Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Stockholm to Helsinki, Part III - Finland

Island hopping in the Baltic, sunset
Having a deadline is never a good idea on a sailing holiday, but despite extending my trip to compensate for the delayed launch of the boat, my pet sitters were getting restless (as well as increasingly expensive) and I had commitments, so a flight home had to be booked.  We decided on Helsinki for my return flight as my husband, who was planning to stay on for a couple more weeks, was keen to carry on to Tallinn in Estonia, so Helsinki was en route for him.  However this involved the serious business of 'making passage' rather than the idyllic island hopping we had been enjoying. 

It took a long day's sail in the Finnish Archipelago to bring us to the island of Juomo, and we arrived, tired, around 5pm to find a full harbour with no available moorings and a strong wind making moving on difficult.  This was a situation which required ingenuity, so we did something we hadn't tried before which involved literally poking the boat's nose (bow) between the sterns of two boats already moored up, and tying onto the middle cleats of their boats.  This meant that to actually get off the boat onto the island we had to clamber across the German host boat, placating them later with a glass of Single Malt Scotch whisky, which went down well!  

The next morning started badly, with the Germans knocking us awake at 7am on the dot (5am English time), followed by a trip to the heavily overused compost loos with no hand washing facilities - no running water on this island - then another long, windy day at sea, with the sails up, mostly stuck on a port tack (heeling over to the left, the sea washing our deck) which makes doing anything at all hazardous and tricky. Even the kettle was on the floor, and I had a splitting headache! A toxic combination as I really dislike any sailing that involves needing to strap onto the boat but sometimes it just is like that.  Definitely a 'Should have gone on a Mark Warner holiday' melt down moment. 

Our next stop at Rosala was pretty much the equivalent of a motorway service station but it was relief that, with very little wind the next day, we were motoring, not sailing and more or less upright.  Five hours later we arrived on the Finish mainland at the charming seaside town of Hanko, where we decided to stay for a couple of days.  I could get the train from there to Helsinki and I was pretty much at the end of my boat tolerance. Time now to relax and enjoy a final weekend in Scandinavia.


Mind the gap!
This is how we get on and off the boat - in England small boats are usually moored alongside a pontoon, but the rule is 'bows to' in the Baltic and Scandinavian boats have an opening at the front, like the next door boat, but not ours.  You literally have to take a deep breath, step onto the small space between the ropes holding the plank before you can grab hold of the stay.  I don't know what Health and Safety would have to say...

Hanko is a former spa town and has been heavily fought over with Russia, but it has been left with a legacy of beautiful villas and almost deserted beaches.  The light there is magical and it is an attractive venue for artists and musicians.  We loved exploring this unexpected and unusual town with its almost empty beaches, boutiques, bars, restaurants, hotels and delis and I quickly decided that package holidays can wait.  This was so special.  The weather was overcast when we arrived, but we still found the evening light created a haunting atmosphere on the beach.


Rocks, Hanko, Finland
English woman abroad!
View from the Water Tower - Villa Park
View of Hanko, Finland
On our second evening in Hanko we went for a walk around the town after a boat supper and heard the most stunning live music coming from the hotel on the beach and had to investigate. Playing in the courtyard was a professional Finish guitarist and his Belgian wife, who had the most beautiful voice.  They were performing a cover of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game to a small and very appreciative audience. Sadly, they were just about to finish when we arrived, but we discovered they were playing again the next evening (my last) in another small venue on the harbourside. It was a superb evening and despite knowing we had an early start the next day, and I had two long days travelling in front of me, we stayed right to the end, falling into our berths at 2am.  After all, you only live once.

Helsinki Station
The next day, it took two trains to Helsinki, another to the airport, a four hour flight back to Gatwick, a train and taxi to my son and daughter-in-law's home in South London for the night, more trains the next day, wishing I hadn't got so much luggage to trail behind me, and finally home to Suffolk.

Addendum.  We were sailing in Scandinavia in July and early August.  Although the summer days are long it quickly becomes cold after mid August and most boats are tucked away by then.  It was already cold at night when I left at the end of July and we were glad of hot water bottles and duvets!

13 comments:

  1. What a wonderful adventure you must have had! As you said, you only live once.

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    1. It was, although trying at times. Got to go for it!

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  2. A very interesting read, Marianne. As I know very little about sailing I've enjoyed the commentary. The beautiful, out-of-the-way places you visited and the wonderful experiences must have made the trip worthwhile despite some of the discomforts and long trek back home.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed reading about my expedition, Linda. It's not the easy option, but very rewarding when it all works, and it is such a delight to find somewhere stunning and unexpected along the way. Thanks for dropping in.

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  3. Goodness, sailing seems to have its challenges, although your first lovely photo makes it look very idyllic. But you do get to visit different places and Hanko sounds a very interesting place. I love the idea of the quiet beaches!

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    1. It certainly does, Wendy - it is my husband's hobby - I'm just the incompetent crew along for the thrills and spills and the occasional magic. Quiet beaches are definitely the best.

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  4. What an exciting adventure. The scenery is just gorgeous.

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    1. Thank you for joining me Hilary. It is certainly different.

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  5. What splendid pictures - particularly the first one. I have never fancied sailing, since I tend to get sea sick at the merest ripple, and also I don't much like being wet. But it is the kind of thing that always looks lovely in theory. It seems as if you had some good weather. The view from the water tower made everything look wonderfully bright and radiant.

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  6. What splendid pictures - particularly the first one. I have never fancied sailing, since I tend to get sea sick at the merest ripple, and also I don't much like being wet. But it is the kind of thing that always looks lovely in theory. It seems as if you had some good weather. The view from the water tower made everything look wonderfully bright and radiant.

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  7. Ah, sailing. It does look idyllic on a good day and it can be grim, but it is always interesting and exciting and full of surprises too. I haven't felt seasick in the Baltic at all, as it isn't tidal, so that's a bonus. Hanko was very special. Thanks for visiting.

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  8. Hanko looks and sounds so intriguing to me, of all the wonderful places you visited, Marianne. The photos are alluring in a very mystical way, and the talented couple covering Chris Isaak's equally enchanting music is my perfect idea of an evening out. You know, I'd bet our beloved Leonard Cohen would have appreciated Hanko, for the above reasons, but especially, for its light.

    Thanks for sharing and wishing you Happy Holidays!
    Poppy xx

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    1. He would have loved it, wouldn't he, Poppy! It was very special and so atmospheric. A magnet for musicians and artists, too. That's what is so interesting about sailing. Just when you think 'never again' you find yourself somewhere so unexpected and enchanting! Glad you enjoyed sharing the trip xx

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