Tag Archives: Finland

Good bye to Finland…..for now

As thunderstorms were forecast for the next few days – missing out on Gullskrona did give us time in hand, if we needed to miss a day. I had been looking at the weather forecast as to when we might cross back to Sweden. A passage of only 30 miles but it is in open sea and needs the right wind – plus the weather window closed on the 10th as after that there was a period of very strong SWs for over a week.

In the morning, I was expecting to see black skies given the forecast of thunderstorms but we awoke to bright skies without any signs of cumulus nimbus clouds the towering clouds that are needed for thunder. So we decided to go and we had a lovely sail with a gentle F3 wind; we were leaving Turku Archipelago and arriving at Lappo on the outer edges of the Aland Islands.

As I took down the Finnish courtesy flag, I felt quite sad. We left Finland 3 years ago but having the boat has meant that we have still had our home here. Even though the language is impossible, we love the fact that we still remember a lot of the vocabulary and can surprise Finns by the fact that we can still speak some Finnish – though I am not sure “I drive a blue car” and “I live in Espoo” is the most scintillating conversation. As we are moving Carra to Denmark next year, we know that this is the final goodbye to living in Finland – from now on we will just be visitors. Up went the Aland Islands Flag.

Now was about getting the right weather to cross, so we missed out Seglinge and had a cracking 30nm sail to Degerby – I was even allowed to do some tacking – as they were quite long tacks.


Spot the ferry in the right hand picture – in a very narrow channel

DSC01586I was about to put the engine on then saw the yacht up ahead – so decided I would see if I could pass it and then put the engine on – otherwise it would be cheating. Thankfully they had someone inept on the helm and so I was able to pass them easily – so on went the engine for the final wiggle to Degerby. A wiggle that large ferries (think cross channel ferry size) do daily down narrow channels.

We had been to Degerby before, 5 years ago in a charter boat – and I had forgotten how attractive it is with its colour houses – they must have been rebels here as they had colours other than red!

Rodhamn 1

Rod 2Our final stop is one our favourite harbour Rodhamn with its lovely red rock and heather in full bloom – isolated but very secure; that has been a harbour for many hundreds of years. IMG_20190808_160347Sadly we left too early to get the freshly baked rolls that they deliver to your boat – though don’t worry we had made up for it with their home made cakes the day before.

We had both sails up as we sailed … well ghosted out of the harbour. The perfect spot to say goodbye to sailing in Finland …….for now!

The early start meant that we would get the best of the NWs allowing us to sail in relatively light winds. At 60 degrees to the wind we were romping along at 6.5 knots. A large black cloud loomed over head and the wind built – we were doing 7.5 knots with all three sails up. It was either going to get very wind or very wet or both. We put 2 reefs but thankfully we missed the rain.


Leaving Finland behind. Note to sailors – yes I did move the lazy sheet….

A speedy crossing saw us arrive at Arholma anchorage before 1pm and watch a flotilla of yachts coming in having crossed from Finland. The most impressive of which was a yacht with teenagers onboard and a young skipper and they sailed on to the wooden bow to and dropped the stern anchor and all with no engine. It is a lovely anchorage surrounded by wooden boat sheds and lots of reeds! We were back in Sweden so up went the Swedish courtesy flag.

The itch that won’t be scratched…..



Still not close enough to the camera!

As we left the harbour, a white tail eagle flew overhead, just as we were in the middle of putting the main up. We have seen several at close quarters but never when the camera is to hand. So I abandoned my duties and went into Blue Planet mode – and Mags was left to sort out the sails.


Our destination was the island of Jurmo – a pretty harbour, with the ubiquitous red boat sheds. But this Island’s claim to fame are proper highland coos. I went for a run but couldn’t find said coos but their relations provided mince which was made into a tasty meal with lentils.




