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OCC Roving Rear Commodore report from Scandinavia

by Andrew Curtain 27 Oct 2019 05:58 UTC
Läckö Castle on Lake Vänern © Andrew Curtain

This year, the weather in Scandinavia was somewhat indifferent with a good spell for about three weeks in July.

The plan was to visit the Stockholm Archipelago, travelling from our base 70nm north of Gothenburg,. Because of 10 days of gales, we were stuck, not unpleasantly, in the Royal Gothenburg Yacht Club (GKSS) marina. On one day of this battering, albeit in port, our OCC burgee was shredded. Tongue in cheek, it was suggested that club burgees should be fitted with reefing points.

Things really do happen in threes. Delayed by one crew needing surgery, another with a broken rib at sea and yours truly injuring a knee, we were short-handed so instead of going around the bottom of the country, we used the Gota canal both ways. This meant a total of 116 locks plus 12 in the Trollhatte canal system. Swedes call the canal "skilsmässodiket", the divorce ditch. We only saw happy faces.

I recommend using the Gota Canal early or late in the season. July is too crowded, with slow progress and a mix of craft, abilities and temperament. There is a late-season limited service after the second week in August. It will get one through quickly with boats kept in convoy but must be pre-booked. The second week in August is best. With so few boats, most of the time we had locks to ourselves.

Don't be fooled about a fast transit East to West late in the season. It might get one through the canal quickly, but there is still Lake Vanern to cross. It is notorious for its uncomfortable short sea in anything above a fresh breeze. With the prevailing winds southwest, Pilgrim Soul was virtually stopped, averaging 1.5 knots for 10 hours. "Never again".

Most yacht transits of the Gota Canal system are to get to the other side of the country as fast as possible. There are 5 lakes linked by the canal so en route to Stockholm and its archipelago, we took time exploring. We particularly had castles in mind, mooring close to or in their moats. Worth visiting are Vadstena Castle in Lake Vattern, Sweden's second-largest lake. Lacko Castle in Sweden's largest Lake Vanern is the most picturesque but anchor off because of the shallow depth at the pier. There are many quiet anchorages in all the lakes and the Hamnguiden guide (number 9 for the canal and lakes) has to be recommended. It can be bought online.

Later we moored close to a third castle at Marifred in Lake Malaren near Stockholm. The diversion is well worth it.

Allow two days to cross Lake Vanern. It is preferable to arrive at the other side in daylight. I recommend stopping at the fishing village of Spiken, close to Lacko Castle and if their small harbour is full, one can anchor close by. There, one can buy smoked lake fish and the smoked roe should not be missed.

In an earlier note, I strongly recommended membership of the Swedish lifeboat service.

Nearly everyone cruising in this region will sooner or later find a rock in the wrong place. We slid up on one near Mollosund on the West Coast on our final day and needed the local lifeboat to pull us off. Misinterpreting a mark, it was my fault, but we met absolute professionalism and courtesy. "You are not the first on that rock and won't be the last". Apparently, it is colloquially named after the local boatyard. The damage was minimal but emotionally severe to the self-esteem.

Amongst many others, we were delighted to meet OCC members Claire and Peter Bishton on their Rustler, Madrigal and of course, David Blackburn with family aboard his Halberg Rassy. A particular pleasure was meeting Associate member Anders Landro from Norway. He plans a transatlantic crossing next year on his Naiad, Albicilla. Whoever conceived Associate Member status should be congratulated.

For more information visit Hamnguiden guide.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

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