Tag Archives: Finland

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.

Hauklahti, Helsinki and Hello to many Friends

We were very excited about arriving in Haukilahti Marina – it was the marina that was about 5 mins walk from our old house. From about an hour out we started to recognise the surroundings and familiar landmarks.

The island we used to go to for BBQs, the water tower, the islands we use to Nordic ski to and the island we had had a puncture on our canoe – it all built to a sense of coming home. Soon we could see our rock that we used to walk to on many evenings and watch the summer evening sun. The entrance to the marina was shallow so I was trying to focus on that – whilst still looking around soaking up the moment. Just as we arrived 2 boats left from the jetty by the restaurant and we were able to park slap bang outside the restaurant – just as we had imagined it would be – every time we used to pass the marina when we lived here.

DSC06253I used to cycle round the marina on my way to work in the summer and would imagine one day Carra would be parked there. We had made it and we were both grinning like Cheshire Cats.

WP_20180701_20_10_24_ProWe were going to be here for a week – which would allow us to relax and not have to look at the weather. Piia was back in town so popped in for a coffee. The first 2 days I spent at my favourite wood working place and I managed to build a shelf and make a few other bits and pieces. Followed by a varnishing session on the boat. It was very relaxing.

Each evening we had a the chance to catch up with friends. Anne and Jussi our first evening. Some former colleagues from Nokia the next: Jarkko, Mikko, Tony, Suska, Marko and Heikki, then Catherine – hearing about her adventures in Nepal, Our neighbours: Mikko and Miia, and finally Chris on Sunday. We also fitted in a visit to Sharon and Andy – we saw Andy briefly before he had to fly – and he would be staying in our house that night. It also gave us the time to cycle round our favourite cycle routes. Having our own base made us really feel that we were back living there.

We also visited Merja and Saku and their lovely apartment overlooking the harbour. We went for a walk to a lovely restaurant in the woods for lunch in Lauttisaari.

We had met them on the Rally earlier in the summer. But soon it was time to move on – well except the weather wasn’t cooperating and we stayed an extra night.

The day we were due to leave it threw it down with rain but thankfully by the time we left the rain had been replaced by some really dreich weather: low mist, dull, overcast, cold and miserable – but at least it wasn’t raining. We picked our way through the rocks into Helsinki Harbour – avoiding the numerous ferries. Sadly the view of the harbour was very limited given the weather but we were soon tied up in the harbour of NJK with its splendid old Clubhouse.

A white wooden building with a beautiful green roof – it was always a place where we would go for a special meal. So it was fitting that we would bring Carra here.

I took the ferry over to the many land to pick up some supplies then we had Bamse onboard for a drink before eating in the Clubhouse. The building oozes history – silver trophies and foreign yacht club burgees adorn the walls.

It is 10 years to the days since Issy died – so we raise a glass to her. I cant believe it is 10 years and yet sometimes it feels longer.

Celebrating Juhannus (Midsummer) with Friends

The sky was very grey and very ominous – so for the first time since May 4th we got into our oilies. We left Hanko through the narrow breakwater and set sail east – well motor sailed at least. One plan had been to stop in Jussaro at an anchorage but we would then have to leave at early o’clock to out run a gale so decided to press on and anchor in a nice safe spot. Just after the decision was made the heavens opened and we sheltered as best we could from the elements.


Part of trip plan has been to visit some friends’ cottages in Finland. So we were very excited when we could see Diana’s lighthouse which is by her house come in to view – so we called her up to let her know we were passing . Our original plan had been to stop at Diana’s cottage first but given that is open to the SW and that was where the gale was due from, we sail pasted and she waved standing next to the lighthouse – it was a real high spot that we had actually made it here. We then tucked round the back of Stromso (Piia’s Island) and found a safe anchorage to spend the next 2 days. Piia wasn’t at the cottage yet – but again her jetty is open to the SW. So we opted to anchor opposite where we would be sheltered from the gale. We dug the anchor in well, let out 7 times the depth of water in chain to ensure we stayed put and retreated to down below for a bit of binge series watching – the sound of heavy rain just confirmed our choice (of anchoring and binge watching). Having watched “The Split” we surfaced after 2 days, the wind had abated and so we moved across the bay to the Piia’s pontoon.


Tied up safely, we welcomed them onboard – it was so lovely to see them. We had forgotten have stunning their house is. Nestled in the trees, their modern long house clad in wood, slopes to perfectly match the descending ground. It blends in with the surroundings and the carpet of blueberry bushes. Each room having a view over the water. The sauna stands alone and overlooks the pontoon. Piia had put the sauna on and within 30 mins we were sitting in the sauna with a view over Carra – we were pinching ourselves that we were really sitting in the Sauna at Piia’s.

