Sailing Stockholm's Archipelago

Contents of this page:

  1. Sailing Stockholm's
  2. Waypoints
  3. Statistics
  4. Costs
  5. Daily Log
  6. Useful Information

Sailing Stockholm's Skärgården

In Swedish, the word 'Skärgården' means archipelago, a sea area covered with islands. A literal translation of the word is 'the garden on the rocks'. Stockholm's archipelago contains over 24,000 islands, rocks and skerries, providing some of the most beautiful and sheltered waters in Europe. My wife and I had read that in high summer, when the sun hardly sets, the weather in the northern Baltic is ideal for sailing. With this in mind, we decided to trail our Swift 18 trailer sailer, 'Tiger Lily', to the archipelago for our annual sailing holiday. Three weeks is not long enough to explore the whole area and so we limited ourselves to the central part of the archipelago that lies just on Stockholm's doorstep. Although much busier than the area further north, we wanted to combine sailing with a little sightseeing in the city itself.

We chose to drive out overland via Dover-Calais, Germany and Denmark in order to keep the costs down, but to return on the Gothenburg-Harwich ferry so as to enjoy a cruise atmosphere at the end of the holiday. The outward journey took 3 days, crossing from Germany to Denmark on the Puttgarten-Rodby ferry and then to Sweden on the Helsinger-Helsingborg ferry. Both these ferries run very frequently and we were able to board within a few minutes of arriving at the terminal. The Puttgarten-Rodby crossing time is one hour and it is possible to obtain a good meal during the enforced break from driving. Once in Sweden we headed north to Stockholm and the little town of Österskär, near Åkersberga about 25 miles northeast of the capital. Some Swedish friends had recommended launching Tiger Lily at a small privately run boatyard at Österskär as it had most of the attributes we were looking for:

The boatyard has a slipway and crane, is enclosed by a fence and locked gate at night and there are plenty of pontoon spaces. It lies a few hundred yards down a narrow road, but the boatyard owner, had previously faxed me a map from which I was able to derive a number of road waypoints. About 3 miles from Åkersberga, I switched on the Garmin 45 in the car and this helped us locate the boatyard without getting lost (not a good idea in narrow lanes when towing a boat behind!).

After launching Tiger Lily using the slipway, the first duty was to hoist the red ensign and the Swedish courtesy flag. Then it was time to provision the boat and to gather some local knowledge. Åkersberga is a large town a mile from Österskär and so it did not take long to change money, visit the supermarket, obtain petrol for the boat and buy a set of charts in the local chandlery. British Admiralty charts are not very useful as they only show detailed information on the main shipping routes, so it is essential to obtain Swedish charts. A single Swedish chart costs about £12, but we found it best ot buy the complete set of charts for the archipelago. The set, 'Båtsportkort A' (or Boat-sport-chart), contains 12 charts and covers the coast from Arholma to Landsort. The charts are cut into overlapping quarter sheets and mounted in a large book form. As the name implies, they are specially intended for the leisure sailor and at £48 the set, proved to be good value. They show details useful for small boat navigation including the many rocks which lie just below the surface. 'The Baltic Sea' pilot book available in the UK contains useful general information about sailing in Sweden but only has scant information about anchorages in the archipelago.

As the weather was very cold and wet on our first full day, we used the car to visit the nearby town of Vaxholm and to gather some local sailing knowledge about where to sail. We soon discovered that language is not a problem in Sweden, as most Swedes speak excellent English. Printed Swedish words often bear some resemblance to English ones and with the aid of a dictionary we were soon able to translate many useful pieces of information. For example, 'Vind syd och öst' means 'wind south or east'. We used the pocket Berlitz Swedish -English dictionary which also has a good section on food and drink. Daily newspapers contain excellent weather maps with forecasts up to 5 days ahead. They use coloured icons and maps which are very easy to read. To our surprise, Swedish was far less of a language problem than Danish which, on a previous trail, we found almost indecipherable.

Another source of weather forecasts is Stockholm Radio which transmits an English language weather forecast twice daily on VHF Channel 26 at 9:33 and 21:33 local time (7:33, 19:33 UTC). The Stockholm archipelago is contained in the 'Northern Baltic' sea area. Navigational warnings in both English and Swedish precede the weather forecast and by comparing them we soon learnt a little spoken Swedish - this was very useful for picking up numbers. After a week or so, we were then able to make some sense of the weather forecasts in Swedish which are transmitted more frequently. 'Stockholm International' which transmits news in English every weekday on 89.6 MHz FM did not appear to offer any useful weather information.

During our holiday planning we had already obtained the 'Båturist' (boat-tourist) guidebook from the Swedish Tourist Association. This book, although written in Swedish, lists many of the 'Gästhamnar' (guest harbours). We found that there are very large differences in the facilities offered by marinas in Sweden. The boatyard at Österskär is not listed as a guestharbour as it does not have proper shower facilities. The large marina at Svinnige, which is about 3 miles from Österskär, has pontoon space for about 500 boats, but only 6 are allocated for guest use. This marina is mainly for private use and so they do not advertise themselves as a guest harbour. At the other end of the scale the 'Wasahamnen' in Stockholm has space for about 200 boats, most of which are used by visitors.

