We need to talk about Kevin (Finland)!

Here I am in a tiny little harbour called Marjaniemi, approximately forty five miles south of Kemi on the island of Hailuoto, to the west of Oulu.

I couldn’t face another town right now after three days waiting in Kemi for the wind to change… It didn’t, so it was necessary to plow my way through an excruciating choppy sea for nearly fifty miles. This ticks all the correct boxes for torture: expensive(diesel), uncomfortable (big waves for hour after hour) and a tricky approach when exhausted. This, dear reader, is the boat living no one tells you about!

Err...  Which way? Negotiating the way through the wind farm off Ajo Islamd, south of Kemi.

Err… Which way? Negotiating the way through the wind farm off Ajo Islamd, south of Kemi.

For this reason I decided that no matter how pleasant Oulu may be, A detour was necessary to avoid the customary five extra miles up to the city and five miles out again. No matter how different cities are supposed to be, they all have certain features which are the same: noisy, expensive, less friendly and hectic. Kemi was much more friendly than most European towns south of Scandinavia, but I have generally found that to be typical of the far north; a polite and more reserved way of conducting affairs, that includes helping strangers. Don’t misunderstand me, I am a city girl, but living in one is fine for all the practicalities; however, visiting is not my cup of tea, if you will. Once you have sampled the differences, they are just the same… Places with lots of folk in close proximity.

The title of this missive is a play on the disturbing novel and film that some of you may have seen/read. Please don’t think that I have a negative view of Finland. Let me say that most of the people are charming, friendly and helpful, and the coast is very beautiful in its own unique way.

So why do we ‘need to talk about Finland’?

One of the reasons that Finland is such a difficult place to sail is due to a geological phenomenum from the ice age, isostasy. Scandinavia was pressed down for millions of years by a huge weight of ice, which after melting, released the resultant pressure.

So what?

Well…. The whole region has been slowly rising over the years and the sea therefore becoming shallower. There are now rocks creeping towards the surface as we speak! Seriously, charts a few years ago are different than those of today; thus it is possible to fall foul of an addition to the local seascape, if you will. Sweden has the same problem but the advantage of much deeper water around the rocks.

I motored just outside the shipping lane to get some depth under my keel.

I motored just outside the shipping lane to get some depth under my keel.

One of the most disconcerting aspects of the northern Finnish coast is that the predominant winds blow you onshore, a serious hazard where shelter is so limited, plus the piling up of nasty waves on a shallow seabed. This is evil stuff, to be sure.

I am an experienced sailor as many of you will know from following this website, but I can honestly say that this is the toughest and most frustrating place I have sailed in thus far. Please let me qualify that I am writing only of the far north of Finland and this needs some explanation. Here I am yet again stuck in a harbour waiting for another storm to pass and then beg the gods for a sympathetic wind to help me south before the terrifying prospect of being marooned up here for winter, with no facilities. This is a very remote place indeed, and I can’t help feeling a little scared right now. Never have my seafaring credentials been so tested.

The northeastern part of the Gulf of Bothnia is like a massive corral. Once you are stuck in here it is awfully difficult to break out. As previously mentioned, winter can come at almost any time this far north and it is crucial to make some sea miles to reach relative safety. At some point I have to sail across the Gulf to Sweden again, thus timing is crucial, and so is the shortest point between the two countries. This will be near Vaasa, back to Umeå.

Marjaniemi, a typical small Finnish harbour with just enough shelter to ride out a storm.

Marjaniemi, a typical small Finnish harbour with just enough shelter to ride out a storm.

This brings me to another problem: the distances between safe harbours on the Finnish coast are large. From Marjaniemi I must reach Raahe, a twenty five mile sail. After that it is a large fifty seven mile passage to Kokkola. Don’t forget that these are nautical miles, and a sea mile is a tough mile!
All of this depends on the weather. Once committed, then one is very much in the lap of the gods because a sudden change has to be confronted. Unlike most places, there’s no where to run on a very dangerous, shallow, rocky coast. Quite simply it is out to sea and hove to, watching all the while for stray merchant ships and trawlers. Let’s not even contemplate fog!

