Swallows and Amazons Forever!

We set off early from Seili, with a scrap of yankee (front sail) out we were screaming along across the open water. It was fairly breezy (F5) but at least it was behind us. The waves calmed down significantly as soon as we crossed the wide channel and had the protection of the land. We made our way up towards Turku, spotting a curious seal enroute, and with each open bay we saw the wind and waves increase until we were close to our destination.

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We were due to stay with some friends Pia and Juhana at their cottage. They too are sailors and they keep their boat in a harbour close by. We have received several pictures of the entrance and a google maps imags the night before, which I had studied at length. But the closer we got – all we could see were reeds. Then suddenly you could see the top of a mast but there appeared to be no entrance, just a bank of reeds.

entranceWe arrived at the entrance which was marked by 4 white posts in pairs, each pair being about 6m apart and we started our approach. With a strong cross wind it wasn’t easy – and the narrow entrance was lined with reeds for about 100m. We could see Pia and Juhana standing on their boat indicating left and right as we came through the shallow bit – it was shallowing 2.3m 2.1m, 1.9m…. we draw 1.9m. They had said it was 2.3m so I assumed it was just weeds on the bottom and anyway stopping was not an option. Once in, we parked next to their boat Kuutti (Finnish for seal pup). This harbour was small but perfectly formed, it was about 20m x 20m, so we only had about 3m at each end to the bank. The close proximity of the trees and the sea protected by the reeds meant that despite the strong wind outside it was tranquil within. It was true Swallows and Amazons stuff – this was octopus lagoon, home to the Amazons!

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It was a very special harbour and it has to rate in the top three of remarkable harbours I have a taken a boat into. Each of those harbour have a common theme – they are hidden, have very narrow entrances which afford them remarkable protection once inside. Every time there is a big sigh of relief and quite a buzz from just making it into the harbour. The first one was over 40 years ago. When I was 11 my father and I built a wooden mirror dinghy, which was as a result of my love of the Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons books which I had devoured as a child. I was enthralled by their adventures. As a result of this slight obsession, which included dragging my father to watch the film 5 times, my mirror dinghy being called Hirundo (Latin for Swallow), knitting a red bobble hat so I could be an Amazon (Nancy Blacket was a great female role model!) – the final piece was taking my mirror dinghy up to Lake Coniston to visit Wild Cat island (or Peel Island as it is called in real life). We had taken Hirundo into the harbour, which from afar it appeared as a minefield of rocks but only when you were close to the entrance did a path open up, the rocks parted and you could enter safely. Despite the wind whistling outside she was perfectly peaceful tucked up in her secret harbour. Quite magical. The other harbour was Utklippan, which is on an island 12 miles of the south coast of Sweden.

Pia and Juhana invited us for brunch knowing that we that we had had an early start and we sat in the sun catching up. We had a tour of their cottages – with the exception of the main house Pia and Juhana had built the other buildings, including their original cottage which is a sauna and guest bedroom and the terrace has a wonderful view down the sound. houseThey also built Kuutti – she is the same size as Carra and it is remarkable that they built him (Kuutti is male) themselves when they had a young family – it took them 9000 hours. Quite an amazing achievement. At their harbour there was even a very smart composting loo for our use.

cyclingWe cycled to see some of the island of Rymättylä, from the sea it appeared to be dense forests – but surprisingly the interior was made up of small arable fields. Our destination was to get some raspberries and strawberries.DSC07095 With the lack of rain and abundant sunshine they were small but oh so sweet! Yummy.

Once back at their summer cottage Juhana had smoked some fish and we ate our delicious lunch on the decking. We spent an hour relaxing, swinging in their hammocks before having a sauna and dip in the sea.

We returned to Carra gently bobbing about with Kuutti in their lagoon– just like 2 old friends catching up. Well I hope that is all they have been doing! DSC07109

Pia and Juhana came for drinks and then we returned for a fabulous sea food paella before collapsing into bed.
I awoke to heavy rain but by the time we went for brunch it had stopped and the sun had come out. It was very thoughtful of Pia, she made us bacon and eggs. A real treat – as bacon is not easy to find in Finland. We walked around their island before returning to Carra.

 

 

Leaving

Leaving using a rope to stop us going forward

IMG_0317[5102]It was time to leave…. Well this would be interesting. We tied Carra’s stern to a tree using one of their lines and pivoted on that point. As there was absolutely no room to go forward. It worked, so we threw back their line and soon we were gingerly heading out to sea following their leading lines past all the reeds. What a great weekend, we had been truly spoilt!

