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Who would defend the cultural heritage of Mustalahti Harbor?

“Tampere City is also committed to development in accordance with sustainable principles, balancing ecological, social, cultural, and economic perspectives. Sustainable development is taken into account in the city’s activities and decision-making, and it is a cross-cutting theme in the city’s strategy.” (Tampere City’s Sustainable Practices)

Fine words that look good in program declarations and brochures, but what do they mean in practice? It’s probably quite case-specific Emphasizing ecological sustainability is currently fashionable, but nurturing cultural sustainability in the city seems to still be at the level of the 1970s. Let’s take an example from Mustalahti Harbor.

Tampere’s only passenger harbor on Lake Näsijärvi, Mustalahti Harbor, is currently being planned for a bridge that, if realized, will cut through the harbor in the middle. In the broader development of the Särkänniemi and Onkiniemi area, the bridge may be a small detail, but it is a highly significant factor for port operations and cultural heritage/environment.

I understand that not everyone sees the traditional harbor scene as cultural heritage – ‘what’s the importance of a few old boats?’ However, it’s good to remember at this point that many considered the Tampere Market Hall’s administrative building in the 1970s as nothing more than a worthless shack worthy of demolition. At one point, even a highway was planned for Pyynikki conservation area in the fervor of progressive thinking. Fortunately, these follies were not realized when defenders were found for these sites. Where could we find such advocates for the heritage harbor of Mustalahti?

I have expressed my concerns about the bridge planned for Kortelahti already during the planning phase in public events (on October 3, 2017, and November 22, 2018). I have pointed out that the bridge is 1) an unnecessary obstacle for maritime traffic in the harbor and 2) a significant negative change to the cultural environment. If realized, the bridge would disrupt the row of heritage vessels on both sides of the harbor and divide the passenger harbor in the middle. The notes written on nice post-it notes and the comments drawn on maps were certainly welcomed, but that’s where it ended. As for the bridge, the exact same plans keep popping up over and over again.”

It mainly brings to mind two options: Either a) it hasn’t been understood or b) there’s been a lack of concern about what the plan does to the traditional harbor.

At the end of January, I once again raised my concerns about the planned bridge over Kortelahti, which, if implemented, would cut through the traditional Mustalahti Harbor in the middle. At the same time, I sent an email to all members of the Tampere Planning Committee (yhdyskuntalautakunta). In it, I explained why building the bridge in that particular location is a bad idea and how moving the bridge by 70 meters could achieve a compromise that would satisfy a significantly larger number of people.” For maritime traffic on the lake, the relief caused by moving the bridge would be significant, and the bridge would also not cut through the traditional harbor as severely. Yet, a significantly better pedestrian and cycling connection could still be easily achieved over the harbor basin. The need for the entire bridge could, of course, be questioned, but since there seems to be a strong desire for the bridge, I have naively believed in the power of compromise.

The Planning Committee has indeed discussed the zoning proposal on several occasions: the points of contention were precisely the bridge and the fate of the parking spaces on the Särkänniemi side.” After a few postponements, the zoning proposal, with almost no changes, was approved in a close vote (6–7) on March 9, 2021. Thank you once again to the parties that defended the matter and to the listeners who were present in the committee. “In any case, the zoning proposal is now available for public viewing, and anyone can provide comments on the plan.

Yes, one can certainly provide comments, but the comments probably won’t have any impact on the actual matter. I personally thought, and still think, that the Planning Committee should have sent the plan back for further preparation because the influence of an ordinary citizen through commenting or submitting opinions seems to be minimal in this matter as well. The ‘participation’ process of this plan has indeed provided quite strong indications of that.

The observations presented in public events have not led to any changes, and contacting the planning department has also made it clear that hoping for modifications is not worthwhile. The bridge is coming, and that’s final. The other harbor activities can then be ‘developed’ in further planning. Allegedly, the zoning relies on ‘experts’ regarding maritime traffic, so my concerns are ‘unnecessary’. “Cultural and environmental values, and their safeguarding in further planning, have also been taken into account in the zoning solution” (email to the writer). Everything is in order – at least in a parallel reality.

Personally, I find it quite peculiar, in terms of considering cultural and environmental values, that a 200-year-old harbor site and the Kortelahti basin, which has been essentially in its current form since 1909, are split in half just because the decision-makers have the power to do so. Because we can. Great exercise of power.

I haven’t received any convincing justifications for why the location of the bridge couldn’t be moved. Of course, I have heard the city’s representative argue that moving the bridge would damage everything else already planned so much that the entire plan could collapse. This makes the bridge one of the most important bridges in the world! Well, it might be that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will appear immediately on the scene when the dashed lines of the bridge are moved a few centimeters on the computer screen.

The entire process also raises the question of how, in the 2020s, it’s possible to conduct such zoning where decisions are made beforehand before the zoning proposal is even made available, and participation events are entirely superficial? Shouldn’t these things, if anywhere, be reconsidered on the planning table? If the zoning proposal and the marked location of the bridge have been approved, it’s quite challenging to ‘develop’ the part of the harbor that no longer exists.

It mainly brings to mind two options: Either a) it hasn’t been understood or b) there’s been a lack of concern about what the plan does to the traditional harbor. It’s probably a bit of both. Tampere, Finland’s busiest inland water city, has long forgotten its water traffic, and history seems to be repeating itself in a peculiar way: A significant part of the Mustalahti basin was filled during the construction of Paasikiventie (road) in the 1970s, despite strong opposition from boat clubs and representatives of water traffic (see, for example, Helsingin Sanomat 11.8.1975). Now, the parties and interest groups pushing for similar policies are different (in the 1970s they were representatives of car traffic), but the end result is the same: water traffic and cultural heritage are once again forgotten. Progress and ‘development,’ those power words of technocrats, roll over regardless of the decade.

Although the opportunities for influence in the zoning process seem small based on my experiences, I recommend interested parties to provide feedback on the plan (March 11 – April 12, 2021) at the address kirjaamo@tampere.fi. The feedback must include the reference number of the plan (TRE:5229/10.02.01/2016). Perhaps the feedback from someone influential enough could indeed carry some weight. Who would take ownership of the matter concerning Mustanlahti Harbor?

And to end with a bit of repetition: I definitely do not oppose the development of the area, and I find other plans reasonably good, except for the proposed location of the Lake Nature Center in the backwaters of the harbor. For some reason, the planned location of Särkänsilta has become a peculiar principle issue and obsession for the designers, even though it shouldn’t be such. The harm caused by the bridge significantly outweighs the benefits, which could also be achieved with the earlier proposed relocation, minimizing the drawbacks. So, you won’t get an uncompromising opponent from me. Through this process, however, I have come to understand even better the frustration that arises from similar top-down dictated processes. It would be quite remarkable if in the 2020s, one wouldn’t have to experience situations like this anymore.

PS. The walking distances to the other side of the bay measured under the railway bridge in different alternatives are as follows:
1. Current situation: approx. 420 meters.
2. Bridge in the location I proposed (70m to the southwest): 270 meters
3. Bridge in the zoning proposal: 170 meters.
Does a 100-meter walk ruin the entire plan?

Article image: Gustaf Adolf Welin, early 1930s, Finnish Heritage Agency. CC BY 4.0

Nordic skating in November, not bad

Jään mittausta sahalla mustalla alkukauden jäällä

This year – to everyone’s surprise – the Nordic skating season started already in October. Although September was quite warm, the weather changed completely in October and the small ponds froze over quickly. After a long break, it was great to hear the singing of the black ice on the ponds and small lakes, until the snow and then the mild weather took away the skating opportunities for a while. But it seems that the season will continue soon.

Below you can find two videos from the October tours:


Steamboat Tarjanne – a Short History

Steamboat Tarjanne in an old black and white picture at Romppaansalmi
Steamboat Tarjanne on her route at Romppaansalmi Virrat. Aarne Pietinen, 1938, National Heritage Agency. CC BY 4.0

Steamboat Tarjanne is the last steamboat operating in a scheduled long-haul traffic on the Finnish lake area. The steamer is still cruising between Tampere, Ruovesi and Virrat just as it was 115 years ago. The video below provides a glimpse into the steamboat’s long history. Although the video was made in 2020, the history of the steamboat remains unchanged.

The Importance of Water Transport in the Early 20th Century

The story of steamboat Tarjanne is closely connected to the state of communications. In the early 20th century, water transport was an important part of Finnish communications network: roads were poor, the number of cars was still minimal and railway network reached only a part of Finland. In the interior of Finland, the nature had created many possible waterways for transport. Lakes and rivers connected people instead of separating them. This is easily forgotten in the present day society that relies mainly on land transport. People, cargo and ideas were moving on water. Of course, the waterways were also improved by humans: canals were built and channels were dredged. On lake Näsijärvi, Murole canal with its lockgate (1850–54), Kauttu and Visuvesi canals (without locks) were built and many sounds in the northern part of the route were dredged.

A steamboat approaching Murole canal in 1908. People at the canal waiting for the steamboat.
A steamboat approaching Murole canal in 1908. M.L Carstens, 1908, Collections of M.L. Carstens and History at the Finnish Heritage Agency. CC BY 4.0.

There had already been large sail boats and barges on lake Näsijärvi after the city of Tampere was founded in 1779. These schooners and yawls had been used to transport firewood (for fuel), agricultural products and iron ore to the needs of industries and people of Tampere. A new era started in 1859, when the first steampowered boat, Ahti, made its first cruise. After a slow start, the steamboat traffic boomed in the late 19th century. The society that was in the process of industrialisation needed new means of tranport.

