Planning a 6 week summer cruising holiday in Denmark and Sweden does not always prove easy, as there is little information on harbours, anchorages and tips for a 20m motor yacht. If Tripadvisor existed for boats, we would have consulted it a lot during the preparation.
But by just diving into it, bows first, we found both countries to be extremely inviting to boats. Denmark and Sweden, when looked at from the sea, show a mixture of extraordinary nature, well buoyed channels, shallow waters, narrow passages, a huge boating history and beautiful, friendly people.
Week 1 – Antwerp to Copenhagen – July 2nd to July 9th
With a delivery crew of 5 youngsters, Joeri and I set off on our first serious crossing of approximately 300 nm, from Antwerp to Helgoland. As only one of the 4 stabilisers seem to operate properly, we get thrown about a bit, a new experience for long time sailors who just recently started motoring in a displacement power boat. Interesting about Monara is how the twin gardner engines seem to push her through the head seas, without losing momentum.
We reach Helgoland in the morning of July 4th, after approximately 45 hours at sea. Tax free fuel, an almost empty harbour, interesting nature with WW2 bomb craters, long haired sheep, a bird sanctuary and steep cliffs. Holidays clearly haven’t started yet in this region.
The next morning, before dawn, we cast the lines to head for the Elbe River, and the entrance to the Nord-Ostsee Kanal, that connects the Elbe to Kiel, in the Ostsee. Due to some problems with our engine controls, caused by dirty relays, we can only enter the lock at Brunsbuttel at 14.00. As yachts are only allowed to use the canal during daytime hours, we can only travel through the canal until 22.30. Occasionally surrounded by large cargo vessels passing at a few metres distance, all steaming at 7 knots, we travel the first 37 nm to Rendsburg through quiet and beautiful nature, and enter the narrow and shallow channel, called Die Enge, into the city. We find some place alongside the fuel jetty in the Regatta Verein Rendsburg.
Stocked up with fresh German bread and milk, we continue our trip the next morning, heading for Kiel, and onwards to Ærø, entering Denmark. In order to reach the main harbour in Ærøskøbing, we are lead through shallow and very narrow channels East and North of the island, so typical for travelling the south of Denmark. Ærøskøbing is worth a visit, with it’s beautiful old village, cobbled streets, colorful houses and flowers. The friendly suntanned harbourmaster rides around on his bike, has credit card reader and printer hanging from his belt, and settles our harbour fee while explaining where we should go next.
The next day we are properly introduced to sailing the shallows of Denmark, passing between Tåsinge, Thurø and Fynn, in what is called the Caribbean Coast of Denmark. A passage along small isles with amazing colors, beautiful holiday houses, plenty of harbours and classic sailing boats. We continue North of Langeland, and head for the tiny island of Vejrø, in the Smålandsfarvandet. What seems like a private little marina, at 70€ for the harbour fee, this is not a cheap place. But once you have enjoyed the service, seen the showers that look like a hotel lobby, the BBQ’s with free wood and walked around the pristine island, it is worth it. We stock up on fresh home-grown vegetables and catch the only fish of the holidays…
Continuing East the next morning, between Falster, Bogø and south of Møn, we head for Copenhagen, where we booked a place in the Amaliehaven.
Situated near the centre of the city, opposite both the new opera and the Queen’s palace, Monara delivers her first crew in style.
Copenhagen has everything we hoped for; well organised, beautiful people, clean city, good shopping, a lot of drinking in the weekend, people jogging and swimming in the harbour.
Week 2 – North East Sjæland – July 9th to July 16th
When the my mother, father and brother arrive in Copenhagen on Saturday afternoon, we stock up Monara, buy the best bread we’ve tasted in years, and the cast lines on Sunday morning, to head north for Humlebæk, the small harbour next to the world famous Louisiana Museum. We moor on the pontoon at the harbour breakwater, as the entrance is too narrow for Monara.
After a visit to the Museum, we buy some life plaice from the harbour master, who combines his summer job with fishing the local waters. Baked in butter, with some fresh salad, potatoes and chilled white wine, they taste like heaven. Holiday has really started.
Leaving Helsingør to starboard, where the imposing Kronborg guards the narrow between Denmark and Sweden, we continue to Gilleleje the next day. On a bike trip we discover the beautiful houses situated East of the village, sloping down to the Kattegat.
Chasing the Vikings, we enter the Roskilde Fjord on tuesday morning, and encounter our first flock of swans. Throughout Denmark and Sweden, during the next weeks, we will come across tens of thousands of swans, living in salt water. We travel all the way south through narrow buoyed channels, to reach Roskilde by night. As the marina is full, we anchor on the west side of the harbour, facing green fields and woods, with the famous Cathedral in view.
