Just when I thought it couldn’t get more beautiful…
I am writing from a tiny group of islands on the edge of the Stockholm Archipelago of which, Huvudskär is the largest. It is now the beginning of my third day and I am weather-bound, waiting for a front to blow itself out as it passes over towards the Åland Islands, north east of here.
For two days now I have been exploring the small islands of this group with my little ‘Walker Bay 8’ sailing tender. Carro and Danny will remember how much time I would spend sailing it in the harbour of Het Yacht in Amsterdam. A combination of sailing (no rough stuff!) and deep sleep was just what I needed and Huvudskär obliged fully!
Valdemarsvik delighted me as a free harbour! Yes, the town is running a promotion to encourage tourism, and the postponement of mooring fees has got to be a plus. I now find myself having gone more than two weeks without paying a Kroner, pure medicine for the financial disasters that have plagued my steady but slow progress north towards Borka Brygga.
After Valdemarsvik, my course changed from North by East to East North East and involved sailing to the seaward side of the Skägårds of Ōstergötland and the outer Stockholm Archipelago.
As aforementioned, the winds are out at sea and I needed them to cover miles under sail; however, I always come inshore in the evenings and have tasted some wonderful island anchorages from Oxelösund to my present location, including the islands of Kattilö, Hasselöbergö, and Nåttarö.
As I watch the huge brooding clouds building from the South West and the cold front approaches, I am planning for the final stage of my passage to reach Orrön Island, the home of Axel and Claire. Axel and Mark arrived on the island a week ago… a magnificent, courageous voyage in the tiny ‘hobbycat’. This is one invitation I cannot refuse!
It is a little chilly at present but then I have to be reminded that my latitude here is level with that of Orkney, so I can hardly complain! I did sneak on my wood-burner last night though and cook my evening meal so. There is something wonderfully elemental about the cheery warmth of the fire’s glow, even though it was stale bread I was toasting!
On the subject of latitude, it will not be far now until I reach a real goal in my life… sixty degrees north. I know this is hardly Captain Scott or Roald Amundsen territory, but it matters to me, as it has been a dream of mine since sitting at my desk at St.Gregory’s RC Primary school in South Shields, daydreaming and reading my atlas, instead of paying attention to my teacher, who was trying to make me into a model citizen! Oh dear… look what happened!
Soon I will be ‘turning the corner’ after Stockholm and steering North Nor’ West, past the Åland Islands and into the exotic Gulf of Bothnia, which stretches right up to Lapland and Finland. So few British sailors ever go this far north, but that is not the reason why I am doing this…
Ever since the days of my magic atlas and watching the ships coming into the Tyne, I have dreamed of this strange piece of water. It smacks of mystery, of strange creatures, trolls, faeries, reindeer… ah the list is endless! As a child I could shut my eyes and smell the forests of Northern Finland, smelling the Stockholm tar of the Sailing ships. I can remember stories of my Great Uncle Charlie, a ships carpenter, who sailed up in those parts as a sixteen-year old boy… Oh my, what romance is this?
Can I reach those mystical shores alone, with ‘Free’?