Reeds and Grebes

We left Oro following an intricate set of leading lines – most of these weren’t on the charts, which was not surprising given its military history. In Finland, leading lines are a science, in most places you are never more than 5 mins from seeing one (I am not exaggerating). Many times you can see more than one – and their colours contrast brilliantly against the dark green of the forests. With so many rocks and skerries there is always a convenient one to place the front leading marker. It is said that Finland has 50% of the world’s navigation marks, Sweden 40% and 10% for the rest of the world. Seems about right.

Having been on small islands since Kardla – we needed a food shop so we popped into Rosala to get some essentials from the little shop there. Also it would allow the wind to move round to a westerly enabling us to sail. We anchored in Helsingholm – a sheltered bay with the requisite wooden red houses and wooden staging for boats.

With only 18nm to go the next day it was a relaxed start and our sail was set within 10 mins of leaving. As we left the outer archipelago and the density of forested islands increased as did the number of boats. With schools starting after the weekend there was a steady stream of yachts returning to Turku. I think we will be on our own next week!

DSC07014For the last few months we have not seen land that is greater than about 5m above sea level. So this part of the archipelago with high rocky islands made a pleasant contrast and in the sunlight the colours of the granite looked magnificent. Lots of islands here are called Hogholmen (high coast).

Coming towards us was a yacht and I suddenly realised I recognised it – it was S/Y Duo and Saku (minus Merja) – we had been on the rally earlier in the season with them and with whom we had spent a lovely day in Helsinki. We waved frantically but Duo and Saku were soon passed in a flash.

We sailed all the way to Seili and anchored in the shallow bay – off a sweet little church. A perfect spot, sheltered from the strong southerlies that we were expecting for the next few days. We were surrounded by wide beds of reeds on 3 sides and bobbing between them were a few grebes with their adolescents chicks.

DSC07061We have reached a milestone – we have been sailing for 100 days. I must admit it doesn’t feel like 100 days – we have a rhythm and pace and the days just pass, the only reason we know what day it is: my strip on my HRT tells me what day it is. Though I know it is time to come home soon as Mags is down to her last puzzle book!

We watched boats come and go from the little pier – the windy weather meant no one stayed very long – but with our anchor well dug in and sheltered from the wind, we had a relaxing day. When we had been in Espoo, I had been to my favourite wood whittling place and made several things including a shelf for a cupboard out of an oak floor board. Although I had never got round to putting it up – so a day at anchor with no distractions was perfect.

DSC07023The next day we rowed ashore to explore the island. The island is very well maintained and since 1964 has belonged to Turku University as a research station. The building are well cared for and lots of red wooden houses surround a large stone yellow main building with a central courtyard. We wandered down to the other harbour past the wood fired sauna.

DSC07050Everywhere we go there are information boards in Finnish, Swedish and English. The first signs of life here dates back to 500 BC. But it was in 1619 that Seili became a leper hospital, the chapel where we are anchored opposite dates back from 1733. The bell tower is quite unique.

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DSC07025From 1840 – 1962 the island was repurposed and became a mental hospital for the chronically ill female patients. They have preserved a cell in the main yellow building – it is tiny and the straight jacket on the bed is quite chilling. The “hospital” seemed more about isolation than it did treatment. It was quite shocking and thought provoking.

By now the really strong weather had come in and with gusts expected of 40 knots we were glad to be back on the boat. We could see the trees on shore being buffeted in the gale, the boats on the jetty shuffled their positions to try and escape the cross wind. But we hardly moved – how much less stressful it is being at anchor.

Four Harbours and a Wedding

We left early with a couple of other boats who were crossing back to Finland. We have enjoyed the 3 weeks we have spent cruising Estonia and everywhere you feel the sense of pride in this young nation – which earlier this year celebrated 100 years since their first declaration of independence in Parnu. The regaining of independence some 30 years ago has seen this country grow as an entrepreneurial beacon – it is still developing but you feel it is on the pathway to success. Though they are always have the constant threat of their sabre rattling neighbours to contend with.

Despite it being a hot sunny day the visibility was barely 2.5nm, and with little wind we were motoring. Using all our electronic wizardry, we crossed the shipping lanes without any dramas. Just after lunch the wind filled in and we had a cracking wind and with all 3 sails setting, we soon found ourselves back amongst the rocks and skerries of the Turku Archipelago. It is strange how different the geology is in Finland compared to Estonia – yet at their closest they are only 45nm apart. Estonia with it’s sandy beaches and round boulders and Finland with granite islands and skerries everywhere. As we sailed past some of the bigger islands we were able to summer cottage spot. But having just been to Latvia and Estonia we were aware of how affluent most of the summer cottages appeared.

