Finnish word of the day: saaristo = archipelago
In the middle of summer, my family came for a visit to Finland. This time it wasn’t about skiing, it wasn’t about figure skating, it was about sailing. Usually, it’s difficult to gather the whole family, because my brothers always have a sailing competition here, a sailing competition there… and in the end, there’s often someone missing. This time, everyone was there! That’s a growth, from my usual solo/duo trips.
We embarked in Taalintehdas, a small port south of Salo, between Helsinki and Turku. The original plan was to sail to Åland, and its capital Mariehamn, but when he reviewed the charts, my brother Kevin, our skipper for this cruise, realized that was way too far from our point of departure. So we set more reasonable objectives, and planned to stay in the Turku Archipelago. On the first day, we sailed to the tiny island of Vänö. After some maneuvering, we found our way out following a channel between the islands, carefully checking the GPS not to hit a rock hidden underwater. This would be a constant of our trip, for there are around 20,000 islands and skerries in the area.
After a sunny afternoon, we reached the small harbour and went for a walk. On the beach, we managed to dive into the sea, but it took us long for the water was much colder than it looked! Sunset was beautiful, and I was happy Finland had worn its prettiest summer clothing for my family’s coming.
Before the trip, Kevin was worried about harbour maneuvering. He has quite some experience with sailing, but it was the first time he was responsible for such a big boat. Each day, he prepared the next day’s navigation thoroughly, and all went well. I was impressed and proud of him. Now he’s getting ready for his next challenge, the Mini-Transat: from France to the Caribbean via the Canary Islands on a sailing boat that’s only 6.5 meter long. That’s going to be quite an adventure, one I’ll follow closely. If you’re interested, head to his website immediately -> click!
After Vänö, we visited the outer archipelago and settled in Jurmo. A rough place battered by the wind, it treated us with a wonderful sunset as well. I realized many sailors had a dog with them, like this one watching harbour life intently. Some even have life-jackets of their own!
I am not a sailor myself: when it all started in my family, we were on holiday in Brittany. I didn’t know it at that time, but I had caught a mononucleosis, a disease that made me tired all the time. That summer, instead of sailing, I read Harry Potter, and never caught the virus (the sailing virus, that is). So, for this trip, I was only the passenger and photographer. No planning involved, just a desire to see some White-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) and relax. Quite a welcome change!
We slept the third night in Korpoström, a larger harbour further north. I found a young White wagtail (Motacilla alba) on a wooden boat, we played hide and seek with the reeds.
Later, we witnessed a peculiar sunset: there were two layers of clouds, but only the top one was lit from beneath.
In the morning, I had a short sauna before the shower. That’s the good thing with traveling in Finland, in harbours or in AirBnBs: there are saunas everywhere!
We originally thought we wouldn’t go to Åland at all, but there was a place dear to our heart that we managed to visit again – Lappo. Kevin and I had gone there as part of our Operation Merikotka two years before, and I figured it was our best chance to see the eagles, since it was where we had seen them best.
And oh, how they delivered!
On the way there, we saw the first one when it crossed our path, on a powerful flight cresting the waves. But that was not the end, we saw more as we approached the island and walk accross it. The best sighting came the day after. As a stark contrast to the overall windy conditions, this was a quiet day, the air was completely still and we had to turn the engine on to go anywhere.
On the islands, there are big colorful signs. They work in pairs, one short at the front, one tall behind. From the sea, when you see them aligned, you know that you are in a safe channel, that you’re at no risk of hitting a submerged rock. That’s a handy tool for navigation, but that’s also a great perch for birds. So there we were, baking under the sun, powered by our propeller, when I spotted this majestic White-tailed eagle on such a sign.
We had absolutely no breeze to push us to shore, so we stopped the boat and stopped the engine. We were around a hundred meters away, and the raptor showed no discomfort. We stayed there half an hour, I had plenty of time to make some shots, although the conditions were far from optimal (harsh light and great distance).
The night before had brought a lovely sunset over Lappo, securing its title of “my favourite island in the Archipelago Sea”.
We spent a night with Nagu, a larger harbour where we ate ice cream, then we sailed back to Taalintehdas. There, White wagtails, young and adults, were feeding in the dry grass.
Thanks to Mom, Dad, Kevin, Noam and Alizée for this week, and for letting me publish pictures of them.
Oh, by the way… HAPPY NEW YEAR! 😀
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