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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.

Conclusion

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.

Year 2020 on the Water

The year 2020 is—luckily—nearing its end. Covid pandemic has been dominating the year, but I have some positive memories of this year, too, even if it is hard to believe. Here I’ve gathered a picture or a video clip from every month of 2020. The theme is, not surprisingly, water and therefore, the main themes of the videos/pics are steamboats and tour skating.

January

One of the best moments of January was skating in the national park of Helvetinjärvi in Finland. Picking just one video from January is hard as there were other great skating moments, too (like this one from ‘mirror ice’). However, the skating tour in the national park offered wonderful scenes from the air as well as my friend had a drone with him.

February

A lot of skating videos in February, too. But if I have to choose only one, then it has to be this 83 km skate from Tampere to Kuru on an excellent ice of lake Näsijärvi. These kind of conditions occur on this lake once in a decade. Of course, I would hope that this kind of conditions would be more frequent, but we shall see.

March

In March, the Covid pandemic reached Finland, too. On the International Women’s Day, a concert was held in Helsinki which later turned out to be one of our very own superspreader events. At the time, everyone was unaware of that and we spent the day skating in the national park of Liesjärvi.

April

In April, Finland was in the middle of lockdown and there was no more skatable ice on the lake areas. As a result, there was time to participate on the #tussenkunstenquarantaine challenge started by Anneleos Officier. I created my own DIY version of the famous La Mort de Marat by Jacques-Louis David. If you wonder what this has to do with the water theme of this post: it’s the water in the bathtube… If you haven’t yet checked the Finnish versions of this Instagram challenge, you’d better check the Finnish hashtag #karanteenitaidetta.

May

In May, I had the change to make a ‘test drive’ on the steamboat Warkaus VII. Here you can see loading of the fuel that is going on in a bit more modern way. The pandemic reduced the cruises in such a way that actually this one was the only cruise of the summer of this steamer. Let’s hope that next year will be better!

June

Even though I promised to only post one video/pic per month, one has to post two of June.

Spending the Midsummer on the steamboat Tarjanne was a wonderful experience after the lockdown of the spring. During this trip it also occurred, that I could do my own share in promoting this world record steamer (112 years on the very same route with the very same steam engine). This video got actually some publicity with the local newspaper so it is probably the most watched of all the clips I’ve ever created.

Just after the Midsummer there was another special trip as we relocated the steamboat Saaristo from Helsinki to Savonlinna. The story is already told on that post but I have to publish one more video of the trip. Having cruised two days already with the small crew, it didn’t take a lot to have a good laugh. At his point, only playing old Finnish evergreens on repeat was enough…

Towards Savonlinna on Lake Saimaa.

July

I spent a lot of time on the lakes in July on different steamboats. There was also one nice yacht relocation cruise from Savonlinna to Kaarina sailing through lake Saimaa and Finnish south coast on the Gulf of Finland.

The video is from the cruise of steamboat Antero. We had a Finnish female choir Philomela as our guests and the video is taking on a summer night at the Hillfort of Sulkava.

Philomela choir at Sulkava on a July night

August

There were many steamboat cruises in August, too. The picture is from steamboat Mikko, the only traditional wooden cargo steamboat (‘tervahöyry’) left in the world.

A ‘lot’ of space in the canal of Virtasalmi.

September

The picture of September is from lake Näsijärvi, Tampere during the ‘Aila’ storm in the middle of the month. A cardinal mark has taken some hit in the storm and was drifted to the beach of Kaupinoja.

October

The traditional gathering of Saimaa steamboats could barely be arranged before the second wave of Covid in Finland. Here’s a picture at Laukansaari, the base of Finnish Steam Yacht Associaton, on a October night.

November

When is the best time to start learning to paddle? Of course in the end of November… A little bit of snow creates a great atmosphere for a paddling trip. The picture is taken in the route of Haukkajoki, in the Helvetinjärvi National park.

December

The tour skating (or Nordic skating if you like) season started once again in December. Sometimes it takes quite much effort to find decent and ‘skateable’ ice as can be seen. The contrast to the video of February is striking. But sometimes the reality of a tour skater is like this…

So here were all the 12 visual memories from the past year.

I wish everyone a better and happier year 2021!

