When I was planning this trip, the Svenska Högarna was a place I had definitely wanted to go. It is the most Easterly outpost of the Stockholm archipelago and with its attractive 19th century lighthouse and a 5-mile gap between it and the rest of the inner islands seemed like an excellent target.
However, the wind had conspired to prevent us from setting out on several occasions. It is to the SE of Svartlöga, and much of the wind had been from that direction so far. Being so far out, it also needs settled weather to make the journey. In addition, the direct route is not in a main channel and passes through many groups of small rocks, which look pretty off-putting on the chart.
However, now I have gained confidence in the accuracy of the electronic charts, with settled weather and most of all, a nice sou’westerly breeze, today seemed the day for this trip. Sadly, Trevor and I could not interest any of the children in this adventure, so just the two of us set out with enough provisions for a two-night trip.
The brisk breeze whisked us along on a lovely three-sail reach and we quickly passed between Ängskär and Kalskär, shortening sail to main and staysail only. The wind gradually shifted to put us on a training run and we contemplated reefing, but Aurora seemed happy to fly- we did not dip below 5kt on the whole run.
It was interesting passing beyond the penultimate island group, Fredlana, into open sea. For the first time, I felt the sea swell and we had an empty horizon ahead of us. I could make out a couple of masts poking above the horizon and, as we drew closer, the islands themselves rose up out of the sea. I don’t know if its because it was windy, but this place had more of an outpost feel as we arrived at Storön- the name means “big island”.
The anchorage was very snug, with a narrow and well sheltered channel between the main island and it’s neighbour. The channel was only about 20m wide and was crammed with boats. Not for the first time, we were glad that Aurora finds herself suited to a different type of mooring than most local boats; we found a nice low-lying section over which her bow sip can hang; being much shallower draught gives us access to spots most yachts cannot use.
There were many offers of help, but we were soon secured to convenient rings in the rock, though I was not so happy with the holding of the stern anchor. Still, it was very easy to get on and off Aurora here. The topology is so different to what I am used to, with such steep rock that a boat may anchor close enough to the shore to simply step off.
The landmark feature (literally!) is the lighthouse. It was completed in 1875, is made of cast iron and is of an interesting design, different to any I had seen before. To my amazement, one may just climb up to the top to admire the view. Trev and I reached the top to find a family drinking wine and enjoying the amazing view. It turned out that they knew the neighbours on Svartlöga well.
The lamp for the lighthouse is only a 40W filament bulb and yet it casts its warning across many miles of sea. At first it seems quite dim, as the lamp turns on just after sunset. However, when the sky darkens, the light seems very bright. The views are staggering- to the South, East and North almost all sea, but to the west, the island groups of the archipelago are all laid out.
There were also two “labyrinths”- mazes made of stones laid out on a flat rock. These are 3000 years old, or made by the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, depending on whom you listen to! The maze itself consists of just one branch- one leads quickly to the middle and the other winds tortuously to the middle. Perhaps this is a metaphor for choosing a path and sticking to it, or perhaps that all paths eventually lead to the same end…?
The final act of the day was to admire the sun set into the sea, leaving a lovely texture to the darkening sky. As night fell, many toads came swaggering out of their daytime hideyholes. At times, care was needed not to tread on them! Like many of the islands, one can see wildlife at close quarters.