We pottered in the morning and set off about 0930 – the other rally yacht had left earlier as they had crew to pick up in Helsinki.
We slowly motored our way back down the channel out of Porvoo, where the depth at times dropped to as little as 0.9 metres under our keel. We had hoped to take a sneaky short cut and follow a lead all the way to Helsinki, but the bridge was deemed too low for our mast.
What’s a lead? Sailing the archipelago they are a must. They are lines on the chart which show you the way to go from one point to another – show the depth of the water under the keel, and so help you avoid going aground! It’s a new and different way of sailing for us, and takes up far more energy, nerves and time than we had anticipated. It is also thrilling, exhilarating, and achingly beautiful.
Opportunities to sail have to be chosen with care, but even within the archipelago there are wide open expanses of water deep enough to sail, as long as you keep a close eye on the buoys and the transit lines.
Today we were lucky, with a combination of wind, direction and expanse of water. We sailed, with the westerly breeze pushing us around 4 -5 knots as we made our way towards Helsinki.
On the lead up to Helsinki, the wind was gusting, getting us to over 7.5 knots under sail, and putting us in the mix with some 5.5 yachts who were racing out of the sailing club we were heading for. We even over took a ketch.
Around 4pm we let rally control know that we were making our approach and were told to enter close to the stern of another rally yacht. Unbeknown to us at that stage, that yacht had hit a rock on the entry to the harbour, so we were all now being guided in over known safe water.
We bossed the stern buoy berthing and took the opportunity to take in the stunning setting that we were so privileged to enjoy. The NJK marina is an island that belongs to the oldest yacht club in Finland. Its club house is an Edwardian treasure, with the backdrop of the city skyline behind it. The facilities were perfect, with showers, sauna and laundry. And a half hourly ferry to take you to the main land.
We enjoyed the next couple of days exploring Helsinki – travelling out on the tube to the street with 4 chandleries and eating and drinking with other crews.
Our daily stats
A short day’s run of 38 miles, took us 6 hours and a half hours, we sailed for 3 and made an average of 5.8 knots, using 1 gallon of fuel.
After our late night shenanigans the night before we didn’t rush to leave Haapasaari. We were a little shocked when we looked out of our companionway first thing to see just how close and how many rocks there were round about. Just how we managed not to hit any is still a mystery.
At 0930 we set off with another rally yacht, to make for the town of Porvoo. One of the oldest cities in Finland, it promised to be an interesting sail and deep into the Finnish countryside.
The westerly wind gave us a good lift, allowing us to sail – making a good 6 knots and sailing side by side with our companion boat.
It was a cloudy day, and the wind had a cold bite to it, although the sun did manage to raise the temperature into the low 20s in the afternoon.
This was our first real taste of the Finnish archipelago, and it met all our expectations. Islands, big, small, stone and granite, sand and shore, pine trees, and trees and trees. Cormorants and shags and terns. And endless blue water.
And as we sailed up the approach to Porvoo, the sides closed in with reed beds and fen like landscape. Little culverts and side streams all along the way. We gently and carefully wove our way up what felt like a river within a swamp, up and up towards Porvoo.
Our way was heavily marked with buoys to ensure we didn’t stray, and safely guided us into the small marina at Porvoo. We berthed alongside and paid – for the first time, but not the last, at the local cafe/kiosk for our overnight stay. It was an eyewaterinw 47 euros, which included power, water, showers, kitchen and laundry.
The small marina was so shallow there were water lilies in the water. It nestled close to a road bridge, over which a supermarket was conveniently located.
We took a walk into town, with beautiful old wooden medieval buildings, and luckily fell upon a restaurant in old barns overlooking the river, with a waitress with impeccable English and great customer service. The beers were pretty good too.
We were too late for the bakery, but not too late to see a weird sculpture(?) consisting of old Barbies and other toys naked around a bowl. The streets were also eerily quiet, the roads too. Where was everyone?
Welcome to silent, still Finland.
Our daily stats
We took 9 hours to complete 60 nautical miles, averaging around 6.7 knots, and using 8 gallons of fuel.
We’d had a late night and a long day – metro tour, bike tour, dinner out, final provisioning shop, then the usual pre-departure checks and preparations before bed. So a 5.30am start wasn’t particularly welcome. Still it wasn’t raining, and most of the other boats were also up and at ‘em – so we were in good company.
The first three hours were the schlep back up the fairway from the yacht club to check back out of Russia at Kronstad. No sniffer dogs, just a man with a camcorder recording his search, a quick passport check and we had 15 minutes to leave our berth.
Again we had to stick to the traffic separation scheme, and in a convoy of yachts we made good progress, with a helpful wind, making an average of 7 knots on a beam reach. There was some chop and a few waters off the bows, but generally it was a good sailing day.