The port area of Roskilde is alive, with Viking drakkars on display and some square dance festival going on. A rock concert fills the Byparken, while the area around the impressive historic Cathedral seems deserted when we visit it. Roskilde used to be the capital of Denmark until the 15th century, and it can be seen from the size of its Cathedral, which is a Unesco world heritage site.
On our way back to Copenhagen we stop over in Hundested, where the harbour is filled with craft shops, fish and chips restaurants and an attractive harbour office. Next to our mooring we find an old ladder, which allows us to install the anchor light that Monara has been missing for months.
On friday, in the Kattegat, we are escorted by a group of small dolphins that show us the way to Copenhagen.
When walking through Copenhagen the next morning, we only realise the scale of the Nice terrorist attack of july 14th, when we see thousands of flowers, candles and teddy bears left behind near the French embassy…
Week 3 – Copenhagen to Stockholm – July 17th to July 24th
With the wife and kids arriving, the family holiday starts from here… In order to travel the distance of 400 nm between Copenhagen and Stockholm, without spending 12 hours a day steaming, we decide to leave early monday morning, pass the famous little mermaid in the harbour by 06.30 and cover the distance to Kalmar in one run. The sea is calm, and although the first night watch is stressful for the new crew, good music, good stories, good company and good food make it a pleasant journey.
Kalmar gives us all we could hope for, and to the children some more as a result of the launch of Pokemon Go. The old city is very pleasant, the impressive Kalmar Slott guards the entrance to the city, the chandlery is very complete, and the supermarket is situated on the waterfront, next to our mooring. We buy the Swedish sea charts at the ships chandler, as we have been warned that from now on navigation will be tricky between countless islands.
Between Kalmar and Loftahammar there is no wind. The sea is flat, and we encounter large flocks of swans and countless seals, watching us playfully, bobbing in our wake, and disappearing just when you want to take a photograph. Loftahammar marina offers a good service, but apart from a nice white church and a very peaceful cemetery, the bakery and the supermarket are the only places that look alive.
When leaving Loftahammar the next day, we realise that we have reached the famous Blue Coast of Sweden, where you can enter the archipelago along the coast, and almost travel all the way to Stockholm without leaving the protection of the islands. Together with hundreds of other yachts, we follow this highway, that is clearly mapped as a line on our chart: the safe route between these small islands.
At night we find an anchorage behind the island of Boskar, where we launch to dinghies and explore the shores. This place is so quiet, that even the fish don’t bite.
A Swedish family passes by in their kayaks, with two small children, and put up their tent on the island. Our new neighbours for one night, enjoying this pristine nature.
It’s incredible how clean all these islands are, with no rubbish left behind. Only the occasional campfire site reminds of previous visitors.
Picking up the anchor in the morning, we continue our trip north through the archipelago, along the guiding line. Gradually we encounter some cabins and houses on the islands, always located on the spots with the most magnificent view.
We creep into the bay north of Arkö, which is shallow but well sheltered, and spend a lovely night at anchor, with the kids exploring the area by dinghy.
All along the archipelago we come across a lot of small jellyfish, that prevent us from swimming. Only at the end of our holidays, at the last anchorage, we will realise that they are harmless…
As we start to run out of supplies, partly due to the different cakes and pastries that our daughters made, we decide to go on all the way to Stockholm in one run, eager to be in a city again.
We approach Stockholm through Baggensstäket, a tiny channel that leads through the Skurusundet, where exquisite houses with beautiful boat sheds line the gorge. The channel comes out a few miles east of Stockholm Harbour. We reserved a jetty in the Wasahamnen, through dockspot.com, months in advance.
We moor alongside the outside jetty in the Wasahamnen, from where the view on Stockholm is incredible. The constant traffic of ferries and tour boats points out the tight link that Stockholm has with the water surrounding the city. Built on several islands, the easiest way to travel Stockholm is by ferry and on foot. Old ferries leave the city each morning to serve the islands in the archipelago east of Stockholm. The commuters take a morning coffee or an afternoon wine on the back deck while watching the scenery pass by. What a great way to go to work.
As the marina is next to Tivoli, the yells and screams of excited people in roller coasters are omnipresent from 11.00 to 23.00. Only the promise of a visit to Tivoli in Copenhagen keeps our young daughters calm.
After three days of exploration and shopping we stock up on supplies again, as we want to spend the next 4-5 days exploring the immense Stockholm archipelago.
