Homeward bounder.

Thirty six hours after disembarking our first Baltic cruise students we embarked another full complement for our second cruise to the Baltic.

For this cruise our first port of call was Stockholm; what a beautiful interesting city.

AB Stocklholm

We arrived off the coast of Stockholm during the night, and picked up our pilot and sailed quietly through the archipelago of the many islands that stretches 80 km offshore.

By sacrificing some of my night’s sleep I was able to make out, what I believe was the distant northerly lights of the Aurora Borealis. We hadn’t reached the man made lights of Stockholm and the night was free of light pollution. When it is full summer, which means hardly any ‘night’, it is very unusual to see the Aurora Boreslais.

The above picture is from the internet to try and illustrate what I saw, but I saw the ‘light’ well before we reached the light pollution of Stockholm.

Dawn came up before 5.00 am, which ended any further chances of seeing the Northern Lights, but instead we had the city of Stockholm waking for a new day.

During the tour of the city we visited the Vasa.


The Vasa was a sailing ship that sank in 1628 on her maiden voyage just 1400 yards in to her voyage.
Her guns were removed in the 17th century and she was left to rot until she was found again in the late 1950’s.
She was salvaged in 1961 and placed in a special building where the ship was sprayed with a chemical to stop her rotting away in the air. The mist in the above photograph is the chemical spray.
When I saw her in 1965 we were able to walk around the outside of the vessel on a special suspended catwalk.
Today, if you wish an update of the Vasa click on the link for the blog about our visit in 2018, it was a wonderful experience.
The image of the ship had been in my mind for over fifty years and in 2018 I was fortunate to revisit the Vasa.

We stayed overnight is Stockholm and sailed the following evening for Leningrad.

On arrival in Leningrad (now called St Petersburg again) at 6.00 am, we were greeted by hundreds of school students, dressed in gym wear, running around a large concrete area alongside to which we berthed. We were not in the cargo area of the port, nor where we in a cruise area, (if they had one in 1965), so I assume that because we were carrying so many students, we berthed at a special wharf to maximise the propaganda aspect of our arrival. We felt sorry for the gymnasts because it was quite cold at 6.00 am, even in May.

The athletic exhibition carried on for about an hour, after which the athletes left the area in a disciplined manner.
After about twenty minutes I think most of our students had left the viewing deck, partly because it was cold, but more likely for their breakfast.


The flag of the USSR in 1965 – one didn’t feel welcome, and the cold war was still on going.
The Cuba missile crisis with the US was only two and a half years earlier, in October 1962


The current flag, which is less threatening . . .

Later in the morning a fleet of coaches arrived to take our students on an educational visit around Leningrad.

As the students disembarked, I noticed that many had bulging pockets, but thought nothing of this as they were ‘children’ around thirteen or fourteen and many kids carried junk in their pockets. It was only later that I found out that some of the Scottish students had already completed a cruise a year earlier and had visited Leningrad. This time they had come prepared with their pockets full of ball point pens, Bic Biros we used to call them, which they sold to local Russians for a very fat profit. I don’t know if they received rubbles or dollars for the pens. Others had common cheap items, pencils, rubbers (erasers if you are from the US), bought cheaply from the likes of Woolworths in Scotland. I had a lot to learn from these Scottish ‘students.’



As an aside – in 1965 the French ministry of education approved the Bic Cristal for use in classrooms.
In 2006 the Bic Cristal was declared the best selling pen in the world after the 100 billionth was sold.
When I was at school we were not allowed to use ‘ball point’ pens on account that it would ruin in our handwriting. We could use fountain pens or the pen & nib and dip it in to an inkwell – for those who are younger than fifty years of age, you might not know what I am talking about . . .

Once again I scrounged a seat on the students bus and went ashore for the tour, and of course we all visited the Winter Palace, which was a fascinating place and the Russian guide was able to bring the whole tour to life. She did such a good job extolling the virtues of the Tsar I wondered if she really was a communist.


The Palace Square of the Winter Palace.

After we left the Palace we made our way along the river bank to the bridge called Troitskiy Bridge near Liteyny Avenue. The bridge is now called Trinity Bridge, and was opened in 1903, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of St Petersburg (Leningrad in 1965).


