The ever elusive Moose
The Stockholm Archipelago offers a maze of 23,000 islands with the waterways offering the best sailing I have ever experienced anywhere in the world ever; flat water, terrific breezes and any number of places to drop an anchor for a swim or lunch stop. Even the smallest towns have special Guest Harbours reserved for visitors and all of them offer excellent facilities onshore. Sometimes, however, the boys and the girls get mixed up but no one seems to care.
This was my third trip to Sweden over 4 years and the weather was terrific; this year even better than terrific but not Swedish typical we were told. We swam comfortably at 60° North latitude under clear blue skies!
We shared the main fairways with ships of all sorts; cruise ships, ferries, cargo vessels and a host of yachts, mostly privately owned. Navigation is a minefield with the red and green channel markers swapping sides depending on whether you are leaving or arriving. I would never advocate these waters as a bareboat charter destination as there are lots of things to hit. We had a professional sailor with us and he was our pilot. He also fixed our boats when things went wrong, as they do on boats.
Next there were the Swedes who made our experience so special; sincerely friendly, English speaking, organized and with a mystery formula for life that conveys a certain peace with the world. Their families are tight and they seem to interact comfortably with each other. Many of them had spent extended working holidays in Australia and they have a nice custom of flying the Swedish national flag when they are home, apparently signifying that visitors are welcome!
They have a sharp sense of humor, which we experienced in Sandamn when a couple of guys walking the quay stopped in curiosity at the raft of Australian flags, and Maggie, thinking they were looking for someone said “Hi”. A discussion ensued during which I asked the Swedes a favor. “Will you please sing us your National Anthem”? They obliged with the condition that we sang them ours and then of course we had to have the Kiwis sing theirs as well. Big smiles all around as the surrounding crews looked on in polite amusement.
The southernmost port of call for us was Uto; tiny but places reserved for us in the guest harbor, our bows to the quay and again with the inquisitive Swedes asking how long it had taken us to sail from Australia! On the lay day we cycled as a group six miles through the forest to the southern end of the island for lunch at a simple restaurant serving seafood. The sun shone, everyone smiled and no-one fell over.
There was no sign of the iconic Swedish moose.
On another day we raced to Dolaro from Sandhamn where the Royal Sweden Yacht Club hosted our visit to their sailing headquarters. The wind blew on the nose at 15 knots and we tacked the whole way but we entered the lagoon at our destination in brilliant sunshine, just in time for a spectacular thunderstorm and very welcome down poor. In no time it was over and a truly magical evening emerged, with beautiful light and a clear atmosphere. Our post-race dinner at the Small Dolero Hotel overlooking the bay capped a perfect day.
Want to join the Sweden Yacht Rally next year? click here!