In the Skerries

We are anchored in a lovely little pool in the skerries at the bottom of the east Swedish archipelago. It is completely calm , the sky to the east is blue , and to the west the setting sun is casting its yellow light on the pink granite rocks that surround us , bringing out their colours to perfection. A cuckoo is calling in the woods behind us, and various ducks and mergansers are pootling around having a final feed before dusk. We have come a thousand miles for this, and can now take it easy.

Kiel is 400 miles away, and it could have been a struggle to get here if the winds had stayed in the North, but we struck lucky and had 36 hours of brisk NW winds which allowed us to race 300 miles North East , before creeping into the tiny little harbour carved out of the rock on Utklippan , a skerry 5 miles South of the coast off Karlskrona. 35 years ago , Lynda and I were sailing past this island at dawn , when out of the mist appeared the whole Tall Ships fleet . One after the other , they tacked in front of us and thus started my obsession with square rig seamanship. This time around it was the wild life , not the shipping which provided the caberet. We were delighted to find a large colony of razorbills on the island plus all sorts of ducks that were new to us , and spent a morning with a young ornithologist who was ringing birds there.

I had been worried that the lack of birds at sea indicated that the Baltic was in a poor state of health – but the reality is somewhat more complex. When we were last here there was a thriving cod fishery, but in the intervening years the cod have been practically annihilated. Cod were the top predator in the Baltic, so smaller fish such as the herring have multiplied hugely. If I understood him correctly , these fish hoover up the zoo plankton , leaving the way free for phyto-plankton to multiply unchecked and bloom dangerously every summer . The gull population, which used to live off the the fishery bycatch , has plummeted , allowing the sea ducks to increase, or perhaps resume their natural dominance due to less predation of their young by the gulls . The exception are the eiders which feed on clams . Clams are badly affected by trawling and pollution , and also need cold winters to be really healthy etc etc . It just goes to show how complex our ecosystems are and how the industrial scale of modern fisheries can skew or destroy them . At least there is not the huge fish farming industry here that we saw in Norway – as heaven knows what ecological impact that would have in this tidelesss sea.

Today’s sail was “only “ 40 miles , from Kalmar to the start of the archipelago. From now on we need only move a few miles to another lovely anchorage if that’s what we want to do – but will probably make steady progress towards Stockholm , some 150 miles to our North. For now the weather is very settled with warm sunny days and chilly nights , but as the nights only last a few hours at the most – and we can be snug at anchor rather than at sea – we can happily put up with that !



  1. Welcome to Scandinavia again!
    We haven’t made it to that side of Sweden yet.
    Looking forward to hearing what it’s like.
    We are off to Kvitsøy with the boat this weekend.
    Liv is off to Iceland on a school trip next week.
    Have fun!
    John and Liv

  2. Hi there! It sounds totally amazing! It’s great to be able to track the wildlife and see the changes over time.
    HRS are singing in Abbey House on Monday with the ukes performing as well, hopefully the residents will enjoy. we have had a few days of lovely sunshine and my sister took me out to Romsey for a picnic in the park with my nephew and niece so that was nice.
    I have put up a bird feeder outside my window and have plenty of birds feeding – starlings, great tits, but best of all a beautiful great spotted woodpecker who flashes his beautiful red feathers. I have called him Professor Yaffle (from Bagpus!) I have put out some nyger seed for the goldfinches, but have not seen any yet.
    Take care and enjoy, Bev x

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