Category Archives: Europe

All About Zzzzzzeees

Sunday, September 23, 2018

“Do you know the rest of the alphabet too?”

That caption comes from a book just hitting stores now. Yes, it’s in Dutch and yes, there’s no English translation… yet. But, what we find so wonderful about this book is knowing one of the faces on the cover:  Deborah Freriks!

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Friday-Sunday, August 31-September 2, 2018

With a favorable Nothwest wind we left the luxury of Denmark’s Vejrø Island for Germany’s Kiel Canal. The canal is 60 miles long and night-time travel is not allowed for pleasure craft, which usually necessitates a stop at one of the few designated mooring spots along the canal. We chose to moor at the 85.4 km mark near the east end of the canal, a place we’d tied up twice before; last year heading back from Sweden, and this year heading into the Baltic.

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Some island hops before we sadly say ‘farvel’ to Denmark


Thursday-Sunday, August 23-26, 2018

After an amazing week of friends and festivities we sailed out of Copenhagen. Like many visitors, we, too, felt as if we could have stayed for a much longer time. Yet, we vowed to return, which eased the pain of seeing our home for the past week disappear in the distance. 

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Swedish coastal cruising continued…

Sweden’s Southern Coast

Tuesday-Tuesday, August 7-14

After spending five days exploring Aspo and Karlskrona, we hopscotched along the Sweden’s southern coast for a week. JUANONA berthed in three different marinas as few spots along the outer coast offered protected anchorages. Although eager to reach Copenhagen for a wedding, our cruising offered opportunities to visit some interesting sites; some more so than others, but all worth the tie-up.

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King Charle’s Crown


Thursday-Monday, August 2-6, 2018

As mentioned in the previous post the pretty island of Aspo served as a strategic defense for Sweden’s naval base, Karlskrona. Named after the Swedish King Karl (or ‘Charles’) XI who founded the base in late 1600s, Karlskrona (Karl’s Crown) grew into a thriving port. Only a 20-minute ferry ride–a happily FREE ferry ride, this city became our off-island excursion four out of the five days we stayed at Aspo’s boat club.


We had read about the stellar maritime museum located here, no surprise considering this area’s history; so, on our second day of touring we made it our first destination.





I know I have a tendency to yada-on and on about our museum visits, so I’ll endeavor to maintain a quick walk-thru…

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its naval history, Karlskrona spreads across three islands, Trosso, Bjorkholmen and Stumholmen (the Naval or Maritime Museum being on the latter),all protected by the fortresses on surrounding islands:Kurrholmen, Godnatt, Koholmen, Ljungskar, Mjolnareholmen, and the two sisters mentioned in the previous post, Aspo and Kungholmen.


One reason for the immediate success of Karlskrona came from King Charles XI (1655-1697)


forcing burghers and merchants to relocate there by pulling their licenses to trade in their own boroughs. Instant populating of a town, especially when considering the folks needed for the new dockyards and shipbuilding industry. From its founding in 1680 Karlskrona’s dockyard and navy base became one of Sweden’s largest employers.

Sweden’s military prowess owes a lot to Gustav Eriksson Vasa I (1568-1607) who became king in 1523 after rebelling against the Danes. To counter Denmark’s stronghold on the region’s trade and to defend against Danish invasions, Gustav began building a fleet of fighting ships and a strong army. His imposing Renaissance castle (below) is the one we visited in Kalmar earlier this summer.


A partner in Gustav’s efforts was the German Hanseatic League, which wanted to protect its prosperous trading routes and bases; thus, it supported Sweden’s growing military might with loans for shipbuilding and the hiring of mercenaries. This is a bit ironic considering 120 years earlier Denmark formed the Kalmar Union, an agreement with the Swedish and Norwegian aristocracies, to protect themselves from that League’s dominance…

Add in the British and Dutch whose foreign policies were guided by ensuring that none of the Scandinavian countries would control trade in the Baltic and you have, well, a squabbling mess of warring factions. And, of course, Russia’s navy created by Peter the Great (1672-1725)


had to join the fray. A great cartoon of the time would be these rulers huddled around the board game RISK throwing dice to see who invaded whom. Some things never, ever change.