Last of Its Species. Along the Poet’s Way with Steamboat Tarjanne

Tarjanne Virtain laivarannassa

The Midsummer trip to 112 years old steamboat Tarjanne gave a lot of video material. Therefore, I decided to compile a short ‘documentary’ of this special steamer’s past and present. I have bother worked aboard Tarjanne and studied its history, so this steamboat is especially dear to me.

Tarjanne is the last of its species: still steaming along its original route. And as far as I know (of course, I may also be wrong), it’s unique also globally.

COVID-19 pandemic hit tourism industries hard in general and Tarjanne wasn’t spared either. The best support for a unique historical vessel like Tarjanne is to book a journey on her. The tickets for the scheduled route traffic can be found from the webshop of steamboat the Tarjanne.

From the Baltic Sea to Lake Saimaa – the Repositioning Cruise of s/s Saaristo

Tarjanne Virtain laivarannassa

In June, I was on a bit different steamboat cruise as I was part of moving the steamboat Norrkulla from Helsinki to Savonlinna, from the Baltic Sea to Lake Saimaa. The name of the steamer was changed from Norrkulla to Saaristo in the destination, so that’s why s/s Saaristo is used in the title.

Background and preparations

Steamboat Norrkulla has a lively history. Originally it was used in the Nauvo (Nagu in Swedish) archipelago (Southwest Finland) as a transport ship by the name of Nagu. It was built in 1911 in Lehtoniemi Konepaja at Varkaus. During the First World War it was forcibly taken in use by the Russian Navy and got the name Nyrok.  After the war (1918), the hull was lengthened and the boat was transferred to Helsinki as a local transport boat. Then it also got is name Norrkulla.

After the road traffic around the Helsinki had improved in the 1930, Norrkulla was left out of people and cargo to transport. Therefore, it was sold to Savonlinna, Lake Saimaa in 1938. There the road conditions were not nearly as good and it served as the last steamboat in local traffic until 1975. Luckily, the steamboat found new owners that started to offer steamboat tours in Savonlinna. The boat also got it’s name Figaro which was influenced by the large opera festival held yearly in Savonlinna.

Figaro sailed the waters of Savonlinna until 2005, when it was sold to Helsinki and it got once again a new name, HöyryJuho (SteamJuho). This name lasted only a year, after which the steamboat was sold once more and the new owners changed the name back to Norrkulla from the 1920s.

However, Norrkulla was sold again in the early summer of 2020 as Janne Leinonen, a CEO of the steamboat company VIP Cruise bought the vessel. He also phoned me whether I would like to be the shipmaster on the relocationing cruise. After a brief moment of consideration, I agreed, why not. Furthermore, when I heard who will be part of the crew, I knew that this would be an excellent trip. The schedule was agreed that we would depart on Tuesday the 23rd of June as the great ‘homecoming party’ would be arranged on Saturday the 27th of June. The weather conditions seemed also favorable which was essential of transporting this kind of small steamboat. (Well, quite hot for the engineers, though.)

The trip was quite long to be a normal steamboat ride, so it took some time to make all the preparations and arrangements. Also preparing for the border formalities took more time as it was ‘the covid period’ and the travel restrictions were in effect. However, the relocation of a merchant ship (as Norrkulla) was approved. We also used a ship clearance company which was of great help dealing with the Russian administration. Thank you Kimmo once more.

The previous owners had already cruised a test cruise (after a major boiler repair, changing the fire tubes) and cleaned the ship. Marita & co (the previous owners) had put their steamer in excellent condition. The idea was to sail first to Santio border station and continue from there to Lappeenranta via the Saimaa canal and from there to Savonlinna.

 

 

Helsinki–Santio–Lappeenranta–Savonlinna. Altogether 243.5 nm which is about 451 km. Background: Google Maps.

Tuesday, the 23rd of June

I arrived with Tero by train to Helsinki in the Tuesday morning and the preparations were well on their way. The engineers Mikko (two Mikkos aboard) and Timo made the final checks in the engine room and Tapsa was buying an additional pump for the engine room. Tero and Risto headed off to get more food and mineral water. The latter was much in need as the temperature was about 27–30 degrees all the cruise. The small local shop was emptied of the mineral water!

