|Aland and Stockholm Archipelago
Date: June 19, 2003, 9:30 PM Lat: 59° 26’.68 North; Longitude: 18° 46’.63 East
Anchored off of Träsko Storö, Stockholm Archipelago, Sea of Aland
Wind: SSW @ 8 knots Temp: 55 F Skies: Clearing after Rain
Barometric Pressure: 1000.9, down 18 millibars in the last 24 hours, and still falling...
Apsara now has 506 miles under her keel. Since our last report, she has sailed 188 miles back into
Finnish waters to the autonomous island of Aland, followed by 35 miles southwest to Sweden, and
another 31 miles throughout the Stockholm archipelago. She has handled this beautifully, and with
infinitely more grace than her crew.
When the winds have touched her sails, she has lived up to her name, and danced upon the waters.
Notably, however, her 96 horsepower engine has been getting most of the action.
Apsara has seen only calm seas, and mostly light winds, but she hasn’t missed out on several good
fresh water washings from the heavens. She has moved through hours and hours of fog, and she has
seen (at least on radar), many ships passing in the night. Again, she has handled this beautifully,
and with infinitely more grace than her crew.
She is now tucked away in an anchorage off of an island called Träsko Storö, which sits in the
Stockholm Archipelago. Her captain and first mate are hoping they have found a safe place to keep
her for the night. She knows they were concerned, because they raised and lowered her anchor well
over a dozen times on this chilly afternoon, in the driving rain. And her captain has left his
jacket and boots at the doorstep, should he need to check things out a few times during the night.
(and, yes, she has handled this with infinitely more grace than her crew!)
On Thursday, June 12th, at 2:00pm, we weighed anchor and began the 188 mile passage from the Swedish
High Coast to Aland, the autonomous Finnish Island that lies between Sweden and Finland. We had
been looking for a good weather window for the South-Southwest crossing, so when the forecast for
light Northerlies came through the VHF radio, we decided to go for it. As can happen, Mother
Nature had different intentions. She took issue with the idea of North Winds as well as the clear
skies, and we faced 7 hours of rain and fog, with winds dead-ahead. We tried to maintain a 2-hour
watch schedule, although the combination of fog and an abundance of large ships in tight quarters
meant that neither of us were able to get the rest we needed. (For all intents and purposes, this
was my first time using radar... so I’ll just note that Scott was much more confident than I was!)
During a brief clearing in the fog, here is one of the 4 ships we had approaching or overtaking us,
simultaneously. (And a nice picture of Scott bundled in our traditional Nordic sailing attire.)
Magically, just as we entered the tricky channel into Mariehamn, Aland, the Sun roared through the
fog and shone on the red and green buoys marking the safe route. I will be forever indebted to the
Sun Gods for this minor miracle! We made our way into Mariehamn’s west harbour, and were safely
tied up at 5:00 pm Friday, after 27 hours. And, while I would describe the passage as difficult,
I’m just as certain that the sun shining in the harbour upon our arrival was sweeter for it. Not
to mention the hot showers and Finnish Saunas waiting for us, just steps away!
In Mariehamn, we whiled away the time by renting old-fashioned bikes (hot pink with coaster-brakes)
and riding around, like kids, on the town’s impeccably manicured bike paths. We also took the
requisite daily Finnish Sauna. I can certainly understand the Nordic exuberance for their saunas,
which warm you to the core for hours afterwards, no matter the temperature outside. A highlight of
Mariehamn was a visit to the Aland Maritime Museum, which displays the entire captain’s saloon and
quarters from the Herzogin Cecille, a 102 meter iron barque that ran aground in 1936 off the coast
of Devon, in England. (Some of you maritime enthusiasts out there may have read “Falmouth for
orders,” written by Alan Villiers, who sailed on the Herzogin Cecille). The museum also included a
visit to the Pommern, an impressive four masted barque built in 1903.
Apsara and the Pommern, Mariehamn, Aland. As you can see, Apsara was a distant second for the
tallest mast in the harbor.
After four nights in Aland, we cast off the lines, filled up the diesel tanks, and sailed 35 miles
SouthWest into Sweden’s Stockholm Archipelago. The crossing was spectacular. It was not warm, but
the sun was out and the skies were clear. I was (happily, greedily) at the helm for over two hours
while Apsara sashayed through the Sea of Aland at 9+ knots, sailing close-hauled, with a true wind
speed of about 12 knots. That was great fun! Later, when the winds quieted, I turned the helm back
over to Scott ;-). By 6:00 pm, we were securely anchored on the South side of Tjockoe, near
Granhamn, at Latitude 59.44N; Longitude19.08E. The trip took six hours from start to finish, but a
good portion of this time was spent at looking for the best spot to anchor, as well as executing a
few re-anchoring drills (mere practice for the following night).
