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Saga Pearl II blog - Captains' blogs

13th June, 2018

For the first time in a number of weeks now, I awoke to a sky which didn’t contain any blue. Although dry, the weather looked and felt distinctly arctic. We are at 65 degrees north now – which is the equivalent to being in northern Iceland, to put things into perspective for those whose geography is a little sketchy.

Lulea is situated on a peninsula at the mouth of the river Lule (funny that) and boasts a climate of rain & chilliness in the summer, and snowy iciness in winter. In fact, just 3 weeks ago the ice covering the northern part of Bothnia finally thawed, permitting safe navigation in and out of places such as Lulea. They do maintain a ‘channel’ as far as possible into the harbour by using ice-breakers, but even that cannot be guaranteed in particularly harsh times. We embarked our local pilot to guide us into the port just before 06:00, a fair old distance from land, and for the first hour of approach (plus 3 cups of tea) we didn’t appear to be making any progress towards it. The flat, barren looking landscape looked like a mirage on the horizon - distance perception deceptive to the eye.

Finally we passed through the river mouth into a narrow cut with lovely gold - but cold - looking beaches either side. Seldom would there be any sunbathing here. Another 8 miles or so upstream we came across the harbour with Sweden’s four ice-breaking ships laid up alongside. Not required again until the start of next winter. At around 08:30 we were safely tethered to the pier and the first organised tours keenly disembarked for their adventures ashore.

A chap named Gustavus Adolphus originally founded this place, all the way back in 1621, when it was a little further upstream. In 1887, just 1 year before Umea was likewise, it was devastated by a fire. Now, I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I reckon there may have been a keen arsonist around these parts in the latter part of the 19th century. The city’s neo-Gothic cathedral, built a few years after the town was ravaged, is the tallest building here.

Trips today offered our passengers city tours, a visit to a 100 year-old fortress, and a scenic drive into the Arctic Circle among others. I declined to join one of these trips as they took me away from the ship for a little longer than I could afford, so therefore opted to take a pleasant wander along the barren but pretty coastline ahead of our berth. Silver birch trees lined the shore, interspersed with little sandy beaches. The weather forecast (and our local pilot, upon consultation earlier) had promised a dry but chilly day. I set off after lunch, wandering down the gangway I noted some ominous-looking clouds on the horizon but I placed my trust in the locals and strove forth on my planned journey without a waterproof covering.

Around 2 miles from the ship, the all-too predictable occurred and the heavens opened. Like a drowned rat, some 30 minutes later, I returned back on board …noting, as I approached the gangway, a coach-load of our smirking passengers returning from the city, nice and dry on board. Still, it had been a lovely little leg-stretch.

At G&T o’clock (except for the Captain) it was time to sail out again, making our way back through the perilous rocky waters of the northern Baltic coast into the nice calm open sea again. Tomorrow, heading back south to Mariehamn, promises to be a sunny, warmer day. I shall await confirmation of this personally, before roaming the decks tomorrow…

Well folks, in our next port of Mariehamn I am due to disembark for my planned holidays, and I shall therefore leave you in the capable typing hands of Captain Sunderland who is due back on board to replace me again. Until August, happy cruising & reading!

Captain Kim Tanner

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.