18 July 2017 | Navishamn Marina, Stockholm, Sweden
Barbara/warm, sunny and windy
The time is passing so quickly, and there are many places we wanted to go, but just not enough time to make them happen. We are in Stockholm now, and it's clear that one could spend several weeks here and just begin to scratch the surface. But today we are leaving, heading for the Åland Islands in Finland.
Let me back up a little bit. I last wrote when we were in Västervik, surrounded by reminders that Björn Ulvaeus (ABBA) was a beloved local hero. We left there headed for an island anchorage to be determined. It was a lovely passage through the Swedish southern archipelago. This could be the San Juans or the Canadian Gulf Islands. Great swaths of glaciated granite push up from the water, topped with twisted trees or sometimes whole forests. In the San Juans the red-barked trees are madrona (arbutus); here they are a variety of pine. Most of the boats (whether sail or motor) will nose right up to the granite shore, throw out a stern anchor a short distance, and then tie on to a tree or ring on shore. You climb off the bow right onto the shore, so you don't need a dinghy. There are no tides to speak of here, and this is just the way it is done. But Craig tends to worry about whether the anchor is sufficiently set, and what happens if a wind comes up from the stern and pushes you right onto shore. So I think there's no risk we'll ever do the "nosing up to the shore" thing. We'll anchor out and inflate our dinghy when and if there is a need.
While in Västervik we had managed to acquire a cruising guide to the southern archipelago. This is not the one the sardonic British cruiser/writer had referred to as "the Bible", but it does have excellent chartlets and aerial (drone?) photos of all possible anchorages on sunny days. It is breathtakingly expensive, but having gotten ourselves here, we decided to bite the bullet and buy the guide. All the descriptions, of course are in Swedish. I've downloaded the Google Translate app for Swedish, and in theory you can point your phone's camera at a page of Swedish, and it will show you the page translated into English. But Google Translate certainly hasn't heard of most nautical words, and what tends to come up is a lot of gibberish. (I have found it useful, though for translating labels on packages of food in the grocery store - "Cold smoked salmon" - YES!!)
But I digress - Using the new book, we chose an anchorage named Gubbö kupa. It was very much like many Pacific Northwest anchorages, a horseshoe bay protected from three sides, and room for a lot of boats. We were fortunate there was only one other boat that wanted to anchor. We spent a quiet evening there, enjoyed another beautiful sunset and slept well, before setting off again in the morning for Nynäshamn.
The Finns who had given us some destination advice back in Västervik had been enthusiastic about Nynäshamn. We found it to be a mixed bag. The pleasure boat harbor is right next to the ferry landings. There seem to be three or four monstrous ferries that land there regularly. There are acres of concrete lanes for cars and trucks to wait for transport to Gotland and other destinations. All the people waiting for ferries wander into the area next to the marina, where dozens of small shops are deployed to catch their attention. Plenty of ice cream stands and hamburger spots. Next to the docks is a walkway thronged by sunburned tourists eating cotton candy and towing tired children. But on the plus side we found an excellent "Smokehouse" restaurant featuring some of the best smoked salmon we've had in quite some time. We liked the meal so much that we went next door to their shop and bought a couple of big pieces to put in the refrigerator.
I walked up into town and found a phone store that was finally able to sell us the necessary sim card and top-up voucher to enable us to download podcasts, keep up with the latest news (oh horrors!) and watch Steven Colbert. Not to mention catching up on email or facebook and posting to our blog!
We ended up tied to a very long dock (very far from the showers) which proved to be a good promenade destination for people waiting for ferries. Many people walked by and asked the usual question, "Did you sail all the way here?" I got into conversation with one Finnish fellow who wanted me to know, in no uncertain terms, that he thought Michelle Obama should run for President next time, and that she'd be sure to win. I told him I was pretty sure she didn't want to do that, and that even if she did, it might be a very ugly contest with no certain outcome. He didn't believe me.
From Nynäshamn it was two days to Stockholm. We anchored the first night at a lovely anchorage near Dalarö, where we were all alone but for one sailboat nosed up to one of the shores. Again we watched a peaceful sunset. I can never resist taking photographs. Back home the sunsets come and go pretty quickly, but here they last forever. I run up to take the first picture, and it keeps getting better and better. It's a good thing I'm not wasting film, but only electrons.
