After our stay in the hotel Pilotti near Helsinki airport we caught the airport shuttle back to the airport to catch the train to Turku. We tried several times to buy our tickets from a machine and eventually gave up.
A station employee told us where to change trains and that we could buy our tickets on the train. The connection was good and we got on a double decker train to Turku.
After a couple of hours going through very green country side we reached our destination and got a taxi to the marina, where the owner of our charter yacht was waiting for us. After the owner Marti and his wife, Tina, showed us over the boat, they gave us a lift to Lidl for provisioning. In the evening we took a taxi into the town for supper. Sadly we had missed the Tall Ships Race by a day.
The next morning, 25 August, after sorting out a few things on "Nova", a Dufour 385, we set sail for Verkan on the island of Korpo. The navigation was relatively easy as we sailed, or rather motor-sailed, as the wind was very light, down the main channel towards Korpo.
We saw quite a few classic yachts tacking up through the islands.
There was just a slight challenge going through the many small islands to the harbour of Verkan but the leading marks were extremely helpful and there were posts marking a very narrow passage. Eventually we found a place to moor, hooking a buoy to tie to the stern and then bow to a jetty.
It was difficult to find how to position the ladder on the bow to get ashore and ended using our neighbour's ladder. It was soon time to have drinks, accompanied with some pickled herring on rye bread, in the evening sun. It was not getting dark until way after 10. The next morning we had a full breakfast in the marina cafe, after the girls tried the sauna.
The decision was made to head for the one of the NJK outstations on the small island of Kråkskär. We had a following wind all the way and quite a few ferries passed us on their way to Mariehamn.
Eventually the wind died as we approached the north end of the island so we switched on the engine and motored round into the little harbour that was empty. Again we tied up with the bow to the jetty & the stern hooked up to a buoy, luckily the jetty was a bit higher this time so we had no need for a ladder. As we went ashore to explore we noticed a visitors' book stored in a cupboard that we duly signed.
Nearby was a small clubhouse with a sauna and beyond 2 pretty little huts with toilets in them. We walked to the other side of the island over the smooth granite rocks. A yacht appeared round the headland and tied up next door to us. There was lovely view of the western end of the Korpo archipelago as we had drinks in the cockpit. It was Pat and Maggie's turn to cook supper that evening.
The next morning the gentleman on the next boat suggested that Rödhamn was a pretty and interesting harbour to visit so we set off to join the main ferry route through many islands including Hamon, Turbin and to the west of Sotunga. Again we saw the ferries going between the islands.
After lunch the sea breeze from the southeast filled in and we were able to sail. At this point the channel became narrower as we sailed passed Delburgen and some fish farms. Once again we entered and crossed the main shipping channel before passing to the south of Buskskär on the southern most tip of Åland, where we turned to the north west to Rödhamn.
It was a sheltered harbour where we tied up in the usual manner, bow to the jetty. We walked round to the little café/restaurant to order some bread for the morning.
After a glorious day there was rain overnight and off and on during the day. Had the weather made it all the way from home? Whatever, the only real effects were more gloomy photos and, good news, enough wind to sail most of the way to Mariehamm.
After casting off the big excitement was our first holding tank pump out. It entailed mooring alongside a small platform and using a hand pump to extract the doings, a surprisingly easy and effective system without using power.
Our sail to Mariehamn was an uneventful navigational exercise, minimum motoring for a change, and good to arrive at the starting point for the ICOYC cruise.
With such a palaver previously to set the ladder over the bows we made our first try at reversing into a berth so our buoy connection was made from the bows and we could get onto the pontoon via the sugar scoop stern, a great deal easier.
On the pontoon we found friends from Seattle YC, Pam and Chuck Lowry with their crew, and finally met Jan Horhammer from Nylandska Jaktklubben (NJK). He had organised the cruise, providing detailed information not only on the cruise schedule but also on all the 10 NJK outstations.
A history note: The Åland (pronounced Orlan) Archipelago is now a mixture of Finnish and Swedish cultures, though entirely Swedish speaking. Apparently there were many Russian incursions in the 18th and 19th centuries with Finland being part of Russia for considerable periods.
A scorched earth move in 1743 caused many Ålanders to flee to Sweden. However when Finland finally obtained independence from Russia in 1917 the Finns claimed Åland, despite Ålanders wishing to be part of Sweden.
A compromise was achieved with Åland being given considerable autonomy as an independent municipality within Finland. It also has its own flag, the Swedish yellow cross on a blue background and with a red cross inserted in the yellow one.
We felt there was a different atmosphere from our limited experience of Finnish ports but maybe this was because it was more of a major centre.
Saturday 29 July, Mariehamn, capital of Åland
The first day of the ICOYC/NJK Cruise and the only scheduled lay day from sailing, though plenty happening. A four hour coach trip took us to some of the principal sights of the islands. Kastelholm Slott (Castle) was built in the 14th century and now partially reconstructed to give an indication of how it would have been when King Eric XIV was deposed and imprisoned there in 1569.
