Blog 12 Sweden- well, the first bit which includes a lot of stops on the way after leaving Christianso and arriving at Sandhamn beyond Karlskrona.
One of the things that sailors wish they didn't have to do is get up very early to "catch the tide" or something similar to do with the sea. Now wouldn't you think that in the Baltic where there are no tides that need would disappear - not a bit of it - for some reason many yachts leave at anything from 6 am onwards and I have known some start even earlier on occasions. I asked one of our neighbours why - he said it was because he liked to and it was the best part of the day - his wife rolled her eyes and kept quiet. We left at a reasonable time for Simrishamn, our first leg on the Swedish East coast trip which would eventually take us to Stockholm. A 6 hour fetch all the way ( no tacking required ) with the wind getting quite strong after 4 hours when a reefed main and genoa made the boat more comfortable yet without losing speed.
This harbour proved to be a good stopping place, lots of room, lots of facilities and a very neat little town - almost Danish in character - which is was a few hundred years back - cobbled streets, ancient low single story houses painted in traditional ochre, terra cotta, sage and olive. Our Dutch friends from a previous harbour sailed in during the day and kindly treated us to tea and cake on board - always useful to talk logistics and tactics as well.
A rest day seemed sensible now which meant rather than push onwards, I did an engine oil change, repaired the waste bin I had accidentaly torn off the under sink unit in my excitement, smartened up the outboard engine bracket with some stainless steel and a few jobs you wouldn't want to hear about. I felt good about all that and rescued a German couple from embarrassment as they were both coming in to the male showers. I apologised for spoiling her fun then showed her the right door - by the way, I was leaving at the time.
The fine weather continues with every morning a bright haze which clears quickly as it did today, then sunshine until sunset which gets ridiculously later and later. It is five to ten as I write, the birds still singing and broad daylight out there and at last I am cooling down - it was just too hot today. A windless motor passage to Århus - not the Danish one - this is SE Sweden and an attractive river with smart houses running down to the waters edge. There is industry at the river mouth but we are parked in a yacht club across river from the town and its large ultra designer factory where they make Absolut vodka - it is more like a luxury hospital crossed with trendy riverside apartments, although it is true they have two gasometer like tanks - nicely coloured and patterned though - which presumably contain the worlds dose of vodka for the next decade. It was too hot to cook so we barbecued all sorts on the river bank including my favourite pud of barbecued whole nectarines in demerara sugar and a drop of cassis all wrapped in aluminium foil - and don't let it leak.
The last bit of navigation hinted at the change in the nature of the sea bed with scattered banks of shallows which require careful navigation - well buoyed and pretty easy stuff at the moment but we know that it gets more difficult from here on right up to Stockholm. The sand on the beach here at Århus is really so fine it is like white powder - egg timer sand and blows up into moving dunes running for 20Km and up to 20mtrs high we are told. Behind the dune, wetlands have formed and swathes of reeds and tall grass in seed waft a haze of gold and bronze giving cover to a host of water birds - further inland, glorious mixed woodland of broadleaf and conifer filter the sunlight through to the marina along the river and smart houses come down to the riverside and the boating world. For all that, not one shop in the town could sell me a Swedish data sim card for my dongle!
Arrived at Hano to find the harbour double packed and most yachts dressed overall with colourful signal flags from stem to stern, it was, we were to learn, the Mid Summer Festival weekend but managed to triple raft agains a yacht and a tiney motorboat on the inside - they seemed happy enough. It is a tiny island of rock 1Km x 2Km with one fishing harbour, about 60 traditional wooden houses and 11 inhabitants but very popular with the visitors.
Mid Summer Celebrations in full swing, the Swedes go bananas over this celebration - busily decorating a "Maypole" cross with two wreaths and everyone weaving flowers into it to add their own touch. Most women, children and some men were wearing magnificent crowns of leaves and flowers - a sense of thanks for all the good things Summer has brought as well as good riddance to Winter. Later in the day once the pole was erected a large crowd gathered to dance to a small band, accordian and guitar with a caller leading the very amusing dancing which was not unlike a cross between ring a ring a roses to the tune of My old mans a dustman so far as I could tell. There are some things the same internationally and sack races and that sort of thing with where adults make fools of themselves. The evening wore on with much barbecuing.
The island is a physical geographers delight where across the higher centre of the island, extraordinary parallel lines of moraine boulders graded from the size of a marble to a desk are piled up in bands 15 mtrs wide, some running for half a Kilometre following the exact melting edge of the glacier Southwards 10,000 years ago. Peculiarly there is an English graveyard where British sailors who died there from 1810 - 1812 are buried - Napoleonic War - sailing away the wooden cross on the hill top looks down over glacier polish bedrock to the sea. The island is a tribute to the way Sweden cottoned on to conservation decades ago and preserve such natural havens with the minimum impact from man - no vehicles here either just a few seasonal cabins to provide all a tourist should want - except wifi.
"MidSommar" found Karlskrona like a ghost town but without tumbleweed. Streets eerily deserted and windows shuttered, only an icecream parlour open to the inevitable queue tailing back in to the street - why do they do this? To pass the time we hit the Marine Museum which had many interesting displays - if you are an engineering nerd - both technical and physical e.g. that in the 17th C the navy moved from Stockholm to the newly built Karlskrona to avoid their fleet being frozen in for so long!
The Skerries begin around Karlskrona. They need careful navigation to avoid running aground or horror of horrors, hitting a submerged rock. Different channels converge and looking ahead there can be confusing buoys beyond or before the one you are heading for - a technique which worked well was to use coloured sticky arrows on the chart to show where you need to go and a roving sticky arrow to show where you are right at this moment - in addition to the chart plotter.
The passage to Sandhamn was a trial of nerves with shallows, narrow channels, rocks and beautiful islands close at hand and a 18 mtr clearance road bridge which in theory the boat would just pass under - in the event we made it in spite of the best efforts of a chain ferry which pounced out on us at the last moment when we weren't looking - it missed.
Two or three colossal thunder storms filled the sky for most of the afternoon. They were magnificent - like monstrous lead coloured jelly fish drifting across the horizon, extraordinary cloud formations hanging down lacey tendrils and carrying phenomenal wind energy with them. We waited for a while then borrowed harbour bicycles to search out Bronze Age stone carvings not far away - after 7 Km and fruitless forrays down forest tracks without finding them, we decided to be content with a soaking and a side order of hailstones before taking a look at a harbour we had passed en voyage. Dined out on smoked salmon at our harbour restaurant by way of a reward and watched the sun colour up a glorious late evening.