Aug 27, 2012

Autumn Archipelago tour: Helsingholmen-Björkö

We started on Friday with a seven hours' leg from our homeport to Helsingholmen. After over two weeks on solid ground, it felt good to be at sea again! Initially, some rainy weather was forecasted for the whole weekend, but in the end, the weather turned out to be just perfect - or as good as one can expect on late August.

On Friday the wind was mostly calm, so we had to motor most of the leg. We stayed the first night at Helsingholmen, which is one of our most favourite places in the archipelago. We have also earlier blogged about this harbour (see 9/2011 and 6/2012). The sauna in Helsingholmen is one of the best in the archipelago, so we always book it if possible, when visiting this place. However, we arrived at six o´clock in the evening and the sauna was already almost fully booked, so we only managed to get the booking from 12:00 to 1:00 am. It was a great experience though to swim at the sea in the middle of the night under thousands of stars in the sky!

On Saturday we continued from Helsingholmen to Björkö. Calm and variable winds were forecasted also for Saturday, so we were prepared to motor this 20 nm leg. Fortunately, we got a steady 3-5 m/s southeasterly wind instead, so we had a very relaxed sailing day through the beautiful southern Archipelago Sea. 

Björkö - a scenic anchorage

Björkö is located in the outer archipelago of Korppoo, just some five miles northeast of Jurmo. The sheltered lagoon Byviken on the island is the most popular wild anchorage in the archipelago. However, I had only once just quickly stopped by in this lagoon and this was many years ago, so now it was a good time to correct this. We anchored in the Byviken in 10 meters' depth, and took a dinghy ride to ashore to take a closer look of this island.

The speciality on Björkö is a 10,5 ha lake Insjön, which has been separated from the sea in 18th century since the land has risen. During the 19th century the locals used to fish baltic herring from the lake, but it disappeared as the water on the lake gradually turned fresh. However, during stronger southwesterly gales, waves may hit over the narrow isthmus on the west side, bringing some salt water to the lake.

Insjön lake and Byviken

We walked the 2,3 km long nature trail which goes around the lake. It is perhaps the most scenic nature trail in the archipelago, since the landscape is rocky and the trail goes near the shore, so one has a great view to the archipelago and the sea. Close to the end we were talking about how great the trail was, but apparently this was too early since the last few hundred meters of the trail passes through a wetland in which we were attacked by scourge of mosquitoes. And worse than that, deer (or moose) flies - those nasty little bastards, that attack one's hair...

After a refreshing swim, it was time to get down below, close all the hatches and declare a war against all the mosquitous that managed to get inside the boat.

On Sunday it was time to head back home. The southerly wind was good, so we were able to sail back home in nine hours. Just as we were approaching our homeport, some heavy rain showers passed by. But otherwise we were very lucky with the weather during the weekend.

 Checking the entrance to Björkö from the the Sea Scouts' harbour guide (text is in Finnish and Swedish)

 Southern entrance to Byviken

Aug 23, 2012

Höga Kusten - The High Coast

It was perhaps 15 years ago, when I first heard about the High Coast, located somewhere in Sweden and in the northern part of the Baltic Sea area. It sounded amazing that there would be an area in the Baltic Sea where one can sail among the mountains. Previously I had thought, that this was something that can only be done in Norway or Scotland in the Northern Europe.

After a long but rewarding trip to Southern Norway in 2011, the High Coast seemed to be a perfect destination for this season. We were going to take a more relaxed schedule during the 4-5 weeks' cruise and stay at the Baltic Sea. I had also been sailing in Southern Baltic Sea during the last two seasons, but the Swedish side of the Gulf of Bothnia would be a totally new sailing area for both of us.

The High Coast lived up to our expectations and even exceeded those. If I had to choose three things that I most warmly remember from the High Coast, those would be beautiful scenery, picturesque fishing villages and tranquil atmosphere. 


We first arrived to Sundsvall which is about 25-30 nautical miles south from the High Coast. I did not have too much prior information on the area south from the High Coast, and thus it was surprising to see that the scenery in the mainland around Sundsvall was already pretty high. It resembled the kind of scenery that one can see in the Lapland.

The High Coast is located in the western shore of Gulf of Bothnia, in the northeastern coast of Sweden. The area is located between N 62° 36´ and N 63° 16´ latitudes and roughly inside the triangle Härnösand-Kramfors-Örnsköldsvik. Actually, the scenery in the mainland continues high almost as far as Gävle in the south, but it is the high islands and coastline, that make the High Coast so unique in this part of the eastern coast of Sweden.