At the beginning of the 19th century Åland was the western extremity of the Russian empire. To defend St Petersburg the Russians started building fortresses at Bomarsund but these were largely destroyed by an Anglo/French bombardment in 1854; however Sweden didn't want Åland so the islands were returned to the benign Russian ownership!
It was a fascinating tour of the principal island of the archipelago. On midsummer's day it is customary in Finland to decorate and erect a pole similar to a mast with green leaves, garlands and flowers.
This pole stays up until it a few weeks before the next mid-summer day when it is taken down for redecoration. We saw many in the archipelago
We returned to Mariehamn to buy stores for the week, followed by a session in the sauna at the marina. Some of the crews visited the local Maritime Museum.
Sadly the museum ship, Pommern a four masted merchant barque and windjammer, which regularly operated on the grain trade route between Australia and England during the interwar years, was closed for refurbishment. Jan our leader held a skippers briefing giving them information of the next two days' cruise.
Finally we all enjoyed a dinner for all the Cruise participants at an excellent nearby restaurant.
Sunday, 30 July. Mariehamn to Benö-ö.
We weren't quite the last to leave and followed Svanhild out of Mariehamn retracing our inward track from Friday. There were many navigational marks both on the islands and in the channel. The wind was blowing from SW so we motor sailed for a while until we could bear away.
Our course took us to the southern tip of Åland, in between two small Islands, Buskskar & Ledskar. Half way up the channel towards Fliso one of the many ferries passed us going to Mariehamn.
Our next landmark was the fish farm at the bottom of the channel passing Fliso. Just before the island of Sandö we turned to starboard into a narrow channel known as Embarsundleden, passing many islands. Luckily one of our group was ahead of us to show the way.
Half way along, the genoa came down so we hurriedly pulled it on deck. Carrying on under main alone we passed a little car ferry. Soon we were coming in to our anchorage by the island of Benö-ö. Jan kindly loaned us a bosun's chair and Pat was hauled up the mast to retrieve the top of the furling system. The shackle holding the genoa up had obviously come out.
Again Jan came to our aid with a shackle. So we were able to hoist the sail. Pat braved the cool Baltic and went for a swim. Supper on board was local cod, followed by fresh fruit. The sunset was beautiful and we were getting used to the light evenings.
Monday 31 July Benö-ö to Hellsö on Kökar
We weighed anchor at 0935 and motored out of the harbour past Svanhild who was moored alongside the rocks. We were soon under sail and the first section was across a wide bay. We then continued our sail along the Embardsundleden, the narrow passage we followed yesterday.
The wind was strong and gusty between the islands. Sälsö marked the end of the channel and we then had turn south and as the wind was on the nose the engine was started.
After about 40 minutes the wind freed and we were then able to sail towards Kökar. The harbour of Hellsö is entered from north and we tied up in the small marina in the usual fashion - hooked to a buoy and bow to the jetty.
After lunch we had a short walk, then Maggie and Annette braved the water for a short swim, while other crews hired bikes for a ride around the island.
An early supper had been arranged in the restaurant overlooking the harbour at Havspaviljongen.
We were served three delicious local dishes; shrimps in sauce for starter, fish soup and then Åland pancakes with prune conserve and cream.
After supper we were taken by boat to St Anna church dating back to 1784 and the ruins of a 15th century Franciscan monastery founded on the routes of the ships of the Hanseatic league. The island of Kökar has only 210 inhabitants who live here all round the year.
It's difficult to imagine what the winter months are like here. Life must be a challenge for the young people and many move away, hopefully to return with young families. The Internet here is usually very good so at least it is possible to run a business from the island.
Tuesday 1 August Hellsö to Jurmo
It was a lovely sunny day with a breeze from the southwest. We managed to extricate ourselves from the berth without too much difficulty. The course took us along the north coast of Kökar and then a turn to starboard going southeast down a main channel towards Jurmo.
We passed several yachts going north including a lovely ketch from Latvia. It was easy navigation to the island of Jurmo and there were good leading marks to get in the harbour.
There was quite a strong cross wind so it was quite a challenge to get into a berth but we were not the only ones who had difficulty. Another boat came in and they missed hooking the buoy, so the lady crew swam out with hook to the buoy.
Some of the crews stopped in Utö for lunch on the way. The island of Jurmo was formed during the ice age, an island surrounded by large amounts of gravel, not consisting of only rock like most other islands in the region. It is actually a distant continuation of the Third Salpausselkä a mountain range in the Baltic.
After a late lunch we walked across the island to view the church. Most of the churches in Finland have a ship hanging above the aisle and this one was no exception.
There were a few small houses clustered round a wooden windmill and alpacas grazing. We walked back to the harbour via the highest point of the island, Hogberget, (80 metres) where there was a midsummer pole and also a superb view over the rest of the island and all the neighbouring islands.
