The DCA discovers the Baltic

While the most popular events in the DCA calendar are the rallies organized by our five regional groups, some of us like to spread our wings occasionally and range a little more widely, writes Keith Muscott.

In 2009 we were invited to sail in the Swedish archipelago south of Stockholm. One in nine Swedes owns a boat but none of them contemplates cruising in sailing dinghies. Local sailor Arne Rudström decided it was time to change that. 


Landfall - Klara hauled in

Arne’s sailing club is in the village of Nävekvarn, fifteen kilometres from his home. From there in the Bay of Bråviken we would set out for the archipelago, or at least for the middle islands and the group south of Arkösund. Arne, ably supported by his wife Anne-Sophie, laid on a variety of boats for us and took infinite care in planning the week’s schedule. 

Just arrived

The boats were as individual as those who came to sail them in mid-August that year. The matron of the group was Klara, built by Arne’s father. The plans for her had been drawn by a Swedish naval architect in the 1930s to the lines of the traditional inshore fishing boat, the blekingsekan: 17ft overall, with jib, mizzen and spritsail main. We found her to be a sweet old girl who inspired confidence and sailed much better than expected.

Peter Lord's Apple 16 seen on a Finland raid

At the other end of the scale was the Apple 16, Vips! (Swedish for Presto!), a modern epoxy-plywood lugsail yawl, with her spars sheathed in carbon fibre. She arrived fresh from a Finland raid with her Australian builder-skipper Peter Lord, an Uppsala University professor who has lived in Sweden for twenty years. 

On Stora Bosö

There are hundreds of islands of all sizes in the group and many submerged reefs and exposed rocks between them. Most of them are steep-to, which means that landing simply entails dropping a stern anchor on the approach then jumping ashore and tying a bow line around a convenient tree. The shores are glacier-smoothed whalebacks of pink and grey striped granite backed by thick forest. The ancient pines, junipers, rowans, blueberries, mosses and fungi – known as ‘mossa och lavar’ – are undisturbed. Gathering blueberries for breakfast was a daily treat. The trick is to use the head of a lawn rake in one hand to comb the berries from the bushes into a bucket held in the other.

Klara under jib and main

Although they are confusingly similar from a distance, the islands reveal their true identities on closer acquaintance. Stora Bosö, an ideal forward base, boasts a jetty and a large shelter like a scout hut, but it is small enough to walk around in an hour. Kallhamn (‘Cold Harbour’) is a popular destination for yachts, but opposite the crowded anchorage across a narrow neck of land is a secluded beach that is ideal for smaller boats. Camping was always easy, with dead pine branches on hand to give instant cooking fires and victuals readily available in the bigger waterside settlements like Arkösund. A favourite local product was yellow split-pea soup, sold in plastic skins so that it resembled haggis. It was on special offer in the local Co-ops, half price, so we bought a tankerful.

The Apple 16 VIPS closes with Älvan, a 1950s Norwegian BB11, to discuss the chart

All too soon we were enjoying the end of cruise dinner at Arne’s sailing club. The nicest keepsake he gave us was a copy each of the local newspaper, Södermanlands Nyheter, which had a full page about our exploits with colour photographs. We had been interviewed earlier in the week by their young reporter Nina Svanberg (to whom we gave our undivided attention). Her only inaccuracy was the reason she gave for our being there – to escape the vicious tides of the UK!

First published in Watercraft as The DCA Discovers The Baltic

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