SWEDISH RHAPSODY AUGUST 2009
Monday 10th August 2009
The day started early with a stroll down to the quayside (past the concrete piece of artwork that I chose to call "the seal of approval"), to join the informal crowd waiting to board SAGA LEJON.
Seal of approval
The usual security compound was absent, and in no time the gangway was in place for us to board.
We paid the Purser for our booked tickets and were shown to a restaurant dining table which would be ours for the day; we had a huge picture window beside it and ample room under the table for backpacks; the table was laid with linen and glassware, ready for the first ‘welcome aboard’ snack, and all around were many original wood and decorative features such as the mosaic tiled pillars, the children's play area, and the builder's plate.
The sunlight poured through the windows, the ropes were cast off, and at 9.00 a.m. we sailed north from Vastervik heading for Nykoping through the Swedish archipelago.
The English-speaking Purser Joanna invited us to visit the engine room (two 6-cylinder MaK diesels), wearing efficient ear muffs, and to chat with the Chief Engineer on the aft mooring deck, and there we met Joanna’s husband who was also a member of staff.
The route was meandering, between the forested islands and sparkling water, with the red and green buoys showing our next turn in the channels, gliding through the calm water at 14 knots on this graceful little ship. Our welcome on board snack and lunch were included in the price of the ticket, but Bar and Restaurant service were available all day. Looking round the ship I noticed two big square glass door handles, on a locked room, just the same as the jewel-coloured ones I’d seen on other ships designed by Knud E. Hansen, the signed photograph of the King and Queen of Sweden taken on their June 1976 wedding day,and a most unusual sign about dogs.
Lunch of salmon and vegetables was served, and then it was time to prepare for a call at an island.
By superb seamanship, Captain Per Reback brought us in to the island of Gardsholm, with the bow pointing straight at the island. The gangway was hoisted off the foredeck and fixed securely, ropes held the ship in place, and almost everyone on the ship walked over the ship’s Bridge wing and over the gangway to set foot on this island; we could visit the tiny church, have a quick swim or paddle or simply take pictures from a few yards away. It was the most incredible and almost magical experience.
An hour after arriving, we were sailing away again and invited by the Captain to visit him on the Bridge. His wife and young children were also on board, so it was a happy atmosphere and fascinating to hear about his career at sea. He had been first with Stena Line, then Viking Line, then Star Cruises, before joining Royal Stockholm Cruise Line.
With the end of the voyage to Nykoping in sight, our speed had to be reduced to maximum 7 knots due to the depth of the water and the chance of bottoming out.
Buoy, that's close
The red and green marker buoys showed our way along the final miles into the little harbour, where the ship was to stay overnight. We were surprised to see a red double-decker London bus on the quayside.
We turned and tied up, disembarked with thanks and goodbyes, and headed into the town to find tonight’s accommodation. Forty Towers (!) was located, the rooms admired (black valances on the beds, Andy Warhol prints of Marilyn Monroe on the black shelves on the one black painted wall) and then it was out to enjoy the architecture and riverside walks (the Stadhus town hall designed by Alvar Aalto), back to the harbour and past the castle. What a wonderful day.
Ships seen: Gaastborg, Selga, Forza, Sonord, Linne