 A map of lake Näsijärvi from 1931.
The major destinations of steamboat traffic around lake Näsijärvi. Edited from the map of Manka 2008, 205. The base map: Finnish roadmap 7 from 1931.

In the turn of the 20th century, the ports of Tampere (Mustalahti for passenger and Naistenlahti for cargo traffic) were bustling places. The white passenger steamboats carried people and farm products to the city, industrial products back to the countryside and upper class people to their villas on the eastern shore of lake Näsijärvi. Occasionally, there was someone aboard who could have been defined as a “tourist”. Of course, the tourist traffic was still minimal even if the Finnish Society for Travellers had been established in 1887. Most of the people did not have time nor money for leisure travel activities.

In addition to white passenger steamboats, the ports of Tampere were also busy with other types of vessels. Black steamtugs with their barges and slow cargo steamboats and barges brought huge quantities of firewood, stone (granite from Kuru, mainly) and other goods to Tampere. The steamtugs also towed large timber rafts from the northern areas to the needs of the forest industry located at Tampere and even further away at Pori, next to the Baltic Sea.

An old postcard presenting the port of Mustalahti at Tampere. Lots of firewood, steamboats and barges in the picture.
The port of Mustalahti in the early 20th century before the renovations were finished in 1909 and it had gotten its present form. A postcard by Knackstedt & Näther. The History Collection at the Finnish Heritage Agency. CC BY 4.0.

The Early Years of Steamboat Tarjanne: Competition with s/s Pohjola

In the northern parts of Näsijärvi area, the company called Tampereen–Wirtain Höyrylaiva Osakeyhtiö (Tampere–Wirrat Steamboat Ltd.) had a monopoly on passenger traffic. The company owned a new steamboat Pohjola (1905) but also an older wooden steamboat called Tampere. Due to the monopoly, the passenger and cargo tariffs were kept high. As a result of the high tariffs imposed by Tampereen–Wirtain Höyrylaiva Osakeyhtiö, local residents began to seek out cheaper and more convenient means of transporting themselves and their products to the markets in Tampere.

The locals in Ruovesi and Virrat thought that the best way to fight the monopoly of Tampere–Wirrat Steamboat company was to find a company of their own. The idea of cooperatives was spreading fast in the Finnish countryside in the early 20th century. Therefore, it is quite natural the new shipping company was found as a cooperative one. The constitutive meeting of Höyrylaiva Osuuskunta Tarjanne (Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne) was held at Ruovesi on 3rd of August 1907. A lot of people became members of the cooperative: with almost thousand members, this local shipping company became the largest cooperative in Finland (for a while). The name of the cooperative, Tarjanne, came from the local lake, Tarjannevesi. Things proceeded quickly and company ordered its steamboat, not-so-surprisingly called Tarjanne, from Lehtoniemi shipyard that was situated in Joroinen, eastern part of Finland. A shipyard from Tampere made its bid as well but it was much higher than that of Lehtoniemi.

The blueprint of s/s Tarjanne
The blueprint of s/s Tarjanne. Source: Lehtoniemen konepaja, Passenger steamboat Tarjanne. Suomen Elinkeinoelämän Keskusarkisto: http://yksa.fi/100300/166478089033600/ referred in 7.3.2023.

In the winter of 1907–8 the project became tangible. The parts of the ship were transported from the eastern Finland by railway to the local dockyard at Vilppula where the actual construction work took place. In May of 1908, the ship was ready for her maiden voyage to Ruovesi and further on to Tampere. The measurements of the hull were as follows: length 29.5m, breadth a little over 6m and draught 1,7m (originally). The maximum passenger capacity was first set to 225 but later on changed to 240 – a huge number in modern standards. Tarjanne became the biggest and fastest steamboat of the lake as it reached almost 12 knots.

The first voyage to Ruovesi did not go without a mishap. As Tarjanne was approaching the quay of Ruovesi, the engine order of full astern was never obeyd as the shining new parts of the steam engine were still too stiff. Thus, Tarjanne bumped into the quay, and some members of the welcoming band (it was a ceremonial occasion) found themselves swimming in the lake. Some engine adjustments were still needed. After the brief visit at Ruovesi, Tarjanne continued towards Tampere where the official test cruise was made before the start of the scheduled traffic. The schedule in 1908 was as follows: Tarjanne departed from Tampere to Virrat on Tuesdays (as far as Enokoski), on Thursdays (as far as Tulijoki) and on Saturdays (to the main port of Virrat) at 10.15 am. The return voyages were made on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The departure times from Virrat were early: 3 am from Enokoski and Tulijoki and 4.45 am from the main port of Virrat. The arrival to Tampere was just after noon (12.45) which allowed the rural people to take care of their businesses in the town and sell agricultural products at the markets of Tampere.

A newspaper clip of the first schedule of steamboat Tarjanne.
The schedule of steamboat Tarjanne announced in Tampereen Sanomat on 21st of May 1908. https://digi.kansalliskirjasto.fi/sanomalehti/binding/728344?page=3. The Digital Materials of the National library of Finland

The arrival of Tarjanne to the long-haul traffic between Tampere and Virrat was a starting point to a fierce competion between the newcomer and the steamboats Pohjola and Tampere of Tampere–Wirrat Steamboat Ltd. In addition to the competion on lake, the competition also took place in newspapers. The competing parties positioned themselves in different sides in the language debate, too. As Tampere–Wirrat Steamboat Ltd. used Swedish as their command language, Tarjanne was very Finnish speaking in every aspect. The cabins of the ship were called “kammio” (~chamber) as the ordinary word for cabin, “hytti”, was derived from Swedish “hytt”, and the saloons were called “pirtti” instead of “salonki” (Swedish: “salong”) for the same reason. The battle of languages that had been going on since 1900th century took some peculiar forms here! The rural background of the steamboat Tarjanne was also emphasised in many aspects: the rural folk had the right to walk on the upper deck from the beginning even if the compartments of the steamboat were divided into passenger classes, a normal procedure of the time.

Tarjanne arriving to Ruovesi in the early 1910s. Passengers aboard the steamboat and a deckhand with the rope.
Tarjanne arriving to the quay of Ruovesi in the early 1910s. J.H.Aho, 1910–13, the History Collection of the Finnish Heritage Agency. CC BY 4.0.

There was also a comical aspect to the competition between the two shipping companies. For example, in 1911, the departure time of Pohjola was moved to take place 30 minutes before Tarjanne’s in order to attract more passengers. Additionally, the quays on which the steamboats stopped were privately owned, and the owners could forbid the competing steamboat from calling at their port. When this became public knowledge, quay owners who supported the other steamboat forbade the other from calling at their port in revenge. Similar competition was seen twenty years later on the Tampere–Kuru route, so it seems that steamboat matters got the sulky Finns emotional. However, this silliness only lasted a couple of years, after which Tarjanne and Pohjola started cooperating and the fiercest competition stopped. The steamboats departed for Virrat on alternate days. The cooperative of Tarjanne also had a smaller steamboat, Into, which fed passengers to Ruovesi from Vilppula. At Ruovesi, they could take Tarjanne or Pohjola and travel to Tampere.

Tarjanne at Ruovesi full of passengers in the early 1910s. A lot of people on the quay.
Steamboat Tarjanne at Ruovesi. J.H.Aho, 1910–13, the History Collection of the Finnish Heritage Agency. CC BY 4.0.

Steamboat Tarjanne was a mixed passenger and cargo steamboat from the very beginning. The share of cargo of the all income was significant. The shopkeepers in Ruovesi and Virrat relied heavily on the steamboats from Tampere to transport their merchandise. The heaviest goods were first brought by train to the cargo port of Naistenlahti at Tampere. Then, Tarjanne sailed from Mustalahti to pick them up before taking the passengers aboard from Mustalahti. Even today, one can spot the cargo doors at the cafeteria of steamboat Tarjanne. The cargo holds were on the lower deck. The foredeck of the steamer, nowadays used for bike transport, was reserved for animals (sheep, cows, horses etc.). The cooperative had even a special rain shelter for the animals. Tarjanne underwent some small improvements over the years: the restaurant of the steamboat and its furnishings were reconstructed under the management and plans of Finnish artist, Akseli Gallén-Kallela in the spring 1916. Sadly, these improvements were mostly in vain as the turmoil of the First World War caught Tarjanne as well.

The Fleet of Satakunta – Tarjanne Becomes a Warship

The steamboat traffic in the lake Näsijärvi had continued fairly normally despite the First World War breaking out in the summer of 1914. The ostensible peace in the region lasted only a while. The Grand Duchy of Finland was still part of the Russian Empire which was waging war on Empires of Germany and Austria-Hungary (with UK and France as Russia’s allies). The Russians were afraid of Germans making a landing in Finland through which they could have threatened Petrograd (St. Petersburg). Therefore, they decided to set up a fleet on the lakes Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi. The Fleet of Satakunta (Satakundskaya Flotilla), a strange byway in the history of Tarjanne, was born. All the bigger passengers steamers of lake Näsijärvi (Tarjanne, Pohjola and Kuru), tugboats Murole and Näsijärvi and some barges and motor boats were requisitioned for this “Armada”. The Finnish crews had to stay aboard but otherwise the fleet was manned by Russian military. The steamboats were stripped off all “unnecessary”, for example Tarjanne lost most of its upper deck cabins (see picture). In addition, steamers got a military painting and 75 mm cannons were installed. Luckily, not a single shot was fired as the structures of the steamboats would have been under serious test.