We anchored in Rosala – Notholm. There was space at the little harbour but it was good to anchor again and enjoy the peace and tranquillity. Not to mention it is better for our cruising budget. In the evening the wind died, the water being glassy still and the reflections were all around. Quite beautiful in the late evening sun.
Our next destination was the charming harbour of Brännskär, run by a young couple – who had turned this small harbour, well one pontoon to be exact, into a little gem. Arriving just after lunch we picked up a stern buoy and watched the harbour gradually fill up. Just when you thought it was full, the boats would create a space by just forcing their bow into a gap and squeezed fenders would pop out. This reminded us another reason why we like anchoring as you don’t have to be squeezed in closely to your neighbours.

There was a café selling lots of yummy things and we came away with some pulla ( Finnish cinnamon cakes) and knackerbrod (cracker bread) all baked on site. Most harbours in Finland you get a sticker or ribbon to display to show you have paid.  We stick them on a board – which has also been called our logbook by some friends. Here you got a small block of wood with Brannskar beautifully written on it. By the evening there was a fire pit alight and several Finns went off to the 2 saunas. Given that it was still +30C we didn’t feel the need.

We left before most people had surfaced and within 10 mins were sailing. We picked our way through the rocks – which would be quite impossible without a chart plotter – sailing with just the Yankee up as we were dead down wind. We dropped our anchor just after lunch and had a lazy afternoon enjoying the peace and quiet of Benskar.

All week we had seen towering clouds build – some forming in the shape of an anvil (Cum Nimb) – you can get lightening with these clouds – but they had come to nothing. But today we were expecting lightening in the afternoon. We had picked Benskar as it was close to our next harbour of Örö as we wanted to make sure we were in before the thunder storms.
DSC06931 It is never good being in a thunderstorm with a big metal mast sticking up. At least in a harbour you can play Russian roulette with the other masts if the lightening hits the harbour. Also as this harbour has a particular tall radio mast we would be safer. We motored through a delightful part of the archipelago with lots of small islands each with a summer cottages and a perfect little harbours. But the sky got darker and darker to the point of being very dark steel grey – which provided a lovely contrast to the green of the pine trees and the red rock. Just out of the harbour the lightening forks started – very visible against the grey. The sky was incredible – as if someone was stirring the clouds with a big stick. The air was being sucked up into the centre of the storm – creating the most incredible cloud formations – which were clearly laden with rain. We tied up just as the heavens opened and the downblast and rain were impressive. Lightening and thunder indicated we were close to the centre . So we retreated down below. DSC06948

We had noticed a boat that was decked out with flags and white flowers on the guard rail it looked beautiful – clearly a bride and groom we soon to tie the knot. You had to feel sorry for them – we have had weeks of sun and this was the first rain we had seen. Thankfully the rain stopped when the bride emerged from the boat – a few hours later the boat had a sign “Just Married”.

We had planned to meet some friends in Oro and at one point the thunder looked like it might prevent them from coming. But the storm passed and Pia, Anni and Jukka battled their way through the rain and arrived in the bay in their speed boat – they cruise at around 27-28 knots – as opposed to our 5-7 knots! Anni had made us a little boat complete with Union Jack and named Carra. It was lovely to catch up with them as we hadn’t seen them for 4 years since we stayed on their island: Horsholm. Sadly we were too big to moor near their island.

We had lunch and the sky looked like there were signs of blue – we decided to go for a walk but – the rain started again – so we retreated with pulla ( cakes), ice-cream and tea and coffee.DSC06945
The ferry moored overnight just behind us and we realised that we would not be able to get out until after it had moved at 0930. Not a problem until we need to leave but to give us flexibility so we could leave earlier we decided to move to the only free space. It was the first move of the day.

The fortified island of Örö has only been open to the public for 3 years, because for the last 200 years it has been part the military defences of this area. First by the Swedes and the British, then Tsarist Russia and more recently the Finns.

The Russians used it as part of the Peter the Great defences of St Petersburg. Scattered throughout the island there are lots of old defensive installations, as well as wooden red huts that were part of the garrison. The island has a backbone of cobbled roads – thankfully you could cycle to the side. We cycled the length of the island, it is covered with small stubby pine trees and areas of open heath land with heather in full bloom. On the west coast unusually there was a sandy beach with sea kale growing abundantly.

