Tuesday, July 10 2018
After a social whirl on Orr’s and a mini-Bruce reunion in Vermont, we rode airplanes, buses and a train to reach JUANONA in Saltsjöbaden, a month after we had left her on a mooring. Anxious to restart our cruising, we thought of retracing our train ride a bit to provision but opted for the next morning. A wise choice considering we definitely looked like we’d been traveling 24-hours.
Wednesday-Friday, July 11-13
With a quick run for fresh food we left this convenient marina Wednesday morning to continue exploring the Stockholm Archipelago. Armed with other cruisers’ notes and suggestions we knew we’d land somewhere lovely. Yet, even better, our first night out we managed to coordinate meeting US yacht NIGHT WATCH. We had met David on Midsummer’s Day last year when we intercepted an organized cruise on Sweden’s west coast, an event David had helped organize.
This time he was researching for another cruise to take place in 2019 in this eastern archipelago. We arranged to meet in Finniskar. Cocktails and dinner offered the chance we’d been waiting for since leaving Holland: the unveiling of a HUGE cheese wheel. Purchased in Hoorn’s cheese shop and transported back to JUANONA on a rather wobbly bike, this hefty piece of dairy product had survived the voyage from Holland to Sweden intact (and no mold).
We were committed to eating it for a long, and I mean LONG time once we cut it, causing us to wait until the second half of our cruising season to start imbibing.
However, we found by gifting chunks to other cruisers the wheel is slowly disappearing, which is a good thing considering the inverse relation of diminishing cheese size to rising cholesterol scores.
At midnight we had waved good night to David, Noreen, Peter and Allan and dinghied the short distance to JUANONA. Thinking we had overcome any jet lag we shockingly awoke 10 hours later when NIGHT WATCH called good-bye as they motored past the next morning.
With the day half gone we decided to spend a second night, using the day to explore the island and perform rock yoga’ing (with the captain initiating a new pose).
The midnight sun, or a close approximation of one at this latitude, makes it a bit difficult to sleep. Night shades help, but often I wake up early in the morning. And, the reward comes from glancing out a porthole to this view at 3:28 A.M. Not complaining!
Friday-Saturday, July 13-14
We’d been spoiled by cruising in the uncrowded months of April, May and early June. In spite of everyone telling us not to worry that we’d always find a place to drop our hook, we approached mid-July with some skepticism.
However, all they said was true. With so many islands and such short distances between them (our typical traveling time between anchorages has been two to ten miles) there is always a place available. Because the Swedes generally prefer to tie to the rocks (eliminating a need for dinghy-towing), the surrounding harbor is left relatively boat-free for those who prefer to anchor, such as us.
Yet, being cruisers who prefer near-deserted anchorages we’ve approached a bay or cove only to do a Uey continuing to another saved waypoint on the chart. This time our Plan B meant heading for one of the busiest destinations in the archipelago: Sandhamn, aka Sandön…
which may seem odd considering our craving for fewer boats, the better. Yet, two anchorages close to Sandhamn offered tranquil spots. We chose Ostkobben, the smallest and nearest.
To prevent swinging we used our reel of white ’tape’ to tie the stern to shore for the first time and felt quite Swedish for doing so.
With a backward check on JUANONA
and a quick, half-mile sprint to town, we landed at the marina set up for a Volkswagen-sponsored regatta (which later included a helicopter we saw landing).
Making way for the motorized carts used in lieu of cars here [see Max parting a line of ferry-passenger traffic to assist a guy gingerly moving a refrigerator]
we meandered through the summertime vacationers and locals ending in front of a large yellow building, the old Customs House.
Situated on the main route to and from the Baltic to Stockholm, Sandhamn made a perfect spot for establishing a Customs outpost. And, since the 1600s this sheltered harbor became an official government port for assessing incoming goods. In 1752 a new customs house of stone, the sunny one greeting us, replaced the older wooden one.
Another historical activity involved pilots assisting ships in and out of port. Only royal vessels and those sailing to/from Estonia and Livonia (now part of Estonia and Latvia) had permission to use this route with nearby island farmers serving as occasional pilots. In the 1700s the route opened up to other ships increasing the need for full-time pilots. By 1754 19 pilots lived on Sandhamn and the nearby island of Ekon (our anchorage spot). Today only their boats reside here, easily identified by the orange color.
Our pace slowed down when a tree-taped flyer caught our interest. We thought it might be advertising an event we might want to attend.
But, one day of Sandhamn satiated any need to party in a holiday port or to extend our stay to visit the place named “Removable Flea” as per our on-the-fly Google translation.
Behind the main street ringing the harbor stood quaint wooden cottages. Bedecked in flowers and nestled close together, we understood why Swedes and non-Swedes alike describe Sandman as a must-see island town.
You can’t stroll through town without noticing your feet kicking up sand. So, we weren’t surprised to read of Sandhamn’s residents secondary occupation in the 1900s: selling sand and stone to ships for ballast.
At the top of a bluff overlooking the town we stood on one of the island’s last remaining sandpits,
with most of the others pits covered by planted pine trees to keep the ground in place.
