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West Finland
-- 23rd to 30th of July 2018  --
This is our third time in Finland, sailing in the middle of a flat landscape of small islets and rocks and visiting off-the-beaten-track small towns.

More pictures of empty archipelagos and not-too-busy streets here.

241 nautical miles
2325 miles sailed since the start

Our stops, click here for more details :
Fäliskäret (pontoon) Bergö (pontoon) - Vaasa (marina) - Reposaari (marina) - Isomaa (anchorage)Kylmäpihlaja (marina)
23rd July : Tennviken – Fäliskäret (54M)
We had initially hoped to sail all the way up the Gulf of Bothnia, near the Polar Circle. Nevertheless, this was a bit overly ambitious if we want to make it back to Oslo on the time agreed with our generous employers… Therefore, it’s time to turn back and head south again. Yet, we want to see a little bit of the other side of the sea, the Finnish coast. 
Just as usual, the weather is unstable and we need to aim well to the sailing window between thunderstorms and no wind. Today, this seems leaving the anchorage at 5 am. The sun is already high but not that warm yet, smoke rises above the flat water of the bay. Geese are leisurely swimming in the quiet morning, enjoying the few hours of solitude before the humans and their engines wake up…

Calm morning

The Kvarken archipelago, flat islands and rocks... which grow a bit higher every year !
Once out of the bay, we set off happily in a good force 5 from the side. Saltimbanque glides nicely. Sweden and Finland are only 50 nm apart at this level of the coast: at 3pm we are already approaching the Kvarken Archipelago.

What a difference with the High Coast! This morning we were surrounded by hills hundreds of meters high, towering over waters deeper than 100m… here, we’re suddenly back to a two-dimensional universe. Forget about vertical. Islands are as tall as their tallest tree only, and it’s rare to see more than 10m depth.

There is however one common point between the two regions: the post-glacial land uplift phenomenon is very evident here too. The archipelago is listed in the UNESCO for that reason. Every year, new rocks and islets grow out of the shallow waters, adding up to 350 hectares of new land annually! 
Our first stop is the little harbor of Fäliskäret in the West of the Kvarken. One and a half jetties, a few wooden buildings and a big red tower… in this last piece of Finland on the way to Sweden, a pilot station was established as early as 1752. The tower dates back to 1784, it’s the oldest beacon still standing in Finland. The island is now part of the National Park, equipped with dry toilets, showers and a sauna (supposedly reserved for members of the yacht-clubs that maintain it). One moors in a stern buoy and bow to the pontoon … and one doesn’t pay anything! Berthing is free here :o) 

The old wooden beacon has been guiding ships for close to 250 years

Gorgeous  pocket harbour of Fäliskäret... with still an incredible weather !
It’s a logical stop on the way to the High Coast, frequented by many Finnish boats on holidays. 
The island is not that big and we have soon walked all around its granite shores and wild flowers bushes. The views are nice, between the painted buildings and the sea… and there’s the best natural bathtub awaiting us for our daily bath! 
The sea weater has a touch of salt and we enjoy our sprayer to get rinsed with fresh water.
24th July : Fäliskäret – Bergö (21M)

Typical views sailing the Kvarken archipelago
We wanted to stop on Molpehällorna for lunch, which the National Park website indicated as a particularly attractive island. So we start the day by 10 nm close to the wind. It is a rather pleasant Force 4 and we sail between the buoys and the forested islands.

As we are getting close to the island and still see no channel, we’re starting to wonder… could these be the buoys? Those tiny sticks that look like they’ve been painted in the neighbor’s garage?  It must be … and the channel turns out to be proportional in size to the buoys: no way we could turn around in it with Saltimbanque. Moreover we don’t know how deep the harbor is actually (it is not indicated on the map). In these conditions we don’t dare risking to be stuck in a tiny channel – and we give up on the stop.

