My good friend serendipity came through again during the final weekend I was able to enjoy the boat with my family. On Friday, July 22nd we left Dalarö hoping to get a spot at Koxiken in Biskopsön, which I had so enjoyed during a trip there with Franz earlier in the month. The wind was forecast from the south east and we had hoped for an easy beam reach during the 12nm sail but it quickly backed to north east, meaning we had to motor into the wind and hope that it stayed light enough not to disturb the anchorage when we got there. I knew I was taking a bit of a risk since Biskopson, although almost completely sheltered to all other points of the compass, is vulnerable to north-east winds, but the place is SO magical I thought it worth taking the chance. Of course when we arrived there were only half a dozen boats in situ, so we had plenty of space, but the glassy calm I remembered from my last visit had been replaced with constant ripples across the surface and the wind seemed to be slowly building, which would have meant a possibly nervous evening and night and the last thing I wanted was to have to duck out of there at dawn as we had at Huvuskar a few weeks previously.
Fortunately I knew that I could rely on Kyrkviken at Ornö – it’s a beautiful and completely sheltered gasthamn, and although it was essentially back in the direction from which we had just come at least it provide a sunny, downwind sail. Since I wanted the kids to get more experience on the tiller we promptly set a south-west course and enjoyed a beautiful couple of hours down the main channel before turning west and dodging numerous small islets, wherries and rocks and then turning south with Ornö on our our starboard beam. It was now about 7pm and the languid Swedish twilight was just beginning to bathe the landscape in its golden glow when I glanced at the pilot book and saw that to port we were passing the island of Fjärdlång and its best anchorage, a narrow bay about a mile deep called Morviken, which benefits from a sharp dogleg left, leaving a smaller, but still spacious interior bay that is completely sheltered. Hassler raved about this island in his guide, his only caveat being that its pristine beauty and wealth of good anchoring spots means that ‘you’ll rarely be alone’. We ducked inside for a look and I instantly made the executive decision that Kyrkviken could wait. This place ticked all the boxes.
There were perhaps a dozen boats inside, some anchored in the middle, others bows-to on the rocks but there were plenty of long stretches of inviting granite (pardon the oxymoron), topped with sturdy trees on which to make fast. After choosing our preferred spot, dropping our stern anchor and tying up without incident in the golden twilight and glasslike calm, I took a quick dip and made dinner. The view from our cockpit was glorious and priceless. Granite, fir and birch bordering pristine, primeval forest. The fact that it was crawling with fire ants and other goobers concerned my kids a little, but was catnip to me. The ‘facilities’ consisted of just two outhouses, backing onto covered trash containers, about a five minute walk away from the boat. This was a great place to spend a night, and halfway through the following day, which my kids spent tanning and bickering, my son finally plucked up the courage to jump in for a swim. The water was crystal clear but filled with lots of seaweed, which daunted him somewhat and was more than enough for my daughter to declare she could wait until our next stop to have a dip. But seeing me cool off again and again he finally relented, grabbed the bar of Swedish ‘summer soap’ – available in the chandleries and fabulous for producing a rich lather in all water, fresh, salt or brackish – and dove in.
I reflected perhaps a hundred times during our two days in this blessed spot that the view and the environment were literally priceless. There are no luxury hotels here. No Four Seasons. No St. Regis. Just a pristine, peaceful haven accessible only to those with boats.
Much of the island is also a nature reserve, so it’s pretty much unspoiled from end to end. The following evening I hiked down to the end of the bay and thence to the island’s only hamlet, located about two miles to the south, past grazing sheep and lamb in a rock-bordered meadow, until I reached a soccer field, a small café/ice cream kiosk and a rather dreary four-boat gasthamn and ferry dock which is hardly sheltered and enjoys only the most pedestrian of views. The contrast between it and Morviken could not have been wider. There is one good option for those who want to enjoy the island and do not have a boat, however, and that is the youth hostel. Formerly the country house of a rich Stockholmer who bought the island during WWI and later fell on hard times, it’s a great place to get away from it all and enjoy fabulous hikes with great views. Seeing it was almost dinner time I hurried back to the boat, barely passing a soul on my my walk, musing on the endlessly peaceful sights and sounds of the landscape amid the unhurried Swedish twilight. This is a place not to miss should your sailing take you to the archipelago.