So, is it surprising that Sweden chose ‘Dominum Maris Baltica’ (supremacy in the Baltic) as their guiding principle in international strategy?

British and Dutch shipwrights initially influenced Sweden’s shipbuilding methods. For example, King Charles X (1622-1654) recruited Francis Sheldon (1612-1692) from England in the 1650s. Sheldon, known for his temper, quit in 1672, only to return five years later to work in Sweden’s dockyard. (He designed the KRONAN, a ship whose recovered artifacts we saw in Kalmar). Eventually, his quarrelsome personality got the better of him and he exited the scene in 1686 (after being arrested and discharged from the Swedish navy) only to pop up as a senior shipwright with the Danish navy. Now that’s what I call hoisting a middle finger…

But, Sheldon left quite a legacy amongst Master shipwrights, with his sons continuing to play important roles in Sweden’s maritime industry. His son Charles Sheldon (1665-1739) built 59 ships during his reign as Master shipwright.


It was during his time that the prominent Swedish inventor and industrialist Christopher Polhem (1661-1751)


built the innovative dry dock at Karlskrona. In non-tidal waters the building and launching of ships becomes more difficult as you have to continually keep water out, as opposed to water that ebbs and flows.

Completed in 1724 it is known as the Polhem Dry Dock. FYI:King Charles XII (1682-1718)-note the pouty-lip resemblance to his dad-


wanted to connect the east and west coasts, and Polhelm began to design it; yet this waterway-the Gota Canal (aka ‘Divorce Ditch’ among boaters due to the number of locks one goes through to reach the end, and, no, Max and I haven’t taken it)-didn’t come to fruition until 100 years later.

Another key figure was Fredric Henric af Chapman (1721-1808). King Gustav III (1746-1792) commissioned a new fleet of ships in preparation for war with Russia (during Catherine the Great’s rule). Thanks to his standardizing of production and mathematical methods, Chapman cranked out 10 ships of the line (the latest battle ship at the time that would line up opposite enemy ship to unload a barrage of fire power) and 10 frigates (faster and lighter and used for escorting and patrolling) in three years. Previously it would take several years for just one! As a museum guide later told us, forget Henry Ford:  Chapman was the true father of automation.

Thanks to King Adolf Frederik (1710-1771)


this historical knowledge was preserved. Recognizing the importance of collaboration, in 1752 he designated three cities–Gothenburg, Stockholm, and Karlskrona–to maintain an inventory of ship models and construction drawings. However, his creation of shipbuilding repositories is likely overshadowed by the unfortunate fact that he ate himself to death. 

The exhibits featured not only models of ships


but also other inventions, many of which never went beyond the prototype stage, such as this wooden submarine (attributed to a pupil of Polhelm) powered by four paddle wheels.


The dockyard employed an international crew of craftsmen, many of whom were illiterate and/or didn’t understand Swedish. Which is why visual art-scaled models, paintings, and drawings-provided the instruction of how to build the ships.


Karlskrona gained a reputation for its shipbuilding, resulting in espionage by other countries. Proof of such was found relatively recently at Denmark’s Naval Officers’ Bureau: a November 1721 copy of the above dry dock plans. For those countries lacking tidal waters (like Sweden) this document would prove invaluable.


By now my brain was overloaded with details of shipbuilding. Time for upstairs with its exhibits on life aboard in the early days with displays depicting such gruesome events as amputating a sailor’s leg (note the expression on the guy holding the leg…)


And the Cold War years (the political climate is fairly chilly now with regards to Russia and the other Baltic countries).


With Max checking out the buffet lunch (he loves those buffets like I adore pizzas), we opted for a lunch break


before entering the next exhibit: the submarine hall highlighting submarines.

Here two subs, the high-tech HMS Neptune and Hajen, aka ‘the Shark’, filled the room with a timeline of Sweden’s 110-year history of submarine development lining the walls.

We could walk through the large sub


and see part of the smaller one but what caught my eye were the black-and-white photos placing Sweden’s evolution of its submarines within the larger context of key events, both in Sweden and internationally.

