From Land To Sea; Another Of My Favourites!
I’ve wanted to visit Sweden for some time now, and what better opportunity to take than kayaking the archipelago off Stockholm shores. It is the second largest archipelago in the Baltic Sea. It extends eastwards from Stockholm for 37 miles.
Many poets, artists and authors have all been fascinated and inspired by the archipelago over the years. Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson from the group ABBA wrote most of their songs in a cabin located on the archipelago; not that this was a draw for me!
Of more interest perhaps, is the post glacial rebound which has shaped and still shapes the islands today. The very shallow islands with smoothed curved rock formations and short trees and tundra, likens the environment to that which you may find on alternate planets, should you ever find yourself on one!
There are over 24,000 islands on the archipelago, many of which are uninhabited. The calm, sheltered and almost tide-less waters matched with the pick of whichever island you would like – all to yourself – for wild camping each night, makes this an easy choice for a 5-day sea kayaking trip.
This trip was to be an ideal first multi day sea kayak excursion. The (virtually inland) Baltic Sea is connected to the North Sea through the Straits of Denmark – this results in seemingly non-existent, but actually, just very small tides. For an elementary sea kayaker, removing the complication of tides is a comforting bonus.
With only the wind to think about, and with plenty of islands to hide from it, the archipelago allows as much in the way of intimidating waves over big crossings or sheltered bays and mill pond waters as you can handle. And all of it is your choice. I like that about this special spot. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_archipelago
Getting to the islands is easy. Cheap flights to Stockholm are readily available and a handy train escorts you from arrival at the airport, straight into the heart of Stockholm. Stockholm is a fine city partially built by Vikings and bursting with history. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm
You will find no trouble acquiring food or lodgings. We spent the night on a boat house hostel which sits on an inlet of the Baltic Sea. It is a stone’s throw from the city where there are plenty of underground bars, restaurants and Viking memorabilia. We stocked up on food for the five days kayaking ahead, and enjoyed a restful night in the tiny cabin quarters on the boat.
The following day saw us on a bus from the local station ‘Slussen’ out to ‘Stavsnäs Vinterham’, an hour from Stockholm. A pre-arranged taxi boat takes you 20 minutes or so to Runmarö island, one of the largest islands in the Stockholm archipelago. It is probably about two hours’ distance to travel which is short compared to the start of most of my adventures!
From here we loaded boats hired from the Island, along with hired paddles and a 5 litre water container for fresh water.
Everything was waterproofed and, as always, a place for everything and everything in its place. Organization in a boat, just as in a rucksack, is key. As usual, differing sized and coloured dry bags were used, with items which didn’t need accessing during the day at the back of the boat and that which I needed more readily at the front or in the snack hatch.
It’s a beautiful thing to experience life from the surface of the water. I enjoyed giving up tired legs for tired arms on this excursion. Weight really isn’t an issue in the kayaks so we took as much food (and beer!) to be comfortable for the duration. Our buoyancy aids, paddle leashes, pumps, and safety equipment (including VHF radio) came from home too.
We set off at the very end of August and paddled into the beginning of September. The sea was just about still swimmable and the weather warm and mostly sunny. The rain kept off for the most part and the wind was enough to be exciting at times.
Some big crossings in the open sea allow you to stretch out to some of the more remote islands. This allows you to feel either the mass exposure of such a move, or, the complete freedom and relative size of you and your boat to the rest of the world.
We camped in hammocks each night. Pretty much all of the islands had trees suitable for this. Pitching up on a spot and hanging close to the water made for a wonderful, peaceful night’s sleep. Firewood was bountiful and wonderfully dry. This is a fantastic spot to explore different fire lighting techniques with almost 100% success guaranteed!
We used old beer cans and meth to cook dehydrated meals we brought from the UK. Although, with the amount of room we had in the kayaks, we could have cooked entirely with fresh foods purchased in Stockholm. Only our snacks and lunches were fresh on this occasion.
Each day was relaxingly spent, picking a route based on the weather which we identified each morning on a very useful app called YR, which seemed to work very accurately. http://www.yr.no/place/United_Kingdom/
We pulled up on the nearby islands around lunchtime, enjoyed the sun, the clear water, the views, and the utter stillness of a relatively uninhabited archipelago and paddled on into the afternoon – stopping whenever we’d like, to enjoy an early camp and a swim.
Smooth rocks make for great sun beds on the Stockholm archipelago – A truly magical and very underused location.
A great opportunity to improve elementary sea kayaking skills, disregarding any tide and planning for the weather only; using the islands as protection.
A fantastic spot for achieving a remote wilderness, without having to travel for very long, or very far, if you live in the UK.
For the more committed experience, it is possible to hire kayaks on the archipelago in winter. The islands are snow covered but the sea won’t ice over!
Some magnificent Airbnb options are available for accommodation if you don’t fancy braving a hammock at that time of year! www.airbnb.co.uk/
After our five-day loop, we found ourselves back at the beginning, ready to unpack and reverse the smooth journey out of the archipelago and back to Stockholm.
A welcome shower before our final night and another opportunity to walk through this very walkable city.
Why not try it! It has just the right amount of everything.
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