Cruise Survival Skills: Falling Overboard

survival
Coast Guard News/Flickr

Over the weekend, a passenger sailing from Stockholm to Helsinki survived seven hours in the frigid Baltic Sea after falling overboard. That he accidentally fell off and lived to tell about it is unusual; most don’t. While its something that does not happen often, we checked in with the Coast Guard on what to do to increase your odds of survival.

We begin on the Baltic Queen ferry just off the Finnish island of Aland. The water is a chilling 16ºC (60ºF) when a 36-year-old Estonian man falls overboard on Friday night. His absence is not discovered until the next day when the ferry docks. Security cameras show the man falling from the vessel and enable Finnish sea rescue to find him two hours later. Suffering from hypothermia, with a body temperature of 26º C (78ºF), he should be dead.

Actually, he is lucky that he did not die immediately when hitting the water. “When a person falls in the cold water, their body responds to the initial shock with an instantaneous gasp for air, which if their head is underwater may cause the person to swallow water and drown,” says U.S. Coast Guard Safety Specialist Walt Taylor in Coast Guard Cold Water Safety Tips.

The best way to survive falling overboard? Don’t.Most stories of passengers going overboard do not end well. But on a big ship cruise, falling off is difficult to do. In “Death By Cruise Ship,” we tag suicide by cruise ship – alcohol/drug-induced shenanigans close to the edge of the ship and sitting/standing on the guard rail of a balcony stateroom – as common ways to fall off, all of which are avoidable.

But what if for one reason or another you fell off, did not die on impact and wound up in the ocean, watching your cruise ship sail away. What to do? Experts recommend treading water, screaming and waving your arms frantically. The best odds of being rescued are right when it happens and someone might happen to see you.

If the ship sails off without you? “Floating on your back takes the least energy. Lie on your back in the water, spread your arms and legs, and arch your back. By controlling your breathing in and out, your face will always be out of the water and you may even sleep in this position for short periods,” says WildernessSurvival.

A Beginner’s Guide To Swedish Midsommar

Bengt Nyman, Flickr

Pickled herring, drinking songs, a pole covered in flowers, boiled potatoes, dancing like frogs. Yes, that’s Swedish Midsommar (otherwise known as “Midsummer” in English).

Thanks to Swedish roots around the world and a general love of Scandinavian culture, the popular Swedish holiday – the sun was gone all winter, you would want to celebrate the longest day of the year too – is well known outside of the Nordic lands.

Not well versed on this Swedish celebration? First off, get the basics from this video by the Sweden.se:

Now, let’s get to the important part: celebrating. How are you going to get a Midsummer celebration going if you’re not in Sweden? Easy. Follow these simple steps.

Round up a few friends that like to eat and drink.
This will probably be your easiest task.

Find a long table.
Midsummer dinner tends to be served as a sit down meal complete with a nice tablecloth, napkins and real silverware. This is not your average American BBQ.

Make a midsummer pole.
If you don’t have the manpower to hoist up a long one, construct a smaller makeshift one.

Dance around said midsummer pole.
Dancing is a precursor to eating.

Track down some pickled herring.
It’s not Swedish Midsummer without it.

Serve Aquavit.
Again, you can’t call it Swedish Midsummer if you don’t have the classic drink.

Make a dessert that involves fresh berries.
Preferably strawberries and ideally in cake format.

Eat and drink late into the night/early morning.
The sun isn’t really going to ever set after all.

A few Swedish inspired Midsummer recipes to get you started:
Gin + Aquavit Cocktail
Matjessil Salad
New Potatoes with Dill Butter
Pickled Mustard Herring

Glad Midsommar!

Sweden’s Male Train Drivers Wear Skirts Following Row Over Uniform

Sweden Train
Dan Clay, Flickr

At least a dozen train drivers in Sweden have taken to wearing skirts as they go about their job after their employer banned them from wearing shorts.