The nature in this area has been affected by the latest glacial period, when the land masses were depressed by the weight of a huge glacier. After the ice age, the land started rebounding and is now rising at rates that are among the highest in the world. On top of the Skuleberget mountain, there are marks of the highest historical marine level in the world, 286 meters over the current sea level. Thus most of the High coast has previously been sea bottom. The Skuleberget also offers the best views over the High Coast coastline and archipelago. The waterway leading to Docksta, which we used as a base camp for visiting Skuleberget, is very beautiful and resembles Norwegian fjords with hills rising from the sea to over 200 meters.

Fishing villages

In the year 1557 the fishermen from Gävle (Gävlefiskarna) got a privilege granted by the king to fish along most of the Norrlandskusten, which is the coastal area from Gävle to all the way to Haparanda next to the Finnish border. Gävlefiskarna held the privilege through the 17th and 18th century and set up many fishing villages along the coast, which they used during their long fishing trips to the north during the summer season. Therefore, the villages along the coast are very uniform in style, and the lines of red wooden boat sheds can be found almost in every village.

Evening in Trysunda

We visited many lovely villages during the week that we spent in the High Coast. However, there were  many others, that we did not have time to visit. But we will definitely come back later, so it is good to have something for the next time...

Sunny Ulvöhamn

Tranquil atmosphere

One of the good things in the High Coast is, that it is less crowded during the summer season compared to the Stockholm Archipelago for example. We spent the first week of July in the High Coast and there were always vacant places in harbours. One reason for this might be that season starts later in the north. We also heard from the locals, that due to the bad weather, there were less boats than normally at this time of the year. The only exception was Trysunda, perhaps the most popular harbour in the area, which was almost full in the early afternoon. But as one local boater put it, there is always room for one more boat

And last but not least, we found the people in the High Coast to be very friendly and helpful. Maybe because the rhythm of life is a bit calmer than in the south. Furthermore, local boaters are always willing to help first-time visitors in finding the best anchorages and harbours to visit.

Aug 18, 2012

Swan Regatta 2012 in Turku

This weekend the guest harbour of Turku has been full of beautiful sailing yachts, as Swan Regatta is back in town after six years. There are 54 boats participating in the regatta this year.

Nautor is a Finnish producer of luxury sailing yachts. The company was founded in 1966 by Pekka Koskenkylä, and it was a real forerunner in the late 60's as it started producing large fiberglass yachts in series. Legendary design office Sparkman & Stephens were designers of the first 775 Swan yachts, and this co-operation led to some of the most beautiful and seaworthy sailing boats ever made. Pekka Koskenkylä held an interesting public lecture on Saturday on the history of the company.

Beautifully maintained S&S Swan.

The first Swan 43 from 1969.

The new line of Swans

Swan 36 designed by German Frers, was in production between 1988-1996. 

Aug 16, 2012

Video tab updated

Our video tab is now updated with a walkthrough video of Dolphin Dance. Also Hallberg-Rassy 29 tab is updated with a couple of new photos.

Link to the YouTube-video

Additionally, we have a lot of video material from this season, but it might take a while to go through and edit the material.

This week we have been busy getting back to our work routines, but hope to get back sailing again on Sunday/Monday.

Aug 13, 2012

Good food onboard

When one spends almost the whole summer holiday onboard, cooking good food onboard feels important. It keeps the spirits high and makes the holiday feel like holiday. Why spend the holiday eating only quick and easy dishes? With a little more effort one can create a lovely atmosphere onboard! For example, we grew our own herbs onboard: basilica, rocket (rucola) and chives were the basic ingredients for many dishes prepared onboard. 

To succeed with pizza dough and to avoid the mess I measured the flours already at home to 3 desilitres portions..

The easiest dessert: fresh berries, bites of cookies and vanilla sauce

In harbour basilica comes to the sunshine! When sailing, it stays safely inside.

Prepared the hamburgers and fries from the scratch

Aug 10, 2012

Back in home port

On Tuesday we continued from Katanpää towards south. The southwesterly wind was fresh and gusting up to 12 m/s in the afternoon. However, the direction of the wind was favourable, so we managed to sail all the way from Katanpää to Östra Långgrundet, which is a skerry harbour of the boating club, Turun Navigaatioseura.

