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-- 14th to  23rd June 2018  --
We fell in love with Estonia, the beautiful (but shallow) archipelago in green and blue, the city with clean streets showing off the best of the Middle Ages, the friendly inhabitants … and the way too friendly mosquitoes!!!

More pictures between nature and culture in the page  "Pictures".

209 miles sailed
1292 miles since the start

Our stops, click on the names for more details:
Kihnu (marina) - Kuivastu (anchorage) - Sviby (port) - Tallinn (marina)
14th-15th June : Riga – Kihnu (74 M)
Until now, the trip has been about the cities of the mighty Hansa League, a lot of harbours and limited wilderness. We are growing claustrophobic all three (Saltimbanque too!) and we need some peace and quiet. Good: the wind will be very quiet in the next three days, as we are setting sails towards Estonia’s western islands
We leave under the hot sun, the sea is flat, undisturbed by any breeze. We saw the courtesy flags for the next countries one after the other.

Watching the seamstress at work

The "night" shift should be quiet enough
In the evening a light breeze awakens, from the East. Just enough to glide happily on the flat water at a respectable 3 knots. 
It takes three hours to the sun to set again, and it doesn’t really disappear. It’s not even cold at night in these conditions. Very pleasant to sit and watch outside for the whole night, listening to music or the saga of Tolstoy’s heroes in tsarist Russia. 
1h40, heading Norh.

With the sun rising again (again for a good 3 hours), the wind goes to bed and we motor the rest of the “night”– under a luminous sky. 
The morning mirror

Welcome to Estonia !
At 5 am the sun is already high and a new breeze pushes us with the spinnaker on. We are now in Estonia, the island of Kihnu is growing on the horizon. 
Kihnu’s harbor is small but accessible day and night, and has been equipped with sparkling new finger berths. And there’s all the space we need: the German and the Finnish boats are getting ready to leave for the day – and we are left with the whole harbor for ourselves. 20€ / night.

Estonia’s recent development is based on new technologies and digitalization. There are more start-ups per capita than anywhere else in the world. And so, quite logically harbor fees are paid through an app. Not one, but two apps are offering this service. We are old-fashioned and choose to go and speak with the harbor master. In her office, no trace of paper or pen – she checks us in on her ipad. The receipt is sent by email. This task accomplished, the harbor master grabs her broom and goes off to sweep and clean around the harbor – every single information board is made to shine. Would the Estonian have some common ancestors with the Swiss we wonder?

Drying the laundry at Kihnu small harbour

In every garden, an underground sauna !
After some cleaning of our own (it’s a long overdue laundry day), we set off to visit the harbor. Kihnu is best known for its cultural heritage, and the habitants’ traditional “way of life” registered on the list of immaterial heritage by the UNESCO. Indeed, most women still wear their long woolen skirts full of colors – and most of them work in tourism :o)

After visiting the city (all 10 houses of it) and the church, we go on into the woods and out to the beaches. Firstly: the woods. They are mostly of pine trees, and are densely populated by thousands of mosquitoes and as many horseflies. As soon as one leaves the relative safety of the road and fields and ventures into forest paths, they attack by dozen: we have no choice but to run as fast as possible until the next clearing to avoid being devoured.

Heading to the beach then, to find some respite – and a charming little fishing “harbor” hidden in the reeds.

Kihnu, fishing harbour

 Kihnu island crumbles away to the North
Further along the shore, a loooong sandbank forms the tip of the island, and the dwelling of several groups of birds. Swans and cormorants as usual, but also some oyster catchers and terns. A few seagulls too, which we would almost miss as they are rather rare in the Baltic. Swallows on the contrary are plentiful – and now we understand why, having been chased around by their food. 
As we are looking for a way back to the boat along the shore, it becomes more muddy and turns into a swamp. “Camille, run, they are on to you!” – shouts Laure, already running at full speed towards the road, followed by a cloud of mosquitoes. The city wasn’t so bad in the end…

16th June : Kihnu – Kuivastu (38 M)
Estonia has more than 2000 islands, and very shallow waters in-between. Luckily the channels are well-marked, and we only need to slalom between green and red buoys and sand banks to be safe and sound out of Kihnu. 
Oops we woke up the cormorants...