Wednesday 2 August Jurmo to Bodo
We were the last to leave the lovely island of Jurmo and the departure was easier that the arrival with a gentle wind bowing. We motored out and soon had sails up for a gentle sail to Bono. This was an easy navigation day too and we were in the harbour after two and a half hours. Bono is a private NJK harbour with a small pontoon and 6 buoys.
The shoreside facilities are a small clubhouse with the customary sauna attached and a toilet with a magnificent view. Christian and Maggie from Wildu II, NJK members came into the harbour and offered to get the sauna going. Most of saunas on the islands are heated by wood. This time we did it the proper way and had a dip in the sea afterwards.
Most of the outstations are well equipped for cutting up wood. Every outstation is looked after by at least 2 members of the NJK who make sure that everything is working properly and kept clean.
Thursday 3 August dö to Längholmen
We woke up to blue skies with the wind rustling in the pine trees. After leaving the shelter of the NJK harbour at Bödo we turned towards the south to rejoin the main channel.
It was decided to reef the mainsail. It was a cracking sail after we turned to the east passing various small lighthouses. The charts of the Finnish archipelago are in book form so you have to list each chart you will be using on your voyage and work out where you leave one chart and enter the next. Post-its came in very useful marking the charts needed en route.
Eventually we reached a north cardinal where we had to turn into the NJK harbour at Längholmen.
The entrance was quite difficult to see. As usual we hooked a buoy and tied the bow to some to rocks. Luckily Jan was in the harbour already and took our bow lines.
ItIt was a short walk up the hill to a clearing where we had a party on the boulders with wine and cheese. We caught up with the rest of the group including those on the large Baltic trader "Svanhild". The guests on her from the Seattle Yacht Club were talking about their sauna they had on board in the bow of the ship.
The view from the top, where there was a flag pole flying the club pennant, was amazing.
Friday 4 August ngholman to Munkshamn.
We left our mooring at 0910 and motored out into a stiff headwind and rain. But as usual after we raised the main we were able bear away and to sail down wind towards the east.
We sailed in company for part of the way with Ondina a Swan 37 owned by Robin Lindën, which he had bought in England. It was great to sea Svanhild sailing downwind with her mainsails acting like spinnakers. We soon rolled out to the genoa for a very rock and roll sail towards Hanko through the Hitis archipelago.
We stopped in nko to fill the fuel tanks and empty the waste tanks. Annette made speedy trip ashore for bread and milk. It had been decided to approach the harbour at Munckshamn from the south.
We tied up in the little harbour in the normal Finnish fashion and we joined the American ladies from Seattle Yacht Club in the sauna. with a dip in the sea afterwards.
Saturday 5 August nkshamn to Högholmen
On Saturday our penultimate day of our cruise we woke up to a sunny day with fairly strong winds from the southwest.
The course from Munkshamn to Högholmen took us along inner route, which meant we were only in the open sea for a very short time. As we went east we could see more and more summer houses with boats tied up at their jetties and pennants flying from the flag poles.
There were many small motor boats zooming through the islands. The Baltic trader Svanhild had taken the Southern route and we caught glimpses of them through the islands. We reached a very narrow bit of the route at Barösund where there was a restaurant overlooking the sea and then a small ferry and a little harbour.
The wind was behind us all the way and we had to keep gybing. Various yachts passed us going in the opposite direction that were participating in the Baltic Arc. By chance Keith & Di Jones on their boat Dizzy Di, were among them and they turned round motored alongside us. We had a quick chat and then they went on their way to the west.
Sunday 6 August Högholmen to Blekholmen
We motored out of the harbour and just as we were about to bear away to the East we saw what Pat thought was a log floating in the water but it turned out to be two moose swimming in the quite rough water. It was the windiest so far on the cruise but our luck was still holding out and the wind was again behind us so we just able to sail under genoa.
As we got nearer to Helsinki we saw more and more habitation and boats of all kinds but mainly sailing yachts. We stopped at gelsällskap marina to fill up with diesel and pump out and then headed for the NJK club in Blekholmen.
The club is actually on an island and they had cleared some berths for us all. There were a couple of yachts from the Arc Baltic still there who had had various problems with their instruments.
After yet another sauna and shower at the club Jan gave us short history of the club and showed us their cabinets full of beautiful trophies and many half models hanging on the walls. The ceiling in the main dining room looks like the inside of a Viking ship.
After the delicious buffet dinner, the Finns showed us how to drink their schnapps after a short rendition in Finnish. This was followed by members of the Seattle Yacht Club performing a short song. The Royal Southern did not perform but Annette Newton thanked Jan for all his hard work in organising such an enjoyable cruise.
Nyländska Jaktklubben (NJK)
Norddeutscher Regatta Verein (NRV)
Royal Southern Yacht Club
Seattle Yacht Club