We returned to the harbour to find we were the only boat left on our pontoon. The hammer head wasn’t the best location for the windy weather we were expecting. So we decided to move – the second of the day. Just as we did a motor boat – well it was more of a ship / size of an apartment block arrived. They went on the hammer head that we had just vacated and would provide a sizeable DSC06975wind break. We moored up on the deserted pontoon and had just finished putting our storm warps out to be told by the harbour staff that where we had move as it was reserved – despite the harbour being empty. So we moved again – the forth of the day. OK the music has stopped, can we stay here please.

A day of windy weather allowed Mags to see if she could reset the rev counter – which hadn’t worked since early June. We now had all the codes/ settings to attempt this. However, it failed to resuscitate the patient.  In discussion with the engine manufacturer who got her to try another test using our new posh multimeter (after our cheap Chinese one had been rubbished by our friendly mechanic back in Sweden) – he is 99% certain the rev counter needs replacing. We can live without it temporarily but annoying.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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L is for Latvia and Lovely Luscious Cakes

Elaine had to leave early – so it was a quick breakfast and we waved her goodbye. By 8am we were motoring out of the long entrance, past all the squawking birds. Sails up we were heading south at a reasonable speed on a beautiful sunny day. With a very low coastline we soon lost sight of land which hasn’t happened much on the trip. We were able to sail for about half of the trip then the wind dropped off – so it was engine on. Well, until we were about to enter the harbour of the small Island of Ruhnu and the wind came from nowhere and we had a stiff breeze entering a very small harbour. So in the end I decided to stay in the outer harbour – which was still very sheltered from the wind direction. We were joined by the ferry – which provided an even better wind break.
With Mags’ bike out of order – we took the minibus the 3.5km to the centre of the small island.

The small hamlet had a shop and museum and 2 churches side by side the old one from 1644 – the craftsmanship of the carpenters evidence on the Baroque steeple which was finished about 100 years later. Right next door it the more modern Lutheran Church (1912).

There are about 60 permanent Estonians living all year round but the numbers well up to 10 times according to our minibus driver. Before 1944 it was inhabited by ethnic Swedes who fled the Island before the German invasion and the later Soviet occupation.
Early start was slightly delayed as it was obvious that the ferry was due to leave at 7am and there wasn’t room for both of us to manoeuvre in the confined harbour. As he left we followed him out. We had a cracking wind for our sail and at 7-8 knots we were soon eating up the miles – which, as we had 57 to do, was just what we wanted. By lunch time the wind was easing – but we were still doing a creditable 6 knots. By 3pm we were off Riga’s safe water mark and sailing into the very commercial harbour. Once in the River we got the sails down and motored to the fuel pontoon to fill up. We still had another 6 miles to motor up this deep river passing many wharfs with their clanking chains unloading trains, the banging of the containers being unloaded – but with lots of reed clad banks between the commercial docks. It was clear that Riga’s wealth was and is still generated by the port.
We were due to meet Steve and Simon outside the orthodox church – it was only 10am but they were hiding in the shade as the sun was already scorching. It was brilliant to see them – I was always very doubtful if we would get the right weather window to get to Riga – but here we were being taken on a walking tour of Riga which was very kind of them as they were repeating what they had done the day before.

We wandered down cobbled streets, chatting and looking up at the amazing buildings many of which were centuries old. As is common in this area ( Estonia and Latvia) some of the building are almost over restored or as in the case of the House of Blackheads build from new. It looks like the brash kid on the block. The problem is it looked too perfect – old buildings are never true and the building lacks any wonkiness. The Cathedral Square was filled with Buddy Bears. Identical bears where each country has painted one to represent their country and they symbolise peace. There was an eclectic mix from the meaningful, to the odd and the creepy but all very colourful. Since 2002 they have been doing a World Tour.

There was a pleasant atmosphere in Riga – the streets aren’t heaving with tourists and there is a relaxed café culture – with the cafes spilling out onto the street. So we stopped for tea and cakes – Latvia does amazing cakes.

 

We walked back via the Art Nouveau District back to Carra and had a delicious meal in the restaurant overlooking the harbour and I discovered Sommersby pear cider. The boat now has a supply onboard to come back to the UK with us.
The next day Steve and Simon came onboard for breakfast – and then we set off to Rundāle Palace – billed as the Baltics equivalent of Versailles. We were all rather sceptical. We arrived at the car park and are scepticism grew as we appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. But as we got closer this enormous grand palace which had once belonged to the Duke of Courland appeared surrounded by very formal gardens.

