SWEDEN: West Coast – Skärhamn to Åstol

Tuesday-Thursday, July 4-6

SKÄRHAMN

Having been in Gullholmen and its sister village Hermano for six wonderful days the time had come to continue our cruise further south. Another easy, 12-mile day motoring and sailing (when possible) as we wound our way through the Bohuslan islands.

In one of the narrow channels a beautiful, crisp white motor boat passed us heading north. When I see vessels like that I imagine how wonderful sipping a lime-tinged drink on the bridge would be as you gaze over the anchorage as the sun sets. A big contented sigh… I looked at Max and enviously said ‘that’d be a nice boat to have cocktails on…’

I head down below to pick up an iPad and hear “calling American Yacht JUANONA” over the VHF radio on Channel 16 (when cruising most coastal waters boats are required to have this on, especially since May-Days, i.e., calls for help, come over this channel).

Well, it was the first time on our trip I’d heard an unknown boat request our attention, and I picked up to answer.

Whoa, another surprise:  turned out it was Nina, a good friend of Steve who’s our good friend back home! He had put us in contact two years ago when he heard we might be in Denmark during our time on JUANONA.

And, she’d just happen to have seen our boat name as she and her partner, Peter, were cruising north that day, and it somehow jogged her memory from an email from two years prior.

AND, they were on that big, beautiful powerboat!

We continued the conversation after switching to another channel (16 is only for quick exchange of  information and emergencies) and then emailed later that day. Based on schedules we weren’t sure the two boats could meet but at least we’d made contact, delightfully so.

We ended up anchoring in a cove across the channel from Skjarnhamn, a town on the island of Tjorn. Taking the dinghy across we docked and did our usual scouting about while provisioning.

This town, like a lot along this coastline, has a rich tradition of fishing such as herring and ling (member of the cod family). The locals caught the ling north of the Shetland Islands during summer, returning to prep it for Fall drying on racks,

similar to what we saw two summers ago in Norway’s Lofoten Islands. And, the best part (for some)? They soak it in lye in December for delicious (uh-huh) eating once cured.

Yummy…

One of the most interesting facts we discovered pertains to a 17th century woman called Margareta Huitfeldt. A land owner, one of the biggest in Scandinavia at that time, she became an economic force in Bohulslan where most of her property lay. A legend ties her to the accusation and execution of one of Sweden’s best-known witch-hunt victims in 1672. Evidently because Margareta didn’t like her. Obviously a person one doesn’t want to upset, i.e., p___ off.

But, she donated to popular causes, such as paying for 30 students to attend school in Goteborg every year, so who cares about a witch hunt? Every year on July 20 she’s celebrated. Nothing like a little money to ease one’s way into the good graces of a populace. Some things never change.

With morning yoga-ing on the beach completed along with a short climb to the top of the rocks

we dinghied back to Skjarhamn to visit a museum, the Nordiska Akvarellmuseet (Nordic Watercolor Museum), Having read about it the night before, we decided to check it out prior to leaving for our next destination.  We’re glad we did.

This museum is lovely. The featured solo exhibit was on Arne Isacsson (1917-2010), a beloved Swedish artist whose abstract watercolors ignited other artists’ interest in this medium.

Although considered a classical watercolorist he continued to explore various techniques and documented them in textbooks. The museum provides videos demonstrating several of his methods of which we saw the results:

one being tilting the entire page to create lines as the water droplets flow down;

and another involving paper pressed onto wet paint resulting in a three-dimensional texture.

In addition to his art, his legacy lives on both as a teacher (his use of analogies made him a favorite) and in his founding of the Gerlesborg School of Fine Art located in Gerlesborg, Bohuslan with a branch in Stockholm.

Another area of the museum showcases eight of their permanent collection of contemporary watercolorists. Some quite bizarre but all interesting to see such as:

Julie Nord’s black ink creatures…

Lars Lerin’s open building blocks…

and Martin Jacobsen’s intense woods.

 

If we had more time before moving on, I could definitely have stayed and continued wandering around, then ending up in the outdoor cafe enjoying a cup of java…

But, on to our next harbor.

 

ÅSTOL

Eight miles south of Skjarhamn sits a tiny island pokadotted with cottages, a few shops, several cafes, a ferry stop, and enough room to cram boats up and down its slim harbor.

We enjoyed a quick walk around (took all of five minutes) with a stop for lunch at what we discovered later was a religious cafe (wifi password was ‘jesus’). Fortunately, no lightning bolts struck us on our way in or out.