This must be one of the many many harbors accessible to small motor crafts only. In this region, shallow rocky grounds make it difficult for fixed-keel boats to venture outside of the channels, or to find an anchorage in an unknown bay. The channel we just described is not the only one of its kind. It’s a “surprise channel”: yes, you see the channel on the map, yes there are buoys to mark it – but no way to guess how deep it is before being in there. Surprise!
We don’t like surprises. Back to plan B: we sail back to the famous “green route” into the archipelago (the route that winds along the whole of the Finnish coast, and which was feeling like a highway a few weeks ago). For the rest of the day, we won’t meet any sailing yacht on the route, and only a couple of motor boats. What a contrast with the Turku area…

South of Bergö, in the Södersund, there is a little pontoon with visiting yachts. We pick up a stern buoy. Outside and at the end of the jetty the depth is good enough (2m) – it is shallower inside. 

The main problem in Northern Finland is overpopulation... and bad weather of course!

Harbourmaster of Bergö
We are alone here. Is that really the visiting harbor mentioned on VisitSaaristo (see the page “Links”)? A little further up along the road stands a small cabin. The door is open. There are toilets, showers, water and even a small oven here. Then a message on the wall: “We accept voluntary donations to help us maintain the facilities. Please put what you would like in the box here. Thank you for your visit and have a good trip!” Northern Finland, very far from the automatic payment machines and harbor fees apps…
This island is not part of the National Park and there is a small village on it, made of a few wooden houses, a church and a school/health center/firefighting center/ library / administration building. The houses look very Swedish. This part of the coast is largely Swedish speaking actually.

A hiking path starts by the harbor into the forest. It is as usual carpeted by blueberry shrubs – and as usual fiercely guarded by squadrons of mosquitoes and horseflies. A local artist made real-size statues of birds and scattered them in the undergrowth. It’s fun to look for swans, cormorants and razorbills amongst the trees!

Cormorant quite far from its natural environment !

Laure, the mighty Perch fisherwoman...
However, at the end, the best part of this place is the life under the pontoon. Dozens of fish are swimming around the hull. So many that even amateur fisherwomen like us cannot miss. Tonight for dinner, we have exchanged a few expired sausages (as bait) for five fresh perch fish! It’s nice to catch one’s food again… 
25th July : Bergö – Vaasa (22M) 
Off we are again, on the “green route”. Alone we are again. It is another beautiful day of sailing under the sun, across the flat and green archipelago. A few bands of birds, a few rocks, a few cabins hidden under the trees… the sight has become so familiar to us – but we don’t forget to appreciate the beauty. 
Old gaffer in the Kvarken archipelago

Vaasa, or the industry at the heart of the archipelago
Approaching Vaasa it is impossible to ignore the presence of the regional capital. Factory chimneys rise above oil tanks, blending more or less well with the trees on the omnipresent islands.

The main visiting harbor is the Swedish-speaking Wasa Segelförening, on the eastern side of Vaskiluoto island, across from the city center: right after the high-voltage line, the last harbor before the bridge.

We pick up a stern buoy at the indicated visiting pontoon (2m depth). The fee (20€/day) includes everything, even the borrowing of bikes.

We are considering Vaasa as a technical stop, to fill the tanks and stores and empty the laundry basket – necessary after 10 days of quasi-autonomy. So we start methodically working on the items of our to-do list, fitting in a short tour of the city center on our way to the supermarket.

Vaasa was created in 1606 by order of the Swedish King. It was a small provincial town, populated mainly by magistrates employed by the Court of Appeal and other regional institutions. It is a neat town with straight rows of nice wooden houses. In 1852, a fire destroyed everything. Only a few stone building survived. The decision is then taken to rebuild the town 6km away from the original location – following the seashore that retreated (due to the land uplift phenomenon). The new city is built in stone and concrete, following the Art Nouveau then the Russian fashions. Not really charming. But it is a friendly city. It feels authentic. “Real people” are walking around, enjoying the summer and the international food market on the main street.

Back from the supermarket, the laudry must be dry by now

26th-27th July : visiting Vaasa 
The chores are done, but the wind is still too strong to sail… we’ll have to stay a little longer, no choice but to visit then!

