Tallinn to Helsinki

Al Shaheen
John & Jenny Franklin
Mon 30 Jun 2014 09:24
N60:09.6 E024:57.8
Tallinn brought sunshine and the first shedding of the thermal vest since Gdansk!  We were berthed at the Pirita marina which had been constructed by the Soviets for the 1980 summer Olympics and was looking distinctly tatty. However, it had everything we needed and was but a short (free for pensioners) bus ride into Tallinn. We spent a day in town sightseeing, followed by drinks aboard Ocean Pearl docked in the City Marina and then an excellent dinner at the Peppersack restaurant.

We had invited a Finnish OCC member, Susanna Viljanen, to sail with us from Tallinn  to Helsinki and pilot us through the off-lying islands, so Susanna joined us in sunshine on Saturday afternoon and gave a briefing to the OCC fleet on Finnish island sailing.

The forecast for Monday was for westerly winds about 15 knots and some rain. We left at 0600 with full main and genoa and a light SE wind. The rain came and we soon exchanged genoa for jib as the wind increased and went into the east, just forward of the beam. We soon had one reef in, then two, then we rolled in some jib but still maintained speeds of 7.5 to 8 knots. The seas were short and the rain incessant. It became a wild ride as the wind rose to 27-30 knots and we took in a third reef then eventually took the main down altogether! In the final approaches to Helsinki we were under half a jib only, dodging 32 knot ferries in the murk and still doing 7-8 knots!  We docked at the prestigious SJK marina where dockmaster Sammi had pre-arranged berths for us all and was waiting to take our lines. The final approach to the docks was tricky being downwind with 20 knots under our stern. Once docked we lunched on chicken curry and fired up the Dickinson Newport heater to dry out the sodden boat.

From dock to dock it had only taken 7 hours to cover 47 miles. Max wind 33.8 knots, max boat speed 8.7 knots.

Susanna enjoyed the ride, see her email:

Dear Friends,

the good yacht al-Shaheen landed safely at NJK marina in Helsinki some two hours ago, crewed by our Commodore John Franklin, his wife Jenny and me.

I had arrived earlier on Saturday to Tallinn on a ferry. I had taken my sailing gear and the Finnish nautical charts with me, and my guitar. I headed straight to Pirita Marina, where I met John and Jenny and the rest of the OCC Baltic Rally crew. I told them about the Finnish waters, how to read the Finnish charts, where and how to anchor, where and how to embark the islands and that almost everyone here does speak English. We had a nice evening with beer, guitar, songs and snacks together.

After a well-slept night we headed to open. The distance from Tallinn to Helsinki is long  enough to get feeling of bluewater cruising, but short enough to search for emergency harbour should the weather get really nasty.

And it almost did.

We checked the weather forecast night before. The Finnish Metorological Institute web page (http://www.fmi.fi) promised us 14 to 25 knots wind with overcast and showers.

And what! Overcast - yes, and once we had passed the Tallinn Lighthouse, the weather turned outright foul. It began to rain, and we had beam reach wind over 25 kn. The waves rose - and so did our speed. I had imagined it would have been nice ride of 6 to 6.5 kn. No way! It was rough riding - with 25 to 30 knots, with average wave height exceeding 2 m easily. We did easily 8 knots or more - 8.4 at best. The wind average was eventually some 30 knots, with tops at 33.8 kn.

What was nasty was that the wind was gusty. The news told that four yachts have been dismasted today at Helsinki waters, and needed towing. The wind did rise quite rapidly - the weathers at Baltic are pretty unpredictable - if they have had too much canvas or made an accidental gybe - oi vey!

I acted as a combined deckhand/radist//winch gorilla/supplemental pair of eyes/navigator/pilot. John is an excellent skipper, and a completely fearless one. One reef at the time we decreased the sails until at Harmaja lighthouse we dropped the mainsail off completely, and the headsail was half furled in.

The route to NJK marina from open to the marina island is pretty straightforward, but it is one spar buoy jungle, and the fairway is only some 5 m deep for the last couple of cables or so.  We had both paper charts and plotter, and we eventually managed to get to the marina with flying colours. Once we had moored al-Shaheen to the marina berth, we ate a heartly meal of chicken curry which John had prepared. Lovely!

And no no no, I won't sell my boat and find that nice, cosy and safe job at Koverhar steel mill blast furnaces. Most likely I will be out to sea already next week. I promised John and Jenny to show them "Caprice" next week some evening.

All in all, it was rough riding, but well worth of it, and most of all I FEEL ALIVE!

       fair winds,