One of the sailing experiences that I really wanted to tick off the list was to sail overnight during summer in the Baltic. We would have the opportunity over a two-night 200nm sail from Riga to Tallinn.
Each evening of our voyage the sun set after 10.30pm, only to rise again around 4am. The sun takes ages to go down! I can go and make a cup of tea with the sun balanced on the horizon and it’s still setting when I return fifteen minutes later. In between sunset and sunrise, the sky remains at twilight, never quite reaching the darkness we are used to on night sails further south. But too much sunlight can play havoc with sleeping rhythms, although off-watch I managed to get a few hours sleep once I put on my eye-mask. Wayne managed to get a few hours of sleep too with his head buried under a pillow.
To the west of mainland Estonia are a number of islands and shallow waters. Having sunlight allowed us to navigate these waters with no problem.
Sailing south of and parallel to the shipping lane in the Gulf of Finland, we then headed across the busy ferry lanes to arrive at the Pirita Kalevi Yacht Club in the Republic of Estonia.
The Pirita Kalevi yacht club is where the sailing sports of the 1980 Russian Olympics took place and is located 6kms north-east of Tallinn. The small marina has everything we need close by (diesel, supermarkets, etc) and the 20 Euro per night was far more attractive that 55 Euros per night at the Tallinn city marina. The bike ride into town is a convenient 20 minutes or an easy 60 minute walk.
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. Old Tallinn is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe and another UNESCO World Heritage site. Over the centuries, the small country was invaded by various others, and like Latvia is celebrating its 100th year of independence in 2018.
To learn more about Estonia and Tallinn, we joined a guided tour offered by the Tourist Information Office. Our guide was affable and witty and like most youngish Estonians, spoke excellent English. Although we both thought her accent seemed to have an Irish slant, she assured us she had lived in Tallinn all her life. Our walk around the town included sites such as St Nicholas’ church, St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Town Hall and Square. Surrounding the town is the remains of the ramparts and bastions, one of the best preserved in Europe apparently. Afterwards we walked up 220 skinny steps to the top of St Olaf church for spectacular views of the city and harbour. It’s amazing that any of these old buildings still stand. In March 1944, the Russians bombed Tallinn with over 5000 buildings pulverised immediately or demolished soon after. This attack by the Red Army killed over 800 people, mostly civilians.
Now, here’s a few interesting facts about Estonia that our young guide shared with us: Apparently Estonia is one of the most tech-savvy countries in the world and the popular tag ‘E-Estonia’ recognises their advances in technology (Fact: fact Skype was developed in Estonia and over 40% of Skype employees are based in Tallinn and nearby Tartu); Estonia was the first country to have online voting back in 2005; Free Wifi is just about everywhere and the population is well-connected digitally speaking; Estonia has the highest number of start-ups per capita in Europe; Estonians also love to sing! In 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union a series of mass demonstrations during which Estonians sang national songs and patriotic hymns that were strictly forbidden is known as The Singing Revolution; Estonia enjoy participating in the Eurovision song contest; Estonians love nature and their favourite bread is black and made from rye (it’s moist and tasty too!).
So now here we are at the Summer Solstice and this weekend Midsummer festivities take place in the countryside over the weekend. But as luck would have it, a nasty low (990mb) has blown in from the west bringing strong gales and plenty of rain, keeping us on board for a couple of days. But it will soon pass in a day or so and we’ll head across to Helsinki, Finland crossing the 60 degree latitude – the most northerly location sailed by Blue Heeler.
Until then, terviseks!