Our last destination in the Åland archipelago was the small island of Sottunga. It was a brief overnight stay, but we had time to visit another church very close to the harbour, and this one was especially pretty. It was built of wood and you could tell it’s age by the thick coat of red iron oxide paint on the cladding boards and roof shingles.
We headed southeast from Sottunga and sailed in the most wonderful broad reach most of the day. For a long while there was another boat about the size of ours, sailing side by side with us. Finally, we had found someone who did not immediately overtake us! We were rejoicing in our great performance, until we realised the other boat had reefed her sails substantially. We had full sail and we were just barely keeping up! But then the wind started to blow harder. Soon the other boat was lagging behind, but our little bluewater cruiser found her true element – she was flying! It was a thrilling feeling with the wind and the waves and the spray in the air, and I particularly appreciate these moments of exhilaration, when there is a certain safety involved. We knew we could trust this little boat to handle the situation, and she sailed beautifully!
In the late afternoon we arrived on the island of Aspö in the Archipelago Sea. It had a well protected harbour that already seemed to be full of boats, but as always, there was a spot just the right size left for us. These little boats are called pocket cruisers for a reason!
Aspö turned out to be one of the brightest highlights of our whole trip. Especially now that I see (way too early!) first snow from my window, I look at these sunny pictures of blue skies and even deeper blue sea , and I can vividly remember the time in July we spent on this little island.
It was a very authentic island community that would welcome everyone to be a part of it. We never felt like we were just tourists here – it was easy and natural to talk to people, whether they were other sailors or local fishermen, shopkeepers, or summer house guests. This might not seem so unusual to someone who has sailed in the Caribbean or other such laid back cruising areas, perhaps even as close as Sweden (where we didn’t manage to sail this summer). But we Finns are generally a somewhat crude and stolid bunch who prefer not to talk to strangers, so I feel it was definitely worth mentioning.
We had been literally starving for some fresh fish, and disappointed because we hadn’t found any in Åland, so you can imagine our excitement when we smelled smoke coming out of a fish smokery. And with the selection they had – from smoked salmon and perch to salted whitefish and the many cold smoked varieties – we just couldn’t make up our minds. So we got a bit of everything, and had the most wonderful dinner!
In addition to being an island of happy people and a gourmet lover’s paradise, Aspö has the most spectacular views to offer – to the south the island of Jurmo we had visited earlier, and to the north the endless maze of islands stretching as far as the eye could see. No wonder they called this place the Archipelago Sea!