We fell in love with Estonia, the
beautiful (but shallow) archipelago in green and blue, the city with
clean streets showing off the best of the Middle Ages, the friendly
inhabitants … and the way too friendly mosquitoes!!!
More pictures between nature and culture in the page "Pictures".
now, the trip has been about the cities of the mighty Hansa League, a
lot of harbours and limited wilderness. We are growing claustrophobic
all three (Saltimbanque too!) and we need some peace and quiet. Good:
the wind will be very quiet in the next three days, as we are setting
sails towards Estonia’s western islands
under the hot sun, the sea is flat, undisturbed by any breeze. We saw
the courtesy flags for the next countries one after the other.
Watching the seamstress at work
The "night" shift should be quiet enough
evening a light breeze awakens, from the East. Just enough to glide
happily on the flat water at a respectable 3 knots.
takes three hours to the sun to set again, and it doesn’t really
disappear. It’s not even cold at night in these conditions. Very
pleasant to sit and watch outside for the whole night, listening to
music or the saga of Tolstoy’s heroes in tsarist Russia.
1h40, heading Norh.
With the sun
rising again (again for a good 3 hours), the wind goes to bed and we
motor the rest of the “night”– under a luminous sky.
The morning mirror
Welcome to Estonia !
5 am the sun is already high and a new breeze pushes us with the
spinnaker on. We are now in Estonia, the island of Kihnu is growing on
harbor is small but accessible day and night, and has been equipped
with sparkling new finger berths. And there’s all the space we need:
the German and the Finnish boats are getting ready to leave for the day
– and we are left with the whole harbor for ourselves. 20€ / night.
recent development is based on new technologies and digitalization.
There are more start-ups per capita than anywhere else in the world.
And so, quite logically harbor fees are paid through an app. Not one,
but two apps are offering this service. We are old-fashioned and choose
to go and speak with the harbor master. In her office, no trace of
paper or pen – she checks us in on her ipad. The receipt is sent by
email. This task accomplished, the harbor master grabs her broom and
goes off to sweep and clean around the harbor – every single
information board is made to shine. Would the Estonian have some common
ancestors with the Swiss we wonder?
Drying the laundry at Kihnu small harbour
In every garden, an underground sauna !
cleaning of our own (it’s a long overdue laundry day), we set off to
visit the harbor. Kihnu is best known for its cultural heritage, and
the habitants’ traditional “way of life” registered on the list of
immaterial heritage by the UNESCO. Indeed, most women still wear their
long woolen skirts full of colors – and most of them work in tourism
After visiting the city (all 10 houses of it) and the
church, we go on into the woods and out to the beaches. Firstly: the
woods. They are mostly of pine trees, and are densely populated by
thousands of mosquitoes and as many horseflies. As soon as one leaves
the relative safety of the road and fields and ventures into forest
paths, they attack by dozen: we have no choice but to run as fast as
possible until the next clearing to avoid being devoured.
Heading to the beach then, to find some respite – and a charming little fishing “harbor” hidden in the reeds.
Kihnu, fishing harbour
Kihnu island crumbles away to the North
along the shore, a loooong sandbank forms the tip of the island, and
the dwelling of several groups of birds. Swans and cormorants as usual,
but also some oyster catchers and terns. A few seagulls too, which we
would almost miss as they are rather rare in the Baltic. Swallows on
the contrary are plentiful – and now we understand why, having been
chased around by their food.
As we are looking for a way back to
the boat along the shore, it becomes more muddy and turns into a swamp.
“Camille, run, they are on to you!” – shouts Laure, already running at
full speed towards the road, followed by a cloud of mosquitoes. The
city wasn’t so bad in the end…
more than 2000 islands, and very shallow waters in-between. Luckily the
channels are well-marked, and we only need to slalom between green and
red buoys and sand banks to be safe and sound out of Kihnu.
Oops we woke up the cormorants...
One of the safe water buoys of the channel
have we left the narrowest passage behind, than a thick fog is forming.
Everything outside of the boat is a dense white nothingness. Luckily
nobody else is around, and we manage to keep a straight progression on
the precise course indicated by the map – reassured every mile or so
when we almost bump into the relevant buoy.
the afternoon the fog disappears as we near the small island of Muhu.