One of the safe water buoys of the channel
No sooner have we left the narrowest passage behind, than a thick fog is forming. Everything outside of the boat is a dense white nothingness. Luckily nobody else is around, and we manage to keep a straight progression on the precise course indicated by the map – reassured every mile or so when we almost bump into the relevant buoy. 
In the afternoon the fog disappears as we near the small island of Muhu. In the North of the harbor, our chart indicates a large bay with shallow grounds of good sand. We are not exactly sheltered from the wind – but it’s not too hard anyways and we are fed up with sitting in harbors. And so, we drop the anchor there – and Laure follows in the water soon after, with a bright smile. Nobody around, having a swim, having a wash and jumping in the water to rinse off the soap – this is a true “Saltimbanque” life!

A boat anchored by the beach must be a rare sight. At 1.30 am, the coast guards come along to ask whether we are alright or if we need help…

Seen from the water

17th June : Kuivastu – Sviby (27 M)

Under spi !

Today we are crossing a new sea! This is the Väinameri Sea! (we confess, we didn’t know it either before). To celebrate such an occasion, we bring both spinnakers to the party: first a long leg with the big spinnaker, carefully keeping in the 6m- dredged channel. Then the asymmetrical spinnaker is hoisted as we come closer to the wind in the next channel. In this archipelago, channels are well marked but good and recent maps are absolutely mandatory to know where they are. And by the way, we will be selling our maps when we come back … should anyone be interested … remember: they are hard to find!
We are now close to Rohuküla, where the ferries leave the mainland for the island of Hiiumaa in the West. In the winter, trucks drive here. Saltimbanque is now sailing on Europe’s longest ice road (24km)!
No truck now, safe to cross !

Our next stop is Sviby, on Vormsi island. In this fully-digital country, where everybody speaks English, all the harbors have their own website, detailed by plenty of useful information such as approach maps. We have a few links to useful material on our page “Links”.

So, we’re confident about the depth of the harbor when we enter Sviby. Tiny indeed, but big enough for a small Saltimbanque! We moor the stern on a buoy and the bow to the dock, in 2.1m of water. The harbor master is onsite only for 15 minutes around each scheduled ferry departure time. He comes to collect the harbor fee and kindly decides that Saltimbanque looks like "less than 8m" and will pay 10 €  :o)
Time to discover the island! Based on our experience at Kihnu, we are duly sprayed with mosquito repellent "tropical strength". But even this is not enough. 50m into the forest we can no longer hold it, and run away as horseflies swarm around us. On the road, in the open, it is slightly better but even there we must use the spray regularly to drive them away. Stopping to take a picture is an act of heroic sacrifice. It's really frustrating to not be able to see much of these beautiful islands ... We will have to find more radical solutions before moving on other archipelagoes in the Gulf of Botnia!

Along the road, we can see the few houses that make up the village. Vormsi is populated by fishermen and farmers of Swedish descent. Indeed many architectural details and place names remind us of Sweden. During the occupations (Soviet, then Nazi and then Soviet again) of the 1940s, most of them emigrated to Sweden, where their somewhat dated dialect allowed them to go by. There are not many people left in Sviby. Very quiet!

Well equipped bus shed in Sviby

Swallows in Sviby
Back to the boat and the charming harbor, where swallows gracefully flutter around and about the very very flat sea. We try our luck at fishing from the quay, but still without success...


18th June : Sviby – Tallinn (70 M)
It’s the end of the fair winds, a rather stronger breeze is expected on the day after tomorrow: it is time to go and seek shelter in the big city. We leave at 6am for a long leg downwind.
Before that, we have to leave the "Moon Sound" labyrinth. Very well marked and still very shallow (depths of 3m only are common)

Once in deep water, we make a right turn, heading east, with the wind. We sail goose-wings, with a boom retainer and the pole to keep the genoa open. It is comfortable enough despite the swell that is already building up. However, such a sailing configuration is an unstable equilibrium which requires manual steering. After 15 hours at the helm, we are a little tired!
The boulder-littered beaches of the islands are replaced by real cliffs: this looks like the end of this endless sandy beach that started in Western Poland. Many sailboats appear. Most of them are Finnish and bear a weird flag: instead of the regular national flag, they fly blue cross with the logo of their yacht club in the top left corner.
Are we back to Cape Frehel?