Tarjanne as a warship at the port of Mustalahti
Steamboat Tarjanne is being converted to a warship. Photographer not known, the Photo Archives of Vapriikki

The fleet conducted some drills transporting troops in the summer of 1916. In October, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich reviewed the fleet as it steamed to Virrat and back to Tampere. During the winter of 1916-17, the fleet was placed on standby mode, with steam being kept up all winter even when the lake was frozen with 50 cm thick ice. A lot of firewood was used, but otherwise, events were rare. Gradually, most Finnish crews left the steamboats and went home.

After the Russian February Revolution of 1917, it became quite clear that there was no use for this fleet anymore. Even the Russians themselves decided to put an end to this lake fleet. The ships were returned to their owners in October 1917. The state of the steamboats was miserable. According to the newspaper reports, all movable property that could be easily taken was gone. Sometimes even property that was not so easy to take: the lifeboat of Tarjanne was found only after the Finnish Civil War from Lappeenranta in the eastern Finland!

The Roaring Twenties of Tarjanne

After the “loan” in the Russian fleet, there was lot to be done with steamboat Tarjanne before it could be put back in to the scheduled traffic. Large scale repairs were conducted in the dockyards at Tampere – the Finnish Civil War pausing the work for a while. Finally, Tarjanne was back in its scheduled traffic in June 1918. During the 1920s, the Finnish economy was growing and there was a need for transportation of people and cargo. The passenger capacity of Tarjanne was set to 240 and the steamboat was full of people on many occasions. At this period, the crew consisted of 16 people: shipmaster, chief engineer, two mates (one responsible of cargo, other for navigation), two stokers, three deckhands, a housekeeper, a kitchen maid, a potato peeler, a dishwasher and two waitresses. During that period, labour costs were much lower than they are today.

The shipmasters and chief engineers of Tarjanne and other bigger lake steamboats were men who were well aware of their worth. The shipmaster was better paid than other crew members and also received a commission of the freight, which meant a fixed share of the cargo revenues of the steamboat. The work on board was hard for all members of the crew, as the days were long and one had to work in the dark and even in snowstorms without any modern equipment. Nevertheless, the work on board was attractive as it offered a chance to do something different from the “normal” work in rural areas. Additionally, working aboard a moving steamboat provided an opportunity to work as a middleman between the countryside and the town, sometimes even illegally. For example, a large-scale moonshine business run by the crews of Tarjanne and Pohjola was discovered in 1924 during the era of Finnish prohibition (1919–32). All participants in this surely profitable but sadly illegal business were fired.

The gender roles aboard Tarjanne – as in the society of the time – were quite strict (the first female shipmaster was working on Tarjanne only in 1990). This becomes visible from the call for housekeeper in local newspaper, Virtain Sanomat, in 1924:

The housekeeper is required to provide a first-class food and coffee service on the upper deck, in addition to the more basic service on the middle deck. She must serve food to the shipmaster and eight men using her own set of dishes, cutlery, and table napkins, which must be of a first-class standard for the upper deck restaurant. Furthermore, she is responsible for all cleaning tasks typically assigned to women on board.

The call for housekeeper by Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne. Virtain Sanomat 15.2.1924.

Normally, the scheduled traffic started when the ice cover was about to break and continued until the ice was so thick that operating was not possible – Tarjanne also had some capability of breaking the ice. This meant that lot of traffic happened in the darkness of Finnish autumn – the searchlight of the steamboat was much needed. Between the main ports, one could get aboard from over 40 quays as every major farm and village had their own quay. One could step aboard from a boat if one gave a signal to a steamboat to pick them up. Due to lack of mobile communications, one had to use the wooden signalling device called “vinkkari” or raise a flag on the quay to signal the steamboat to make a call at that quay. The dense network of quays made the traffic slower. However, the practice of the steamboats was to make the calls at quays with high speeds. If one saw that there were people on the quay, steamboat turned there proceeding with full steam ahead until taking full astern very near the quay making the call at the quay resemble a Formula 1 pit stop.

An idyllic picture of the port of Virrat. A woman is getting up the hill and there are two steamboats in the background.
A photo of the port of Virrat in the 1920s if not even earlier. The photo collections of Werstas. Rights obtained.

One can easily use the epithet Roaring Twenties of the 1920s of the steamboat Tarjanne. The members of the Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne received regular income (interest payments) from the company as the traffic was profitable. However, some incidents occurred also during this period: Tarjanne ran aground when the first mate fell asleep as the steamboat was returning to Tampere from Virrat in October 1926. The people remained uninjured but the bow of Tarjanne was badly damaged. Every cloud has a silver lining, though: the ice breaking capabilities of Tarjanne were improved during the repairs. The cause of the accident led to police making enquiries about the state of the first mate in question. He denied having been drinking – admitting he had done it the previous day – and claiming that the cause of the accident was “waking up early” which had led him falling asleep while steering. The investigation did not result in any charges being filed.

Despite the profitable traffic, the signs of a new era were already in the wind: the number of buses and lorries was steadily increasing, the road network was improved and as it was stated in the editorial of the newspaper Aamulehti in 1923: “the value of time is in the process of becoming clear not only to city dwellers but to country folk as well. One has to be able to get their business done faster.” In addition to these changes in the society, the steamboat traffic on lake Näsijärvi suffered a heavy and surprising setback in September 1929.

The Sinking of Steamboat Kuru and the Decline of Steamboat Traffic

Due to the events of Saturday, 7 September 1929, the steamboat traffic of lake Näsijärvi got to headlines all over the world. There was a heavy storm on the lake. After some negotiations among the crew members, steamboat Kuru decided to leave the port of Mustalahti from Tampere to head to Kuru on its scheduled route. Just a few minutes after the departure, Kuru was struck by three big waves (there were also faults in the construction of Kuru) and steamboat sank quickly to the bottom of the lake. Tarjanne had departed just a couple of minutes after Kuru and started the rescue operation. The crew of Tarjanne managed to salvage 13 persons from the stormy lake and 9 others were saved, too (with other boats and a couple of persons made it to the shore, too). But the number of casualties was huge, 136, and the accident was followed by public mourning. For example, the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Tampere were canceled. The investigation that followed concluded that the main cause of the accident was “natural forces” but the faults in construction could have assisted the sinking of Kuru. After a lengthy process in several courts, no one was found guilty. And the need for traffic was such high, that the steamboat Kuru was lifted, repaired (the construction failures addressed) and put back to its route in 14 November the same year.

The diver getting ready to dive to the hull of steamboat Kuru when victims are being sought.
The divers are looking for the victims of steamboat Kuru from the hull. JOKA Journalistic Photo Archive at the National Heritage Agency. CC BY 4.0.

Even if the accident of Kuru did not affect directly to the traffic of Tarjanne, it can be thought as a symbolic beginning of an era that almost ended the steamboat traffic on lake Näsijärvi. Finland sank into global recession in the late 1920s which heavily decreased the income of Tarjanne. After a couple of years, Finnish economy started to recover but the steamboat traffic did not follow this trend. The cause was clear: roads had been improved, and technology had advanced to make buses and lorries more reliable and fast. Travelling to Virrat by bus took four and half in the early 1930s but only a little over three hours by the end of decade. The same trip with a steamboat took at least 9 to 10 hours depending on number of quays that the boat stopped at. The number of bus connections around lake Näsijärvi had also increased significantly. The Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne tried to match the demand by cooperating with some of the bus companies making it possible to travel part of the trip by bus and the other part by steamboat. A funny detail here is that the bus company operating the tours from and to Tarjanne today is the same one that Tarjanne cooperated with already in the 1930s.

Despite all the efforts, the steamboat traffic declined in the thirties. The competing steamboat, Pohjola, was sold to the Tarjanne Cooperative already in 1932 reducing the competition on the lake. But it was not enough. “Something needs to be done”, thought the management of the Cooperative.

A photo of the port of Mustalahti in 1932. Many steamboats in the picture.
Steamboats and folk at the port of Mustalahti in 1932. Tarjanne is the steamboat in the middle on the second row (background). The Collections of History and Finnish Agency for Tourism at the National Heritage Agency. CC BY 4.0.

Poet’s Way is Born

As the number of local passenger was getting scarce all over the Finnish lakes, the steamboat companies had to find new sources of income. Tourism was thought to be such as source even if the number of tourists in Finland was still quite small. The available options began to run out. The Tarjanne Cooperative participated in negotiations of opening up a new tourist route between Tampere, Virrat and Vaasa (on the Finnish west coast) in the autumn of 1933. The steamboat route along the lake Näsijärvi was the attraction of this new route. Decisions were quickly made and the advertising of this route began already in the next year (1934). The “Poet’s Way” received its name or title later in the decade after the national poet of Finland, J.L. Runeberg, who had spent his summers in Ruovesi in the 1820s. The Finnish poet and author Z. Topelius had also traveled on the same water routes, which was taken into account when advertising the new route.

