Tag Archives: Estonia

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.


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.


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.