Finland has taught me more about myself than anywhere else I have sailed. I am so glad not to have ‘chickened out’, running back to Sweden the moment sailing became challenging and I found myself out of my depth, extended more than ever before.
Finland is a tough teacher, tolerating no fools, because they simply could not survive the rigours of precision and nerve needed to navigate the coast and its thousands of tiny islands that comprise a necklace of marine complexity, rarely encountered outside of the northern Baltic. Quite simply, there is no way you can ‘fake it’ up here, for you would soon be punished for your inexperience and shortcomings. Once the fundamentals are in place, the archipelagos from Raahe down to Vaasa are stunning, and one could be forgiven for forgetting there is a so called ‘real world’ out there beyond the glittering diamonds of the sun soaked inlets that caress the forested islands.
Personally, Tankar was the turning point for me. I had time to evaluate many questions about my ability as a sailor and more importantly, an experienced seafarer. Experience creeps up on you over the years, and when one reflects, it is hard to believe just how many miles have passed beneath the keel of this old motor-sailer and her even older Skipper. I crossed the Gulf of Bothnia to Sweden yesterday, having left from the tiny island of Hummelskäret, in a dead flat calm with barely a ripple on the sea, quite unnerving, as if at any moment something catastrophic would happen; a simmering sense of impending climatic nastiness.
Thankfully, I made it over with nothing more than diesel expense from running Polly the whole distance. Today however, is a different story, as I lie sheltered near Umeå. A raging gale is hammering the sea wall as I write and the rain is nothing short of torrential. I whisper a quiet ‘thank you’ to the Holy Spirit. The previous day, when arriving at Hummelskäret, after the usual white-knuckle dance through the transits and buoys, I felt like I’d passed through a portal into the past. Ahead in the tiny harbour was an old sailing ship from the sixteen hundreds! (Actually, she was a replica!)
I soon became engrossed, and introduced to a lovely group of Finnish sailors and enthusiasts who had sailed her here from Vaasa. They showed me around and we spent a pleasant morning sharing adventures. Delightful! My only regret, was having to leave so soon due to the impending, aforementioned weather forecast; however, it was a wonderful climax to my Finnish experience and I wish my new friends all the best with their future venture.
Here is their website should you express and interest. It is possible to sail with them too, a chance to experience the unusual, rare beauty of Finland in a less touristy manner: http://www.postijahti.fi
Southward bound is my aim now. South, back towards the High Coast again. Unfortunately the westerly gales have arrived and I am noticing a pattern, which if sustained, will make my return voyage, very time consuming. I am involved in a game of ‘cat and mouse’ with the high winds and particularly nasty steep seas, that can make steerage extremely difficult at the best and downright perilous at the worst. Gone are the gentle breezes that enabled Free to sail so elegantly north and it seems that we are back to hammering into choppy, malevolent seas in short distances. Ah well, such is the life of a sailor who has chosen to sail in latitudes parallel to Iceland in late August… What else can she expect?