On top of the Palace chimney was this enormous nest with 2 storks sitting in it. The Palace rooms had been restored to their former glory – which given that it had been used as a grain store, school, hospital has been a labour of love.

After touring the Palaces Public and Private room we treated ourselves to more tea and cake and a scrummy apple and salted Carmel cake – the best I have ever tasted. We then walked around the gardens, long avenues of tall hedges lined with pom pom trees ( pollarded limes) stretching into the woods beyond.

Although the formal structure looks impressive, close up there were some very strange planting combinations which would give them an enormous amount of work but also detracted from the simplicity of the formal structure. There was a green open air theatre – with an impromptu Shakespeare performance by Mags.

What was fantastic was walking around with Simon who knew so much about plants and design – seeing the gardens and the countryside through his eyes was very educational.
We set off back to Riga via a road marked on the map as a yellow road – as we were to discover is an unmade road – so we had a long dusty ride through the countryside. Passing many storks’ nests on poles and chimneys, lots of very poor humble farms. Most of the housing still had asbestos roofs. As Simon pointed out the beautiful cornflowers in the small fields of wheat indicating that this is traditional farming without the use of pesticides.
We emerged from a cloud of dust after about an hour of doing no more than 30 miles an hour, with a very brown car, onto a main highway and arrived in Jellgava looking for a palace. We stumbled across this rather run down palace. It was a university and we were in search of the sarcophagus of the Dukes of Courland. The palace was a massive square with an internal quadrangle – which had been restored on 2 sides and was rather magnificent. We found a lady who was going home so we asked here where the coffins where – but her English was non existent – so Mags did a hilarious impression of a dead person in a coffin and we were directed to the museum. We arrived at 4:45pm. The curator, who clearly never receives any visitors, wanted to show us around his one room museum – but there were no coffins here. But told us where to find them – so we made a fast exit as the vault closed at 5pm. The entrance was on the outside of the palace and covered in scaffolding – we would never of found it. It was now 4:50pm and we only had a 50 euro note to pay the small entrance fee. DSC06685But wow it was worth it – the most ornate peuter coffins arranged in the underground crypt, each strikingly backlit – there was a small exhibition of some of their clothes. The oldest coffin dated back to late 16th century. Despite this being the only visitors the curator had had this week – she closed at 5pm. We headed back to the centre of Riga to eat in a small restaurant which was selected by Steve and Simon – not based on the menu but the cute waiter! Thankfully the food was excellent.
Steve and Simon arrived for breakfast – but we retreated down below to escape the windless heat as it was cooler in the boat. We were going west today to the coast – the air conditioning in the car was a real treat.

We passed through a small village of Sabile and a gaggle of little straw people looking at us. 120 in all – loving arranged in little groups. Rather charming oddity.

We then arrived at Kuldīga, which boast a 240m wide Waterfall – allegedly the longest in Europe but as it was only 4m high it proved slightly underwhelming. However the town was charming, beautiful wooden buildings, supposedly Baroque – but far simpler. Thankfully only a few buildings had been restored so it had a far more authentic feel. The whole town oozed a feeling of pride with beautiful flowers in pots at every turn. There was a fete on, so the town was bustling – in the market square there was a traditional dance class/ rehearsal being held on a mini stage. But it was hot and we were all tacking across the street to find bits of shade. After lunch we ambled through the street market – I bought a felt glass case. We visited a couple of wonderfully cool churches before heading further west.
DSC06751Palivosta is on the coast, with a beautiful beach with incredibly fine sand and a wooden board walk. Amber can be found on the beach. You get the impression it wants to be a surfer dude kind of place. Though the warning of phosphorus may be washed up on the beach and the USSR Navel defences does mean it might have a large sand dune to climb before it can attain a kool status. There was a beautiful craft shop selling Jewellery made out of sea glass – I bought a simple necklace with sea glass pendant.
Further down the coast was Leipaja which had been billed by the tourist guide as having Art Nouveau buildings. The first quarter we passed through was grim, concrete tenants, a product of the soviet era which bore more resemblance to the Gulags than a European city. Next we visited old Soviet defences tumbling into the sea as the coast line is being eroded. Hard to think that this area was completely out of bounds less than 30 years ago. Nearby was the Holocaust Memorial where 19000 Jews, Soviet Prisoners of war and Latvians who had aided the Jews were executed.
We were determined to find the Art Nouveau buildings and after several tours of the rather dilapidated centre they proved very illusive with only 3 being spotted. The original plan was to eat here but completely uninspired we set off back to Riga and planned to get something enroute. A fruitless hunt round one town with the most frustrating one way system yielded no restaurants – so we settled for a fast food burger.
We had been warned that there was a open air night club in close proximity to the Marina. It was just getting going as we arrived back at the boat at 11pm….. the noise ( as it wasn’t music) continued to 6am. Thankfully Mags is deaf and I had ear plugs – which meant that I only woke 3 times.
Steve and Simon arrived for their breakfast and then we took them for a sail in the harbour. It was a real shame that the river isn’t more scenic. We motored up into the wind then sailed/ drifted back down the river passing the UKs contribution to making the Latvia feel safe against the sabre rattling Russians – a tiny minesweeper. We tied up and had lunch – and passed the afternoon chatting. They took us to the supermarket which is so much easier with a car and then we said our farewells. It has been wonderful seeing them here.