Preparations ready, off to Savonlinna! The crew from left to right: Mikko Manka (the author of the blog), Tero Lahti, Risto Luukkainen, Tapio Kilpinen, Timo Turunen and Mikko Manninen. Pic: J. Ekholm.

When all the necessary preparations were made, we did a general tour around the steamboat with the previous owners in order to get use familiar with the steamboat. Finally we were ready to depart in 13:45. The beautiful Helsinki was left behind and the sea trip was about the begin. As a our cruising speed was a little bit under 6 knots, we had a lot of time to admire the views as well. The weather conditions – on the deck – were excellent: a slight tailwind and +27°C. However, in the engine room the temperatures were high: first over 50°C and in the latter part of the trip almost 70°C! During the journey on the sea, the temperatures were generally lower than in the lake and in the canal: the sea was still cold.

Helsinki is left behind. Pic: T. Kilpinen
Kuninkaansalmi strait.
Great cormorants on an island. Pic: T. Lahti.
Timo is checking the views. Pic: T. Lahti.
Pellinki ferry, around 19:45 on Tuesday. Pic: T. Lahti.

We took turns on watch (both on the bridge and engine room) to give enough time to rest for everyone. There was enough of nautical miles still ahead. We converted the public cabins to our use by using some mattress pads to give extra width to the narrow couches.

Risto and Tero resting on the upper deck
Sun is setting in order to rise only after a few hours. The midnight sun. Pic: T. Lahti.

As usually with these old boats, we had some technical challenges, too: the engineers had to make a small reparation to our condenser pump system off the Loviisa coast. However, it was quickly fixed and the journey continued. One of the highlights of the day was the ‘shower’ prepared by the engineers using a mix of warm condenser water and seawater. What a delight after a long day!

Wednesday, the 24th of June.

Wednesday started with a beautiful sunrise near Kotka about 3:40 o’clock. There was barely wind on the sea and clouds on the sky. The heat wave continued.

Sun is rising.
Towards Santio. Pic: T. Kilpinen.
Good morning! Pic: T. Kilpinen.

First port on our journey was Santio in which we arrived at 6:40. There we waited for the border guards a couple of hours. At the same time I called to the guys on the next port, Lappeenranta, and made sure that we got a place there where we could get fresh water and electricity. The old dockyard for old vessels was an ideal place to spend the next night: it is a calm place with good facilities.

The border facilities took a little less than hour and so hour journey could continue towards Vyborg and Saimaa canal in 9:45.

Tapsa polishing the brass parts of the engine order telegraph somewhere on the Russian waters. Notice the Polish texts. We tried to learn Polish all the trip: Wstecz Baczność!
Tero found truly “automatic harness lifevests” of the past decades from the ship stores.

After crossing the border, the Russian authorities contacted us with the VHF in order to recognise our boat but after that we sailed a couple of hours without any sign of life at sea.

Engineers Timo and Mikko on the deck.
Risto removing the “rear view mirrors”. Pic: T. Kilpinen.
Tero keeps a look-out on the bridge. Pic: T. Kilpinen.
The port of Uuras (Vysotsk). Pic: T. Lahti.
Part of buildings were still in a bit weaker state. Pic: T. Lahti.

We bypassed the port of Uuras around three pm. The contrast between the new facilities of the port and some Soviet time buildings was quite strong.

In the bay of Vyborg with the city already in sight, Timo had to make a quick reparation to the auxialiary engine. However, this problem was fixed very quickly. In the city of Vyborg, the Russians celebrated the Victory Day as the celebrations were moved to later day because of the COVID pandemic. Therefore, the flag of the Vyborg castle was a red one as in the old days. Quite a strange sight.

Reparations on the bay of Viborg. Timo is working with the auxiliary engine, Risto is ready to help on the hatch and Tero is observing the situation.
The red flag of the Vyborg Castle. Pic: T. Lahti.
I’m using the binoculars, Risto in the background. Pic: T. Lahti

As we arrived to Vyborg, the temperature rose significantly. The light breeze of the sea ended and the heat of the land was everywhere. You could also notice the heat by looking to the shores: every place to swim was full of people

Viipuri beach. Pic: T. Lahti.
The heat of the land reached the engine room as well.

