Police, Chains and Two Rescues

As the night club was due for another early morning of entertainment we decided to leave at 4 am – as we had a long day ahead of us. We passed the club and I can confirm it was definitely noise not music that was blasting from the speakers – but it seemed to gather a large crowd – though not many seemed to be dancing – but just standing.

We motored down the river – the commercial port clearly doesn’t sleep and clanking of ships being loaded was all around. We passed a flotilla of tiny dinghies out fishing – and you could see why with lots of fish jumping.

Sauna boat

It was frustrating there just wasn’t enough wind to sail and it was a long, hot motor. Thankfully the wind filled in at about 3 pm and we were able to sail until entering Parnu. We arrived at the harbour entrance about 8pm, passing a floating sauna boat when a motor boat sped past us enjoying the evening sun. He decided to cut inside a green buoy but you could see the birds sitting on the sand bank that he hit at speed. The front of the boat stopped instantaneously and the stern came completely out of the water – and came crunching down. One then got out in the ankle deep water. Thankfully no one appeared hurt. But there was no way we could help.

We had tied up feeling rather tired after our 16 hour day – when the same boat decided to moor next to us – having been pulled off the sandbank. They were clearly drunk and arrived with no fenders out. They reversed in but missed the buoy to secure their bow and the wind then brought the bow round crashing into us – fortuitously they hit a well place fender. When they were about to hit for a second time – we shouted at them to watch out – as they seemed oblivious. Which then resulted in a torrent of what appeared to be Estonian abuse – so we asked them to move on. Finally they did with a final “F You” as they departed. Mags had at this point taken a picture of the registration number (as all boats are registered here) and went to report it to the harbour master. He was most apologetic. Although no damage was done he wanted it recorded – so Mags was in the process of writing out a statement – the same party came into the restaurant where the harbour master is located and started pushing Mags around. She rounded on them and calmly said in her best teachers voice “not to intimidate her” or she would call the police. The restaurant manager had had enough of their behaviour and called the police anyway. The police came and spoke to us and gave them a warning. It was a disappointing event which hasn’t been representative of the friendliness of the Estonians we have met on out trip. Boats and alcohol are not a good combination.iron

It was a joy to have a long lie in – no loud music and no early start. It was a beautiful day so after a lazy start we wondered into town. Parnu is billed as Estonia Miami – thankfully it isn’t. But it is Estonia’s summer capital. It has beautiful buildings with stunning doors, iron balconies, and decorative iron work on many of the buildings.

doorsWe walked around the town did some shopping – it was much cheaper than Tallinn which is why I suspect we could hear so many Finnish accents.

In the Soviet Occupation, Parnu was deemed a fishing port, so the international commercial harbour was closed. Factories were forced to produce goods according to the planned economy. It was also regarded by Soviet citizens as going on a foreign European holiday – it was seen as a “western” experience. How far Estonian has come since those days.

Mags hadn’t had a haircut since mid April – one was long overdue so I deposited her in a saloon which looked busy (hopefully a good sign) to return an hour later to be greeted by a lego person. It was not so much the haircut it was the blow drying which had her hair stuck aerodynamically to her head. Hair styled by legoland.

The next day we awoke to the rain – which got heavier and turned into thunder. So it was definitely a boat job day. In the early evening we treated ourselves to a night out at the cinema to see Mamma Mia – here we go again. It wasn’t as good as the original but it was still enjoyable and it made us laugh out loud.

We left Parnu on a windless day. So it was another hot motor. We past the island of Kihnu with its brilliant white bolders which looked, with the heat, as if there were floating on the water. On closer inspection with the binos the white was a few years of bird poo. We managed to sail for a couple of hours before arriving at Kuivastu. By now we were beginning to see the same group of boats as we headed north. Within seconds of arrival the Union Jack was flying. A welcoming tradition they have in all Scandinavian Countries – they will fly the National Flag for each of the visitors in the harbour.

Puzzle book in hand

Our next destination was Heltemaa a ferry port on another island and a convenient stop on our way north. It has a long entrance (2nm) through some very shallow (3m) banks either side of the channel. With a ferry every hour we had to time our arrival as you didn want to meet it coming the other way. We moored on the hammer head as it was the only space big enough. I had just stopped to allow Mags to get off to tie up and put the engine slowly in forward when it was clear we werent going forward. Mags then noticed there was a massive chain coming out perpendicular from the pontoon securing it to the ground and the keel was clearly on it. I moved the boat away from the pontoon to avoid the chain. There was another chain at the other end. In fact there were 4 chains securing the pontoon 2 chains at each end. But we had enough clearance either end. I checked the weather to make sure it was benign particularly when we were leaving the next day which it was. I then marked on the side of the pontoon where all the chains were. It is very poor of the harbour not to have signs up next to the sign that shows the depth as 2.7m…..well unless you happen to find a chain then it is less than 1.9m. I knew that I could spring the stern out an avoid the chain – but not ideal.

Early morning in Heltemaa

The next morning we got up early – to ensure we left when there was predicted to be no wind – ensuring we could avoid the chains but also we timed it as the ferry was throwing his lines ashore we crept round the back of him and left. I was relieved that we got away without incident.

The water temperatures are currently at about 22-24c – the shallow waters and the weeks of endless sun have created an explosion in algae growth which looks like curdled milk does in tea only mustard coloured. It ends up in big streaks as it lies to the wind and swell. We motored through quite a lot enroute to Kardla.

