And with the first part of that title, I’m referring to
I actually stole it from the language program the Swedish
government provides to new immigrants – ‘Swedish for Immigrants,’ it’s called.
It’s abbreviated ‘SFI’, and the locals like to change the meaning of that last
I think it more or less appropriately describes our
situation on Arcturus over the past
week. This is the first time we’ve cruised the Stockholm archipelago (I don’t
really count the time we brought the boat over from the west coast last year –
that was more a delivery trip than anything, and we never saw the archipelago
proper, rather sailed right on through it).
I’ll sum up the past three weeks in one long paragraph. Here
goes. After Micah came from Annapolis to help us install the new Beta 16 motor
(check out next month’s Spinsheet for
that story), Mia’s friend Johanna helped us step the mainmast and came along
for the maiden voyage with the new engine. The next day, Mia’s little brother
Erik came by to step the mizzen mast, and we spent the weekend cleaning up the
boat and getting ready to move onboard. We had a long trip out of Lake Mälaren,
due to the fact that Danviks bridge in Stockholm was closed for the summer, so
we had to take a lengthy detour through Södertälje and nearly around Landsort,
a long peninsula that sticks out into the Baltic south of Stockholm (we managed
to sneak through a small inshore passage, a fantastic little exercise in
close-quarters sailing. We made the German guy under power in front of us look
a fool). Our vacation began in the midst of this, and since then we’ve been
enjoying our cruise en route to Åland, the archipelago about 40 miles out into
the Baltic that belongs to Finland, but who’s people speak Swedish and have
their own flag. This evening we’re moored bow-to the public pier on the outer
island of Möja, in Berg, a small fishing village whose history dates back
centuries. Which brings us to the present.
The cruising here in Sweden is decidedly unique. It takes
some getting use to. For one, the navigation is crucial. The chart is littered
with rocks and islets, some just
below the surface, with narrow and winding passages connecting different fjärds, or more open fairways of water (the entire archipelago, if you count the visible rocks, contains upwards of 100,000 islands!).
The further east into the archipelago you get, the harder this becomes – there
are less marks, and the water is more exposed, as out here the islands become
rockier and smaller. Thus far we’ve managed to navigate mostly without GPS,
only occasionally plotting our position on the paper chart to double check. The
landscape goes by so quickly, and there are so many recognizable islands and
rocks, that it’s pretty easy to follow along the chart, marking off your
progress, but you’ve got to pay attention.
Interestingly, there are no tides here, and incidentally, no
currents, which makes things considerably easier. And in summertime, the
weather is mostly fair, with light breeze. Three and four knots is all we’ve
been able to make for most of the way, but it’s plenty fast when there are so many
hazards around and so much to look at.
The cruising here is even more unique for the style of
anchoring everyone employs. In short, this is accomplished by laying a stern
anchor maybe 50 or 100 feet offshore, and nosing the bow in towards a cliff or big rock.
The bowman then simply steps off the boat and ties off to a tree or metal ring
that’s been installed in the rock. I’m guessing this is one of the few places
in the world where the conditions are such that this is even possible –
protected hidey-holes, no tides and steep shorelines. Boats of all types and
sizes do this – sail and power alike – and it looks almost foolish when there
is a bay full of boats anchored like this and only one or two anchored
And it’s incredibly convenient, if not a bit intimidating at
first. Our first go at it, down near the bigger island of Utö, it took us two
tries to get it right, but we did. Yesterday the pressure was on in a little
hideout on Biskopsön, as there were about a dozen other boats standing by
watching as we pulled in on the opposite side of the little bay. Normally I
don’t mind this, but when it’s something new and something I’m not comfortable
with – heck, I wasn’t even sure we were doing it right, for that matter – it
makes me a little tense. I tend to whistle when I’m focused, and yes, I’m aware
of the bad luck associated with whistling on a sailing boat. It makes the
tension even worse.