Before six pm we were at the beginning of the Saimaa canal. The customs formalities were quickly done and we could enter the first lock. In general, the Saimaa canal part was very quick: we could just enter the first four locks, attach the mooring rope, wait for fifteen minutes and on the ‘road’ again. However, before entering the fifth lock, Pälli, we had to wait for a couple of hours for cargo traffic.

Up we go.
Iskrovka is passed.
Towards the lock of Pälli. Pic: T. Kilpinen.
Waiting at the Pälli. Pic: T. Kilpinen

After waiting a couple of hours we got to the lock of Pälli, on which the passport control was made. Then we moved the steamboat a hundred meters where the Russian border authorities made a thorough check of the ship. The young border guard with a mask on was friendly and fast: I really had to run after him in order to keep up with him. The crew had to wait on the quay during the check.

Thursday, the 25th of June

After the check it was already midnight and we could carry on and cross the border back to Finland. At Nuijamaa border station there was another control of the boat and passports – both were quick and efficient. Meanwhile the sun had set and we continued our journey guided by the many lights of the canal. Finally we arrived at the dockyard around 4 am. The canal and Russian waters were behind and ‘only’ some miles (79nm) on Lake Saimaa left. We really enjoyed the sleeping in the silent dockyard.

A canal scene on the early hours.
Arrived at the Kanavansuu dockyard around 4 am.
Preparations for the last day. Pic: T. Kilpinen

After sleeping, swimming and taking some fresh water to the steamboat our journey continued. Goodbye Lappeenranta and once more thanks to the persons in the dockyard for an excellent place to rest.

Saimaa showed its best: it was really warm (around 30–31°C) and sun was shining from a cloudless sky. The last small breeze ended when we reached the Sulkava hillfort and the rest of the journey was made on a dead calm lake. The last part of the trip was excellent time for different maintenance and polishing work (which had been done all the journey, too). Tapsa polished brass parts of the ship as he uses to do and together with Risto they mounted the old compass cover to its place. Before passing the Puumala, the engine officers converted the condender system to be driven with the fire pump: it improved the speed significantly, now we were cruising almost with the speed seven knots. Tero, for his part, prepared the meals as he had done all the journey. Thank you once more for the great meals aboard!

Excellent menu. Tuesday: Lunch: Boiled potatoes, herring, frankfurters, tomato, apple, cucumber and salad. Wednesday: Pasta Bolognese: tomato sauce, tomato, cucumber, ketchup. Thursday: Garlic Chicken with fries, ketchup, tomato, cucumber, mineral water and good company. Pic: T. Lahti.
Omelette and yoghurt as a snack between the meals. I was not hungry on this trip!
Tapsa polishing the old compass cover. Pic: T. Lahti.
Risto and Tapsa after mounting the old compass cover.
Risto taking a nap on the upper deck. Pic: T. Lahti
The consumption of mineral water was high. Here you can see a part of the bottles.

On the Lake Saimaa we could admire the beautiful nature. Puumala and especially Sulkava hillfort are impressive places. The nickname of Puumala, “The Gibraltar of Lake Saimaa” (given before the bridge was built), even inspired us to make a modest movie tribute…

Puumala, the Gibraltar of Lake Saimaa. Video: R. Luukkainen.

Before the new bridge at Vekaransalmi strait, we also saw rare animals: Two ospreys and a Saimaa ringed seal. The latter escorted us for a while before diving back to the depths of Lake Saimaa. Tero who was a first-timer on Lake Saimaa got all the best parts of the lake on this trip!

Sulkava Hillfort is an impressive sight. Pic: T. Kilpinen.
Osprey at her nest and flying. Pics: T. Lahti.
A Saimaa ringed seal escorting us towards Savonlinna. Pic: T. Lahti.
Lake Saimaa is beautiful on the evenings. Pic: T. Kilpinen.
The chief engineer Mikko inspecting the old home waters of the steamboat. Pic: T. Kilpinen.
The last 30 minutes to cruise! Pic: T. Kilpinen.
Arrived in 23:45. Pic. T. Kilpinen

Finally we arrived to Savonlinna just a bit before the midnight. We moored the steamboat on a dockyard where it was not visible to the public as the homecoming party was due to be arranged only on Saturday. Before that, there was a lot of work and cleaning to be done. However, the relocation cruise was at its end. Thank you all the crew! As always on the steamers, the engineers have the hardest time, so thank you Mikko and Timo. And thank you for all the other crew member, Tero, Tapsa and Risto as well. All you enabled the safe and succesful transfer. And thank you Janne, without you the the ship wouldn’t have been relocated at all.