With free laundry I proceded to catch up on the dirty clothes before leaving the next morning for another anchorage just a mile further on.

 

SOLHOLMEN

We left for an anchorage on the island of Marstrand in order to see the town (also called Marstrand). According to THE LONELY PLANET GUIDE this town is considered “the weekend destination for yachting types.” Not that we really felt like the ‘yachting types’ but there’s a great fort to explore. We anchored in a large bay, then dinghied to shore and walked to the main road for a visit.

Determined that getting lost would NOT be part of our adventure we snapped landmarks along the way

ending up on the main road where we discovered a bus route to town. We hopped on (the driver wouldn’t take any money as it was such a short ride) and landed amidst a festive atmosphere created by the 2017 international GKSS Match Cup Sweden race. Yup, I guess it’s a yachtie type of town.

We watched two races (you can spot Max in white hat and light blue fleece behind the “H” of “MATCH”). My lacking complete comprehension of what I was viewing didn’t preclude enjoying the crowd’s excitement as we listened to the announcer’s enthusiastic play-by-play of the races,

including covering the following episode:

Just up the hill from the races stands the imposing Carlstens Fastning, the 1660s fortress constructed by the Swedish King Carl X.

The fort became necessary to protect newly acquired territory when the Swedish king beat the Danish King Frederik II (who also ruled Norway). A treaty was signed (the Treaty of Roskilde) in 1658. The terms required Frederik to cede Danish land in Sweden and some in Norway (such as Bohuslan, the area where we were sailing) to Sweden. To protect his new holdings and this valuable ice-free harbor, Carl X erected a stone fortress with a commanding view of the surrounding islands.

It also served as a prison, one where an inmate inhabited either a dismal cell…

or an ‘okay’ one.

One of the better cells held Sweden’s famous thief, Lasse-Maja (1785-1845). This guy would dress like a woman, seduce rich men, then steal from them, hence the name:  a combination of a man’s and woman’s. He also was a bit of a Robin Hood due to giving some of his loot to friends in need. He was sentenced to life when caught at age 26 but later pardoned in 1839 by the King Carl XIV Johan. Because he could cook he served as a chef in the officers’ mess. Which is probably why he inhabited one of the better abodes, in fact the one where Max is standing.

Oh, and he escaped once in 1823 dressed as, you guessed it, a woman… but was caught and returned. Got to love him.

Unable to find workers, the officials turned to the prison population. Matter of fact, being assigned to the construction crew became part of Sweden’s penal code. The unfortunate inmates who performed hard labor didn’t fare well, but they did manage to expand the fort over the years until 1854. That year the Swedes feared war was on the horizon; thus, the higher-ups thought better of ’employing’ the large number of prisoners and many were relocated to other fortresses.

Construction continued until the fort reached its current shape in 1860. It remained as part of Sweden’s military property until the early 1990s. Now it serves both as a tourist spot and hotel (I suggest asking for the officers’ quarters).

We wandered through imposing gates,

admired iron-pocked doors,

and climbed the tower for the view. With such good visibility we spotted the narrow passage a bit to the right in the far distance, our course for the next day.

and returned to the entrance via a secret tunnel (one used by the soldiers to quickly change positions during attacks), where we spotted a photo opportunity. Max commented I appeared to be enjoying myself too much. I could say the same for him…

We managed to catch a completely full, and I mean full-to-bursting-smooshed-against-the-windshield-bus.

Like on our trip to town, the driver didn’t take any payment, just smiled and waved us on.

One reason we wanted to make sure we got back by early evening is our meet-up with Nina and Peter. They had emailed alerting us to their heading back to Denmark. We responded saying there was plenty of room in our anchorage and hoped our schedules would mesh.

And, they did. And, we had another wonderful evening getting acquainted and enjoying their new abode, MISSOURI. They had just purchased and moved onto her three months ago as their permanent home, based in Copenhagen.

And what a home! Including an engine room you could walk in….

I won’t go into the drool-factor of their lovely boat but, trust me, if you dream of a five-star hotel, you’d be happy aboard MISSOURI. Especially with Nina and Peter as one’s hosts.

We had the lime-tinged drinks on the bridge that I had mused about

followed by dinner and a scrumptious cake baked by Peter.

But, the best part of the evening was feeling we had made two new friends. Meeting such wonderful folks is the true luxury of our lives.

 

Wishing for more time but knowing we each needed to go our separate ways, we left early the next morning for another meet-up, one we’d been hoping to do since we first met in Norway…

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