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South Finland
-- July 3rd to 15th 2018  --
2 months, more than 1800 nautical miles, 9 countries and half way through the trip. We are back to a Nordic country sheltered behind a pink granite « skjærgård » (archipelago). Here, it is not a matter of dozens, but tens of thousands of islands and islets, like bread crumbs sprinkled in the sea along the whole coast for over a hundred kilometer offshore.

More pictures of green (trees), pink (granite) and – almost - blue (sea) on our page "Pictures".

268 miles sailed
1865 miles since the start
 Our stops, click on the names for more details:
Kaunissaari (marina) - Loviisa (marina) - Suur Pellinki (marina) - Helsinki (marina) - Bockfjärden (anchorage) - Potten (anchorage) - Högsära (marina) - Dalskär (moored to a rock) - Kirjais (anchorage) - Iso-Kuusinen (moored to a rock) - Perkkala (anchorage) - Vaarniemi (anchorage) - Lootholma (marina)
3rd July : Haapasaari – Kaunissaari (16M)
An gentle breeze is still blowing on Haapasaari, inviting us to sail on after the entry formalities. We have a good and detailed map on the table, no rock can scare us… and indeed we will motor-sail close to many of them (the wind decided to stop in the end). 
A few hours later we are entering the small harbor of Kaunissaari. There is a berth available – perfect! We are looking forward to some peace and quiet after the intensive touristic program in St Petersburg.

This is a charming little harbor indeed (as recommended by the Finnish custom officers if you remember). Showers are in a small wooden cabin, while another cabin is dedicated to barbecues. The atmosphere is relaxed and holiday-like. Water and electricity are on the pontoon. 18€/night.

Saltimbanque in Kaunissaari
4th July: visiting Kaunissaari 
We are feeling “citied-out” after seeing so many gorgeous capitals in a row and we are rejoicing at the prospect of a quiet walk in the forest – with absolutely no church to visit, nor a museum to see… we even indulge sleeping in (lazy mornings are not that frequent, we are also so busy on holidays!). 

A typical Finnish beach: pine trees, pink granite and blue sea
On the beach we are welcomed by nice round and smooth pink granite rocks. Familiar sight, we almost missed them :o)  Even the sand is granite-pink, nicely fringed by small white waves along the blue sea… 
It’s so nice and so warm that we can’t resist a dip! The dip will be short: the water is probably not warmer than 12 or 13 degrees. Locals say it’s surprisingly cold for the season.

The island in general is very clean, no sign of wrapping papers or anything in the forest. On the beach, we pick up the usual plastic bags and cups brought by the sea. It doesn’t look that much at first glance, but still enough to fill the 12L bag in 2 km of shore…

No, really, it's quite good for a swim I swear !

A basic cap, topped with a circle cut off a plastic folder to spread the face net: we are ready
Picking up stuff becomes more interesting in the forest: the whole islands is covered with pine trees, under which blueberry bushes thrive. This nice combination is the most common landscape along the whole southern and western Finnish shores actually. We didn’t expect berries to be ripe already in early July, but the warm weather worked on them faster than on the sea apparently and they are good to eat! Our mouth already watering at the thought of a home-made pie, we eagerly set off to gather them. Although blueberries are easy to pick, they have a secret weapon against foragers: their flying body guards the mosquitoes, eagerly awaiting fresh blood! Luckily we knew it and came equipped with trousers, long sleeves and even a face net and hat. The face net is very efficient, and immediately covered by the frustrated insects, buzzing to our ears but unable to bite… victory: we’re safe, and we will have a good pie!

The blueberry pie in 3 steps: 1- the fruits

2- the dough

3- tah-dah!

5th July: Kaunissaari – Loviisa (26M)
We are sailing off to Loviisa on the continent, with a light breeze and under the sun. The landscape is stunning, only islands as far as the eye can see, and Saltimbanque glides happily on the smooth sea. So nice to sail in those conditions.

We tack between the rocks as the channel narrows. We are even faster than the other yacht on the same course… that’s always nice!

Most islands are covered with trees, except for some where the trees are dead and that became birds' kingdoms

The small harbor of Loviisa is very well sheltered from the wind - less from the rain!
Unfortunately the sky darkens and we reach Loviisa under the rain. The city is greener than the archipelagos islands. It is a pleasant old city of no more than 15 000 inhabitants, created by some Swedish king while Finland was part of Sweden, and it boasts a big church, a city hall from the 19th century, and colored wooden houses in the city center along cobblestone streets. Just like any Nordic town. In the forest, we walk on what are obviously lighted cross country ski tracks in the winter… feels like home! Only the statue of Jean Sibelius (famous Finnish composer who spent holidays here) to remind us of the country.