It is a Small World

Haapsalu is an attractive old spa town whose heyday was in the 19th Century. There is a dignified grandeur which time has faded; old wooden buildings some with fancy lace woodwork abound but many in need of some TLC and a lick of paint. Though there are quite a few that have been refurbished – so I think in time it will be restored to its former glory. We explored the town by bike, stopping for the essentials: tea, cake and free wifi so that we could update the log.

Cycling back to the boat we became unofficial extras in a commercial that was being filmed in the old pavilion overlooking a shallow sea and by shallow I mean boating lake depth. There was an impressive barrage of all things flying as a result of the water – thankfully they weren’t biting insects just sand flies, but you had to cycle with your mouth closed.

Once back onboard we were just pottering when Elaine arrived – having just got off the bus from Tallinn. When she was on the tram in from Tallinn Airport Elaine had bumped into some old university friends of ours Cathy and Simon – what a small world. Derek and Julie had invited us on board for drinks as it was Owen and Geraldine’s last night.

 

A slow motor out of through the shallow channel, followed by sailing with just the yankee and little wind saw us leave Haapsulu at a funerial pace. Next we were going out via Moon Sound – which when you look at the chart looks rather perilous with the amount of boulders that litter the shallow waters. However in reality (provided they have found them all) we had enough clearance to pass untroubled so it was a bit of an anti-climax.

Once through we are able to get the main up and sail. But throughout the day we alternated between motoring and sailing to the island of Muhu. At one point a seal popped his head up to do some human watching. He was clearly curious and treaded water ( do seals tread water?) and his big round eyes followed as round as we passed him, he snorted and then dived away.
DSC06420Kuivastu is a new harbour which serves as the main ferry route to the mainland and car ferries constantly crisscross keeping you on your toes when you crossed their path to enter the harbour. Once in the harbour we were greeted by a very friendly harbour master in his blue boiler suit ( on a very hot day) he took our lines on the wooden clad harbour wall. We were just about tied up when Celtic Warrior bow appeared in the small gap which is the harbour entrance – but they had to moor on the other side of the harbour as there is a fuel berth behind us. This would be the last time we saw them – we have enjoyed cruising in company with them for the last week. So one final aperitive on board Carra. Which was rudely interrupted by a very big Swiss Ketch coming in, requiring them to leap around back to Celtic Warrior to move her forward. It was so big that about 4 metres was sticking outside the harbour – which provided more shelter for us.
DSC06429Celtic Warrior had an early start as they were on a long passage that day – so we waved goodbye to them and we set off about an hour later. Once round a small Island with a rather smart lighthouse and summer cottage, we could get all 3 sails up and head east towards Koiguste. According to the pilot book it was a small harbour with only a few berths. There are few anchorages on this coast – unless you have a lifting keel due to the shallow waters and boulder strewn landscape underwater. With an armada coming up behind us – we were keen to make it into the harbour before them. This meant we put the engine on sooner than we would have done – but eventually the wind fizzled out completely so we took all the sails down and motored. The harbour was located in a large body of water – where the land formed a natural mere with a small gap in a spit of land through which we had to pass. Once inside there was a cacophony of squawking birds– as the mere was home to thousands of gulls, geese and ducks.
Frustratingly just as we approached the entrance the wind suddenly increased – making picking up the buoy slightly more tricky as there was a cross wind. But with a second line on the buoy we were soon able to winch the stern around. Our second reel of rope DSC06439aon the rail has proved a sound investment. The harbour looked nothing like any of the books and had clearly grown. Another friendly harbour master welcomed us in perfect English without a trace of a foreign accent. It turns out he did an MBA in the UK in the late 90s and he was now investing in this marina and building a small holiday village. The natural harbour is beautiful – remote and unspoilt. I hope he is able to develop it but not spoil the beauty of the place.
DSC06437Elaine and Mags went for a swim – there was mass disbelief that the 22.6C shown on the temp gauge was correct – they both decided it was about 18-19c. Still too cold for me.
I went up to pay and met an British Couple – Janey and Neil who were cycling from Riga to Tallinn and camping enroute. Their “adventure before dementia” as they call it. Remarkably Janey went to the same primary school as I did – albeit 10 years early – what a small world. I invited them aboard for drinks as Elaine is a keen cyclist and is planning to do some touring. Once onboard the integration began and lots of useful information was gleaned about tents and equipment though in reality I think it confirmed what Elaine has already researched but it is always useful to check. They have cycled across much of Europe and are fascinating guests. Soon Janey and I talked about Beccles where we both grew up and reminisce about some of the old characters and shops in the town. The world gets even smaller when I find out that her brother now lives in the Montagu’s house in Ringsfield. My mother and Lisa Montagu met during their antenatal classes and Caroline and I were good friends as children.

