In Finland, among quite a few places, 1 May and the eve before are celebrated loudly and merrily, in big crowds, and with a neverending amount of sparkling wine. Not so this year, obviously, but I had another good idea.
“Hey, wouldn’t it be nice to go for a first of May sail, with all of us?” I asked Charlotte.
“Hmm,” she answered, with some hesitation. “The weather isn’t looking that good,” she continued, “so I will have to think about it, ok?”
“Yes absolutely, sure!” I said. I don’t mind being out on the water when it’s cold and wet, but I do understand this is a minority view in our household.
“Still, it would be nice to do something on the boat, right?” I said, after a small pause. “Maybe we could have a small party just in the harbor, anyway? And then I can go sailing with J and O if the weather isn’t great?”
“Yes! That sounds good!” she replied, obviously relieved that she had managed to escape my crazy sailing plan, without breaking it in the process.
Walpurgis Night— the eve of 1 May— is usually a big carnival in Finland. As evening arrives, the streets fill with happily partying people of all ages and cultures. “Hyvää vappua!” they exclaim to each other, or “Glad wapp!”, if they happen to be of the Swedish speaking minority. And then they smile broadly, lift their glasses or bottles, and give a toast, “skål!”, to the soon arriving summer.
Our version. We all— Charlotte, J, O, M, little L and Aiko— walked down to our boat, ate candy, doughnuts, drank juice. Put some great music on. Turned the volume up both inside and also to the outside cockpit speakers. (To the delight of the people walking by? I hope!)
The most endearing moment, though, was when M and little L were dancing in the cockpit, and suddenly started shouting “Hyvää vappua!” to the people on the concrete boardwalk.
Most of the people shouted “Hyvää vappua!” happily back to them. A few heard it, but didn’t quite understand where it came from and who was shouting.
“HYVÄÄ VAPPUA!!!” both girls shouted again, in unison, at the top of their lungs, relieving also those people of their bewilderment.
As to the boating part, Charlotte was right about the weather. 1 May turned out way too cold for comfortable family sailing. With twenty knots of wind and temperatures just a few degrees above freezing, we chose plan B instead: go a day later (much less wind, still cold), and with just J and O.
The morning after, 2 May, a dull gray had taken hold of the sky, and it was raining lightly. The temperature was a bit more bearable, in the higher single digits, and the wind had dropped down to between six and ten knots. Not exactly the Caribbean paradise, but good enough for this sailor and two children to get excited!
As we motored out, we practiced how to engage and disengage the autopilot, and how to use the engine throttle. “In case I fall overboard and you have to come and get me,” I said to J and O.
“You can swim, can’t you? Why would we come?” O asked, looking like he really sincerely wanted to know the answer.
“Well yes, I could swim, I suppose,” I started, trying to look a bit offended. “But will you know how to sail the boat? Wouldn’t it be better for you to come and get me?”, I continued, still looking a bit offended.
It is, of course, one of the things I worry about more than most of the others. If I for some unforeseen reason happen to fall overboard, what will the rest of the crew do? Will they manage to keep themselves safe? Will they be skilled enough to get back to me? Will they want to? 😄🙈
My defensive strategy: better not to worry too much, rather practice as much as possible.
We had just a short couple of hours of sailing, in variable light winds between 5-11 knots. Surprisingly, however, the wind wasn’t coming straight against us but from the side. A great opportunity to hoist the crossover sail for the first time this season!
It felt like we were going quite quickly with a small amount of wind, but looking at the polar plots, we weren’t that fast compared to Hanse’s optimal polar speeds. Between 4-6 knots for most of the time. Max a bit over 7. But 0.5-1.5 knots slower than the polar speeds.
The optimal speeds are for a Hanse 388 with a spinnaker, though, and the spinnaker would be at least 50% bigger than our crossover. So, we’re never going to reach that, but we will try to get closer for sure!
On this trip, most of the sailing was between 80-130 degrees true wind angle. Looking at the apparent wind angles, we went as high as 35 degrees (!), with most of the sailing between 35-55 degrees.
Rain and More Rain
The gray skies and the light rain had come to stay.
It was raining while we were sailing and it was raining when we reached our anchorage. “Maybe we can go out exploring later in the evening, if the rain stops,” I said, and decided to inflate our Quicksilver dinghy for the first time this season, just in case.
No such luck. The rain continued, but it was warm and dry inside, so we had a nice indoor evening together instead.
Food, card games. (“Still raining?” “Yep!”) More card games. Snacks. Candy.
Probably the most exciting event of the evening was when we tested the VHF and the DSC by contacting Turku Radio, the one and only coastal radio station of Finland.
It wasn’t that easy to initiate the DSC call (I had actually never than that before), and even more difficult to answer when they called back.
“Stop the beeping!” O shouted. “It hurts my ears!”
I was pressing frantically on all the buttons of the beeping VHF radio, but nothing happened.
Finally, it stopped. And in response to their DSC call, the VHF had changed to the correct working channel. I pressed down the send button, and with a slightly quivering (but reasonably official) voice, I pronounced: “TURKU RADIO TURKU RADIO, THIS IS CHARLOTTE!”
“CHARLOTTE, THIS IS TURKU RADIO,” a voice appeared in the speaker.
It worked! And it was the first time someone had actually called our boat on the VHF. Cheers to that, Turku Radio! Have a good evening! Stay safe!
Well, we had a good evening, anyway. And then it turned into night. The children retired to their cabin, and I ventured out in the dinghy to take some pictures of our soon-to-be sleeping boat.
And, oh joy, the rain had stopped!
Adventure Is Out There
The next morning we took the dinghy to the nearby island, Kramppi, and went for a short hike.
The island was just as impenetrable as it had seemed to be. Slippery rocks, thick bushes, and steeply rising cliffs. We did find a small animal path, though, and followed that upward as far as we dared.
“Keep stomping with your feet to scare the snakes,” O reminded every few seconds. “Hey! You aren’t stomping enough!”
We didn’t meet any snakes, luckily, but on the way down again, we did find something nice. A (clearly human-constructed) stack of stones just at the waterline.
We walked down to the stones and admired them for a while.
“I’m going to push them over,” O said.
“No, you’re not!” I replied, a bit angrily.
“Why?” he said.
“Well,” I started. “Well, you know someone made this, and it’s not our place to tear it down. We should respect it, that someone put their effort into it,” I continued. “It’s better to create than destroy,” I said, thinking to myself that this was a bit of a simplified opinion. Sometimes destroying can be an essential part of creating. But not today!
We looked for a suitable stone, found one, and then carefully added it to the stack.
When we returned from our short hike, the thin morning mist had grown a lot thicker. The ships had started to use their mist horns, and we would soon be joining them.
It was nothing to worry too much about, though. Using radar and AIS, it would relatively easy to stay clear of the few other seafarers around.
(I believe summer mist can be much more dangerous, since it’s not that uncommon to have more recreational boats around, traveling fast without radar, looking only at their GPS position on the chartplotter. After a couple of beers.)
So, we set off, into the mist, and took it as a good opportunity for some radar practice.
Summer is Here!
About halfway into our return trip, the mist disappeared much more quickly than it had arrived.
A few moments later, a bright, warm, lovely sun broke through the clouds. And just like that, it was the first day of summer.
O complained it was too hot and started removing his extra clothes.
“Can I go out on the deck and chill in the sun?” J asked.
“Sure!” I said.
It all happened so quickly. And it always does. One minute we’re still living in the gray and cold remnants of last winter, and the next minute it is all forgotten, and summer is here.
Welcome, our warm and lovely Finnish summer! In fact, our very own Caribbean paradise.