Antipole cruises

Sojourn in Imatra and the end of our season

Our enforced layup in Imatra has led us to get to know the place and get known.  The local paper interviewed us and we made the front page!  You can see the full article here.

We are in a delightful marina with the facilities we need.  The local harbour master Janne and his wife Päivi have been very helpful and have become friends.  They came aboard for a visit and later we  visited their amazing house for tea.

We are located in a lovely area which is a holiday resort, complete with a spa hotel and holiday apartments nestling in the forests which run down to beaches.

The town of Imatra itself is situated on the Vuoksi River, which is the main outflow of the Saimaa lakes.  The water flows down into the vast Lake Ladoga in Russia – the largest lake in Europe – from whence it flows as the Neva River through St Petersburg into the Baltic.

The flow through Imatra used to be as rapids down a narrow boulder-strewn channel.  It has been an attraction since at least the 17C, especially drawing aristocratic visitors from Russia.  In 1903 the hotel was rebuilt as a castle/hotel in Art Nouveau style – the extremely impressive Imatran Valtionhotelli – and the surrounding area is laid out as attractive town gardens.  For Ynskje’s first outing as she regained mobility we visited and had a good luncheon there.

The river was dammed in 1929 to form a hydroelectric power station, once expected to provide all of Finland’s electricity needs.  That was the end of the famous rapids most of the time, but during the season each evening the flow over the rapids is restored for a while, complete with a son et lumiere spectacle.  It was this that drew us to visit Imatra but we find that there are engineering works in progress on the dam and the rapids are not on show this year or next.  See the photo right for what we missed doing!   So there was no need for Ynskje to have invalided herself out of it!

There is lots of activity here in the marina.  On the weekend of 19-20 August it hosted the annual Finnish Speedboat National Championships and there have been lots of serious speedboats launching and roaring about – a sort of marine equivalent of Formula 1 racing.  On Sunday there was a collision and one of the boats was struggling back to base when it sank in the middle of the harbour.  It was duly recovered by divers and a salvage vessel.  Always something of interest going on!

As Ynskje will not be sailing again this season, we arranged for Antipole to over-winter in Imatra.  On 22nd August she was lifted out and parked in the over-wintering yard, perched on a pile of pallets.  The yard built a stairway of pallets so Ynskje could climb and descend.

Although the circumstances of our extended stay were unfortunate, we have very much enjoyed our seven weeks here.  It has given us time to get to know the place and some of its people in a way that would not have happened had we moved on as originally intended.  We have also been able to do various tasks on the boat at leisure.

For our last three days, we moved into the Imatran Kylpylä Spa hotel, which overlooks the harbour.  This made living much easier once all water was drained off in the boat. We much enjoyed time in the spa saunas and pools and this did wonders for Ynskje’s knee.

Finally, we drove in a hired car three hours to Helsinki and delivered the life raft to the agent who will service it over winter.  From there we flew to Gatwick and are now back home wading through a pile of bags, a mountain of post and eyeing the garden that has run amok since April.

So that is that for this season.  Despite our unfortunate health issues at the end of the season, it has been a fantastic summer and we have hugely enjoyed visiting St Petersburg and getting to know Finland and especially the Saimaa lakes.  Back next year!

Tony & Ynskje

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