Early the next morning, it was a windless day – with mirror like reflections on the water of birds, navigation marks, little reed beds across the mere. Once out there was a little more wind – and Mags and Elaine got the main up, but noticed that there was a strange kink in the sail. We dropped the sail to investigate and it would appear that a car ( bit that holds the sail onto the mast) had come un screwed from the batten pocket. None of us can work out how this is physically possible. But we can’t sail. But as it turns out the zephyr like wind disappears and it is a slow motor to Abruka. This was a very small harbour with barely enough round to turn. We couldn’t park were I was planning to as it is reserved for the ferry so I tucked myself into the corner – we just fitted leaving a

 

couple of meters in front of the bow of the ferry. Which we discover he uses when he comes in at speed! Later we are joined by a boat who parks in a finger pontoon but forgets to have a stern rope ready and who fenders aren’t at the right height and he parks at speed too. Lucky I was there to fend him off and hold the boat whilst he found a rope.
We were able to fix the mainsail relatively eaDSC06459sily – but we are still puzzled as to how it happened as the plastic thread seems to be in tact – so we cant work out how it came un screwed as we had to remove the car from the mast track to be able to screw it back on…. A mystery.
On shore just out of the harbour there were about 60 herons standing stony still on separate boulders, like pieces of sculpture. You would have thought Antony Gormley had been here. We watched as a few thunderstorms rumble past the nearby island of Saaremare – which thankfully we avoided all of them as we were the tallest mast of 2 in the little harbour. For such a tiny harbour they had magnificent showers.
We were keen to avoid the ferry’s return visit so made sure we were on our way by 0830 as we left we could see it was on route. Mags took Carra out of the very small harbour (which is a rare event) and did very well.

The entrance to Kuressaare is a very long straight buoyed channel only about 20m wide and 2.6m deep – either side are 2 training walls well little islands that link up – which were inhabited by thousands of birds with the adults trying to sate hungry chicks and adolescents. There was the odd bit of turf warfare with terns dive bombing seagulls that strayed to close to their nests and swans hissing at interlopers – it all made for an impressive noise as we past.
We had a fun banter with a Finnish boat that waited for us to enter – both ending on a “down with Trump”. Elaine parked Carra on a mooring buoy beautifully and we were greeted by another friendly harbour master. The busy harbour is overlooked by the 14th Century Castle. The temperature was pulverising and the air oppressive – we put up the tent for shelter from the sun. Our exploration of town was delayed with a couple of

heavy showers – which cleared the air and we went for a wander. As well as the wooden buildings they had quite a few stone building owing to a fire that destroyed much of the town. With the timing that only town civic works the world over can manage the centre was in chaos as all the roads and pavements were dug up – in the middle of the holiday season. We had an ice cold drink in the old Fire station.


As we were heading off the next day we day some boat jobs that needed doing and it was so much quicker with 3 people. Even if the water tank fill was the slowest in history due to very poor pressure. After lunch we hired a bike for Elaine but just as we were set off it was clear Mags’ tyre was completely flat. So Mags then got a hire bike.
Thankfully we went to check the location of the bus station for Elaine’s departure the next day as it transpired there was only one ticket left. The tourist info had given a cycle path – which we followed. It wasn’t the most inspiring route – as it was along a main road and bouned by trees either side – so you couldn’t see too much. We did pass a rather large old oak forest – very unusual in this part of the world. We then continued on to a café by a river which had ice cream and brownies.
That evening we dinned outside in a restaurant overlooking the Castle and it’s moat – whose walls glowed in the evening sun – good food if some what slow service.

