Yet another year is coming to an end, so it is time to look back to the season 2013. In this blog post we list the best large guest marinas, smaller village harbours, wild anchorages etc. that we visited during the last season. It was surprisingly difficult to decide which are the best since things can be looked at from so many perspectives. Thus, we decided to choose two winners to each category.

1. Best large guest harbour

Visby – Yes, the harbour is definitely overcrowded in July. Yes there are a lot of large motor boats in the marina, most of them hosting loud parties until late evening. Yes, the facilities are a bit ascetic given the popularity of the marina. However, it is still Visby, one of the most legendary sailing destinations in the Baltic Sea. The harbour is located in the heart of this best preserved medieval city in the Scandinavia, so it is a good base for the walks around the old town. One can also rent a car from the harbour office, if wanting to see the island more.

Mariehamn (E) – A visit to this Åland’s capital city is almost a must for each season. It’s location is especially good, if going to or coming from Sweden. This year (like most of the other seasons) we stayed in the eastern harbour, which has good facilities: plenty of berths, good showers/saunas and shopping areas nearby. Thus, it is a good place to stop for provisions. The city of Mariehamn is cosy little town, which has a nice buzz to it during the high season.

2. Best small village harbour

Lickershamn, Gotland – Located just some 15 nautical miles north of Visby, this small fishing village is particularly idyllic. While most of the bigger yachts hurry to Visby, the atmosphere in Lickershamn is tranquil and more original. Harbour’s main attraction is Gotland’s largest rauk Jungfrun, which stands lonely on the cliff and rises 25 metres above the sea level. There is about 600 metres walk from harbour to the rauk. The fishermen tradition is still living in the village, so we bought excellent smoked salmon from the fiskeboden/harbour office. We actually ended up spending two nights in this idyllic harbour, since the calm and peaceful atmosphere in Lickershamn felt especially refreshing after a busy week in Visby.

Sandvik, Kökar – This is our favourite of the three harbours on Kökar island in Åland Archipelago. We visited the island in late June, before the high-season, so the harbour was about half-full. It was still preparing for the main season. The facilities are pretty good for a small harbour, there is a nice sauna with a chance to go for a swim and perhaps the smallest ever grocery store in the small hut, where the harbour office is located. There is about two kilometres walk to the church, from which a great view opens to the barren Archipelago.

3. Best wild anchorage

Gotska Sandön – This uninhabited and most isolated island in the Baltic Sea is located some 25 nautical miles north of Gotland. In Baltic standards, it offers perhaps the worst anchorage in terms of shelter. Actually there is not much shelter, so boats anchor in the lee side of the island.

The scenery on the island is not very Baltic – it almost felt like coming to a tropical island when rowing the dinghy to the deserted sand beach. The warm and sunny weather did not do bad either! Kilometers long sand beaches round the whole island and there is a lush pine forrest in the middle.

Sandön, Finland – The visit to Sandön, located in the southern Archipelago Sea, in September was particularly memorable. Especially as the mid-Septmember weather was so great. With sandy beaches around the island, it resembled of our visit to Gotska Sandön. However, the anchorage was much calmer thanks to the sheltering archipelago. Similar to its sibling in the middle of the Baltic, Sandön cannot be landed with a sail boat, so one needs to have a dinghy. Furthermore, it is always possible to swim ashore.

4. Best sauna

Helsingholmen – The sauna on Helsingholmen is one of the best in the archipelago, so we always book it if possible, when visiting this island. It is wood-heated of course, has a possibility for a refreshing swim in the sea and offers great views towards the setting sun.

Bullandö Marina, Stockholm archipelago – For a Finn it is actually a bit hard to admit that the finest ’marina sauna’ that we came across during the season was actually located in Sweden. Saunas (or Bastus as they call them) are not as wide spread in Sweden as they are in Finland. If one happens to find a sauna from a Swedish guest harbour, it is usually a small and dark hut with no windows and temperature around 40 degrees. However, this was not a case in Bullandö Marina, which had a new sauna building with large picture windows offering a nice view over to the marina. Modern shower facilites were renovated with taste as well. Unfortunately, we did not take any photos from the sauna in Bullandö.

5. Best sail

This category was perhaps the hardest, as we got a favourable wind for all of the longer crossings this year. That is actually a bit of a surprise due to the fact, that winds were mostly blowing from the south when we were going to the south and from north when coming there.

From Nynäshamn to Visby – this 80 nautical miles leg was the longest one during the last season. We departed from Nynäshamn in the evening and we got headwind for the first couple of hours, but the wind veered to west before midnight and strengthened. Thus, we got a pretty fast beam reach through the night to Visby, where we arrived at 10 o’clock in the following morning after a 15 hours sail. The weather was clear and the dog shift was treated with a nice sunrise.

From Gotska to Stockholm Archipelago – The wind was calm during the day so we spent the day touring the island, and raised the anchor in the late afternoon. Soon the wind picked up, and we got a nice reach with gennaker to Stockholm Archipelago. We looked for a suitable anchorage in the outer Stockholm Archipelago that could be accessed safely during the night. We found one from the pilot book and dropped the anchor at the sheltered bay on Finnskär at 2.30 am after a 9,5 hours and 50 nm leg. One did not have to wait for sleep for too long.

So much for the year 2013. We would like to wish you all a happy New Year 2014!

/Antti & Minna