DISCLAIMER: I’ve had to do this on an iPhone, and my big fingers and Teeny keyboard do not play well together. And, since this is the fourth time I’ve had to go back to add in the photos, try to correct formatting (which isn’t working well), and re-edit what I had re-edited three times previously, well, there have been a lot of not-so-nice bellows issued from JUANONA… to which Max can attest.
Friday-Sunday, July 20-22, 2018
Leaving the crowded and convenient marina of Mariehamn, Aland’s capital, we headed east into this Archipelago. With only a week dedicated to sailing these waters we limited our destinations to two other islands, ones highly recommended by other cruisers.
Under another warm, sunny day we sailed 10 miles to Rodhamn, dropped the hook, and dinghied to shore.
The anchorage features a marina for Aland Sailing Club, an artist’s shop, a few cabins, and a sought-after cafe.
Painted the ubiquitous red and perched on boulders
the eatery offered two sandwiches (of which we enjoyed the ham-and-cheese option), alcoholic and non-alcoholic libations, aromatic baked goods, and the even stronger aroma of freshly smoked salmon. All served by a friendly Swede named Anders.
In reading some outdoor signage we discovered an inn here has offered sustenance to many a crew since the Middle Ages due to Rodhamn’s strategic location between Finland and Sweden. When shipping petered out in the 20th century, the inn closed down; but fortunately the artist mentioned above opened up this delectable establishment catering to pleasure-seekers such as us.
Catching sight of a Canadian burgee we exclaimed ‘hey! We know those folks!’ It belonged to some Ocean Cruising Club members, Helen and Neil, whom we’d met a few years ago.
We snapped a photo and Max shared it on an OCC website. It’s always fun to come across a personal connection in a remote spot, and our friends said this is the first time they’ve known of anyone coming across their burgeee which they leave in a few favorite spots each year.
An outdoor deck looked out on the happy scene of boaters enjoying not being in a city. One couple we spoke to said they’d just escaped Helsinki to cruise for several weeks.
Like many of the age 30 or 40ish yachties in this part of the world, they were accompanied by a small family member, their little girl, a tow-head (tow-headedness is as common as red buildings here). Actually, most of these Alander cruisers with whom we spoke hailed from Helsinki. And, with this summer being one of the hottest in a long time, no surprise people are out on, and in, the water.
A walk through red dusty soil interspersed with impressive rock slabs brought us to the other side of the island where a two-room museum provided a brief history of the island. Specifically, the exhibits spoke of a pilot house built in 1818, operational up to the 1920s and later a radio beacon installed 1937.
Tbe latter ran until 1970 when radar and other more advanced navigational aids came into existence.
Photos of the families living here to run these operations provided a good idea of just how pioneering it must have been to do so. No thanks.
Further on We spotted some cairns by the shore and decided to build one of own. Not too difficult considering the number of available materials…
Another impressive structure appeared back on our side of the island. Here I experienced the nicest outhouse ever.
Decorated with flowers AND a piece of art, these toilets rivalved flushing ones. Well, almost.
They are far better engineered than the common campground outhouse. For more info ask Max, who was impressed that they use the same concept as the composting head aboard Juanona.
With a rare rain forecast the next day we opted to spend a second night here. The beautiful sound of water falling from the sky woke us.
Although not providing enough to put out the wildfires devasting inland Sweden, the rain still gave some respite from the hot sunny weather we’ve experienced literally since April 13.
Matter-of-fact the foliage is becoming so stressed we found the ground cover and trees are turning brown, with the aspens even losing their leaves (photo from previous day).
The fading of the lulling pitter-patter was replaced by the loud roar of speed boats entering the harbor.
Impressive in sleekness as well as sound we watched as boat after boat entered the harbor to retrieve something from a guy holding out a white pole.
Turned out it was a Poker Run boat race where each power boat at five check points along a designated route picks up a sealed envelope holding a playing card. At the end of the ‘race’–typically during a celebratory meal–the boat whose five cards scores the highest poker hand wins.
The comings and goings of the players kept us entertained for part of the morning.
Back ashore to relieve sitting-itis (a malady often associated with my cruising time) we wandered behind the cafe and soon smelled smoke. Noticing a quaint red (what else) cabin
we saw the woman with whom we spoke the day before sitting by what we thought was a fish smoke house. She smilingly corrected us by saying it was a sauna. Not only ‘a sauna’ but, to her, the BEST one in these islands.
Sold! So instead of smoking fish, the picturesque hut smoked people. Hustling back to the cafe where the sign-up sheet hung on the wall Anders put us down for an 8:00 A.M. excursion the next morning.
And, boy, what a great experience. In spite of no one around (that we could see) we did keep suited up and alternated perspiring in a windowed sauna
to jumping into refreshing water.
Now that’s a way to wake up in the morning :)
Sunday-Tuesday, July 22-24, 2018
A 28 mile sail took us by some famous rock carvings we’d read about in Rodhamn’s museum.
Unable to anchor anywhere nearby we used binoculars to search out a monogram commemorating Tsar Alexander III’s (father of deposed and executed Nicholas II) family visit. We saw it! But we couldn’t easily document it with our camera. So, here’s the photo from the museum display.
Supposedly an older nearby carving commemorates Peter the Great’s time in these waters when his navy fought the Swedes 1714-1721; but, we couldn’t see it. We also espied a mark–a thin cross close to the water’s edge. And, we have no idea who made that but it’s intriguing to think about what soul may have done so.
Having read Robert K. Massie’s bio of this western-leaning tsar I found it pretty neat to be sailing in ‘his’ waters.
The museum on the previous island also showed a photo of an awful swastika.
