Should We Sail to Sweden?

Mikael sleeping on the floor of Silja Galaxy.

After a couple of nights in Mariehamn, we were ready to move on. But where to?

“We could sail to Sweden and Stockholm,” I said to Charlotte. “I’ve never actually been there with a sailboat and it would be cool to go.”

“Sure!” Charlotte replied. “And you know what?” she continued, smiling. “You could make one of my childhood dreams come true. I went there a couple of times with my parents, and I always wanted to go that that amusement park you can see from the harbour, but we never had the time to do it.”

That was settled then, we were going to Sweden!

Sweden is another country, obviously, but being citizens of a Nordic country, we wouldn’t even need to carry passports to cross the border. We had made sure to take the passports with us, though. Better safe than sorry, we thought. (During the refugee crisis in 2015, some Nordic countries did require, or at least strongly recommend carrying passports.)

“Hey, wait a minute! What about Aiko?”

I realized that in addition to being two adults and four children, we also had a dog that was going to cross the border. “Did you take his passport? Does he need one to go to Sweden?”

Turns out the answer to the first question was “no”, we had forgotten our Romanian rescue dog’s passport. The answer the the second question, unfortunately, after trying as hard as possible to find any loopholes or gray areas, was a resounding “yes”. Sweden is really strict about these things, and any foreign dogs entering need documentation, both in the form of a passport, as well as in the form of an implanted microchip.

Bummer. Double bummer. We felt quite stupid for forgetting it.

What Would Brian Boitano Do?

He’d make a plan and he’d follow through! (See South Park if this doesn’t make sense to you 😆)

There was no way around it. If we wanted to go to Sweden (and we did!), we needed to get Aiko’s passport from Turku.

Luckily, we were in Mariehamn, with plenty of cruise ships stopping by on their way from Sweden to Turku (and the other way as well). Unluckily for me, though, they were almost all fully booked, and the one that had a few available places would leave in the middle of the night, with no cabins left, meaning no place to sleep.

Run, Boys!

The in-the-middle-of-the-night ships didn’t leave from the center of Mariehamn, but from LĂ„ngnĂ€s, which was about 30 km from our marina. The cruise line, TallinkSilja, offers a taxi service though, so at 2 am in the night, after having walked a couple of kilometers from our boat, I found myself at the taxi pick-up spot. There was another man there, as well, waiting for the same taxi.

No taxi showed up.

Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes after it should have been there. Still no taxi.

There was a bus there, though, working for a competing cruise line, and we walked over to see if the bus driver could help us.

“Oh yes yes, they are always late,” he said, and grinned at us. “They will drive like crazy and you will just barely make it”, he continued and smiled empathetically at us.

We waited for ten minutes more and then, finally, with tires screaming, a taxi appeared around the corner, speeded to the pick-up place and braked violently.

“Get in!” the taxi driver shouted to us.

The bus driver wasn’t exaggerating. We were speeding (by a lot!) almost all the way to LĂ„ngnĂ€s.

When we were a few minutes away, the driver received a phone call from the ship.

“Yes, yes! We are coming! Two passengers. We will be there.”

The driver turned in to the small LÄngnÀs terminal, and stopped right in front of it.

“Run, boys!” he shouted. And we did.

With the Cloud Ship to Turku and Back

It was a bit surrealistic, to be aboard the ship we had waved happily at just a few days earlier from our sailboat. And to go in the wrong direction, back home, just so that we could go in the right direction a bit later.

The ship left at 02:55 am and was scheduled to arrive in Turku a few hours later at about 7 am in the morning. Then I’d have to make the trip from the terminal to home and back in less than an hour, to catch the same ship back to Mariehamn. If everything would go as planned, I’d arrive back in Mariehamn at about 1 pm in the afternoon, just in time for lunch with Charlotte and the children.

Finally, I wanted to try to get some sleep.

I ended up sleeping on the floor in a cafĂ©. It was cold. My laptop bag was a terrible cushion. I wasn’t alone though, since I shared the same cafĂ© with a few other passengers.

Sweden, Here we Come

Everything did go perfectly. I even managed to get a cabin for the trip back, and a few hours of quite decent sleep.

When I got back to Mariehamn, I dropped by the local book store and purchased the necessary nautical paper charts, as well as a wonderful harbour guide covering the Stockholm archipelago (strongly recommended!).

We were now all set for legally sailing into Sweden.

After much effort, the passport. I’m sitting in the taxi here, on the way back to the ship terminal in Turku.

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