Thunder & Sun

Trip Start Apr 29, 2011
Trip End Sep 03, 2011

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Flag of Finland  , Southern Finland,
Saturday, July 23, 2011

We slept like logs and were more or less ready to leave when the sunny day dramatically came to a close with a thunderstorm and torrential rain. And then, more or less as quickly as it started, it disappeared to be followed by bright sun again. With this, we upped anchor and set off, next stop Hanko, on the 'bottom left hand corner of the Finland mainland and a popular holiday destination as well as being an important harbour – the latter, as according to the pilot, because the port stays ice free longer than other Finnish ports. It was only 15 miles or so to Hanko and as soon as the wind lifted sufficiently to enable us to make some way under sail, we stopped the engine and quietly drifted along at around 3.5 knots, downwind and under genoa alone. The wind did increase as the morning passed and we were soon doing a more respectable 5 knots. One piece of excitement was that we both saw a seal – the Baltic Seal is sadly quite rare and persecuted, so we wished this one luck after it sounded.

Hanko has several harbours for yachts but the pilot recommends the two in the east harbour, one on an island and very expensive and one on the mainland and cheaper - no prizes for guessing which one we opted for. It was supposed to be €25 per night as opposed to the more expensive island alternative at €35, but prices have changed and it was €28 including electricity, for very average and quite dirty facilities and limited times when the showers were available – in other words, not very impressive. Still, it was a central spot and we had a berth and we thought we'd pretty much filled up the available slots but we had yet to experience the determination of a Finn when he wants to park his boat. Basically, fenders are put on each side and then you push your boat between others, heaving on stanchions, shrouds, guard rails – anything to gain you extra inches of forward progress. It is quite remarkable to watch and it works! We are like sardines as I type this.

After lunch, we thought it time to explore the town but one look at the sky put us on an alternative course of action (see photo). We hastily erected the cockpit canopy and watched the action as the thunderstorm came over. Very impressive it was and it lasted, on and off, for the better part of the afternoon, to be replaced by bright sunshine again by 17:30. Our period of enforced captivity enabled me to catch up with the blog and additional negative points here, the only access to wifi is in a cafe nearby, the harbour does not provide it. As I type this my sous-chef is preparing the vegetables for a stir-fry and after dinner, we will go to the cafe for coffee and blog and mail updating session.

Around 16:30 when the rain had more or less ceased, we exited our humid surroundings and went for a walk. The eastern area of Hanko was favoured by wealthy Russians in the past and they built elegant wooden houses for their summer retreats. These houses survive today and many of them have been converted to small hotels and very nice they look too.  During our meanderings, we also saw the water tower and the evocative memorial to the 250,000 Finns that emigrated from here in the 50 years after 1880 – 3 cranes flying out to sea. It was then back to the boat time and finishing off the blog. Tomorrow, we take our first steps towards the archipelago, with Turku as our northernmost point, in all probability.

One final note – Finland is expensive, most things here are significantly dearer than at home. One example is Schweppes tonic water – now at home we buy Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s or whoevers but I’m quite sure that a litre and a half of Schweppes doesn’t cost well over 3.00! Ditto my favourite cider, Aspall’s Organic Suffolk Cyder – normally about 1.70 in the UK and at that price, only as a treat. Here, although admittedly I was surprised to see it all, it was €4.79. Quite a difference.
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