.
A delightful morning as the sun came up
The forecast was for the ideal S winds which would help us as we had to go due W. We got them but unfortunately with very little strength, F2, which meant motoring. During the first six hours we saw just two other vessels, both medium size freighters crossing behind us in the main shipping lanes.
We were heading to the island of Oland and we crossed the N tip In early afternoon. A little while later, after 44nm, we reached the harbour of Byxelkrok on the W coast. Oland is long and narrow, about 120km long and at the most 12km wide. It also claims a unique landscape with a limestone bedrock.
We walked around 3km N from Byxelkrok along the coast to the Neptuni Nature Reserve. This is an extensive shingle field.
Viking grave field
Walking on the stony beach area were amazed how many fossils there were.

The horizontal layers of rock and shale
Fossils abound in the slabs, this one just below the surface
Taken as a whole the landscape looked pretty desolate!
On Thursday morning we had a visitor for breakfast. A brave young sparrow perched on the edge of the cockpit and then helped himself to some titbits put on a fender waiting to be stowed.
Muesli made a tasty breakfast!
We then continued SW down the coast and with a SSE F3/4 were able to sail most of the way to Sandvik. This area is known as the stone coast and has quite a few holiday homes and despite the village name very little sand! It's heritage is stone quarrying and exporting.
Industrial history
The last ship left with its load of stone 60 years ago so now it is a leisure area. Oland is also popular for cycling and as with the last port there were many cycles for hire outside the HM's office.
Bikes outside HM office, harbour in background 
One other claim is that of having a windmill which was built in 1856 and is said to be as tall as a seven storey building and with sail spans of 24 metres.
Windmill, one of the largest in northern Europe
Overnight a front arrived with strong winds and heavy rain. We waited until after 1100 when the wind and rain had started to ease. The good news was that it was a N wind so we were able to sail downwind, much more comfortable than the reverse.
Sailing is not all sunshine!
By late afternoon we were approaching Kalmar with the high bridge that connects Oland to the mainland.
Rain has stopped but still a threatening sky
It was after 1900 when we arrived at Morbylanga after some 39nm having sailed nearly all the way. As we entered the quiet harbour a locally born resident came off his boat and cycled around the harbour to give us a hand tying up. He enjoyed chatting about the history of the town and inside the HM office, to which he had a key, showed me some great old photos including his grandfather who had been the HM!
The harbour, Whileaway in the middle distance
The weather was still drab with persistent rain the next morning. However we walked around the attractive town centre.
Traditional houses
Town square

In the afternoon we cycled nearly 20km through the drizzle to see two areas of interest. Firstly the Stora Alvaret landscape which covers a significant part of the South of Oland. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site it is a limestone plain with a thin layer of soil and with the extreme climate there are unique flora and fauna.
A glimpse of the Stora Alvaret
On such a damp day we perhaps didn't see it at its most attractive.
Then on to Barby borg, an ancient fortification from around 400-500AD, one edge being on a natural steep scarp, near the islands highest point of only 57m above sea level. On the trip we saw half a dozen of the 400 or so windmills on the island.
Historic windmill and water pump
So Oland has considerable history and friendly and welcoming people.
Sunday dawned much more brightly. We set off with blue skies and light NE winds. We did manage to sail slowly for a couple of hours and eventually found the narrow channel and arrived in Bergkvara just before noon. By early afternoon the temperature had reached 20C and the pressure climbed to 1028. We went for a walk around the rather spread out village but apart from some historic houses found little of note.
Historic houses
What we did see were some American cars, Swedes seem very fond of these.
Smart American car

Not so smart old Volvos!
Back on the boat we watched a beautiful traditional sailing dinghy come past us in the harbour in the almost still late afternoon.
Just gliding past
Then swifts started swooping across the harbour for flies at one stage using our boom for a rest. Then sparrows turned up again and this time helped themselves to apple within a couple of feet of us.
Tea time for sparrows
Next morning we headed S again, this time our passage was 23nm to Sandhamn. This is the second Sandhamn of our trip, this one being in the County of Blekinge, on the S tip of the main E coast. Picking our way through the rocks along the entrance channel we noticed the lighthouse with a few houses on its own island.
Seems like the houses are now holiday apartments
Sandhamn harbour has an industrial feel although there are leisure facilities.
Still a small fishing fleet in Sandhamn
About two miles away, towards the adjoining village of Torhamn, you can follow a small road to the end of the peninsula where there is is a nature reserve. This is well maintained with cattle and sheep grazing the natural landscape right down to the waters edge. Apart from fauna and flora the reserve is known for its numerous species of birds, many of them calling in on migration in spring and autumn.
Some of the landscape was similar to that on Oland
Plenty of bird life, but big telephoto lens required!


At six o'clock on a weekday evening there were more than a dozen bird watchers with their high power cameras and binoculars surveying the shore. On a beautiful evening it was good to see so much bird life.
Now we have reached the bottom of Sweden's main E coast we will head W and S towards the S coast and then on to Denmark.



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