In the North of the harbor, our chart indicates a large bay with
shallow grounds of good sand. We are not exactly sheltered from the
wind – but it’s not too hard anyways and we are fed up with sitting in
harbors. And so, we drop the anchor there – and Laure follows in the
water soon after, with a bright smile. Nobody around, having a swim,
having a wash and jumping in the water to rinse off the soap – this is
a true “Saltimbanque” life!
A boat anchored by the beach must be
a rare sight. At 1.30 am, the coast guards come along to ask whether we
are alright or if we need help…
Seen from the water
17th June : Kuivastu – Sviby (27 M)
Under spi !
are crossing a new sea! This is the Väinameri Sea! (we confess, we
didn’t know it either before). To celebrate such an occasion, we bring
both spinnakers to the party: first a long leg with the big spinnaker,
carefully keeping in the 6m- dredged channel. Then the asymmetrical
spinnaker is hoisted as we come closer to the wind in the next channel.
In this archipelago, channels are well marked but good and recent maps
are absolutely mandatory to know where they are. And by the way, we
will be selling our maps when we come back … should anyone be
interested … remember: they are hard to find!
are now close to Rohuküla, where the ferries leave the mainland for the
island of Hiiumaa in the West. In the winter, trucks drive here.
Saltimbanque is now sailing on Europe’s longest ice road (24km)!
No truck now, safe to cross !
next stop is Sviby, on Vormsi island. In this fully-digital country,
where everybody speaks English, all the harbors have their own website,
detailed by plenty of useful information such as approach maps. We have
a few links to useful material on our page “Links”.
we’re confident about the depth of the harbor when we enter Sviby. Tiny
indeed, but big enough for a small Saltimbanque! We moor the stern on a
buoy and the bow to the dock, in 2.1m of water. The harbor master is
onsite only for 15 minutes around each scheduled ferry departure time.
He comes to collect the harbor fee and kindly decides that Saltimbanque
looks like "less than 8m" and will pay 10 € :o)
discover the island! Based on our experience at Kihnu, we are duly
sprayed with mosquito repellent "tropical strength". But even this is
not enough. 50m into the forest we can no longer hold it, and run away
as horseflies swarm around us. On the road, in the open, it is slightly
better but even there we must use the spray regularly to drive them
away. Stopping to take a picture is an act of heroic sacrifice. It's
really frustrating to not be able to see much of these beautiful
islands ... We will have to find more radical solutions before moving
on other archipelagoes in the Gulf of Botnia!
Along the road, we
can see the few houses that make up the village. Vormsi is populated by
fishermen and farmers of Swedish descent. Indeed many architectural
details and place names remind us of Sweden. During the occupations
(Soviet, then Nazi and then Soviet again) of the 1940s, most of them
emigrated to Sweden, where their somewhat dated dialect allowed them to
go by. There are not many people left in Sviby. Very quiet!
Well equipped bus shed in Sviby
Swallows in Sviby
to the boat and the charming harbor, where swallows gracefully flutter
around and about the very very flat sea. We try our luck at fishing
from the quay, but still without success...
It’s the end
of the fair winds, a rather stronger breeze is expected on the day
after tomorrow: it is time to go and seek shelter in the big city. We
leave at 6am for a long leg downwind. Before that, we have to leave
the "Moon Sound" labyrinth. Very well marked and still very shallow
(depths of 3m only are common)
Once in deep water, we make a
right turn, heading east, with the wind. We sail goose-wings, with a
boom retainer and the pole to keep the genoa open. It is comfortable
enough despite the swell that is already building up. However, such a
sailing configuration is an unstable equilibrium which requires manual
steering. After 15 hours at the helm, we are a little tired!
boulder-littered beaches of the islands are replaced by real cliffs:
this looks like the end of this endless sandy beach that started in
Western Poland. Many sailboats appear. Most of them are Finnish and
bear a weird flag: instead of the regular national flag, they fly blue
cross with the logo of their yacht club in the top left corner.
Are we back to Cape Frehel?
Arriving to Tallinn
reach Tallinn in the early evening. There are plenty of marinas to
choose from here: Pirita in the North East may be the most famous, as
it hosted the sailing competition during the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.
It is 6km away from the city. At the opposite, the Old City marina is
right in the center, close to the cruising sheets and ferry terminal.
