Our sailing vacation finally started! It was a cold and cloudy Monday. We left quite late and had only one objective: to get just a bit away from Turku so that it wouldn’t feel like being home anymore. The next day, though, was to be both exciting and— for a few— quite terrible.
“Tomorrow, let’s just sail somewhere far away from here,” Charlotte said, when we were going to bed.
For the previous three days, she had been partying (all day long) at the annual Ruisrock Music Festival so maybe she was in need of some detox. What better cure for that than a long day of sailing? Right? Maybe?
“Why not,” I said. “The wind looks perfect so we should be able to get all the way to Åland if we want to.”
Day 2 – Offshore
We set off early in the morning and had a wonderful first half of the day. The wind was coming from behind and we were sailing with our cool code zero sail (Hanse calls them “crossover”) at good speed.
“So, to get to Åland there is this short offshore passage called Skiftet,” I said to M. “It means there is no land close to us and there can be a bit more waves,” I continued, trying to reassure her (and the rest of the children). “The forecast is for moderate winds, though, so everything will be fine.”
Little did I know.
Just a few moments into our short offshore bit, the steady forecast wind changed from a comfortable twelve knots (true) to sixteen to eighteen, and soon we were at our second reef with twenty-four knots of wind and bigger waves than the children had ever seen.
First M got seasick and vomited, then O did the same.
Little L didn’t get seasick but just really really scared. “I want to go home! I want to go home now!” she screamed angrily and frightfully.
While all of this was going on, Charlotte and Aiko, our Romanian rescue dog, were sleeping in the leeward cabin.
“OH MY … OH .. CRAP!” Charlotte’s voice suddenly sounded loudly from down below. “Aiko, he … he just vomited and … and… then he shit next to me in bed,” she shouted in disgust.
I think that was a horrible way to wake up. Both for Charlotte and certainly for Aiko.
We had (luckily) decided to cover the Hanse mattresses with IKEA water-proof protection sheets, so a moment or two later Charlotte appeared in the gangway and dumped the whole (wrapped up) package in the cockpit.
“It’s all there.” she said with a low and shaking voice, looking like she was about to vomit just being near it.
It was a bit disgusting, yes. And we felt so bad for Aiko, putting him through that. Obviously our poor little rescue dog didn’t like to wake up and find himself in a very much heeling sailboat.
“I’m sure he wants to go back to Romania now,” Charlotte said. “He probably had a better life there,” she added sarcastically.
And then, an hour or so later it was all over.
We had crossed Skiftet and were safely anchored at one of the most eastward islands of the Åland archipelago, Husö.
Time for healing, and cleaning 🙈.
Day 3 – Rosita, Göran and their Sheep
The next morning, the children seemed as happy and joyful as ever. At least on the surface, the scary, windy, wavy ride over was just a thing in the past. Nobody wanted to go home anymore. A bit puzzling, but also a big relief to Charlotte and me.
“Hey, can you fill the Quicksilver? We want to go exploring!” O said, happily.
We went ashore, all of us.
The terrain had looked easy from the boat, but it was surprisingly difficult with steep hills, dense bushes and lots and lots of annoying ants trying to attack our feet. After a struggling hike (O and J threatened to return to the boat at least once, little L wanted to go home again), we finally found a way down from the hill, and a road.
We followed the road and a while later we arrived at a small farm. The farm was the home of Rosita and Göran, two of the very few people still living on the island (see a newspaper story about them here, in Finnish), and they happened to be home.
“Oh, you’re anchored at the old anchorage,” Rosita said, after we had chatted for a while. “That’s were Suomen Joutsen used to anchor during the war.”
Suomen Joutsen is a legendary sailing ship that currently happens to be moored right next to our home in Turku. During wartime, apparently, it used to drop its anchor right where we had. A good spot! (And history is fascinating.)
Rosita and Göran told us some more about their life on the island, and we got to see the sheep that they were taking care of on the farm. The children liked it.
It’s a … !!!
Rosita advised us of an easier route back (meaning more Quicksilver rowing for me, though, since we don’t have an outboard) so Charlotte and the children headed that way and I started the hike back to get our dinghy.
I had been rowing towards our pick-up spot for a while when I heard Charlotte and the children shouting from afar.
“There’s a snake here! There’s a snake here!”
I saw that they all (except for M, who was holding Aiko at a distance) were focusing intensely on some rocks, apparently where the snake was.
I got ashore and, surely, there it was. Not a viper, the only venomous snake in Finland, but a grass snake.
That was pretty cool, and the first real life snake the children (and Charlotte!) had ever seen.
We Got This Far
Before we left, we decided not to plan any destinations. “It’ll be nice if we reach Åland,” I remember saying, “but who knows, let’s just see where we end up.”
Now we were there, and it was only day three of our vacation. The tough ride the day before, with vomiting and the lot, hadn’t broken our spirits, and that was wonderful.
I think we were all a bit anxious, though, about what would happen next.