In Sweden, the usual practice in harbours is to moor bows to quay using either small finger pontoons or a stern buoy. Local sailors use a snap shackel attached to a long rope and they hook this onto the buoy when approaching the quay. Several boats were equipped with a reel mounted on the pushpit for this purpose. The reel contains a long length of webbing which unwinds whilst the boat approaches the quay, thus saving an untidy coil of rope in the cockpit. Jumping off the bows is a required skill in Sweden and most yachts have a drop pulpit to make this easier.

It seems that most Swedes do not make use of the guest harbours, but anchor in sheltered bays within the archipelago. This means that they prefer to use on board toilet and shower facilities and so there is no great need for marinas to provide good toilet and shower facilities. This proved to be a little disappointing for us in our tiny trailer sailer and we regretted not taking our portable solar shower with us. Some marinas charged 5 Kronor (about 40 pence) for a shower. All modern Swedish yachts are equipped with holding tanks as the disposal of effluent close inshore is not allowed.

Sailing out of the launching harbour for the first time is always exhilarating for the trailer sailor, but this time it was made even more challenging by the problems of navigation. We were confronted by a view of scores of islands which made it difficult to pick out the channel we were looking for. The GPS receiver, however, proved to be invaluable in confirming our course, firstly through the Lindals-sundet channel, a busy small boat short cut which avoids the main Stockholm commercial shipping channel, and then on through the narrow gap at the north end of Grinda island. We were seeking the quiet anchorage at Krokafladen on Gällnö island. Normal Swedish practice in anchorages is to drop a stern anchor, slowly approach a rock on the shore onto which a crew member jumps out taking a shore line for tying up to the nearest tree. An ancient Swedish law, 'Allemans rätten' (Everyman's rights) grants the 'right of free access' to all stretches of the shore line which are not directly in front of peoples houses. This means that your are allowed to tie up to almost any tree provided that you cause no damage.

During the summer months the sun hardly sets and in June/July it never gets dark at night. June 21st is a public holiday everyone celebrates with a party. Boats out in the archipelago dress overall and many beach barbeques take place. Shops here are few and far between and it pays to be self sufficient if you want to enjoy the natural surroundings. On Gällnö, we went ashore and walked about a mile to find a local store which stocked basic provisions. The purchase of alcohol is restricted to state run shops in Sweden, is expensive and often difficult to find. Food seems to be about 10%-20% more expensive than in England and eating out about 30% more expensive. We did, however, find an excellent restaurant in the village of Berg on the island of Möja.

Sandhamn is the 'Cowes' of Stockholm and lies near the outer edge of the archipelago. It has two guest harbours, a busy ferry terminal, and only a few small shops. A short walk across the island leads to sandy beaches where we found many people soaking up the summer sun. By now a high pressure system had began to exert itself over the Baltic making the sunshine seem stronger and more brilliant than in England.

The return trip to the mainland through the archipelago brought us to Bullerön, a remote island with a museum and nature paths. It was then onto Malma Kvarn, a very picturesque mainland marina boasting a French restaurant. Here we met a yachting couple who recommended a number of their favourite anchorages. From Malma Kvarn yachts with a mast height of less then 11.5m can sail north through the Kolström and Lagnöström channels to Stockholm. We choose the alternative route south and west of Ingarö where, on the island of Ägnö, there is an almost totally enclosed lagoon. Here you can anchor in beautiful sheltered surroundings and, in June/July, watch the sun trying very hard to set behind the fir trees.

North of Ägnö lies the 'Baggenstäket', which is the backdoor route to Stockholm. This very narrow channel can accommodate either one small ferry or two passing yachts at a time. Finding the entrance to the channel by visual means was difficult as it was not until we were 200m away that we finally spotted the orange marker post. Again the GPS receiver proved to be very useful here. Ferries passing through the channel make appropriate sound signals in the narrow sections to warn of their approach, but luckily we did not meet one coming the other way when we passed through.

Once through the channel it is a straighforward sail through a gorge to join the main commercial shipping route into Stockholm. We had selected the 'Wasahamnen' marina for our visit, because, as the name implies, the harbour is adjacent to the famous Vasa museum. At £12 per night, this was expensive by Swedish standards, but as we were now in the center of a European capital city, we considered it very cheap when compared to the price of a hotel room.

Stockholm is often termed the 'Venice of the North'. as it sits astride the main waterway from Lake Malaren to the Baltic. There is a difference of about 60 cm between the Lake and the sea and there are two sets of locks. Boats with low air-height may use the lock by Gamla Stan, which is the old town, but yachts and larger vessels need to use the lock and canal passing south of the main town.. Stockholm is a beautiful city and well worth visiting - a must is the Vasa museum. This contains the recovered shipwreck, the warship, Vasa. She sank in Stockholm harbour on her maiden voyage in 1628 and lay preserved in the mud until she was recovered in 1961. The museum has exchanged a number of items with the Mary Rose museum in Portsmouth. Stockholm is a city best explored on foot, particularly the narrow backstreets of the old town. Close to the main tourist information office in the Kungsträdgårten, we found the Cafe Milano, an Italian restaurant of great repute.