I barely noticed the submarine drawings as my eyes alighted on the array of images. For each decade there were at least three or more photos documenting notable occasions (and, it was interesting to note many highlighted women). Below is just a sample:

1909 The first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature:  Selma Lagerlof 


1936 Unemployment and homelessness during the Depression in the U.S.


1950 North Koreans flee to South Korea during the Korean War


1958 Apartheid in South Africa with separate stands for blacks and whites


1961 Margit Claesson becomes the first female bus driver in Sweden


1967 Sweden switches to right-hand traffic at 4:50 AM (its neighboring countries drove on the right).


In addition to the photos the description of life aboard both fascinated and made me thankful I wasn’t on one:  The first submarine had no bunks, no way to prepare hot meals, and-even worse-no toilet. Yet, I also learned the early subs would patrol on the surface, diving only briefly to engage the enemy.

Today, two crew members do ‘hot bunking’, i.e., one sleeps in a bunk when the other is on duty, have hot showers once or twice weekly, and eat every six hours. Still, you are submerged in a metal sausage floating in the ocean.

Exiting this exhibit we went for a quick stroll by two ships docked outside, then left with a boatload of info swimming in our heads.

Yet, we did visit another maritime building a few days later. Max had read about the Ropewalk, once the longest one in Europe and still Sweden’s longest wooden building.


Since 1692 tradesmen made rope here from scratch to use as lines aboard their ships. The building we were going to see stretched to more than 300 meters long and had been in operation until 1960.  We had seen a display about this trade on the Maritime Museum including photos from the 1900s (the one below shows men getting ready to spin the carded material).


Intrigued, we thought it would be a mistake to overlook this site.

Because the island of Lindholmen is part of Karlskrona’s active naval base, we needed to use our passports to book the tour. Transported by the hop-on-hop-off boat, we were met by a volunteer guide associated with the Karlskrona Dockyard Society. His organization was responsible for a lot of the preservation of these historical naval structures. A current project is the construction of a square-rig hull to demonstrate the shipbuilding techniques before the use of modern equipment.

*In 2017 the 2009 marketing idea to install webcams overlooking Karlskrona backfired when a local noticed the comings and goings of Sweden’s fleet of five, non-nuclear subs. After a bit of a spat, the town agreed to remove them. We had spotted radar-deflecting ships like the new ones built at Bath Iron Works when on the ferry from Aspo but, once on the base, we couldn’t take photos of the vessels.

Since only two tourists had signed up for the visit-that being we-the guide treated us to a private tour. This meant we peppered him with questions, the poor guide, as he unraveled the process of rope-making. We even had the opportunity to make a piece of rope using a contraption we’d seen in the historical photos.


It’s easy to forget the pipeline of supplies needed to equip a navy, but standing in this building quickly brings the importance of trades, such as rope-making, to the forefront.


Because the materials shorten as they’re twisted, the building’s length matched the specification for making the standard length of rope. He pointed out the measurements noted on the wall, with one dating from the origins of the building.


**Rope on boats is renamed a bunch of different terms. If just sitting there, it’s just a rope but once it’s used for a specific task it becomes a ‘line’. (

And, trust me, there are a LOT of those terms… A line for pulling sails in/letting them out is a ‘sheet’… rope running up the mast is called ‘halyard’ and ‘downhaul’ for pulling it down… The lines, sometimes steel cables, keeping a mast in place are ‘shrouds’ or ‘stays’ specified ‘forestay’ and ‘backstay’ depending on whether fore or aft… Ropes for tieing up are ‘docklines’ or ‘warps’. And, there are ‘anchor lines’ fender lines’, etc. Two exceptions of a rope actually called a ‘rope’ are ‘bolt rope’ (attaches to end of a sail) and ‘bell rope’ (rings a ship’s bell) But, it does start out being called ‘rope’! Hence, our standing in the Ropewalk.

Several different raw materials were used, and he pointed out one of them, hemp in its natural state.


Like making yarn, the men carded it, spun it by walking backwards, then wove it together.

The last step is what we did, which is twisting it, bringing one end of the contraption towards the stationary end as the rope shortens.


