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by Tom - town - country

Part One - Part Two

The next day, after an extensive breakfast, we made our packed lunches from the assortment of bread, cheese, meat and fruit, provided.

The informal, collegiate, nature of the Raid's organisation became apparent. Several crews had excellent local knowledge, so there was a meeting round the charts and the day's programme discussed - in the light of people's inclinations, plus the prevailing wind and weather.
In the event, one group went south across a stretch of open water to an island they wanted to visit, while the second group, including Raider, followed Fredrik's suggestion of a circular tour with three visits: to an artisan fish processor, where we could buy his award-winning pickled herring, to a market garden, which the owner showed us round and where flowers and strawberries were for sale, then to a glass blower's workshop, happily with a bar close by.


The highlights for me, however, were lovely sailing through the wonderful scenery provided by the many pine-clad islands and the beautiful beach we were able to sail to, below the market garden, for our lunch stop.
After time for a sauna, dinner that evening was potatoes with cream sauce, salad and cold beef and an interesting, quite sweet, wholemeal bread containing nuts, molasses and other ingredients. It was specific to the archipelago and would stay fresh for four weeks, apparently. We all eat together on long tables and, after an excellent day's sail, it was a very contented gathering.

Our second base, on the Skataudden peninsula

On the Tuesday, following the conference to decide our lunch stop - the island of Langholmen, we left Biskopsö early, for the 20+ km voyage east, to our second base, a camping, cabins and restaurant establishment called Skatafé on the northern tip of the Skataudden peninsula which had road access.

Two different courses were adopted in the fleet, as our destination was upwind, but, first, the island of Vänoxa had to rounded, involving a long reach to the north before passages open to the east.

However, Vänoxa is bisected by a channel about a mile long, narrow and winding in parts, to the east of our start point. Raider, with her basic lug rig, does not go to windward as well as more sophisticated boats, but with her length and narrow beam, she can travel efficiently under oar and directly into the wind with lowered mast. Norm had equipped her with two pairs of good-length oars, easily accessible in racks each side.

Jan-Dirk and Nina's traditional Ida, with shallow keel, is also challenged to windward, so both boats tacked across to this channel and rowed through, sometimes with the oars touching both sides, while the rest of the fleet sailed the longer way, around Vänoxa.


After emerging from the channel, which Andres and I had double-sculled, it was an easy close reach to Langholmen, which Raider reached in equal first place with Ellinor, the fastest boat in the fleet. Not that we were racing, of course! So, Jim Michalak's Raider design worked very well, considering she is relatively cheap to build and sports a low-tech sailing rig.

As on our first daysail, we had an idyllic picnic, seated in the shade of  pine trees, some maintaining a precarious hold on this granite island, overlooking our boats moored bow-to with the aid of stern anchors.

All our lunch stops and our bases were in the same pristine condition – presumably the usual detritus of plastic and wood gets washed up, but nowhere was this in evidence. Just clean waters and a wonderful scenery of pine-clad islands with the occasional summer house and jetty.

We reached  Skatafé, mid-afternoon. Those not camping were accommodated in very nice cabins laid out on a wide lawn extending to the water. The sauna cabin, to the same design, was just a few metres from the waters edge and I experienced the full Finnish sauna, including naked plunge in the sea to cool off, followed by a chat over a beer on the balcony, before repeating the process. Happily, midges were not a problem this year.

Not having had a sauna since the seventies, I was unfamiliar with the protocols. However, Finland is the place to learn and I was introduced to practices such as mixing beer with the water thrown onto the stones to give a yeasty smell to steam produced. I learned that wood-fired sauna were considered superior to electric ones and that even the type of wood can produce a different experience, with birch considered the best. I also learned about drawing off bowls of hot water from a tank built into the side of the furnace and using these for our ablutions.

Seppo told me that in his village, to the north of Helsinki, there is a communal sauna twice a week in the evening, for both the men and the women.

The sauna at Skatafé, as well as its superb location, had a window. Naturally, this was regarded as superior to ones without - one of the very few shortfalls of Biskopsö.