The next day, we had peaceful sail to Nasby and we tried a new sail plan for running before the wind – using both our foresails goose winged (one either side). We have a spinnaker pole but it makes me nervous using it with all the rocks around.

old and new

Goose winging

But this worked a treat. Nasby had a little supermarket and it had been 11 days since our last visit to a supermarket – so I knew Mags was getting twitchy about running out of food – her fear and reality are poles apart due to the many tins of corned beef onboard – for some reason this doesn’t seem to placate her fears.

Coming into Korpo we attached to the buoy as usual, with the mooring hook or clicky buoy as we call it – but it fell at an awkward angle. It is a long metal pole with the hook at the end of it. I stopped the boat on the webbing as normal – but this bent the pole with load of the boat pulling at the wrong angle. It was only when we rode out to it to put a second line on the buoy did we realise it was bent and we couldn’t get it off. We removed the webbing leaving the mooring hook permanent attached to the buoy. This would be a hazard to us and anyone else when we left the mooring. But it was stuck firm…….so after a large dose of spinach and a tip from a local – I went off to try and unbend it. Success – well enough to get it off but not to be used again. Thankfully we had bought a spare – fearing this would happen as it was already slightly bent.


Yes my face is doing more work than my arms!

Some friends Pia, Jukka and Anni arrived by speed boat late afternoon from their summer cottage – they “popped over” – an hour away – it was lovely that they came over to see us. We had drinks on board and then had some yummy sticky spare ribs in the local restaurant.


I have decided I suffer from FMOONH – a fear of missing out on nice harbours – an unvisited top spot is like a scratch you have to itch. Last year, we hadn’t been able to go to a beautiful anchorage Toras Viken and then there was the one that Sakku had just told us about Gullskrona – apparently it had just reopened after a 10 year closure and used to be the most popular in the archipelago.


Well marked – 2 leading lines and channel marker

Though narrow channels, we had a lovely downwind sail 20nm to Gullkrona – Mags likes this point of sail. As there is no danger of tacking (interrupts the puzzle booking). The wind gradually built throughout the sail. Although there are no tides here, the water level does vary and we were -25cm below normal. Which meant there was only one place we could go in the harbour. It was down wind and slightly cross wind pick up of the stern buoy. We approached, Mags picked up the buoy and handed the webbing line over to me. I was focusing it rather than looking where we were going – and next thing I know Mags is screaming to go back. Not sure if this was due to a rock – I put into reverse at full speed – which then leaves you with the challenge of unhooking the stern buoy. All a bit hectic. We had been going in too fast and she wanted me to slow down. The reality was that this mooring spot was too exposed in this wind direction and we decided that we could live without the stress. This was definitely a case of wanting to visit and not really being realistic about the shelter of the harbour…. A lesson learnt. So Gullkrona will remain as a scratch not itched.


Unwelcome visitors in Toras Viken

The only problem was that the next harbour I wanted to go to was 20 miles in the direction we had just come from and back head to wind into a freshening breeze…. I was very popular. So by the end of the day we had done 40 miles to actually go 9 miles. We did manage to sail for about the last 2 hours – but it was a very long day. On the brightside, we arrived in Toras Viken, a natural harbour in glorious sunshine which scenery to life. It was over 6 weeks since we had anchored – so it was lovely to have the peace and quiet that an anchorage affords. Lots of reeds meant a good night’s sleep as you know the anchor will dig in well.

Chance Encounters with old friends and meeting Foss and the Nauticat

Despite the lack of wind, we set off – with only 9 miles – we were able to drift at under 2 knots and as expected the wind picked up and we arrived at Katanpää in a reasonable time. It is an island with a military history, built in the Russian occupation of Finland as part of a defence plan for the Baltic that was created 200 years earlier by Peter the Great. Later it saw life as a prison. The Gun emplacements and many of the wooden buildings housing the troops were still intact, all connected by cobble stone roads and built by forced labour. The cobbles, we now are the result of uplift of land that we had seen on the High Coast.


We had noticed a British boat in the harbour – so I went over to invite them for a drink….We met a lovely spaniel with blonde highlights called Foss and the Nauticat – and their owners Julie and Yvonne. They bought their boat in Finland and 4 years later they are still here. They love it just as much as we do.

