This Swedish port is situated in the north of the Gulf of Bothnia, and as we arrived in the middle of summer, there was very little difference between night and day. It had taken us about seven days to reach this remote area and it was very unusual to spend the midnight to four watches in daylight.
The pilot station was on a small island at the entrance to the river Skelleftea (Skelleftealven in Swedish) and the pilot came on board with a delightful young woman who we learned was his niece and soon, of course, she became the centre of attention. She had black hair, unusual in Sweden and particularly so in the capital. But, smiling sweetly, she told us that there was a plentiful supply of peroxide in Stockholm!
She said that in the summer, her family lived on the island, and had to use the pilot boat to travel the fifteen miles or so to Skelleftea itself for shopping. She was an English teacher on her long summer holiday and, obviously, her English was very good.
On this occasion we had two berths at which to discharge our cargo, one on the south side of the river and the other at a factory with very tall chimneys on the opposite side. Both were about ten miles from the town, so we assumed going ashore was out of the question.
In various ports around Scandinavia we would launch a lifeboat to practice our boatmanship and this seemed a very good place to do it. We mentioned this to our new friend, Eva, who told us we would be welcome to see her family on the island.
So, with the ship safely berthed, the boat was launched, the great, cumbersome sail was hoisted and off we went to be warmly welcomed by the family with whom we spent a very pleasant couple of hours before returning to the ship.
Later, the ship moved to the second berth where it was fascinating to watch the sun setting through the ‘night’ – a dark shadow slowly climbing up the chimneys but not quite reaching the top before falling back to the bottom when the sun rose above the horizon.
I was off watch at the new berth when suddenly I was summoned to the deck. Someone in a boat was shouting for me.
The pilot boat was alongside with Eva asking if I was free for a trip to town. Of course I was free and spent five or six hours with her as she shopped in the little town then gave me a guided tour afterwards. Then, back to the ship to climb the pilot ladder to raucous and ribald shouts from the crew.
All too soon the cargo was finished and we sailed from this delightful port and, as the pilot disembarked close to the island, Eva and her family were on the shoreline waving as we passed, outward bound for England again.
by Terry Took © 2016
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.