Trinity Bridge

The bus stopped and we exited the coach to hear more about the sites of Leningrad. Towards the end of her talk I asked if there was a toilet nearby and the guide waved her hand in the general direction of Liteyny Avenue. I crossed the road and looked for the international signs of a gent’s toilet. Not seeing one I entered what I thought was a commercial building thinking that the toilet would be on the ground floor. The existence of guards on the door was not unusual, so I just walked in as if I knew where I was going. I found the toilet and entered the gents and stood on the high step near the urinal and then noticed that due to the low separation wall and the high step all the men could see into the ladies toilets, which was a little disconcerting as many were occupied.

As I came out of the gents, I was grabbed by two security guards and frog marched to the door and thrown out, with what I assumed was great abuse, but the abuse was all in Russian and wasted on me.

On returning to the coach I commented to our guide on my experience and she went white. She immediately made sure all her passengers were on board and ordered the driver to drive quickly out of the area. It appears that I had wandered in to the ‘Big House’, which was a euphemism for the KGB building in Leningrad!
I have my doubts that it was the KGB Big House, but after she told me what she thought, I was still glad that the bus was speeding away from the area.

The wide boys of Scotland must have passed on their entrepreneurial spirit to me, because I managed to swap a ball point pen for the red metal cap badge off one of the guards on the dock gates. I’d bought a ‘fur’ hat in Philadelphia when on the tanker (Ellenga) and I’d always wanted the red badge to attach it to the front of the American hat to create a ushanka (which mean ‘ear hat’ in English) – now I had one! I still have the hat, but have miss placed (lost) the badge.

The main difference between my hat and a real ushanka is that the ear muffs on my hat clip together, rather than being tied as per the Russian picture.

Isn’t politics a stupid game  . . when I was at sea I carried three main ID documents – passport, discharge ‘book’, and a seaman’s card.

ID card

On arrival in China I used my seaman’s card and not my passport, because I knew that the American authorities were not happy to allow anyone to visit the USA with an entry visa for communist China in their passport. You’ll note that the card is red – how convenient.

Discharge book

In the USSR ( Russia) I used my Discharge book  when landing in Leningrad, because the Chinese and the Americans didn’t like a Russian entry stamp in ones passport. The blue discharge book also has a place for my ‘Christian’ name, which is very un-PC in today’s world.


I still have my discharge book with the USSR stamp for my visit in 1965.

The daft thing is that all three countries the USA, China & the USSR knew which book to stamp so as not to cause offence to the other  . . .

I used my passport when going ashore in the US, which at that time, didn’t require a visa.

We sailed at midnight for Copenhagen. I’m pleased that I saw a little of Leningrad, but can’t say I was unhappy to leave. Copenhagen was a huge difference to Leningrad with the multi-coloured buildings, Tivoli Gardens and an open and happy feel to the city.

The negative feeling of Leningrad returned in 2018 when Maureen and visited St Petersburg (Leningrad). It was something that I just can not put my finger on . . . I suppose the guide we had in 2018 said it best, that they look forward to summer for nine months of the year, and then spend three months being disappointed.

Next stop was Grangemouth on the Firth of Forth in Scotland where I paid off the Dunera  and dragged my suitcase on and off trains for the next nine hours. The suitcase didn’t have wheels in those days, so had to find a trolley & lifts at each station that I visited. . . .

My first train was from Grangemouth


Grangemouth station just a couple of years after I waited for a train.

to take me to Falkirk . . . .


so as to catch another train to Edinburgh,


followed by another to Preston . . . .


and finally another to Liverpool . . . . .


where I had to walk half a mile dragging my case to the underground metro system for the train to Birkenhead Park, which was the nearest station to my home.

BP 65

Birkenhead Park station in 1965.

All of the above trains station pictures have been taken from the internet for 1965 or ’68 for Grangemouth
Liverpool Lime Street is now part of the underground system, but it wasn’t in 1965. At least I didn’t meet Maggie Mae.

I left the ship at 7.30 am and it took me until 4.30 pm to reach home 410 km away (255 miles) which equates to an average speed of about 46 km / hour or 28.5 mph.

Today I can fly from Sydney to Bangkok (7,532 km), in the same time. . . . .


and in a lot more comfort, now that’s progress  . . . . .




This is a model of the Swedish vessel Vasa, which was brought back from the dead in 1961.

Once it was raised from the seabed it floated and was towed to the location set aside for its restoration.

I first saw the Vasa in 1965 during a visit to Stockholm during my time as a cadet in Dunera, which at that time was a school ship.