1Conversation flowed easily and drinks turned into dinner. Before we knew it was well past our bedtime. The next night they invited us on board for Dinner…. which included delicious home made ginger cookies and home made bread – we needed to stalk these two! Lulling them into a false sense of security….we went our separate ways the next day. However, you can sail….. but you can’t hide!
The sun was pulverising and with only a light wind, we arrived at Brundalsviken hot and bothered. I popped into the shop to see what the depth was at the fuel pontoon. In a bit of a dwam (Scottish word) with the heat – I suddenly heard my name being called – it was Tommi Paattakainen – we had worked together closely in Nokia. It was lovely to see him – he and his son Aaro came on board. It is a small world. We ate ashore at the Thai Summer pop up restaurant and it was definitely worth the trip here.
With strong northerlies due, we were keen to tuck in out of the way. Moonstar (Yvonne and Julie) don’t have AIS – so it is difficult to stalk them without their knowledge – so you need to be less subtle – we messaged them and agreed to hole up in the same harbour. A family owned harbour with a lot of charm and tastefully developed – Parattula/ Peterzens. It was a little hurricane hole sheltered in every direction – if a little shallow in parts -thankfully it is mud as we arrived and it showed 2m under the boat. When we left it was a mere 1.8m!

img_20190730_113651.jpgLater that day, Mags was just returning to the boat when she heard her name being called – it was Sakku and Merja. We had met them last year and then we had seen Sakku on the High Coast in July. It was lovely to see them and we joined them for a drink aboard Duo and catch up on their news. Next morning we invited them over for Coffee and Pulla ( Finnish Cakes) before they headed off.

We had a list of admin and maintenance jobs to be done – including changing the secondary fuel filter which was long overdue.

lifeOnce they were all ticked off, we went for a dog walk out to the lighthouse.

dsc01490.jpgFoss, unlike Magoo, was beautifully behaved and was desperate to go swimming but wouldn’t unless she was given permission. It wouldn’t even have crossed Magoo’s mind to have asked. He belonged to the school of “ask for forgiveness after” … though come to think of it, he didn’t do that either. For the next 2 nights, we ate alternatively chez nous then chez Moonstar.

We awoke to the rain, it was the first time for weeks – so we wouldn’t be leaving today. We headed over to Moonstar – they were getting ready to go. So this time, we needed to deploy another cunning tactic. The mention of cheese on toast worked – they don’t have a grill and had said they missed it….. they decided to stay another day. After cheese on toast and cheese toasties – we had a movie afternoon and watched Hidden Figures followed by walking Foss.

Before they took out a restraining order, we decided we really couldn’t detain them any longer and so waved goodbye. We have really enjoyed their company.


They managed to escape!

Sam faces her biggest fear!

Ever since our Finnish lessons, I had always been intrigued by the town Uusikaupunkki, because I had felt rather pleased that I could translate it. These early gains in my Finnish linguistic ability soon came to a grinding halt when Paivi, our lovely tutor, introduced us to the grammar. Anyway it means New Town or Nystad in Swedish. The “new” town was founded in 1617 as a trading town but rose to fame internationally due to the Treaty of Nystad (1721). The treaty ended the Great Northern War and saw the might of the Swedish Empire decline and the Russian Empire come to the fore. The two countries divided up countries, even though Russia had occupied much of Finland, it gave most back to back to Sweden and Russia kept Estonia and the Latvia/Lithuania.

We had an uneventful but frustrating motor for much of the way. As we approached our destination the scenery changed and it was more like the Stockholm Archipelago – only with lots of leading lines – it is a science here. I am sure it is so their big neighbour – the big bad bear can’t paralyse them by turning GPS off.

There were lots more boutique summer cottages – and the last thing you want on your door step is the local cormorant community taking up residence on a nearby skerries – industrial quantities of bird poo turn an island into a barren white ghost and down wind is quite grim …. Bang went the bird scarer and I jumped out of my skin wondering who had been shot – for it to happen 20 mins later – whilst I jumped not a bird moved.

uusiThe marina was situated down a narrow inlet with boats on all sides – it looked like it was Finland’s equivalent of the Hamble. The harbour was very friendly and was definitely the heart of the town – great vibe, cafes and restaurants along the harbour.


