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The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

A Little Adventure to Sweden’s West Coast

Janet and Martin McKeown

Long May You Run
Saturna 33 Offshore
September 22nd, 2019

Vancouver Island’s Broken Islands group was our intended summer destination aboard our 1981 Saturna 33, until I succumbed to the dangerous activity of surfing the net for sailboats and boating destinations. In no time, the site of Hallberg Rassy’s Open Yard boat show popped up. Martin made a casual comment of “maybe we should go”. We had already booked the time off work and the Broken Islands weren’t going anywhere. The thought of going to Orust Island, Sweden, the mecca of Swedish blue water sailboat building for over 75 years, was hard to ignore. A few more clicks surfing the net and we’d booked to go. Keep in mind that Martin and I are still BCA “Dreamers”.

Orust Island is on Sweden’s west coast and part of an archipelago of rocky islands blanketed in heather. Although their tide is only 40 cm, their biggest hazard is rocks! For the last 26 years, Hallberg Rassy has hosted their Open Yard in Ellos, on the northwest coast of Orust Island. Not only are there new and used Hallberg Rassy’s on their docks, they also show their boats in all stages of construction in their yard next to the docks, for everyone to see, free of charge. And if that is not enticing enough, there are new and used blue water sailboats by other Scandinavian builders as well as a variety of exhibitors. It is a delight to see the Hallberg Rassy, Malö, Najad, Regina and Swedish Yachts beauties.

A sea of hulls and the initial laying of the teak deck

Sadly, the economic downturn 10 years ago hit Orust Island hard. The good news is that the upturn has come with some yards bouncing back better than others. A ‘wow’ moment for us was seeing the organization and skilled craftsmanship in the Hallberg Rassy yard.

A classic, shown at the Open Boat Yard

Saturday night of the three-day show, a dinner and presentation was held, similar to the BCA club nights. It was a delight chatting with others at our table including Swedes, Finns and Canadians! Everyone was friendly and shared stories freely. Axel, a young fellow who works remotely and lives on his Faurby 31 on Orust Island introduced himself by “My name is Axel, it is easy to remember because my name means shoulder in Swedish!” We all had a chuckle.

Dinner and talk, much like the BCA club nights

While at the dinner, we discovered that there was another open boat show, half an hour south on Marstrand Island for both power and sailboats, also free of charge. How could we resist? So the next day, off we drove to see another beautiful island and more boats including a new Najad 395, and Danish boats, Nordship, Faurby and X-Yachts. All beautiful and some captured our interests more than others.

Two of many beautiful boats: Najad 375 on the left and Hallberg Rassy 372 on the right

While we fulfilled our passion to browse in awe at many beautiful boats, we came away with a much clearer appreciation for what we are looking for, for our next boat and what our realistic cruising goals are. I like to refer to John Kretschmer’s “Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Bluewater Boat”: (see pg 69 of Sailing a Serious Ocean)

  1. Do you need a blue water boat?
  2. Who is going sailing with you?
  3. Can you fit all your possessions in a car trunk or do you need a U-Haul?
  4. Have you purchased fixer uppers before?
  5. Name 5 reasons that you really want a boat.

Although we missed time on our dear boat on the coast of BC’s sailing mecca, it has been a treat to see the heart of Sweden’s boat building community, their beautiful coast and to enjoy their kind hospitality. A few pearls to share…

  • There are numerous protected anchorages and villages for mooring in Sweden’s west coast archipelago.
  • There are several boat shows in August and September in Northern Europe, so it is good to decide which boats you really want to see by checking the list of exhibitors.
  • Asking ahead to do a sea trial works well. We did a sea trial on a light wind day, aboard one beauty. In the end, we declined two other trials because after learning a few things, we weren’t really serious about those two boats.

A fair weather test sail. We found some wind to hoist the sails.

  • If one is considering purchasing a boat, hiring a broker is useful to help with the inevitable PST, GST, duty or not, thanks to a Canada EU free trade agreement, CETA, VAT exemptions and delivery if needed.
  • Most people speak English and knowing a few Swedish words like ‘tack sa mycket’ (thank you very much) goes a long way.
  • Flying into Copenhagen on Condor Airlines and renting a car ($25/day) is much less costly than flying into Stockholm or Oslo.
  • Renting a cottage for a week is very reasonable. Their weeks are Saturday to Saturday and busy season slows in early August when kids return to school. We rented in an old fishing village, Edshultshall, on the west coast of Orust Island through Kobbar & Skar. Eva was prompt with emails and extremely helpful.

The community sauna.

  • Swimming off the rocks on a hot day or at sunset is a delight. In Edshultshall we rented a sauna 10’ from the shore for $15/2hrs. Other rentals on the island include power boats, kayaks and bikes.
  • Fresh ocean catch is available in many villages eg. crayfish from Larsson’s Fisk is melt in your mouth delicious.


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