Hop, we grab a bike (one of those one-speed bikes without hand brake, like in Holland … told you it’s a flat country…). First stop: the Ostrobothnian museum, to understand the history and geology of the region. In the lower level, exhibitions of local flora, birds and rocks interest us the most (despite the lack of English translations sometimes).
Then we cycle to “Edvin’s park”. It’s a cross-country track in the forest, where local artist Edvin installed a few dozens of statues in steel and wood. Comical.

The next stop is at the ruins of the Old Vaasa. There stand the walls of the former church (turned into ruins) and of the former Court of Appeal (turned into church).

The residents in Edvin's Park

Biking in the crater, now filled up and covered with fields. The forest in the horizon shows the edge of the crater. It must have been quite a big boom...
The following day is spent in the countryside. We visit a 6-km wide meteorite crater in Söderfjärden. It is now covered by cultivated fields, and a famous stop for many migratory birds.

It is a nice ride – all the nicer as the sides of the road are full of raspberries! We will pick two Tupperware full of sweet pink berries (a change to our blue berries diet) 
28th July : Vaasa – Reposaari (110M)
We are 1000 nm away from home and we have six weeks to make it there… it’s time to start and think about going back… the sailing up to the High Coast was a dream – sailing back down is looking to be more of a nightmare. We’ve been waiting for two days, letting the strongest of the northeasterly pass. Now we have just 24 hours before some stronger easterlies arrive, accompanied by thunderstorms. And then, the wind is expected to veer to the South, firmly in our face…

Sun is rising, south of the Kvarken archipelago
So: we need to make the most of the next 24 hours. This means leaving at 11pm, following the “green route” towards the South. The channel is not lit – but the night is still not dark either. There is a full moon tonight… well, there was supposed to be a full moon … actually it happens to be the day of the longest lunar eclipse of the century and we can’t see the bright disk for a good hour. In the end, we managed to see all the buoys without any issue. The issue comes not from the sight, but the smell (and taste)! We turned into a late-night snack delivered home for the hundreds of hungry mosquitoes flying around… annoying…

At the end of the night, the Northerly dies out indeed, but the Easterly is lazy and late to pick up. We are progressing rather slowly, close to the wind, facing the current. Another unexpected frustration: why is the current flowing to the North, while the strong wind that just passed was also from the North…
Our slow speed makes it easy for all the insects of the region to catch up and settle onboard. We are used to sailing with a fly swatter always handy in the cockpit by now (in lieu of the useless fishing rod…). On top of the usual flies and horseflies, today we must face a troop of hornets! Luckily they seem drowsy and we expulse them quickly. Brrrr…

The wind is picking up and we are hoping to make up for the lost time. But no – now a swell appears, short waves breaking the speed. We don’t really understand where it’s coming from, we are sailing 5nm from the shore, in the lee of the coast… we are worried to not make it ashore before some strong winds pick up again …

We tolerate some insects more than others

The channel litteraly wanders through the wind farm
The wind veers and the waves decrease as we approach less than 1 nm from the shore. We are sailing at a good 6 nm now (minus 0.5 nm of current…) towards the tip of Reposaari Island.

The channel crosses a windmill farm. Sailing so close to the huge rotating turbines is very impressive, we never dared to do it before but here there’s no choice: they are right on the way.
Just a last leg before entering in the bay and bearing away towards the harbor. The channel is well-lit and it's a good thing because ... the night is surprisingly dark here! Go 200 km to the south, add some clouds and it's dark! It is that we are not used to the dark after two months of endless twilights ...

The wind has not weakened and the bay is not at all sheltered from it… The result is a final mad run at 4.5 knots with all sails down (luckily Junior is quick to start and reliable...). We are in the dark, looking for an absent alignment of lights. We see unlit buoys and shallows only on the map of the smartphone :oS  Not the most elegant sailing we’ve done…

We know that we will never sail upwind again in these conditions and so we must find a way to stop behind the jetty. With relief we find that it is big enough to break the swell and that the harbor is empty, allowing us to calmly choose an easy mooring. It is 2am and we go straight to bed!

