STOCKHOLM to HELSINKI

This was more rock hopping but with great wind. We were able to average better than 7 knots and when I was on the helm we hit 8 knots which is hull speed for Meg. Good things never last and the wind petered out around 0500hrs and we had to motor. In came the fog and visibility closed down to one nautical mile. We had over 50 course changes to get into Helsinki and because of the prolific rocks the radar becomes very difficult to read. A.I.S. is great but not everybody has it and as for the military they obviously do not declare their position so the watch keeper needs to be on red alert. When I was studying navigation for Ocean Yachtmaster I remember the words of Commander Rob Gibson (ex Navy), “the best tool the navigator has in his box of tricks is his eyesight, so never rely totally on instruments.” Suddenly the A.I.S. goes off with beeping and “Dangerous Target” appears on the chart plotter.

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The target was a cruise liner appearing out of the fog. Forget steam giving way to sail – we immediately change course and go into water that is too shallow for the cruise liner. Run and hide tactics!

We rounded an island looking for the Marina and there were seven ice breakers on summer holiday. Apparently Finland has the market largely cornered when it comes to ice breakers as they build them in Helsinki. They have great names like ‘Kontio’ (a Finnish Bear) ‘Urho’ (Brave) and ‘Voima’ (Strong).

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We berth next to a huge cathedral with great gold embellishments and as it was the 16th July, the birthday of El Capitano, we got out the rum bottle and broke with tradition, as the sun was not yet over the yard arm.

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It was Wednesday and there seemed to be music everywhere. In winter Helsinki is a very dark place and people tend to stay close to home but in summer they party. After a cultural walk and a visit to the hole in the wall for some Euros we were ready for a drink. There were several bars in a long narrow alley and they must have jointly sponsored the rock band who were doing a great job with the music. Mike starts talking to some locals and a short time later we are off to a Karaoke Bar. Well it turns out that two of the three woman are professional singers and they treated us to a great show.

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Helsinki has some great markets with food halls and flea markets that seem to run daily. Try the smoked reindeer. I spotted the name Affco on a vacuum pack and sure enough it was New Zealand lamb which had to go in the bag. Public transport is by bus or tram and is relatively inexpensive.

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We had invited the Karaoke singers ‘Tea (blonde) and Piia (brunette) to a BBQ aboard Meg but then noticed that charcoal fires were not allowed within the Marina and so we trickled out into the bay and found a sheltered spot to crank up the BBQ.

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Check out our Finnish Pilot/Navigator. I think the crew were hoping we would hit a rock just to experience being ship wrecked!

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We spent a lot of time on Friday sorting out our paperwork for Russia. The big issue for us was that we had left Morocco under difficult circumstances (the 1,000 Euro fine) and then when we reached Gibraltar the replacement house batteries had not arrived and we did not officially stamp into the EU.  All the rest of the marinas have a very casual attitude and sometimes act as unofficial border patrol in terms of the fact that they make copies of your passports and forward them to border control.  When you ask about completing formalities the reply is normally ‘there is nothing else to do’.  Anyway we needed to get it sorted before entering Russia.  The Finns were very good.  Not only did they stamp us in and out but also gave us the pro forma for making up the crew list and boat particulars.

When we stamped out on an island in the harbour I noticed a gas cylinder standing next to the office desk and asked the officer what it was for.  He said it was part of a breath testing kit for alcohol levels! Thank God we had not been into the rum rations as he explained that the legal limit for driving a car is 22mg/ millilitre and 44mg/millilitre for a BOAT!!

What will it be in Russia?

Mike was unable to join us on the yacht for the voyage to St. Petersburg as they would not issue a visa in the time frame available. So he went for Plan B which was to catch an overnight ferry from Helsinki with a special visitors visa to St. Petersburg and then join us when he can. He will then have to take the ferry back to Helsinki and then catch another to Estonia where we will pick him up.

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