We passed a seal protection zone – but there was a distinct absence of seals – but as a local fisherman had put out a net, clearly humans and seals ignore the protection zone.

About 10 am the wind filled in and we were able to sail. I was glad of the lack of swell as we had to cross one reef and the entrance to Kardla was fairly shallow which would have been quite nasty with any chop.

The harbour master insisted we went on the pontoon with the larger finger pontoon. Lesson learnt: I should have stuck to my original plan which was a pontoon further in as this one was open to the east. We tied up inside a large German Halberg Rassey 43 – which at least, along with the concrete hammer head they were tied onto, would act as a wave break.

By late afternoon there was a steady F4, perfect for the windsurfing competition that was taking place outside the harbour. They were soon joined by kite surfers – lots of coloured sails going at a fair lick. They were even windsurfing on skateboards infront of the harbour office – clearly this is a windsurfing mecca in Estonia.

Even NE F4 meant it was getting uncomfortable – but we had already had extra lines with snubbers (rubber shock absorbers) on. But we had noticed our German neighbours, who were off sight seeing, only had 3 lines on and no snubbers – which was totally inadequate. We suddenly realised their boat was a lot closer to us than they had been before. They were in an extra wide berth (about 8m wide) with a pontoon on each side. We went to have a look at their ropes. The stern one had slowly been slipping but the boat was far too far away to get on from the side the ropes were attached. The rope had slipped so much that I realised I would now be able to get on from the other side . I climbed aboard – just as Mags caught the stern rope as it was about to part ways with the pontoon. We managed to pull the boat back to the original position – not easy with a heavy boat and a cross wind. Unfortunately I couldn’t open their lockers to see if they had any more ropes. The boat on the other side of the pontoon was also in trouble. It was on the outside of the pontoon ( hammer head) and facing the open sea. Their fenders had burst and those that hadn’t were in the wrong place. The side of their boat was being smashed into the pontoon. It wouldn’t be long before damage was done. So Mags went to get the harbour master and I moved fenders with the help of one of our other neighbours and pushing the boat out far enough to get them in was not easy. I also used their lifering as a fender. The harbour master arrived with 2 fenders which saved the day.

By now the German couple had arrived back. The husband had a knee issue and his wife was not very agile and they were trying to work out how to get on board as there was quite a gap. Soon a crowd gathered and started to pull on the ropes. But as all the ropes were secured on the boat it was not changing the boat’s position. They would pull it in slightly closer but it would drop back. I decided, that provided I believed I had been a mountain goat in a former life, I would be able to leap onto their boat . So when they next pulled the boat in – I went for it and managed to get on board. They then told me how to open their lockers and I got a second stern line on board and we were able to pull the boat in. We managed to get the wife on board and finally with the use of our step we got him on board.

We returned to our boat and went to eat and contemplated moving as it was due to be strong easterlies the next day. Next thing we knew we had a visit from the German couple with 2 beers and 25 Schnapps miniatures. We gratefully accepted the beers but returned the schnapps as neither of us would drink them and to be honest we didn’t need a reward – we hoped that someone would do the same for us.

I was chatting to some of the people we had met in other ports and said we were about to move – and I was grateful of the offers of help. Particularly leaving our berth with a strong cross wind. It meant they could throw the rope back onboard and I could just focus on steering. We also carefully explained the technique we would use coming in. We are a heavy boat and with a cross wind it wouldn’t be possible to just pull the boat in with the ropes alone against the wind, we would need to use the engine. It is a technique that works well. So we showed him before we left what we would do and that he must tie the rope off and not try and hold it – as I needed a fixed point. We explained why and he said no worries he would do that. We left with no dramas and I lined up on the berth. We arrived as planned so Mags could hand him the midships rope without throwing it. I stopped and we asked him to tie it off. But no he just held it…….. this resulted in a loud stereo – “TIE IT OFF” from both of us….and eventually he did and we were able to drive the boat in – without coming close to the neighbouring downwind boat who were looking worried when they had seen who their new neighbour was going to be. I was pleased that we had moved – I felt much happier. Particularly as it was now gusting 26 knots and would be stronger the next day.

There was actually a boat flagged in Tuvalu ( a small Pacific island) home port Rotterdam with Russians onboard. Laundry comes to mind!

We chatted to one couple who had seen our episode with the drunks in Parnu – they were had admired the way we a had got rid of them. Though they hadn’t exactly jumped to our aide or given any moral support at the time!

The next day we had a boat job day. Mags set out to mend a puncture on her back wheel. As it is a Brompton it is a different system to a normal bike for removing the back wheel but thankfully there is a good video on how to do it as it is rather complicated. In order to ensure no vital parts fell into the sea she elected to mend it on the harbour but this meant she was on view to all. By the time she had finished she had had 3 men telling her she was doing it incorrectly and telling her what to do. Each failing because it wasn’t like a normal bike. One even took a tyre lever and showed her how to use it…failing to see that she had already put one on. I am sure they thought they were being very helpful…..mansplaining. She then changed both fuel filters and we went out for a lovely meal at the harbour restaurant.

We had decided to hire a car for the day. First we went to the most northerly point where stands a 12 m monument to the 852 people who lost their lives when the Estonia sank – only 137 people survived.. It is a bell that only rings when the wind is in the same direction and force as that fateful night. The bell has the faces of children on it to remember all the children who died and those who would never be born. Very moving.

We then headed to the east of the island to the world’s third longest operational lighthouse.

But by the time we had been to the south, we realised that inland there was not much more than thick pine woods and some small villages and a lovely old thatched church.


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