Friday, 5 March 2010

Icebound on the SILJA EUROPA in March 2010

SILJA EUROPA arriving at Värtahamnen in the morning of 4 March 2010. On time!

It was a decision which I did never regret, and I never will. When I was in Stockholm in early March 2010 to meet some friends and celebrate a 50th birthday of one of them, I ended up in a little mis-planning: I had one extra spare day left over before a triangle cruise Stockholm-Helsinki-Tallinn-Stockholm with SILJA SERENADE, SUPERSTAR and BALTIC QUEEN, which I had planned with another friend from Germany. 

So what to do? The Baltic Sea in that area, and the Archipelago were covered in ice, so I spontaneously booked myself in for a 23-hour cruise to Turku on board SILJA EUROPA, which at that time sailed regularly on the Stockholm-Åland-Turku-Route. During the days before I booked, she and other vessels on the route and elsewhere got seriously delayed, but eventually most of them were able to catch up with their schedules by that time. So was SILJA EUROPA, which, in the morning of 4 March 2010 happened to arrive perfectly on time at the Silja Line Terminal at Värtahamnen in Stockholm.

Before boarding SILJA EUROPA on 4 March 2010, I had a day to spend at Oxdjupet (as originally planned), a narrow passage in the Archipelago between the islands of Rindö and Värmdö, where all ships that enter/leave the Port of Stockholm have to pass. There is vessel traffic coming from the Åland islands and Turku coming in during the afternoon/evening.

VIKING CINDERELLA approaching Oxdjupet inbound on 3 March 2010.

VIKING CINDERELLA approaching Oxdjupet inbound on 3 March 2010.


A little later weather had deteriorated a bit and in light snow drizzle, Silja Lines GALAXY came closer.
Leaving Stockholm on the Silja-daytrip to Turku means you need to be an early bird. The ship departs at 07:10hrs, so in order to be on time, I had an early wake-up call at 5... After boarding and dropping luggage in my cabin, I headed for breakfast, which I won't bother you with any details about. As usual, value for money, and in case of SILJA EUROPA at that time: a wonderful view, even whilst still on board. Well, my aim was photography so I made my way up to the decks to take photos and arrived just in time to witness where we entered the first ice in the archipelago, right off Fjäderholmarna.

First incoming ferry to meet us was SILJA FESTIVAL, coming from Riga. (She is now with Corsica Ferries as the MEGA ANDREA)
Next, approaching us in a snow shower, were ISABELLA (running late, coming from Turku) and SILJA SYMPHONY.
Weather was changing constantly, here we can see ISABELLA and SILJA SYMPHONY again, after the snow shower passed, with the local ferry LAGNÖ in the foreground.

Next were Vikings MARIELLA and (pictured) Tallinks VICTORIA I coming from Tallinn.
Weather conditions deteriorated again as can be seen from this and the next three photos taken in the fairway close to Graholmen.

Ljusterö Färjeläge.

Meeting with VIKING CINDERELLA off Kapellskär.

BIRKA PARADISE, also off Kapellskär.

Tallinks SEA WIND and Baltic Scandinavian Lines' VIA MARE stuck in the ice barriers off Tjärven lighthouse.

SILJA EUROPA manoevered through such pack ice barriers (several meters thick) and was slowed down to 4 knots. Eventually we managed to get through and continue our way to Åland and Turku.

The Långnäs-call was skipped due to high wind forces and heavy snowfall. On this photo we have already reached the more sheltered Archipelago off Turku, the voyage became smoother and easier.

Turku in sight with the port and city illuminated.

An extremely busy Silja-Terminal in Turku in the evening of 4 March 2010, where we arrived on time as per schedule. The ISABELLA (see picture further up) had tried to pass the same pack-ice-barriers as SILJA EUROPA but was stuck and had to return to Stockholm. As a consequence, most traffic was diverted onto SILJA EUROPA which eventually had to wait to get those additional passengers, cars and freight on board. SILJA EUROPA left Turku more than one hour late. On her way to Stockholm, she called at Långnäs, until where she was able to make up half of the delay.

Instead of Lidingö on Starboard, there is just ice... we are still at the open sea at 06:00hrs in the morning of 5 March 2010.

06:00hrs in the morning. Usually we would be close to the berth in Stockholm Värtahamnen. We are far out at the open sea, approaching the pilot station of Sandhamn at the Southern entrance to the Stockholm Archipelago instead of the Northern entrance at Tjärven, which had been closed by the authorities.


Off Sandhamns fairway, waiting for the pilot.

SILJA SYMPHONY on an unusual daylight passage to Helsinki. Date: 5 March 2010. 07:01 hrs local time.

Slowly approaching the entrance of the fairway, waiting for pilots to board, whilst Viking Lines MARIELLA has just left the archipelago for an unusual daylight passage to Helsinki. Date: 5 March 2010. 07:19 hrs local time.
From behind us, the also delayed and diverted SILJA SERENADE came closer.

SILJA SERENADE waiting for the pilot close to SILJA EUROPA.

Grönskär lighthouse.

SILJA SERENADE following SILJA EUROPA into Sandhamns fairway. Grönskär lighthouse in the background.

Sandhamns fairway with SILJA SERENADE in the background.

A final view of the Sandhamn-fairway. Returning to my cabin after these shots my key-card did no longer work. Of course we were already way behind the normal arrival time and at this time of the day, key cards would only work for those travelling in the opposite direction. A visit to the Reception to fix the problem, revealed that many others (all those who would disembark in Stockholm) were in the same situation.

Meeting BALTIC QUEEN off Värtahamnen. She made way for the SILJA EUROPA to berth.

The also heavily delayed SILJA SERENADE arrives at Värtahamnen. Time: 12:16 on 5 March 2010.

A rare sight those days in 2010: both SILJA EUROPA and SILJA SERENADE berthed at the same time in Värtahamnen, Stockholm. This photo was taken at 12:28 on 5 March 2010.
A screenshot from Marinetraffic of the unusual route SILJA EUROPA took on her voyage from Turku to Stockholm on 4-5 March 2010.

To find out a suitable moment to do such a trip yourself, you can follow the ice reports for the Baltic Sea on the websites of

FMI - Finnish Meteorological Institute


SMHI - Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute 

Bookings for the route (in 2018 operated by Silja Lines sister vessels BALTIC PRINCESS and GALAXY) can be done via one of the below national websites of Tallink Silja Line.

Want to experience the SILJA EUROPA? She sails under the Tallink brand on the route Helsinki-Tallinn,
with daily 22-h-cruises. Bookings via same websites. SILJA EUROPA has been refurbished in late 2016, a separate blogpost on her is to follow here.