From Stockholm we sailed out towards the end of June to enjoy some of the islands in the archipelago, or skärgärden which means ‘garden of skerries’ in Swedish. As we meandered through the maze of narrow channels past numerous of the thousands of islands that make up the area, we were treated to the sights of many beautiful summer houses on rocky shores, landing stages, saunas, beaches, cattle grazing on the water’s edge and the long sun-drenched days of a Scandinavian summer. Sunset at around 23.00 and it never getting totally dark at this time of year, with dawn at around 03.00 took a bit of getting used to. Such a dramatic change from the 12 hours of daylight and darkness in the tropics, where enjoying a sun-downer definitely meant having a drink at 18.00 watching the sun set. Here it was open to interpretation!
Photos of not-so-modest summer houses in the archipelago. The banner with the yellow and blue colours of Sweden flies when the owner is in residence – perhaps for just two or three months a year!
Deciding which islands to explore was difficult enough and sailing even short distances demanded concentration – paper and electronic charts plus a good look out being absolutely essential!
Just about 10 nm or a couple of hours from Stockholm lies Vaxholm – a busy little place with ferry traffic coming and going in what appeared to be all directions taking holidaymakers and those with summer houses on more remote islands to their destinations. Some of the islands are so small, they are only accessible by small boat. We put in to the friendly marina, having previously made a telephone reservation for an alongside berth (as mentioned earlier, in Scandinavia the VHF is seldom used apart from commercial shipping).
Just to the east on its own island is the imposing 16th century fortress of Vaxholm. Accessible only by small ferry the fort was built to protect Stockholm, and notably repelled naval attacks by Denmark and Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Moving on from there our favourite spots were Gällnö and Ladnaon. Anchoring in such idyllic rural settings after just a few hours at sea was such a novelty for us, as was taking the dinghy ashore and walking for an hour or so.
We continued east to Sandhamn or the Cowes of Sweden on the island of Sandön which is home to the Royal Swedish Yacht Club (KSSS) and host to many regattas. In fact the marina was so busy, we anchored off at the peaceful and nearby island of Björkö and used the dinghy to get to Sandhamn. At the time Sandhamn was celebrating the finish of the annual Round Gotland Race. Organised by the KSSS it starts in the centre of Stockholm, goes offshore into the Baltic, round the island of Gotland and ends in a fanfare at Sandhamn. Crowded though it was we stayed for a couple of days and enjoyed a superb meal at the Sandhamns Värdshus which dates back to 1672 and looks out over the marina and surrounding islands.
From there we sailed and weaved our way the 40 nm for a night at anchor at Idöfladen, the jumping off point for our passage (all 34 nm of it) northeast to the Åland Islands.