National Geographic : 1950 Nov
Baltic Cruise of the Caribbee Swedish history have been brought, rebuilt, and refurnished. Visitors literally walk back through the centuries. Some churches recapture the past, too, especially Riddarholm, the Westminster Abbey of Sweden. Here the kings and the great lie under banners and in magnificent tombs. Unfortunately, our luck with the weather ran out on our arrival. The rains came down in limitless quantities, so we moored Caribbee and moved to a hotel. A local paper cartooned a sports event in the stadium-gymnasts per forming in deep-sea diving suits! Then came a change for the better. All the way from Oslo we had had sunshine but little wind. Now our luck became even better: we still enjoyed the sun, and strong, fair breezes as well. No sooner had Caribbee cleared the mooring basin than the overcast melted away; so we hoisted working sails and tore through the passages at maximum speed. Swedish people take advantage of Nature's blessing. Nowhere are there more little boats. As we came through the narrows at Sandhamn, we saw hundreds of boats lying in front of the Royal Swedish Sailing Club. We had arrived for Sandhamn Regatta Week, one of the big gest yachting events of Europe. It was the one date that Bill Moore and I had planned our summer cruise around (page 632). Thus began a memorable few days. Our welcome was swift and complete. We had hardly anchored before a representative of Commodore Jacob Wallenberg brought out an invitation to dinner. Each night there was another dinner, and formal dances inside the clubhouses or folk dances on the lawn. Swedish Families Summer Afloat To the Swedes any boat is a cruiser; whole families spend the warm months on craft the size of our smaller racing classes. Sailors pick a likely spot and tie up to shore, build a cooking fire on the rocks, eat picnic style, and sleep in the cockpit under a canvas tent. At Sandhamn several hundred were doing just this and racing each day besides (pages 611, 633, and 634). To join in the racing, Bill chartered a sloop of the international 6-meter class. Zib and I took a sailor's holiday and crewed in races against boats from Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Great Britain. On the final day Caribbee hoisted sail for the resort of Saltsjibaden, another yachting center. From the walks around a large hotel people watched our approach. It was a moment for stylish seamanship. A mooring off a large waterfront building lay empty. I carefully planned my approach: douse forestaysail and mizzen, a quick turn into the wind, then mainsail down, mooring picked up. Simple! Except, when I spun the wheel, I happened to look up. It was the ladies' bathhouse, one of those hazards to navigation. Caribbee missed the mooring by a boat length. Here began the finest sailing I have ever known. Both Argyll and Caribbee got under way with the first glow in the sky. It was calm. Soon a breeze came in fresh and true from the southwest. We set every light sail that would draw. We boomed through the skerries, sunlight dancing on the water, the islands like green jewels in a silver setting. Even one who loves the Tropics must con cede there is nothing so fine as a spell of good weather in high latitudes. The air is crisp, and warm in the sun, cool in the shade. By day the sky is deep blue, by night the stars are dazzling. Thus we sailed the skerries of Sweden and Finland. Baltic Water Nearly Fresh; No Tides The Baltic has a special charm. It is called a sea, but is more like a lake, as indeed it was during one geologic period. Connected with the Atlantic only by sounds between Sweden and Denmark, yet fed by the heavy rain and snowfalls of the northern forests, the water is virtually fresh. There is almost no tidal rise and fall, so few strong currents. During the summer the sea is usually placid, but winter gales make it one of the most dangerous bodies of water on the globe. At Soderarm Light we suddenly popped out of the skerries into the Aland Sea, a small segment of the Baltic. We set a compass course. The spinnaker pulled hard. The coast of Sweden began to dim, that of Finland to rise. It was a crossroads old in history. Here sailed the Goths, that restless and aggressive people who overran much of Europe and helped to destroy the Roman Empire. Here crossed the boats of the eastern Vikings. Here cruised the fleets of Peter the Great. Rapidly we raised the shores of Aland Island. As we neared its principal port, Mariehamn, the spars of a square-rigged ship towered above the trees. I should have been disappointed had it not been so, for this tiny and remote spot was the last home of the big sailing ships.* * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Last of the Cape Homers," May, 1948; "Where the Sailing Ship Survives (Aland Islands)," January, 1935; "Cape Horn Grain-Ship Race," January, 1933; "Rounding the Horn in a Windjammer," February, 1931, all by Alan J. Villiers.