We stayed at Skatafé for four nights. Andres' son Ott arrived by car and joined us for the Wednesday to Friday, when we day-sailed from this base. Raider is a boat without vices so, as an experienced kite-surfer, he needed just a short conversion course to become a confident helm.

Sailing the Finnish Archipelago

Given the wealth of options in the Archipelago, each day's conference considered the weather and wind direction, then decided on a direction, a lunch stop plus other stops to see things of interest, such as some hilltop caves on the Wednesday. Each boat then went its own way, rendezvousing as agreed.

Raider's approach was often slightly different from the rest of the fleet, firstly, as on Tuesday's passage, because of our capabilities under oar and, secondly, because of Norm's philosophy that, constructed by a carpenter in Estonia, with a work boat finish, Raider could withstand the odd knock and scrape. This developed into a quota of at least three bumps a day!

This led us to tackle passages and areas with rocks, such as off headlands, that some of the other boats very sensibly avoided, either because they were too narrow or because of the risk of submerged rocks.
One such passage was between the islands of Ramsö and Grytholmen, to the north of  Skatafé. We benefited by the ability to take short cuts, and, as here, by sailing at close quarters through beautiful scenery as we traversed narrow, often rock-strewn, passages, with a look-out in the bow. Not being tidal, the presence of the submerged rocks was not obvious, hence the need for a look-out.

In rough weather, this capability would also allow more sheltered passages to be used rather than traversing open water.

Usually, it was the leeboards that got knocked and they would swing up with the blow and come to no harm. On the Thursday, however, Raider rode right up onto a submerged rock and stayed there. I jumped into the water and managed to push the now considerably lighter boat off the rock, which I then managed to climb onto and scramble back into the boat. Perhaps our most amusing incident!

The wind, still from the east, was quite fresh, but the daily conference had ambitiously decided on a course to the east. Rounding the island of Ulkoluoto Uto, we came into the Orvlaxfjärden, a long open stretch of water, with white caps appearing. Feeling the weight of wind, we tacked into a cove and reefed, while an obliging holiday swimmer held our bow for us.

A short while later, Ville came over in Rainbow and diverted us north up the Pettufjärden to a revised lunch rendezvous on the island of Pettu - an easy reach through more sheltered waters and a good example of the Raid being about the safety and enjoyment of the fleet rather than a need to complete a course, come what may.


On our return, with the wind at our back and Ott at the helm, we were enjoying the sailing so much that rather than come straight in, we diverted to circumnavigate Grytholmen again. In places, the narrow passages lost all the wind, but that was fine with Raider: we just got out the oars!

Another time when we were very happy to have Rainbow in support was on the Wednesday, when the wind died as we came away from our second stop - to look at a possible base for future years. We took Rainbow's tow rope and fell into line, astern, as she towed the whole fleet back to Skatafé.

Norm had encouraged me to have a sail on another boat if I got the opportunity. So, when Peter wanted to sail on Mikhail and Greg's White Fang, I volunteered to take his place and sail with Terry on Vips. This is an interesting modern design in a number of respects,  particularly its balanced lug rig on carbon spars, with many more control lines than on Raider and transparent panels to enable the tell-tales to be seen from both sides.

Norm had already, during the Raid, added tell-tales to Raider's sail, which helped with the trimming considerably, but these panels made Vips' more usable. Being able to make changes to the rig while sailing was very interesting, though I lacked the theory to make best use of it.

In my absence, Norm, Andres and Ott, were able to spread out even more, on what is a very spacious and comfortable, boat.  Having leeboards rather than a centreboard, is one reason for the space, the other being her length. The ability to sit forward of the mast is great - giving another perspective of the sail and of the surroundings, plus a  rowing station and look-out position when sailing through rocks.

Après Sail
As well as the evening sauna, each day - an excellent and popular institution, the meals were very happy, buffet affairs. At Skatafé, enjoying the run of fine weather, we ate both breakfast and dinner in the open air.

