ar-chi-pel-a-go n.[ < Gr. Archi-, chief + pelagos, sea] 1. A sea with many islands 2. A group of many islands.
And in a sea with many islands, more than 25,000 of them, my brother and I spent most of our childhood summers. My mother preferred to stay in our cottage, so it was my dad, my brother, our English cockerspaniel, Troika, and I who set out to explore the outer islands of the archipelago.
Our boat, a wooden motor boat (this was before fiberglass and speed boats), was moored in lake Malaren in Stockholm. To go from the sweet water lake to the salt water sea, Saltsjon in Swedish, we would first pass through Slussen, the sluice system, a big adventure with water disappearing underneath the boat and then raising it up again.
Boats waiting to go through the locks. This is from a book I have and I don't remember it being this crowded back when we went through. It wasn't easy, I remember that much.
Once in salt water, we motored through the waters of Stockholm, meeting navy ships, tourist ships, tug boats, ferries, and sailboats, big and small. I don’t remember how long this took, but it took a while to get out of city waters.
The islands closest to the mainland are wooded and dotted with many summer cabins, farms, and docks.
Further out toward open water, all that disappears and islands become craggy rocks. We would explore them all, pitching tent, making a fire, getting out our fishing poles and catching our dinner, often the Baltic herring, a delicious fish, indeed. Some of these outer islands were wonderful. Of course, there were no people around at all. Often you would find a lagoon where the water was really warm and you could enjoy swimming and perhaps you would find a meadow full of unusual flowers, where you could lie down and work on your tan. Our dad always won any tan contest.
Me, Troika, Dad, and my brother.
We usually avoided the larger more inhabited islands on our explorations, except to stop at some country store for supplies. Sometimes we stopped to visit friends and family. I remember one time going back from a visit in the light Swedish summer night with me reading the sea chart. I've always been good at reading maps so when I saw trouble ahead, I warned my dad to slow down. In an archipelago, not all rocks are above water, far from it. My dad, who had probably had a drink or two and felt like speeding, didn’t listen and sure enough, soon the boat hit the rocks, bump, bump, bump, with a great force. Another time, the engine conked out by an island that provided no shelter from the prevailing strong winds, so we had to row across open water to get to safety.
We had so many wonderful adventures and my dad certainly gave me the gift of wonderful memories of summers spent on the water.