The next morning, we woke up to the sound of a few raindrops on the hatches and the barometer
beginning fall. We had planned a 15 mile sail southeast through the archipelago, and we decided to
get a move on it early before the weather deteriorated further. (Sometime during the evening, we
would look at each other and question the wisdom of this decision, but only hindsight is 20/20, so
we took off.) This was our trickiest navigation to date. I was navigator and Scott was at the
helm for the majority of the trip. I was the lucky one in this case, because I had a few
opportunities to seek dry shelter under the dodger. Scott was a good sport, but he was standing
with is face to the rain for a couple of hours. You may have heard the South Pacific Tuamotos
referred to as the “dangerous islands.” One can’t help but wonder if the Stockholm Archipelago
doesn’t deserve a similar moniker. The landscape is gorgeous; the water is decorated with a
million miniscule green islands, each with its own stunning, rocky shores. But there are
underwater rocks lurking in every direction! At times, we have been nervous that our 3 meter (9
foot) draft may be a bit much for the archipelago. The channels are well marked and full of deep
water, but they are quite narrow in places and the “buoys” are of the spindle variety (skinny, low
in the water, and difficult to see from a distance). We are grateful that we have two sets of eyes
and a system of checks and balances on our navigation!
We sailed through cold rain and gusting headwinds, but by noon we were happily tucked into a
beautiful anchorage near the island Träsko Storö, a nature reserve. After such a cold and wet
passage, we treated ourselves to a great hot lunch, and started to relax. After a couple of hours,
however, the Captain became restless. Concerned about the anchor holding, the Captain decided that
we should “back down” the anchor once more at higher rpms, just to ensure a good night’s sleep.
(Backing down the anchor is basically driving the boat in reverse, at high load, to ensure that the
anchor is well set so that the boat will not unexpectedly drag during the night.) The anchor held
tight at 1500, 1800, 2000, and 2200 rpm. This is quite good. However, just to ensure a really good
night’s sleep, the engine was revved to 2600 rpm, and the anchor was successfully pulled right out
of its holding ground. What followed was straight out of a scene from the “Three Stooges” or
perhaps, “Dumb and Dummer.”
When all was said and done, we spent 3 hours in the cold rain and strong winds trying to reset the
anchor in various locations. We would back down on the anchor just enough to pull it out each
time, only to find the anchor completely dug into the mud when we tried to pull it up. When we
were able to weigh the anchor and its 200 feet of chain back aboard, we also weighed about 30 pounds
of soft, stinky mud aboard....each time. This process repeated itself... During this operation,
duties are divided as follows: The Captain maneuvers the boat from the relatively dry and sheltered
stern, while the first mate stands at the bow and handles everything related to the anchor and chain
– exposed to the weather and the vast amounts of mud coming aboard. I was a laughable sight by the
end, covered with mud from head to toe! (As you’ll recall from the start of this log, Apsara
handled this with infinitely more grace than her crew) The barometer continued to fall, and that
night we each did the kind of sleeping you can do with one eye open. Thankfully, the anchor stayed
put, even with the increasing winds that veered more than 90 degrees during the night.
≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈ Update June
On Friday, June 20th, we had a great 33 mile sail from Trasko Storo to Saltsjobaden, which is just
south of Stockholm at Latitude: 59°16N; Longitude 18°19E. (The guest marinas in the city proper
can’t accommodate our draft). Scott sailed through the best part of the day – again Apsara was
sailing to weather at a consistent 9 knots, and Scott was thrilled with her performance. Later on,
I took the helm and the wind became gusty so we decided to put a reef in the Main. We are pleased
to report that so far we love our boom-furling system – it made reefing a breeze! The last
one-third of the passage was straight into the wind, so we turned on the engine and worked our way
into the Marina at the Hotel Viken – where we now sit, tied side-to, directly in front of the grand
Yesterday we took the train into Stockholm for some sightseeing, and what began as a dreary day
turned into a spectacular afternoon, and we walked all over the city. Stockholm has such beautiful
architecture and colors, and the city is very manageable on foot.
Today is again spectacularly sunny. For the first time, it was warm enough to have breakfast in the
cockpit – a major breakthrough!
First breakfast in the cockpit! Saltsjobaden, Sweden. At the Marina outside the Hotel Viken.
Now, we are just finishing up some boat-related work and then we are back to Stockholm for a visit
to the Vasa Museum. We are scheduled to have some minor work done on the boat tomorrow, which Scott
will manage while I make a trip to the store to do some needed provisioning. Tomorrow evening,
believe it or not, my boss, Alfred, is in town so we have plans to meet up for a drink – small
Mooring or “Fortjoining”, Swedish Style. In this case, the bow lines are attached to large iron
rings (dating back 200 yrs+) in the rocks and a stern anchor. Most times, boats are tied around a
tree or a large rock on shore. This all looks nice and easy in the picture but it requires some
deft timing and leaping to get it set up and then you have to really trust that you won’t move
forward even a few feet and crush your bow when the anchor drags a bit or the winds pick up. We
haven’t been brave enough the try this with Apsara yet, but we do have the stern anchor setup for
Thanks to all of you for the notes, it is always great to hear news from friends and family!
(A few notes: We really do like herring now, both pickled and fried! And thanks for the laughs I
about the size of my biceps from cleaning the hull!)
For those of you interested in learning more about the region, there is a great profile of the
Nordic countries in the June 14th Economist magazine. We got a kick out of a discussion about how
the Finns are supposedly becoming more extroverted, “We used to talk and look down at our shoes.
Now, when we talk, we look at the other person’s shoes.” We found some truth in this!
I also wanted to say a special hello to my Grandma, who is celebrating her 90th birthday next week.
Happy Birthday Grandma! We’re sorry to be missing the party!
All the best,
Nancy & Scott