Baltic Sea Voyages

Danemark – Schweden – Aland Islands – Finland – Lithuania – Latvia

An adventurous transport through Burgstaaken / Fehmarn. Season 2005 can start. After 60 hours of strenuous work, we are ready to launch our ship. Isn’t that crazy? You work all day almost without interruption, get no money, on the contrary, spend it in numbers, have no workers’ union, and yet you are fully satisfied with yourself and the work you have done.

There is always sunshine when angels travel. When sailing angels cruise, they will have a pleasant wind too. Traveling to Baltic countries is a voyage one dreams of on cold winter evenings. At times the wind takes a break. Rudolf Diesel’s invention bailed us out.

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Kalmar is one of the oldest cities in Sweden. Nordic history was written in 1397 with the decision of the Kalmar Union under the leadership of the Danish Queen Margarete. Home of the action was the castle, build under Gustav Wasa and his sons to one of the most beautiful Swedish Renaissance palaces. Those who ruled the castle had a great influence on land and the Baltic Sea and thus on trade. Not surprisingly, Kalmar has always been the scene of battles and countless gatherings for supremacy. Unfortunately, we can only visit the castle from the outside, official guided tours start mid-June.

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“Now I need a whiskey!” Beate has to allow herself a sip on the fright, I join her, together the shock is only half as big. Our trip to Oskarshamn was uneventful at first. It was exciting when we entered the marina. I ignored the red buoys for an unfathomable reason – why are these in the middle of the approach? – and promptly, we kissed a rock. Thanks to the solid steel ship, we were lucky! We moored in the city harbor, and against our expectations, the city was quite nice. We shared the jetty with four other boats.

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It’s foggy, a cold wind blows in the faces. The first two hours are a pure duty. At noon we perform the freestyle. With wind northeast, we make good speed under ideal sailing conditions. The spirits on board rise, the sun rewards us. It gets even better 15 miles close to Stockholm. A regatta yacht of our ship size sails next to us. Beate takes care of the navigation. We fly through the archipelago and chase the boat in front of us. Keeping the sails in perfect trim requires constant adjustment of the sheets. For quite a while, we do very well, once we get very close to the ship, but then the wind drops. If the attempt to compete with a regatta boat was ridiculous, the weight of Athene is a disadvantage. The breeze of 6-7 knots and kicks us out of business. Anyway, the trip is very entertaining. We really like the atmosphere of Stockholm. Surely we will visit this pearl at the Baltic Sea more than once.

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The thermometer in the ship reads 22 degrees already late morning. In the cockpit, underneath the shelter of the spray hood, it’s about 25 degrees. We sail north across the magnificent archipelago landscape and enjoy every moment. Late in the afternoon, we head for one of three recommended anchorages. The depth display reads small values, and soon the keel touches hardly audible a rock. Too bad, the spot looks nice, but a draught of 2 m has restrictions. In Furusund are moorings available at the jetty. The harbor – a jetty with expensive electricity connection – is a popular ‘port’ for passing through to the Aland Islands. The law of economy work here too, a good demand is satisfied by high prices.
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Mariehamn – Aland Islands

Heading north, we cross the 60th parallel, the most northerly position of our sailing career to date. Approximately on this latitude are Oslo, Bergen, St. Petersburg, but also Anchorage in Alaska (61), the southern tip of Greenland and Hudsonbay. Even at 01.30, the sun doesn’t set completely.
The Alands are a paradise of peace. Most of the time! At the weekend, an offshore motorboat race took place. Yelling engines and water fountains filled the air in the area of the East Marina. Just fine to be on the idyllic side in the west of the island capital.

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Hankö – Finnland

Out of 70 miles, we sail a fantastic 65, 13 ¾ Hours later we arrive in Hankö, Finland’s southernmost town. Because of its location, the peninsula of Hankö was strategically important and saw many wars in its history. In the 18th century, Finland was associated with Sweden, who built a fortress in Hankö. In 1910 the Russians took the town as part of their sea defense. Heavy fighting took place in the archipelago around the town in 1941. Industry, trade, and tourism are the most important economic factors of the region since the reconstruction. 

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13 hours sailing, we arrive in the Finnish capital and moore Athene exhausted but very satisfied in the empty guest harbor. It’s 00.10 a.m.; we have just taken our last supper for this trip.
A Finn warned us, at midsummer, you won’t meet any people in Helsinki, they all left for the countryside and celebrated. He should be right …
A chat with the lady of the harbor café, topic midsummer. She tells about a dozen people who died in Helsinki last weekend. Many drove cars intoxicated, others took a boat, swam, or fell into the water under the influence of alcohol and drowned. Those who have their own chalet left the city and made their way to the countryside. Or you were invited into a house like she was. Restrained, but still unambiguous, she says mid-summer means drinking alcohol as much as possible. Curiously I ask her if I might know what she has done? She looks at me, laughs heartily: “I wasn’t here on Friday either. I can’t afford a chalet, I was out in the country with friends. Yesterday I spent the whole day in bed. Today I am well again”.

Pictures: The famous cathedral and “Fresh air in old clothes”, advertisement for an art museum.

