Mar 9, 2017

Skiing in Lapland

Lapland is perhaps the last wilderness in Europe. We spent one week skiing in Lapland in February, and the weather varied from snowstorm to the beautiful winter sun. Check out this Vlog from the land of snow.

Jan 31, 2017

Memories of Summer

Here is a new short video: Memories of Summer. Have you already made plans for the coming season?

link to the video:

Jan 15, 2017

Sailing on Lake Garda - part 2: Marinas and Harbours

Last September, we travelled to Italy and chartered a boat for a sailing trip on Lake Garda.

As mentioned in the earlier blog post, Lago di Garda is a great sailing destination with very pleasant climate, steady wind conditions and amazing mountainous scenery. Furthermore, there are also many beautiful towns along the coastline.

However, one thing that bothered me on Lake Garda sailing was the lack of information (in English) for a cruising sailor about the marinas and harbours. There are many idyllic small towns along the coastline and some of them also have small harbour basins with breakwaters and mooring facilities. However, without a pilot or harbour book or a decent website in English, it was almost impossible to have information whether there are guest berths and more importantly, if there is a sufficient depth for a sailing boat.

Thus, here is a blog post about the marinas and harbours that we visited during the week. Although this is not attempting to be a comprehensive marina guide to Lake Garda, this information might be valuable to someone, planning a sailing trip there.

Torri Del Benaco

We started our cruise on Lake Garda on Friday the 23rd of September and picked up our charter boat (Bavaria 31) from Torri Del Benaco, which is located in the middle part of the lake. Torri Del Benaco was definitely one of the most idyllic little towns that we visited and there are some nice restaurants by the shore with a spectacular view over the lake . The moorings in the harbour basin seemed to be occupied by the local boats, but there were some berths for visiting boats at the entrance (an alongside mooring on the left-hand side, when coming in to the harbour basin from the lake). Torri Del Benaco is a public town harbour so there are no facilities (e.g. toilets, electricity).

Torri del Benaco

Marina di Bogliaco

On Friday afternoon, we cast off at the Torri Del Benaco, and sailed the short distance across the lake to Marina di Bogliaco on the western side of the lake. Marina di Bogliaco is a private marina with good basic facilities (e.g. showers, toilets, electricity). However, it was also the most expensive marina during our stay (we paid 85 euros per night) and although everything was tidy and clean, the surroundings are not that idyllic as it is basically a boat yard. However, there is a short walk to the small town of Bogliaco. Upon arrival, we were directed to the guest berths (Mediterranean mooring / mooring lines), located on the left-hand side after the boat crane.

Fraglia Vela Malcesine

On Saturday the 24th of September, we continued north from Bogliaco. The wind conditions are generally better on the northern part and also the landscape is higher, so we decided to cruise the week on the northern part of the lake. We tried first to find a berth from the Malcesine town, but could not find any information on the depth and guest berths, so we decided to head for Fraglia Vela Malcesine, which is located about 2,5 nm north of the town. It was Saturday afternoon and the harbour office told us on the phone, that the main marina was already full. Thus, we decided to moor alongside the long pontoon which is located on the southern part of the marina. The main marina facilites (toilets, showers) were available in the club house, but there was no electricity on the pontoon. The town of Malcesine is definitely worth seeing and there is a fairly frequent buss connection to Malcesine from Fraglia Vela Malcesine harbour.

Long pontoon at Fraglia Vela Malcesine

Malcesine seen from the lake

Porto San Nicoló

From Malcesine we continued to Riva del Garda on the northern end of the lake. The marina Porto San Nicoló was mentioned in the information leaflet that we got with the boat, so we motored confidently into the marina, which turned out to be full of local boats. We were directed to the alongside berth close the boat crane. After a while the harbour master arrived and seemed to be quite pissed off that we had arrived without a prior notification. I had actually called the harbour multiple times during the day without getting an answer, but the harbour master said that the berth should be reserved weeks earlier. He said that the marina is full as it only has a few guest berths, but he can let us stay by the crane for one night. We eventually paid about 40 to 50 euros for the stay.

Porto San Nicoló has only a couple of guest berths. 

