Wafting back towards Stockholm

"How rescuing damsels in distress can lead to some Fika"

Bofjord, looking back out towards AalandAfter going to bed as the sun was coming up, we rose at the crack of noon. Our choice of anchorage seemed to be OK, since we were opposite an uninhabited peninsula near the seaward end of the fjord, along which a fresh breeze had started to blow. A swim was called for, so we rowed across to the rocks on the promontory, which had been beautifully smoothed by a passing glacier, and, out of the wind, it was really warm. A windsurfer came into view, criss-crossing the main fjord, and losing a few yards to leeward with each reach. A willowy blonde figure was controlling it - but not that well, and before too long she was on a lee shore and couldn't get off it. She dismantled the boom and wrapped the sail around the mast, and then started swimming the whole thing back upwind.

Well, Terry and Jenny were in the water by now enjoying a swim themselves, but JK wasn't. So guess who got the job of volunteering the services of Hermione and our new oars to the shipwrecked mariner. By the time the tow was organised, with Suzy being involved too, since the destination was about half a mile up the fjord, another girl was opposite us on the shore, waving to attract our attention. Soon, now with two blondes, a windsurfer and a terrier on board, we began the trip upwind and beached at a small sandy bay to disembark "Alle passagiere". "Would you like to join us for Fika?" asked the younger and more hypothermic of the blondes. In the circumstances, how could one refuse. "Should I bring along a little something?" I asked. "Yes, some cake would be nice", she replied.

So Hermione and I whizzed back to pick up T & J (it was a group invitation) put some clothes on and pick up cake, then we set off again. It's just a short walk to our house, said the older sister, and we set off through the woods on a winding path with turns to left and right, expecting at any minute to come to a gingerbread house in a clearing. After about 15 minutes walk, we came to a group of houses, and the one where the girls were staying was the old lighthouse-keeper's house - a fine wooden building of two stories. Bofjord, looking back out towards AalandMum came out to greet us, and, after a tour of the house which boasted not one but two floor-to-ceiling cylindrical wood-burning stoves covered in beautiful ceramic tiles, we took Fika at a table and chairs overlooking the bay, the adjacent islets and the lighthouse. For Fika in Sweden, as I'm sure you realised, is any impromptu meal, in the morning or the afternoon, consisting of coffee and cakes.

Having passed a pleasant hour, and coming to leave to return to the yacht, we were not at all certain how to get back to the beach, so long and winding had been the path through the woods. The girls set us on the right track and we were soon back at Voltair, and making preparations for our next island rendezvous which was to be with Trevor, Caroline and Stephan, from Worcestershire, who were on holiday with Trevor's mother at the family summer-home on Svartlöga, one of the further-out islands in the Stockholm archipelago. We didn't make it in one day, though, and saturday night saw us anchored just north of the main ferry route from Stockholm to Aaland and Finland. It was really eerie to wake up during the night and see the top 5 floors of a small neon-lit city going past over the top of the shrubs and rocks of the invervening island.

"Strawberries, Sild and Silver candlesticks: Swedish Style"

We made it to Svartlöga (click for more pictures) by midday and picked up our english friends for lunch and an afternoon's sailing, at the same time picking up an invitation to dinner, which we gratefully accepted. We decided a sail over to Ängskär, an uninhabited island to the east of Svartlöga, would be a good idea for the afternoon, and our guests enjoyed some proper tacking to and fro until we were anchored a short distance off. Six being a bit of a heavy load for Hermione, JK elected to swim in, but the water, though fairly clear had not much to see in it but weeds. On the shore, however, Trevor found us some quite large wild strawberries and a few raspberries too, so we had a nice explore until we remembered we had to get back for dinner with Mrs Rees!

Trev's family house in a beautiful setting on the eastern shoreBy the time we had shuffled boats and anchored Voltair near the Rees' house at the west end of the island, we were already late for dinner. However, our bad manners were excused and we began an delicious swedish meal at a beautifully set out dining table in the fading light of evening. No less than four types of sild were served with delicious boiled new potatoes for the first course, complemented by two types of aquavit. Normally, Trevor explained, the second course would also be of fish, but the fresh variety. However, they had only reached the island themselves a day or two before, and so the fishing nets which were set and checked every couple of days, had not yet got into their stride. But the barbeque style chicken was very good and the evening was progressing very well. For dessert, we moved to the lounge area, for candlelit chocolate cake and coffee. Trevor took a merry crew back to Voltair that evening in his open boat, and we agreed to meet again after breakfast for a tour of the island.

But the wind had other ideas - it had been easterly when we anchored in behind a nasty awash-rock in 10m, but by 4am it was southerly, and by 6:30 it was sou-west and freshening. This was setting Voltair dangerously close to the rock, and the waves were building up in the little bay. There was no choice but to move, so move we did, around to some staging near the ferry pier on the north shore, where we were still just about floating, and not too much affected by the wind.