From memory when I saw her she was in a building similar to an aircraft hanger and being sprayed with a liquid to preserve the her timbers. The liquid, I believe was polyethylene glycol, and she was sprayed with PUG for seventeen years before being allowed to dry out, which is still in the process of doing today.
In 1965 the ship could only be viewed from two levels and we were not allowed to get too close. It made such an impression on me that I knew that I would return one day.
As soon as I heard of the Celebrity Silhouette’s Baltic cruise I checked to see if Stockholm was one of the ‘stops’. It was, so I booked.
The spraying of sunken wooden ships with PUG is now standard, and was used on the British vessel Mary Rose, which was in Henry the VIII’s navy, having been launched in 1511 and she sank in 1545 during a battle against the French.

The Vasa sailed from Stockholm on the 10th November in 1628. She had been ordered to sea to take part in the war, which was in progress between Sweden and Poland- Lithuania (1621-1629). She managed about 1300 meters (1400 yards) before the wind caused her to list, but she righted herself, but the wind blew again and this time she was pushed so far over that her gun-ports were pushed under water and she was unable to right herself, and went over and sank.


From a painting that I found on the internet.


A photograph I took of a plaque in the museum.

In 1961 during the investigation inside the vessel they found the remains of at least fifteen people.

The ship had survived complete destruction throughout her 333 years under water due to a number of factors.

The salinity of the water where she sank is very low so ship-worms can not survive, the waters around the wreck didn’t have any, or very limited amount, of oxygen in it, and the temperature of the water was very low between 1 to 5 c, (just above freezing). The ship was built of oak heartwood, which had a high iron content, plus the vessel was new when it sank.

When they found the Vasa they had to come up with a way of lifting her from the seabed without damaging the wreck itself. The system they used was very similar to the first attempt to float the Vasa, which was a few days after she sank. They used a system of ‘camels’, which has been used by most navies for hundreds of years, when sailors wished to reduce the draft of a vessel in shallow waters.

In the case of the Vasa it took two years for divers to create six tunnels under the wreck, because she was so deep in the mud. They could not risk attaching grab claws in case they damaged her. It took 1300 very dangerous dives to create the tunnels through which wire ropes were passed. The ends of the wire ropes were attached to two barges on the surface, which had been filled with water, so they were low in the water. The water in the barge was pumped out causing the barges to rise, and so hopefully raise the Vasa enough to break the grip of the mud that had half buried her during the last 300 odd years.
Each time she moved the surface crew would tighten the wire ropes fill the barges with water again so they sank a little, tighten the wire rope again, and pump out the water, causing the barges to rise, and drag the Vasa up further. During the months of August and September 1959 after eighteen ‘lifts’ she had been raised 16 meters (105 ft) from the seabed, but was still about 16 meters under the water. This allowed the wreck to be moved to a more sheltered area, which would allow divers to do further investigations.


I found this on the internet, which is a good illustration of a ‘camel’ in operation.

Parts of the Vasa had broken away and buried in the sea mud. These parts were rescued,  cleaned and reattached correctly. The reconstructed vessel today is 98% of the original. Apparently they have found 40,000 artifacts in and around the ship, which has opened  new knowledge of life at that time.


Not all that much different to the sea chest issued to me when I joined HMS Conway in 1960.


This was my first impression of the Vasa during my recent visit. The whole building is atmospherically controlled to protect the ship from decomposing, and they try to keep the temperature at a level that is acceptable to the public.

The ship is HUGE!


A clear view off the gun-ports


Obviously the rigging is new




The main deck had to be replaced because it had been damaged over the years when many of the cannon had been removed.



As one moves aft towards the captain’s & officer’s accommodation area we see the artistry of the carvings clearly. The stern area would have been bolted to the main ship with iron bolts and as time went on, the iron would have rusted away and the accommodation collapsed in to the mud. When this area was recovered they found that  the mud had saved some of the figure’s colour, so that scientists could work out the correct colouring. The accommodation was reattached.



The stern with the detailed carvings still available to be seen.




I stood on a platform at the stern to take this photograph (with many other ‘clickers’) which was about two floors up – note the size of the person on the bottom left of the picture which gives an idea of the ship’s size.


An easier picture to illustrate the vessels size compared to the people underneath.


Three cannon bronze were rescued, most of the others had been removed from the Vasa in the 17th century.


A model of what she would have looked like on the day she sailed.

DSC02782clThe colourful stern.


A longboat found lying next to the Vasa and believed to have been one of the boats towed by the her as she sailed out of port.


