Haynes World - ships, ferries, a laugh on the ocean wave, and other interesting things...

28 October 2009



Wednesday 12th August 2009

Soon after midnight BIRGER JARL tied up in Mariehamn, in the Aland Islands, and the ship was to stay there for the night. The sun came up early and flooded the cabin with light, joining the water flood from the previous evening’s showers which had not yet fully drained away. Balancing carefully I could lean out though and see the quayside flowers being watered, and the ship’s waste being collected by a lorry.

We left at 8.30a.m. and breakfast was served in the forward Roslagen Restaurant; then we visited the Bridge!

The Second Officer showed us round and told us when we could expect to see other ships coming towards us out of Stockholm, so we could plan our morning’s photography despite the cloudy grey skies. He obviously enjoyed his work on this ship; something we noticed on the radar screen was “local magnetic anomalies” in two areas around Mariehamn, but it was not convenient to query this with the Second Officer at the time.



Because we knew the ships’ timetables, we enjoyed what felt like a positive cavalcade of ships coming past us as we returned to Stockholm: first Via Mare, then Silja Europa, then Isabella, then Sea Wind, then Finneagle.

SILJA EUROPA under a storm cloud



Soon it was lunchtime in the Roslagen Restaurant, with delicious salmon again. Coffee was taken on deck in the increasing sunshine and in no time it seemed we were tying up at the Anedin Linjen Terminal back in Stockholm at 3.15 p.m. after a wonderful trip on the BIRGER JARL.

I fear she may not be with us after September 2010, thanks to SOLAS regulations, but the Second Officer said that several plans for her future were being discussed that might extend her life, including possible use as a youth hostel in Stockholm, so we must hope for the best. She is such a little treasure and hugely popular.

We left the quayside reluctantly but hurried to check in for overnight cabins on the ex-KRONPRINSESSE MARTHA, now an hotel ship. With luggage safely stowed, our fast footsteps took us back along the waterside and bridges to board the STORSKAR, for an evening dinner cruise.


She is one of the little Waxholmsbolaget ships, with a tall black funnel with Swedish colours and a large ‘W’ emblazoned on each side. She has a graceful counter stern and bridge trimmed in wood and brass, with ornate cast steel window heads to decorate the topsides. Her superstructure and hull are white, and she was built in 1908. This was the oldest ship I have ever been on and she seemed in beautiful condition, doing voyages to the archipelago with her triple expansion steam engine.

We steamed out of Stockholm with three toots on the whistle at 4.45 p.m. in increasing sunshine, and passed BIRGER JARL, BLIDOSUND, BIRKA PARADISE and several other local little sightseeing ferries, and soon caught up with the departing MARIELLA of Viking Line.


MARIELLA was really close

It was a rather surreal situation sailing in tandem with her, at a similar speed of about 13 knots, on a parallel course, with our 235 tons dwarfed by the 38,000 tons beside us. After about 10 minutes we turned to starboard and headed for our first stop, at a local jetty on one of the islands.

Passengers left or joined the STORSKAR and off we went again, and called at many islands. I was amused at one point when over the top of the trees on an island on our port side, I could see what looked like a blue and white shark’s fin; of course it was soon identified as GALAXY’s funnel as she headed into Stockholm, but momentarily it was a weird sight.

We recognised one of the other passengers, Terry Sylvester, on the ship as an official from the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society in the UK, so we could talk about recent travels on WAVERLEY and BALMORAL, as well as STORSKAR. You never know who you are going to meet…

There seemed to be passengers waiting for us at each stop, and I noticed and admired the way that the crew member throwing the rope out from the ship to the quayside bollard tossed it with a large loop at the end which always fell straight over the bollard! That’s skill, and practise of course.

Routes through the archipelago

A sad sight

Two hours later we arrived at the furthermost island of Vasbystrand and all of us got off the ship for 15 minutes.

The evening sun was gilding the water and creating beautiful reflections of STORSKAR, and we had time to admire the sheer of the vessel and the counter stern before boarding again for our return journey amongst the islands.