… and the sauna of course! We have been walking under a light rain and this Finnish custom is appreciated! Like in all Finnish harbors, saunas are available together with the showers (rather: showers are available in the sauna – by order of priority). Here, the sauna is open any time and located in the yachtman’s house, and fully equipped house coming with a kitchen, a lounge, a TV, wifi… the whole for 18€ (regardless of the size)
6th July : Loviisa – Suur Pellinki (22M)
Neither wind nor rain abated overnight… but it’s a new day so we must go. 22M to navigate full speed between the rocky islands.

Even if the sky is grey, we are enjoying the ride at 6 knots on the flat water, in very-well marked channels. They say 20% of the world’s buoys are in Finland. We can believe it: there are cardinal buoys, green and red buoys, then additional aligned beacons on the islands to make sure we’re never lost. In addition, when there is no danger to mark in the water, then they throw in a safe water beacon for good measure.

Channels are sometimes narrow, but always very well marked

The pontoon in Suur-Pellinki
We stop in the small harbor of Suur Pellinki, pick up a buoy exposed back to the wind to tie up to a cramped pontoon hardly sheltered… we would not have chosen this place, but we have an appointed with a friend and former colleague of Camille’s who leaves us. Yes, amongst the 300-odd inhabitants of the (mostly Swedish-speaking) island, leaves a Scotsman who commutes every week to crappy suburb South of Paris for work… nice contrast!

The harbor’s facilities are limited, showers depending on the opening times of the café here – and cost only 10€.
In the end, Saltimbanque is neatly tucked in between two motorboats and we spend an excellent evening at our friend’s place, meeting his youngest son and enjoying a three-course meal. And a shower. And a BIG laundry. “But… do you have a dryer?” we ask. “No need … let me light up the fire…” and here we go: two loads of washing dried up in a few hours in the sauna. Fun fact: saunas make up about 5% of the household energy consumption, the same as hot water.

Just time for dinner and the laundry will be dry!
7th July : Suur Pellinki – Helsinki (29M)

Yeepee - fast and furious between the nice little islands!!
Junior is in top shape and got us nicely out of the berth, full speed in rear gear against the wind gusting at force 4 and more. With the jib on and the main sail still full, we are sailing on to the west, following what the channel marked in green on the map as “small craft route”. This feels a little bit like the Michelin touristic guide, on the highway for the holidays.

This is a quick and intense passage, gusts of wind changing with each island, narrow channel getting more and more crowded as we approach the capital city Helsinki. This is a Saturday in early July, the busiest time as the whole of the Nordics on holidays hit the water. We will have to put up with fast motor boats and noisy families for a month now…
The good thing is: Helsinki as a city is quieter and it is easy to find a berth. We chose the HVMK, cheaper than the other marinas and close to the center. Following the instructions clearly displayed on the pontoons, we moor by the fuel station / marina office for the time to fill in the paper and get assigned a berth fitting our size exactly. 28€/night for 3.5m wide box. Includes water, electricity, sauna and Wi-Fi (best enjoyed in the very cozy winter garden equipped with a grill…)

On the pontoons, we meet again with our friends onboard L’Escale, who have been here for a week almost and are getting ready to leave. We chat a bit and arrange to meet at the anchorage someday.

A nice tradition in most harbors in the Baltic: visitors' flags are hoisted during their stay. Spot the French flag flying here for us!
8th July: (not) visiting Helsinki
We have already been here in Helsinki. Laure even worked here on a project for a few months. We are not deprived of cultural visits lately… so we decide NOT to visit this city. Yet, we enjoy the best a city can offer in terms of convenient shopping and nice runs in the park. We are also very happy to meet up with a friend and former colleague of Laure’s for a nice coffee.

The only exception to our “not visiting” schedule is a dinner in Kallio, in the restaurant where Lenin used to eat and drink when he was in exile before the Revolution. Surrounded by Finnish socialists he promised them independence if they helped. Finland, until then part of the Russian empire, became indeed independent after the 1917 Revolution. As a bonus, pizzas at the restaurant are delicious.