On Wednesday we continued the last 20 nautical miles to our home port in Turku. Again we had a great sailing day and travelled almost the whole leg under sail. This time one could say, that we were lucky with the wind and managed to sail the whole 60 nm distance from Kustavi to Turku and used the engine only to motor in and out from the harbours. 

Dolphin Dance is now back in her home port, but the season is not over yet. We are planning to make some shorter trips to southern Archipelago Sea during the autumn, if weather conditions are favourable. 

We were the only boat overnighting in Östra Långgrundet

There were some stronger gusts at Airisto 

Aug 7, 2012

From Kustavi to Turku: Katanpää-fortress

After almost two weeks on solid ground, it feels good to be sailing again - this time together with my father, as we are taking Dolphin Dance from Kustavi to Turku. We started on Monday with a short leg to Katanpää, which is located in northern Kustavi.

The place has a really interesting history: during the first world war, the Russians built the Katanpää fortress to the northwestern corner of the island Lypertö which has an excellent location to monitor and defend the most important coastal waterways in the west coast of Finland. The fortress was constructed between 1915 and 1917 to defend the northern borders of Russian empire, but the Finns took control of the fortress already in 1918. In the 1930s it also served as a prison, but during the second world war, the Finnish defense forces took control of the fortress and it served mostly as an educational base. The fortress has never been used in military action. After the second world war, Katanpää lost its importance, but Finnish Defence Forces stayed there until 1999. After that the place has been open to public and it is nowadays visited by well over a thousand boats per year.

 Katanpää harbour

There are about 2 kilometers of cobblestone roads in Katanpää.  Previously, there was even a narrow gauge railway from harbour to the fortress.

The water tower 

View towards Isokari-lighthouse

Aug 2, 2012

Summary of the sailing journey to High Coast and Stockholm

It has now been about a week since we came back to Kustavi, where we started the trip towards High Coast (Höga Kusten in Swedish) four and a half weeks earlier. During the journey, Dolphin Dance logged total of 792 nautical miles in 30 sailing days. Thus, our average distance travelled was 26,4 nm per day and average speed 4,6 knots. Thus, we had a bit more relaxed schedule than on the previous season.

Bad weather has probably been the no 1. topic in discussions among boaters this season in Baltic Sea. Indeed, this has been the wettest summer for years in Sweden and Finland. We have definitely had our share of the rain, but also enjoyed sunny weather during the trip. In the end, one tends to remember the sunniest moments...

Our first week was rainy: we had at least rain showers every day. The second week that we spent cruising in High coast was very good - only temperatures could have been higher. When we were coming back from High coast, the weather changed again to variable, and we got rain showers every day during the following eight days' period. Only when we were approaching Stockholm, the weather turned sunnier.

Dolphin Dance anchored near Tärnskäret (north from Sundsvall) - one of the most beautiful wild anchorages during the journey 

Also the winds have been stronger than normally during July in Baltic Sea. During this season we also experienced thunder storm at sea, but fortunately it passed quite quickly. Also the strong northerly winds experienced outside Kuggören taught us a couple of valuable lessons on preparation and weather forecasts.

In terms of sailing, we had some ups and downs during the journey. The engine logged 84,5 hours and we travelled about 88 hours under sail. I wished that we could have sailed more, but the wind was not always on our side. And when on a journey with somewhat fixed schedule, one has to make progress even if the wind is calm or blowing on your face. When coming back from the High Coast, we had to keep travelling about 30 to 50 nm per day. Our initial plan was to make a longer overnight passage, if favourable weather window would have opened, but it never did.

A bit too familiar sight this season

Our journey started in favourable winds as we started off with a 154 nautical miles crossing of Gulf of Bothnia. This leg was longer in terms of distance than any of the legs that we sailed during the previous season when we sailed to Norway and back. The wind was very good and we could sail most of the leg at good speed, but persistent rain that lasted half of this 28 hours leg made the sailing less enjoyable.

In High coast, we enjoyed some nice and relaxed sailing, but when coming south from High coast, our luck changed and we had either no wind at all or strong headwinds. We basically had to motor through most of the Stockholm Archipelago, since we had headwind both ways. In the end, when crossing the Sea of Åland and the Southern Sea of Bothnia from Åland to Kustavi, the winds turned southerly (where they should be at this time of the year) and we enjoyed the best sailing weather during this season.
/Antti & Minna