On Wednesday 16th of July, we continued north from busy Sandhamn. This time, unlike in three previous years, we decided to take the outer archipelago route towards northeast. We actually ended up sailing half of the distance outside the official waterways. However, there were many Swedish boats sailing the same waters so we decided that the charts from the area are accurate enough. 
It took us two relaxed sailing days to get from Sandhamn to the mouth of Åland Sea in perfect downwind conditions. In the first night we overnighted in a wild anchorage called Hamnskär (59° 31.0’N; 19°11.4′ E), located about one nautical mile northeast from Kallskär. Our Arholma–Landsort harbour book proved to be once again invaluable in finding those great natural harbours. However, also this time we ended up mooring in a bay, which was not mentioned in the book, but nevertheless, this book definitely helps to find the main areas where to look for suitable natural harbours. The ones that are mentioned in the book can be very crowded in July. 
View towards Kallskär

We spent the second night in one of the outermost islands just next to the Åland Sea. Our first option was an anchorage on an island called Himmelskär, but we ended up hitting an underwater rock when looking for a place to drop the anchor. Fortunately our speed was very low (about 1 – 2 knots), so it did not cause us any big problems. Nevertheless, hitting a keel in a rock seldom feels (or sounds) particularly good. This grounding probably could have been avoided since normally when entering an unknown anchorage, one of us is monitoring in the bow for rocks. However, this time we had some hassle with dropping the mainsail and tidying the cockpit. Also the anchorage was clearly charted in the harbour book and the same rocks were shown in the plotter chart and they seemed to be in safe distance. The depth sounder was showing over 3 meters of depth so I decided to motor a bit forward just to check if there is enough swing room for bow anchoring… and then bang. The rock must have had a very steep edge as the depth sounder did not give any indication about the shallow water. I was bashing myself for sometime over this incident which might have been avoided with a bit more caution, although I have kind of accepted the fact, that when one frequently uses wild anchorages, keel may get hits from time to time.

Himmelskär was clearly too cramped place for using the bow anchor, so we decided to anchor in the lee of one of the nearby islands. The following day we had a good sail across the Åland Sea to Mariehamn. 

 Approaching Hamnskär – this is how we should have done it also in Himmelskär. 

Himmelskär – low-flying island located next to the Åland Sea