Shopping trip without a car

Free hammocks hung between trees and everywhere in the town there were decorated happy chairs. Like Rauma it had a lot of wooden buildings though it didn’t quite have the randomness of Rauma.IMG_20190723_080808

But it did have the Bonk Museum – part art installation, part science but 100% spoof. The museum that traces the history of a fictional Bonk dynasty – and the machines that made their fortune – from anchovies. Yes everything can be made from these fish – from electricity, to potent love potions to rockets and much more. Think Willy Wonker’s chocolate factory and this was the equivalent. It was very well done – lots of period photos – someone had a lot of fun doing it, completely bonkers. But also there was a workshop which encourages children to build their own machines from disused parts.


The power of Anchovies

An early start was needed to get to our next harbour Isokari – which means Big Skerries, the harbour was an old pilot harbour and was small and we wanted to get there first – but lots of others were leaving at the same time and it felt like a bit of a race to leave – but as it turned out they were going elsewhere. We eeked out as much sailing as possible but the heatwave that we were finally having meant very light winds. We arrived to find all places taken, but the harbour master was very helpful and moved a motor boat who had abandoned their boat taking up 2 places.

When I was little and I visited my Granny, she drilled into me the dangers of snakes. Concerned that I would try to pick up a basking adder, I was told to bang my feet if I saw any twigs on the ground. I did a lot of foot banging on my holidays. Ever since then I have had a phobia – even as I write this I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck raise just taking about them. I can’t look at pictures, let alone meet once face to face without a very uncool squeak…… we were just about to leave the previous lighthouse island Kylma-pihlaja – our boat neighbour went into the electric cupboard on shore that was 1 foot from our boat and warps, to unplug his shore power all I heard was “don’t tell Sam” – I knew exactly what it was – hissing sid was in there…… mightily relieved we didn’t take electricity that night. To think it could have come on board….urgh. Well we had just tied up at Isokari – an island with a light house – and the lovely harbour master had just taken a line – she stopped dead – out came the phase again – “don’t tell Sam” which triggers some pavlovian response in me, which means I look straight away – just by her foot was a snake. Trying to retain some modicum of control, I moved quickly to the other side of the wheel – I still needed to park the boat without screaming and running down below and shutting the hatch – which is what I wanted to do.


Take off, Flight and Landing

After a while both Mags and the Harbour Master decided it hadn’t moved – and it turned out it was a plastic snake – left by some horrid child ……. My thoughts about said child are unprintable!

Thankfully there was some more appealing wildlife in the harbour, it was teeming with bird life – black guillemots flapping their wings like little wind up toys you get in Christmas crackers, busied themselves criss-crossing the harbour with small fish in their beaks. Their big orange feet coming out for their rather inelegant landing.


When Russia built the lighthouse on Isokari in 1833, at this point Finland belonged to Russia; this lighthouse was all about Russian status and so was designed to impress the western neighbours. It stands 35m tall and can be seen for miles. You get a fabulous view from the top. The surrounding grass meadow was in full flower with wild oregano and other colour flowers.
iso 2The harbour master packed in every boat that wanted to stay, we had 3 boats on the outside of us. An old trading ship skilfully manoeuvred and tied up oppose us onto the ferry pontoon. We assumed it was just an afternoon stop – but in the evening out came a series of tents which they put up on deck. Not sure this was glamping!


Mags avoiding the shipping

Sam jamming with the sea birds and revenge is a dish….

Elaine left us in the morning and our plan was to look for a weather window to cross the 132nm to Finland, we wanted a good wind direction, but not too windy so that we could sail all the way without it being too lumpy. I looked at the long term weather and there was a distinct lack of wind for the next 4-5 days. Not what I was hoping for as it would mean we would have to motor. We had a choice wait 5 days or go and hope to catch the last of dying the wind. Härnösand wasn’t really a place we wanted to spend any more time than we had to – so we decided to go for it.

