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by Wojtek Baginski - Warsaw - Poland and
Norm Wolfe - Washington, DC - USA

Photos by Wojtek Baginski, Ville Lindfors, Mats Vuorenjuuri and Norm Wolfe

Part One - Part Two

A story of jumping ship, by Wojtek Baginski, based on a ship’s log by Norm Wolfe.

8 July, Monday. Wind from N at 25 knots right into the harbor! Waves splashing over docks. No sailing today. Re-tied one spring line to help hold the  boat off of the  dock.  Tried to re-set the anchor off to the side, but it is stuck on something, probably one of the chains holding the dock. I will worry about it when the wind abates. I Climbed up to observation tower with Ville and Ralf. What a great view. At about 15:00 Joe and I rode with Yves and Bertrand to an interesting local museum on the next island, Houtskar, taking 2 ferries to get there. Another car with Jan-Dirk, Nina, Fredrik, Wojtek, and Peter also went to the museum, but returned to camp for the special Russian meal they had ordered. We ate at Hyppeis Vars and all had an excellent meal of fish, at the owner's recommendation.

At the museum I couldn’t take my eyes off those traditional oars each one made from  one wooden stick. They are typical for traditional sea fishing small boats. One end of the stick is thin and heavy while the other end presents a long narrow thick blade. The width of the blade is of the same dimension as the cross section or the opposite end, which is downsized rapidly at the very end to make a handgrip. They look like they must have been made with a draw knife and spokeshave. They are very efficient for long hard work in rough seas.

One stick oar.
Raiders underway: Grzes, Joe, Norm.

9  July, Tuesday. Wind about 15 knots. Some white caps. At Joe’s recommendation, the jammed anchor came up when I gave it some slack, then pulled carefully from the bow. We sailed toward Lappo, our next destination. Lappo is part of the Åland group, an independent part of Finland with its own car licenses, flag, and other privileges. We sailed about half way to an agreed-on meeting place where Ville was already anchored in Rainbow. While stopped for lunch, I re-tied some of the hanks at the head of the sail to try to get more belly in the forward part of the sail: first and second hank very loose, the rest hold the sail tight to the yard. Seems to be some improvement. GPS battery ran out on the second leg into Lappo. We mistakenly took a more exposed but parallel track to the one intended, but it worked just fine. Delayed clean-up until after a fine lamb stew dinner. Still windy, so we re-stowed sail in a more compact roll and even lowered the mast, which is downright simple since it is in a tabernacle and is counterweighted. The cabins are about 600 meters from the landing. Bunk beds again and the top one does not have enough head room for me, so Joe graciously took it. Mats and Verneri are again sharing with us. Nice sauna very close to the water. Wojtek and Greg are tenting next to it.

Mats Vuorenjuuri's Son Verneri (From Finland) at helm of their Herrishoff Coquina

That was "real stuff" for me. Had no chance to refuse taking the helm, as it was really hard job in those conditions and my friends were getting tired one by one. Yes Raider is a big boat. The feeling when you sit at the helm is not  like on a dinghy, oh no. You feel much safer. You feel like on your personal ship.  

10 July, Wednesday. Wind about 10 -12 knots from the north. Light rain. No white-caps. Wojtek, Med (Meredith), Mats, and Verneri took RAIDER out at about 10:30 along with Seppo in Penni. They returned intact, so I assume there were no problems.

Meredith Dale (Britt from Germany) and local dog

That was a great spin for two reasons. Firstly, I was kind of skipper (“so, you are kind of a skipper here?” asked Mats kindly, a great sailor himself) responsible for Raider and all the guys onboard including also Verneri, Mats‘s son, and Med, who, as we all were rotating at the helm, probably made his first tack that time. Secondly, it was raining. 2012 had been a very rainy Raid which satisfied me so much that rain became a part of good sailing to me. We headed to the second lighthouse noticed on the chart (3 miles away from the harbour), racing against "Penni' skipped by Seppo and Grzes rotating at the helm, made a turn around it, and came back with no injuries onboard, that’s why Norm could note "I assume there were no problems". After coming back, I’ve bought a small Finland flag for my home library room.

Norm Wolfe (Washington, DC) napping

11 July, Thursday. Wind about 12 knots. Joe, Greg and I sailed a short distance to our next destination, Nåtö. Quick voyage, arriving about 13:00.  Wojtek volunteered to sail with Ralf, who is sailing alone. Later Joe, Peter, and I sailed RAIDER in the protected bay near our dock. Strong wind but no white-caps. No GPS, so no speed information, but we were going quite fast with water "rooster tailing" up through the lee board slots!

Okay, that was a classic jump ship, however the reason was important. Safety first. Ralf is very experienced with single handed sailing in Alpine lakes and the Croatian coast, and now including his archipelago solo passage to Mossala, but we don’t use motors during the raid, and it was really rough for his 15 ft long dinghy under sails (there is always a motor boat with us - Ville Lindfors’ in his 24 foot "Rainbow" again this year). We reefed the mainsail, getting a schooner rig this way. I call it "schooner rig” because the cat-ketch with two equally sized sails becomes a schooner by reefing the front sail but not the mizzen, thereby making the boat look like a schooner with the sail plan shifted forward.