Arriving to Tallinn
We reach Tallinn in the early evening. There are plenty of marinas to choose from here: Pirita in the North East may be the most famous, as it hosted the sailing competition during the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. It is 6km away from the city. At the opposite, the Old City marina is right in the center, close to the cruising sheets and ferry terminal. It costs €40 a night though… A little further away, another couple of basins harbours the Maritime Museum. There, in Lennu Sadam, we find a very clean and convenient marina for 20 €/day, including all facilities and managed by a very friendly staff. The Kalamaja neighborhood which stands between us and the city center quickly becomes our favorite, with its colorful wooden buildings and gentrified former industrial streets. 

June 19th-23rd : visiting Tallinn
The strong wind is here: gusts and rain! We discover the only drawback of this harbor: it is not really protected from westerly winds and an unpleasant break tosses the boats around. In bad weather, nothing better than staying inside, hearing the rain pouring and the wind howling outside from the warm comfort of our floating home… rendered all the more comfortable by a practical small electric heater! And to think that two days ago we were sweating in 31 degrees...
Not that sheltered from the West...

Textbook example of gentrification in progress
The evening brings some sun back and we go for a walk around the Kalamaja and Telliskivi neighborhoods. Or more accurately, “Hipstertown”. The alternative, international, young and wealthy start-ups people have colonized the dull brick warehouses and dilapidated factory chimneys close to the city’s main train station. It is now full of murals, home-made outside tables and flower pots, vegan restaurants and micro-breweries. We sample a local craft beers, sitting in the sun and watching a new generation of Estonians walk by.  
On the next day the sun is shining again and we head for the historic center. Yes, we had noticed the three huge cruise ships moored by the city on our way here this morning. But naively enough, we had not thought about the flocks of tourists that would pour about of them into the beautiful cobblestone streets. Groups of Chinese, Germans, Spanish and French – each following their guide equipped with a little flag and / or a microphone, elbow their way by the main churches and at the panoramic points. This is a bit annoying. Philosophically we consider this as a training before Saint Petersburg.

The Old Medieval Center is very well preserved and pleasant under the sun. Practically unchanged since the 13th century, this city has a specific layout: in the fortified upper town, the ruling aristocracy (mostly of German origin) used to live. A couple of narrow passages led down to the fortified lower city, where the richer merchants and artisans dwelled. Visiting the old Townhall (dating from 1404!) is a good way to learn more about this former Hanseatic League city (yes, one more).

High Town (on the right) and Low Town seen from St-Olav's church

Impressive boilers powering the ice-breaker ship "Suur Toll"
The weather forecast is not the best, so we linger a little longer in Tallinn, a city we both liked very much. The Maritime Museum of Lennu Sadam impresses us with its huge concrete structure, yet so spacious and light. We also enjoy the local bars and restaurants and indulge in a nice dinner in town, only to walk back to the boat under claps of thunder and pouring rain. We tread in water up to the ankles on the sidewalks, children are playing and swimming (!) in the streets.
On Friday, the wind goes up to force 9 again, but this time it is more southerly and we will be much less shaken at the pontoon. After visiting the modern art museum, we get ready for the next step on our journey: further East, towards the very end of the Gulf of Finland!

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la mamou - 04/07/2018 22:57:19
hâte de pouvoir regarder l'album photo avec ce fabuleux "couchlever" de soleil !!!

Mum - 04/07/2018 15:31:48
Extraordinaires alternances de chaud et froid,de pétole et de coups de vent,. Photos d'une beauté fascinante !!ekqc3

SuDad - 04/07/2018 11:25:57
Ouaahh, quelle ballade. On s'en taperait presque sur la nuque par réflexe pour écraser un gros moustique. Vos lecteurs vont devenir paranos aussi avec ces descriptions d'un monde tellement naturel que les insectes dominent encore. Nous suivons votre récit pas à pas, en faisant de salutaires progrès en géographie. A peine si Tallinn évoquait vaguement quelque chose. Alors qu'on y est beaucoup plus 2.0 qu'ici. Les photos sont splendides (fruit d'une sélection, bien sûr, mais rien ne vous échappe). L'envol des cormorans, par exemple, ça me rend vert d'envie. Depuis le temps que j'essaie d'obtenir un cliché comme celui-là. Et l'univers métallique du brise-glace ! Tout semble se réaliser pour vous avec aisance...
Eh oui, si nous sommes si fiers de nos filles, nous avons de bonnes raisons.

la mamou - 30/06/2018 15:28:41
extraordinaire "nuit" et miroir d'eau !!! que de rêves encore .....

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