Sailing with the Woods

Scandinavia was on its best behaviour for the visit of Simon and Roo . The locals in both Sweden and Finland were adamant that it was the coldest summer in living memory , but to us it was a lot warmer than our last two years in Scotland and Ireland , the winds were mostly gentle and I dont think it rained more than once during their stay. We pottered North through the Stockholm archipelago, chanced apon a charming concert in one of the outer islands ( It was a kind of caberet of poetry and songs by a Swedish woman poet . We didnt understand a word but it didnt seem to matter ; we found ourselves laughing at the funny bits , sighing at the sad bits and were genuinly moved by the two very talented musicians and the complete serendipity of chancing upon the performance in such an isolated place.) Our trip across the Äland sea was about as gentle as can be , and our one bit of boisterous weather enabled us to enter one our favourite place in the Finnish islands, albeit from the wrong direction.

We were once more sailing to a deadline as I wanted to be at the island of Aspö in time for its music day. The wind had other ideas and blew strongly – straight from Aspö! Traversing the archipelago always involves a lot of zigzagging to avoid the impossibly rocky bits ( as opposed to the merely incredibly rocky bits ) and every shift of the wind led to a new plan as to how to get to there. Finally an unforcast shift into the NE put us to the West of a little archipelago called Österskär which we had visited 4 years ago, and loved. The problem was that the charted aproach was from the East which would involve another 10 or 15 miles sailing, and that was why I had initially ruled it out as a destination. Then I remembered that at our last visit I had been shown the unnoficial Western aproach , and luckily still had it marked on the chart . The first part was fairly straightforward other than the bit where you pass between a rock and an island – a gap of less than a boatlength. It is however the final 200 metres which gets the adrenaline flowing – a series of dog legs through visible rocks and 3 little spar buoys with the depth sounder reading zero – but we did it and were able to use the finest sauna in Finland as our reward. This little cabin jutting out over the water has a wood fired stove , and when suitably roasted you open a door and slide into the water ( and usually jump straight out again!) repeating the process until a strange sense of rejuvenation comes over you.

Simon had booked onto a ferry to take them back to Stockholm from Turku, and our final piece of serendipity was that this coincided with a visit from the Tall ship fleet. Sadly Simon and Roo missed this spectacle but it meant that we could plan our departure from Finnish waters to coincide with the start of the next race – 30 odd Square rigged ships ( and Festina!) racing South from the Finnish archipelago was a mouth watering prospect.

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