perjantai 25. elokuuta 2017

ICOYC-cruise Marianhamina-Helsinki by Ragan Peck, day 4

Leaving Jurmo

Couldn’t leave Jurmo without stopping in the harbor store one last time! The salmon is delicious, and the carrot cake and the buns! And the expensive beer. What a place. After we left I heard some history of the island I had missed, Jurmo was full of wreckers and around about 1700’s-ish the King of Sweden ordered the island to be burned. Perhaps this is a rumor or true. Perhaps they burned seal fat to make such false markers. The entire island, plants, house, all of it, burned. Beautiful as the island is now with even small raspberries growing on the shore, all of it is hard to imagine, false markers and fires to lure seafarers, let alone people living on a little icy rock year round. 

Alas off we head! To somewhere? It is enchanting, exciting to not know. And so we sail for a decent amount of time, put up two hammocks, everyone lays about like seals until… tack. So then we come upon our midday destination. The entrance to the town – the islands harbor is a series of turns, switch backs, blind corners, but such lovely little inlets and such a narrow passage. We arrive at Borstö!

Se upp för vormar! Varokaa Käärmeita! Beware of snakes (and ticks)! There a sign with a cartoon puss in boots, use boots when you walk in the forest, Welcome to Borstö! As we leave the dock, Lauri is slack lining on one of the lines to the Svanhild. I am pretty sure this is the life. 

We go see the the old lady of Borstö, she is amazing, the patina and blackened textures of the old wooden bowsprit is beautiful, somehow the textures of her clothing are even more ornate. On the nature walk it leads to a beautiful vista and some old Viking ruins. The ruins are a maze of sorts, from where you begin is where you end. It’s unclear the use, ritual, game or otherwise. Back at the ship the water is too luring and it was a nice quick swim, much warmer than the sea at home, about the same temp as the lake. The Baltic is like lightly giant salty lake. 


Departing Borstö another good sail ahead. The conditions favorable, sunny and gorgeous, though there could have been more wind? At any rate, hammock up, tack, hammock down, and around again. Rough life. The crew has magically transformed us into semi-functional crew, we are grateful. 

In transit we pass the Captains brother as he saddles his sail boat right up next to us they yell across jovial jests. Wonderful surprise to us. 

We near our destination, furl the sails, fenders out ready to come in and not 80 feet from the pier the guy on the pier calls off our approach, arms in a ”X”. Unexpected. Fortunately around the corner the freight dock is there, where we may moor to. Swim, Sauna, Swim! Thank you!

This is the island of Örö. Apparently if you call ahead you should not trust what they say… but it is of course a beautiful place like everywhere in the archipelago. It was a military installation until most recently, now it is some kind of preserve. There are great vistas, protected harbors, supposedly seals and at least one mink we saw running along the shore. The chef is for sure trying to fatten us up for the next part of this fairy tale, he served some perfectly cooked beef and roast vegetables. That was enough for one day. 

keskiviikko 16. elokuuta 2017

ICOYC-cruise Marianhamina-Helsinki Day 3, Ragan Peck

Ragan Peck

Day 3

Kökar > Jurmo

As easy as it was to moor at the dock the night before in Kökar, the departure was unique. The dingy away – our chef revved the engine of the dingy as leaned into the bow of the Svanhild, pushing, edging, urging the sleeping giant out of bed. Turned 90 degrees about the started the engine. Fairwell to funny Kökar, and the seeming permanent garage sale at the dock.

It was a beautiful and partially sunny day, we clipped along on our way somewhere? As the American saying a working guest is a happy guest and they indeed let us help. As we paused outside a harbor for the night we had to wait for the ferry to leave before we could come into the narrow area we could moor for the evening.

Landing at Jurmo the first sight I see is someone, loading things into a big brick thing, an oven? It is next to a huge fire wood pile and yes – yes indeed this is Salmon being loaded into the smoker.

Jurmo’s harbor store: A little wood building with a patio out front. Inside the walls lined with every age and provance of liquor bottle. Fresh veggies, beautiful spring onions, cakes, buns, the wafting aroma of cardamom and sweet. They had tourist goods, fancy alpaca yarn presumable from the local alpaca and cute knit goods. Most importly beer!

