When our friends came to visit us from Finland, it was time to shake off the winter slumber and get to know our surroundings for real. Of course, we had completed a few boat projects every now and then, and taken our folding bikes on dozens of tours around the neighbouring villages and countryside – not to mention spending those socially packed weeks in Finland at the darkest time of the year. Still, life in our winter base had been pretty quiet compared to the fireworks of these couple of weeks that the four of us toured around Brittany! I wrote previously about our visits to Mont-Saint-Michel and the city of Dinan, and now the journey continues!
Our boatyard visit in Gdansk was supposed to be a quick two week pit stop on our way far, far south from the Baltic Sea. We ended up staying for five weeks – partly because we kept having new ideas the whole time while observing the work in progress. The end result, a stern arch that accommodates a sizable array of solar panels and quite a lot of other equipment, is a piece of excellent workmanship, so the visit was definitely worth it. Now we should be able to produce all our electricity, without the need of sailing to marinas to plug in.
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.
The northen Åland archipelago was a turning point of our holiday trip. From here on, we would be heading east, homeward. But the holiday was by no means over, there were still many beautiful islands to visit and interesting places to see. After another sunny day of downwind sailing we happened upon the island of Vårdö in the eastern Åland. It was only a 6 hour’s sail or so, but the landscape had changed from rugged, rocky hills to rolling, green fields and lush orchards full of apples. We tied up to a quiet, peaceful dock with only a handful of other boats. The village itself was a bit further away, but we found two bicycles parked by the dock, free for the marina guests to use for their shopping trips. We immediately decided to try them out, as the shop would still be open for a while.
The horizon in the Baltic sea can seem vast, but the distance to the opposite shore is never very great. Sailing to Sweden was one of our plans for the holiday, but we wanted to make it further west before crossing the open sea between Finland and Sweden. We travelled in the outer archipelago, navigating through passages between the islands and rocks that dot the coastline like a maze.
It’s exciting to arrive to a new place in the middle of the night, not knowing what you will see as you wake up the next morning. We had arrived on an island called Jussarö, in the archipelago of southern Finland, about 50 nm west of Helsinki. It was raining, and the whole landscape around us was like a grey watercolour painting. On our morning walk, we found a café, a sauna, a small passenger ferry tied up to its pier – all locked up and abandoned for the winter to come. We were still on our summer holiday, but it sure didn’t feel like it anymore! But we seemed to have this large island all to ourselves, so we might as well make the most of it!
Can you imagine what seafaring was like in the the year 1500?