STORSKAR's gleaming decks

STORSKAR's 1908 bell

Soon it was time for our dinner appointment in the midships restaurant on board and we sat amongst deep red velour upholstery, beautiful woodwork and lighting, watching the evening sun sink lower in the sky as we enjoyed our meal which included marinaded herring and steamed wheat – delicious!

I love that fountain

Five and a half hours after leaving our berth in Stockholm we were back in port, having had a wonderful dinner cruise on this amazing little vessel.

Ships seen: Silja Europa, Via Mare, FinnEagle, Rosella, Birka Paradise, Isabella, Sea Wind, Storskar, Birger Jarl, Blidosund, Mariella

(To be continued)


Part 3

Tuesday 11th August

Time to enjoy more of the sights of this town of Nykoping,including the Stadhuis and
pedestrian area, before taking the train north via Norrkoping. Despite arriving there in pouring rain we had time to see the trams, cinemas, flowers and part of the town centre before resuming our journey up to Stockholm. There the rain had a final hurl upon our heads, then stopped as we walked towards Skeppsbron, looking for our next ship. En route we could see GABRIELLA, VIKING CINDERELLA and MSC ORCHESTRA.



Our next ship was built in 1953 for Rederi AB SVEA’s Stockholm-Helsinki service, and since the 1970s has been used as a cruise vessel for 22 hour trips to and from Mariehamn in the Ă…land Islands: it was to be the fabled BIRGER JARL!


I’d been told to expect Swedish grannies pushing and shoving their determined way to the tax-free shop on the ship, cushioned mattresses at the bottom of steep stairways to soften the fall of any drunken passengers, and general inebriation as soon as the ship left port, so I was keeping an open mind about this experience.

Being herded into the Anedin Linjen terminal building was interesting; the booked fares were paid (very cheap) and the first sitting dinner time changed from 5.30 p.m. to 7.15 p.m., and then we could go fairly near the quayside beside the ship in the strongly fenced ISPS-compliant compound. Ah, another fencing contractor laughing all the way to the Bank, I suspect.

We soon boarded and were guided to an inside cabin number 42 that proved to have its own outside bathroom with big opening porthole; what a delightful surprise to be able to hang out of it and chat to one’s fellow passengers, who were also leaning out of their portholes! And how unusual to be able to sit on the toilet and gaze out at the sea… There were two original Alvar Aalto-designed stacking stools in the cabin.

It was fascinating to explore this ship which has so much original woodwork and other features in it. Passing the passengers playing the slot machines, we came to the forward Cocktail Bar which looked inviting and very popular; I liked the 1950s design ceramic panel on the wall, behind the piano the peached glass mirror with musical notes cut in it, the old silver-coloured rosette bell-pushes beside some tables, and a miniature wooden half-hull on another wall of a Finnboda-built cargo liner.

I liked being able to stand on the promenade deck looking aft at the sheer and curvature of the stern, although part of this was a later addition.

The forward Roslagen original first class dining room had models of the ships, and beautiful etched glass lampshades, and the aft Remmaren dining room was another attractive place for a meal that evening. The smorgasbord buffet food was delicious and plentiful.

I stood midships on the boat deck and realised that under my feet was a brass-ringed porthole, which another shippy friend had mentioned recently. He had been staying in that cabin and the only daylight came from this porthole in the ceiling!

At the bottom of two steep stairways were huge and very thickly padded quilted walls, just as I had been told, which would save falling passengers from certain injury, especially depending on their state of intoxication. The tax-free shop was very popular as soon as it opened after first sitting dinner, and there were permanent queues to buy alcohol and cigarettes

The evening’s entertainment in the aft lounge was a band playing tango music and then a singer, but it seemed the important thing was drinking. Those who smoked came out on deck nearby (most of the passengers) and we enjoyed several conversations with interesting travellers, who were just as intrigued with us as we were with them. There was amazing watery sunlight in the archipelago once the rain had cleared.

Ships seen: Baltic Queen, Viking Cinderella, Blidosund, MSC Orchestra, Gabriella, Birka Paradise, Norrskar, Djurgarden 7, 8 and 11, Galaxy, Saltsjon, Storskar

27 October 2009


Part 2

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