Journalist Waldemar Rantoja wrote in his article about the newly established route in Aamulehti in 1934 as follows:

The boat glides through the brilliant scenery of lake Vaskivesi to the waters of Virrat with the rays of afternoon sunshine reflected from the water. On these waters, a soft and pure, almost melancholic smile appears on the face of our fatherland: beautiful bays, groves, trails and hills appear all around the steamboat. There would be a lot to see at Virrat: the gorges of Toriseva and the Pilvilinna villa [of the artist Armin Sandberg] and the altar of love, lake Toisvesi and the canal of Herraskoski. On this occasion, there’s no time for all this as a magnificent bus is already waiting for us at the port and we will get in it.

Waldemar Rantoja: Tampere–Virrat–Vaasa, Aamulehti 12.8.1934

The new tourist route got quite much national publicity: the Finnish Broadcasting Company, Yleisradio, made a story of the Poet’s Way in 1938 (in Finnish). The tone was quite national romantic and nationalist which was typical for descriptions of the time. One purpose of tourism was to get people to “know their country” besides spending their leisure time.

Tarjanne on the open water. Picture taken from ashore in the middle of birches.
Tarjanne on lake Näsijärvi. Aarne Pietinen, 1938, National Heritage Agency. CC BY 4.0.

The development of the tourist route continued with the inclusion of the Tampere-Virrat route in the offerings of the Finnish State Railways. In 1934, the railway company launched its “Round Tour” (Rengasmatka) ticket offer, which allowed travelers to buy tickets at railway stations and embark on predefined tours lasting from one to several days. These tours could include several modes of transportation, such as trains, steamboats, and buses. The construction of the railway between Haapamäki and Pori in the late 1930s connected Virrat to the national railway network, making it possible for the Poet’s Way to be part of this national travel ticket.

The advances in tourism demanded more from local accommodation facilities as well. The completion of the Toriseva hostel in Virrat in the late 1930s was a long-awaited improvement. However, not everyone was happy with the steamboat’s emphasis on tourist traffic. Local peasants complained that Tarjanne arrived in Tampere later than in the “good old days” due to schedule changes to meet the needs of tourists, leaving less time to sell their products at the market squares in Tampere. On the other hand, the request of travelers to delay the morning departure time from Virrat was turned down by the Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne due to the needs of “local traffic.” The operator was caught in a difficult situation between different needs.

A lot of people receiving the first train at the Virrat station.
The special train to celebrate the official opening of Pori–Haapamäki railway line at the station of Virrat. Photographer Henrik Seppänen, 1938. The Photo Collections of Satakunta Museum. CC BY 4.0.

Despite the expectations, Finnish tourism was no money spinner as many companies have found out later as well. Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne was making losses every year in the later half of the 1930s. The operating costs of Tarjanne and Pohjola were substantial and company was forced to think of ways to cut expenditure as numbers of passengers were decreasing. One such a way was to start using coal as fuel in 1937. The Finnish lake steamers had traditionally used firewood as it was easily available. In the 1930s, the better supply of coal made it possible to have some experiments with coal. In 1938, the cooperative also sold its smaller steamboat, Into, which had been feeding passenger from Vilppula to bigger Tarjanne and Pohjola stopping at Ruovesi. Despite all the efforts, the end of steamboat traffic was looming in the near future.

The Second World War Saves Steamboats

The “White Queens of Näsijärvi,” as Tarjanne and Pohjola were called in the advertisements of the late 1930s, were unexpectedly “saved” by the beginning of World War II, a dire matter in all other ways. During and especially after the Winter War (1939–40), a rationing system was introduced that affected many aspects of the Finnish economy. In addition, a large portion of buses and lorries were requisitioned by the Finnish army. Suddenly, the competition was almost non-existent, and the Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne was very profitable once again.

During the war, the cooperative faced various problems. Coal was no longer available, but fortunately firewood was still an option (and coal was never reintroduced after the war). There were shortages of men, ropes, and other equipment, which led the cooperative to operate the route with only one steamboat. Tarjanne remained in port in 1940 and 1942, while Pohjola was out of service in 1943-44. In the summer of 1941, both steamboats were operating, but the dry weather caused water levels on the route to reach a record low. The canal of Murole became so shallow that the large passenger steamers could not pass through it. As a result, Tarjanne cruised in the southern part between Tampere and Murole, while Pohjola operated in the northern part between Murole and Virrat. Passengers had to walk from one steamboat to the other over the canal area.

Even after the war, the golden extra time continued for a couple of years as the rationing system was still in effect. Despite the difficulties of rationing, the Steamboat Cooperative published its first advertising film in cooperation with the Suomen Filmiteollisuus (Finland’s Film Industry) in 1945. The film described the route of the Poet’s Way, as shown in the video below (I am not sure whether the content is restricted to be viewed only in Finland)

The dismantling of rationing system (e.g. rationing of petrol/gas ended in 1949) quickly turned the tide once again in the late 1940s. The extra time caused by the war had ended, and buses and lorries took the local passengers and cargo away from the steamboats. This meant that Tarjanne “had” to serve mainly tourists once again. Of course, there were still places along the Poet’s Way where the road network was poor or where the local people preferred steamboats over buses but the number of these passengers was quite small and diminishing.

The Last Years of Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne

In the turn of the 1950s, the story was becoming all too familiar. The local traffic was minimal and the number of tourists did not grow as expected by the shipping company. However, there were still 24 000 passengers using the services of Tarjanne and Pohjola in 1951. The Olympic Games of 1952 in Helsinki were eagerly anticipated: tourist services all around Finland were expecting huge numbers of tourists visiting the country. However, the results were meagre and the summer was very cold and rainy. Thus, the number of passengers decreased with several thousands on the Poet’s Way. Yes, there had been some foreign tourists who – according to Finnish newspapers – had been amazed by the “beautiful Finnish nature”. (By the way, this is quite a typical story to appear in the Finnish newspapers even these days.) But these few, nature-loving tourists did not fill the empty coffers of steamboat companies all over Finland.

Lake cruises have traditionally been considered a cornerstone of lake tourism. However, operating a shipping company solely based on tourism has always been challenging, even today. Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne was no exception, but they refused to give up. The cooperative produced brochures for Finnish and foreign markets, including versions in Finnish, Swedish, German, and English. In one of the English brochures, the “o” in the Poet’s Way was accidentally omitted, slightly altering its meaning. This error may have been appreciated by pet owners, but it illustrates the challenges of international marketing. Additionally, the cooperative released another advertising film, Poet’s Way, in 1953, which can be viewed on Elonet.

Steamboat Tarjanne visiting a quay in 1952. Lot of people both on the quay and aboart the steamboat.
Tarjanne visiting a quay in 1952. Poutvaara Matti, 1952, the Collection of Ethnography, the National Heritage Agency. CC BY 4.0.

In order to better cater to the needs of tourists, the Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne realized that passenger classes had to be abolished in 1956. This meant that all compartments on the steamboats Tarjanne and Pohjola were now available to all passengers. Additionally, steamboat Pohjola was renovated in 1956 to resemble more modern sightseeing boats, with the introduction of larger windows. Tarjanne underwent a similar renovation in 1962, which was more successful than Pohjola’s, where the large bus windows did not fit well. Despite these changes, the Poet’s Way remained popular, with the number of passengers reaching around 20,000 in the mid-1950s, depending largely on the weather. The route of the Poet’s Way was still connected to almost 20 “Route trips” (Rengasmatka) of the Finnish State Railways, which brought steady income to the shipping company.

A poster of Rengasmatkat in which a woman waves from the stairs of a train coach.
An advertisement of the Route trips of the Finnish State Railways (Rengasmatkat) from 1950s. Laakapaino. The Finnish Railway Museum, rautatiemuseo.finna.fi. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

In the turn of the 1960s, the economic outlook for the steamboat businesses all over Finland was gloomy and uncertain. The passenger shipping companies had even established their own association in 1963 but it did not bring any more passengers. The newspaper Uusi Suomi made a very pessimistic prognosis of inland passenger traffic:

The old white passenger steamboats are doing their last journeys one after another, and the fate of those veteran steamboats that still exist is sealed before long. A big question is waiting for answer, how to secure the future of our traditional and always popular (sic!) lake tourism, which is one of our best biggest tourism assets.

From lake traffic to lake tourism, Uusi Suomi, 24.7.1963
A view on lake Näsijärvi from Näsikallio hill. Two steamboats have just left the port in the summer.
Passenger steamboats on the local traffic leaving the port of Mustalahti in the 1960s. The Photo Collections of Werstas. Rights obtained.

Faced with a troubling future and declining passenger numbers, Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne sought to reduce its expenditures. One option was to convert the boilers to run on oil instead of wood, a move that was being made on other steamboats in Finland at the time. In 1964, Tarjanne and Pohjola were both converted to oil, as it was cheaper and the effects of greenhouse gases were not yet understood. The conversion also allowed the company to eliminate one stoker position. (Interestingly, in 2023, Tarjanne was converted back to using firewood!) In addition to cost-cutting measures, the company sought out new sources of income. Tarjanne and Pohjola began making a short stop at Kalela (1895), the studio of Finnish painter Akseli Gallén-Kallela (1865–1931). During this stop, passengers were given just 15 minutes (!) to visit the stunning villa while the steamboat waited at the quay. Another improvement was the “car pilotage” service. This allowed people arriving with private cars to leave their car at the port of departure, and a driver from the shipping company would drive the car to the port of destination. As the number of private cars was rapidly increasing in Finland, this service allowed the company to respond to the needs of new customers.

