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Steamer Bohuslän

The Steamer Bohuslän is one of oldest and most beautiful ships on the Swedish west coast, build in 1914 at Eriksbergs Mekaniska Verkstad as the flagship of the shipping line Marstrand Nya Ångfartygs AB (also known as Marstrandsbolaget). For over 40 years, 6 days a week, no matter the weather, she sailed back and forth between Göteborg and Kungshamn (then namned Gravarne). On her way along the coast, she stopped at a number of places, such as Smögen, Lysekil, Marstrand and others.

After all these years along the coast the steam engine onboard the Bohuslän got uneconomical and it was harder and harder to compete with the cars, buses and bridges that became more and more common. She got a new trade in Öresund, and later even between Strömstad and Norweigian ports. Even these got uneconomical after a while, and by fall 1963 she was laid to rest. Two years later she was sold to a scarp yard to be cut up where a group of young people found her and asked if they could by her. 60 000 kronor was the asking price, and the newly started Sällskapet Ångbåten managed to raise it by selling 600 shares á 100 kronor each. Since then, the vessel has been run by a volunteer crew both on trips for the public as well as on charter trips. The Steamer is today a designated cultural heritage since 2002, and classified as a traditional ship.


Ship Yard Eriksbergs Mekaniska Verkstad, Göteborg
Launched 15 december 1913
Delivered 14 may 1914


Technical Data

Technical Data 43.13 meters
Width 7.42 meters
Depth Ca 3.00 meters
Gross Tonnage 304 tonnes
Net Tonnage 112 tonnes
Engine 3 Cylindrical Trippel Expansion Engine
700 Indicated Hp
515 kW
Max speed 11 Knots (at delivery)
Auxilary Engine Steam powered generator that gives 110 Volt DC
Boiler Scottish sea-steamboiler, oil heated

The Flag ship of the Marstrandsbolaget

During the first half of the 1900, there was two large shipping company that complemented, and partly competed with each other on the trade from Göteborg up along the coast to Strömstad. There was Marstransdbolaget, with traffic from Göteborg to Marstrand, Lysekil, Smögen and up to Gravarne (todays Kungshamn). And there was Bohuslänska Kusten, a shipping company from Uddevalla, with traffic via Marstrand to Uddevalla, and a coastal line outside the islands of Tjörn and Orust up to Lysekil, Strömstad and Oslo.

BOHUSLÄN, build in 1914, was not only the youngest but also the most elegant of the vessels in the Marstrandsbolaget fleet. During the summer she upholded the express route: leaving Stenpiren in Göteborg at 0700H in the morning, arriving to Gravarne at 1400H at noon, turned around almost directly in order to be back in Göteborg at 2100H in the evening. During the day, she called upon several communities along the route, among them Marstrand, Lysekil and Smögen. This time table did not leave much room for the loading and discharging of cargo. Thursdays was the layby day – taking bunkers aka coal, and time to restock the stores of provisions. During the winters, BOHUSLÄN was a “working horse”, as all the others, longer times on the different stops, more time for cargo.

For over 40 years the steamer was on the trade Göteborg – Lysekil – Smögen – Gravarne. Summer sun, storm, fog, snow and ice – the steamer did its journeys, 6 days a week, year-round. For 33 years under the command of Captain Carl Johansson, nick named “Calle Skjorta” (Carl the Shirt). He got this nick name since he, during the summer used to wear only his shirt while on the Bridge. He did more than 9000 trips, without radar, without automatic, with only the compass, watch and a strong helmsman as navigation aids.

The crew was up to 20 people: Captain, two officers, two helmsmen, three able seamen, one Chief Engineer, one engineer, two stokers. In the catering one head waitress, one chef, two waitresses (one for upper deck, and one for the aft salon) and one waiter for the forward salon, the dining room for the second-class passengers. When expecting extra many passengers, as on a summer Sunday, there would be one, or even two extra waitresses. During the 1950-s many of the islands got connected to the mainland by either bridges or ferries, and the old coastal steamers was out manoeuvred by busses and lorries. One by one, the old ships was sold, mostly as scrap even though sometimes to other traffic areas. Today there is only one of these steamers for passengers left, the BOHUSLÄN.

“Inköpstrafik” – Purchasing traffic

After WWII had ended, there was a change in traffic along the coast of Bohuslän. The islands got connected with the main land via car ferries and bridges. The forwarding of passengers was taken over by busses, and eventually by privately owned cars, and the forwarding of cargo went to lorries. The base for the steamers of the Marstrandsbolaget was no more.

But another trade opened up. Alcohol- and tobacco taxes was raised in steps (even if they were very low compared with today’s taxes). The waters between Sweden and the neighbouring countries was “international waters” and alcohol and tobacco could be sold onboard vessels on international traffic without these taxes. The Swedes got a new expression – Tax free.

Many of the old coastal steamers were used on this so called “Purchasing Traffic” on different routes in Öresund. After a rebuild of a Tax-free shop on middle deck and a cafeteria on aft deck, the BOHUSLÄN started her new trade between Landskrona (SE) – and Tuborg (DK).

The government did of course not see lightly on the fact that the Swedes so easily could escape the taxes. Öresund was redefined so that it was no longer “international” water, and the purchasing traffics peak days were no more. It was still profitable to do some shopping in Denmark, but the numbers of passengers got to small for all the vessels.

But there were more neighbouring countries. The BOHUSLÄN was put in traffic between Strömstad and the Norwegian port close by as Halden and Sandefjord. Though say the joy that lasts – once again the definition of International water was changed. At the end, you have to make a travel between Strömstad (SE) and Kragerö (NO) to be able to do the desired purchases – a trip way to long for the BOHUSLÄN. After the summer 1963, when she made trips between Strömstad and Sandefjord, (without tax free), she was layed by in Marstrand with an unsure future.

In early spring 1965, the BOHUSLÄN was towed from Marstrand to Ringön, Göteborg to be scrapped. Would this be the end of the fifty-year old steamer?

The museum steamer BOHUSLÄN

Then you need it the most, help is around the corner they say. And in this case, it was a young man, Ingvar Kronhamn, who started the rescue operation “Save BOHUSLÄN”. In April 1965 the Steamboat Association was formed, with the purpose of saving one of the few remaining passengers steamers on the Swedish west coast. The aim was set on BOHUSLÄN, and to be honest, not so many other candidates was available (SS GÖTEBORG from Uddevalla remained a few years at a berth in Strömstad, to be cut up in Hälle 1975)

The scrap dealer supposedly payed 40 000 SEK for the scrap, but wanted 60 000 SEK to let go of it. A fund raising started, shares to be sold in the newly formed Ångbåten Ekonomisk Förening, each one of 100 SEK (bear in mind that this was in 1965, and as an example 1 litre petrol costed 75 öre (=0,75 SEK). And it was a success, against all odds!

After intense repairs the steamer already, next summer once was back in its old waters. Since the take-over BOHUSLÄN each summer sails in the waters she was originally built for, modernized where so needed, but other wise restored back to as close you can get to the time for deliverance in 1914, still with the engine and boiler in original.

The Steam whistle of BOHULSÄN