SWEDISH RHAPSODY AUGUST 2009 Part 4
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.
BIRGER JARL Bridge
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)