One can also rent bikes from the store – the island is partially a nature preserve. We met the local alpacas! Very cute, free roaming and they were looking hand outs. We found the tiny church with a ship of course hanging from the ceiling, the wood ceilings curved like a ship are also very nice.

The barren landscape make it hard to imagine living here in the winter but it is a beautiful place. I am sure by kilometers we are not far from larger towns but this feels like some edge of the world, far far away.

torstai 10. elokuuta 2017

ICOYC-cruise Marianhamina-Helsinki by Regan Peck, day 2

Day 2

Breakfast with the addition of some hot fresh rolls followed by a route review from the Captain. Today we will voyage to Kökar, The conversation diverges, the Captain's military service, Finland has mandatory military service. 6 months to 1 year to be an officer. However, Ålanders do not have to serve in the conscripted service. With the nearest neighbor to the south/east: Russia, “we must always be on our toes”. 

The Captain notes as an summer affair some fisherman aloft in Åland islands sometimes spots some small submarine and a hunt ensues. So while they don’t have to serve they are protected weather they desire it or not.

Additionally from a Finn's perspective they cannot buy land in Åland, foreigners even their own countrymen as it were are not allowed ownership. Our land for our people. I image this maintains a good character and sense of place keeping it small with less development, but who knows – centuries and centuries of conflict and tradition are manifest and still evolving. 

Kokär 3000 years a go for seals. People lived here 1000 and in Viking age it was too dangerous to live on Kokär (Chirka) but there was a church. The Hansa route went through this area hence the francescian monks … then 1784 made a church aka santa Anna – first born girl always named Anna. The steeple was used for navigation. 

The ship in the church was pirate ship and the man from Kokär was captured by some Dutch pirates and he said if he was freed he would return to Kokär and rebuilt the ship he was held captive on – he escaped, returned, built the ship and gave it to the church. 

tiistai 1. elokuuta 2017

ICOYC-cruise Marianhamina-Helsinki by Regan Peck, day 1

Svanhild osallistuu heinäkuun lopulla kansainväliseen pursiseurojen eskaaderiin Marianhaminasta Helsinkiin. Mukana purjehtivan Regan Peckin blogi purjehduksesta alkaa tästä.

Day 1, July 30, 2017: Anticipation mixed with leisure. 
Gloves? Check. Passengers, ya I think they are all here. So many questions and curiosities:  SVANHILD, The vessel crafted in 1948 just after the war. Now, beautiful, wood with three brand new masts, sails and crisp rigging. The SYC passengers curious how this 90 foot vessel will navigate out of the tight moorage and buoys of the ÅSS. So simple – a nudge from the dingy and a stern line – a beautiful tight corner and away we go. 

Prior night was slept on SVANHILD – wake to the sounds of water, holds being filled, four tons of water, and a little washing. The sun, a classic soft box of overcast. 
Still moored to the ÅSS marina, two of the large ferries (cruise ships really, of the Viking Line are at Port off the stern). The  ÅSS Marina, in the Nation of Äland (Ohh-laand), town of Mariehamn, (Maria – a lady, perhaps a Russian settlers/czar mistress? And Hamn – port). The pronunciation of Åland makes me think of Our Land. This land is our land, this truly seems to be the sentiment of the people.

While a part of Finland, Åland is its own Nation, independent but seemingly with an oppressor… the sentiment of minority seems universal, their national language is Swedish, not Finnish. They enjoy some independent status within the EU and Finnish rule, they own the massive Viking Line of ferries (cruise style ships), they have a gambling and liquor monopoly. These put to full advantage on the Viking Line, which offers duty free goods, gambling, state rooms, night clubs, buffets in transit from Sweden, Stockholm; Åland; and further to Finland: Turku and Helsinki. They do pay taxes to Finland which by popular opinion voiced in conversation seems unfair. From American standards the living seems very nice, perhaps you get what you pay for in some ways. Complete health care, low crime, low homeless population, clean towns and roads, college with out debt for all. 