I have to admit, that it was a strenuous journey. But we had a lot of fun, too, and a great team spirit. Therefore, it was a bit sad when the trip was over.

Take a cruise on steamboats!

After the final preparations by Tapsa and Timo, the steamboat was taken to the passenger harbor of Savonlinna on Saturday. A convoy of steamboats (Punkaharju, Savonlinna, Enso and Tippa (waiting in the port)) escorted the steamboat to Savonlinna where there was a great party with an excellent accordionist, a band, a magician and so on. The new (old) name was also introduced before the party.

The event and the number of people attending to it was a reminder how the steamboats—and this steamboat in particular—are important to the locals in the town like Savonlinna which has lived of the lake for centuries. There are a lot of emotions and memories attached to these steamers. The best way to take care of these old boats is to use them actively. Therefore, I hope that people actively board on cruises on these old steamboats like Saaristo, Punkaharju and Savonlinna and all the other steamers in Finland and other parts of world, too. These vessels are part of our cultural heritage.

If you’re interested in Lake Saimaa cruises, you can get to the home site of VIP Cruise here.

The vessel at its new home port. Pic: T. Kilpinen

PS. Our deck hand, Tapsa, was photographed 54 years ago in front of the vessel so we had to take a new picture. I guess he didn’t know over half a century ago that he was to be photographed in the same place again—nor that he would self be taking this steamboat back to Savonlinna!

1966 vs 2020. The steamboat has apparently shrunk a bit in 54 years…

Wonderful Ice Conditions on Lakes

This winter with little no or little snow has been quite awful for cross-country skiing in the Southern Finland. However, the conditions for Nordic Skating have been quite good here at Tampere. The last week offered almost once-in-a-lifetime conditions as the big lakes (e.g. Näsijärvi) got ice cover that was durable enough for Nordic Skating. I had already lost hope for that to happen this year, but a week of “normal” winter frosts did the trick.

First we had a 63km trip on lake Aure, a little over one hour drive from Tampere. Aure is also close to the national park of Seitseminen and the nature there is wonderful. You can watch a video from that trip below:

Even though Aurejärvi was nice, the real highlight of the week was skating from Tampere to Kuru (83km) on Saturday. We had already made an “ice scouting trip” from Kuru to Tampere on Friday—to see that the ice conditions were good enough for a bigger group to skate all the way. The ice proved itself one of the best I’ve ever skated on. And I got the chance to enjoy it twice, first on the scouting trip and then with the bigger group. As always with Nordic Skating, the window of opportunity was short: already on Sunday the ice was covered with snow and the same kind of trip was not possible anymore. However, there are three well-maintained skating lanes on lakes in the Tampere region. On these it is possible to skate even when the other parts of lakes are covered with snow.

I hope the video below catches some of the mood of our skating trip.

Technique and Skating in the Sky

It was quite amazing that despite the ‘heat wave’ of this so called winter, there was still enough ice for a Nordic skating tour. The theme of the tour was ice reconnaissance and improving one’s skating technique. However, a week of temperatures above 0 °C had weakened the ice in such a way that the original destination at the other end of the lake was not reachable.

As the skating area was quite limited—some kilometres—we concentrated in improving the skating technique. A couple of professional skaters that were part of our group gave really good hints how to skate faster and in more efficient way. I have been skating many years, but I experienced a wow effect today after some training. Of course, it will take much time to perfect my technique, but today’s training was a good start.

Despite the training, I also had time to take some video clips and the result is here below. Enjoy the video!

 

Nordic Skating in Hell

Nordic skating is quite photogenic sports (or way of life?). Yesterday we made a day trip to nearby Helvetinjärvi (Hell’s lake –>thus the title of the post) National Park and visited four different lakes. Absolutely a wonderful place: beautiful scenery, silence, beaches, pine forests – Finnish wilderness at its best.

We took quite many video clips with a GoPro and a drone, here’s a short video we edited of the filmed material. Enjoy.

As there was plenty of material, I edited a second video from our skating day. Which one do you prefer?