Date: May 30th to June 5th 2005
Distance : 108 miles
Weather : Rain. Then more rain. Wind mostly under 5 knots.
Having finally escaped from the marina on Monday, we trucked across Lake Mälaren for a spot of culture at Mariefred. Gripsholms castle is where the Swedish royal family used to decamp to in the winter, back in the 1600s. Nowadays, its home to the Swedish National Portrait Collection. All I can say is that there are an awful lot of famous Swedes that I've never heard of. Personally, I think the collection is flawed. They reputedly have over 4,300 pictures, but not a single one of the most famous Swede of all - Ulrika Johnsson!
Outside the castle is a rune stone. Apparently, Ingmar the Far-Travelled has loads of rune stones erected in his memory all over Sweden. This one was erected by his mother, Tola to his lesser known brother, Harald. Presumably this was in some form of compensation in view of the fact that Harald didn't get out much.
The castle is stunning, although the picture perfect brick exterior is a fake. The walls are actually covered in white plaster, but to give a nice pleasing effect, they are painted red and brick outlines drawn on the walls. Inside, the most impressive part is Gustav IIIs personal theatre. It's about the size of a railway waiting room, with a royal box and only about 30 seats, but its design and decoration makes it look 10 times the size. No photos can do it justice; you simply have to see it.
We liked Mariefred. It has a charm and the setting is wonderful. It may also be that on the occasion we visited, the mooring was head-to-wind. After the bump and grind of Pampas, the peace was wonderful.
We left Mariefred with a light North-Westerly and sun forecast. Following a short (but delightful) sail up the fjord, we ran slap-bang into a thunderstorm.
Mälaren is criss-crossed by a number of low bridges which only lift once an hour according to some obscure local code. Whatever the code is, we failed it completely, always arriving at a bridge just after it had just lift. We arrived at Strängnäs sometime before midnight.
Strängnäs turned out to be rather nice. They had laid on the Army Band, especially for our arrival. Actually, the tunes they played in the afternoon were military band stuff, superbly played. At the following concert in the evening, they went all strange and re-enacted an edition of 'It a'int half hot mum'. I think the Royal Marines perhaps could show the Swedes a thing or to.
We left Strängnäs in bright sunshine. Within minutes it was pouring down. It poured down for the next three days.
The next destination was Sundbyholm. The main business here is a seriously upmarket hotel, and the Slott has been turned into a restaurant, but the grounds have been made into a glorious picnic destination for all. There is a small beach, excellent for kiddies, and a 1km long leafy promontory set up as a barbeque picnic area. If the weather hadn't been so awful, it would have been glorious. As compensation however, the marina (right next door and part of the hotel) has wireless internet laid on, so we could listen to Radio 4!
If the weather had been better, we would have stayed, but with rain forecast (yes, more) we decided to make for Västerås. At least there we could enjoy civilisation (!) whilst it poured. We arrived, to run aground in the marina, (supposed to be 2m) however the bottom appeared to be soft, so we bounced our way into the quay.
The following day, Saturday, it poured. Boy did it pour. Even the harbour mistress called the weather 'a catastrophe'. On balance we think 'Stockholm' (sorry, Västerås) is a good stopover. The marina facilities are excellent, the town has everything you want, and there are lovely sculptures everywhere, and the 'old town' has much charm.
On Sunday, we decided to escape from the permanent rain cloud over Västerås, and had (for once) a nice sail back eastwards across Northern Mälaren to Kolarudd, where we finished the evening trying out their wood burning bastu (in the rain...)