Week 4 – Stockholm Archipelago – July 17th to July 23rd.
According to our tour guide… “The Stockholm archipelago fans out 80 km out from the city and is some 24,000 islands big. The nearest islands of Fjäderholmarna and beautiful fortress town of Vaxholm are less than an hour away by boat. The larger populated islands, for example Sandhamn, Blidö and Utö have hotels, holiday homes, restaurants, marinas and offer loads of activities. Most of the islands are small and uninhabited and waiting for you to discover them, perhaps by boat, canoe or kayak. Go here for a guide to Stockholm’s fabulous archipelago.”
With Jan and Emma B. arriving on Monday evening, we leave early on Tuesday, for some days of good company, loads of fun, nature at its best and Monara in her elements.
Sailing east out of Stockholm, accompanied by numerous yachts and ferries, we pass by the beautiful town of Vaxholm, and drop anchor in the bay of Björkholmen.
The children have the time of their life, with no wifi to distract them… They explore, play, fish, bake, make music, swim, talk and laugh all day long.
We sail for a few hours the next day, to a new little paradise, Stavsudda.The water in the archipelago is warmer than in the south, it is sweet to brackish, there are no jellyfish, so we swim, play around, explore the surrounding islands by dinghy and enjoy the peaceful nature.
In order to prevent Monara from swinging on her anchor in the wind, we tie her stern to a tree on the island, and have a quiet night. The morning swim to release the stern line is a cold one, that takes some convincing…
As Sandhamn is the mecca of sailing in the region, we head for this little town on the outskirts of the archipelago. After some narrow passage into the harbour, we realise that it’s a full house here, and decide to anchor in the beautiful bay east of Kroksö. To avoid swinging into our neighbours in this small bay, we tie the stern to a tree again.
You can rent a sauna pontoon in the middle of the bay, but we are too late. While we enquire, some American yacht moors off alongside and enjoys the wood stove heated treat…
We go for a beer in Sandhamn and are impressed by the size of yachts you find here, crammed into the marina. Preferring the peaceful surroundings of our anchorage, we gladly join Monara again by dinghy.
Jan and Emma B. have an early flight out again on Saturday, so we steam back to Stockholm on friday, picking an alternative route south of Vaxholm. The closer we get to Stockholm, the more impressive the villa’s and boathouses alongside our path.
Wasahamnen feels like coming home again, we almost missed the cheers of Tivoli…
Week 5 – Stockholm to Copenhagen – July 31st to August 7th
Pat and Reggie arrive on saturday afternoon, with their two children. The routine of stocking up supplies by bus at the local ICA supermarket becomes a habit, and we are ready for another week of Swedish and Danish adventures.
Leaving Stockholm through the same narrow Baggensstäket again, and start our trip south, while our ladies manage to do their morning yoga on the front deck. We head for the rocky island of Muskö, where we anchor in front of a dramatic cliff.
Some intrepid members of the crew manage to scale the cliff, they come back with beautiful pictures, wild stories, some scars and a few ticks each…
Early next morning we put up all our flags for Sylvie’s birthday. The children will bake cake today!
The evening of August 1st, after crossing the open seas south of Landsort, we drop anchor between Länjo and Bockskär, in what is a protected bird sanctuary (and prohibited area until july 31st).
By dinghy we investigate the different skerries and islets surrounding us. What appears to be like an abandoned helicopter lies on the shore at the entrance of a small bay, mysteriously… Some bird watcher lives in a cabin on one of the small islands, isolated.
Monara looks stunning, proudly showing all her flags, with some threatening clouds appearing on the horizon.
Having anchored enough, now, we decide to continue our route south through the archipelago, and sail into Västervik the next day. A pleasant harbour, well protected, but where rain showers come with strong gusts of wind.
The swimming pool of the marina is very cold, but the children have a brave go at it. Nature surrounding the city is beautiful, we find a good restaurant in the marina, and a good supermarket to store up.
The trip south from Västervik guides us through some of the most spectacular sceneries of Sweden, with narrow passages and wood grown gorges.
Wednesday afternoon we creep into a bay surrounded by rocks and islets, near Brändö, east of Eknö. Although there is a cold wind, the sun has been shining on the rocks all day, and we spend the afternoon lying on the warm rocks, making a campfire, having a beer and enjoying this treat of nature. The children explore the island, a huge spiral of stones reminds us of witches and elves, we swim in the cold water full of small jellyfish (finally) and enjoy an incredible sunset.
That night a stormy wind forces us to reposition, our anchor drags and we are moving dangerously close to the rocks. We keep an anchor watch until the wind drops (which it always does at night), and sleep a good night’s sleep.