The men, who operate trains north of Stockholm, wanted to wear shorts during warmer weather but were forbidden from doing so after their train line was taken over by a new company this year. The drivers said they collectively decided to wear skirts once summer started because they were much more breathable than pants.

“The passengers stare at us but so far no one has said anything – well, not to me, anyway. And I don’t mind as it’s more about comfort,” one driver told the BBC.In an interesting twist, the company operating the train line has given the male conductors the green light to continue wearing the female attire. A representative explained the decision to a local newspaper, saying, “Our thinking is that one should look decent and proper when representing Arriva and the present uniforms do that. If the man only wants [to wear] a skirt then that is OK. To tell them to do something else would be discrimination.”

International Adventure Guide 2013: Stockholm, Sweden

Known as the Venice of the North, Stockholm is a city defined by water; it’s in the soul of the city’s inhabitants. Cold and icy in the winter and ready for sailing and bathing in the summer, water is as much a symbol of Stockholm as Old Town and the Royal Palace. This makes the Swedish capital the ideal hub for adventure – the chance to blend an urban center with the beauty of the outdoors.

Swedes are known for their deep connection to the outdoors. Nature is a part of Swedish literature, art, music and everyday life, and you’ll find this throughout Stockholm. From boat trips out into the Stockholm Archipelago to afternoon walks around Djurgården, Stockholm is the city for those that love the outdoors. In a time when Scandinavian culture is at the top of every travel hit list, Stockholm and its outskirts are worth an exploration for those that are looking to blend the big city with the beauty and possibility of the outdoors.

Activities

By Water
You can’t know Stockholm without exploring its waterways. For anyone that loves life on the water, there are plenty of options. The archipelago is a hub for summer sailing trips, and kayaking is another easy way to get to know the area. Renting a sailboat for a week and touring around the islands is a popular summer pastime of Swedes. If your sailing skills aren’t quite up to par, you can go on an organized sailing tour with Event Segling. An excellent way to explore the city of Stockholm is to kayak the waterways. The Stockholm Tourism Office has a list of companies that have kayak rentals in the city. You can also go out for a day in the archipelago and rent a kayak on one of the islands. Horiston Kajak offers guided tours of the archipelago, as well as rentals and help for organizing a self-guided trip. For even more water-based adventures, check out Stockholm Adventures, which organizes everything from kayak trips to hiking tours.

By Foot
Because of its many parks and the surrounding natural areas, if you like trail runs or hiking, you’ll have plenty to explore in Stockholm. Get a good feel for the city with a Waterside Jogging Tour from Stockholm Jogging Tours, which will take you around all of the central city’s well-known waterways and monuments. If you are looking for a more urban adventure, check out the guided Rooftop Tour, a combination of climbing (in harnesses of course) and sightseeing. For a slower pace, there are a variety of hiking trails easily accessible, providing the opportunity for day trips or even multi-day excursions. In the vicinity you will find Sörmlandsleden, Upplandsleden and Roslagsleden. Stockholm Adventures organizes hiking tours, but you can also take off on your own. In Sweden you are able to take advantage of Allemansrätten, the Right of Public Access. It is an important part of Swedish outdoor culture and allows you to fully explore areas, even if they are on private land.

By Bicycle
If you want to really learn how to be Swedish you will get on a bicycle because in this country, cycling is a way of life. Stockholm City Bikes is the local bike share system and allows you to use one of the bicycles for up to three hours at a time. A three-day card can be purchased for 165 SEK at various retailers around the city. If you are staying for more than three days, consider getting a season card for 300 SEK. If you want to rent your own bike instead of using the bike share system, check out Rent a Bike, located right by the water on Strandvägen. Pick up the Stockholm Bike Map from the tourist office or the department store NK and you will have a good guide to exploring the city. There’s also a digital version you can use to find a route from point A to point B. For guided tours, check out the following companies:

  • Bike Sweden – Bike tours in the city and in the archipelago. They also do multi-day trips starting at 2390 SEK/person, including lodging.
  • Guide Stockholm – Guided bike tours of Djurgården.
  • Stockholm Adventures – Stockholm on Two Wheels Tour, a tour of all the classic Stockholm sites for 300 SEK/person.

