Sandhamn might be considered a place with a very mixed reputation. Almost every resource I consulted ahead of my trip said this busy island was an absolute must-visit when sailing in the archipelago. But but when I asked Swedes about the place, (and Rodger, the old English salt I had met in Stockholm), the verdict was also unanimously negative: too busy, too expensive, too noisy they said. Rodger in particular was scathing, describing the harbor as a place ‘where rich Swedes come to play every summer, pretending they are regular folk by slumming it on their 50 foot yachts’.
Just the place for us then.
We left Dalaro around 10am under grey skies heading ENE. As the weather brightened a following breeze of about 8kts gifted us the easiest of comfy downwind sails under jib alone. It’s about 17nm from Dalaro to Sandhamn and the key is to leave Namro to your starboard then duck below Runmaro, negotiate one tight pass and then enjoy an easy short sail of perhaps 3nm to the Sandhamn harbor, located on the north east corner of the island.
The place has long been a favorite destination of well-heeled Stockholmers , with the playwright August Strindberg a frequent visitor in the 19th century. Now the town is dominated by the main hotel, a patrician -looking place which dominates the main gasthamn (guest harbor). As we pulled in our lines were taken by a very attractive young Swedish teenager in a smart resort uniform. This very much set the tone for our two days here. Gorgeous young Swedish people, living a healthy outdoor life. For $40/night you can enjoy a clean, friendly and spacious marina (provided the midsummer crowd have not yet arrived), plus the place has the requisite showers, WC, sauna and laundry that all cruisers need.
The island is well worth a walk around and it’ll take about an hour. After turning right at the marina you reach the edge of the main hamlet in about two minutes, and after passing what passes for the town’s outskirts – pretty little country houses with picket fences and compact gardens bursting with summer blooms, you quickly find yourself in a big pine forest fringed by sandy beaches which, though pretty too look at, are exposed to the unrelenting Baltic breeze. Sandhamn is a pleasant island and not a bad place to relax and unwind, but if you’re looking for solitude, look elsewhere. The local ferries from the capital seemed to unload a human tide every couple of hours, and we were told that within a few days (i.e. by midsummer night on June 21st) the resort would become unbearable. There were signs of this everywhere, with a mobile radio station setting up for the annual solstice bacchanals in which all Swedes delight, and several large and very expensive sailboats pulling in just as we left Tuesday morning.
In sum, this is a great place if you like guest harbors, and is probably the most ‘important’ island in the archipelago. But if your thing is swinging on the hook in solitude, look elsewhere.