We set off east out of the fjord – frustratingly we were head into the wind. But once clear of the headland, we could set all 3 sails and head roughly in the right direction – close hauled into the wind. Which was great as it made what little wind there was appear stronger. 6.5 knots was more than I could hope for. We managed to sail for 6 hours but with the wind progressively coming round first at 90 degrees then from behind us it meant the wind we saw got lighter and lighter until we only doing 2.7 knots. Time to capitulate and turn on the engine…..

sailingWe were sad to be leaving the High Coast – it is a stunning area to sail in and had exceeded our expectations – dramatic scenery, pretty little fishing villages and unique geological features. But with each mile travelled, the view of the High Coast disappeared over the horizon and soon it was just sea that was visible. Given that we were expecting the trip to last 26 hours, we set up a watch system. Having had dinner, Mags went off watch and went to sleep. There were a couple of large ships to watch out for – but with electronic tracking (stalking or its proper term AIS) it was like playing a very slow electronic game. It was interesting seeing all the exotic destinations they were bound for – one was going to Alexandria.

But with no sails to tweak – few ships to watch out for…. I was getting bored and that meant I would start feeling sleepy. I got out the sweetie box. But there are only so many mint humbugs you can eat….

DSC01096 v2

The guitar mid crossing

So out came my guitar and I decided to have my only concert in the middle of the Gulf of Bothnia. From Bossa Nova, Ed Sheeran, Tracy Chapman, The Beatles, Oasis, James Blunt, the Shadows – Strumming away, I gave it rooty toot – singing at the top of my voice – my guitar teacher would have been proud of me as I even played Paranoid by Black Sabbath (not my favourite but apparently a useful technique he tells me) – all on my ½ sized classical guitar……The engine drowned out the many dodgy notes and I was able to labour until the misguided belief that I was the next cool acoustic guitar soloist. But just before you rush to book me up for your next party:

a. I cant sing
b. My “set” wouldn’t last long – as I only know one song from each
c. I would still like to have some friends.

It never really got dark – at about 2230 the sun was setting but it would rise again at 0300 so the sun just went below the surface and only had 4.5 hours to rush round to the other side of the sea so it was like having a permanent sunset and sunrise.
Mags took over – she had been oblivious to my gig. It rained for a bit and she saw a weird horseshoe rainbow then I was back on watch for a couple of hours, then Mags took over again. 10 am we had bacon butties – always good for morale plus we were able to sail from there – a relief turning off the engine.

DSC01112Our destination was the light house island of Kylma-pihlaja about 5 miles off the Finnish Coast – close but very isolated. We arrived 26 hours after setting off – into a small harbour which had been hewn out from the rock, was a former pilot station harbour and we were the only yacht and a hand full small motorboats out for a lunch stop.

DSC01102Tip toeing through the goose poo, this was a bird sanctuary – we walked round the island – and climbed the lighthouse which was now a hotel. By 2030 we were completely pooped and fell into bed….. next thing we knew it was 10:30…. It was a lovely sunny day and we were the only boat here. A fine harbour so we were quite happy to spend another day here.

Boats came and went all day – it appears to be a coffee stop for the coast guard and pilot boats, the ferry made frequent stops. One couple will be rueing the day they didn’t check the time of the last ferry and with no beds in the inn – a water taxi came out to pick them up….ouch – expensive!

IMG_20190714_171424With the harbour deserted all bar one small motorboat, a yacht arrived…..with the whole harbour to park in – he chose to moor 2ft in front of us at right angles by picking up a stern buoy. Making it more difficult for us to get out. It was totally out of order and inconsiderate. So I took great delight the next morning in springing Carra out – this is a technique where you pivot the boat using just the engine and one warp – which brought her stern out perpendicular to the harbour wall. He came out to watch, initially he looked worried as it isn’t a commonly used technique in these waters. He was about to make a very “helpful” comment then stopped to watch –– we exited perfectly…..I felt satisfaction for all the mansplaining I have had to endure as a skipper – this was womansplaining to an inconsiderate skipper without saying a word and it felt great!