DSC06520

Rocks and Rolling in Estonia

Setting out from Helsinki at 8 am meant that we missed the fog – with so many ferries going back and forth to Stockholm and Tallinn – you had to keep a close eye on them, plus crossing the shipping lanes – it was quite busy with ships. With the exception of about an hour we had to motor most of the way either due to lack of wind and when it did blow it was bang on the nose. We arrived at Haven Kakamae next to our friends form the Rally: Derek and Julie. WP_20180704_19_17_34_ProIt was lovely to see them again and very kindly they invited us for a meal – which was most welcome after a 10 hour sail. That evening on the quay we were treated to a salsa dancing lesson – it was a lovely mild evening and had we not been out for dinner I would have joined in.

We had a arranged for a sailmaker to collect our staysail and put a patch on it to prevent the yankee sheets rubbing on it. For the rest of the day we had a bit of an admin time, went shopping and were surprised to see that Tallinn was not as cheap as we had remembered.

The next day we put on our tourist hats and headed off into Tallinn. We had been to the old town several times so we decided to go to Kadriorg Park and Palace. DSC06318The Park was linked by serveral formal gardens which were full of linden trees in full flower, filling the air with a delicate jasmine like scent. The park has a very pink 18th Century Palace built by Peter the Great. As Russian palaces go it was rather attractive because of its simplicity and its small size. But there was also a very humble little house which is now a museum where Peter the Great lived when the palace was being built. Nearby was the President’s residence – all very open and accessible to the public.

That evening we had Derek and Julie onboard for dinner, it has been lovely getting to know them and tonight’s entertainment on the quay was a jazz concert. Though you had to feel for the spectators as it was quite cold and miserable.

By the time we left the next day, the wind had increased and after filling up with fuel we departed the harbour. With 2 headlands to get around before we could sail it was motorsailing into the strong wind. Once round the second headland we could bare away enough to set the yankee and we were soon doing 6.8 knots. The coast was lined with white sands – but the sea full of rocks. It is remarkable how different the land is compared to Finland which is only 45nm across the water.

The harbour of Lohusalu (the picture at the top of the post) was tiny, very well sheltered and fairly shallow and we assumed couldn’t take many boats. But throughout the day sailing boats kept coming in and the harbour master packed them all in which included putting them on the outside of the harbour wall. So glad we arrived early! Celtic Warrior followed us in and we helped them moor. The marina had the smartest shower facilities given the size of the place. That night the local sailing club had a live band and the quay was bopping to the music.

By now there had been NW winds for some time and the sea was building not that you would know in Lohusalu as it was incredibly well sheltered. There was enough wind to sail and for once in the right direction but progress was slow as every now and again a wave would stop the boat dead. DSC06377We sailed past the Pakri Lighthouse on a prominent sandstone cliff and a couple of very sandy islands. At times we motor sailed due to the sea state ( not that it shows from the photo) – then the wind picked up which allowed us to punch through the sea and make progress. In the last hour the wind built very quickly and we soon found ourselves over canvased and so rolled away the yankee and started to make our approach which was down wind into a shallow harbour which was surrounded by rocks. Once behind the sea wall there was calm, though parking with a strong wind behind into a narrow space was challenging though thankfully Derek was there to take the lines and so it went smoothly.
The harbour was relatively sheltered until the wind changed direction and although the wind was dying the swell was making the boats move. It would calm through the night but you wouldn’t want to be in here with a strong wind. We had Julie, Derek and their guests Owen and Geraldine onboard for drinks and then we ate out at the beach restaurant.
There was very little wind the next day and so we set off motoring but about half way into our journey the wind filled in just enough to sail. We were soon to enter an area of sandbanks and rocks and much of the channel is only 3.6m and either side of the channel you could walk it was so shallow. So we were quite happy with just the Yankee out doing 3knots. I always believe you should never go faster than the depth – but with a few hours of shallow water it was a challenge. Our next destination was the town of Haapsalu. The channel just hugs the marina, yet there is a large expanse of water stretching beyond the marina but within a couple of boat lengths it is only 60cm deep. We tied up alongside Celtic Warrior. Later that day there were a few dramas of kit overboard – we managed to rescue our cup holder but Derek lost his navigation light which had pinged off with some misplaced bow ladders.

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