Thursday, 23 November 2017

Big and tall

Some of you may have wondered about my very sporadic presence on the blogosphere these past several months. It’s not that I would have been busy but because I’ve had such a lot of disturbance on the blog for almost a year now it has eaten out much of the joy turning my feelings ambivalent, at times almost estranged from the whole thing.

When a trivial little blog of a retiree like myself suddenly gets hundreds of additional clicks day in day out for months whether you post anything or not the largest group of ‘visitors’ being male in their late 20s and early 30s interested in sports, computing and electronics, and when you realise your platform provider doesn’t even acknowledge there is an issue you can’t help feeling discouraged knowing there’s nothing you can do about it but either quit or wait. So I’ve waited. As I am finally seeing some indication the problem may be settling, I will hopefully start catching up soon.

Meanwhile, I am returning to the summer season I’ve almost completely ignored here so far. It offered some fabulous local events I just cannot skip posting about. One of the most memorable and certainly the most international of those we attended was the four-day stopover of The Tall Ships Races 2017 in July.

Mircea from Romania.

The Tall Ships Races are an annual series of events arranged in European waters by Sail Training International, a non-profit organisation encouraging international friendships by promoting sail training to young people. Every few years, the sailing route will take dozens of sailing ships to harbours of the Baltic Sea. This time, Finland actually had two host ports. The first leg from Halmstad, Sweden, ended in Kotka on our south-eastern coast. From there the ships sailed to Turku, and then further to Klaipeda in Lithuania and finally to Szczecin in Poland.

On board Statsraad Lehmkuhl from Norway.

Bow of Statsraad Lehmkuhl.
And what a feast is was! Turku is quite a professional in arranging major maritime events having hosted The Tall Ships Races in 1996, 2003 and 2009, as well as a unique Culture 2011 Tall Ships Regatta that marked Turku’s European Capital of Culture year. The special vibes could be felt all over downtown. The actual event area stretched on both sides of the river Aura from the Forum Marinum maritime museum by the passenger harbour to the first bridge 1.5km away. The weather was quite cloudy during the opening ceremony that culminated in flybys of the Midnight Hawks aerobatics team of the Finnish Air Force. However, it turned most lovely by the weekend when there was simply no end to the pouring crowds.

Sørlandet from Norway.

Dar Mlodziezy from Poland.

Sedov from Russia behind the Finnish Anya.
There are a few prerequisites for participation in The Tall Ships Races: the sailing ship must be a monohull vessel with a waterline length of no less than 9.14m (30ft) and at least half of the crew must be aged 15-25 years. Therefore, the vessels attending were quite versatile in size and status from smaller domestic yachts to spectacular large training vessels from far-away countries.

Rupel from Belgium.

Kapitan Borchardt from Poland behind Achim Kühn's sculpture Harmonia (ie Harmony).
This time, the number of ships moored on the river for the public to marvel was slightly short of 100. You could also step on board several of the larger ones to have a closer look. According to the local organisers, the City of Turku, the event attracted a record-breaking 544,000 visitors, making it the largest of the many Finland 100 events celebrating the centenary year of Finnish independence.

Shtandart from Russia and the Föli waterbus operating between the town and the Ruissalo island.

Some inventive measures were necessary to help the pedestrian masses move from one side of the river to the other. An island ferry had been hired to complement the transport capacity of the Föri river ferry running all year round and the ‘Little Föri’ ferry operating during the summer holiday season. Because of this and the sightseeing cruises of local entrepreneurs, the river never stopped looking busy although it was closed to private boat traffic throughout the event.

Cisne Branco from Brazil marked the centenary of Finland with a cool specially designed banner.
There were lots of activities, music performances, catering sections, vendors’ stalls, etc, all around the area to charm, refresh and entertain the visitors. I must admit I would have preferred a tighter focus on the subject matter with less on-site hassle as was the case at the Helsinki event in 2013 (my post here) but the many families with young children probably felt differently.

We spent practically the whole of Saturday walking with our weekend visitors from ship to ship only to find we hadn’t reserved enough time to see everything there would have been to see. We also returned after dinner to watch the fireworks highlighting the last night of the event. Now that I’m looking at these summery photos I can’t believe they were taken only four months ago. Even if the temperature still stays most of the time slightly above freezing point, at this precise moment in November it seems unlikely I would ever feel warm again...

Above and below Sabab Oman II from Oman.

Figurehead of Sabab Oman II.
Next year this great event will be arranged in the North Sea. The Tall Ships Races 2018 will be kicked off in Sunderland in the UK on July 11, from where the voyage will continue to Esbjerg in Denmark and Stavanger in Norway and finally to Harlingen in The Netherlands closing there on August 6. But already before that – between May 25 and June 18 – The Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta 2018 will be visiting Liverpool in the UK, Dublin in Ireland and Bordeaux in France.

Roald Amundsen from Germany and Royal Helena from Bulgaria.

Kruzenshtern from Russia.
I do recommend not to skip these events if you happen to be close by. What’s more, if you have a 15 to 25-year-old in the family they could sign up for a leg as a trainee. No previous sailing experience is required. How is that for a treat!

If you missed my post on the extraordinary Swan sailing yacht regatta held in Turku in 2016 you will find it here.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Autumn by the sea

This autumn has been quite different from that of last year. Now we’ve actually had some rain, which means we’ve finally managed to find some winter mushrooms here. They were abundant in our former neighbourhood and we’ve missed rambling in the forest picking them.

Once again, it’s proven rather fortunate we moved to the southwestern corner of the country. Despite the occasional rain and cloudy skies, the weather has been much better here than most everywhere else. We even had two lovely sunny October weekends enabling the venturesome Sunday sailors to continue the season.

The not-that-patient ones have stored their boats for winter weeks ago. It’s starting to be about time also for the rest as the nights have grown frosty. The ground turned white last night for the first time this fall.