When Mother Nature throws us a winter storm

Stig Jansson is a marina developer many times over. As a project manager his most recent and one of his most notable floating marinas include the exposed port of Skärhamn, located on the west coast of Sweden and protected by the widest floating breakwater in the country – Donsö Djuphamn (Donsö Deep Water Harbour) – with a depth of 17 metres and Fiskebäck, a refurbished existing marina. He is also a former able seaman, working in the North Sea, and a commercial pilot who flies planes and helicopters in his spare time.

Stig Jansson joined SF Marina in 2006. But by then he was already a seasoned marina developer. It turns out Stig’s father also used to be in the business, building docks and marinas along the Swedish west coast, and Stig was always invited to join him when he was between jobs.

“For instance, my dad used to ask me to do the diving. One day I would be lying on a muddy seabed pulling heavy chains [for anchoring the floating pontoons], and the next day I would be checking for chafe in cold, murky waters, with zero visibility. It may sound pretty exciting being a diver and all that, but remember we did this all year round, even if it was sleeting”.

The ten-metre-wide breakwater in the picturesque fishing village of Skärhamn was installed on 23 December 2019, but this time it was not Stig doing the diving. The installation had been scheduled for two months earlier, but due to bad weather it was postponed several times. Then, just before Christmas, the weather changed and the required five-day window appeared. The pontoons were towed from the Wallhamn plant to the construction site, where they were anchored securely before the first winter storm hit. The rest of the marina, with 160 berths, was completed just in time for the sailing season the following year.

Sweden has a long and beautiful coastline with some 60,000 islands scattered around a number of widespread and highly distinctive archipelagos. Small tidal differences and numerous sheltered bays provide good conditions for marinas. In a recent inventory, surveyors counted more than 110,000 docks, of which the majority were either along the west coast, or outside Stockholm on the east coast.

“Most of the docks [in Sweden] are built using treated timber piles with wooden decking, but concrete pontoons are the more popular choice when building new marinas, such as the one at Skärhamn, or when refurbishing existing marinas, such as the one at Fiskebäck,” says Stig. “Skärhamn is pretty exposed. It’s an old, abandoned industrial quay that has been developed into a high-quality, mixed-use marina, and our floating, concrete breakwater is crucial to the entire project. As most protected areas are either already developed, or are subject to an environmental protection order, it’s only the deeper and more exposed areas that are now available for building entirely new marinas.”

Stig continues: “At one time a six-metre-wide breakwater was considered big, and many are only four metres wide. But with our experience of building large, industrial concrete pontoons that are so stable you can drive heavy trucks on them, we now have no problem building ten-metre-wide breakwaters. With our system we can turn both deep and exposed locations into new marinas without incurring the enormous monetary or environmental costs of a fixed breakwater. And we have proved time and time again that it will survive when Mother Nature hits us with a winter storm.”

With first-hand experience from heavy storms while at sea, thunderstorms while flying, anchor chain chafing while diving for his dad’s marina construction company, and 40 years on and off in the business, he should know.