Ed Note: Spell checker recognises mansplaining but not womansplaining!

Plague and Pestilence hits Carra

Jill arrived in the evening bearing gifts – a new rev counter and bacon – what else could a girl ask for! Plus more importantly a puzzle book for Mags as she had finished her last one. The next morning we left in time for the 12 o’clock bridge – given that it is the third time we have past through it in a week – it was positively routine. A great sail across to Lumparland and we were tucked up nicely in Bomarsund as the wind built throughout the day. After lunch of – surprise surprise – corned beef sandwiches, we wandered up to the fort – through the woods. It was a glorious sunny day and a beautiful walk – the path meandered through the trees that were clinging onto the rocks clearly marked as the rocks had been worn smooth, elsewhere the rocks being covered with pillows of sage green lichen. As Jill said “you expected pixies and fairies to be living here”.Bomarsund

The fort with its old Russian canons with the double headed eagles over look the approach to the harbour. We then walked down to the garrison fort and to the plaque for the first VCs that were awarded here.

Bomarsund was a decision point, do we go north about and cross from Sweden from there or do we go south to Rödhamn and cross from there? With strong southerlies for the next few days – we elected to go north about and had a gybe-athon through some rocks. We had both sails up and it was fun getting the gybe angles right for some narrow passages between the rocks.

Mags and her new puzzle book – order is restored on Carra

Once through it was a reach to our next harbour – through quite a wide channel to Hamnsundet. It was completely deserted, so we decided to come along side – as I wanted to polish one side of the hull. It needs to be done once per year and it is much faster and easier from a pontoon than once in the shed where the topsides are 3m from the ground.

We were due to go to an anchorage the next night before turning the corner and coming south to Karingsund. With 2 days of southerly winds ahead I knew we would need to motor and the next day the winds were lighter so we elected to go straight to Karingsund. Which in the end was very fortuitous, but more of that later…..

DSC07364Frustratingly as we turned the corner to head south so did the wind – but at least with lots of islands and rock to negotiate it did flatten out the sea. According to the chart there were navigation buoys directing you around the shallow, narrow entrance into the harbour– but all bar one set were missing. Karingsund is a perfect harbour, very sheltered from all directions and an old fishing harbour with lots of fishing huts lining the natural bay in various states of repair.

About 2 weeks ago Mags had been bitten by a tick. Ticks here can carry lyme disease and TBE. We had been vaccinated in Finland against TBE on the Punkkibussi – a bus that came to the supermarket. But there is no vaccination against lyme disease. I had removed the tick but it was very small and didn’t appear to be full of blood so didn’t think it would cause a problem. After a few days the bite disappeared, so all was well…… Until today when Mags had a red rash about 8cm wide. I was 100% sure this was Lyme’s disease, which can be a life changing, disabling disease if not treated quickly. So we got into a taxi and went straight to the hospital and sure enough Mags was diagnosed with lyme disease. So next stop was the chemist to pick up some very strong antibotics. As the Doctor said she was lucky to have had the rash – not everyone does and that is when it goes untreated with unexplained debilitating symptoms . But he was confident catching it so early meant that she would fully recovery. Also we were grateful that Mags got treated in an area where it is prevalent, so they knew the signs and issued the antibiotics immediately rather than waiting for the results of a blood test which don’t appear positive for some time. Hence many places delay the treatment and then wonder why they have high rates of untreatable lyme disease.

Although Mariehamn looked empty we found a restaurant full of locals and the Schnitzel lunch hit the spot – thanks Jill. The trip into town also allowed us to do some food shopping and overt a beer crisis onboard Carra. Throughout the day Mags had been feeling more unwell. Amongst other symptoms extreme fatigue is one of the impacts of the disease.

