Lost in Paradise

Our decision to head for the centre of the Åland archipelago and try to get lost was even more successful than we had hoped. The pilot books talk of sticking to guest harbours, but careful study of the charts revealed countless fascinating little anchorages or little villages with a tiny quay in islands way off the beaten track. There is a particularly beautiful area of about 200 square miles off the SW tip of Finland where groups of islands lie at perhaps 3 mile intervals so it feels as if you are in the open sea. The water however is flat, kept that way by millions of tiny rocky outcrops, or islets which stretch as far as the eye can see.

From Aland and Finish archipelago

Slap bang in the middle of this area is Östersskår, an old fishing community where we moored up to the tiny quay and used it as a base for a couple of days canoeing. When sailing through the area you catch glimpses of the wild flowers and the bird life but your focus is on keeping clear of the rocks, and the wild life is pretty focussed on keeping clear of you. In the canoe however, we can go where we please, and the whole area snaps into focus as if we are zooming in on a photograph.

From Aland and Finish archipelago

When we set out in early May, this area was only just clear of ice, yet now every inch is covered with flowering plants of every hue. Already there are wild strawberries to pick, and carpets of what will in August become blueberries. Wild roses flower everywhere, and there is a general hum of insect life pollinating the flowers (thankfully, if you stay in sunlight the mosquitoes stay hidden). Delicate little turquoise dragonflies dart hither and thither- how do they survive the winter freeze? Above us swallows and house martins are hoovering up the insects (the martins especially seem to nest in the eaves of the thousands of old boathouses that dot the region). On the water, rafts of female eiders seem to share babysitting duties, as there are often 10 or 20 babies being looked after by one adult. As in Sweden there is not a male to be seen – off gallivanting with their peers out at sea no doubt . The velvet scoters seem to run similar crèches , but the swans stick to single family units , and every anchorage seems to have its resident family of goslings following their mothers every move, in line astern . The young in the tern colonies are beginning to flex their wings , and are even trying short practice flights of a metre or two, whist the gull chicks restrict themselves to the occasional paddle in the water . Sweden was the only place we have ever sailed to that didn’t have oyster catchers, but here they are back in noisy attendance, and with fluffy young taking tottery first steps to suggest that they are here to stay. Its really obvious that nature is cramming a years worth of activity into the few months of the short northern summer.

From Aland and Finish archipelago

The wild life is not the only group making use of the wonderful weather . Midsummers day in these latitudes is in reality the start of summer, and now that it is past, Finnish boats are streaming west from Helsinki to spend their summer holidays in this paradise. They tell us that by the middle of August it will all be quiet again, and most boats will be laid up by September. We stuck our noses into the harbour at Hankö at what must have been the end of the Finnish equivalent of Cowes week. Despite there being a large number of wonderful old metre boats ( there seems to be a thriving 8 metre class in these waters) over which I would normally have drooled happily for a day or two , the contrast of the noisy grotty-yottyness with the peace and beauty of our anchorages of the last two months was too much to bear , so we turned tail and ran for yet another perfect pool 20 miles further up the coast with only one boat for company, despite the fact that every boat in Finland was out on holiday.
I don’t think we have ever dawdled so much in an area . All around us is frantic activity , whilst we have the immense luxury to take our time and observe it all . No doubt the time will come for us to pull our finger out and hurry South from the encroaching Northern winter , but for now we are slowed right down and enjoying the gem that is the short Finnish summer .

One Comments

  1. Well another winter evening spent enjoying your summer adventures. What diversity Europe (is Scandanavia part of Europe?) contains. Bon voyage from the Waughs

Leave a Reply