A cruise between the thousand of islands of the Aland archipelago is pure magic, unless one is a compulsive tropical sailor. Even if the gin-tonic-cold water looks Nescafe and there are more underwater rocks than Iphones, the light would be enough to make the trip worthwhile.
– amazing scenery and thousand of picture-perfect islands;
– calm waters along most of the route;
– challenging, never boring sailing in channels and coves;
– Mariehamn, home of one of the last real sailing ships ever made;
– the emotion of sailing into Stockholm
Baltic Cruise 2016
– April 20 to May 10: Tallinn to Stockholm
– June 15 to July 1: Stockholm to Goteborg via Gotha Canal
– July 25 to September 5: weekly cruises in Sweden and Denmark
Sailing in Finland
Due to the sheer impossibility of charting every channel and marking every rock, the clever Finns thought it better to pick some direct channels and mark those well. Get out and you’re on your own. So here we sail in a liquid Kitzbuhel of green and red poles among white swans, pink islets and mauve pine trees. So all far from boring, being the use of the autopilot impossible, and the helmsman required to have feline eyesight. Wind can be easily downhill strong, but waves rarely sneak too deep between the boulders. On the contrary fetch in the gulf of Finland and the northern Baltic can be as long as Poland, thus making for some funny surfing.
One of the nicest things to keep you busy is the choice of the anchorage, because when you have abundance, than anything less than perfect would be annoying. Each captain here can choose a cove with his name, provided you do not happen to let go in front of a private house because the natives are very jealous of their privacy. Which is strange, considering they spend their free time boiling naked all together in tiny saunas. But the reason appears clearly at sunset when the majesty of the show is such that I can understand one does not want anything artificial between the porch and Amon Ra.
Mariehamn is the main harbor of this supposedly tax-free archipelago, although prices do not seem that charming when you go to the wine shop. The same lack of charme, especially when compared to Estonia or Sweden, seems to pervade the fantasy of local architects, because most houses look like big nokia phones. Practical, yes, probably cheap, again yes, but not exactly fascinating. But the reasons to visit Mariehamn are others. The first is to cross the 60th parallel. Does not seem much, but it means that you are sailing something like 2280 kilometers North of New York. Not bad. The second is the Pommern: to many the name just means a region in Germany, to the passionate sailor it means one of the last famous Flying-Ps, the iron sailing schooners which kept racing the seas between Australia and Europe carrying grain until the late 40s. We are talking about 100 meters long, 60 meters tall and 4000 tons heavy things with acres of canvas that could log 400 miles a day, records that few ships could beat in those days. Most of these ships, skippered by avid masters, plunged with all hands around Cape Horn and the Falklands. Others, like those managed by the legendary Gustaf Erikson, survived. One can freely go around the decks, holds and cabins alike.
The december wild but may scented Aland Islands end not far from mariehamn, and after 25 miles of open waters one enters the Skagard, the famed Swedish archipelago. It’s 60 miles to Stockholm and rock after rock wilderness leaves more and more space to romanticism. The islands gets bigger and less scraggy. The red structures on top of them are basic huts at first, then cosy cabins with a small dock, then well designed villas with important docks and saunas and finally, in places, bewildering mansions with a private port not far from Stockholm.
Allmansrätten is a key word in Sweden. All men right, literally, meaning that nature is a common good and no one can claim rights on it. That is why here you are welcome to disembark on any Island and enjoy a nice walk, providing of course you respect the owner’s privacy. Quite a difference from Finland where wandering sailors have been denounced for trespassing.
The labyrinth of islands and channels is incredible and ne can get lost around here, even with a chart! Still the difficult navigation is amply rewarded by the sheer beauty of the place, this is really one of the most beautiful places on Earth. And Stockholm is at the center of it.
The city was founded in a convenient location: it’s both a freshwater and a saltwater port. To the West, miles of lakes. To the East and South, a milky Way of Islands. So a perfect port city, and yachts are more than welcome. You can literally moor anywhere in town and enjoy its cultural and mundane life.