Helsinki at sunset


9th July: Helsinki – Bockfjärden /Porkkala (23M)

Saltimbanque to commute through the city
It’s Monday and before leaving the city we have some shopping to do: charts of the rest of Finland, and a long mooring line to replace the one that snapped in the current in St Petersburg. Most ship chandlers are located on Lauttasaari island in the South West of the city. It’s a 40 min ride, or 4 M sail. We choose the latter option: an hour under the morning sun and we are approaching the dedicated pontoon. They even have short pontoons for chandleries clients to moor and go shopping. Efficient! 
A short hour later we can leave again, heading West in the well-marked channels between the pine and rock islands (we’re not fed up of the landscape yet, but are getting used to it already). There was supposed to be very little wind, but as a nice surprise it keeps up a good force 3 to 4 from the South, and we glide merrily at 6 knots between the buoys…

Thanks to their AIS, we know where to find our friends: they are anchored in Bockfjärden bay South of Porkkala. We join them in the afternoon, the only two boats in the large bay, surrounded by forest and a few cabins. 4m deep and clay bottom, nicely sheltered, this anchorage is perfect for the meeting of the aluminum boat club. We are invited to an excellent dinner on the Allures 45. L’Escale is really a nice floating home (while Saltimbanque is more akin to a camping van in a big big garden). 

Keeping an eye on our Saltimbanque from L'Escale
10th July: Bockfjärden – Potten/Älgö (37M)
The wind is forecasted rather week, but a nice easterly breeze is picking up on the anchorage. Hop, we pick up the anchor, let’s go! For a few miles we are enjoying this unexpected wind and making a good 6.5 knots.
A lot of birds to be seen in Finland. This tern chose our solar pannel for its breakfast table.

We can see possibly one inconvenient with following the route on our smartphone...
But all good things must come to an end… the wind dies, the rain comes and the (20…) last miles are very wet and very slow – even though we pride ourselves to not turn on the engine and sail the whole day. We have 0.5 knots of current helping us at least. In the sheltered waters of the archipelago, the sea is flat and nice. If only those idiots could stop zooming by us in their motorboats and shake us with their wake…
We spotted a sheltered bay to spend the night on the South West of Älgö Island, in the natural park. Indeed, this is quiet! We drop the anchor on a sand bed at 9m. It’s probably possible to moor at the rock too. In the evening, we try to fish using the advice and material giving by our Suur Pellinki friend – but no luck! Luckily, the French team is more successful and qualifies for the finale – as we are listening on the radio (through internet – our Finnish is still limited…) 
Laure gone fishing
11th July: Potten – Oxviken/Högsåra (39M)
Another calm day on the weather forecast – and no surprise breeze showing up this time. The channel is getting more crowded by the hour, it seems that all the motorboats and yachts of Finland are rushing West to spend their holiday in Turku and Åland. The clearly marked channel turns into a congested highway reminiscing of the A6 from Paris to the Med on the first weekend of summer holiday.

Following our own route is simple: just stop before where the birds stand
At some point before Hankö, we cannot take it any longer: we pull the helm and leave the track without waiting for the next exit lane. Between the rocky islets offshore we find peace again (although still no wind). Outside of the main road we have to chart our own path between the rocks – but there is a bit more space here, and we have detailed maps in our pockets thanks to Gulesider (see “links”). One more step towards numeric maps, away from our beloved paper charts spread on the table. Paper charts are extremely expensive, especially in the Nordics.

Now we are approaching a narrower path and looking more closely to the map, when “hey, look there, aren’t these aligned beacons?” “- They are! And here, there’s a buoy marking the underwater rock”. Turns out that our private channel is not so private actually – and they must have had left-over marks when they made the channel and got rid of them outside of it too.
We have to get back on the main road for the last miles unfortunately. We spotted on the map a small harbor that looked like Suur Pellinki and Kaunissaari and after 3 days at the anchorage we wouldn’t mind a proper shower. 
Not shy, a sea eagle built her nest on one of the  beacons along the main route!

Nice - and a lot of people know it!
Behind the curve a forest of masts appears. We won’t be alone… this is a typical stern buoy / bow to pontoon mooring system and we are looking for a free buoy to pick. None is available. Already thinking about alternative anchoring options, we hear shouts from other boaters on the jetty: “here, there are two places on the other side!”. And there is space indeed – but no buoy. It is expected that boats shall share the buoys when it’s crowded.