That said, it was very windy and cold. Suzanne spent most of the day at a 45 degree angle in the saloon and galley – trying to cook or to eat what she’d made. From fried egg sandwiches in the morning, to fresh baked cheese baguettes and soup for lunch, and asparagus risotto with homemade apple, blueberry and cherry crumble and custard – we were well nourished on this long leg.
We crossed the Finnish/Russian border around 9pm, and duly raised and lowered our courtesy flags. We regretted that we hadn’t recordings of all the appropriate national anthems to play at this particular point. Now safely back into EU waters, we could switch our mobile devices back on and use our mobile data roaming, without fear of breaking our bank accounts.
Our plan was to find an anchorage close to Hapasaari, the customs and immigration point, a small island in the Gulf of Finland, and the most tick ridden place in the whole country. We were advised they were only open from 8am to 8pm, and not knowing the rock strewn area, thought that as we would now start to experience real night darkness, it was probably the most sensible option. It also meant we could keep taking advantage of the favourable wind and sail all the way (and keeping our incredibly cheap Russian fuel for as long as possible!)
Our plan was thwarted, when a message came through to say customs were expecting all 15 yachts to check in that night. So we turned on our engine, to try and get to the island before night set in. It was not to be. We arrived with our navigation lights on and with difficulty picking out the guiding withies and buoys. Luckily most of the rally yachts were already at anchor, and these provided a useful guide to the direction in which we should head.
We waited our turn to dock and handed the lines to the two waiting officials. Our papers and passports were taken away to the office, and returned about 10 minutes later, along with a free gift of two glasses cleaners. No, I don’t know either. Perhaps it was an oblique reference to our berthing style – although we’d done it fairly smartly? Who knows. But I wish I’d used mine immediately.
After leaving the berth we then set about trying to find a suitable anchorage in the pitch dark – and our first starlit night of our whole trip in the Baltic. Sailing at night plays with your sense of depth – making it really difficult to judge just how far away you are from another boat or boulder. Anchoring means trying to find somewhere not too deep, so you don’t have to put out miles of anchor chain, and also in the right kind of sea bed, so you don’t get stuck.
We had two aborted attempts to anchor – one we realised there was a rock looming, the second because we realised we were directly over a cable. We moved around and tried to moor near the customs pontoon – but they were having nothing of it – shinning torches directly at us.
As we looked for other options, the customs launch came straight for us, and we thought we were going to be boarded, but we think that once they saw the boat name, they realised we had checked in. We’d forgotten to take down our yellow Q flag, that indicates you still have to clear customs. Doh!
Past midnight, tired and just a little rattled, we finally found a spot, dropped anchor and set our anchor alarm. Andrew slept in the saloon in case there were any problems in the night. In fact, there were none – the boat barely moved. However the closeness of the rocks and boats surrounding us when we awoke next morning were a bit of a shock!
Welcome to Finland – land of lakes, ferns – and rocks!
Our daily stats
No map again for this leg, but it was a long one! 102 nautical miles, which we sailed, and sailed and sailed – and only 4 engine hours.
We left Dihrami as a three boat convoy, slipping lines at 0900 ish and motoring out into the bright Estonian sunshine. The journey was to be straightforward, with no shallow bits, no rocks to hit and no fog. Unfortunately no wind either.
Mains were raised, motoring cones hoisted and onwards we chugged. Another Rally yacht proposed a lunch spot, but on investigating the water was algae ridden and foul, and there were a disturbing number of wrecks on the shoreline and in the hidden depths. A nice idea but the Baltic seems to be full of algal bloom this year.
A little later, and within a few hours of Tallinn the wind filled in, and sails billowed out as we tried to get at least a few hours of sailing in; but it was not to be. It veered and with such a header all we could do was fire up the iron topsail i.e the engine and motor once more.
The entry into Top Marina, host for the sailing events of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, is easy, even with a plump gentleman falling off a paddleboard right in front of us, plenty of room to take evasive action and slide into the Marina.
Another stern mooring buoy. But this time we were prepared. Suzanne hooked it like a pro, walked it to the back as Andrew took in the stern line then walked casually to the front and handed the bowline to Rally control who hooked us on. Fantastic. If Carlsberg made berthings they’d make them like this. A slight rejig of the stern line to straighten the boat up and we were in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital city!
Time to stock up in the fantastic supermarket, carry out some much-needed maintenance, enjoy a crew dinner in the town centre, and visit the seaplane museum!
Our daily stats
We managed a measily one hour of sailing, one of motoring and 5 and half motor sailing, using 5 gallons of fuel. We were underway for 7 and half hours, making 45 nautical miles, averaging over 6 knots. At least the sun was shining!