Hotspots

Lidingö
Home of Lidingöloppet, an annual 30-kilometer run around the island that’s popular for Stockholm residents that want a dose of the countryside. It’s also home to Långängen-Elfvik National Park, which has 125 acres of open farmland and also houses one of the largest old farms, Elfviks Farm, which is still functioning today. In the winter the island is home to both cross country skiing trails and long distance ice skating routes, and in the summer it’s a hotspot for anyone interested in being close to the water.

Skärgården – Stockholms Archipelago
Stockholm’s Archipelago is made up of approximately 30,000 islands and islets, meaning there is more than enough to explore. Some of the most popular islands are Vaxholm, Sandhamnm, Grinda and Utö. The easiest way to access the archipelago is by ferry. Waxholmsbolaget runs an extensive network of boat services to many of the bigger islands. Visit Skärgården is the archipelago’s own tourist bureau and a good resource for planning a trip to the islands. The Right to Public Access allows you the right to pitch a tent in public places, so for a budget adventure, bring your accommodations with you and sleep on a beach by the water.

Hellasgården
A 20-minute trip from Slussen, Hellasgården is an outdoor area that’s full of bike paths, hiking and running trails, swimming areas and even beach volleyball courts. In the winter you’ll find ice-skating as well as cross-country skiing trails. After a day on the snow you can go sit in the sauna for 60 SEK/person as well. From Slussen, take buss 401 to Hellasgården I Älta, or take subway line 17 towards Skarpknäck and get off at Hammarbyhöjden.

Where to Stay

Af Chapman
Centrally located on the island of Skeppsholmen, Af Chapman is one of Stockholm’s most well known budget accommodations as it’s a hostel on a boat. Since you’re staying on Skeppsholmen, you’re well located for a morning run around the small island and into the city. Staying right on the water also gives you a very different feel of the city than staying in a standard hotel. Starting at 260 SEK/night.

Cabin Rentals in Stockholm’s Archipelago
If you’re looking to explore Stockholm’s archipelago for more than a few days, consider renting a cabin. There are plenty of accommodations available throughout the archipelago, on both the big and smaller islands. This gives you the chance to enjoy a summer week like a true Swede. Prices vary. www.skardgardsstugor.se

Långholmen Hostel
Renovated in 2008 the Crown Remand Prison was turned into the Långholmen Youth Hostel. Today the dorm rooms are built in old prison cells. There’s beach access to Mälaren and a jogging trail, so you get plenty of chances for fresh air while at the same time living centrally in the city. Starting at 255 SEK/night. Långholmsmuren 20. www.langholmen.com

Where to Eat

8T8
Craving raw, organic and vegetarian food? 8T8 is the place to go. An environmentally conscious restaurant and café, 8T8 has breakfast, lunch and the classic Swedish “fika” offering of a variety of goodies to go with your coffee or tea, all with raw and vegan options. Perfect for the health conscious adventurer. It’s centrally located close to Mariatorget. Swedenborsgatan 1, www.8t8.se.

Vete-katten
There is no more classic Stockholm café than Vete-katten. This is the place to go for a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll or a freshly baked scone. During the summer months you can even sit in the inner courtyard to get a dose of sunshine. Kungsgatan 55. www.vetekatten.se

Café Panorama
Located on the top floor of Stockholm’s centrally located Kulturhuset, Café Panorama offers simple Scandinavian fare in a classic cafeteria setting with an excellent view from above the city. You can come here for a full lunch or just an afternoon coffee. www.kulturhuset.stockholm.se

Logistics

Get Around
Central Stockholm is easy to navigate by foot. For longer journeys there are buses and a subway system, as well as a bike share system from April – October. One-way tickets on public transportation within Stockholm are 12.50 SEK, and you can get a seven-day unlimited pass for 300 SEK.

