After leaving Hanko we sailed westwards into the Turku archipelago – a maze of islands and skerries. We spent two nights on the island of Rosala, which we enjoyed exploring by bike. Then we sailed north and on the passage rendezvoused with the yacht Blue Bat. The skipper Jonathan is a member of the Cruise Association and bound for the Saimaa lakes. He has taken over our charts for the area, which we had left in Hanko for him to pick up.
We spent two nights at anchor in a lovely spot just off Kerjsarshamnen, so named because the whole of the Tsar’s fleet once anchored there. The winds have been rather fickle and we tended to end up wherever we managed to get to, such as Tunnhamn.
Eventually we arrived on Brännskär, a lovely island occupied by an ‘alternative’ style extended family with their children – rather ‘hippy’. They run the little marina, café and saunas and are gradually building further log cabin style dwellings for themselves using local timber from the island. They have some sheep and a cockerel and hen, which sometimes have to be chased out of the café. It is very relaxing and we enjoyed exploring the few trails through the woods.
It is holiday season here now. It is noticeable how many yachts have young families aboard – several with babes in arms and many with dogs. The easy sheltered conditions with no swell and no tide makes sailing easier for families than on the UK coast.
From Brännskär we had a great sail up through the islands to Turku, or rather the Yacht Club of Turku on the island of Ruissalo a few miles outside the city, to which it is linked by a bridge.
Turku is Finland’s oldest city, founded in the 13¢ and the cathedral dates from that time. Turku was the capital of Finland until that function was moved to Helsinki by the Russians in 1812. During our visit the annual festival of its medieval origins was taking place, with lots of market stalls and dramatic activities. We made contact with Kaarina, a friend we made during our stay in Imatra last autumn. She was being a medieval pilgrim and, rather disconcertingly, stayed in role when we greeted her!
Much of Turku was destroyed during the Great Fire of Turku in 1827. However, the Luostarinmäki district was spared. Subsequently the rest of the city was redeveloped in a plan less of a fire hazard. Luostarinmäki was condemned but never razed and has stood like a time capsule of medieval wooden buildings. It is rare for wooden buildings to survive that long without updating and modernisation. At the beginning of the 20c plans formed to preserve the district and a number of traditional craftsmen established themselves there. Today it forms a handicrafts museum with workshops of the craftsmen such as saddlers, cord makers, violin maker, etc. We much enjoyed our visit.
We have been cycling into the city most days, despite problems with Ynskje’s rear tyre which has blown out several times and which Tony has repaired with bits of plastic bottle inside. The cycle path runs past some lovely Russian-era villas and then through the Ruisrock pop festival ground. This festival is the largest in Scandinavia and takes place next weekend. UK readers: think Glastonbury but without the high security double fence – just portable sections held together with cable ties.
On Wednesday we sailed 16nm south to the island of Ramsö where Esa and Kaarina live. Their bay is shallow and has no navigational marks. The chart indicates several rocks as well as electric cables on the bottom, so we were very cautious about entering it. Esa came out with a neighbour in his motor boat to lead us in.
Eventually we anchored off their jetty and enjoyed a lovely evening in their old wooden house nestling in the forest. The next day we joined them for breakfast and they then took us on a tour of some of the other islands – Vikom, Nagu and Korpo. Most of the islands in the group are inter-connected by bridges or ferries so all can reach the shared community facilities. We note that all the ferries are free to use for pedestrians and the local ones are free for vehicles too. This is the way the government supports the island communities. UK readers: just imagine if the Isle of Wight ferries were free to use!
On Friday the garden breakfast lasted to lunch time. Following a siesta back on board we were taken to the old church on Nagu for a concert, where we heard works by Fauré, Debussy and Ravel performed by four Finnish musicians of international standard. It was a treat! Afterwards we were invited to neighbours Alarika & Nina for drinks and nibbles while we sat in their lovely garden overlooking their jetty and yacht. After we retired inside, Esa and Alarika entertained us on guitars, with a repertoire including many English tunes in our honour.
It was, sadly, time to say goodbye and on Saturday we sailed back to Turku Yacht Club, where we will be waiting until Ynskje’s daughter Sarah joins us on Monday. She is bringing a new tyre for Ynskje’s bike!
As they say around here in mid-summer “Enjoy the light!”
Ynskje & Tony