It has been a dream of mine since I was a small child appreciating the rich cultural heritage that my country bears when it comes to the Baltic Sea and the times of the German Hanse some 500 years ago to pay a visit to the Island of Gotland. It´s a name that rings in my ears and still promises picturesque tales and stories of seafarers, the first truly globalized European network of trading and of course wars, adventure and treasures. It´s a matter of course that I sailed to Gotland on my delivery trip of the Beneteau Oceanis 30.1 prototype to Sweden.
How to sail to Visby Marina
Visby is the capital of Gotland and thus one of the biggest harbors for sailing yachts. Situated on the Western shores of the Island Visby is one of the few medieval cities that kept its original grid layout of the streets, a complete medieval wall with dozens of watchtowers and the charm of a rich King´s and trader´s city of long past centuries. Sailing here is a no-brainer, the harbor is open to the West and clearly marked.
Visby harbor hosts a docking port for no less than three or hour huge high speed ferries which make daily crossings to continental Sweden, a Southern yacht marina for pleasure craft that normally isn´t open for visitor boats and a Northerly marina which is the one I was visiting. We were very lucky because we arrived two or three weeks before the great Summer holidays of Sweden, Denmark, Poland and Germany – the marina was virtually empty and finding a berth was not a problem at all. This changes dramatically over high season: Visby must in any case be pre-booked in summer!
Mooring in Visby Gästehamn
So again, it was empty (and a bit hazy that day) when I arrived so I had free lunch where to moor. I opted for a berth alongside the “Holmen” called concrete jetty in order to have the shortest possible walking distance to bathrooms and stuff, but normally you´d arrive on one of the pontoons with mooring buoys. Scandinavian sailors tend to moor bow first – just as they do it in the archipelago – but you can as well moor stern first, no problem.
The harbor offers 250 berths of which a multitude is for visitors. Again, pre-booking well in advance is advised! The draft of your boat should not exceed 3 metres as this is minimum, a good chunk of the harbor´s basin has a depth of 6 metres so bigger boats can as well find a berth here. When arriving, you put your mooring line through just one of the buoys, don´t take two.
Demurrage in Visby marina
Up until my visit there unfortunately wasn´t arbor WiFi (I guess they are working on it) but service at the harbormaster´s office was exceptionally friendly and helpful. As we hadn´t got an adapter for the electric plugs with us, we got one for free. They also explained the rules and offered hints where to eat out nicely. The fee for our under 10m-boat was 24 Euros per day, which again isn´t a bargain but … Sweden is never a bargain.
What I really loved was the free car: When I was asking where I could by some sailing gear they not only told me where but handed me the keys to this car. I was free to go. People who take it are supposed to fill up the gas tank again but there is no charge whatsoever! That´s a great plus of Visby Gästehamn and certainly never be seen before. I also assume that during hot season the car is gone all the time, but anyway, great service!
You enter the bathrooms with a chip card. Good thing about it was the separation of toilets and showers, although there was actually one single WC in the showers, I guess for “emergency” reasons. The facilities aren´t brand new and not particularly stylish but I found them reasonably clean and working just fine. Shower-time isn´t limited, you just have to push a button from time to time.
There are also washing machines and dryers available again activated by a chip card. If I remember correctly for each day there are certain credits booked onto that chip card and each shower, each washing the clothing and having them dried draws credits. We stayed here for three days and never ran out of credits …
Eating and Resting One´s Oars
I am a bit ranting over myself for not having taken too many pictures of Visby itself to show here: But believe me, the whole old city can be walked by foot in two hours easily. There are dozens of restaurants, pubs and cafés inviting you to sit either inside, upstairs on massive wooden tables, on terraces or – which I loved most – in lush green inside courtyards. Amazing! There is a fish restaurant right at the pontoon, but we never tried it.
Swedish food is not comparable to the delights made in Italy or France, but I found it rather interesting to try “Strömming” which should not be mistaken for “Surströmming”. Kötbullar and other dishes should not me missed, it always opens up a new perspective on foreign countries and cultures when you try their food. I particularly loved Swedish beer and discovered my favor for IPA here, although that´s not a Swedish tradition of course.
Visby Marina: My Overall Assessment
Certainly not the most beautiful marina I´ve visited nor the most precious one, but everything works well, amenities are sufficient and the staff gorgeously friendly and helpful – my overall assessment of Visby Gästhamn is
7 of 10 points
You may visit the marina´s website here
Read all Sweden Sailing-related articles here
Scandinavian Sailing culture – explained by Niels Jeppesen, Magnus Rassy and Nicolas Sehestad