After one dinner, the Raid Finland trophy was presented to Peter by Yves, the previous year's holder, with a fine speech and, after another, Norm was presented by Mats with a large, white-painted cleat signed by everyone, in recognition of his many Raids.

In addition, the evening before Seppo and his family and Jan-Dirk and Nina, had to leave the Raid, there was an impromptu drinks party outside the sauna cabin.

I mentioned that a very appealing aspect of the Raid was the diversity of the nationalities taking part.

As a westerner, some of the discussions and jokes gave new insights, particularly those between the Russians, Finns and Estonians. Mikhail from Moscow and Andres from Tallin, had both had grown up in the Soviet Union. Some things they lamented the passing of, such as fermented pickled herrings, but both recounted their first trips to the west, in the eighties and the impact these had had on them.

Russia's recent annexation of Crimea and involvement in Eastern Ukraine, was clearly of concern and brought home the significance of Russia to the history and geopolitics of this eastern part of Europe.

Return to Biskopsö and Dalsbruk

Saturday came all too soon and we left Skatafé to retrace our steps to Biskopsö. The lunchtime stop was agreed as Langholmen, where Yves's ex-wife has a cabin.

This should have been an easy navigation but, under sail, I was completely baffled by the surroundings not tallying with the chart. Luckily, Yves was in the lead and we knew he knew the way. It was only when we had arrived that I discovered there were two islands called Langholmen, within a few miles of each other. Lang had obviously moved home, but the old name had stuck!

After a happy picnic and a tour of the boathouse, we left Yves and Kaylum and sailed back to Biskopsö, where Andrea and her helpers had prepared a beautiful salmon for our final dinner.

Our last day was a lively short sail through the islands back to Dalsbruk, where we recovered our boats and bid our farewells.

Final thoughts

Raid Finland, 2014, was a tremendous event, combining sailing through the wonderful scenery of the Finnish Archipelago, with the wind and fine weather to make best use of it.

Peter's collaborative, low-key, approach to the organisation was very effective and the fact that so many boats, including Rainbow our safety boat, had been several times before, made for a very harmonious and successful event.

It was very interesting to see so many different boats sailing together. The traditional work boats, without keels or boards, were slow to windward, but Fredrik and Kristina on Gna compensated on the passages by sailing through lunch and Rainbow was on hand to tow Ida on one occasion.

Mikhail's beautiful double ender, White Fang, was surprisingly fast downwind for a small keelboat cruiser and, with limited draft, was able to moor bow-to with a stern anchor almost as well as the dinghies.

Both Mat's Coquina and Yves' Ellinor are designs from a previous era and this seems to make great sense for raids and dinghy cruising where the boats are usually loaded. Their hull shapes are optimised for displacement sailing and are probably more predictable in their heavy weather handling, as well as faster in light airs, as a result.

Peter's home-built Apple 16 showed how a modern design can improve the efficiency of traditional rigs and Seppo's home-built Haven 12 ½  showed how spacious a modern, strip-planked, design can be.

Lastly, Norm's Michalak-designed Raider, with her glass-fibre flagpole mast, clearly demonstrated what I have read before: that long open boats can be very enjoyable because of the room available. Sailing for several hours in close proximity to the rest of a crew can be difficult at times, but on Raider there was plenty of space to stretch out and move around. I've already mentioned her sail/oar capabilities and her cheap-build, knockabout, philosophy. Taking these attributes together, I think Raider makes an ideal Raid boat.

Norm had her built in Estonia and keeps her there between Raids, courtesy of Andres. He has another Michalak-designed boat at home. Their combined cost is still low compared to what many spend on their boats and it's a fine idea to sail on two continents each year!

Tom Hart

Tom Hart is a lifelong sailor and oarsman from Portsmouth, England, currently sailing a 30 ft cruiser and crewing for others. He has plans to build a Michalak dinghy, when he's sold his cruiser.

Photos, unless otherwise captioned, were taken by Norm Wolfe’s camera aboard Raider by one of the four of us.

Links to  RAID Finland  photos and articles and some of the boats may be found here.

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