The sailing life is a good life in so many ways, but like any thing else, it has its down side. The reality rarely reaches the marina bar or the armchair novel. I have tried to be brave for so long now but I know my limitations, and right now I am pretty close to them.


About Viking Queen

I am a sailor and I live on my boat 'Free'. I have no home but originate from Tyneside. I have no allegiance, just a desire to do no harm and live with courage and an open heart.
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20 Responses to We need to talk about Kevin (Finland)!

  1. cornishtim says:

    Take care, keep strong. The Camino WILL provide!

    • Viking Queen says:

      Thanks Tim. Yes, my shell is with me on the boat now as the thunder and lighting remind me. And I am so happy to witness this intensity of life! Maybe I’ve finally lost it!

  2. Wanderluster says:

    Best of luck getting out of northern Finland and thank you for being honest about the life of a sailor. It is too easy for people (especially myself) to romanticize the life of a sailor. Though all things considered it still seams pretty amazing.

    • Viking Queen says:

      Thanks for your perceptive feedback. Don’t be too hard on yourself, it can be romantic, and often is, but I’m at the budget, ‘must make do’ end of things, so it can be tough at times!

  3. Liz Poole says:

    Hang in there Poppy, trust yourself. Liz x

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Viking Queen says:

      Thanks Liz! Seven hours now for this storm, and I am thanking God that I am sheltered. I’ve not seen anything as bad since Free was struck by lightning in the Gulf of Taranto in 2008.

  4. What a saga Poppy, but you’ll hang on as ever. I feel sure of that. You and Free are too much of a pair! Thinking of good seas,winds, sails and safe havens ahead. Ruth

  5. Seawarrior says:

    Time to cue up Cream’s TALES OF BRAVE ULYSSES or maybe some Wagner.

  6. Wow, this is getting very serious. I hope it all went well. I guess I will find out in the next post. I’ll cross my fingers for you. What maritime experience you are accumulating!

    • Viking Queen says:

      Yes… Now I am committed and initially I felt like abandoning it and sailing across to Sweden again… But how can that be brave? I still have to look at myself in the mirror. Where would my dignity be then?

      • By the sounds of it, you would have regretted it for ever and a day if you didn’t give it your best go.

      • Viking Queen says:

        You are correct. Folk sometimes need to understand that your reputation is all that you leave behind. That was in one of the sagas, but the name escapes me. I don’t want to look back and see the yellow streak!

      • Oh this is so interesting. I haven’t read all the sagas, just a few snippets here and there. What you have accomplished in your life is like nothing short of amazing. An inspiration for all with your tenacity, perseverance, and fortitude. When things get tough, you have no choice but to rely on yourself, and your strength and wits, and you always pull through. That surely is a legacy that will live on forever. A saga for modern times and how appropriate that the setting is Scandinavia.

      • Viking Queen says:

        Great compliments and I thank you; however, I never really see myself like that. It is one day at a time, one hour at a time, and when things get really tough… One moment at a time. That is all any of us have really. Life itself is like this, I believe. The human heart is massive. Certainly, the sagas have always inspired me. I asked myself, how can folk do these things and survive?

      • So very true, Poppy. Too many of us have minds filled with the past or what we are going to do in the future and miss the beauty in the present moment. I am sure you would have noticed this more intensely during your Camino experience.

      • Viking Queen says:

        True Amanda. Reading Eckhart Tolle’s book, ‘The power of now’, many years ago, moulded my life into what I am doing today. There’s no way to sugar coat living in a fantasy. So many do, and no amount of justification can change it. We have to do it ourselves.

      • I will have to see if I can find that book. It sounds interesting.

      • Viking Queen says:

        A life saver.

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