29th July : visiting Reposaari 
We open our eyes again quite late in the morning. We take the opportunity of a softer breeze between two gusts to move to the official visitor pontoon, on a stern buoy along the quay near the marina. The fees are 21€ (one size fits all), including everything.
Reposaari is a village of 800 inhabitants, located at the end of a curved island off the regional capital Pori. Connected to the land by a bridge in 1956 only, it retained some kind of an anachronistic atmosphere as a fishing harbor surrounded on all sides by shipyards and wind turbines. The main street, dusty and without sidewalks, is almost deserted on this Sunday. Old street signs show names in Cyrillic, then in Finnish and finally in Swedish. No doubt this place was developed by the Russians ... but we will never know for sure, because all the tourist signs and brochures handed out at the marina are in Finnish only. This is unusual along this Swedish-speaking coast.

The village is quick to visit. We admire the simple wooden houses and well maintained gardens. We notice some architectural details. We smell with pleasure the scent of fishing harbors, near the trawlers at quay. On the way back we walk the pretty path of pink granite along the coast at the edge of the forest.

Reposaari, main street
We return to the shelter of the boat, before the rising storms finally burst during the evening - beautiful show of sound and light and rain. We were right to stay at quay tonight…

30th July : Reposaari – Kylmäpihlaja (34M)
The storms pass and the heat stays. Another storm is expected in the evening and we leave early enough to cover some distance before having to take shelter.

The wind is weak now, mainly from SE, and we are sometimes sailing, sometimes motor-sailing, along our dear “green route”. The advantage - or the disadvantage? - is that we have 3G and internet all the time and can follow the successive weather reports updates. Around 11am, they announce a thunderstorm in the early afternoon: indeed, dark clouds are gathering in the distance... so we look for temporary shelter.

To the west of the island of Isomaa, we find a nice bay lined with holiday cabins. We anchor in 3m on a mud bottom, well protected from everything except NW ... perfect to wait. And since we have to wait ... splash! The water is 24 degrees and we swim eagerly in the heat of the day.

Entrance to the bay in Isomaa island

The cormorants are not disturbed by the big thunderstorm over Rauma
It was just a false alarm. The clouds are dissipating and we resume our trip, a little outside of the archipelago this time. Further away above the shore, new clouds are gathering over Rauma. We spend the rest of the day counting the intervals between lightning and thunderclaps ... and we pass several miles away from it all. Happy to arrive to Kylmäpihlaja island all the same: the big lighthouse will be perfect in case of lightning :o)
Located just outside the archipelago on the way to Rauma, this outpost was a pilot station. A large lighthouse still in operation today, also houses a nice hotel / restaurant - and especially an observation platform, worth a trip by itself! The views of the archipelago and the sea are splendid - especially tonight, with a contrasted light.

We spend a long time contemplating the continent and the rainbows, the sea and the sky still blue there, and between the two, below us, the life of this little island. Families of geese wander between raspberry bushes and sea buckthorns, dozens of swallows fly everywhere, unable to eat up all the gnats that rise in columns above small ponds, terns and gulls occupy the shores of multicolor granite.

The Finnish archipelago offshore Rauma, seen from the lighthouse !

Nice square harbour inside the rocks, was it just blasted out ??

We enjoy a cold beer outside, served by the friendly waitress at the cafe / hostess of the harbor. This is really a beautiful place discovered by chance, just a sign "port" on the map of the Bothnian Sea National Park. This series of national parks along the Finnish coast offered us great experiences since Helsinki (see the maps in "links").

Tomorrow however, we will leave them and sail to Åland...

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Mum - 03/08/2018 22:19:48
Récit magique et passionnant (j'ai eu un seul moustique et je m'en suis plaint, j'ai Honte)

la mamou - 03/08/2018 18:14:34
toujours bien beau !!!!

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