We discovered our guide was one of the few authentic ropemakers as he demonstrated what constitutes a satisfactory rope:  letting it hang to create a loop, then bringing his hands together to create a circle. If the rope hung evenly and didn’t twist, we’d passed our exam


with his final test:the old rope trick :)


Handing it to us with Max exclaiming how he loves that tarry smell (me, not so much).

Running a bit long due to our questions, we quickly went through a second construction building, along with a quick walk-by the Polhem dry dock.


Hurrying back to the ferry for our pick-up, we thanked the guide and wished our time had been longer. I have to admit I almost passed on joining Max for this tour and am so thankful I didn’t. Plus, the rope trick was pretty special :)  


During our trips into Karlskrona we strolled around other parts of the city. On Friday and Saturday the Skargardsfest Festival was on. Begun to celebrate some specific event or another, it is now held annually just because, as one Swede told us, who wouldn’t want a party? Made perfect sense to us. 


We also stopped by one on our way back to the ferry to Aspo (which we always seemed to be running to catch).


This festival promoted environmental issues including a recycled fashion show, the best being an outfit of stuffed animals serving as large odd-shaped pompoms.


And, although comprised of teens and twenty-year-olds, some of us oldies enjoyed the occasion.


Our last stop had been on my list since landing in Sweden. Although New Zealand, United States and Australia rank highest in  per capita consumption of ice cream, Sweden’s right up there. I had to try it, right?

So, we located a shop that always had a line the door and added ourselves to the queue (I have to say people are very patient line-waiters In this part of the world; makes for a very relaxing and refreshing standing time, one I hope will rub down some of my normal impatience).

Thinking I’d go for gold, I ordered three scoops only to watch in dumbstruck horror that their ‘single scoop’ amounts to a packed three! Once my eyes popped back into my head and my mouth changed from an extreme 0 to forming words, I was able to stop her at two scoops. And, THAT is how I ended up with the largest ice cream cone I’ve ever held. 


And what a delectrable mess that was :)


And, I did share with Max, the professed, non-sweet eater. Uh-huh, right…

The next day we untied our lines and left Aspo and Karlskrona, a perfect blend of island-city touring.


Oh, and that smelly rope? That rope remained just ‘rope’–no way was that being employed on JUANONA–so, it proudly hung on the stern in Max’s backpack, which had also acquired that sweet-smelling aroma (sweet according to my husband).


Next, onwards to another celebration we’d been looking forward to all summer…







ASPO-lutely wonderful!


Thursday-Tuesday, August 2-7, 2018

As I’ve mentioned before, other cruisers’ notes provide an excellent resource when exploring new areas. The information comes from online articles, sailing organizations’ websites, and conversations boat-to-boat. Reviewing the boatload (pun intended) of information landed us on Aspo, an island described as a gem by fellow visitors. 

One reason for making this our destination was Aspo’s location relative to Karlskrona, Sweden’s primary naval port since the late 1600s. King Charles XI relocated the navy from Stockholm because the spring ice thaw arrived earlier than in the Stockholm Archipelago further north.


In 1998 Karlskrona, also on an island, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its  Baroque architecture and town layout, the naval dockyard, and the military fortifications. Displays at the maritime museum (yes, another one of those!) explains how the Swedish navy became such a force on the Baltic, something I’ll get into later (oh, lucky you…).

But, back to Aspo. Sitting at the entrance to Karlskrona, this small island played a fascinating role in Swedish history. Thanks to another island (Kungsholm)1200 meters (3/4 mile) directly opposite Aspo, the Swedes constructed two forts each loaded with cannon shooting balls halfway to one another. Grouped at different heights, the cannons had more of a chance to hit a moving target, ie a ship. 

This 17th-century map shows the two islands (Aspo is on the right) with Karlskrona at the bottom.)


Max is demonstrating his juvenile side. And, if you can tear your eyeballs away from him, you may spot JUANONA in the background on the right.

In short, any hostile vessel attempting to reach Karlskrona had to first pass through this double line of fire. 

Drottingskar Citadel was designed by the military architect Erik Dahlbergh (1625-1703) who also planned the new town of Karlskrona. Built over fifty years (1680s-1730s) it’s an impressive stone building enhanced with walls, ramparts and a moat.

Several blueprints of the structure explain the different parts, which I tried to keep straight to no avail.