From Stockholm we then sailed north via the main ferry and shipping route to Vaxholm. Here a picturesque castle stands guard over the seaways whilst a car ferry shuttles back and forth carrying road traffic to the adjacent island. Acting as a major link in the road network, the ferry reminded us of the Cowes chain ferry. The harbour at Vaxholm hosts a veteran boat festival every year at the end of June or early in July. Excellent value meals can be obtained at the 'Hamnkrogen' restaurant on the quay. Here you can spend a very pleasant time just watching the passenger and sightseeing ferries bustling back and forth.

Returning to Österskär one day early we decided to take a sightseeing trip to the Åland islands using the car. The Royal Viking ferry terminal at Kapellskär is only 50 miles away. The price for 2 adults and the car for a return trip was far less than the Southampton- Cowes ferry and so we caught the 9 o'clock ferry to Mariehamn, the capital town of the Ålands. Because of various quirks of history, the islands are an autonomous province of Finland, but the population speak Swedish rather then Finnish. With a Baltic summer high pressure exerting itself and the sun above the horizon for more than 20 hours per day it was hot enough to enjoy a dip in the sea - even at 60 degrees latitude north! We used our day to explore the various marinas and slipways on the main island. The western marina at Mariehamn has a delightful setting, but there is no slipway and car parking is difficult. However, the eastern marina has an excellent slipway and adequate long term parking for car and trailer - perhaps one year we may return to explore these remote islands further?

With our holiday almost over we reluctantly recovered Tiger Lily using the slipway at Österskär and drove the 320 miles to Gothenburg to catch the Scandinavian Seaways ferry to Harwich. Tiger Lily crossed the North Sea at 23 knots safely parked on the car deck of the 'Princess of Scandinavia'. Meanwhile we spent the 24 hours aboard relaxing and enjoying the on-board facilities whilst someone else took the strain of navigation! Within two and a half days of leaving Österskär, Tiger Lily arrived back in home territory - there cannot be a faster or a more pleasant way of returning with your own sailing boat from Stockholm's Skärgården.


Holiday Statistics

Road Mileages

Outbound (3 days)            Road Miles
    Home to Dover               156
    Calais to Puttgarten        580
    Rodby to Helsinger          134
    Helsingborg to Österskär    395
                               ----    1265
Inbound  (2 days)
    Österskär to Gothenburg    349
    Harwich to home            177
                               ---      526
Total                                  1791 miles

Daily Log

RouteNautical Miles
Launched at Österskär0
Provisioning day at Åkersberga0
Österskär to Svinninge marina2
Lindalssundet chnl, Västerholmen, Gällnö Krokafladen16
Lådnaön (Sviudden)5
Möja channel, Lökaö (Saffranskäret)9
Clockwise round Lökaö, Lökaö (S.anchorage), Möja Berg9
Dävelsöfjärden, Sandhamn10
Sandhamn (rest day)0
Bullerön (Hemviken), Malma Kvarn16
Ägnö (lagoon)12
Baggensstäket, Stockholm Wasahamnen16
Stockholm (sightseeing/rest day)0
Storön Bockholmen (via Vaxholm & Lindalssundet chnl)20
Lindalssundet chnl, Vaxholm9
Åland Islands (sightseeing day)0
Recovered boat at Österskär0
TOTAL nautical miles129


Getting there and back
(including preparation, road and launch etc.):
                                     £       £
    Ferry (2 adults)                408
    Ferry Costs (car,trailer)       413
    Car Petrol                      220
    Charts                           79
    Car Insurance                    31
    Launch and Car Park              28
                                    ---    1179
Living and Sailing Expenses
(for 2 people, 3 weeks)
    Boat Petrol                      15
    Marina Fees/Showers              89
    Meals Out                       229
    Food and Drink                  183
                                    ---     516
Excursions (Åland Islands)                   31
Misc (Souvenirs, Post cards, photographic)  124
TOTAL                                      1850        

Useful information

  1. The Baltic Sea - pilot book. RCC Foundation compiled by Barry Sheffield and published by Imray, Laurie Norie and Wilson 1992 ISBM 0 852288 175 4.
  2. Trailer-Sailing to Sweden, article by Alan Harvey in Practical Boat Owner, No 211 July 1984, pages 64-68.
  3. Exploring Sweden, article by Graham Goulding in Practical Boat Owner, No 336 December 1994, pages 59-62
  4. 'Båturist' guidebook from Swedish Tourist Association (STF) Box 25, 101 20 Stockholm, Tel: +46-8-643-2100, Fax: +46-8-678-1958
  5. Swedish Travel and Tourism Council, 11 Montagu Place, London W1H 2AL, Tel: 0171- 724-5869
  6. Scandinavian Seaways, Parkeston Quay, Harwich, Essex, CO12 4QG, Tel: 01255-240234. Internet:
  7. Viking Line, Finman Travel International, Greater Manchester, Tel 01962-262662
  8. Planning a Foreign Cruise Volume 1. RYA /Cruising Association Booklet C1/96 available from the RYA.
  9. Swedish-English Dictionary, Berlitz, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 78- 78087

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