So we moor, between a motorboat and another small yacht, the second foreigner (with a big German) in a harbor crowded with Finnish families. Kids run around everywhere on the pontoon, fishing just alongside Saltimbanque, looking at us inquiringly when we speak, and leaving a trail of fishing nets and buckets and shoes scattered about. This is like a resting area along the holidaymakers’ highway after all. There is a little shop, dry toilets and showers costing 1€/ 2min. A berth is 20€ here.

Showers are expensive for a reason: this is a relatively dry place with no running water and every drop comes from a well. And this well happens to be dry, unusually early in the season. So water is delivered by truck. The next one comes in the morning. The showers are closed until then – so much our much-anticipated shower. Oh well, there’s a shallow sandy beach nearby, the water is warm enough and bathing there is not such a bad thing either.


12th July: Oxviken – Notholms fladan / Kirjais (21M)
Aside from the crowded pontoon, the rest of the island is rather nice and is full of blueberry bushes. Laure goes on a gathering mission first thing in the morning while Camille studies the maps for the next anchorage. Homemade blueberry pie is becoming our signature dessert, just like coconut pie was in the Caribbean.
We leave at 10am, with a good westerly breeze. First time sailing close to the wind since the Gulf of Riga! We have been very lucky on our passage to Russia and back, sailing both legs downwind! 
Islands, and more islands...

There's always some satisfaction to a successful maneuver to the rock...
Slowly but with sails up we head for a lunch stop in Dalskär. This is a charming little bay surrounded by smooth rocks – which are even equipped with mooring shackles! We were starting to miss this Scandinavian mooring system, stern anchor in the sand, slowly approaching the rock for Laure to jump out on to it and moor the lines in the bow. 
This is a typical archipelago island, made of granite covered with pine trees sprouting from every crack in the rock, and reeds covering the shallower parts of the bays.

The water is getting warmer by the day and the sun is back. It’s often warmer than 25°C inside and 18°C in the water. More than enough for Laure to go and explore the “underwater natural trail” (ie a collection of sculptures installed by some artists a few years ago and now covered in mussels). Camille also baths from the rock, having the whole sea for a bath-tub. Proper Saltimbanque lifestyle :o) 

From the top of the island we see more islands

Good "night" !
We leave again to anchor a bit further for the night. We had spotted this bay sheltered from the North, with shallow sandy bottoms. Mindful of keeping a respectful distance from the few cabins there (it is considered good practice to not hinder the locals, should they want to get naked out of the sauna into the water), we anchor in 6m of water. We are alone and enjoy a leisurely dinner outside until 10.30pm, aka “mosquito time”, when we retreat inside behind the net. 

13th July: Notholms fladan – Iso Kuusinen (23 M)
After several says in the archipelago we settled into a certain routine. Up at 8am, quick breakfast watching out and taking in the calm of the morning at the anchorage. As soon as a breeze rises around 9 or 10am we set the sails up and go, sailing slowly close to the wind between the islands. The breeze gets stronger in the afternoon by thermal effect, we sail faster, and tack more often between the islands, until we decide to stop for lunch – or directly for the night. The islands are more scattered here in the West of Hankö in the “Turku Archipelago”, there’s an infinite choice of places to moor and anchor. At night, the thermal breeze will die down and the water will be flat as a mirror again.

We don’t have detailed paper charts for this region. We use a large scale chart to get a feeling for the general situation and distances and then we find our way on numeric maps. No harbor guide either. Potential anchorages are spotted on Gulesider and studied on Google Maps Satellite. In that way we never know if the places we spot are known to the other boaters or not. Today, our target is Iso-Kuusinen.