Fraglia Vela Riva del Garda 

On the following day, we sailed a short distance to Fraglia Vela Riva, which is another marina in Riva del Garda. And yes, we sailed the whole leg as it is prohibited to use the engine in the northern part of the lake other than when entering or leaving a harbour. When sailing at the lake, the southerly Ora wind rose quickly up to 26 knots, so it was a bit challenging to maneuver in the small marina. I had called and checked the availability and the location of the guest berths before hand.

The Fraglia Vela Riva is a better choice of the two marinas in Riva Del Garda: there is only a short walk from the marina to the city centrum, there seems to be more guest berths and also the marina fee was less expensive than at Porto San Nicolo.

Fraglia Vela Riva - All the guest berths were vacant so we decided to moor 
alongside the pontoon. There are also mooring lines for high season. 


On Tuesday the 27th of September, it was time to head back south. The northerly morning wind Pelér was very weak that day so we had to motor almost the whole leg to Garda located in the eastern side of the lake. Garda was yet another harbour where it was difficult to find the guest berth. Eventually we found a pier marked with a P sign, but as we did not have any information on the depth, we moored elsewhere and I walked to check the depth with a boat hook. There turned out to be sufficient depth for our boat so we moved the boat there. The guest berth is operated by the town and there were no facilities. However, there was ridiculous expensive hourly rate, which had to be paid to a parking machine, which was very difficult to use since it did not accept any bills. We eventually gave up with the bloody machine, decided to book a hotel for that night and hoped that the officials won't remove our boat during the night. 

 Garda - pier for visiting boats. There was sufficient depth for our boat at least in the outermost berth. It gets shallower closer to the shore. 

The last night at Garda. On the following day, it was time to head back to Torri del Benaco. 

Dec 26, 2016

Season 2016 in Thirteen Photos

During the Christmas holiday it is nice to sit back in a comfortable chair and take some time to go through photo archives and video material from the previous seasons. And after spending some time on reminiscing, it is also a good time to start planning for the coming season.

But before writing about our plans for the 2017, here are thirteen photos that represent best Dolphin Dance's sailing season 2016.

1. In 2016, Dolphin Dance was launched on the 16th of May. On the 2nd of June we cast-off for the first longer trip of the season. The evening was amazingly warm for an early summer. 

2. Sunday evening in Heisala. The day had been eventful as we sailed through a thunderstorm and a hail shower, had perfect winds, no wind at all, heavy headwind and finally a beautiful sunset. 

3. Åland ahead! Our summer holiday started on the 27th of June and we took a course towards Åland islands and sailed around the main island. 

 4. In 2016, I became a member of Finnish cruising association Merikarhut-Sjöbjörnarna (MK, i.e. 'Sea Bears' in English). The association has an extensive network of almost 30 harbours along the Finnish coastline and Åland and also one harbour in the Stockholm Archipelago. We visited fourteen different MK harbours during the season 2016. 

5. Dolphin Dance in Storogskär, which is one of the three MK club harbours in Åland. 

6. This summer we used the Ricoh Theta 360 camera for shooting both 360 photos and videos. The 'real' 360 photo can be seen from our Facebook page

7. Fine summer evening at Enskär, which is located outside Eckerö next to the Åland Sea. 
Enskär was also our westernmost turning point this summer. 

8. In the evening of the 17th of July, we took a course from Kustavi towards north 
in a perfect southwesterly wind. 

9. On the following day we arrived at Kylmäpihlaja Lighthouse island, located outside 
the city of Rauma. This was our northernmost turning point this season and it was also the 
northernmost point along the Finnish coastline, that Dolphin Dance has ever sailed.

10. After the main holiday trip in July, we made several shorter trips in the 
Archipelago in August and September.

11. In August the winds were strong on many days. Here beating 
from Nagu to Korpo in 25-30 kts wind. 

12. This September we travelled to northern Italy to end the sailing season 2016 on warm waters of Lake Garda. We chartered a Bavaria 31 from Torri Del Benaco and sailed on the lake for six days.

13. The first snowfall came in early November. Dolphin Dance was lifted out on the 7th of November.

Nov 14, 2016

Winter ahead!