Always on the lookout to replenish fresh fruit and veggies and offload trash, we made a lunchtime-run back into town the next day. As we walked to the market we noticed a long line of people. Coming closer we realized it was ‘dump day’.
Resembling industrious ants toting food to their nest, a seemingly endless trail of residents hauled a variety of typical refuse.
Of course, we neglected to bring the camera but Max asked someone snapping photos if he would email us some, which is how we ended up with these two (thank you or ‘tack’, Jonas!):
Saturday-Sunday, July 14-15
Time to exchange the quaintness of Sandhamn for the quietness of a sparser locale. Completing our purchases we upped anchor and pointed JUANONA to a spot just one mile to the west.
As we approached a narrow opening I prepped the anchor for launching and Max dropped speed to carefully maneuver through a shallow spot.
Yep, we hit bottom. Fortunately, the sound of hull meeting rock was the only drastic result of this event other than the chagrin on the captain’s face. Rechecking the chart we clearly saw ‘2.2’ meters (7.2 feet) as the depth. JUANONA draws 2 meters or 6.6 feet. Something was off.
Then we thought of the high pressure, and, sure enough, the consistently excellent weather we’ve been experiencing had a side effect of depressing the water level… in this instance, lowering it to less than what we draw. In speaking later with two other cruisers we learned a rising barometer could lower depths up to 25 cm (almost 10 inches) or more.
Lesson learned. So, exit this anchorage and off to another as you can see from the chart plotter…
We motored into two others only to feel as if we’d landed in a KOA campground for boats. But, there are always more islands offering crowd-free spots, which is how we landed at Granholmen for the night.
Sunday-Tuesday, July 15-17
During our cruising these past four years several anchorages have become my favorites. Faja Grande on Flores, the western-most island in the Azores, where Max, our friend Dick, and I landed after our 2014 crossing from Maine…
Another is Straumhamn in Norway’s Lofotens where I repressed the urge bubbling up to shout “Bali High!” as we sailed into a picture-book bay…
and, now I’ll add Sweden’s Stora Nassa to the list.
Imagine a huge giant picking up several gargantuan boulders, clapping them together then carefully separating the larger stones while sprinkling the pebbles here and there.
Okay, no huge guy banged rocks around but check out this grouping of islands found on the eastern edge of the Stockholm Archipelago as I scroll in on the chart to our location marked by the blue dot.
Pretty magical-a description uttered repeatedly by others we met here.
With many possibilities for beautiful anchorages we followed our usual pattern of selecting a deserted area, this one next to a bird sanctuary. Ensuring we wouldn’t swing into the preserve that covers a good portion of Stora Nassa, we dropped the hook and quietly absorbed the peacefulness.
During our first foray we spotted the second American boat we’d seen since leaving Hoorn April 13 (the first being s/v NIGHT WATCH a few days prior).
Introducing ourselves to the owners of s/v APRIA we invited Priscilla and John for drinks later that day.
Continuing on our tour we noticed a British flag. Being our usual brash selves we approached and met Tricia and Richard of s/v STAR GAZER and asked if they’d also join us (below: left to right, Richard, Tricia, Priscilla, and John).
For two nights we enjoyed getting to know these fellow cruisers, both of whom had come under the Baltic’s spell of lovely sailing and a plethora of beautiful places to explore.
Priscilla and John had crossed from Florida in 2002 and had sailed the Mediterranean and much of Europe’s waters. Tricia and Richard arrived in this area in 2013 and are still discovering islands to visit.
Of course small-world connections are found, which is how we learned that Priscilla and John are good friends with other cruising friends of ours. This discovery came when John mentioned his crewing on a boat this winter sailing from Buenas Aires, Argentina, to the southern tip of South America. Ironically, Max had almost joined that leg of the voyage.
During conversations I heard that Priscilla and John had been hit by a container one night. No hole in their boat but definitely an averted disaster. Being hit by a ship used to be my biggest fear; but, you can at least see them as opposed to the floating-box-accidents-ready-to-happen. The containers sit just below the surface becoming undetectable, and no plans seem to be in place to recover them or make them sink. Not good.
For two days we dinghied around finding numerous opportunities to scramble to the top of rocks for overlooks,
finding odd pieces of art sometimes,
enjoying tunafish sandwiches while swimming in the relatively salt-free waters of the Baltic Sea,
and, relaxing in the sun. I have to say Max is getting pretty good at his personal rock yoga’ing pose.
The wonderful joy of simply jumping into the water at any opportunity was only slightly dampened when I heard that Tricia and Richard spotted a small snake rapidly swimming away from shore next to their moored boat. At least these slithering beings would be easy to spot due to keeping their pointy little heads above water… right?
Oh well, we’ll just add swimming reptiles to the other cautions of venomous adders and lyme-bearing ticks. Paradise can’t always be perfect.
Our last night served as a good-bye toast with hopes of rendezvousing somehow, somewhere in the future.
Nothing like sharing a bit of heaven with kindred spirits.
Next: Closing in on Finland,,,