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-- 31st of July to 4th of August 2018  --
Last visit to the Finnish archipelago - sorry the Åland archipelago! The islands of this largely autonomous region differ from their Finnish cousins by the fact that they are very similar, but with another flag...

More photos of small islands of granite in our Pictures page.

127 miles sailed
2452 miles sailed since the start

Our stops, click here for more details :
 Seglinge (marina) - Bäno Ön (anchorage) - Rödhamn (marina) - Mariehamn (marina) 
31st July : Kylmäpihlaja – Seglinge (79 NM)
The wind is well established in the South, albeit not very strong, as we set sails and start a day of for long hours slowly tacking and tacking again, towards Åland. Our progress against the wind is made even slower by a stubborn current to the North...
After a full day of these slow and frustrating tacks, we reach the north of the archipelago around midnight, in the passage called "Globbet". The sun sets completely now (that’s weird...), the wind dies too and we need the engine to continue. It is getting darker, some channel lights are indicated on the map as "occasional" and indeed, tonight they are not to be seen. Nothing disturbs the darkness except the moon, beautiful, and the stars which we greet like old friends, for the first time in about 2 months.

Red (Finland when it got independant) + Blue and Yelow (Sweden) = Åland's flag

Islands unwrap themselves as the sun rises
The rocky islands around us are for the moment but black ghostly silhouettes, which become sharper when the light returns after 4 long hours. The outlines then become clearer, they regain texture and colors, slowly turning pink, green and orange. We can see that here too, the vegetation has suffered from the heat wave of the last month.
In the glorious morning light we arrive at Seglinge and enter the bucolic harbor. We moor on a back buoy and stern to the wooden pier mounted on stilts.

Houses like piers: everything on stilts
1st August : Seglinge – Bäno ön (16 NM)

Cultivated fields, it's a change from granit
A few hours of sleep later, we go on and explore the island. Seglinge is known for its nice hiking path.

The trail starts across fields, in the farmed countryside of this island large enough to accommodate some farms (in addition to the ubiquitous "mökki", the beloved summer cabins).
Back to the sea: here again it is Granite Kingdom. Rocks are very pink on this island, maybe they belong to a granite type called "Rapakivi", which is typical of Åland. On the hills grow the usual small pine trees. The juniper  and heather bushes are completely grilled in some places... What a difference compared to 2 weeks ago in Turku archipelago!

One aspect of the walk remains: the winged forest dwellers, of the buzzing and biting variety. Here, horseflies are particularly present and harass us continuously. After months of exposure to all kinds of insects, we have developped survival instincts and learned the appropriate reaction to each agression. Fly: let it be (except if buzzing close to your ear during your sleep). Mosquito: spray or smash. Horsefly: 1, stay still, watch where it lands and smash; 2 or more, run!

It is very warm (over 30 ° C) and we find a nice granite beach to jump into the water. It is barely cooler (24-25 ° C) but for 10 minutes or so we feel better. To think about it, we had the same climatic conditions as in the Canaries Islands 7 years ago!

Sailboat, granit and grilled trees, Åland in a nutshell

Our neighbour is close, but at least it's a nice wooden boat !
Back to the boat, we leave to spend the night at the anchor in Bäno Ön bay, following our friends’ advice. The anchorage is very nice, in a perfectly clear water 2 to 6m deep - but it is well-known and we must share the place with 8 other sailboats. The evening begins of course by jumping in the water!

2nd August : Bäno ön – Mariehamn (32NM)

One more channel
As usual we leave in a beautiful morning sun, as usual sailing between the small islands. They are more massive than the crumbled rocks of the Vaasa archipelago, they are larger and less compact than those of Turku. But they are still in granite, topped with pines and birches, edged with reeds, inhabited by hundreds of birds, and traversed by perfectly marked channels!
After a small detour by a beautiful channel, narrow and shallow, we reach a wider arm of water where we can tack. Engine off, sails up … it is quieter here … but not for long: huge ferries connecting the capital Mariehamn to various other islands sail by very fast. They are so wide that we sometimes wonder how they can pass!

New surroundings, new locals ! These ones can't be missed...

Rödhamn, litterally the red harbour. Yes, quite true !
We are also going to Mariehamn for a last, more urban stop before leaving Åland. But before reaching the city, we stop for lunch break in Rödhamn! This small island of pink granite (very very pink) has long been occupied by a radio station and a pilot station. Today there is a visitor harbor (always on a back buoy), a small café restaurant, and a museum in the former radio building. From this nice little island we can also jump into the still-surprisingly-warm sea water ...
A few miles further, along the well-marked channel, we reach the huge visitor harbor of Mariehamn East. It offers 300 berths on mooring piles, in 1.5 to 3m of water. A storm gathers in front of us but we pass right next to it without getting wet! Storms are becoming more and more common these days, it seems that the Scandinavian summer is melting away in lightning and liters of water...
3rd August : visiting Mariehamn
At each stop, we have a todo list of practical activities: shopping, internet, shower (and sauna, the Ålanders did take up the best of the Finnish customs).

We imagine ourselves climbing up the huge masts, like the glorious sailors of the past...
Cultural activities also feature on the list, with the visit of the maritime museum and its jewel the 4 masted boat Pommern. We learn that at the beginning of the 20th century, no less than 45 giant sailing boats (called “windjammers”) were based in this small island, mostly busy with grain trade from Australia.

Yet the islands have a modest origin, populated by Swedish-speaking peasants, who also sailed small boats around the archipelago and to Sweden to carry some small-scale trade. When Sweden had to surrender Finland to Russia following military setbacks in 1809, the inhabitants retained their language and traditions. Especially since following other military setbacks, Russia lost the right to base its troops there: the islands are a demilitarized zone. Where there is no military port, there is ample space be a commercial port. Mariehamn was founded in 1861 and immediately became a major regional trading harbor, both for cargo and passengers.

1917: following the Russian revolution, Finland becomes independent. This is not to the liking of Ålanders who consider themselves as Swedes. The case is brought forward to the League of Nations: after much discussions the archipelago will be Finnish, but largely autonomous, with its own tax system, the use of Swedish as a main language, and its own ship registration area.

That's how a small piece of land stuck between two countries became in the 20's to 50's the great center for the last of the European tall sailing ships. Today many ferries and cruise ships are still based in Mariehamn.
Last but certainly not least, we have the pleasure of a good dinner (buckwheat pancakes) and even better conversation (long-distance cruising on aluminum boats) with our friends from L'Escale. All this accompanied by what some people call “cider”, who do not come from the North-Western corner of France!
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AUMADATROI - 10/08/2018 11:16:19
Et encore un article dans le Voiles & Voiliers de ce mois-ci !!!! Bravo les Saltimbanques! On vous aime ;-))

SuDad - 09/08/2018 21:39:35
Attention ! le risque, c’est de soulever un tollé, lorsque vous aurez des velléités de rentrer et de reprendre votre vie norvégienne.
En attendant, ne boudons pas notre plaisir ; ces petites îles délivrent toujours un même charme scandinave, mais toujours différent, avec ces petites notations qui nous font si bien partager vos découvertes. En fait, il faudrait lire et relire les récits, tant ils sont riches. Et un reportage comme une édition vont s’imposer. Comme il y 6 ans. Ca finira par devenir votre métier ( ?)

Mum - 08/08/2018 21:59:15
C'est chouette d'en apprendre toujours plus avec vous !!

la mamou - 08/08/2018 18:06:52
encore une lecture qui rend heureux !!!

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