However, I did wonder about the high ceilings on the top (third) floor compared to such low ones on the other two floors. I later discovered the height allows the air to clear from all the smoke from the cannons lined up down the length of the building.

Along with its cousin across the way, Aspo’s citadel stood as a major deterrent – so much so that it was never involved in a battle! Admiral Nelson was reputed to have deemed it impenetrable.

The Brits weren’t the only foreign powers who avoided this bristling gauntlet of guns. OSupposedly, when Russian forces refused to attack Karlskrona because of having to sail through the strait, Catherine the Great furiously exclaimed, “If it wasn’t for that grey louse, I would soon capture Karlskrona.” The ‘grey louse’ being the low and wide, grey-stone Drottingskar Citadel.

Erik Dahlberg, if he’d been alive then, would have loved hearing that. As it was, he was so pleased with the outcome of Drottingskar he proclaimed “there can hardly be a more beautiful citadel along the entirety of the coasts of Europe.” Obviously, not shy about blowing his own horn (shooting his own cannon?), he commissioned a plaque for the entrance identifying who designed the fortress. If you notice, his name is as large as the king’s… 

Yet, Dahlberg has been linked to the famous French military engineer, Maquis de Vauban (1633-1707). He’s the guy known for his brilliance in siege craft and fortification design. If you’ve stood in a fort in France, there’s a good chance it was one of the 37 new ones he constructed or one of the 100 he renovated.

Decommissioned in 1871, Drottingskar operated as a military barracks and store. Unchanged (except for a restaurant in the commander’s little house in the middle of the fort) and undamaged, this citadel is a fascinating part of Karlskrona’s UNESCO designation. 

We didn’t know any of this until we toured Aspo. We weren’t even sure we’d be able to dock at this island because only one small boat club offered a few (six) guest moorings. The alternative being a large city marina in Karlskrona, we decided to at least stop on our way and check it out. Good choice!

Not only did a prime spot alongside the outer wall offer an easy landing,

we had a kind young man offer to help with our lines. Which is how we met Fines (accent over the “e”) and Hanna. 

Sharing cups of coffee with them we found out he’s from Miami (originally from Cuba) and she’s Swedish. They both are interested in cruising, with Fines living on his boat back in the U.S. In the midst of applying for visas (Swedish for him, US for her) they were taking a friend’s sailboat for a shakedown cruise. Always great meeting people such as them. Just wish there were more opportunities to re-meet later.

Taking a photo in our cockpit,

Hanna then offered to take some with their Polaroid. With a tripod and this little camera loaded with individual photo cards, she commemorated our meeting.

The club reminded us of our Orr’s-Bailey Yacht Club, also operated all by volunteers.

When paying for our nights there, we’ve met several members as each one takes a turn during the summer to staff the office. One was a history buff, and I’m sorry I didn’t have more time to speak with him but a needed shower took priority.

We saw a lot of these hybrids of motor bike and wheel barrow, which would have been fun to use.

But, bikes were what was available. So, we rented those during our stay. We toodled around the island, not really knowing where we were heading (in spite of a map).

Along the relatively car-free roads we spotted painted posts topped with small signs. 

One of the more memorable ones described how a large stone served as a stopping point halfway between the church and the other side of the island. A story attached to the stone described how a priest saved this piece of rock by paying a stone cutter not to use it for building a road. It was a nice stone…

Being an important military location, the citadel was only the first defensive construction on Aspo. During WWII and the ensuing Cold War Sweden loaded up the area with guns and underground structures. We stopped at one only to learn the two steel doors we were standing in front of

led to the atomic fall-out shelter of the central command four stories down (!). And, it’s still operational along with one of the three guns (minus ammunition), the electric generators, sleeping quarters, kitchen, eating facilities, medical quarters, workshops and much more. 

NOTE:  Sweden, once the buffer between Russia and part of Europe, stands ready. Its military conscription, begun in the 19th century and abolished in 2010, was just recently reinstated  (2017). The reason? Not enough citizens signing up for military service and ‘a change in security situation in the world’ (noted on a display at the Maritime Museum). With the mounting tensions in the Baltic (we’ve heard of joint naval exercises occurring in this sea), no surprise to read of Sweden’s preparation for any unknown crisis cropping up.