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Estland – Tallin

If you want to travel to the Baltic States by boat, you have to check out in the EU beforehand. The official takes one of our three form copies for his documents and stamps the other two. That’s how fast you are out of the EU. Well, perhaps not quite, a Coast Guard boat is constantly patrolling the area and monitoring ship movements between Helsinki and Tallinn. The formalities are today the simplest part of the journey.
Dancing on an egg! This is the best short description of our trip across the Gulf of Finland today. Many fast ferries operate between Helsinki and Tallinn. The water is continuously stirred up by the enormous propulsion turbines and bow waves. Swell hit from all sides, cut, or overlap each other.
To make matters worse, it rains. In Germany one would be grateful for the refreshment, here we wear warm long underwear under our sailing clothes! Seven hours of egg dancing, Tallinn is within sight, and we’re done.
An opportunity to recollect the fragments of our knowledge about this Baltic state. Estonia was the name of an unfortunate ferry that capsized in a winter storm. Not a pleasant thought at the start of a visit. The independence of the Baltic states from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s is still dark in memory. Tallinn is the capital. Admittedly, quite a little knowledge. Even the flag was unknown to us, blue-black-white, horizontally striped. What does onboard literature say? In 1940 the Russians occupied Estonia. A year later, the German Wehrmacht followed. 1944, the Russians invaded again and incorporated the country into their confederation of states. It was not until 1988 that the Soviet-Estonian parliament declared its transition to independence, which was recognized in 1991. The Red Army left the country in 1994, and Estonia has been a member of NATO and the EU since 2004.
The old town is stunning. As far as I know, the foundation of Tallinn goes back to the Middle Ages. Many areas, such as the city wall, watchtowers, and churches, are well preserved. As in those days, small cobblestone streets wind between the houses and squares. Tourists from all over the world represent the clear majority compared to the local population. Like on a cruise two years before in Portugal, we see elderly women begging passively for money with a plastic cup in their hand. Already on the way to the city, I noticed apparent differences in the population. Young people are well dressed, while the older generation looks rather poor, they will probably be the losers of change.
The highlight of the visit to Tallinn is the orthodox cathedral in the middle of the old town. The walls of the church are adorned by an infinite number of icons. Besides, the small number of chairs or benches is noticeable. Some women pray before icons, cross themselves – the last movement leads contrary to Catholic custom to the heart – murmur, bow several times, and left.

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In Estonia, the infrastructure of Marinas is rather thin; relatively large distances have to be sailed. We hope to be able to enter Haapsalu despite all our efforts to get further information. The most recent guide book shows only two meters of water depth in the harbor. Other sailors said they visited the marina, but one has to navigate very carefully. Over almost 20 miles, we make our way slowly through the narrow passages. Mostly five meters of water are under the keel, but these small values make us nervous, isn’t there a stone somewhere, hasn’t formed a new shallow? At various points, we make comparisons with the depth indicated on the nautical chart and the readings of the depth sounder. It looks good, the water level is about ¾ m higher. Haapsalu is well visited, black and red gold ensigns gain the majority, one more berth with us at the “deep-water jetty” of 2.5 m.

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Ventspils – Lettland

A Russian oil pipeline terminates in Ventspils, many storage containers determine the scene in the port, impressions of an oil industry yielding wealth.
The city has several beautiful and well-maintained parks. Wide avenues and excellent pedestrian paths complete the picture of a prosperous metropolis. Depending on the wind direction, one can smell the source of money, sometimes there is a noticeable scent of crude oil in the air.
Ventspils has a heart for children. In the middle of the city is a children’s park with all kinds of playgrounds and adventurous slides. Unique features in the parks are flower motifs in the form of fish, ducks, or even bobsleigh riders in memory of Olympia.
Next to the marina is a long beautiful white sandy beach. Already in the morning, many people head for the water. Anyone make the most of the hot summer. So do we, but taking a dip in the Baltic Sea is rather short, the water is 14 degrees cool.

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Visby – Schweden

Despite all warnings by Swedish sailing enthusiasts, Visby is not fully packed, even the noise level of the amusements around the harbor is low. Gradually we develop the mentality to sail to harbors and places everybody says don’t go there.
Gotland has many descriptions, rose island, fairy tale and legend island, Viking island, or simply nature island. The coast is about 800 km long, many sandy beaches invite. Visby, on the west coast, is the capital of the island and the most important ferry port. Big fast ferries run between Oskarshamn and Stockholm. The city already looked promising from the sea. Church towers, castle ruins in the middle of the center, a windmill at the edge of the village made us curious.
The town of Visby has a rich history and exceptional beauty. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site and northern Europe’s best-preserved medieval city. We make the best of the golden hours of sunset and walk around the town walls. In the warm light of the setting sun, the facades and roofs of the houses shone in yellow and red colors and conveyed a dreamlike atmosphere before a deep blue sky. Roses adorn window sills, some facades are entirely covered with ivy.

After almost eight weeks, the ATHENE-TOUR 2005 is almost complete. There are 1508 nautical miles more in the logbook. Yes, yes, we are developing into high-performance tourists.

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