Seasonality
Depending on your sport of choice, seasons in Stockholm are very different. Winter is dark and cold, but perfect for winter activities like long-distance ice skating and skiing. Stockholm even has its own downhill slopes at Hammarbybacken. For trips out to the archipelago, summer is a better bet. Many Stockholmites flock to the islands during the summer, which means that stores and cafes that are closed during the off-season come back to life. You’ll find that during the summer there are certainly more visitors to Stockholm and the surrounding areas, but the weather is ideal and you’ll get to take advantage of the long hours of daylight.

Safety
Sweden in general is a very safe place to travel. As in any big city, in and around Stockholm, be aware of your surroundings and stay street smart.

My Mini-Holiday In Sweden

swedenA few weeks ago I went to Sweden. I’d planned to spend the week doing research elsewhere, but when I sat down to actually review the visa requirements for said place it became clear that I simply didn’t have time to pull everything off without more lead time. So, with a few “spare” days ahead of me, I decided to go to Stockholm to see some old friends instead.

I flew out from London on a Tuesday night, exiting Arlanda just before midnight into foggy autumnal air. (Yes, I know that it’s spring, but “spring air” is usually a projection of warm things to come. When I arrived it was cold but not frigid. It felt like autumn.)

M was waiting for me at the airport bus stop near her apartment in the hazy cold. We walked back to her flat and talked about her dance class and its bewildering social networks. Then I fell asleep until 10:30. I woke up, made myself coffee and helped myself to breakfast and realized, again, that her flat is one of my favorite places in the world. Don’t we sometimes fall in love with the ways our friends live? M’s flat is of a perfect scale. Everything has a purpose, and there are many whimsical things – a postcard collection, an obscene refrigerator magnet, a to-do list for an upcoming trip.

I walked to Willys, the discount market in the enormous public housing project next to her flat and replaced the breakfast I had just eaten. I returned, cleaned the kitchen, and walked down to the nearby train station to ride into Stockholm proper. It had been a few hours of perfect idleness in a place familiar yet novel. It was going on 1 p.m. and I’d done nothing of note. I was content.

This became my pattern. My two-and-a-half days were days of idleness. I didn’t go to a single museum or tourist site. I tried, half-heartedly, to reserve a table at a buzzy restaurant or two. I failed, but this seemed to be of little consequence. I was having too much fun doing nothing.Here are some examples of nothing. I drank beer with T and we discussed next year’s elections and his upcoming date with a handsome Greek fellow. On another evening, A made me dinner, a slightly Asian variation on the fiskbullar (fish balls) that are a drab staple of school menus across Sweden. His were anything but boring, cod with flavorful basil in a cream-coconut milk sauce. His wife N arrived late from work and read a short story to her daughter in their mother-tongue after we ate. We talked until late.

I walked through some of my favorite parts of Stockholm, deciding that Vasastaden is my new fantasy relocation neighborhood. I ate salmon sandwiches. I drank lots of coffee, the best of which was pulled at Mean Coffee (Vasagatan 38).

I bought two beautiful ceramic cups by the exquisite craftsman Jonas Lindholm, on sale at Konsthantverkarna, a crafts guild. And, smitten again by the everydayness of Scandinavian objects, I bought broad plastic butter knives, salty liquorice, liquid soap and magazines to take home.

These were inconsequential days, yet my short break felt like the most meaningful holiday I’d had in quite some time. Most importantly, I suppose, none of what I experienced was fungible. I couldn’t have had this short, idle break anywhere but Sweden. Even the most mundane components of the trip were fully Swedish.

Now I’m going to ruin everything with an imprecise, half-baked aphorism. Some of the best travel is unplanned and idle and eventless, especially perhaps in places you love, places inhabited by people you treasure.

[Image: Alex Robertson Textor]