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(Mandelieu La Napoule, France)
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For any yachtsman, the Stockholm Archipelago is fantastic with more than 30,000 islands to explore and a choice between scenic natural harbours and picturesque developed harbours. An abundance of natural harbours are readily available and ‘Allemansrätten’ (Right to Public Access) means everyone has the unique opportunity to moor up to a rock in a natural harbour almost anywhere for free.
But no need to rush. Landsort in the south to Arholma in the north is 100 miles and from Stockholm to the outer reaches of the Archipelago is about 40 miles. Navigating these water ways will take you through winding channels into sheltered fjords, with numerous pretty summer houses to admire along the way.
That this paradise should be explored is a given. You’ll find the hardest choice is deciding which pearls should be visited. They say that you can sail here for a lifetime and still not see it all. Foreign sailors enjoy two lovely facts about the Archipelago; no tides and long, light nights. Yes, summers can be cool and the waters are full of rocks, but with a heater and a plotter both problems are easily managed!
One seasoned local sailor is Per Hjelm. He has cruised and raced extensively in the archipelagos since childhood, knows them like the back of his hand and has recently acquired a Hallberg-Rassy 64′.
A Hallberg-Rassy 64′ may be a big yacht, but we still manage to visit many of our favourite spots. Even our previous yacht, a Malö 45′, was on the large side for the archipelago, but we still managed to anchor and take the dinghy ashore. We particularly like small quiet bays and one favourite is Nåttarö/Östermarsviken in the south. The temptation lies in the lovely sandy beaches, the beautiful pine forest, wild bucks and a cave where Queen Maria Elenora hid around 500 years ago. Then there is a great walk to a little village 2 kilometres away.
Utö could be your next stop. It is an island 10 kilometres long, extremely busy with sailors, motorboaters and tourists. Hugely popular, we book well in advance if we plan to moor up alongside. But if there are too many yachts, we gladly anchor in front of the church south of the little bridge to sunny Persholmen.
Utö’s charm lies in its old work houses along Lurgatan. The large, ornate summer villa up on the hill is now a lovely pub. And we never forget to get fresh bread – färska fralla – from the small bakery. You cannot miss it; just sniff and follow all the other sailors in the mornings!
A brisk walk will take you up the hill to Utö Värdshus, renowned for its good food, panoramic views and a perfect spot for sundowners – a must in the archipelago. To explore further, you can either rent a bike or hike the plain gravel roads. Be sure to stop off at Båtshaket, a small fish restaurant about half an hour away.
Huvudskär is a super popular natural and historic harbour, with pretty little houses lining its shore. To the south there are smooth cliffs, a lighthouse and an old customs house (now a pub). The local museum is a good stop if you wish to learn more about the history of this picturesque but remote wilderness, and how its inhabitants survived in days gone by.
Moving on to the top destination in the archipelago – Sandhamn. This is the home of KSSS – The Royal Swedish Yacht Club and the Gotland Runt. A key date in the Swedish offshore racing calendar, the Gotland Runt kicks off in Stockholm early July with 300 or so yachts reaching the finish line in Sandhamn around 3 days later.
Party enthusiasts can join the revellers at the Seglarhotellet, where everyone celebrates until sunrise. However, forever the most popular venue in Sandhamn is the Värdshus. This lovely old pub has been open every day since 1652, and as long as the waters haven’t iced over, remains the favoured meeting place for all sailors.
Sandhamn is also a pilot station and is a frequent stop for many small ferries so the harbour often gets crowded. When it is super busy, young harbour masters guide visiting yachts to available berths, though be prepared to queue on warm summer weekends!
Leaving the sandy harbour is a cool pine forest which is worth strolling in. And the magnificent summer villas lining the route to the beach at Trouville have featured in the popular Swedish police drama, ‘Morden i Sandhamn’.
Classic yacht enthusiasts flock to Sandhamn in August for the ‘Sandhamnsregattan’. Proud skippers of these beautiful yachts come together to celebrate their classic gems and sail them like modern day race boats. All rounded off with great hospitality, it is huge on the KSSS yachting calendar.
If it all seems a bit too hectic, pop across the channel to Lökholmen for a swim and a picnic. An eccentric businessman built his beautiful house Trollgården on this spot when Sandhamns Värdshus became too crowded with visitors. The lovely paths he built for his wife are perfect for a peaceful stroll.
SAILING BY A SKERRY
Further inshore lies Gällnö, an idyllic island with an authentic grocery store, a café and a small bar. We anchor in Österviken, walk between the old farmhouses and might visit the old school building, now a romantic pub.
Not yet had your fill of idyllic little houses? Then be sure to stop in Vaxholm. It is a small, lively town with picturesque, renovated buildings and dazzling gardens. The harbour buzzes and the town is a joy to visit. Those craving coffee and cookies should be sure to visit Hembygdsgården – they have both in abundance!
Whilst the evening sun is setting, there is nothing more relaxing than watching lively harbour life and the little white ferries coming in and out of Waxholmsbolaget.
SANDHAMN’S CLASSIC YACHTS
From here the heart of Stockholm is only an hour and half’s sailing. The route takes you past the Royal Palace where you can wave to King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia, and if you’re lucky you might find yourself on TV! A popular programme, Allsång på Skansen (Sing-Along at Skansen) likes to zoom in on sailing yachts in the sunset. For exploring midtown and enjoying Sweden’s capital, the best place to tie up is the KSSS Djurgårdshamnen yacht club.
The Stockholm Archipelago is protected by the Skägärdsstiftelsen foundation.
The foundation buys and creates nature reserves. It currently manages and protects 4,000 hectares of reserve employing around 30 keepers. Some keepers get to live year round on their islands.
To get more out of our Archipelago, you are allowed to lay up your yacht there at the end of your cruise, and to return the next season to sail on from where you left off.
As famous author August Strindberg (1849 – 1912) put it in one of his good novels:
‘Just sail – where to doesn´t matter’.