Port side of the Vasa with the longboat, along with some tourists so as to compare size.


The museum has recreated the a gun deck (not on the ship but alongside the Vasa. As you see an average person can stand with ease. The guns are all replicas.


The museum has also created a scale model of life below decks.


One can see the stone ballast at the bottom, which was not enough to keep her upright.


To see how they started to clean her click on  VASA  after the first minute the cleaning can be seen.

Tried to buy a booklet of the history of salvaging Vasa, they had a book stand with the booklet in about fifteen different languages, but unfortunately not in English, they’d sold out.

I blame all those cruise ship visitors! :- o)




ABBA’s Home area


DSC02613rAt 122, 000 gt, I thought that perhaps Celebrity Silhouette was too large to berth in Stockholm, and this was the reason why we berthed at Nynashamn, which is forty five minutes, by coach, from Stockholm.
I have since found out the Emerald Princess (113,561 gt) was able to berth in Stockholm during her visit, and she was close enough to the city for the passengers to walk to many sites of interest.
During our visit to Stockholm I did see two smaller cruise ships alongside, perhaps their occupation of the berths, at the time of our visit, was the reason that required us to dock in Nynashamn.

Regardless, arriving into Nynashamn was a beautiful experience with the sun rising over the islands that we passed as we entered port. You can just see our wake in the above picture as we navigated passed the islands.

DSC02615rIt was all very picturesque.

DSC02812rOnce we’d arrived and the ship was moored a floating pier edged its way out to us and was secured for the passengers to disembark. The dark blue floats that can be seen is the floating pier / walkway.

DSC02629rcPerfect weather for viewing Stockholm. As I mentioned earlier I did see a couple of cruise ships in Stockholm, but they were much smaller than the Celebrity Silhouette, about 46,000 gt. each.

Our itinerary included a drive around the city, visit to the City Hall where the Nobel prize banquet takes place. The palace guards, walking around the old area and then the Vasa. This blog will not contain any information about the Vasa, because I intend doing a blog just on the Vasa. 


The City Hall across the water, which was built between 1911 and 1923.
I’ve been told that it contains eight million bricks.


Not sure if you can the three crowns on the top of the tower – the three crowns are a heraldic symbol of Sweden.
We didn’t climb to the top, although one could if you had the time & energy. With 365 steps to get to the top, it is no longer on my bucket list.


Close up of some of the statues as we entered the inner court yard
of City Hall.


Inner court yard


The inner court yard looking back towards Lake Malaren.


View across Lake Malaren – the city hall is behind me.


After passing through the inner court we entered the City Hall.

This hall is called the Blue Hall – all the brick are hand made and the architect was going to paint them blue, but changed his mind, but they never changed the name, although you can see various items painted blue.
This is the hall in which the banquet takes place for the Nobel Prize winners.


In the above you can see the organ, and its location is on the left in the picture above this one.


Of course an organ requires pipes and there are over 10,000 for this organ, all located in the gold balcony. The problem for the organist in this room is that there is a half second delay between pushing the buttons and the sound coming out of the pipes. If they make a mistake it is too late to try and correct that mistake. Apparently there are only three people in Sweden skilled enough to play this organ.


The Blue Hall from the top of the stairs.


I found this picture on the internet, which was taken during a banquet. The Nobel Prize banquet takes place on the 10th December each year (the date Alfred Nobel died) and has done so since 1901.
The presentation of the prizes is performed at the Stockholm Concert hall and the celebration banquet takes place in the Blue Hall of City Hall. The Nobel Prizes are presented to the winners by His Majesty the King of Sweden.

The Blue Hall has been the place of the Nobel celebration since 1930, and the guests of honour are the King & Queen of Sweden.
If you are interested, the hall can seat 1300 guests and is available for public functions.


After the dinner dancing takes place in the Gold Room.

All created with eighteen million golden mosaic tiles. My photographic skill is limited, but may I suggest you click on this link for a full view and you can move the view to suite your needs. Click for 360 degree viewDanceFound this on the internet – Nobel Prize Ball in the Gold Room.DSC02676rBack to the coach for the next stop – the view across the lake from the City Hall.DSC02685rBonde Palace, which has been restored inside to it’s original 17th & 18th century design and is currently the seat of the Supreme Court of Sweden. DSC02690r
I took this photograph because the single table made me think of a romantic meeting that perhaps failed, and is now lost in time.
How long did he wait for her, before reluctantly moving on?DSC02694rWe We’ve arrived in the Palace area.
Is she asleep, of did I catch her when she blinked?
We’ll never know.