Thinking these gun batteries and underground forts were all the military items we’d see on Aspo we discovered the Museum for Mobile Coastal Artillery.

Appropriately camouflaged (or so it seemed to us who’d ridden by the dirt road into this site at least once before) we stumbled upon the museum after following a cycle path through the woods and spotting some big guns.

Paying our entrance fee we were handed an English translation by one of the two seemingly ex-military reception guys and began to wander through a large warehouse of artillery and support equipment. Three small rooms off to the side provided a historical background documented by portraits of former commanders, photographs of soldiers, some history of the MCA (my abbreviation), and citations. We moved pretty quickly through those rooms soon returning to the main part of the exhibit.

Even with the English notes I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking at. Of course, part of the non-understanding was I really didn’t care too much about seeing guns, trucks and accessories.

That was until one of the museum guys (definitely ex-military) headed our way. Thankfully, his explanations turned the drab objects into a technicolor of–to me–’OMGs’. For instance, initially all I saw was a big ole army truck with a big ole gun decorated with leaves.

Yet, he told us the ‘bullets’ it shot could travel up to 30 kilometers…

while heading for a target precisely identified using radar and laser equipment.

He pointed out a vehicle with a photo mounted in front. Turned out this was one of the many abandoned trucks, etc., on Omaha Beach rescued from rusting to death by the Swedes. They repaired them and then drove over a 100 of the vehicles up to Sweden to use for defense.

Another reminder of how a human voice can add a lot to one’s enjoyment of a site.

Our time on Aspo wasn’t all filled with weapons of destruction and times of war. One fine day (actually all of them have been fine with many a bit too hot) we cycled to a possible swimming hole on the other side of the island. Deciding another beach would be better but this one a perfect picnic spot we plopped ourselves down and pulled out some delicious tuna-fish sandwiches.

Which always reminds us of Chris and Karina who share our hankering for this meal, especially when by the water.

Checking out two other swimming sites we returned to JUANONA and simply jumped off the boat, checking for any errant jellyfish prior to diving in. In the heat this water was a godsend. Always refreshing and never so salty that you felt encrusted afterwards. Some cruisers said they didn’t even feel the need to rinse off.

Not moi. As far as I’m concerned, any salt travelling on one’s body from deck to cabin leaves a trail of moisture-capturing crystals that can turn a non-sticky seat cushion or bedsheet into a humid hot potato. For that reason I always use fresh water, which is how I ended up taking buckets from the nearby water spigot on the dock to douse myself with lovely clean, salt-free water. 

Yet, it was on one of those occasions that I noticed a snake slithering from one side of the dock to the other. Even if it was no thicker than a pencil or longer than a ruler it still counted as a snake, enough to make me keep a look out whenever traipsing from our boat to the club located on the other side of the harbor…

Aspo offered plenty of cycling routes, one where Max played Forest Ranger to clear a recently fallen tree.

Having read about a cemetery holding victims from the bubonic plague we just had to find it. After all, we will never miss an MDT (Max Disaster Tour) opportunity…

Not really finding it we did see an old tree with a navigational beacon mounted on it. A plaque nearby explained seafarers used this tree at least since the mid-1800s to navigate to Karlskrona. 

Definitely true as the government purchased it in 1861 to ensure this navigational mark remained operational. We didn’t see it from the water as our course pointed in the other direction.

During our bike rides we kept noticing a sign stuck in front of many homes on the west side of Aspo. 

Curious we finally broke down and did a Google Translate. Still puzzled, we asked one of the Swedes about the phrase. He smiled and said, yes, it means ‘Fiber for the Future’ –  fiber optic cable is coming to your street. At that, Max and I both laughed as HE thought it meant fiber as in eat-your-cereal-fiber’s-good-for-you and I thought it meant use-local-yarn-as-our-fiber-cottage-industry-is-important. Hah! You’d think we were Luddites!

With the winds aligned for making our way to Copenhagen we left for Simrishamn, a port on the coast 53 miles southwest. And, I’ll write about that soon but next up… where the ferry rides from Aspo took us… :)