Mon: June 13th: Andy had kindly marked a few of his favorite destinations on the charts and first on the list was Saltsjobaden, an easy three hour journey away from Vasahamnen mostly motoring but with a nice sail at the end. Richard and I cast off around mid-morning, bidding a fond farewell to the Stockholm waterfront and taking a sharp left around Grona Lund and thence down the main ferry channel for just under 4nm before turning right down Skurusundet, a narrowing channel with steep rocky walls that provided some eye-popping views of a range of Swedish summer houses, some traditional clapboard in red ‘falu’ paint with white trim, but others austere, modern masterpieces of stone, steel and glass. No matter what the architectural style, they all shared one common feature: stairs running down to the water, with a dock at the bottom, a small boat and and course, the requisite sauna. We passed one gorgeously peaceful and sophisticated tableau after another, with me at least contemplating another life as a bourgeois Stockholmer dividing my time between my city pied-a-terre and my country house an easy 60-minute boat ride away in the islands.
After about 2nm the channel opens up into Lannerstasundet as you swing east for another 1.6nm and then reach the most beautiful but nerve-wracking section of Baggenstaket, long considered the ‘backdoor’ into Stockholm, a channel barely 100m wide, flanked by graceful country houses on either bank, and thankfully marked by red and green channel marks just 20m apart in places with a scant 9ft of water under our keel. It’s less than 1nm long but sailors best be very cautious here and not get distracted by the gorgeous scenery and inviting country houses.
Soon enough the channel opens up into Baggensfjarden, a much larger section of open water, perhaps 1.5nm from shore to shore in places, where we could finally raise the main and jib and tack back and forth for thirty exhilarating minutes until we fetched the Saltsjobaden marina, the headquarters of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club, where we tied up for two nights for about $35/night, enjoying facilities including hot showers, bathrooms, laundry and a very chi-chi bar and restaurant area where a sour lingonberry cocktail would set you back $15.
This looked very much like a place where Stockholm’s beautiful people come to see and be seen on a Friday night. Lots of expensive powerboats, and ageing but still beautiful locals possessed of prominent cheekbones and a stylish dress sense. Suffice it to say, Richard’s ageing music producer chic worked better at the bar than on my boat, where topsiders and a waterproof shell answer much better.
According to the guidebook, Saltsjobaden was envisaged as a chic getaway for Stockholm’s smart sense. It was the brainchild of a wealthy industrialist who modelled it on the French resort of Trouville (neighbor to Deauville) in Normandy. The bay is dominated by the fading but still glorious Grand Hotel, looking down imperiously on the bay and its boaters. It looks like the perfect setting for a Strindberg or Bergman drama, and the town behind the hotel is a quiet, two street affair, with a railway line direct to Slussen in Stockholm, now defunct in summer, but still used in winter for those who prefer to avoid negotiating the icy streets to the capital. All things considered, this is a lovely spot and a great gateway for those planning to cruise to the archipelago.