The decision-makers of Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne must have been feeling quite frustrated by the decreasing number of passengers, despite all their efforts. In the summer of 1966, there were only 12,721 passengers traveling on the two steamers. The cooperative was facing a difficult decision: whether to give up operations altogether. Originally formed by peasants, merchants, and educated people from rural areas to fulfill their own transportation needs, transporting tourists had never been essential to the cooperative’s core mission. While the route operation was barely profitable, the cooperative was also burdened by significant debts incurred during the steamboats’ repairs in 1956 and 1962. This was a common challenge faced by many operators in Finnish lake tourism.

Steamboat Pohjola leaves port at Tampere in the end of 1950s. Lots of smoke coming from the chimney. There are also some motorboats in the picture.
Steamboat Pohjola leaving the port of Mustalahti (Tampere). Notice the very large windows of the steamboat. 1957–61, Teuvo Kanerva. The Collection of History at the National Heritage Agency. CC BY 4.0.

Poet’s Way Ltd. Takes Over the Operation of the Steamboat Tarjanne

In 1967, the Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne made the difficult decision to discontinue its operations due to decreasing passenger numbers and financial struggles. However, some improvements were made to cater to modern tourists during the last operating season. For instance, visitors could now see all of the Poet’s Way in a single day by taking a bus back to the port of departure after or even before the day aboard. After the season ended, Poet’s Way Ltd., a new company, purchased both steamboats (Tarjanne and Pohjola) from Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne at the same amount as the cooperative’s debts. With this purchase, a new era began for the Poet’s Way.

The new shipping company was formed by the municipalities of the area. The city of Tampere was the biggest shareholder (2/3) and the rest of shares were mainly in the possession of the municipalities of Ruovesi and Virrat. In addition, there were some companies, associations and private persons among the shareholders. The administration was combined with the other shipping company, Laiva Oy Matkailu (Finnish Silverline) operating on lake Pyhäjärvi, south of Tampere. Now, there was one CEO and office for these two companies. The Finnish state also started to offer small subsidies for inland shipping companies in the late 1960s. The justification for this was that the passenger traffic on lakes was seen as essential part of Finnish tourism offering and had it stopped, it would have damaged the Finnish tourist image. Speaking of Finnish tourist image, the rigidity of alcohol policy has been one of the challenges for most tourist businesses. In the turn of the 1970s, it was still impossible to have spirits aboard Tarjanne (beer was available though). The lack of liquor licences was criticised by tourists and shipping companies alike.

During 1970s, the costs kept rising. Particularly the first oil crisis (1973) affected the fuel prices and the story of Tarjanne was almost finished. The board of the Poet’s Way decided, that they would stop the traffic for the summer of 1974, if the city of Tampere would not come to help. Well they did and the traffic continued. Already in 1975, however, only Tarjanne kept operating along the Poet’s Way as Pohjola was relegated to short cruises near Tampere, her once-grand voyages now a distant memory. This did not help the economic burden and after this season, Pohjola was left to wait for the better times at Tampere. These better times never came. After having sunk once and being towed to Ruovesi shipyard, Pohjola was completely dismantled in 2017. The fate of Pohjola was unfortunate, as the Poet’s Way had already created their own renovation plan in the 1980s, and the local steam enthusiasts had even offered to buy and restore the steamer at their own expense. However, the deal was never made.

The cover of the renovation plan of Pohjola from the 1980s.
The cover of the renovation plan of Pohjola from the 1980s.
Tarjanne arriving in Ruovesi. Photo taken from the quay. People having 1970s clothes. A wooden motorboat in the background.
Steamboat Tarjanne arrives in Ruovesi . Volker von Bonin, 1975–79, National Heritage Agency. CC BY 4.0.

One has to admit, that the decision of taking Pohjola out of scheduled traffic was a rational one as it guaranteed enough passengers for Tarjanne. In the late 1970s, the number of passengers travelling along Poet’s Way was about 7 500, even if the number includes some local passengers aboard the small m/s Pyynikki, too. There were about 5 to 10 per cent of foreign tourists, but the domestic tourism has always been the most important source of income for Tarjanne.

Steamboat Tarjanne arriving to the port of Mustalahti in the 1980s.
Steamboat Tarjanne arriving to the port of Mustalahti in the 1980s. There has always been keen children helping Tarjanne at its ports. The Photo Collection of Werstas. Rights obtained.

The changing regulations in society have always affected the operations of Tarjanne. In 1978, the Finnish Parliament surprised Finnish passenger shipping companies with a change in alcohol law that granted the possibility of giving liquor licenses for passenger boats. However, Alko, the national alcoholic beverage retailing monopoly, only considered one passenger boat “good enough” to receive these rights. Tarjanne only received her own liquor license in the late 1980s. Furthermore, changing safety regulations have impacted the passenger capacity of Tarjanne. The maximum capacity had been 225 in 1908, and 240 for many decades, but by the early 1980s, it had decreased to only 130. This number changed frequently as directives and interpretations changed. By the late 1990s, the maximum number of passengers was 170. Additionally, changes in economic regulations in the predecessor of Visit Finland stopped state subsidies for passenger boats in 1994. Since then, Tarjanne has not received direct subsidies from the state.

The 2000s: Tarjanne Goes Through Major Changs

I got the chance to work on the steamboat Tarjanne first as the first mate and then as the shipmaster in the early 2000s. Back then, we did three back-and-forth trips to Virrat – just as Tarjanne had done in the early 20th century. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays we sailed to Virrat, and came back on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. There were plenty of passengers on our scheduled route traffic even if other steamboats in Finland had already given up their long-haul traffic. In the new millennium, the maximum number of passengers was transported in 2001, when we had almost 8 500 passengers and almost same numbers were reached in 2005. Especially the departures from Tampere on Saturdays were often sold out and we sailed with our 150 passengers towards Virrat.

Through the history, there have been a lot of regulars among passengers. This was also the case in the early 2000s. One lady was taken to the quay of Rantala when summer began, one family was alway coming to Murole Canal, the proprietor of the quay of Kivistö was taken from his own quay to Ruovesi, and Aarne Olavi, a local of Virrat, was taken from Ruovesi to Virrat every single Saturday throughout the summer (on Tuesdays and Thursdays he could not come aboard as he had to be welcoming the steamboat at Virrat). My own memories of that time, of the people I met aboard and in ports, and of other crew members are very warm. The time aboard Tarjanne has affected a lot on my career choices as well. Of course, it was not always sunshine: working long hours six days a week could be felt in one’s body even if one was still young.

Tarjanne travelling on lake Näsijärvi.
Tarjanne and its passengers along the Poet’s Way in 2004.

The renovation of Tarjanne’s hull was necessary due to the wear and tear of almost a century of steaming along the Poet’s Way. The extensive repairs were carried out during the winter of 2006-2007, ensuring that the hull could last for another hundred years. Following the renovation, the passenger capacity was initially reduced to 100 but later increased to 115 for various reasons. However, the renovation also brought about changes to Tarjanne’s schedules, which included dropping one back-and-forth trip and changing traditional days. These changes were made to celebrate Tarjanne’s 100th anniversary but continued to be in effect after that year. Especially the lack of Sunday departures is regrettable. Currently, Tarjanne operates from Tampere to Virrat on Wednesdays and Fridays, while the return trip from Virrat to Tampere takes place on Thursdays and Saturdays.

The steamboat on a shipyard with tarpaulin over it.
Repairs in process in November 2006.
Steamboat Tarjanne in front of the dockyard.
The new hull is ready and Tarjanne is waiting for finalizations in May 2007.

On an old steamboat, there’s never an idle year considering the maintenance. Small things are done every season. The biggest task since the hull repairs in 2006–7 was taking off the oil burners and oil tanks from Tarjanne during the winter of 2022–23. An era came to its end, and the steamboat celebrates its 115th anniversary season by returning to use domestic birchwood for heating up the boiler. Of course, it is already 60 years since Tarjanne used firewood which means that the coming season is not going to be easy and many things will be learned during the season. During the previous “firewood era” there were two stokers helping the chief engineer but now there’s only one. Luckily, some help will be available in loading the firewood, taking off the ashes and sweeping the boiler tubes clean. But lot of hard work still remains. An entire blog post could have been written about the role of skilled labour aboard Tarjanne. In this context, I will only say that without committed and skillful crew members, there would not be an operational steamboat anymore. Of course, the resources are needed, too, to allow crew members to do their work.

Steamboat Tarjanne – 115 Years of Adaptation

The history of steamboat Tarjanne and its operators shows how interconnected everything is in the world. The changes in the surrounding society and world require a lot of adaptation skills. The First World War stopped a profitable transportation business and made Tarjanne a warship for a while. The post war reconstruction and economic growth benefited the steamboat business until the advances in road transportation took away passengers and cargo. General economic growth and increased leisure time of people allowed the development of tourism which was – only just – enough to save Tarjanne from the verge of bankruptcy. The increased labor costs and cheap oil made the shipping company change the boiler heating from firewood to oil in the 1960s until we have come full circle and the boiler of Tarjanne converted back to firewood use due to high oil prices and environmental issues. There have been – and will be – plenty of changes in the world.

This high “incidence” of changes in the society makes it even more magnificent that Tarjanne has been able to operate 115 years on her original route on which the Steamboat Cooperative Tarjanne set her in 1908. Tarjanne has become a symbol of resilience and stability. The key ingredient of that symbol is the scheduled route which makes Tarjanne what she is. Should Tarjanne make some sort of short lunch cruises in Tampere, for instance, the main part of the symbolic value would just disappear. That is why one hopes that Tarjanne continues her traffic between Tampere, Ruovesi and Virrat for a long time. It seems that many decision-makers have acknowledged this value as well. On many occasions, the value of tradition is underestimated. In the case of Tarjanne it is better understood each year. Yet, the company itself could also restore the value of the name “Poet’s Way” for this anniversary.

