Wednesday, February 25, 2015


The Gulf of Bothnia separates Sweden and Finland - countries that have two of the most amazing archipelagos in the world. I have known about them all of my life mainly because of two books belonging to my father that were written by that doyen of British sailing, the late great Adlard Coles. His triumphant transatlantic race win in his small yacht Cohoe 2 in the 1950s and his other sailing exploits are stories on their own; but the books that introduced me to Coles and sparked my interest in the Baltic are his books 'In Broken Water' (1925) and  'Mary Anne Among 10,000 Islands' (1938).

'In Broken Water' contains an account of a cruise from Bursledon near Southhampton, to Copenhagen and back. "The cruise along the coasts of the low countries and Germany and in the Baltic was about 1,600 miles in direct distances made good. In 1923, the voyage was regarded by many as hazardous, more on account of the yacht's racing character than her small size."

'Mary Anne' was a 10 ton Bermudian sloop which the author and his wife chartered at Helsingfors in the spring of 1938 for a cruise in the Finnish Archipelago and around the Aland Islands and to Estonia. This book is written in a delightfully straightforward and engaging manner giving a very interesting account of the sailing and navigation of the little sloop as she voyaged among the myriad of islands and skerries which margin the coast of Finland.

This first map shows the absolutely fabulous cruising grounds of the Finnish Archipelago.

This map (above) shows the amazing cruising grounds not only to the seaward side of Stockholm, Sweden,  but inland to the East. The number of inland waterways and lakes provides a wealth of fascinating areas to explore by small yacht, sailing dinghy or kayak.

In the mouth of the Gulf of Bothnia lies Aland (Alend) island. This map which I have photographed from Adlard Coles book shows the course of the little Mary Anne as she circumnavigates the island.

[The spelling of the island is interesting. My Google search shows it spelt two ways ALAND or ALEND (But usually ALAND). If I use the spelling ALEND and I rearrange the letters - it spells my Christian name - ALDEN. Perhaps I shall go there and tell the islanders they have made a minor mistake with the spelling of ALEND and point out how I can help them. I shall muse through my musing marine beard with one hand as my eyes look to starboard and skywards - "How does ALDEN ISLAND sound? !" I shall say smiling, nodding my head and punching the fine archipelago air with a definitive fist. Even now I can hear a collective "YES" as the whole islands population bursts into song in response to my genius and originality while at the same time they gift me a fine little Fir tree island all to myself from their treasured archipelago complete with a little house and its own little yacht jetty - and wonder upon wonder, a little yacht of good sound Scandinavian design for me to sail, moored at the jetty - All this given to me in solemn gratitude for solving a grammatical, syntactical, semantic and spelling problem that they now know has plagued them for centuries. I shall called my little yacht 'Norrsken' (Swedish) or 'Revontulet' (Finnish) which means 'Northern Lights'. In fact because ALDEN ISLAND is smack in the middle of the Gulf Of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland I shall paint 'Norrsken' on the port side and 'Revontulet' to starboard.

Although being continually fed, feted and watered with the ALDEN ISLANDERS equivalent of Oaken Barrel Aged Whiskey and asked to listen to ballad like poems about myself at a never ending round of public engagements - I am sure that these wonderful ALDEN ISLANDERS will allow me quite often to slip my moorings and sail off in my stunningly beautiful Scandinavian classic yacht around bewitching, enchanting, magical ALDEN ISLAND. ]

Bugger, they forgot the jetty.

Nah, that first island is for the gardener. This is my island. Cool eh! 

A short Northern summer would provide the impetus not to waste any sailing time.

Quaint red houses. The one on the right is owned by Sven Borgensveneson. The one on the left by Ingrid Ingridskudsenson and the one in the middle by Igmar and Lap Borenborensen. On the hill on the right lives Odin Odindagmarkenson. The boat in the foreground belongs to Bob, a distant cousin of mine from Dannevirke.

 Storm clouds on their way but Norrsken / Revontulet has reefing lines in her mains'l and a storm jib.

Working on the principle that "House guests are like fish, they go off after 3 days". I have requested that this little island be made available for them.

Some islands fall away quickly into deep water enabling close anchoring.

Don't forget the stern line.

Enticing, mysterious, enchanted, wild - wonderful - and utterly sailable.


Ben said...

The coast with thousands of islands you are talking about is called a “Scheren kust”. A special yacht designed for that pleasant cruising in that area is the “Scherenkruiser”. You know that type of yacht because you made a photo of that elegant yacht in Hoorn. Blog post November 1st 2009.
Believe it or not Alden, your island is in winter a favorite spot and center for ice-skating on the sea, not only for the Finnish people but also for some Dutch. Nice blog.

Alden Smith said...

Yes, and I was thinking about that lovely little boat when I was doing this blog post. I have found the photograph that you mention and it certainly is a fabulous looking little boat - I am going to blog about it soon. What is great about the Scherenkruiser is that it is such a beautiful mixture of 'form' and 'function' - its beautiful and fast, but with the minimum accommodation inside for weekend and short holiday sailing.

No, I did not know that you could ice skate on the sea there. Does this mean that the whole of the Gulf of Bothnia freezes over in the Winter? or does it just freeze around the coastal areas?

I would dearly love to go to Aland Island and sail there as well as in these two wonderful archipelagos.