Sandhamn: portrait of an island

Sandhamn, or Sandön, is a small settlement which lies at the edge of the Stockholm archipelago approximately 50km east of Stockholm.  Among the 30.000 islands, islets and rocks, Sandhamn is the only one with sanddunes, hence the name. It is popular with pleasure boating since the late 19th century. It is known for its tavern, its clubhouse and its harbour. There are about hundred permanent residents, but in summer the number increases to 2-3000. The island is the scene for the sailing race ROUND GOTLAND RACE covering two days every year early July.

Historically it has always been the last sheltered harbour for ships on their way out to the Baltic Sea and also the first port on a voyage into Stockholm. Ships often had to anchor in the harbour for weeks waiting for calmer seas to cross to Finland or the the three Baltic states. The need for pilots to and from Stockholm arose early. During the 1600s, only the crown vessels were allowed to operate on this Sandhamn trail with the exception of vessels to and from Estonia and Livonia. Archipelago farmers on nearby Eknö were assigned to pilot them.

During the 1700s the trail opened for all ships and piloting, which had previously been a sideline for the farmers, now became the main occupation. Younger pilots moved from Eknö to Sandhamn to be closer to their service location. In 1754, five pilots were residing in Sandhamn as compared to 14 in Eknö. A hundred years later most pilots lived at Sandhamn while Eknö was almost desolate. Today pilots are no longer required to stay at Sandhamn. Instead they travel here by boat when they are on duty.

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