A King in the making – I wanted to see this statue because I am interested in the Napoleonic period, and how the links with Napoleon are still there, even today.
In 1809 Sweden lost, what we now know as Finland, to the Russians. Finland used to be part of Sweden.
The King of Sweden was of the the House of Holstein-Gottorp, Gustav IV Adolf, and he failed in his effort to defend Finland. The Swedish people where not at all happy, so they deposed this King & his son in a coup d’état.
Gustov’s uncle, Charles XIII, was elected to be King, but he was sixty one and becoming senile, and he was childless. The House of Holstein-Gottorp would die out with Charles’ death.
In 1810 the Swedish parliament offered the position to a Danish Prince, Prince Christian August of Augustenborg, and he became Charles August, but he died within a year.
At that time Napoleon dominated Europe, except for the British Isles and Sweden, and various kingdoms were in control of various brothers of Napoleon. So for peace and quiet, Sweden decided to choose a king of which they were sure Napoleon would approve. They offered the position to Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, who was a Marshall of France. Napoleon had already created him a Prince, being Prince Bernadotte of the  principality of Pontecorvo, which had been taken, by Napoleon, from the Papal States.
Bernadott was French by birth and had now become the Crown Prince of Sweden, and assumed the name Charles John and was Regent during the final months of Charles August’s reign.

The statute in the photograph is of Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, and the current king  is a descendant of  the French Marshall – and is of the House of Bernadotte.

The city was in the middle of renovating the area, and I am not sure if the metal support (seen in the picture) is to support the statue or just part of the fencing.

It went through my mind that perhaps Abba found inspiration from Napoleon.


A walk a round the old area while we waited for the ceremony of changing of the Palace Guard.


The Kalmaris Union was a union of Denmark, Norway and Sweden from 1397 to 1523 under a single monarch.

In November of 1520 there was a clash in Stockholm between the Kalmaris Unionists and the anti-unionists who wanted an independent Sweden.
King Christian of Denmark had promised peace between the Unionists & the Ant-Unionists, and invited, on the 7th November, a number of Swedish leaders to a conference at the palace.

On the 8th November soldiers entered the palace and took away several of the senior members of the Swedish contingent. Later many more were taken – all had been marked down as anti-unionists.

On the 9th November they were sentenced to death by the Archbishop for being heretics.

The executions began on the 10th November in the public square either by hanging or beheading. The public square is known as Stortorget (The Big Square) which is the oldest square in Stockholm and the centre from which Stockholm grew.

The eighty-two white stones on the red building are supposed to represent the heads of the anti-unionists killed in the square during the executions.


On the left of this picture you can see the well, which is still active, because it is connected to the city’s water supply. . . .

There is a slight hicup, with regard to the red building or Ribbinska huset (house of Ribbing) to give it’s correct name, and the symbol of the 82 heads.

The massacre of the noble men took place in 1520, but the house is recorded to have been built no later than in 1479.
Councillor Ribbing gave the house to a man called Schantz in 1627, and it was he who added the white tiles.

So the white tiles have nothing to do with the massacre, but they make a good story.


   Plenty of troops around as we waited for the changing of the guard.


Here they come – the band leading the new guard. The building is being refurbished hence the white sheets.


A clear view of the heraldic symbol of the three crowns of Sweden.


Because of the crowds we didn’t see any of the changing of the guards.

Our next stop was to see the Vasa, but I will do a separate blog on that event.


A saved piece of history – built in Great Britain and launched in 1888 as the Dunboyne and is now the third oldest surviving iron built ship.


Under sail – Picture found on the internet.

She sailed between Wales and Australia as well as to the US and the west coast of the US.

In 1915 she was sold to a Norwegian outfit and renamed G.D.Kennedy. In 1923 the Swedish navy bought her to be used as a naval training ship. Her final trip was in 1934, after which she was used as a barrack ship during WW2.

In 1947 she was saved from being broken up by the Stockholm city museum and since 1949 has been managed by the Swedish tourist board, and now serves as a youth hostel, having 285 beds. The red brick building to the left of the ship where she is moored today, is the Swedish Admiralty House.


Finally we were taken to a high spot for some great views of the city.


Overall a lovely interesting day, with plenty to see, and a desire to return one day. I first visited Stockholm in 1965, but couldn’t remember much about the visit at that time, except for seeing the Vasa.











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