It’s actually been very cool to watch other people, cool as
cucumbers, approach the cliffs like this and tie up as if it were the easiest
thing in the world. Mia and I have been taking notes. We saw a young couple
about our age pull in next to us down near Utö – they nosed all the way into
the shoreline to check their intended spot for submerged rocks, then circled back around to drop
the stern anchor and do it again, this time for real. We adopted that tactic
today, again with onlookers present, and the first time we’d be coming in
alongside someone else, fenders lowered (in fact, an interesting aside here is
that by anchoring this way, you can fit vastly more boats into small places
than otherwise possible anchoring off. At Biskopsön, we counted 18 boats in a
bay that would only have accommodated maybe 4 or 5 laying at anchor in the
It’s slightly off topic now, but I have to add that we spent
¾ of our time on the water flying the Parasailor that the guys in Germany sent
us for a test spin this summer. It’s been sitting in Mia’s parents’ house now
for the last six weeks as we dragged out that repowering project to the limit,
and now finally we got a chance to use it (I wanted to fly it offshore
yesterday, when we made a big jump out and around the archipelago, in the
Baltic proper, but Mia wisely shot that idea down. It was overcast and breezy
in our little hideout, but when we got offshore, it was downright windy. We
ended up blasting along under double-reefed mainsail and reefed down genoa,
making 6-7 knots in a rather rough sea – compared to what we’d gotten
accustomed to sailing inshore – and I’m sure now in hindsight that the crinkly
new Parasailor would not have survived that afternoon. So good call Mia).
ANYWAY, we did use
it today, finally, for several hours. My first impressions are that it’s
ridiculously well-made – the freaking bag that it comes in is a work of art on
it’s own, what with it’s compression straps and aluminum-coated bottom. The
thing packs away like a down sleeping bag. The sail we ended up with is
slightly too big for Arcturus, but
given the choice of a little too big or a little too small, that was an obvious
decision. I will still admit that the sails trademark ‘wing’ in the middle
remains a bit intimidating – god forbid we ever wrap it around the headstay –
but it did sail pretty nicely. Granted, it was flat calm and only blowing about
5-8 knots, but I liked it. The jury is still out on whether or not it’s a huge
improvement over a traditional symmetrical spinnaker – for that I’ll need to
really sail it offshore when a sea is running – but it is pretty freaking cool.
And it’s nice and crinkly new!
So that’s that. I’m kind of caught up to the present, minus
a few details. One more stop tomorrow in the archipelago and then we’ll make
the jump over to Åland, which
should be about a 40 or 50 mile sail, depending on where we end up tomorrow
evening. The days are already getting shorter here in Sweden. It’s dark now,
actually dark, by 10pm, and weirdly this is the last weekend of the summer high
season (it’s August 10!). But we’re enjoying this coastal sailing more than I
thought I would – it feels pretty good to step ashore each night and explore
these new places. I’ll be ready for another ocean sail soon, I’m sure, but for
now, I’m happy being mellow.
Family dinner in Enköping…we started this cruise where last years ended.
Awesome sunset outside Södertälje. Long day!
Furling the mainsail outside Södertälje.
First stop out of Lake Mälaren! Andy took this on his morning swim.
The German ketch motoring through the inside passage in Landsort – we sailed!
Andy and Mia in Ålö.
Arcturus moored Swedish style in Ålö.
Swedish mooring in the archipelago. Welcome aboard, Mia!
Our jumping photo! In Ålö, with Arcturus in the background.
Mia dumping her rain catch for the evening in the water tank.
Mia’s rain catching awning in action in Ålö.
Mia ready for a morning swim in Biskopsön
Nice view over the harbor in Biskopsön.
A typical scene in the outer archipelago – no way this many boats would fit all anchored in the middle!
Biskopsön mooring in the outer archipelago.
Arcturus’ lonely mooring on Biskopsön.
Morning swim time in Biskopsön!
Finally ‘Parasailing’ in the archipelago!
Careful navigation in the outer archipelago, sailing under the Parasailor.
German sail training ship outside Möja.
Thor Heyerdahl seems an odd name – he was Norwegian!
Typical red cottages on the islands outside Stockholm.