Sailing season 2016 is officially over for us as Dolphin Dance was lifted out last week. I was a bit worried as the winter set in early this year: the night time temperature dropped to -10 degrees during the weekend before the lift out, but the sea remained open and I had the heater running through the coldest nights to avoid damage to the engine and water system.

This year, Dolphin Dance is wintering inside in a warm shed, as I am planning to do some maintenance work during the winter. More about that later.

When emptying the boat and removing the sails on the last weekend of October, the weather was still relatively warm. Only a week later the temperature dropped to -10 degrees. 

DD was lifted out on 7th of November, just in time before the stronger snow fall. 

Oct 10, 2016

Sailing on the Lago di Garda

This September we travelled to northern Italy to end the sailing season 2016 on warm waters of Lago di Garda. This was going to be my first lake sailing experience, so at first I was a bit concerned whether this 28 nautical miles long lake would offer enough 'challenges' and places to see and visit during the week. Fortunately, I was wrong as Lake Garda turned out to be a sailors' paradise with very steady wind conditions, breathtaking mountainous landscape and beautiful small villages. However, the lack of natural harbours and shortage of good marinas hinder possibilities for cruising.

The wind conditions

There are two dominant winds on Lake Garda. The northerly Pelér wind starts to blow usually at night or early morning and continues to late morning. After that the wind normally veers to south as the afternoon Ora wind takes over around 12:00 and 1:30 and blows until fading away with the sunset. Based on our short experience, the southerly Ora wind works almost like a clock and it is strongest in the northern part of the lake whereas the winds are generally weaker in the middle and southern part of the lake.

The Boat

We sailed the week with an older charter Bavaria 31. Ten years of age is quite a lot for a charter boat and this was also visible in various parts of the boat: the instruments were not working properly and the boat had some other electrical problems: we actually ended up taking the electricity down from the whole marina during the first evening after plugging in to the shore power!

Lake Garda is about 28 nautical miles long and one to six miles wide, and the winds usually blow along the lake to either direction, so you are mostly beating to windward or sailing dead downwind – both of which are not the most pleasant points of sail. Therefore, the most notable problem on the boat was the poor condition of the sails. During the week the winds varied from very light winds to strong winds up to 26 knots. The light wind conditions would have required a larger downwind sail in the garderobe whereas in the strong winds it was impossible to sheet the main sail nowhere near as tight as it should have been.

Harbours and marinas

One thing that bothered me on Lake Garda was the lack of information on marinas and harbours. There are many idyllic looking small towns along the coastline and some of them also have small harbour basins with breakwaters and mooring facilities. However, without a pilot or harbour book, it was impossible to have information whether there are guest berths and more importantly, if there is a sufficient depth for a sailing boat.

On the other hand, there aren't that many marinas either and some of the few are also quite expensive (we paid up to 85 euros per night in Marina di Bogliaco). Furthermore, they are often located further away from the old town centres and marinas seem to have only some guest berths for visiting boats. The end of September was already an off-season, so we did not have difficulty in finding vacant berths, but I can imagine, that the marinas can get crowded during the high summer.

In the next blog post I will deal with the marinas and harbours that we visited during the week.

Lake Garda is a sailor's paradise as the wind conditions are predictable. 

Almost all forms of sailing and wind sports could be spotted on the lake

Castle of Malcesine

Sep 13, 2016

Birsskär-Konungsskär: Natural harbour in the Archipelago National Park

In mid-August we visited Birsskär-Konungsskär, which is located in the northern part of the Archipelago National park, about three miles south from Korpoström harbour. Birsskär is a popular wild anchorage especially during the high season. However, the week in August was very windy and the main holiday season was already over so we were the only boat overnighting in the anchorage that night.

The nature on the uninhabited islands is very beautiful and there is also a nice nature trail running around the Konungsskär island which offers great views to the nearby islands.

 We deciced to set the bow anchor and use the dinghy for visiting the islands. 

Anchorage seen from the top of Västra Tvigölpan. The best places for mooring can be found from the north shore of Birsskär island.

The bridge connecting Birsskär and Konungsskär

There is an open wilderness hut on Konungsskär