A Must Do When In Stockholm: ‘Steaming’ The Archipelago

Stockholm Archipelago Tours

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

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

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

Captain Goran

Captain Goran

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

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

Yum!

Yum!

On m/s Sjögull, we enjoyed the daily special, salmon with fresh potatoes and salad. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Red Cottage, White Trim

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

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

Approaching Siaröfortet

Approaching Siaröfortet

We would disembark to spend a few hours on the island of Kyrkogårdsön to explore Siaröfortet. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Goodbye m/s Sjögull

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

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

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

Underground Siaröfortet

Underground Siaröfortet

Too damp for living, Siaröfortet was regarded as outdated when World War II broke out in 1939. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Officer's Quarters

Officer's Quarters

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

Siaröfortet Sinks

Siaröfortet Sinks

Sinks at Siaröfortet. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Not Ideal Accommodations

Not Ideal Accommodations

Damp, but safe, with a concrete ceiling that was six-feet thick at places. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

View from Siaröfortet

View from Siaröfortet

The view from the top of Siaröfortet. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Siaröfortet Swimming

Siaröfortet Swimming

Bring your swimsuit for swimming and sunbathing at Siaröfortet. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Dining at Siaröfortet

Dining at Siaröfortet

Siaröfortet has a restaurant and hostel. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Siaröfortet Dining

Siaröfortet Dining

The dining room, situated in the old renovated barracks from the 20th century. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Homemade Baked Goods

Homemade Baked Goods

Delicious cakes at Siaröfortet restaurant. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Cozy Setting

Cozy Setting

Inside the restaurant at Siaröfortet. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Siaröfortet Reception

Siaröfortet Reception

Check in or order a meal. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Beautiful Island

Beautiful Island

Beauty is abundant on the island of Kyrkogårdsön. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Sun And Sea

Sun And Sea

Taking a plunge on the island of Kyrkogårdsön. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

The Arrival Of S/S Blidösund

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

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

Captain of S/S Blidösund

The captain of S/S Blidösund gives us a warm welcome aboard. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Inside S/S Blidösund

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 Bar

Open Bar

Open bard, or rather, the bar is open. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Alva, She Stokes The Furnaces

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

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

Blidösund Bridge

Blidösund Bridge

The outer part of the bridge of the S/S Blidösund. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Getting Ready To Dock

Getting Ready To Dock

The S/S Blidösund seems to have a largely female crew. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

The Race Is On

The Race Is On

As Alva stoked the furnaces, we raced another boat. We won. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Vaxholm Fortress

Vaxholm Fortress

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

Gamla Stan Ahead

Back to Stockholm at just after 19:00 (7 p.m.) © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

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