The only number that guarantees the survival of the scheduled route is the number of passengers aboard. Therefore, also you could visit the steamboat Tarjanne in the coming season. The departures are on Wednesdays and Fridays from Tampere to Virrat via Ruovesi at 10 am, and on Thursdays and Saturdays from Virrat to Tampere via Ruovesi at 11 am. You can take the bus for the other direction or take your own bike with you. There are also some cabins aboard if you prefer taking the steamboat on both directions.

For the season of 2024 , the timetable has changed slightly. Departure times are unchanged: Tarjanne departs from Tampere via Ruovesi to Virrat at 10.00 on Wednesdays and Fridays, but the arrival time in Virrat is now 18.30. From Virrat, the steamboat departs on Thursdays and Saturdays at 11 am and arrives in Tampere at 19.30 pm. For more information about the ferry and the route, please visit the company’s website.

Tarjanne at Virrat
Tarjanne waiting for new day and new passengers to visit the Poet’s Way in 2020.


Newspapers: Aamulehti, Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, Helsingin Sanomat, Hufvudstadsbladet, Ilta-Sanomat, Jakobstads Tidning, Kansan Uutiset, Länsi-Savo, Maaseudun Tulevaisuus, Suomen Sosialidemokraatti, Uusi Suomi, Virtain Sanomat

Magazines: Apu, Suomen Kuvalehti, Tekniikan Maailma

Articles and bibliography:

Laukala, Pekka. Mekin rooli sisävesiliikenteen tukijana. Teoksessa Tunne maasi. Suomen matkailun kehitys ja kehittäjiä. Suomen Matkailun Seniorit, Suomen Matkailijayhdistys SMY ry ja Hipputeos. 57–59. Manka, Mikko (2008). Näsijärven matkustajalaivaliikenteen kehitys ja laivayhtiöiden toiminta kansallisen liikennejärjestelmän murroksessa vuosina 1918–1939. Suomen historian pro gradu -tutkielma. Tampereen yliopisto. Manka, Mikko (2008). Näsijärven laivayhtiöt ja linja-autoliikenteen nousu 1918-1939. Tekniikan Waiheita26(3), 5–12. Mustonen, Jouko (2009). Hopealinjalla ja Runoilijan tiellä. Teoksessa Tunne maasi. Suomen matkailun kehitys ja kehittäjiä. Suomen Matkailun Seniorit, Suomen Matkailijayhdistys SMY ry ja Hipputeos. 54–56. Valanto, Juhani (2008). Matka entisyyteen. S/S Tarjanne 100 vuotta. Runoilijan tie Oy: Tampere. Valanto, Juhani (2018). Näsijärven laivaliikenteen historia. Kustantaja Laaksonen: Helsinki.

Photo sources named in photos.

Article cover photo: Steamboat Tarjanne on her route at Romppaansalmi sound. Aarne Pietinen, 1938. National Heritage Agency. CC BY 4.0.

Kicksledding on Lake Näsijärvi

The weather conditions for Nordic skating have varied a lot this season. Unfortunately (for skating enthusiasts), it has been snowing rather quickly every time after there has been a longer period of subzero temperatures. So, the skating season in the lake areas has been challenging. However, there are nice options for skating such as kicksledding. Even though it’s really different, one can stay on ice at least.

Below you can find a video and some pictures of our kicksled tour of 71 km from Tampere to Ruovesi on Lake Näsijärvi.


The city of Tampere at dawn from Lake Näsijärvi.

Heading to north.

He’s cracking.

Map: Maanmittauslaitos, Maastokartta, open data. Animation: GPX Animator.

On Ice Again: a Nordic Skating Tour from Tampere to Virrat

Tampereen valot öiseltä Näsijärven jäältä, jossa on lumilaikkuja.

A Nordic skating tour from Tampere to Virrat (or vice versa) has been one of my skating dreams. I have done this trip in parts (part 1, part 2) in 2019, but never in one day. And truth speaking, it remained a very distant dream even four years ago. The route itself is very familiar to me: I used to work aboard steamboat Tarjanne in the beginning of the 2000s and sailed the route almost 400 times.

Show on larger map The lake north of Tampere is Lake Näsijärvi and Virrat locates in the northern tip of that water area. (Zooming in helps you to find it.) The full gps track is located at the bottom of this post.

The first open water areas of our journey (Näsiselkä, Koljonselkä, Myyrysselkä and part of Vankavesi). Clicking the map opens it and allows you to zoom it in more. Copyright: Maanmittauslaitos, avoin maastokarttaaineisto. Downloaded 1/2023.

This winter had been extremely difficult to me regarding any sporting activities thanks to symptoms that have remained from Covid-19. Luckily, treatments and rehabilitation have slowly helped me to recover. Therefore, it was a perfect time to see, how my body would react to some real Nordic skating. The longest tour before this one, had been a 63 km one on a perfectly smooth ice with some good tailwind. I was quite uncertain how this tour would affect me.

The Never-Ending Wait for The Perfect Ice

On Lake Näsijärvi (as on the other big lakes of Finland) the ice conditions are quite challenging for a long end-to-end skating tour as the lake gets frozen in the different parts of the lake in different time. When the large open water areas in the southern Näsijärvi are frozen, the northern areas are normally covered with snow already. Therefore, it is quite rare that all the lake is suitable for a Nordic skating tour at the same time.
The week in the middle of January 2023 had been very warm and rainy. As a consequence, the snow had melted and there had been some wonderful days of skating in the southern parts of Lake Näsijärvi. A few millimetres of water on the surface of black ice gets the friction as low as it can get making skating feel like flying. Furthermore, the satellite pictures had showed that even the northern parts would be ‘skateable’. On Sunday, we decided with my friend, Leo, that we would make a tour on Tuesday. But the final destination was still not spoken out to avoid any “jinxing” even if we both had thought of skating all the way to Virrat.

On Monday, we checked the site of Finnish Society of Nordic Skaters (the website covers actually the Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway and Finland). It is a place where members report their observations of ice conditions and write reports of their tours. One group of skaters had been on the northern areas of the lake system on Monday and reported some decent ice there. Perhaps little bit soft as it had been quite warm but yet skateable through puddles of water.

However, the temperature began to drop under zero on Monday evening and it even rained some slush which changed into snow later in the evening. There had been another group of skater skating in the southern area of Lake Näsijärvi near Tampere in the evening and they reported that the slush had stuck on ice and not melted in the puddles of water. Damn. Yet, we decided to have try next morning even if the change of weather had somewhat disappointed us. One can never ask for a perfect weather or then the wait might become quite long.

Difficulties on the First Stretch

Leo picked me up with his car after a night’s sleep and eating a bigger breakfast than I would normally eat. We left the car at Kaupinoja which is also a starting point of a tour skating lane that is plowed every year on Lake Näsijärvi. I started recording the route with my Polar watch at 6:55 when the it was still dark. Despite the darkness, we could already see from the shore that the slush and snow of the yesterday had done severe damage to the fine fields of black ice that had existed before this sudden change of temperature. The first metres of skating confirmed this: smooth black ice had changed to large patches of frozen slush. There were still some black ice between those patches but in the middle of the first open water areas (“selkä” in Finnish, “fjärd” in Swedish) (Näsiselkä), even those areas of black ice disappeared. Everything that was left was frozen slush that had quite a massage effect on the soles of our feet. The headlights were much needed to avoid falling while skating through the patches.

Tampereen valoja Näsijärveltä katsottuna
The lights of Tampere after 10 minutes of skating. The patches of frozen slush can easily be seen in this picture.

The pace was kept quite moderate due to conditions of ice (and of myself). The patches slowed us down, but luckily the tailwind helped skating. Somewhere between the two larges open water areas (Näsiselkä and Koljonselkä) we encountered first areas of ‘surface ice’. These areas form when there is a puddle of water on ice that freezes incompletely. There might be 10 centimetre of water which only has an ice cover of one or two centimetres. When one skates onto such area, the result is often a fall, when the upper body wants to continue it flight through air but feet are stuck on surface ice.
And that’s exactly what happened this time as well: I fell and picked up my things from  ice. Luckily, the puddle was only some centimetres deep (as expected these would be), so I didn’t get much wet. Leo managed to evade the ‘trap’ by skating after me. For safety reasons, we normally skate in a file keeping a decent distance in uncertain conditions. After this fall, it was time to take a first break and have some tea. While sipping the tea, we discussed that if the conditions stay like this, we cannot reach the other end of the lake on one day.

Taulasalon laivalaituri, jossa retkiluistelija otsalampun kanssa
The first break at Taulasalo quay.

Hope at Dawn?

The rising sun and increased lightness seemed to raise our mood as well. At the same time, the ice conditions got better. The snow clouds had avoided this area previous eveingn and wind had even taken away the few snowflakes that had fallen. We suddenly found ourselves on large area of very smooth black ice with a nice tailwind that brought us to the very northern end of this lake area. Even if the following open waters were taking us back to basics (i.e. skating on a frozen slush), this larger area of nice smooth ice gave us hope. Perhaps there would be even better areas further north!