Early morning in Karingsund
Back in Swedish waters

There was an early morning fog in the air when we left Karingsund, but it soon cleared and with F2/3 wind just forward of the beam we had a lovely sail with all 3 sails up we were making great progress. Bacon butties were most welcome as a mid morning snack – given that breakfast had been early o’clock. The smell of bacon buttie didn’t even raise Mags, so I knew she wasn’t well. Quite quickly we lost visibility of the Aland’s and Jill and I sailed ….. Mags slept.

Soon we were weaving our way into Arholma’s West harbour- a pretty harbour with your typical red houses and wooden boat houses supported on stones. We tucked in behind the floating loo and anchored.

Life on Arholma

Jill and I went for a stroll round the island – in theory to look at the island but in reality in search of cinnamon buns. With all tourists gone there were only locals (70 live here all year round) and they seemed to be able to survive without cinnamon buns! bakenWe returned having failed in our mission but having explored the church and the beacon at a giddy height of 25m above sea level….. Mags slept.

Jill visiting the floating loo

Jill was determined to use all items of clothing she had brought and the swimming costume was yet to be used. So decided to visit the loo by swimming to it. Mags occasionally surfaced but soon went back to bed and ….Mags slept

Our next destination Sjalbottna, a lovely anchorage but we couldn’t be believe it was to be the last of our cruise. With a gentle breeze we were able to tack our way between the rocks, it is great fun – planning your tacks to avoid the rocky islands. Jill and I dodged the small yellow ferries that shuttle between islands and managed to sail virtually all the way to the anchorage..….. Mags slept.

As we were taking Carra out of the water we needed to fill up Carra with fuel – so headed for Vaxholm and were able to sail all the way. This time ferry dodging was with the big ships that come into Stockholm and if it wasn’t for our ability to see them electronic – you would get quite a shock as you don’t see them behind the islands……. Mags slept…. only surfacing for the ferry.


You could tell we were back in the Stockholm Archipelago as there were the white ghostly islands – all vegetation being killed off with Cormorant poo. DSC07430Once anything growing us dead, the birds move off and after a while it regenerates. You know when you are downwind of one of these islands. Once tied up at Vaxholm – Jill went off in search of cinnamon buns and was successful! We made our way back to the Marina. Sad that the cruise was over but pleased that we had completed our trip and had seen everything that we had wanted to see and been able to share our adventure with so many friends……. Mags was awake!


The joys of Lymes disease is that that once you have started the antibiotics you feel worse as the dead bacteria appear to have their revenge as they float around your system waiting for your body to remove them. Mags has had some rough days since coming back to the marina but every day has felt better and is nearly back to normal.

Windy weather in Lumparland

With only 1.5 hours between friends, we had a quick clean of the boat and had just about finished when Caron and Yvonne arrived bearing gifts. A vented loop (don’t ask – it is for the loo) and salad cream essential for my corned beef sandwiches which now are a key ingredient of my stable diet, due to the 25 tins we had on board – and now down to the last 6! We have made less progress on the cuppa soup mountain though, which is less appealing in hot weather.

The windy weather looked set in for the week which was frustrating – but not much we could do about it. But there was an opportunity to get to a harbour before the next front came through with 30 knots winds. We were heading to Lumparland – part of the mainland or in our minds home to Willy Wonker.

The narrow canal Photo: Caron

But to get there we had to go through a narrow canal with a bridge opening that meant we had to leave at 1110 on the dot. So safety brief done, we cast off and timed our arrival at the bridge for 1200. There were a couple of boats coming the other way and it felt like we were squeezing through – it always seems a challenge the first time…. Mast just past the bridge, it swung shut and we had a good downwind sail across open water. This route was the approach the British and French Warships used to sneak up on the Russian Fort at Bomarsund. The battle was part of the Crimea War and the warships took 48 hours to destroy the fort that the Russians had taken 10 years to build. A simple case of the Russians expecting the attack from a different direction. Given the rocks it must have been an impressive bit of sailing getting the warships so close.