If a quad bike has four wheels, is this a sex bike? It was "bin day" on the island, and a fine 50-ft aluminium workboat with a drop-down bow came and rammed the quay, leaving engines running while the crew of two jumped on their 6x6 quadbikes (OK - you tell me what to call them) and zoomed off around the small tracks to pick up the rubbish bags from the various settlements.
T & C came around to the harbour a bit later on, and took us on a walk down to the "south harbour", around the old houses and fishing sheds of the original village and back through the forest to their house on the eastern coast. The whole centre of the island was most beautifully cared for by the various residents, much as we found on the other swedish islands we visited. We wound our way back to Trevor's house through the forest on a trail partly boarded over in case of mud, and visited the several buildings they had on the site - separate bedrooms in separate chalets. Having said another "thank you" to Mrs Rees, we went back to Voltair and took our leave of our friends to continue the trip towards Stockholm. There was a good breeze blowing from the west, and we made a safe passage across the "off the road" section of sea until we were back on a recognised sailing route at Furusund.

Looking forward to our final wild anchorage for the week, we turned off to starboard, and after passing through the narrow and shallow Urö-sound, we arrived at a lovely open "lake" called Löparö-fjord. There we were able to do the classic scandinavian anchoring trick of nosing up to the rocks, jumping off the bows and tying warps to two trees, and then hauling back on a stern anchor to lie to a 3-point mooring. Terry did a fine job of leaping off the bow, but rather spoiled the effect by then losing his footing and sliding down the rock into the sea! We completed the mooring and Terry got into some dry clothes, then had cocktails on the quarter-deck and dinner in the cockpit. An idyllic setting, as the photo shows. The frequency of passing speedboats diminished, and in the morning it was mirror calm. Jenny went swimming and volunteered to do the bleaching of the white fibreglass under the stern, where it was most discoloured and inaccessible. We then carried on and did the whole of the second side, before leaving the harbour at lunchtime for the short run to Vaxholm.

"Dinner at the castle, then rescued from the shipping lane"

Vaxholm (click for more photos) is a strategically placed small town about 10 miles east of Stockholm. It boasts a splendid castle, with large guns on show from several different centuries, which were all there to defend the parent city from attack from the Baltic sea. In the late 19th century, when rifled bores on artillery and stronger shells were invented, they did a trial of the walls by shooting at the castle from a battleship a few miles away, first with old-style howitzers and then with modernised weapons. The 4-metre thick walls withstood the old stuff with no trouble, but three newer shells all aimed at the same spot breached the castle wall, and so they gave up the castle as a major defence structure. But its still there today and has a fine tower for climbing, as well as a museum. A ferry boat runs across to the castle on its island from the main quay every 15 minutes but finishes at 5pm, about the time we wanted to start, having spent most of the afternoon exploring the town and buying boxes of wine from the phenomenally well-stocked System-Bolaget shop. So Hermione was prepared and we set off across the choppy bit of water where every ferry in eastern Sweden seems to be moving about at high speed, and safely made it to the stone walled harbour on the island. It all looked a bit shut up - in fact, it was, since the museum closed along with the ferry, but we were able to climb the tower, then walk around the whole island and scrump the raspberries, and eventually come back and have dinner at the restaurant, which was "packed out" with as many as two other tables occupied. We had been doing restaurant assessment during the day and hadn't found anything really satisfactory in the main town, but this small one at the castle boasted an avant-garde menu, a good range of beer and wine, a fantastic setting, an interested and chatty young chef and a very pretty waitress to serve us. No competition!

We took our aperitifs on huge sofas out in the courtyard lit by the declining sun, and chatted to a family from Köping (yes, the original one, at the western end of Lake Malaren, which lies inland from Stockholm, where Voltair had made a short voyage in June). They were staying b&b in the castle apartments, and the teenage children were already looking a bit bored. My duck breast at the castle bistro Then we went inside into the cellar/bistro/dungeon and took our places upon chairs on stilts around equally high tables. I'm not going through it course by course, but the chef made excellent use of his raw materials and loads of fresh herbs to create dishes that we really felt were optimised for taste and composition.

Eventually the last drop of Argentinian Malbec slipped down, the single raspberry and dark chocolate truffle was consumed, and we made towards the harbour for the return across the choppy straits between the castle and the marina. Keeping close to the stone walls to avoid one of the ferries, we were getting reflected waves as well as direct hits. Sooner or later, two troughs added together, Hermione sank an extra foot or so, bashed the prop on a rock, and sheared the drive pin. We did have oars, of course, so began to manoeuvre, unlit and very slow, towards the quay, but we were lucky that another customer from the bistro passed close by in a motorboat and gave us a tow back to Voltair.

The next day we got up early and motored to the capital, berthing in the marina near the Vasa by 10am. We had time for a quick walk around the outside of the museums before it was time to set off on a bus to the central station, for Terry and Jenny to travel out to Arlanda airport to fly home.

Best wishes from Jenny, Terry and JK.