It costs €40 a night though… A little further away, another couple of
basins harbours the Maritime Museum. There, in Lennu Sadam, we find a
very clean and convenient marina for 20 €/day, including all facilities
and managed by a very friendly staff. The Kalamaja neighborhood which
stands between us and the city center quickly becomes our favorite,
with its colorful wooden buildings and gentrified former industrial
June 19th-23rd : visiting Tallinn
strong wind is here: gusts and rain! We discover the only drawback of
this harbor: it is not really protected from westerly winds and an
unpleasant break tosses the boats around. In bad weather, nothing
better than staying inside, hearing the rain pouring and the wind
howling outside from the warm comfort of our floating home… rendered
all the more comfortable by a practical small electric heater! And to
think that two days ago we were sweating in 31 degrees...
Not that sheltered from the West...
Textbook example of gentrification in progress
evening brings some sun back and we go for a walk around the Kalamaja
and Telliskivi neighborhoods. Or more accurately, “Hipstertown”. The
alternative, international, young and wealthy start-ups people have
colonized the dull brick warehouses and dilapidated factory chimneys
close to the city’s main train station. It is now full of murals,
home-made outside tables and flower pots, vegan restaurants and
micro-breweries. We sample a local craft beers, sitting in the sun and
watching a new generation of Estonians walk by.
the next day the sun is shining again and we head for the historic
center. Yes, we had noticed the three huge cruise ships moored by the
city on our way here this morning. But naively enough, we had not
thought about the flocks of tourists that would pour about of them into
the beautiful cobblestone streets. Groups of Chinese, Germans, Spanish
and French – each following their guide equipped with a little flag and
/ or a microphone, elbow their way by the main churches and at the
panoramic points. This is a bit annoying. Philosophically we consider
this as a training before Saint Petersburg.
The Old Medieval
Center is very well preserved and pleasant under the sun. Practically
unchanged since the 13th century, this city has a specific layout: in
the fortified upper town, the ruling aristocracy (mostly of German
origin) used to live. A couple of narrow passages led down to the
fortified lower city, where the richer merchants and artisans dwelled.
Visiting the old Townhall (dating from 1404!) is a good way to learn
more about this former Hanseatic League city (yes, one more).
High Town (on the right) and Low Town seen from St-Olav's church
Impressive boilers powering the ice-breaker ship "Suur Toll"
weather forecast is not the best, so we linger a little longer in
Tallinn, a city we both liked very much. The Maritime Museum of Lennu
Sadam impresses us with its huge concrete structure, yet so spacious
and light. We also enjoy the local bars and restaurants and indulge in
a nice dinner in town, only to walk back to the boat under claps of
thunder and pouring rain. We tread in water up to the ankles on the
sidewalks, children are playing and swimming (!) in the streets.
Friday, the wind goes up to force 9 again, but this time it is more
southerly and we will be much less shaken at the pontoon. After
visiting the modern art museum, we get ready for the next step on our
journey: further East, towards the very end of the Gulf of Finland!
la mamou - 04/07/2018 22:57:19 hâte de pouvoir regarder l'album photo avec ce fabuleux "couchlever" de soleil !!! Mum - 04/07/2018 15:31:48 Extraordinaires alternances de chaud et froid,de pétole et de coups de vent,. Photos d'une beauté fascinante !!ekqc3 SuDad - 04/07/2018 11:25:57 Ouaahh, quelle ballade. On s'en taperait presque sur la nuque par réflexe pour écraser un gros moustique. Vos lecteurs vont devenir paranos aussi avec ces descriptions d'un monde tellement naturel que les insectes dominent encore. Nous suivons votre récit pas à pas, en faisant de salutaires progrès en géographie. A peine si Tallinn évoquait vaguement quelque chose. Alors qu'on y est beaucoup plus 2.0 qu'ici. Les photos sont splendides (fruit d'une sélection, bien sûr, mais rien ne vous échappe). L'envol des cormorans, par exemple, ça me rend vert d'envie. Depuis le temps que j'essaie d'obtenir un cliché comme celui-là. Et l'univers métallique du brise-glace ! Tout semble se réaliser pour vous avec aisance...
Eh oui, si nous sommes si fiers de nos filles, nous avons de bonnes raisons.
la mamou - 30/06/2018 15:28:41 extraordinaire "nuit" et miroir d'eau !!! que de rêves encore .....