Retkiluistelija keskellä järvenselkää Näsijärvellä
Encountering areas of smooth ice for the very first time on this tour.

The sound of Unnekivi proved to be the first place where we had to take our skates off. The currents had been strengthened by the week of rain and ice had been melted by those currents. It was only four days earlier we had skated through this sound following the shores but now it was totally impossible. Well, walking is an esseantial part of long Nordic skating tours so it was not a big deal. And on this route, there would be many legs more to use one’s legs as there are strong currents flowing through narrow sounds.

For example, we had already decided to go around all the area of Murole canal (1854) and Murole rapids. Instead of skating on narrow sounds, we chose one longer walk to reach larger water areas east of the canal area. After skating about three and a half hours and 42,2 kilometres (exactly the kilometres of a marathon—quite a coincidence) we took our skates off and started walking.

Retkiluistelija Solkiankarin loiston edustalla Näsijärvellä pilvisenä päivänä.
Skating against the wind near Solkiankari beacon. We are nearing the Murole canal after 40 km of skating.

The second part of our journey. Clicking the map opens it and allows you to zoom it. Copyright: Maanmittauslaitos, avoin maastokartta-aineisto. Downloaded 1/2023.

Call of the Road

A fine gravel road took us over the hill that was separating the skateable lake areas. We also found a nice spot to have a lunch break on the top of the hill. It was about a time tom eat something having travelled several hours. This time, I had brought me a food thermos filled with decent food instead of some pieces of bread which I normally have with me when skating on the shorter tours. Eating and resting one’s legs for a while worked wonders and we both felt much refreshed and it was easier to continue. After one and a half kilometres walk we arrived to the shore of the lake again.

Hiekkatie Muroleen metsissä
The gravel road we took over the hill.

Getting back on ice again was a whole different story this time… The road we were taking and that was marked on the map went straight to a yard of a cottage. Even if there is the concept of Everyman’s Rights in Finland (and in the Nordics), it doesn’t cover walking through the private yards. Thus, the only option was to cross a small marsh/swamp area to get back on ice without making a huge round. It was quite easy to guess how that would go even before one went there. But I had a try. First, I got my feet into the swamp. Then, trying to go on all fours leading to all fours being wet. In that point, I decided that what the heck, I will just walk over and so I did. Leo, as a wiser man, found a bit better route on the fringes of the marsh and kept his feet dry. For my part, I turned my socks’ heating on and put on the neoprene boot covers as well. The Ursuit MPS dry undersuit took care of the rest.

Luistelija Ruoveden vesillä sileällä jäällä
Excellent ice on Ohrionselkä after the walk.

Retkiluistelijalla sileällä jäällä harmaana päivänä
Author enjoying the smooth ice. Picture: Leo Kinnunen.

Despite this wet show in the marsh, the choice of route was a success: as we found out, the currents had kept almost all the small sounds free of ice so by choosing another route we would have had to make several other landings. And ice on the next open water, Ohrionselkä, really rewarded us: smoothest ice so far. With such conditions, we arrived quickly to the next landing of our tour. One kilometre of walking, one of skating through a smaller lake and 200 metres more of walking and we were back on bigger waters. The landings and getting back to ice were bit more successful this time despite the wet shorelines due to heavy rains in the previous week.

Märkää rantahetteikköä ja retkiluistelija miettimässä, miten pääsee kuivin jaloin rantaan.
Leo is trying to find a better route to the shore. I had already soaked my skating boots in the previous landing so I did not care that much anymore which is evident from my track.

Open Waters of Ruovesi

Lake Näsijärvi is located in the area of five municipalities: Tampere, Ylöjärvi, Ruovesi, Mänttä-Vilppula and Virrat. We had already crossed from Tampere to Ruovesi at our first landing near Murole canal. Now, it was time to skate through vast water areas of Ruovesi. The first open water area, Jäminginselkä, was quickly crossed. We arrived to the sound of Miestamo where we found iceless parts, some cracks in ice and slippery, rocky shores through which we had to walk.

Retkiluistelija ylittämäsä railoa Miestamonsalmessa Ruovedellä.
Leo crossing a crack in ice at Miestamo. Iceless water can be seen in the background.

After passing the tricky parts at Miestamo, there was only one open water area more before our route would turn north again. Now, we had been traveling more to northeast. Skating through the open waters of Ruhalanselkä was supposedly the last longer stretch where the wind would be more or less straight headwind. This knowledge gave us strenght to pass the not-so-fine ice and six m/s headwind until arriving to the Kauttu canal (1885). After such a hard leg, it was time to have a break once and have something to eat an drink. From now on, the wind would be more favourable for the rest of the tour.

Mies kiipeää kanava kivetystä ylöspäin
Climbing up the edge stones of Kauttu canal.

Kauttu canal
Kauttu canal (1885). No locks in this one.

We passed the atelier Kalela (1895) of the Finnish artist, Akseli Gallén-Kallela (1865–1931) and the centre of Ruovesi while skating on some very smooth ice with a strong tailwind until arriving to the next sound, Korpulanvuolle, where we had to take our skates off and pass the sound from the western side. In some years, the sound is skatable but this year the rains had kept the currents strong. The walk was only 200 metres, so not much to complain about.

A Nordic skater on a smooth black ice.
Passing by the village of Ruovesi from the east.

Ice on the next open water area, Mustaselkä, was quite a surprise—a negative one this time. There was surface ice all over the place with constant creaking sound coming from ice under the blades. Sometimes the ice cover was bearing you, sometimes not. Makes one to keep speed low as one never knows. This time all the surface was the same so it was not possible to separate the worse areas from the good ones. Luckily, it was a short leg before we arrived to the steep cliffs of Syvinkisalmi and climbed up and down before reaching the other side of the sound.

Syvinkisalmi sound (and the bridge over it) seen aboard the steamboat Näsijärvi II in 2012.

After such a climbing effort one was quite ready for another break with some tea anbd sandwiches. While sitting there, we googled the opening hours of the cafe at Visuvesi which was waiting for us 15 kilometres away. Unfortunately, it was closed for all winter. At least the local minimarket would be open, so reaching that would be our next goal.

Retkiluistelijat Tarjannevedellä
Smooth ice and tailwind make Mikko a happy boy. About 80 kilometres of tour done at this point.

Tarjannevesi (sometimes also called Tarjanne) is one of my favourite spots on this route. Stark scenery, not too many cottages and tree-covered hills make it a fine place. This time, also smooth ice could have been added to the advantages of the place. Here we recorded some of the highest speeds on this tour with a strong tailwind and passed the 11 kilometres of open water in 35 minutes. As normally, such hubris was followed by a certain nemesis. About hundred metres before the sound of Kivisalmi (near Visuvesi), we found a surface ice area that was simply impossible to skate. Instead, we found ourselves walking in the five centimetres deep puddle with our skates. Luckily, it was only a hundred metres but still I recorded some of the highest heart rates of this journey.

Retkiluistelija palaamassa jäälle kapean jääkannaksen kautta.
Leo gets back to ice through a ‘neck of ice’ near Visuvesi.

The Last Leg: from Visuvesi to Virrat

Despite the surface ice paradise, we managed to make it to Visuvesi population centre. It has traditionally been famous for its industrial roots (e.g. sawmills and a plywood factory) and even from the Finnish Championships of Kissing. For us, it represented a well deserved break from skating and a possibility for some tourist shopping in the forms of some sports drink and lemonade. We had used much of our drinks so replenishments were much appreciated. At Visuvesi, we also discovered that we had used most of the daylight as well and took our headlights back in the use from the backpacks.

Wind was once more helping us even if we were heading almost straight to the west for now. And fortunately we had that wind as after Visuvesi we encountered an area of three to four kilometres of surface ice that was just and just bearing our weight. (And to be clear, there’s bearing ice under the surface ice, so no danger of falling through ice there.) With such a wind, it was easy just to carefully use our skating poles to get forward standing in two blades, not risking to skate on one blade (as normally).

Karhusaaren loisto iltamaisemassa Vaskivedellä.
The beacon of Karhusaari near Näntönsalmi sound. Unfortunately I did not get the pic with the light on.

After a while ice got better and we soon found ourselves in the “highway” to Virrat as we used to call the Koronselkä open water area on the steamboat. It is about five kilometres straight lane lined by the rocky shores. The lights in the village of Koro were giving us the bearing. Occassional creaking sounds of surface ice were keeping us alert in the darkness but this time these areas were quite rare.

Virtain Kalettomanlahti talviyönä. Retkiluistelija otsalampun kanssa kaukana.
The ‘home straight’ and the road on ice at Virrat. Can you find Leo in the picture?

The Final Exertion

Not much was left now to skate. Yet, we still had to change skating to orienteering in the dark in order to pass the two sounds, Hampainen and Toltaa, through forest. All the water that comes from the upper waters flows through these sounds, so it’s really rare they get some ice at all. But it was only 500 metres of walking in the snowy forest, then 1,5 km of skating on Vaskiselkä before walking for 400 metres and finding ourselves at the last open water area, Härkösselkä. We could already see the lights of Virrat.

Virtain Kalettomanlahti talviyönä. Retkiluistelija otsalampun kanssa kaukana.
The ‘home straight’ and the road on ice at Virrat. Can you find Leo in the picture?

