052612 - The Magic of Aland

052012 9 Rodhamn ASS Sailing Club grounds and Katherine on anchor

Katherine on anchor Rodhamn Aland

Sunday 20th May to Friday 25th May

We have had a great week of experiences not all of which we wish to repeat.

  • Leaving Visby with 28 knots of wind and gusting required a team strategy meeting and precision execution particularly with everyone around us holding off to let loose their lines to see how we faired. 
  • Stern to berthing at Farosund when it blew to 30 while trying to park
  • Anchoring in the smallest bay we ever wish to find ourselves in again at Svenska Hogarna where what we thought was a boat on the aerial picture turned out in reality to be the mooring buoy
  • Getting called up by the Finnish coast guard to advise us they would prefer us to go west of an island rather than east to which we obligingly changed course

Then we got a glimpse of the Aland archipelago.  Aland encompasses around 5000 square miles of around 6500 islands intersected by thousands of miles of navigable channels. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many cardinal markers in such a small place at any one time. Aland is a province of Finland, but the main language spoken is Swedish. They are included as part of the EU but are outside of the EU tax zone and that is what had brought us this far north, 60 degrees in fact. We needed to show that Katherine has left the EU and reentered as an Australian vessel. With papers stamped Katherine is now able to stay within EU waters for 18 months - unfortunately its not that easy for us and we will still need to juggle our time to stay within the visa requirements.

Our first night in Aland we anchored at Rodhamn which happens to be the local sailing clubs island. We met whilst there a gentleman from the club who was working on the buildings in preparation for the upcoming season. He opened up the clubhouse for us to look inside, offered to fire up the sauna for us but none of us could figure out how we could get back to the boat from the sauna without freezing so opted out on the offer. Rodhamn is only 10 miles from Mariehamn the largest town of Aland and is used for sailing camps, visiting boats and for two months of the year is alive with people, a restaurant and events.

We motored the ten miles into Mariehamn on Monday morning marvelling at the homes along the  rocks and channel edges whilst monitoring the large ferries that come in and out of Mariehamn regularly. Some what unnerving knowing you have a large ferry bearing down on your tail. We had four nights at the West Harbour in Mariehamn, got the push bikes out and rode the foreshore, ate some delicious lunches at local cafes, and walked miles. Which was needed after the lunches!

We visited the maritime museum and the Pommern a four masted windjammer which last sailed commercially in 1939 and as part of its working career once carried grain from Port Stephens in South Australia to England and Ireland up until the second world war. The Pommern has been set up as a museum ship and has been preserved in her true form and included many photos taken by one of the seamen in 1933 when they sailed around Cape Horn. At the local maritime museum there were postcards from Adelaide and picture books from Sydney. Amazing to be so far from home but to find history that was so firmly linked with Australia. 

Each night we were entertained by the local sailing club’s small boat racing and training including a match race that we watched from the cockpit whilst enjoying evening drinks in the rare warmth of the sun. 

The buildings of Mariehamn reminded us of something I would expect to see in southern parts of America, tall timbered and often very square looking with a deck. Nothing like what we have seen in other areas. But the beauty in this place is not to be found in the town but the many bays that surround it. We have met several boats now that have spent five or more years just cruising the Aland and Swedish archipelago and we can certainly understand why. 

Next major stop Stockholm.

(Click Here for Photos)

052312  12 Match race viewing from the cockpit

Watching the local ASS match races from the comfort of our cockpit.

© SV Katherine 2018      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Isle Tabarca Spain