Date: July 12th to July 25th
Distance : 94 miles
Weather : Wind and rain - mostly!
We found Helsinki fascinating. We spent a week there and still didn't cover everything.
We took a couple of day trips. One was to Porvoo, a town about 30 miles east of Helsinki, noted for its old houses and being where the poet Johan Runeberg lived (yeah, right...). More importantly, it also houses a museum of outboard motors.
The original plan was to go there via steamer and return via 'vintage train'. This failed at the first hurdle, as being a Saturday, the steamer was full, so we decided to go by the train, and return by 'normal' bus.
The 'vintage' train leaves Helsinki once a week, returning in the evening. It turned out to be 5 or 6 1930s railcars coupled together, and had a top speed of about 15 miles an hour. Seats cannot be reserved so there is the most enormous scrum (a bit like the Ryanair boarding call) to get on the train and get a seat from the thousands of tourists also planning to take the journey. The train had almost no ventilation and the journey takes over 2 hours, so it was a bit like a sauna. By contrast, the return journey by air-conditioned bus took 1 hour, and cost half the price. Neither of us is currently owning up to suggesting the train idea.
Porvoo itself is OK, but actually nothing to write home about. J L Runebergs house is fine, if you like that sort of thing (but I suppose you have to be Finnish) and the church is interesting. The 'gamla' part of town is quite small and full of shops selling knick-knacks (i.e. rubbish). We missed the outboard museum (damn).
One thing we noticed is that this must be the Finnish wedding season. We've been in the crowd for about 6 weddings so far, and these we just happen to be passing. In Porvoo, two weddings were taking place within 50 yards of one another, and I swear the wedding march tunes as the happy couple walked out were synchronised.
We also took a day out by fast ferry to Tallin, capital of Estonia. We went ostensibly to get some booze, and I suppose I expected something like the Calais drink hypermarkets. What I got was a strange kind of indoor market selling all sorts of rubbish from replica guns to binoculars and bad ethnic clothing. The booze shops were the size of a garage, only seemed to sell Vodka, and that from behind the counter. On the plus side though, it was cheap.
Tallin old town is very picturesque, and we spent an interesting hour in the old town hall which has been tastefully preserved and has an interesting history (Tallin was ruled by the aldermen, who sat in the town hall, and anything they said, went). We ate in a 'gamle' restaurant, serving 'old style' food which, actually was rather good. At least it was different.
We'd finally had enough of Helsinki and made our way back west. We had a couple of overnight stops in local bays. We crept ever so slowly into one, fearful of unmarked rocks, and then got out in the dinghy and using a piece of string and weight (the Swedish mooring hammer is ideal for this purpose) we 'swept' the bay for rocks. Needless to say, we didn't find any, so maybe the charts are OK after all. We eventually arrived in Ekanäs in a deluge. The place was heaving, with a succession of yachts arriving looking for even more desperate places to moor. We had a meal in the Knipan, 'restaurant on stilts' (the tale is that it was built out in the bay as laws prevented there being more than one restaurant in the town). The place was huge and rather odd, reminding me heavily of the sort of places you used to get at Eastbourne, but the food was better than expected. How it makes money defeats me.
Ekenäs actually is rather charming, and by far the best destination so far outside Helsinki. When the sun came out the following day you could see a pretty little beach, ideal for families, and the town did at least have a centre!
On the Friday we made an early bolt for Hanko. We (now) know that Hanko gets busy and we also knew there was some dirty weather on the way (we could see it!) We outran it and tied up an hour before the rain started. It rained for the next 24 hours, and then the wind got up. This lasted another 18 hours.
Enforced idleness is a bad thing on a boat. I thought I'd just give the engine the once over and turned off the water inlet seacock. There was a small grating noise and it now looks like the thing has sheared off. Unfortunately, we think its sheared off partly closed, and as the engine needs water to keep cool, we are now stuck here waiting until Thursday for the crane to lift us out to change the Seacock.....Ho Hum