Sailing in Turku Archipelago looks like this

There's a trace of our time in Sweden in our mooring alongside the cliff. Finnish boats seem to prefer the stern anchor / bow to the rock option and wonder why we went there...
As we approach, we note that the thermal breeze from the North West is actually rounding up the island and entering in the bay open to the North East. The good news is that there are mooring shackles on the rocks on both sides of the bay. But the rock on the North is rather steep, the wind will be blowing from the side and there is a thunder storm gathering actually, we can hear the first thunder claps on Turku. Will we dare stay here? Then Laure proposes half-jokingly to moor alongside the rock (instead of bow-to), getting as close as possible to the steep cliff and facing the wind. We tried this Swedish mooring technique once in the Bohuslän and are still not very expert at it. To her surprise, Camille enthusiastically approves. Of course, the closer to the rock the better ..  really? Yes, really: the cliff is so steep we have more than 6m depth along it, and two small landing platforms are conveniently located close to the shackles… a few minutes and a lot of fenders along the hull later, we are all set, sound and facing the wind, a little surprised to find ourselves so comfy here.
Getting onshore is more tricky. Scaling the cliff can be done but is a bit scary – we only take a few pictures and resort to the safer option of inflating the dinghy. It’s another small island, with granite and pine trees and a small sandy beach and not that many blueberries. The view from the top is nice. We’re about 45m above the water here, the islands are markedly higher than in the eastern part of the country. Sea water is 19° and we both have a swim. It is a bit green and dirty because of the algae that invades the Baltic in the summer. 
Rowing to the beach (the Breton way)
In the evening, we try our luck again at fishing, getting closer to the reeds with the dinghy this time. We are hoping for perch – this small freshwater fish that abounds everywhere around the pontoons and reeds. We can see them since Estonia and so far they have eaten a lot of the shrimps we used for bait, without biting on the hook… this time Camille catches two of them, first time we catch anything since Germany! We finally get a taste! They are rather good – but we would need to catch at least 5 times this to make a meal!  

14th July: Iso Kusinen – Vaarniemi (29 M)
Another morning in the archipelago, another departure in the slowly increasing breeze, another series of tacks between hundreds of rocky islands…

The wind increases as well around 1 or 2 pm, enough to reach the little bay North of Perkela where we intend to anchor for the afternoon. Charming little bay, well sheltered, we drop the anchor in 6m on a muddy bottom. We are alone again, except for a few cabins on the southern edge.

Anchored in Perkkala in amazing clear waters

We explore the shore a little. Contrary to other islands in the archipelago belonging to the national park, this part of the forest is not very regularly maintained by the land-owner. Dead wood covers much of the forested patches, while the granite is covered with dried moss a little bit higher up on the hill. Blueberries are smaller here. From the top of the hill, we can steal glances at the sea between the trees. Dozens of islands surround us. The open sea is much further away, behind this maize of forested rocks. Infinite cruising grounds.

The water in the bay is gorgeous. Warm (21.6° says our thermo-sounder) and blue, free from algae for once. We jump from the boat, splashing around in delight. It was only one week ago, in Helsinki, when the same thermo-sounder was showing 12.8° …
The thermal breeze is about to expire however and we better sail on and find our anchorage for the night. Tomorrow we will go to a bigger island called Kustavi and do some shopping before the next longer passage. So we sail on and reach Kustavi. We are in no hurry to find people and civilization again however and prefer to anchor for the night a bit off the harbor. We spotted a small bay 3M in the South. A little closer to the main channel, the wake from passing motorboats can be felt. There are a few cabins on the shore too, and even another boat at the anchorage already! A big German Hallberg-Rassy. Crowded anchorage…

15th July: Vaarniemi - Lootholma (3 M)
Today we have little to sail and a long list of practical things to do. We chose to stop at Lootholma Harbour, because it is close (2km) to a supermarket and offers all facilities. This was a good choice! The surrounding is charming, the harbor itself belongs to a larger camping complex, with a restaurant and an old boat used as a shop / yachting lounge. Sauna, showers, water, electricity, a very good internet connection and even laundry are included in the flat fee of 25€. 
Lootholma seen from the top of the mast. See the (narrow but deep enough) entrance in the reeds on the right
As a bonus, we can watch the World Cup finale in the restaurant. Three other sailors are there, Fins who supported Croatia – and us. Twenty years ago, both of us watched the victorious finale too, on a small black and white TV screen. Camille was in deep-down Brittany, Laure in a forest in the middle of Poland. This time we have color on the TV. But the French flag flying on the portside shroud tonight is a little lonely. Locals smile, and continue their way to the sauna.

And now, we have all tanks and batteries and vegetable nets full, we can continue on the next step of our trip. Although this is beautiful here, we are looking forward to discovering another sort of landscape…

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Sylvain - 24/07/2018 10:13:00
La tête de Laure dans l'eau ... priceless ^^
La tarte avait l'air super bonne :)

Stephanie - 23/07/2018 23:09:52
C est vaiment sympa ce blog, on s y croirait: on s emerveille, on a froid, on est fatigue, on est content...
Merci pour ce beau voyage et ne vous arretez pas :)

Annie et mum - 20/07/2018 21:24:15
Nous aimerions déguster une tarte aux myrtilles .Bon vent pour la suite......

la mamou - 19/07/2018 22:34:30
magnifique , magnifique , magnifique !!!!

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