Friday, July 15, 2016

'My Ship 5' enters service

Foreign readers may not be aware that my present hometown Turku boasts a long traditions in shipbuilding. There has been a shipyard here since the early 18th century, not to mention the sailing ships that were built here starting from at least the 16th century.

Hubby made his whole career in marine industry and even I had a job inside the gates of the Rauma shipyard for several years in my late 20s and early 30s – that’s where we met about two decades before we started dating. With such a background, it is not surprising we headed to the shore to watch a newbuild leaving its birthplace towards a busy life at sea.



On June 20, the cruise ship Mein Schiff 5 built at the Meyer Turku shipyard was handed over to TUI Cruises which is a joint venture of the German tourist company TUI AG and the American Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. The next day the ship headed for Kiel from where it will serve the German-speaking luxury cruise guests sailing in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean in the summer season and in the Caribbean during winter.

Between delivery and now, the vessel has made a few short ‘pre-cruises’ in the Baltics. The christening ceremony will be held as a public event in Travemünde, the ferry port of Lübeck, tonight. The maiden voyage starting tomorrow from Kiel will stop at Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm.




The ship measures 295m x 35.8m and has 15 decks. It can accommodate 2794 passengers into its 1267 cabins almost 1000 of which have a balcony. A crew of more than 1000 people will work tirelessly to fulfil the wishes of the guests according to the all-inclusive feel-good philosophy of TUI Cruises. Restaurants, bars, shops, fitness facilities, beauty salon, spa, outdoor swimming pool, jogging track, you name it. I don’t think this is the kind of travel I would ever want to take part in for more reasons than one but it is good to know the newbuilds incorporate eco-friendly technologies minimising both emissions and energy consumption.



Fascination, zest for life, sunshine, holiday, harmony, peacefulness, wellbeing, inspiration are some of the words painted on the sides of the vessel. I am sure the Turku shipbuilders also recognise many of these points feeling happy about their current masters. After a few turbulent decades with financial problems and several unsuccessful mergers and acquisitions, the German family-owned Meyer Werft that bought the shipyard a couple of years ago was the best possible saviour you could have wished for to safeguard the future of shipbuilding in Turku, says hubby who knows. 

As the order book is secured until 2020 we will have many more opportunities to watch brand-new cruise ships gliding by the Ruissalo island towards the open sea.



Saturday, July 2, 2016

Seaside cottage

All of a sudden, our daily routine changed from driving to a different nature site each day to heading to the same place all the time: we found a modest little summer cottage to rent by the sea.

We got the keys 11 days ago, ie a few days before Midsummer, and managed to take all the essentials there for a stay through the holiday. From then on, we’ve continued carrying all kinds of things to the cottage as it was practically unfurnished.




Hubby is horrified about the amount of goods we are hauling to the place whereas I am happy to find some use for some of the stuff I couldn’t dispose of when we sold the house but stored exactly for this kind of a purpose. A friend of mine commented we probably rented the cottage because I was longing for a new decorating project. By the look of it she wasn’t entirely mistaken.



I saved the best point of this story last. The cottage is located only 12km from our home! This is such a ridiculously short distance we can come and go as we please, just pop in or stay until we need to do some grocery shopping or if there is something interesting happening in town. Such as the current UEFA European Championship on TV (we are planning to keep the cottage TV free). Neither of us is a sports enthusiast but we could never ignore a major international football event.


Earlier this week, there were a few days off in the Euro 2016 matches. We overnighted at the cottage and my daughter paid her first visit to the place with her two Maine Coons. She is such an efficient outdoor person I cannot wait for her next stay. While I am concentrating on cleaning and arranging the interior, the grounds will be presentable in no time as soon as she is parking her cats on the site.



Saturday, June 18, 2016

Swans bathing

Until very recently, early summer has been so lovely we’ve been practically constantly on the go enjoying the wonders of nature. Probably the most memorable experience so far this season has been observing the bathing and grooming of  a group of 13 mute swans (Cygnus olor) (kyhmyjoutsen).





That afternoon our timing was perfect. On our arrival to the seaside the swans were just gathering to a sheltered bay where a few were already swimming around and feeding stretching their necks to the bottoms of the sea. Swans mate for life and we could clearly spot the couples.


Before too long, the swans started to water themselves. It felt as if they were washing up their dirty necks before preening. One young swan in particular ran a playful show swimming and diving around like a wheel whirling on water. Judged from its brownish colouring it was most likely a cygnet from last year who simply couldn’t get enough of the joys of water.




One by one, the swans were assembling closer to the shore to start the grooming process. The flexibility of a swan’s neck is amazing. It can get to every corner of the plumage when the bird is diligently preening its large body and wings cleaning the feathers and spreading preen oil through them to keep them waterproof. The oil gland is located at the base of the tail so I guess the above two swans are stretching for a fresh dose of the waxy oil.






The swans provided a skillful balancing act. Feathers and down were blowing about when the acrobats were twisting themselves around often using also one of their legs as an aid in the preening.









We spent a good half an hour silently watching the fascinating performance. These swans summering on the waters of the Ruissalo island are used to people and didn’t mind the onlookers at all. The two barnacle geese on the shore, on the other hand, were a bit disturbed by someone walking his dog on the seaside rocks and decided it was better to fly to safety. When the dog began to bark it was too much even for the swans. They raised their necks up and started slowly gliding away busking, ie holding their wings slightly up as if they were drying them.



All this happened a few weeks ago. We’ve paid several visits to the area since then hoping to spot new cygnets but haven’t seen a glimpse of any young ones yet. The outings will continue.