WP_20180623_11_23_45_ProWhen I got out of the sauna – there was some groaning from the pontoon. The wind had increased and the boat was in danger of moving the pontoon enough to drop the bridge connecting the pontoon to the shore into the water. So with no time to lose I got Christian and Christoffer to help me drop her back onto the buoy. Then Christoffer went to pick up Mags in the dinghy – who was now out of the sauna and wondering what was happening. We were shortly about to have lunch but not knowing what was the rating of the buoy or the size of the concrete block securing the buoy, I wasn’t keen to leave the boat. So Mags went for lunch and I stayed on the boat and tidied things up. It was a bit frustrating – but I wouldn’t have enjoyed the lunch if I wasn’t sure that Carra was safe. After an hour I was happy that the boat wasn’t moving and the wind had dropped so I went ashore and had lunch and celebrated our arrival with a glass of Champagne.

Diana was over from her island and she was keen to come on board. Pikku Carra (our dinghy) was hidden behind Christian’s and Piia’s motorboat. Diana assumed that she was getting in a rather large 5m rib. So she was very surprised when we pulled out Pikku Carra which was less than half the size and she realised that was her mode of transport! We had some pre dinner drinks on board and then we walked through the meadows with everyone to the other side of the island to eat a delicious meal in the Island’s restaurant. With the World Cup on the guys were keen to get back to watch Sweden versus Germany. The World Cup has rather passed us by.


Later that evening we watched the end of the midsummer bonfire. Pia had suggested that we go back to the house and sit round the fire pit – which we thought seemed like a good idea ‘til we realised it was in fact 30 mins past midnight but it was still deceptively light. Once we all realised the time, we decided to call it a day. A Midsummer Day we will remember for a long time.

DSC06198The next morning we had a sauna with Piia before inviting Piia and Christian over for a rather yummy chicken caesar salad on Carra – all cooked from scratch. It was soon time to leave – we were just popping round to the other side of the island to Svarto – where Diana lives.

Her jetty is a stone one but as it was nearly 100 years old and relatively small for our boat I approached with caution. None of the charts show any depth detail for this bay. We attached briefly to her jetty ‘til we realised that the angles for the shore line would not be sufficient – so we decided to anchor in the bay. Diana’s house: Hammarborg is an historic wooden house that dates back to the time of the Russians. Her great Aunt had bought it to find peace and quiet to write – several of her books were published. The house stands on the promontory with its only little lighthouse. The forest has grown around the house to you don’t really see the beauty of the old house until you are close to it. The semi-circular summer room must have had a spectacular view of the sound before the trees blocked its view. We had a lovely dinner with Diana, it was very special being able to celebrate having made it to Hammarborg.

Whilst we were happy to anchor in the bay for a short time – it wasn’t really suitable with the expected wind direction for overnight. So about 2130 – we returned to Carra and moved to a sheltered spot. We were just anchoring when our AIS alarm went off with a man overboard coming from our boat. It was a false alarm as we both were still on the boat. Frustrating we couldn’t cancel it – so we informed the coast guard that it was a false alarm and went to bed.

The next morning we were keen to solve the problem before moving on. We had this problem previously and Raymarine had solved it by reflashing the AIS. Which we did – but it didn’t solve the problem. So we then contacted Raymarine who told us to do a factory reset on the chart plotter – this didn’t clear it but worse still it removed all the depth contour lines. Not very funny when you are in a rocky anchorage. They then blamed the chart manufacturer that we had a faulty card. They seem to fail to grasp the concept that it was functioning perfectly well before they suggested we reset the chart plotter. Eventually we found a setting in the chart plotter which went we turned it on – all the depths reappeared. So clearly they don’t know their own product. This wasted a total of 3 hours. But still no resolution to the MOB. As we had already wasted enough time – we set off. The islands are close together here, as if you were on a big boating lake and there was a very attractive passage through Barosund with relatively high cliffs dotted with pretty traditional summer cottages . Before long we were out past the islands and the water opened up with less land around us.

By now we were aware of an armada of boats going west – and we appeared to be the only one going east. It was as if they had all been invited to a party which no one had told us about. It was to continue until we reached Helsinki the next day. We were glad as this meant more space for us! With a flash of inspiration I did discover what had triggered our AIS. It was Mags’ lifejacket – there was a piece that was pressing against her test button. So finally the MOB alert stopped.

Frustratingly the wind was on the nose so we were just able to motorsail for all bar the last hour. We sailed into the small attractive harbour of Porkkala. This peninsula, the last major one before reaching Helsinki had still been occupied by the Russians as late as 1956.

