For part of the sail from Loviisa to Porvoo the westerly wind rose to F7 and, while reefing, the reefing line disappeared into the boom and the genoa whipped the steaming light off the front of the mast. So we were pleased to reach an anchorage where we could retrieve the reefing line. Next morning we sailed up to Porvoo, which, like Loviisa, lies up a long inlet but this time 12nm.
Porvoo is Findland’s second oldest city, after Turku, and is a delight. It nestles on a hill with some buildings fronting the river. The old city still has its medieval layout as well as many 18-19¢ buildings lining its steeply cobbled streets. We enjoyed exploring the lanes and alleyways and sitting in a café.
The highlight is the cathedral, parts of which date from the 13¢. It has the simplicity of a Lutheran church while conveying a deep spiritual feeling of timelessness. This was heightened for us as the organ was being played during our visit.
Porvoo is a popular weekend destination for those living in the Helsinki area and over the weekend the little marina filled up with craft and the place hummed. But by Sunday evening it was quiet again. 32% of the population are Swedish-speaking and all signage was in both Finnish and Swedish. Although we speak no Swedish, it is certainly easier to make out than Finnish.
We waited in Porvoo until we got a day of northerly wind, which was ideal for the passage down the inlet and across to Helsinki – a passage of 42nm. We berthed in the Helsinfors Segelklubb (HSK) harbour as our membership of the Cruising Association gave us temporary membership. HSK is located on the island of Lauttasaari, right by many yacht chandlers and businesses, including where we had our life raft serviced last winter. HSK had taken delivery of our replacement steaming light and, with help from Judy & James from the yacht Secret of Hurst, Tony went up the mast a couple of times to install it. Secret of Hurst is only the third British yacht we have encountered since being in Lithuania in August 2016!
We explored Helsinki for two days on our bikes. It is a delightful city with many green spaces and waterways. We enjoyed another visit to the beautifully restored Kappeli café in the leafy Esplanadin Puisto, visited the Lutheran and orthodox cathedrals and cycled through parks to the stadiums of the 1952 Olympics.
Ynskje’s friend Ulla happens to live on Lauttasaari and she came aboard for tea and we then ate together at the HSK’s Blue Peter restaurant. Ynskje and Ulla had not met for thirty three years, so there was much catching up to do!
We wished we could have had a few more days in Helsinki but two days of light mostly fair winds before a long period of westerly gales could not be wasted and we set sail westwards for Hanko. Unfortunately the wind faded out about 6pm before we needed to cross an open area and so we anchored for the night. After we had settled down, a breeze reappeared for the whole long evening!
This left us with a very ambitious 58nm passage to achieve the next day in light winds. Our spinnaker carried us across the open stretch until we entered the remarkable Barösund – a 6nm narrow passage through a cleft in islands. 25% of the Finnish population live in the Helsinki area and this is a popular leisure area for them. All down the sound summer cottages peeped out of the trees, punctuated by the occasional restaurant. It is close to mid-summer and for the first time we encountered many other boats. Once we cleared the Barösund we set the spinnaker again and ran all the way to off Hanko, before rounding the peninsular and berthing on its north side in Hangöby.
Hanko is both a commercial port and a major yachting centre, especially with the Hanko regatta in early July. There are several marinas along the waterfront, which is lined with cafés and eateries. It is very busy and we were glad to have berthed at the quieter Hangöby, from where we have a picturesque cycle ride into the town.
The major landmark is the remarkable water tower, which we ascended by lift to view the surrounding area from the viewing platform.
Hanko was a popular holiday destination in the 19¢ during Russian times.
After Finland gained independence from Russia, the Soviet Union kept Hanko as naval base until it was abandoned in 1941.
There remain many beautiful wooden villas from the Russian era nestling in the trees fronting the beaches.
We have sat out several days of strong winds, which are now abating. We will sail again on Thursday, which is mid-summer’s day. Traditionally, yachts fly their ensign all night and many are dressed in greenery. The following weekend is a major holiday with most shops closed. It is the start of the Finnish holiday season, when most Finnish families retreat to their summer cottage or take to the water. So we are to expect busy waterways and marinas as we head further west into the islands south of Turku.
That’s tbe news for now.
Ynskje & Tony
PS: We have to watch out for the many rocks in Finnish waters and often pass close by. But we could not work out how to get into this berth!