Monday, 5 September 2016

Stockholm to Helsinki, Part II - The Aland Islands

West Harbour, Mariehamn
Sailing in a small yacht is always an adventure, full of unpredictable highs and lows, often both in the same day.  Every day is different and as we release the mooring lines in the morning we never know quite what to expect.  

Although there is always a moment when the combination of fear and sheer discomfort becomes quite overwhelming, and I resolve 'never again', still I go back for more because there will equally be moments of the sublime and the magical that cannot be found in any other experience.  I understand what my husband means when he says that sailing makes you feel fully alive and I often feel we live more intensely in the relatively short time we spend on the boat each year than at any other time when life is more humdrum and predictable.

From the boatyard, we slipped downstream to the West Harbour in Mariehamn and celebrated the successful launch of our boat with a supper of delicious fresh fish and a glass of cold white wine, setting off for the island of Rodhamn the next morning in good spirits, the sails up as the wind freshened.  Things got rather sticky as we approached the island though, as our new head sail refused to furl in frisky seas - too much sail for the weather conditions is always a bad idea and it took ingenuity and quite a battle to get it to collapse in a heap on deck so we could enter the harbour and squeeze ourselves into the tiny space which was all we could find, offering entertainment to the safely moored up boats.  One or two other boats also arrived with collapsed sails, so at least we didn't need to be too embarrassed, although we both seemed to have forgotten everything we know about a well prepared mooring, sails and ropes in all the wrong places!  


Cafe at Rodhamn
Rodhamn was delightful and the weather the next morning was positively Mediterranean, so we enjoyed exploring this small island, sitting outside the tiny cafe drinking coffee and eating the best homemade Kanelbular (traditional Swedish cinnamon buns) we have found in Scandinavia. 

Unfortunately, despite adjustments before we left, the new sail still refused to furl as we approached the island of Degerby a few hours later, so lots more undignified flapping, but lunch at the harbour restaurant soon compensated for the problems and as the weather was about to turn with heavy rain forecast, we settled in for a rest day, exploring the island in between rain showers and chatting to the friendly locals and wrestling with our overfull bilges.


View from the harbour restaurant, Degerby
The next day was my husband's birthday and things started well, motor sailing through the Aland archipelago in bright sunshine, but as often happened, the wind picked up later and we had to divert from our intended destination of Kokar to the not particularly prepossessing island of Sottunga which is vying for the accolade of having the worst facilities in Aland, including a shower that had to be prepaid but, despite my best efforts, still ran out halfway through my hair wash with no more 2 euro coins to buy more warmish water...  Not the best place for a birthday celebration, but the next island more than made up for it! 


Sottunga harbour
The wind was having none of our plans to visit the island of Kokar in the south and blew us North to the Island of Baro, which just happened to have an excellent restaurant overlooking the harbour, the Glada Laxen, which was compensation for a rather disappointing birthday.  The rest of the day was spent exploring the island and watching the children playing in and on the water - Scandinavians have a much more relaxed approach to water sports than the English as water is so much a part of their culture and the children grow up learning to manage their environment safely.  


Baro Island - view of the harbour
At last the wind was blowing where we wanted to be, and we set off for the popular holiday island of Kokar in limpid conditions, blue skies and impressive clouds.  




Coming into harbour, Sandvig, Kokar
View from the beach, Sandvig, Kokar
Half of Helsinki seemed to have the same idea and the island was teeming with families, camping, sailing and playing in the cold Baltic sea, but it was a good place to spend a couple of days, catching up with laundry, hot showers and time to explore before leaving the Aland Islands behind and heading towards the coast of Finland.

20 comments:

  1. adventuring at its very best and what super photographs x

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    1. Thank you, Ann. I am both relieved and sad that it is over!

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  2. I know you find sailing holidays exhilarating and admire your knowledge of handling your boat in unpredictable weather. Your photos are wonderful and give a good idea of what it must be like exploring those beautiful islands and being on the water in calm conditions.

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    1. Linda, I find sailing holidays a huge challenge as not really a sailor at all, just fairly competent crew, but it certainly is an experience to remember.

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  3. Those are fantastic pictures especially on your way to Kokar. It was lucky you were blown off course towards the restaurant. I like being on a boat but prefer something bigger without the sails. You must have some fantastic tranquil moments when everything is working well. Sarah x

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    1. It was just one of those days when conditions were perfect and the skies amazing, Sarah. I always enjoy being blown off course if there is a good restaurant at the end of it, too! Secretly, I probably agree about something bigger and without sails, but when it all works, it is special.

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  4. Both this one and your last post are wonderful -- I love being able to experience these sailing adventures vicariously (not at all sure I'd have the nerve or the stomach to manage the real thing ever! Your photos are just marvelous, especially of the blue, blue sky, so much of it and the clouds surprisingly low, as if you could almost touch their bouncy whiteness. And I love the crispness of all the colours, especially the brisk reds. Thank you!

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    1. Vicarious is good - you are spared all the grotty stuff, Frances. Managing the real thing, even just as crew, is always a big challenge for me, too, but I do enjoy some of the experiences and views we have on and off the water.

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  5. Marianne, although I've gasped at the beauty of more than a few clouds in my day, THESE clouds, floating above a wavy, deep, blue bed of water took my breath away!

    Stunning pics of Scandinavian allure; thanks for sharing!

    Poppy

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    1. So glad you enjoyed the photos Poppy. The skies are just amazing on a good day and no better place to see them from!

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  6. Dear Marianne, this post and its immediate predecessor truly give me access to experiences that I know I will never have myself. This realization only increases my pleasure in following your seafaring adventures.

    (I'm going to recommend your posts to some folks who do know more than I do about sailing.) xo

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    1. That's kind of you Frances, but I am only a pretend sailor, although I do speak sailing now. I just help out a bit and complain when things get too tough. My husband is the real sailor. Still it is an experience I would otherwise not have and I am so pleased you are enjoying coming along for the ride. I shall have to write up the last bit as soon as the garden lets me.

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  7. I have enjoyed these posts about this part of the world. I visited Sweden and Finland about thirty years ago, so I loved seeing it again here. I didn't sail on a small yacht, though, so I was interested to read about your adventures! The photos are lovely, such beautiful views.

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    1. Visiting countries on a small yacht is certainly very different, Wendy. A unique perspective with lots of omg moments. Funnily enough I was always drawn to Scandinavia so am really pleased to be given this opportunity to explore it. So glad you enjoyed the photos.

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  8. That first cloud picture of the four is really extraordinary. Looks like a painting. I could almost feel myself there, it seemed so bright and blue.

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  9. That first cloud picture of the four is really extraordinary. Looks like a painting. I could almost feel myself there, it seemed so bright and blue.

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    1. It's my screen saver at the moment - just one of those perfect days and full of memories of a time and place for me. Missing it!

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    2. It's my screen saver at the moment - just one of those perfect days and full of memories of a time and place for me. Missing it!

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  10. I found you through Frances. Oh my. What a glorious adventure!

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