My 16-year-old son and I spent a wonderful day visiting the Stockholm Archipelago. Venturing out into the vast network of islands is an experience too often missed by cruise passengers. Too bad. It is an easy, and exceptional, half-day experience.
We left in front of the Grand Hotel at 13:15 (1:15 p.m.), cruised to Siaröfortet, where construction on a fascinating fort began in 1916 to thwart a potential Russian invasion, then returned to Stockholm on a century-plus-old coal-fired steamboat, the highlight of the day.
Boarding the s/s Blidösund and stepping inside, we first noticed the noise of the pistons pumping. A deck below, coal was being shoveled into furnaces by — surprise — a woman.
When she came up for a breath of fresh air, blonde and Cinderella-like, I remarked that her face was coal-streaked, as if she didn’t know. “Doesn’t do any good to wash it while I’m working” she told me, smiling.
Later, I asked why she did a job like this one. “Wouldn’t you?” she responded, as if it were clear that anyone would envy such an opportunity. Her name was Alva. She told me she had been shoveling coal for more than 15 years.
She invited us down for a look at the steam engine and the furnaces that powered the boat. She couldn’t talk for long; otherwise the engine would “loose pressure,” she said.
With an apology, she stepped down into a pit and fed the furnaces with shovelfuls of coal. The boat wasn’t all that the coal was powering. We noticed that steaks were being roasted over some of the coals (which were approved for cooking). Skyffelbiff, which is translated as Shovel Steak, is served on a clean shovel in the attractive dining room, on the upper deck, a fascinating — and delicious — dining experience.
As steaks were carried up to the dining room, Alva told us that she loved the technique involved in stoking the furnaces and the love and care that went into keeping the old boat going. She loved the simplicity and mechanics of her trade.
The S/S Blidösund has been extremely well maintained, and it is apparent that the crew has an affection for the vessel. Maybe she isn’t the Love Boat, but she is boat kept afloat and running by love.
The S/S Blidösund is operated by Blidösundsbolaget, which runs regular day trips in the Stockholm Archipelago with the steamship and two high-speed boats, m/s Sjögull and m/s Sjöbris.
The steamboat and the archipelago complement one another quite well. Comprised of 30,000 islands, islets and rocks, the archipelago begins at the edge of Stockholm’s Old Town (Gamla Stan) and extends to the open sea, nearly 40 miles to the east (read about transiting the archipelago on a cruise ship, Cruising The Stockholm Archipelago)
Steaming, however, may just be the best way to see Stockholm’s archipelago. I can certainly recommend that you consider spending half a day experiencing what we did. For more information, visit Blidösundsbolaget.
Leaving The Grand Hotel
We left from in front of the Grand Hotel at 13:15 (1:15 p.m.) for a half-day excursion to explore Stockholm's Archipelago on m/s Sjögull, operated by Blidösundsbolaget. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
We felt confident that the captain knew his way after hearing that he has been cruising the archipelago for more than 40 years. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Beautiful Homes On The Islands
The Stockholm Archipelago is a popular get-away for Stockholmers, and some have summer homes on the islands - or year-round homes that require they commute into the city for their jobs. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
On m/s Sjögull, we enjoyed the daily special, salmon with fresh potatoes and salad. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Red Cottage, White Trim
Typical of the Stockholm Archipelago are red cottages with white trim, traditional fishermen's cottages, the captain told us. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
30,000 Islands, Some Different
I'm not sure what was going on with this island, but it is one of 30,000 islands, islets and rocks that make up the Stockholm Archipelago. Most are green and rocky. I think birds had their day with this island. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
We would disembark to spend a few hours on the island of Kyrkogårdsön to explore Siaröfortet. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Goodbye m/s Sjögull
The m/s Sjögull had brought us to Kyrkogårdsön. We would take the steamship S/S Blidösund back to Stockholm. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Welcome to Siaröfortet
The entrance to Siaröfortet, where construction on a fascinating fort began in 1916 to thwart a potential Russian invasion. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Built to Blend
Siaröfortet was built to blend. Its concrete roof resemble the rocks of the archipelago, except for the obvious guns. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Too damp for living, Siaröfortet was regarded as outdated when World War II broke out in 1939. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Inside the fort there was room for 270 soldiers and the requisite bedding, dining rooms, kitchens, toilets, office and storage room for food, water and weapons. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Sinks at Siaröfortet. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Not Ideal Accommodations
Damp, but safe, with a concrete ceiling that was six-feet thick at places. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
View from Siaröfortet
The view from the top of Siaröfortet. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Bring your swimsuit for swimming and sunbathing at Siaröfortet. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Dining at Siaröfortet
Siaröfortet has a restaurant and hostel. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
The dining room, situated in the old renovated barracks from the 20th century. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Homemade Baked Goods
Delicious cakes at Siaröfortet restaurant. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Inside the restaurant at Siaröfortet. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Check in or order a meal. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Beauty is abundant on the island of Kyrkogårdsön. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Sun And Sea
Taking a plunge on the island of Kyrkogårdsön. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
The Arrival Of S/S Blidösund
Our century-plus-old coal-fired steamboat arrives to take us back to Stockholm. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Friendly Crew Of S/S Blidösund
With a wave and a casting of the rope, S/S Blidösund is ready to embark new passengers. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Captain of S/S Blidösund
The captain of S/S Blidösund gives us a warm welcome aboard. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Inside S/S Blidösund
Beautiful wood paneling, fresh flowers, great food and comfortable seating characterize the interior of the S/S Blidösund. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Open bard, or rather, the bar is open. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Alva, She Stokes The Furnaces
With coal markings on her face, the friendly Alva has stoked the furnaces that power the S/S Blidösund for more than 15 years, a passion more than an occupation, she tells us. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Served On A Shovel
Skyffelbiff, which is translated as Shovel Steak, is baked on the furnaces that power the boat and served on a shovel. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
The outer part of the bridge of the S/S Blidösund. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Getting Ready To Dock
The S/S Blidösund seems to have a largely female crew. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
The Race Is On
As Alva stoked the furnaces, we raced another boat. We won. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
One of our stops for those disembarking at Vaxholm, where Gustav Vasa constructed a fortress in 1544 to defend Stockholm against shipborne attacks from the east. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Gamla Stan Ahead
Back to Stockholm at just after 19:00 (7 p.m.) © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
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