As we approached Stockholm, the channels got narrower and more complex (more rocks and other things to avoid) and the traffic got heavier. We began to see more and more small ferries. We passed an old stone fort in the middle of a channel, which was just opposite an island of dead trees covered with thousands of big birds. It felt as though there must be a story involving the fort, the dead trees and the birds. Perhaps an Ingmar Bergman film?
The entry to Stockholm was through a narrow channel called Baggensstaket. The entrance is invisible until you're on top of it. It swings into a narrow, relatively shallow channel lined with sailing clubs and millionaire homes. Big elaborately decorated houses have little matching boat houses. The gardens are gorgeous. The channel passes an extensive park that turns out to be a cemetery. A ferry full of tourists seems to command the entire channel, and we veer off into a wider spot to let him pass. After some time the channel widens out into a lake and then narrows again. The cliffs on either side are higher and the docks have long staircases going up to the elaborate houses. The wealth on display is frankly jaw-dropping.
Finally we exit into the main channel, and there the traffic is thick and requires a lot of attention. We had debated about which marina to enter, and as it turns out we headed into the first of the close-to-downtown marinas, called Navishamn. The harbormaster came out to meet us in his dinghy and then, before getting or giving any information, raced off, saying "follow me." The slip he led us to was impossible to enter without bow-thrusters (which we don't have) and we quickly cut away. There were no other available slips, so we opted for an outside side-tie. Everyone warned us it would be awful. The waves from passing ships, ferries and hot rodders were enormous, so it was a very rocky place to tie up. The boat would slam up against the dock, squeezing up a fountain of water that would splash across the dock and all over the boat. We put up with it for the afternoon, and in the evening things calmed down. The next morning we were able to get into a slip further back towards the shore. It's still pretty rocky, but better than that first afternoon.
Across the big channel here is the sea wall where the giant cruise ships tie up. They are three-at-a-time, each of them carrying thousands of tourists. They stay only a day or less, and the next day are replaced by new ones. We are here on the island of Djurgården, with dozens of museums within walking distance. A tram runs by the gate of the marina and takes us to the downtown of a newer part of the city, and to ferry, bus and train connections to all other parts of Stockholm.
Here in the marina there are more nationalities than we have seen in most other places. Plenty of boats, of course, from Sweden, Finland and Germany, but here we saw our first American boat (other than ourselves). We also saw boats from Poland and Spain, and one flying the Welsh flag. On the hill above the marina (just on the other side of the tram stop) is the very large Italian embassy. We've had many conversations with the folks who stop by and ask whether we sailed all the way here from Oregon. An American woman and her Swedish husband stopped by and offered much helpful advice about where we might find a good boatyard in the Gothenburg area, should we decide to winter the boat over in that area.
Last night a Finnish single-hander ("Uka" --spelled Yka) came in to the dock and Craig helped him with the lines. Uka came over after he had settled, and joined us in the cheese course of our dinner. (We've been collecting different cheeses as we travel, and sometimes we'll start dinner with a taste test of the latest acquisitions.) Uka had lots of good advice to offer about our next destination, the Åland islands. He says the people there speak Swedish, and would rather be part of Sweden, but due to long-standing political reluctance, remain a part of Finland. They've been allowed, though, to have their own semi-autonomous zone, along with a different flag.
The day after we arrived in Stockholm we were joined by friends Mark Downing and Fern Elledge. With them we have explored many interesting sights in Stockholm, including the old city in Gamla Stan, the Vasa museum and the Skansen historical park. We took a small but crowded ferry across the water to Gamla Stan, the very oldest part of the city. There are wonderful narrow alleys, 17th century buildings of an amazing variety, with beautiful and sometimes odd architectural details. Lots of restaurants spill onto the narrow streets with outside seating. Many stores and galleries look tempting, but most were closed. We happened upon a band concert in front of the Nobel museum and spent a delightful few minutes listening. Yesterday we went to the Saluhall, a public market, for supplies. It's delightful, upscale, and full of small trendy restaurants. We bought some take-out and sat in a big church yard, watching the people. Stockholm is a wonderful city, and one could easily spend weeks here. But prices are high and other destinations beckon, so we are headed northeast today to the Finnish islands of Åland.
Best wishes to all!
Craig & Barbara Johnston