For as long as Ulrika Amnäs can remember, she has spent her summers on a yacht. Her family bought their first boat when she was seven. For several years they spent the summer sailing around in Stockholm’s archipelago and to Gotland and Öland. Every summer included at least three weeks of sailing with both family and friends.
– I remember most of those summers in the Swedish archipelago as idyllic, with sunsets and soft rocky outcrops. But unfortunately many of these memories also include recollections of cold and rain, says Ulrika.
Ulrika’s family therefore decided to try something new. They started sailing in the Greek archipelago in rented sailboats.
After a number of summers sailing rented boats, Ulrika’s family decided to sail their own Swedish boat down to the Mediterranean. The trip down took two summers and involved a lot of hard days of sailing. Among other things they sailed through the Bay of Biscay and off the coast of France, but they also experienced calmer periods of sailing along the coasts of Portugal, Spain and Italy.
Ulrika has many wonderful memories and stories from this time, but there was one particular incident that she remembers especially well. It was during a summer when the family was sailing along the coast of Portugal, where it is very common to have to navigate between fishing nets that have been placed out apparently at random by local fishermen. Ulrika’s family was aware of this and they were being especially attentive. When they were about one hour from their final destination, however, they heard a strange noise coming from the engine.
– My dad dived into the rough seas to see what the problem was and he saw quite quickly that a piece of rope from one of the fishing nets that we had sailed past had got caught up in the propeller. Out on the Atlantic, an hour from land, in rough seas, without a working engine and wondering how we are going to resolve all this, we finally heard a shout from a nearby boat which had seen that we had been lying still in the water for a while, says Ulrika.
It turned out to be a yacht that was into the fifth summer of a journey to transport the boat, which had been bought in Finland, all the way to the owners’ home in New Zealand.
– Thanks to them we were able to get a tow into the harbour, which after a few more dramatic incidents finally resulted in a fixed engine and a nice meal with our new-found friends from New Zealand – whom we are still in touch with today.
For the past two years, the Amnäs family has had its boat in Turkey during the winter months and in Greece during the summer. Every summer the family sails around in the fantastic Greek archipelago for several weeks. With each passing year, however, it is becoming more difficult to get the whole family together for a long sailing trip during the summer, but they still manage to get everyone together for at least a week of sailing.
What is your favourite place for sailing?
– I love to sail in Greece. The Greek archipelago is like the Stockholm archipelago – only a thousand times better. In Greece it is sunny almost every day, good food, fantastic scenery and often a good wind. The fact that you may also be visited by dolphins now and then certainly doesn’t make the sailing any worse.
When you are out in a yacht, you live in symbiosis with nature. That is what Ulrika loves about sailing. Experienced sailors usually talk about the sea, the sense of freedom and the excitement.
– When you’re sailing you’re at one with nature. I never cease to be amazed at the feeling you get every time you turn off the engine and raise the sail and the boat carries on moving at the same speed, and the drone of the engine is replaced by the sound of the wind in the sails and the waves beating against the hull. The feeling is indescribable.
Do you have any tips for other young people who want to go sailing around Europe?
– Since I’ve had the advantage of having a family with a boat in the Mediterranean, it has always been really easy for me to experience the fantastic sailing that’s available in other European countries. For those who would like to do the same, but who don’t have a family who are interested, then I would really recommend trying to find someone who is sailing down to deliver a yacht that you can ride along with. This is a good and enjoyable way of learning to sail in more demanding waters and of getting to know people who have the same interests. Another tip is to get a group of people together and to rent a boat with a hired skipper. This gives you an opportunity to learn at the same time as you get to enjoy the natural environment and life on a boat, but without having to shoulder all the responsibility.
Text: Lucella Bergström