In the northern end of Härkösselkä, we also saw that Artsi is at home. He was a regular customer at the steamboat Tarjanne so we decided to see if he sees the signalling with our headlights. He did, came out and brought us something to drink after hearing about our tour. (Thank you Artsi once more!) We had a brief discussion as well, but only brief as time was flying and we still had to eat at Virrat before continuing our journey back home.

As one could guess, the final 1,5 kilometres of skating was something to remember. Strong headwind and skating on a surface ice in 10 cm deep water puddles. Heart rate rising to record numbers. Finally we found some bearing parts near the road on ice and near the shore and managed to make it to the port of Virrat. Phew.

Retkiluistelija jäätien alussa. Kuvassa myös nopeusrajoituskyltti.
Leo at the finish line. It was easier keeping to the (summer) speed limits here thanks to horrible ice.

It was time to change the wet merino shirt to a dry one, put on the down jacket and order a taxi to take us to the centre. Luckily, the taxi came quick (not a certainty anymore in Finland) and the driver was very friendly. We could leave our backpacks to his car while we went to eat in a local pizzeria. After the ‘dinner’, he came to pick use again and took us the 45 minutes (53km) away to the train station at Parkano. It’s pity that the public connections in the Finnish countryside are quite few. There’s no public connection from Virrat to Tampere in the evening anymore and if we had missed our train at Parkano at 8 pm, we would have had to wait for the next one until 2 am.

Parkanon asemarakennus ja sen edessä luistelija.
Waiting for the train at the Parkano “station”.

The train ride was fast, only 45 minutes. We had reserved a compartment for us in order to spare our fellow travellers of our skating scents of 117 kilometres. The compartment was in the first class, though, and we had to pass all the business travellers to get there. Our equipment seemed to cause some astonishment…After arriving to Tampere, we still had to take the tram to my home, then drive to Kaupinoja to get Leo’s car back until we could call it a day.

Did such a hard work pay off some might ask. The answer would be yes. We both skated this “royal” tour of Lake Näsijärvi for the first time. Now it is done and there’s no more “need” to wait for the optimal circumstances. This time, the conditions were not optimal but of course, they could have been much worse, too. Despite the tailwind, the tour took us 11 hours 40 minutes and we made 13 landings. According to my Polar watch, I spent over 6 700 kilocalories travelling this tour. Quite a day!

And there are still many other dreams concerning Nordic skating even if this one is done…

Our Tampere-Virrat Tour on a Map. (Made with GPX Animator 1.7.0. Map copyright: Maanmittauslaitos.)

Steamboat Tarjanne to use wood as her fuel in 2023

Höyrylaiva Tarjanne Ruoveden kirkkorannassa 1910-luvun alussa. J.H.Ahon kokoelma, Musevirasto.

The biggest steamboat news of the year 2022 was published on September 22. The company operating s/s Tarjanne published a Facebook post in which they told that Tarjanne is returning to using wood as her fuel beginning in the summer of 2023. Of course, Tarjanne is not the only steamboat in Finland that has been “returned to wood” from the oil fuelled boilers. For example, steamboats Kouta, Näsijärvi II and Lokki have done the same thing but as Tarjanne cruises on a scheduled route that takes eight hours and has two furnaces, the use of wood as fuel is more demanding a project. The primus motor of this change is the current chief engineer, Markus Puttonen, who has been advocating wood heating for years. Now it is becoming a reality.

A lot of work ahead

What does this kind of change mean then? Firstly, it means a lot of renovation work which is ongoing. The oil burners and tanks are removed from the engine room, the place of the auxiliary engine has to be adjusted and the sole (“floor”) of the engine room has to be lowered to enable the use of wood. After these, new storages for wood have to be constructed on both sides of the boiler to replace the oil tanks, new furnace doors and hatches for wood logistics have to be made. In addition, the furnaces need grates on which the burning of wood is possible. Thus, a lot of work lies ahead even before the steamboat begins its traffic next summer. The next season will be physically more demanding as it has been with the oil fired boiler. No need for external gym though.

Höyrylaiva Tarjanteen tulipesä
The oil burner is removed. The furnace is awaiting new doors and grates.

If everything goes according to the plans, the 115 years old steamboat Tarjanne will cruise its original Tampere–Ruovesi–Virrat route burning domestic birch under its boiler. My personal estimate is that one trip from Tampere to Virrat will use at least about 9–10 cubic meters of wood depending a little what is calculated in (for example, is the heating up the boiler). Logistics of wood, removal of ashes and sweeping the boiler tubes will bring more work compared to oil fired boiler but the solutions have been thought. The first summer will still be challenging even for professionals.

Old oil tank is being cut
Old oil tank is being cut off. Photo by Tapio Kilpinen.

However, giving up oil as fuel is also looking to the future. At the same time, Tarjanne is also closer to its original form which is very much recommended for a historical steamboat. The soundscape (and the “smellscape”) will be much better with the oilburners gone. Of course, the auxiliary engine is still needed to produce the electricity for the kitchen but perhaps in a few years battery technology and gas appliances for kitchen would also remove this last diesel using engine, too.

Tarjanteen konemestari Markus Puttonen
The chief engineer of Tarjanne, Markus Puttonen, aboard his place of work.

Back to the future and past at the same time

Steamboat Tarjanne has come a full circle after this renovation work. When Tarjanne was ordered by the local co-operative in  1907, it was obvious that it would be fuelled by wood due to its easy availability. It was not until the 1920s and 1930s when the increasing road traffic began to take customers away from the steamboats. New ways to get income and to cut costs were much needed. The slowly increasing international and domestic tourism was seen as a possibility to attract new customers. In order to cut costs, the shipping company made some experiments to use coal as fuel for the steamboat in 1937. However, the Second World War stopped these experiments when import of coal was much reduced. The transition back to wood burning was mandatory.

Tarjanteen vanha öljytankki
The starboard side oil tank is partly removed. A new wood storage will be constructed in its place.

The next major change occurred only in the 1960s when many Finnish steamboats installed oil burners under the boiler. There seemed to be plentiful of this “new” fuel and it was quite cheap. However, the oil crises of 1970s were signs that cheap oil is not a self evident matter. In the new millennium, price of oil began to rise and the climate change brought a new dimension to use of oil. Therefore, returning to the use of renewable wood is both returning back to the roots of Tarjanne but also reacting to the changing demands of the society (and of the world) by giving up the use of fossil fuels.

So, it is time to visit the port of Mustalahti at Tampere and the steamboat Tarjanne next summer as there will much to see and experience. There will be piles of wood on the pier and crew loading wood to the steamboat while a scent of tradition wood fired Finnish sauna will be hanging in the air. Let’s see how this project turns out!

The featured image of the article: Steamboat Tarjanne at Ruovesi in the early 1910s. (Source: Historian kuvakokoelma, J. H. Ahon kokoelma, Museovirasto).

More information of the steamboat Tarjanne can be found in the video below. Click on the cc to turn the subtitles on.

Finnish Steamboat Summer 2022

Vinkit höyrylaivakesään 2022

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.

s/s Kouta in Vaala during the anniversary tour 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!

A part of the beach at Ärjänsaari and s/s Kouta staying at the pier.

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!

A long tradition of cooperation between the bus company Bussi-Manninen and steamboat Tarjanne. Here are the advertisement of both companies from 1934. (on left, Steamboat Co-operative Tarjanne announces its schedules in local newspaper, Ruovesi-lehti 6.6.1934; on right, the bus company announces that it will start a feeder line taking people to the steamboat Tarjanne, Aamulehti 1.5.1934).

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.

Steamboats participating in “Saimaan regatta” at Puumala in 2021.

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!

The Regatta of Lake Näsijärvi in 2019. On left, steamboat Visuvesi (1890) and on right, steamboat Tarjanne (1908).

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.

Näsijärvi II Ruoveden vesillä
Steamboat Näsijärvi II on Lake Näsijärvi. Picture T. Puumalainen.

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.

Steamboat Kotvio II on Lake Näsijärvi in 2019.

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!

Kayaking on Haukkajoki

As the Nordic skating season is not yet here, it was nice to pay a visit to the small river Haukkajoki about 60 km north of Tampere. The rainy season has had a nice effect as there was plenty of water and the stream flow was excellent. Of course, the water tends to be a bit cold at this point (6°C) but with proper equipment it is not a problem. Check out the video below:

A kicksled can get you far!

The circumstances are not always favourable for Nordic skating. For example, it has been too warm on last couple of nights and the ice surface has not get frozen enought for skating. However, one or two degrees below zero can be enough for a kicksled.

Today we did a nice 51km kicksled tour from Kuru to Tampere on Lake Näsijärvi. I shot a GoPro Timewarp video of the trip in order to capture the changing cirmumstances. Of course, the video clips taken on dark were terrible, but as the journey lasted for six hours, there were also good lighting conditions later in the morning. Enjoy the tour with the video below (English subtitles available (CC button))

Kick-starting 2021 on Kiimajoki Canoe Route

I have now been paddling three separate times with my tourskating friends: in November, December and January. The circumstances in the winter (ice, snow and fairy-tale like blue-grey colors) create quite a different experience being on a lake or paddling through small ‘rivers’ (I think a ‘creek’ would be more apt word to describe the ones we’ve paddled through).

The Kiimajoki route is really close (30 min drive) to my hometown so it was a nice half day trip. And the water level was now high enough, so it was easy to paddle through the whole route.

It was a great way to kick-start the year 2021. The winter seems to be tightening its grip, so I guess next trips will be done by skating…

Here’s a quickly created clip of today’s paddling.