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Vladimir arranged for our visit.

A strange Russian craft.

Smoked herring, anyone?

The opera in Savonlinna.

The Helsinki waterfront.

The Baltic Sea, Pt. 2

July 15th, 2010

Helsinki 60 10.2N 24 57.7 E

We left Russia on Tuesday. Checking out went well with Vladimir's help. After visiting the offices we were escorted to the boat by a uniformed guard who proceeded to search the boat carefully checking the engine room, lockers, refrigerator and freezer for stowaways. Finding none we were free to go. It was a lovely day to cover the 90 miles to the first legal stop just over the border in Haapasaari, Finland. Arthur, twenty-five, athletic, blond hair, blue eyes, met us on the dock and welcomed us. "Where are you from?"...."Chicago" ...."You must know Niemi" ...We should have. He is from Finland and plays for the Blackhawks.

After two delightful days of sailing into peaceful anchorages and refreshing swims, we arrived here. This is a fully equipped marina. In addition to the usual dock space and showers, the daily fee includes laundry, sauna, coffee and croissants. We are in the heart of the city with the market, museums, parliament and the train station within easy reach. Unlike the capitals we have recently visited, this one is less a museum piece and more of a functioning headquarters designed more for residents than to attract tourists.

After six museums in two days we boarded the train bound for Savonlinna, the site of a world renowned summer opera festival. Put this on your list of things to do before you die. We were thrilled by Tosca and Carmen under the tent in a medieval castle surrounded by a pine shore and deep blue lakes in the long shadows of the white northern night. We took advantage of being on land and rented bikes for a long ride into the forest. This was a mistake. The temperature was over 100 F, the hottest day since 1937.

July 26th, 2010

Stockholm Archipelago Sweden 59 25.1 N 18 43.7 E

The last ten days have been among the best of our sailing experience. There are 100,000 islands along the coasts of Finland and Sweden. Most are small rock and pine, perfect for anchoring and hiking. In Finland, the water was even over 70 degrees. We swam off the boat every day. It is back to 60 here so the swims are short.

The Fins and Swedes have a strange method of anchoring. I am witnessing a blue power boat going through the process now. The 'she' hangs over the bow looking for rocks as 'he' steers into shore. About two boat lengths before land, the anchor, mounted in the stern of the boat, is dropped on the fly. The mate jumps off the boat just as it reaches shore and runs to a tree with the bow line as he snubs up the anchor. We have not tried this.

Anchoring out has only one drawback: we haven't met many people. We did meet one Finnish family. After we anchored in a delightful secluded spot they rowed out to see us. They politely informed us that we should not be there. It was a protected area with four pairs of eagles. It was fine if we spent the night and left tomorrow. Their young boy and his friend swam out to see us that evening. We welcomed them on to see the boat. Over cookies they told us about school and their summer. Jeannie commented that their English was quite good and inquired if they study it in school. "Yes, but it is quite easy. We really learn it from computer games."

We were anchored in Aland Island when we had our only other encounter. Aland is a strange place in that it is Finland but the language is Swedish. It has some duty free advantage that allows passengers on huge 600 foot ferry boats to drink and purchase tax free alcohol if they take the five hour cruise from Stockholm. There is no requirement to set foot on land and so the ferry merely touches the dock and is off back to Stockholm. We learned this from a father and daughter who were swimming across the bay we were anchored in four days ago. It was a strange sight. What got our attention was the rowboat they were dragging. As they neared us we called to them to come over and stop for a rest. They did, not because they were tired of dragging the boat, but for our American accents, rarely heard here. They are from New York and the only Americans to spend the summers on Aland where the mother does butterfly research. Andy teaches mechanical engineering at Cornell and had just been in the news. His lab had built a record setting walking robot.. He invited us in and gave us the tour of the island in his old sputtering Lada, the Russian copy of a Fiat. Aland is a lovely place of pine, rock, water and red frame houses, barns, boat houses and occasionally, a windmill.




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