Although carved during WWII I discovered it was from a war I’d never heard of: the Continuation War (June 25, 1941-September 19, 1944) fought against Russia by ‘co-belligerents’ Finnish and German troops (Russia won). This war came about as a result of the Winter War (November 30, 1939-March 13, 1940) when Russian invaded Finland. Remember hearing about that one? (NOTE: Rhetorical Q) I sure don’t.
But, hold on, there’s another war of which I was also completely ignorant: the Lapland War (September 15, 1944-April 27, 1945), which came about due to Russia’s demand that Finland disarm/expel the Germans, causing the Finns and Germans to battle it out in Lapland.
Had enough? Me, too. Moving on…
Arriving at Sandvik harbor we chose to anchor out again versus join the wedged-in boats on a pontoon (yes, I will admit I’m snobby when it comes to sardine-like docking. We much prefer open-air anchoring, not least because the boat swings with the wind and gets better ventilation. To say nothing of privacy).
We went ashore and met Oskar, the young man running the information office and docks and store and bike rental and boating excursions-basically everything and anything you’d want to know or do on this island of Kokar. We felt as if we had landed in a summer camp. (You can’t see it too well but looking left to right there’s a man/made beach with float, communal building with grills, ferry landing, cafe, tourist office/tiny convenience store with fresh produce, bike rentals, dock, and behind it all a camp site with RVs and tents.)
We used the late afternoon to do a hike, one that would take us to a Bronze Age seal-hunting camp. And, within 30 minutes of our walk we came upon a clearing nestled against a rocky bluff. Here we saw remains of stone foundations.
We continued scrambling along stones interspersed with gingerly stepping through small wooded areas always on the alert for ticks (warned by Oskar who said the entire island is infested with these blood suckers).
We finally reached the main road for the half-mile walk back to our dinghy and a promise of a cooling dip before dinner. Then dreaming of pizza (another Oskar piece of information about where to eat lunch the next day), we fell asleep.
To reach our lunch destination we decided to rent bikes, which is how we ended up, once again, devouring delectable pizzas – no splitting this time :)
We met the family proprietors
whose apple orchard products include wonderful apple flavors, from cider…
to salsa, the latter of which we wished we had stocked up on. We bought one and later found It’s one of our favorite hot sauces.
Being a bit slower post-gorging to jump on our bikes, we did manage to cycle the few miles to Kokar’s local museum. As is the case with many of these islands discovered by tourists, the few year-round inhabitants manage to create a museum out of anything. And, here we found our 6 Euros got us two rooms crammed wtih antiquey household furnishings and tools.
Yet, the second room held some wonderful photos documenting the local history with photographs.
Well worth the price of admission.
Our island arrival was timed perfectly for provisioning. We cycled to the new grocery store (the only one on the island) whose doors had just opened a week prior. Oskar told us a group of locals, himself included, had pitched in to get this store up and running.
Back aboard we checked the winds for the next day. With a favorable breeze to return to the Swedish side, we got back in the dinghy to see one more island site: a 1784 church
and ruins of an early Fransiscan chapel. (Those monks got around–Having just finished a fascinating bio of Genghis Khan thanks to our friends Traci and Smokey’s recommendation, I discovered these Franciscans visited The Mongolian court back in the mid-1200s.)
Remembering one of the old photos from the museum, I snapped a shot approximating the same angle.
The mile+ walk back gave us another chance to work off some of our pizza lunch and a quick dip and cockpit shower prepared us for the 54 mile sail the next day.
The next morning’s favorable winds validated the night-before forecast and off we sailed, eventually changing out our (correct) Aland courtesy flag for our Swedish one.
In spite of the short visit to these Finnish-not-so-Finnish islands*, we relished our time and are very glad we sailed the miles there and back.
Next, to Copenhagen! Well, with a few anchorages and ports along the way…
*These islands originally were part of Sweden, who lost them to Imperial Russia in 1809 under the Treaty of Fredriksham. The Aland Archipelago became the autonomous Duchy of Finland under the Tsars’ rule. But, I also wanted to find out why these islands are demilitarized, which led me to the Crimean War (October 1853-February 1856).
This war (yes, sorry, I just had to throw another one onto the pile) came about due to Russia’s challenging the Turks by (a) expanding into the Danube area (now Romania) and (b) disputing Turkish control over some holy sites in Jerusalem. So, those two countries began fighting one another with Great Britain and France joining in a year later to protect their access to trade routes. Because of Britain’s concern over Russian dominance in the Baltic Sea, fighting also occurred in Finnish waters. When the war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, Russia had to demilitarize.
And, the Åland Islands have remained as such since then.
Yet, with Russia’s current aggressions Baltic countries are considering their military options. In 2005 Sweden rearmed its base on Gotland Island, one we cycled by when there in May; and, in 2016 the Finnish Defense Minister started speaking about conscripting the Aland Island inhabitants into civil service. Unsurprisingly, this idea hasn’t gone over too well and seems to have died down somewhat.
Another interesting tidbit is how the Åland Islands are Finnish-but-not-so-Finnish. In 1917 with Finland’s independence from Russia, the residents on the Åland Islands wanted to be reunited with Sweden whose language and customs they identified with. Finland refused, but a compromise orchestrated by the League of Nations in 1921 (one of the first disputes settled by that organization) gave the local population the right to self-govern and remain autonomous from Finland – thus ensuring the Åland Islands would retain their Swedish heritage.
Oh, and another tidbit: the Crimean War is where Florence Nightingale pops up. Adds a bit of humanity to the inhumanity of wars.
Okay, I’m done or, as my mother would say, “I am finished” (not ‘Finnish’, which takes me back to my disclaimer about trying to type on this #%!* Locke keyboard…)