You can hear about this sail and more in Episode 23 of our podcast ‘2 in a boat’
We left Heiligenhafen after a delicious, but odd, veggie breakfast. Two still warm bread rolls each, Irish butter and slices of brie, mozzarella, pesto, tomatoes and assorted dips in a waterside bakery next to the marina. Hearty fare worthy of the epic to come.
It was a gusty F4 – 5 as we slipped out of our box berth and pointed the stem towards open sea again. Except this time it’s not that open. We were nestled just north of the Fehmarn bridge, a 22m high span that we had to negotiate through with our 17.5m mast.
There should be loads of clearance, but in a moment of false jeopardy worthy of a TV documentary Andrew still couldn’t watch and steered through looking at the floor and crossing his fingers. Of course we were fine. We didn’t come to a crashing halt or cause irreparable damage to the historic monument.
After the bridge the sea calmed down and with the yankee on one side and staysail on the other we made good progress for a couple of hours – this couldn’t last.
The sea became as confused and uncomfortable as a pensioner’s driving. The rain came pouring down and Suzanne disappeared below; there’s no point in two pissed wet through travellers. Andrew started the engine because he’s impatient and was fed up of wallowing around downwind and a couple of hours later we arrived in Rostock.
Suzanne bossed the box berth, getting the ropes on first time and berthing in record time. Andrew got it in the berth nearly straight and only donated a small amount of gelcoat to the glorious German nation.
We’re here, at the start of the Rally, and we’ve a few make and mend days before we set off on Tuesday. Time to service the engine, wash the boat and polish out the scratches… (think we might need more than a few days to get those scratches out…)
Our daily stats
7 hours for 44 Nautical miles, which averages over 6 knots. Nearly our shortest trip but fastest speed.
2 in a boat is our podcast that brings you the sailing and travel world of Suzanne and Andrew on their aged yacht Crystelle Venture.
You’ll join us along the way as we prepare for our longest sail yet, from Dartmouth, UK to St Petersburg, Russia. Our route takes us across the North Sea and around the Baltic this summer, a round trip of about 3000 nautical miles.
With a fab intro music written by our talented nephew, Joseph Turner, and artwork by our equally talented daughter, Jessica Caballero – it’s something of a family affair.
Warts and all live recording of our time sailing across Lyme Bay to Portland. Ever wondered what goes on during those long hours in a small cockpit on a yacht? Now’s your chance to eavesdrop and find out what Andrew and Suzanne get up to!
Just where have our 2 in a boat washed up now? They’ve spotted submarines, been boarded by the Dutch authorities, and now want to buy concrete sheep. Listen in to find out what on earth/on sea, has been going on.
At last our 2 intrepid sailors have made their way to the gateway to the river Elbe and the prospect of the Kiel canal looms. But what are our 2 in a boat talking about? Borkum, bikes and boys! Listen in to hear about their journey from Borkum to Cuxhaven, and all manner of other discussions.
Today is the day our 2 in a boat face one of their biggest fears, and most anticipated parts of their journey to the Baltic – going into the Keil canal (NOK). Find out how they got on in today’s episode.
Today we find our 2 in a boat preparing for the first official leg in their Baltic rally – from Warnemunde, Germany to Bornholm, Denmark. What have they done in the past few days and what are their thoughts on the rally? Join them on Crystelle Venture to catch up with our 2 in a boat.
It’s now only a few days away. And there’s so much to do before we leave our tranquil mooring on the River Dart, deep in beautiful Devon.
First up, we need to finish packing! What do you take when you are going to be away for around 3 months? I guess, being British, we pack clothes for all possible weather – rain, hail, snow, sun, more rain – probably in that order too. Sailing clothes, obviously, but how smart will we need to be for rally dinners in yacht clubs? And will there be fancy dress?
Charting our route
Andrew is in charge of the charts and everything to do with the boat itself. Our Baltic Rally handbook, supplied by the World Cruising Club, has been a great source of information, not only for the charts and books we’ll need, but also safety equipment, information on our route, and even how to apply for our Russian visas.
Sailing on our stomachs
And have we got enough food? An army marches on its stomach, and sailors sail on theirs. Our fridge is small, and our cupboard space restricted, plus it’s going to be difficult to get the right gas bottles for our cooker when we reach the Baltic. So quick, tasty and easy recipes. I’ve been through the Able and Cole recipes we get with our food boxes each week, and picked out some that hopefully will fit the bill. I’ve put in a big food order this week to stock up our larder. We’ll let you know which work.
We’ve been so busy getting Crystelle Venture in good order for the trip, and the weather having been so poor so far this year, we haven’t actually had chance to take her out for a proper shake down sail. So when we set off this coming Sunday, to make our way to the Baltic – that will be our first time out with our new sails!