Chef set out a breakfast of porridge, jam, yogurt, fruits, coffee and teas. The Finnish crew steady about work, fixing everything for the voyage. The passengers all from the Seattle Yatch Club (SYC) are eager but groggy.

The Svanhild and fifty others like her were commissioned after the WWIi as freight vessels, transporting timber but mostly sand, to rebuild the bombed out Helsinki. Sand was used for mortar, concrete and the likes. In the late 60’s the Svanhild was decommissioned, fortunately the mast were left in tack and she was purchased by the current owners c.1970. 
Svanhild, perhaps femine name of the 1800’s, was originally rigged as a ketch and  in the year of our Trump, 2016, was changed to a top sail schooner rigging with three masts.  The cargo hull was converted in the 70’s to eight cabins, a large dining perhaps to seat twice as many , a large galley (putting to shame most NYC kitchens), 3 wc's, and a sauna. 
Captain Jouni, proud of the new rigging inform us of the three rules: 
1. Don’t fall off
2. No smoking below deck
3. If someone falls off don’t lose sight of them. Watch, call for help and through stuff that floats. Anything that floats and don’t jump in. 

Off we venture into the alabaster gray morning light. thirty minutes out of the harbor, sails unfurled, raised along with the four jibs: all 300 square meters of surface area lofting along the 12 SYC passengers + 4 crew + 4 tons of water. 

The islands as we pass seem to many as our home San Juan's however they have a Maine like feel, lower with just the tips of boulders and rocks visible. Soils are sparse and vegetation is  low, Alpine like and miniature. Small pines with roots gnarled on rocks. The tiniest blueberry plants overloaded, tiny snapdragons. The Northwest's monsters of firs, cedars, Huckleberry, Madrona + hoards of invading blackberries some sci-fi Roccoco dream by comparison the reserved bounty here in Åland. The house seem similar – rarely ostentatious.  One can imagine the European settlers dismay at the steroid landscapes upon the Oregon Trail. For all that this archipelago resembles things we know, it is not the same.
 The simple vastness of islands is hard to comprehend, it is a constellation. Counting the islands of this archipelago, spanning from Stockholm to Helsinki may be a mad pursuit. From this foreigner's eye it is a fantasy kingdom. 

Blue patches opened above, the Svanhild under sail in the sun passing the town of Degerby – what a thing of beauty. 

At some point our route broke from the path of the rest of our regatta, at the depth we no more that 1.8 meters and Captain Jouni took us through the shipping channels. The channels of open water were smooth with little current (compared to the NW). Cue the ferries! Which really are massive cruise ships that zip on by so close. To our surprise their wake is minimal, though they are still shocking in scale. Late in the afternoon, five below of their horn blare across the water – surprised to see the imence Viking Line Grace?, but it is still far from our path they blow their horns again, wondering what the trouble is – then, there we spot it, a sail boat, seeming so tiny crossing in front of the cruise ship thing, it made it, it cleared in just enough time. That must have been some rush for those sailors. 

Benö Ö, (Ö is Swedish for Island) we arrive with our excellent crew, after 7-1/2 hours of sailing, they determine to tie off to a rock face for the evening. An outlandish concept to the SYC passengers aboard. Tides would make this impossible in Seattle, but as it is in this foreign land their simply are NO large shifts in tides. They scout the area with the dingy determine over walkie talkie the plan, toss the tires (aka buoys) in below the water line and best up to the shore spooning the rock face. Alas, this is how it is done. There are already spikes akin to rail road ties sunk in the boulder. 

A sauna below deck is stoked and ready, a jump off the deck into the Baltic Sea, the bay of Benö-Ö. Finally a head full of salt, but only sort of... the Baltic inst very salty. It’s seems like a mildly salty lake. The seaweeds look like things we’d find in lakes. There’s practically no tide as in a lake. Finally the lands are rising. In these low islands, the land is rising 5mil a year. Another perplexing effect of this constellation of islands. 

The Chef offered a lovely pork shoulder – delicate and hearty with a delicious lite glaze. And here we are marooned on this Schooner somewhere in the Baltic Sea for 5 more days.