By midday the next day the archipelago spits us out, and we enter the Kalmarsund between Öland and the mainland in nice conditions, heading for Kalmar. We fuel up, find a nice restaurant, cold beers, some ice creams and a hot shower.
From Kalmar we set off early on friday, in an overnight run to Copenhagen. Once we leave the Kalmarsund, the weather picks up a bit, we run into 2m waves and work our way around the south end of Sweden. Although not the most pleasant ride for some of the crew, Monara performs well and she guides us into the Amaliehaven again well before noon, greeting the little mermaid again by 09.30.
While Sylvie, Pat, Reggie and the children go for a city tour and a shopping spree, Joeri and I get all the supplies we need for our trip back to Belgium. Interesting to see that a lot of the boutiques in Copenhagen close at 14.00 on saturdays, and everybody finds a terrace to have a glass of wine or a beer.
We enjoy a good lasagna on board, while the locals in Copenhagen slowly submerge themselves into the weekend party mode.
Week 6 – Copenhagen to Antwerp – August 7th to August 14th
Our new delivery crew, Paul, Marcel and Max, arrive sunday morning. While the family leaves for another two days of Copenhagen (including an incredible visit to Tivoli), the five of us set off by noon, in the hope of finding a nice anchorage near Møn.
We have changed our plans of sailing north towards Aalborg, as the announced western winds force 5-6 would make that ride very uncomfortable.
In the shallows near Viemose, west of Møn, we anchor in 5m of water close to the beach, protected from the western wind by the woods onshore. The new crew prepares the fishing lines, and they sincerely hope to catch some mackerels, to be used as bait for the serious fish. During the entire evening we hear the swishing sound of cast lines, followed by the plonge of the lead in the water. We will catch no fish, but the evening sky is forgiving and colorful.
Fishing is all about hope…
We cruise through heavy seas in the shallows north of Lolland the next morning, hoping to find some shelter from the strong wind in a harbour.
While approaching Dybvig through the narrow channel, we realise that the small harbour is crammed with boats, and has no place for our 80 tons… The only solution is to make a U-turn in front of the harbour, with both bow and stern stuck in the mud. As a result, 30 minutes later, the alarms go off; the engines have lost the seawater cooling, due to blocked sea cocks.
We drop the anchor, clear the sea cocks, and find our way into the safe haven of Kragenæs, on Lolland, mooring next to the ferry jetty.
In order to stay protected from the western wind, we decide to travel through the Guldborg Sund, between Lolland and Falster. We find good shelter anchored in the shallows of Bredningen, although we are dragged for quite some distance before the anchor holds between the boulders on the bottom.
Packed with some worms and a mussel, our fishermen go back to work, convinced of their superiority over, or at least deep understanding of fish. We catch none…
Early next morning, we heave anchor and carefully work our way out of the Guldborg Sund. The channel is sometimes that narrow, that we have to push the red and green buoys aside to get through. Leaving Denmark behind, we head for Kiel, passing south of Fehmarn.
By 16.00 we moor off along the jetty in Düsternbrook marina, where we wash the salt off Monara. The last days through the south of Denmark were a bit rough, with a lot of sea water coming over. Monara is happy and clean by sunset, ready for the Kiel Canal.
The canal authorities let us into the lock by 06.00 on thursday, and we race through the quiet water, to reach the Elbe by 14.00 in foggy conditions. Another 6 hours to reach Helgoland, mainly against the tide, something we have to get used to again.
After fueling up we replenish our stores and make way by 09.00, en route for Antwerp. Too late we realise that we forgot to buy tax free German beer, although we have been talking about it for the last 4 days… Only 2 beers left in the fridge, so we chill the white wine.
The western stretch to Den Helder is pretty rough, with waves, tides and wind creating cross seas. Monara pushes her way through, not aware of the discomfort for the crew. By nighttime the wind settles, the seas become more regular and the next day is a pleasant cruise. By dawn on sunday we enter the Schelde, with the tide pulling us in.
Monara brings us all the way home to the Willemsdok in Antwerp by early afternoon; a trip of 2200 nm, with over 500 hours of motoring.
More than 20 people have enjoyed Monara’s old charms, living on board. We have cooked marvelous meals and deserts in her pleasant kitchen, we spent hours and hours talking in the wheelhouse, listening to music, for weeks in a row there were yoga sessions on deck, everybody on board has fallen asleep in the sofa while reading a book and we certainly had quiet evenings on the back deck with a cold drink, all the while travelling through some of the most beautiful stretches of the European coast.
Thank you, Monara!