During the Sweden Sailing trip which was 540 miles sailing the Beneteau Oceanis 30.1 prototype from Germany to Sweden I ended up cruising a handful of days the famous Swedish Archipelago which – following the advice of so many circumnavigators I´ve talked to – was to be regarded as one of the most beautiful sailing areas in the whole world. I was planning a route that should bring us to different places within this area of tens of thousands of smaller and bigger islands. The second day in the archipelago, we´ve found a very special one: Biskopsön.
The island is one of the bigger “stones in the water” and when I was choosing this one I was just looking at the naval chart and hoping that my choice would be the right one. From judging the charts, I identified a small channel leading into an inlet, shallow but deep enough anchorage and a protection against wind and swell from 360 degrees. And boy, I was so damn right! Biskopsön made me fulfilling a load full of my childhood dreams: Which is what I am to write about now.
A childhood´s dream coming true
The day sailing to the island was just a short one from Ranö, which was on purpose because on my to-do-list for the Sweden trip there was an item “discover an island”. So for that you need time. We arrived around noon and dropped anchor in the middle of the inlet. It was just fantastic, breathtaking, beautiful und no matter where we were looking, it was just wonderful! But how to reach the island?
Although I did have all the equipment on board to have the boat landed “Swedish style”, meaning bow first to the stone and having the boat tied up with irons in the stones and held by a stern anchor, I refrained from doing so because our Oceanis was simply not equipped with a stern anchor, making this a tricky undertaking. I had a different idea: “I am building a raft!”, I said to Martin and began lashing together all the fenders we had aboard. I also lashed the door from the entryway to the raft and it was floating just nicely.
Then I pulled out a live-saving device I also had with me: A professional offshore survival suit made by Secumar. “Let´s swim!”, I said to Martin who was still a bit skeptical. But I went in the water first. Although it had barely 15 degrees I felt no cold at all, the suit worked very well. We lashed our equipment we needed to explore the island to the raft, watertightly sealed in garbage bags, and off I went.
Just barely 30 meters of swimming to the near shore was a no brainer. I reached the slimy ground that consisted of stones. I was glad that the ground had been sanded smoothly so that there weren´t any sharp surfaces or spikes.
So I crawled onto the island and although it is stupid but it felt like I had accomplished a huge thing. My inner child was so happy when I peeled myself out of the survival suit and brought to dry land all the equipment that we had lashed to the raft, I was just full of happiness and kidlike joy – the sun was shining and everything was perfect.
I unloaded the stuff and signaled to Marting that he could pull back the raft. We had attached one of the Gennaker sheets to the raft so that it took him not a minute to retreat the raft. He than prepared himself for the passage. In the meantime I couldn´t wait but climbed the first rock that was raising right behind the shore.
The view was just marvelous and exactly was I was hoping for. The boat was mooring at anchor, gently moving around driven by a light wind. I could the for the first time focus on the small island, which in fact wasn´t that small at all: There were pine trees all over the place which came with their signature resinous smell which I love, green grass, lush bushes and some reed. I went back down tot he shore and encouraged Martin to come over. We had stuff to do!
Finally he had cramped himself into the survival suit, which was kind of a harsh fight for him as the wet suit was difficult to get into (Martin is one or two sizes bigger than me) but finally he as well jumped to the water and propelled himself to Biskopsön. Well, finally we both were here – let´s discover!
Exploring an unknown island
It was more my fantasy than the real island but Biskopsön is really a nice ands quite place. We climbed the highest point and the first thing I did was to check the fairway leading into the inlet – a very, very narrow channel with a 90 degree-turn. Then I turned to the outside world which was the watery area North of Biskopsön – Islands over islands as far as I could see. What a fantastic place!
The island was inhabited, at least by one deer that we saw eating some grass. The animal detected us but made no efforts to run away. I could close in on the beautiful animal up to 20 meters or so until it finally dashed off. I later read that the Swedish government is constantly releasing these animals to the wild here and I wondered how big might a population of deer be here on that island, how many animals can this small island support and feed?
We strolled the island and climbed the rocks, rounding the anchorage. Standing on the round stones it opened up different angles on the boat which was a fantastic view! Crickets were chirring, birds were singing and dry branches were cracking under our feet. It was hot when we were creeping through the pine forests, it got fresher when we reached another shore and the wind was cooling us down. We wandered the island, imagining ourselves far, far away. Just beautiful.
But anyway, weh ad business to do and so I called for returning to our shore. With our goods brought over to the island there was some serious culinary stuff coming. Back in Germany when I was planning the trip and finally spent two hours in the supermarket for acquiring provisions I bought two huge T-Bone steaks. Big, raw meat, high quality beef. My idea was exactly this: Landing on a deserted island, making a fire and having those giants grilled old style. Now this dream was about to come true.
On our way back to the shore we gathered dry branches and it took us no 10 minutes until we had a nice pile of wooden combustibles. I built a fireplace out of stones to contain the fire, four bigger stones marked the edge of the fireplace where we put the cooking grate from the boat´s oven. Lighting up the fire was a no-brainer since the wood was dry as the desert – within 5 minute the fire burned just nicely and we sat down, opened a beer and drank to Rasmus.
What can I say? This was the best steak I had in year for sure! Well, maybe not the healthiest in terms of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrosamines and other stuf, but you know what? In this special case we simply did not care. The fire burned high and the steak grilles just perfectly, when the branches had been burned down and the charcoal was merely glowing we had the steaks relaxing at low temperatures before we took out the plates, the knifes, salt and pepper and devoured this delicacy with the most of joy you could imagine.
Perfect. Just plain and simple perfect: Water was gently surging the stony beach, the smell of BBQ was all around, the beer was still cold and tasty in the sun and we both moaned and groaned upon this feast of perfectly grilled meat. I cannot imagine a better BBQ in my whole life. For the first time of the whole trip I felt completely disconnected from the surrounding world, completely at ease and happy all over.
A pretty perfect summer´s day
But all things must eventually end and as the sun was inevitably starting her decent down it got colder in the shadows by the minute. We meticulously took care to put out the fire completely because we didn´t risked a spark flying around and set ablaze this wonderful island. Martin had discovered a shed with trash bins where we brought our leftovers to and we began to pack our watertight garbage bags for the return swim.
This time Martin got the comforts of being first in the dry suit and when I pulled it back it was this time me trying to take on the wet and stubborn suit. But it worked and the swim back was indeed refreshing and fun. We decided not to take apart the raft because maybe we´d need it for another island swimming action.
As the survival suit was drying on the fore deck and we both sat down in the cockpit, Martin conjured a bottle of red DOC wine we enjoyed in the sunset. Then three boats entered the inlet of Biskopsön, one of them another Beneteau, and all of them mooring the right way not far from us. It kind of blasted the quietness although they didn´t really destroyed the atmosphere.
Checking my books later I found a picture of the very inlet in which we found the perfect anchorage as the one and only boat for the most part, and it didn´t look all too inviting anymore: Dozens of boats mooring next to each other in high season. I showed it to Martin and we were even happier being here off season – which would be one of my recommendations to you, dear reader: Come here in early summer. It might not be warm enough to swim, but it will be definitely quieter.
And so my summer adventure in Biskopsön ended. I can perfectly well understand writers like Astrid Lindgren finding inspiration for wonderful stories and books here. This one day as conquistador on this island was so refreshing, so beautiful, so free that Biskopsön, the perfect steak, the swimming action definitely is one of the big highlights of the Sweden Sailing trip.
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