Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Baltic Adventure Part 9: Day 5 - Pihlajasaari to Suomenlinna

Trip journal, 6/20/2012 - with a ton of supplemental photos! Click on any picture for details.

Our shortest day of sailing - literally maybe half an hour from launch to our arrival in Suomenlinna. We were glad that we skipped the extra loop around Helsinki Harbor we'd thought of adding to our sail to make a better sail because as it was, we got in right as it was getting full...

Actually we found a spot right away, and pulled on in, but then...

we took a better look at the boats to starboard, and then we took a better look...

at the boats to port, and then we took a look at our comfy, beamy, fiberglassy charter boat and went "hmmm". Capt. Kat went ashore to confirm the suspicion that had arisen as we regarded our elegant neighbors, and whaddayaknow, this was NOT the public dock! Oops.  Like we'd been saying ever since  Kat had completely put everyone at the kiosk in Elisaari in stitches when she first said it, "We're Americans, we don't know anything!" - but we were able to figure this one out before anyone had to come explain things to us! We pulled out of here & pretty quickly figured out that the public dock was the one across the basin that several boats had pulled into while we tied up at a private yacht club. Oops. 

We drove around in circles for an hour or so - fortunately there were lots of interesting things to look at while we did--

Outside view of the oldest functioning commercial drydock in the world (although we didn't know that yet) -
and all sorts of really interesting wooden boats - my wooden-boat-loving friends would be in heaven!

as we circled, other boats were coming in, some of them went ahead and negotiated with the earlier arrivals and squeezed into spots that we wouldn't have dared to (partly because we were in somebody else's boat, partly because negotiation requires language skills),

others joined us in the circling queue, and finally a very nice gentleman who was walking down the dock shouted out to us and indicated that he and his crew were about to leave. Their boat was at least the size of ours and they'd been tied up alongside the dock right at the end, we really couldn't have asked for a nicer spot - we felt VERY lucky. It was Midsummer's Eve, it was gorgeous weather, and by the evening there were close to 60 boats crowded into a harbor meant for 40. We were very relieved not to have had to negotiate snuggling up...this was the scene at the end of the dock at the end of the day, 5 boats shoehorned in in a spot that technically may not have been an official spot at all!
we did have somebody ask if they could raft up outside of us - we told they could, but we really needed to leave at 6 am (that was true), and they ended up tying up to the bulkhead instead (a few others did that too) - it was really, really tight!

We had a great lunch at a little cafe right by the marina - we'd been very good about eating on the boat up until then, but we'd driven in circles well into lunchtime and when we went ashore to pay our night's docking fee, I saw a dish of pasta with spinach and smoked salmon go by, begged the rest of the gang to have lunch there, and didn't have to beg too hard. It was a delicious lunch.

After that, we set out to explore. There are 4 islands in this little cluster, all attached by bridges. I think we could've spent a couple of days here easily -- I only made it to 2 of the 4, because I had to go see the Vesikko, Finland's only submarine - 

and go exploring in a boatyard,

and take more pictures of geese, and poke around the spooky tunnels in the fortress walls, and look at art exhibits, and go hunting for this famous apple pie with custard sauce at the Toy Museum Cafe (closed for Midsummer's, augh!) and I just generally failed to sightsee at the pace I would've had to maintain to get to all 4 islands. 
But I thoroughly enjoyed the parts I did manage to see - especially the boats. They have such lovely wooden boats here, all shapes and sizes -

and they have the world's oldest operating drydock -

It's just really a fascinating place to poke around.

I ended up buying my only souvenirs (assuming you don't count the reindeer soup, the Estonian liqueurs, and the moose sausage that I picked up to take home) here - early in the sightseeing, I got 2 little copper Vesikko pins (one for me, one in case my dad wants one), and then later on I went into a shop that features the work of the various craftspeople who have studios on the island. They had some beautiful vases, but I wasn't sure that I'd be able to get one home in one piece (plus they were displayed with a basket of glass balls in a window and I wasn't sure if just one would look as nice, especially without the illumination of the lovely Scandinavian midsummer sunlight) -
but they also had some inexpensive but very attractive pendants that looked like they'd travel better, and they had a couple in a beautiful shade of blue-green that reminded me of the water we'd been sailing on all week, so I got one of those.

We'd all split off for the sightseeing, but eventually found our way back to the Wesilind for appetizers, dinner, and a couple of drinks.

We heard the trumpeter that plays from the tower of Suomenlinna Church every night at 9, and there was lots of other music too, Midsummer's Eve felt fun and festive - in the cafe, there was crazy Finnish surf punk band playing -

handsome husky waits for his owners - 

out on the docks, everything felt very laid back - this guy had decided to take his kayak/tender out for a spin; other people were just hanging out on their boats, talking and laughing - 
the family with the kids who'd been fishing off the dock the night before had turned up here and the children were fishing again, actually caught a tiny little fish; on one boat I walked past as I made one of my last trips ashore for evening toilet (in both senses of the word), somebody was playing a guitar and was singing "Pretty Woman" in Finnish.

We were a little bit worried when a boatload of teenagers pulled up into the slip across from us and promptly strung up a beer bong from their rigging, but they weren't too awful. They were up a little later than we were, and they were drinking, and they were a little noisy, but I had just barely begun to wonder if I was going to have to go up and go all crabby-old-fart on their youthful okoles when they turned in for the night.

All in all, though, an absolutely splendid last day in Finland, and a nice break on shore between two 40-mile-plus sails.


Next day's plan - underway by 6 am and back across the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn. Wind was forecasted to be light - we planned to sail as much as we could, but we expected some motorsailing if we were going to get back when we were supposed to. Time to give the boat back! :(


JP said...

What a great place to visit!

I remember some of those lovely old wooden boats you nearly but not quite moored along side. I did wonder if some of them might have been square metre rule but couldn't find anyone to ask.

Good you got to hear some music but I got the feeling its hard to go anywhere in Helsinki without there being a live band somewhere.

bonnie said...

They were gorgeous. It was like walking into a room and looking around and realizing that everybody else in the room is a supermodel.

They must have some amazing regattas here!

Wouldn't it have been fun if we'd just been here a few weeks earlier? Although if it had been a few weeks earlier, I wouldn't have been able to do it, would've still been wrapping up budget season.

I actually missed one of the really spectacular wooden boats - we had just discovered the building where they are building a 68-foot long oar and sail powered gunboat when I realized that I'd left my purse at the cafe. We'd just begun sightseeing at that point and so my friends checked out the gunboat while I ran back to retrieve it (fortunately it was still there). That's really going to be something to see in action when they finish it!

Buck said...

An exquisite travelogue.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your adventure!!

O Docker said...

How could you not know that was a private dock? The sign clearly says:


bonnie said...

Thanks, Buck! I've had such a good time putting this whole series together. I've milked that trip for all it's worth, haven't I? Only my trip home to Hawaii for my 25th high school reunion comes close to being something I've so thoroughly enjoyed blogging about.

O-Docker - All together now (except Tillerman & Capt JP!) - big grin and -

"We're American! We don't know anything!"

That's our excuse and we're sticking to it!

JP said...

Fair to say I'd not get that sign either, though Buff would try to blag his way into stay there anyhow.

bonnie said...

"We're Australian, Mate!"