A is for Alands, Abscess and Agony

The route from the marina to the jumping off point to the Aland Island (Finland) is one straight fairway – with the odd rock thrown in – with a NE. I was expecting to have to motor the whole way. But with an E wind we were able to sail the whole way on one tack and found a safe little anchorage sheltered from the strong winds overnight. During the evening I was aware that I had a slight tooth ache…. We left at 6 am the next morning to get to our destination before lunch time when it was due to get more windy. We had a relaxed sail over arriving in Rodhamn at 11am.

DSC05967Rodhamn is a real favourite of ours. Its name comes from the red granite rocks that make up the harbour – one large island – and a few islands providing a natural harbour. The is a wooden staging/board walk that hugs the edge of the island providing a harbour to moor on. Red paths cross the island as the rock’s natural lichen is worn away by P1080786visitors. Rock circles and mazes lie around places by former islanders – though more recent residents I suspect. The harbour master sells fresh bread and cakes – what is not to like. There is a small museum in the old radio building telling the history of the island life. We went for a walk and heard the remarkable tunes warbled by a nightingale ( the bird beng identified by our Finnish Neighbour) With strong southerlys due being tucked in was perfect shelter – so time to get the watercolours out followed by 2 hours looking at the heads and achieving very little…..By now the tooth was more painful. It was Friday afternoon when I realised this was going to be more than just a tooth ache as the pain was spreading to my ear. Thankfully we have some antibiotics onboard that can be used for abscesses and I started taking these. As I was pretty sure it was an abscess there was no point going to a Dentist in Mariehamn as he would have to wait for the antibiotics to work so we set off early to go to Sandvik on Kokars. There was a total absence of wind so we motored. By now my jaw and face were in agony – any slight movement would send excruciating wave of pain off. So I resorted to Dr Google – who suggested various pain remedies most of which we didn’t have on board but I tried out the bite on a wet teabag. Albeit disgusting, it did appear to help. I kept hoping the antibiotics would take effect after all it had been a day. But by lunch I was feel decidedly unwell and at which point we met 2 ferries in a very narrow passage. Could the day get any worse – by now there was enough wind to sail but I didn’t need anything more to think about so we continued motoring. At which point the fog came in – with only 200m visibility you needed to concentrate. Mags manned the chart plotter to spot other boats on AIS – once of which was a ferry travelling at 12 knots. But as we approached Sandvik the fog lifted and the sun shone. I also started to feel better – finally the antibiotic appeared to be winning against my abscess. We moored up, to discover we had boats either side us with all female crew – that is a first!

Sandvik was worth exploring but I wasn’t really up for it. But by the evening I was feeling better and the shower made me feel better still. The harbour is build off a massive slab of rock 20m x 50 m with a beached old fishing vessel – whose colours came alive in the evening sun. The world was starting to look rosy again the antibiotics were definitely working.

With the wind in the wrong direction, we motored all bar the last hour to Uto. It is very remote as it is on the edge of the Archipelago – this low barren island with a big lighthouse was an active pilot harbour as it had been for centuries. It also has had a key role in Defence and only recently in the last 4 years has it been opened up to visitors.

DSC06008The Island had more houses than I was expecting and organised into streets – well dirt tracks. The harbour was bounded by lots of working traditional boat houses and was very attractive. We walked up to the lighthouse and round part of the island. This is the only place I know where the harbour facilities include carpet washing racks!

Whilst the tooth was much less painful the next day but I was keen to get to a dentist – plus there was some windy weather expected.

DSC06012So our initial plan of stopping over night at Rossala was abandoned and we did a longer leg (57nm) to get to Hanko, arriving at 8pm – which was no issue due to the midnight sun. It doesn’t really get dark at the moment. We expected strong winds on Wednesday so opted for the more expensive Island marina as it was more sheltered than that of the town quay.

I got the first ferry at 8 and by 8.10 I was at the Dentist and left feeling relieved as I secured an emergency appointment at midday. I was expecting just have xrays more antibiotics and get the root canal treatment performed in Espoo by my old dentist. However, I was persuaded that the best course of treatment was to have it extracted then and there as the tooth was cracked. 6 injections later – lets not mention the dropping anaesthetic ampule on me and I was getting increasingly alarmed. Not helped by the fact that it was a difficult extraction. Finally the tooth was extracted – for the grand price of 57€. I returned to the boat feeling somewhat traumatised and lay around doing not much for the rest of the day.


Wednesday after our boat jobs were done – we explored a bit of Hanko – up the pink water tower with great views of the surrounding archipelago and then visiting the beach with the iconic Hanko beach huts and grand old Russian Summer Houses. We wondered around the market ice cream and bikes in hand then returned to the boat.DSC06044.JPG

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