I‘ve found this reefed mainsail with full mizzen configuration safe and still powerful while sailing in my own Bay River Skiff in last year’s Raid Finland 2012, sailing on "Doppio' with 2 more onboard. Once underway, we were caught by a black squall: the leading edge of a frontal system, a solid line of black fast-moving clouds, short, intense, gone in 20 minutes, max winds somewhere around 35 knots, maybe as high as 40.  In fact it took only 20 minutes since we noticed a small dark line on the horizon, to be hit by a strong blow and rain from big dark low cloud with a rugged edge. In that 20 minutes I decided to use full sails heading to the coming front to get away as far as possible from a lee rocky shore of the big island we were passing along. A few minutes before the big blow we tightened the mizzen sheet to keep the bow facing the wind, pulled down the main to reef it.  But then it was too late to try to reef the mizzen. We continued sailing with our schooner rig. It was really nice and efficient sailing, rewarding enough to ignore the heavy rain. We had good drive to be really safe from the lee shore.

Based on that experience, this 2013 morning  Ralf and I reduced the main in his "Piff-Paff' before setting off.  Ralf, who knew my experience from 2012 emails, had checked out this sail configuration himself on his Alpen lake in strong winds at the fall of 2012. We are 2 rather heavy guys but "Piff-Paff' seemed to ignore it  as well as the reduction of sail area. The sailing was very fast and impressive, Ralf’s GPS recorded 5.4 knots max speed and not much less average (note the sail area reduced to say 6.8 sq. m.!). There’re  lots of white splashes over the bow and it was very important to protect Ralf’s  paper chart for his solo passage back to Mariehamn coming soon. Sitting at the helm of that 15 foot dinghy I found that the 2 feet longer in my  "Doppio” gives much more room and stability. By the way, I could admire Ralf’s boatbuilding skills as well: the surface (never re-sanded and re-varnished! ) and the details were what I could only dream about on Doppio.

12 July, Friday. Day sail. Rowednorth into wind up the channel, probably too far. Wind moderate. Raised sail and tacked east in a side channel on a beam reach over to meet up with Ville on Rainbow, who we thought had new information about our destination. Although the intent was to meet at a picnic spot, we had lunch on board so my Lithuanian and Polish crew could have their noon-time beer, without which they get surly. We are tacking through about 140 degrees, which is awful. We all stopped at a village on the way back, but the dock appeared deserted. After exploring a while, we all had some trouble leaving, as the wind was blowing straight into the protected dock. We left last, and got off easily by leading the bow line to the dock corner most to windward, then rowing a few strokes to be sure we cleared a large rock to our lee on our port side. Wojtek was with again Ralf in Piff-Paff.

The fleet at dock

So another good sailing with Ralf, full sails that time. After leaving that deserted but carefully maintained village we have had a classic lesson on priorities. Raiders still standing on the jetty started to shout a fender is hanging outside, making us both trying to find this object of shame and bring it onboard, and in few seconds we got a huge hit from a sunken rock. "Piff-Paff' has a dagger board instead of originally designed pivoting centerboard, thus we were stuck on it, being pushed onto the rock by the wind, and getting some water coming over the gunwale.  In few seconds we were free, but I will never again look for a fender until I am sure what’s around besides the audience. That evening there was a nice ceremony, anyway. Mats and Verneri invited all of raiders for christening their Coquina, which has been named "Aanar".

13 July, Saturday. Wind from N at about 3 knots. Everyone wanted to get back to the launch ramp  to start driving for home, so we had breakfast at 07:00 and departed at about 08:30. Easy down-wind sail back to Mossala. Wind was too light, and we rowed some, keeping the sail up (is this motor sailing?). Others were rowing also. When we arrived, Joe and I hung off a mooring buoy while Greg and Wojtek got the car and trailer. They backed until the wheels were just touching with water about 3cm up on the tire, then Joe and I paddled/sculled the boat about 10 meters to the trailer. I stood on the stern and the others easily lifted the bow onto the roller and winched her up part way. We pulled out and took the trailer to level ground in the shade, where we winched her fully onto the trailer and rigged for travel. On the road everything went well except we had a very long wait for the 30 min ferry ride, and then when we stopped for dinner at an ABC and Joe and I had a long wait for our pizzas. We arrived at friend Jarmo and Kielo’s summer home, about 1 hour from the ferry to Tallinn, and found that Jussi, Jarmo's brother, had the sauna fired up for us, and we enjoyed it and swimming in the fresh water lake for over an hour.

That morning Ralf set off to the west to catch his ferry to Rostock from the Marienhamn harbour, while the rest of boats sailed east back to Mossala. Well, that was the hardest passage in my opinion. No wind, burning sun, nothing to engage the attention beyond your oar. But I felt kind of excited being informed by a lecture given by Peter during the dinner in Lappo few days earlier, that we are just crossing huge 10 miles wide submerged vulcano crater, some edges of which create the archipelago now.

14 July, Sunday. Up at 04:45 to see off Greg, Wojtek, and Joe. What a great crew! I went back to bed and slept until 8. Then I opened up the boat and removed stuff to allow all of it to dry all day. Swam and visited with Miira and her husband Ante. Tiiu arrived with Andres and Merle Krigul at 20:00. Dinner was grilled meat and potatoes with Kielo's Chanterelle mushroom sauce (from mushrooms she had gathered in the forrest) and a great red wine, a gift from Wojtek and Greg. 15 July, Monday. Uneventful return to Estonia, pulling the boat. Kielo sent us off with Karelian pastries and fresh wild (also gathered by Kielo)  blueberry cake. Yum.

Joe, Greg, Wojtek, Norm

What can I say? I think I can only quote Kenneth Grahame : "There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”. Such a sentence is printed out on the sweat-shirt I’d been given by Norm Wolfe during the raid. Thank you , Norm!

The End




KMZ file:

click the image at left to download a kmz file of the track for Raid Finland 2013

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