We left Pia and Juhana’s secret harbour in the sunshine but it was soon replaced with grey skies with that ominous look and within an hour it was raining. We can’t complain given that we have been sailing since May and today was only the second day since then that we have had to don our oilies.
Many of the islands have small yellow car ferries connecting them, they beetle back and forth and leave as soon as they fill up. Unusually one waited for us to sail past. We dropped anchor near Korpoström in a very sheltered spot which was surrounded by traditional summer cottages.
We awoke to a mirror smooth water – but this was more a reflection of the sheltered anchorage than the true wind strength. Whilst we were in the lee of the land it was relatively calm but as soon as we lost it’s protection both our reefs (making the sail smaller) were needed. We tacked out amongst the last of the skerries and we were in fairly open water for a couple of hours. Creaming along at 7 knots. As we neared the Island of Kökar, we were passing through a narrow channel marked by buoys, I had been checking off the buoys as we passed them with the boat on autohelm. I clearly was daydreaming at one point and suddenly saw that we were about to pass the wrong side of a cardinal buoy – marking a rock…… quickly I took the boat off autohelm and at the last minute past the right side of the buoy….that was a bit of a wake up call! We dropped anchor in Sandvik for the night.
Our next port of call was Rödhamn which is SW from Sandvik – but the direct route is not buoyed and many rocks are uncharted – so to follow the buoyed route you have to go north for 5 miles and hence it is 10 miles longer than a direct route. However, Juhana had given us the waypoints for a short cut through the rocks – which was a big help but we were grateful that the weather was benign for our first attempt. It was beautiful but rocky with those you could see and scary for those you couldn’t. It was a relief to be out into open water – but now the hazards were ferries – within 20 minutes, 3 had passed through a narrow, shallow gap. The one that Mags said “they will never go down this one it is too shallow”. We never learn – I think we had said the exact same thing a few years ago at another pinch point – so we had to do a quick change of course to get out of the way into safe water. We dropped the sail in the tranquil waters of Rödhamn harbour and then anchored.
In a light wind, we drifted towards Mariehamn. Mags would only put up with my desire to sail for so long before I was reminded that we had a lot to do once we got in… we had friends arriving and no food onboard – we had last seen a supermarket 2 weeks ago. There was a crisis looming too, as we had just eaten our last ship’s biscuit – essential for Carra’s crew’s well being. The engine whirred into life and we moored in Mariehamn East harbour mindful that we were expecting a few days of strong winds. We cycled off to the supermarket to restock. My little eyes lit up when I spied hobnobs on the shelf…. We had last had these in May!
Sharon arrived early; it was lovely to see her finally as we had been to her house in Helsinki and she had stayed in ours over the summer – but we had missed each other. Sadly the weather was not conducive to sailing, even through the harbour was sheltered the top of the trees reflected the true strength of the wind. We set off to explore Mariehamn, wandering through the main street and wide boulevard to the west harbour.
We hired a car the next day, given the weather sailing was still not an option; so we drove out to Karlingsund for lunch and then to Bomarsund – where the first VCs were awarded.
Then onto Kastleholm where we came across a real gem the open air museum – Jan Karlsgården. Many traditional buildings and windmills showing the former life in the Aland Islands.
Throughout our trip we have been fender challenge missionaries – spreading the challenge to various other boat crews around the Baltic. Sharon was keen to try it, so we packed the car with 2 fenders and went off to a swimming beach. They ( I was not going in) waded out and fenders were seen rocketing skyward with much hilarity. Soon Sharon mastered the fender challenge and I managed to capture both of them doing synchronised “Yeeha” – the cry that is uttered when you are astride the fender with one hand in the air.
Sharon left early and we had 1.5 hours before Caron and Yvonne arrived.