Stockholm Skärgård


Photo by Andy

This story was about our last overnight passage on Arcturus, from Visby up to the Stockholm archipelago. I wrote it in my journal as it happened, then copied it here in the past tense, as I've been doing. It took place just before Sept. 1...

It was my last night watch of the summer on Arcturus. Mia and I are heading off to Portugal soon to sail Kinship (the boat we delivered with its owner trans-Atlantic earlier this summer) down to Las Palmas, so it wasn't my last real night watch, but felt like it in a way since I wouldn't be seeing my boat for a while. We were only 15-20 miles south of the archipelago ('skärgård' in Swedish), aiming just east of Nynashamn. The plan was to anchor out for the week before finding a dock on Djurgården in central Stockholm for the weekend. We had an open house scheduled with friends and family (thanks to all who visited!).

Venus was on the rise off to starboard, large enough that I could detect it's roundness with the naked eye, and bright enough that it cast a glow on the water like the moon might. There was another planet a few degrees higher in the sky and slightly further south, and nearly just as bright. The Milky Way stood out above us, and heavy clouds slowly moved in from the west - I suspected that the front edge of the next low pressure system was on the way. The barometer was down slightly since leaving Gotland.


Photo by Mia

There is nothing quite like the coming of a new dawn at sea. That one was particularly enchanting, the sun lighting up the clouds an ominous but beautiful bright red (indeed the wind and rain would come, drenching us for most of the day after we anchored - I didn't mind, and slept through it after being awake all night. The glory of that sunrise made up for whatever bad weather it foretold). Up here, the sun brightens the sky hours before is appears over the horizon. You're treated to a sunrise in slow motion, compared to the southern latitudes, and you get to experience all the little details you miss when it happens so fast. The sky and the clouds, the sunlight beyond the horizon, the last few overhead stars. The present.

We sailed north, and approached 59º latitude. By then we were already beyond our furthest point north on Arcturus. Somewhere in the North Sea we crossed 58º 10' N, but that was it.

Except I didn't feel north. There was something about such a civilized city, Stockholm, in one of the most enlightened countries in the world, laying near 60º north, that made me feel deeply rooted in civilization, and nowhere near the state our latitude would suggest we were. Comparatively, 60º N in North America is in line with the very top of Labrador and Hudson Strait in Canada, and Seward, Alaska in the west. Those are the beginnings of the northern wilds. I suspect Arctic Sweden - which I've yet to experience, beginning only 360 miles north of us - offers some of that mystique. I'll find out eventually. For now I'll enjoy Stockholm.


Photo by Andy

Where Scotland - and likely Norway, I'd imagine - are beautiful on a grand, zoomed-out scale, Sweden is beautiful up close. From a distance the flat, grey coastline is unremarkable - but in it, among it's forests and islands is a world on a small scale, wholly unto itself, and a magical one at that.