It is still snowing, while I am writing this post. However, the summer is coming faster than one thinks so it is time to write a “traditional” (third) post of the forthcoming Finnish steamboat summer 2022. This time I do not write an all-embracing article of everything happening in the Finnish steamboat scene but rather a post of steamboats and events that I can recommend myself.
In addition, the following steamboats and events are not in order of preference and the possible mistakes in the text are mine only. In many occasions, the information is still rather preliminary so please check the actual information from the websites of the steamboats/destinations. Despite the uncertainty of information, it is already possible to plan a trip to visit Finnish steamboats!
Take Steamboat Kouta to the Magical Island of Ärjä (Lake Oulujärvi)
Last summer I was properly “introduced” to the steamboat Kouta while I was working aboard Kouta on its 100th anniversary tour on Lake Oulujärvi. Discovering Kouta was a great experience: a wonderful steamboat and an excellent crew that really appreciates the history of the steamboat. The entrepreneurs of Kouta, Ollis and Ari, can tell you a lot details about boat itself and the history of steamboat traffic on the Lake Oulujärvi. Their care for Kouta has been noted by others, too: The shipowners were awarded the “Steamboat company of the year” nomination by The Finnish Steam Yacht Association in 2020. The town of Kajaani also gave these guys the local Culture Award in 2021.
You can get aboard steamboat Kouta from Kajaani. There are different cruises to choose from: for example, 1.5h scenic cruises on river Kajaaninjoki and 2.5h evening cruises on lake Oulujärvi. My tip would be to participate on a one day cruise to the island of Ärjä. Ärjä is a magical place with its long beaches, sand dunes and special nature in general. The boat stays on Ärjä for a couple of hours (2.5) so it is possible to walk around and experience the island by yourself. Definitely recommended!
Along the Poet’s Way with Steamboat Tarjanne (Lake Näsijärvi)
The last of its species, steamboat Tarjanne (1908) is still steaming its original route. The 115th(!) season of Tarjanne brings some small changes to the schedules but the basic idea remains the same. You can travel through Lake Näsijärvi on Tarjanne’s 66 nm (over 120 km) route from Tampere to Virrat or vice versa. There’s even a bus connection taking you back from Virrat so it is possible to make a round trip in one day. But there are rumours that a new bus connection would be introduced for this season which would allow a traveller to take a bus from from Tampere to Virrat in the morning and come back with the old lady Tarjanne. Hopefully this would be confirmed soon! Updates will be published on the site of the shipping company.
This morning bus was my suggestion to travellers while I was working aboard Tarjanne in the first decade of 21st century. It is a lot more comfortable taking a steamboat home than climbing on a bus after a day aboard a steamer. However, the morning bus connection was canceled over 10 years ago. Let’s hope that it will be reinstated this season! Last season, the shipping company started offering tours with the local bus company, Bussi-Manninen. Even though Bussi-Manninen was now a new partner for Tarjanne, there are long historical roots between these two actors. The very same bus company drove a feeder line to steamboat Tarjanne already in the 1930s!
Tarjanne will start its scheduled traffic on June 8 and it will continue until August 13. After that there will be round trips to Virrat as well. It is even possible to make a trip staying in one of the cabins of Tarjanne but this should be reserved in advance as the occupancy rate of cabins is really high!
PS. If you are a steamboat enthusiast visiting Tarjanne and the city of Tampere, you should also pay a visit to the Steam Engine Museum which is located at the Finnish Labour Museum Werstas.
Steamboat Tarjanne at Virrat (August 2021)
The Steamboat Regattas of the Finnish Steam Yacht Association (Lake Saimaa, Lake Päijänne, Lake Näsijärvi)
The steamboat gatherings, called ‘regattas’ (there’s no contest despite the name), are one of the main events of the Finnish steamboat community. These events offer a lot of different steam vessels (depending on lake in question), traditional costumes (sometimes) and a carnival atmosphere (always). This year these events are organized in a way that it is possible for a steamboat enthusiast to participate in each of the events.
The Regatta of Lake Saimaa will be held at Kuopio in July 15–17. The main day will be Saturday 16. The program of this event (as in all regattas) traditionally consists of a joint cruise of steamboats after which the vessles will arrive to the port of Kuopio. Here, the public can visit all the steamboats participating in the regatta. Normally, this is one of the highlights of the event. Let’s just hope that no new Covid wave will alter these plans.
The regatta of Lake Päijänne will be held at Korpilahti on the next weekend (July 22–24). The program in this regatta and also in the regatta of Lake Näsijärvi (August 26–27) will be quite similar to that of Lake Saimaa. The The regatta of Lake Näsijärvi will be held at the port of Mustalahti (Tampere). This year, there will be also steam launches all over Finland participating in this event at Tampere so there will be plenty of action!
Updated information of these events can be found on the site of the Finnish Steam Yacht Association later on.
A Cruise with Cargo Steamer Mikko (Savonlinna, Lake Saimaa)
Presumably the only remaining “tar steamboat” (a cargo steamer made of wood) will make popular scenic cruises from Savonlinna. A wooden steamboat, wooden fuel and steam made of local lake water is a wonderful combination providing a unique cruise experience. At the same time, every passenger buying a ticket is helping to preserve this unique steamboat for the next generation, too. More information about Mikko and its cruises can be found on the site of Riihisaari – Savonlinna Museum and Saimaa Nature Centre.
Tar steamer Mikko in the port of Savonlinna in 2021.
Take Steamboat Suomi to Lake Päijänne (Jyväskylä)
The only remaining passenger steamboat on Lake Päijänne, Suomi, has its home port at Jyväskylä. The cruise program of Suomi mainly consists of lunch and dinner cruises. The season starts in the end of May and continues until September. Nowadays, Suomi is the largest lake area passenger steamer with its capacity of 175 passengers. This is your option if your are paying a visit to Jyväskylä area!
Steamboat Suomi at its home port in Jyväskylä
Rent a Steamboat!
If you could not find a suitable steamboat or schedule from the options above, there is always a possibility to rent a steamboat for your group’s charter cruise – crew included. All the commercial actors above offer charter cruises, but there are also smaller actors like associations which will provide a steamboat for your needs.
On Lake Näsijärvi, “steamboat rentals” are offered at least by steam tugs Näsijärvi II (of which the owning association was nominated as a Steamboat company of the year in 2021) in Tampere and Kotvio II in Vilppula.
On Lake Saimaa, one of the steamboats offering charter cruises is s/s Ahti from Lappeenranta. Also other private steamboats, like s/s Antero, make charter cruises.
At Helsinki, there’s are options to make charter cruises by steamboats, too. One is the harbour icebreaker Turso which was sent to Soviet Union as war reparations in 1945 but was bought back to Finland in 2004. Another option is passenger steamer Lokki that also makes charter cruises.
There will be a lot of great steamboat options for the upcoming summer. So if you will be visiting Finland this summer, one of these steamboats cruises (or all!) could be a great activity for your stay. The steamboats will be happy to take you on cruises!