Home  / 2004 Log   / Åland


Date: August 14th to 21st 2004

Distance: 130 miles

Weather : Mixed. Winds mainly brisk SW (they would be wouldn't they...)

We arrived back from the UK late on a Friday night (10pm), and experienced the joys of a coordinated Swedish Public Transport system to get us back to Kissen, left at Norrtalje for 2 weeks. No problems.

The following day we got a taxi to the local supermarket to buy about a hundredweight of stores for the following two weeks. Somehow, despite Sweden having a poor reputation for its food, there’s more fun in this than going round the local Tesco. This time we were determined to try some local specialities, so some sild went in the trolley.

We left late in the day for a short run down towards Lidö, to spend the night nearer the coast in order to hop across to Mariehamn the following day. Österhamn was surprisingly busy, however our, by now well practised routine of tying up to rocks came into play, and we found a spot easily, although finding a crevice in the rocks for the pegs was not so easy. Lidö is rather open to the East, and not the place to be if it blew up, but the forecast was benign, so out came the BBQ and a bottle of wine.

The following day, the wind was (relatively) fair for the 25 miles or so across open water to Mariehamn in the Åland Islands. We ended up having a fine sail across, and discovered the new genoa goes well at 22 knots apparent with only one roll in it. We had some trouble finding the right entrance, but the ferries gave it away.

Mariehamn is a mecca for ferries travelling between Stockholm and Helsinki. This is because Åland is a destination in its own right, but more for the purposes of being able to sell duty free on board (as Åland is a ‘free trade’ area, it is technically ‘outside’ the EU). This explains why they arrive at 3.30am in the morning, and leave less than 15 minutes later. The timing of these ferries means that there tends to be a pile-up in the narrow river about midday.

Mariehamn is a pleasant spot, and we tied up in a blowy western harbour. Visiting in mid-August is seriously out of season. Only about 10 boats were in the marina, most of them Swedish. The town is about a mile from the marina, so out came the bikes.

After a days retail-therapy (Mariehamn is not that much of a shopping centre, but compared to the rest of the islands, it was Copenhagen), we sailed down through the islands to Rødhamn. The numerous routes, unusual chart system, and different bouyage all meant serious concentration, and took some getting used to, but at least we managed to sail all except the last mile or so. The colour of the rocks in this part of the world is glorious, and subtley different from those on the Swedish side – with more red in them.

Rodham is a favourite spot. With only one boat when we arrived, soon another handful joined us tied to the wooden quay. The harbour master (mistress) has a sideline in paintings for sale, and there is a small museum. The sauna can be booked for your own use. There are limited paths however, and the rocks can be treacherous when wet.

We left Rodham on Tuesday to set sail back to Sweden. There was rather too much motoring as the wind was light and flukey. After an uneventful crossing (a radio mast near Soderarm is visible almost in Åland which makes bearings much easier) we arrived in the absolutely beautiful little harbour in Arholma.

The marina, once again, is a simple wooden stage, with capacity for about 20 boats, but the setting is glorious, and a major attraction is the wood-burning Sauna, which once again, can be booked for your exclusive use. The quiet of the evening was punctuated periodically by naked Swedes running from the sauna down the landing stage to plunge into the cool water. Out came the BBQ again.

The following day, bad weather was forecast, and we needed supplies, so we motored the short distance to Gräddö. We ended up staying overnight, as the weather was delayed and couldn’t think of anywhere locally suitable.

We finally got bored of waiting in Gräddö and took a very wet trip, with an F6 on the nose, all the way back down to Finnhamn, eventually ending up in the large nature harbour of Träskö Storö. This was another gorgeous spot, even if we did tie up a bit close to the rubbish bin. Another BBQ on the rocks.

The shelter afforded by these nature harbours was brought home to us when we left the flowing day. We had been tied up in virtual calm and completely flat water. By the time we were back out in the channel (about 500 yards), we had a reef in and 23 knots over the deck.

We wended our way through the islands towards Stockholm. About half way to Vaxholm we met what I can only describe as a wall of boats coming towards us. It looked like the entire population of Stockholm had decided to leave at once, and head to the islands. Either that or nuclear war had been declared.

We arrived in Stockholm late in the day, having motored all the way. Wasahamnen, fortunately, was mostly empty, and we managed to tie up at the back against the wall.


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