DSC07250Bomarsund is one of our favourite Aland Island harbours. Stunning red rocky cliffs provide a dramatic backdrop for the deep harbour which has been used for centuries by old sailing vessels. The vessels being tied to the rocks with big rings that are still used today. Trees and lichen cling onto to rocks and gravity defying angles with little sign of soil. The board walk follows the contour of the rock and is suspended over the water and more importantly it is incredible sheltered from any southerly winds. So the only sign of the near gale blowing were the trees on the top of the cliff.

c and y 2The following morning Caron and Yvonne went off to explore the fort – we stayed on Carra and caught up with some admin. The wind was due to drop slightly in the afternoon and with a downwind sail – it looked like there was an opportunity to sail. But at lunch time you could see it was still very strong wind – so we decided to stay put.

Looking at the bowels of the boat on her phone

Caron and I then set off to explore the heads to see if we could solve the problem by way of a boat colonoscopy – with a go pro camera on a pole we explored parts of Carra that had not seen day light for some time. Caron’s knowledge of pumps was very helpful – whilst we couldn’t solve it – we were able to eliminate a couple of causes and I was better able to describe the problem in terms of pump pressures.

The sunset that evening was the essence of tranquility and beauty. ( see banner photo – by Caron)

As is often the way with windy weather, once past we found ourselves becalmed and so we motored to Kastleholm. Enroute were treated to a very close view of a sea eagle spiralling down to the waters edge – the closest we have been to one. Crossing our path on our way to our harbour was an electric cable which was 22m from the water – we require 19m so in theory there should be 3m spare – but it looks like cms from the deck – which is why I find it easier not to look. So I just had to ignore Mags saying “are you sure we will fit under” and go for it.

Having had strong southerlies we now picked Kastleholm as was good shelter from the strong northerlies for the next few days. We explored the Jan Karlsgården museum in the morning – although it was the second time that week it was still very interesting.

Whilst it was windy the sun was shinning, so we had a great 25km cycle ride around a nearby lake – which was rewarded with cinnamon buns that Caron had bought earlier.

gor in mist
Early morning mist Photo: Caron

I was frustrated that we hadn’t been able to show Caron and Yvonne any harbours beyond Lumparland. But provided we were quick we could get out to Rodhamn the next morning and show them the outer Archipelago before the next windy weather arrived. We awoke at 0530 with mist swirling on the water and as we set off the sun shone through the mist it was magical. We sailed all the way back to the bridge and made it through the first opening at 9am. Passing through for the second time … it seemed less scary.

Focusing on rocks and beating another boat

After some tactical tacking we arrived at Rodhamn at 11am. Rodhamn is another favourite of ours but we had never seen it deserted before, indicative of the sailing season being over here.

sign rod
The leading lights of Rodhamn! Photo: Caron

We had the choice of spots on the wooden staging. We went off and explored the island – to my horror I saw a small snake ( I hate snakes). Thankfully it was small, so I managed to suppress my inner desire to scream but with evil yellow eye lids – I wasn’t getting any closer.

rodhamn 1With the wind due to increase soon we only stopped for an hour before sailing back up to Mariehamn.

Caron loves sheds – so the old harbour was a brilliant shed spotters paradise. A wonderful old working boat yard with lots of boat sheds – some on land, some over the water but all focused on restoring old wooden sailing boats. It is a favourite spot of ours in the grand metropolis that is Mariehamn, think small town with a parochial feel but that makes it sound way too lively.

We strolled over to the other harbour and pondered who was the owner of the £46 million super yacht called Africa 1 – we were convinced it was some despot African dictator. Mags asked one of the crew but despite her teachers integration – they didn’t divulge the owner, as they are sworn to secrecy. This only reinforced our view, definitely dodgy money.

Caron and Yvonne treated us to a delicious meal in Mariehamn. They left on the 9am ferry, with Jill not arriving for another 12 hours we were able to get ahead on the admin – aka laundry!

Ferry Dodging

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.mags

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.DSC07127

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. DSC07156I 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.DSC07153

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 – DSC07166which 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!

DSC07190Sharon 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.

Part of the Fort at Bomarsund

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.DSC07199

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.DSC07208

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.

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.


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!


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 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.


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.

« Older Entries