Saturday, 13 June 2015

Experience: Sailing to Stockholm on the Aurelia + Galaxy to Turku

It has now been two weeks since I last left my Tallinn home. My final destination being once again Tervakoski, and the way I got here being once again somewhat adventurous. It started with a 36-hour non-stop sailing to Stockholm on Aurelia, the largest Estonian sailing yacht. We departed in the evening and the sail out of Tallinn was quite enjoyable, with people telling stories and enjoying the view and the calm weather; on the other hand, it wasn't windy enough to use sails and we lagged a bit behind the schedule. Alas for me, the next time I could just sit outside and enjoy the environment was after we reached the Stockholm archipelago; as we got farther from the coast the boat started rolling quite badly and I failed to prevent myself from getting seasick. On the 2nd day I managed to climb out on the deck a couple of times; the weather was actually wonderful. Soon afterwards we were hit by even stronger winds and higher waves, so I had to resort to curling up in the cabin bed (which, fortunately, was surrounded by walls on three sides), trying not to roll along and crawling to the bathroom every now and then. As we progressed the rolling got so bad that nothing would keep me in place on the bed and I had to lie across the bed and hope to keep myself in place with my legs. Early  in the morning on the 3rd day we finally reached the archipelago, the sea got calm and after some actual sleep I went on the deck to look and steer. That's when I found out we had gained up during  the windy hours and eventually we reached Stockholm only a few hours behind schedule. The weather was lovely and the best part of the whole experience was the fact I lost quite a bit of weight. At this point I would most likely even agree to do it again.

Superstar near Tallinn, making impressive waves. Later on we also saw her outbound.
View from the cabin window on a good day
A day and a half later
Baltic Princess in the archipelago
Viking Grace, shiny and beautiful as ever, also outbound. 
As I mentioned, the weather in Stockholm was gorgeous. We parked the boat near Gröna Lund, I went to the center and met up with a friend, later on I chose to buy a transport day ticket and take the most out of it, so I ended up walking around a little in almost every corner of central Stockholm. At one point I took the ferry from Gamla Stan back to Djurgården and picked up my suitcase. I'm not quite sure what exactly was happening, but the entire city was full of old vehicles, both cars and public transport. I also witnessed some kind of a parade thingy at the Royal Palace, which included seeing both the King and the Queen.

Mariella and Cinderella
I was just wandering around thinking of heading to the harbour when I passed the royal palace and saw a bunch of guards, so I chose to stick around and see what's happening...
... when His Majesty passed by.
Quite an impressive escort
As I walked on, some more marching squads passed.
Soon afterwards it was time to head to the harbour. As I arrived, Galaxy was just coming in and Silja Symphony was surprisingly still in. 
Fishies at the crowded terminal
Seems like Silja Symphony was in to stay; when I checked Marinetraffic the following day though, she had made it to Helsinki.
The Galaxy was surprisingly full for a Sunday evening; the Symphony next to us on the other hand seemed empty. For some reason I thought that the huge crowds in the terminal were waiting to board the latter, but unfortunately for me, all were boarding Galaxy. I had an E-class cabin, which is right above the nightclub. The only thing I chose to do that night was participate in the ship's karaoke, which had an unusually low attendance rate and quality of performances. Fortunately I didn't stand out in those terms, since I somehow managed to choose all the wrong songs. Due to it being Sunday, the free cabin party from down below didn't last for too long and I got about as much sleep as possible with the time zone change and early arrival in Turku. 

Mandatory funnel photo

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Experience: Merilin on stormy seas

A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to try out the last of the Tallinn-Helsinki ship crossing options I hadn't tried yet. While I've always been curious about crossing on a Linda Line catamaran (my previous experience with fast craft was during the SuperSeaCat era when I was quite young) I have still been somewhat cautious because the risk of having my trip postponed or cancelled seemed too big. And I can't say it didn't affect me this time; after I made my booking, the smaller white catamaran Karolin got some technical issues and schedules had to be redone for the whole month. My booked return trip disappeared entirely from the new schedules, thus I had to change the booking; but besides that, everything went quite smoothly. The booking, check in and boarding process wasn't too different from the large ferries, just on a smaller scale. The catamaran carries no cars, just bikes. There was a lot less people and to board I only had to scan a barcode. While the fact I received no boarding card was a great disappointment for me, I can see how the boarding system is very convenient for frequent travellers or those in a hurry - the customers Linda Line caters for.

Karolin; due to technical issues her crossing lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes and the same reason prevented me from trying her out too. 

Merilin in Helsinki

The inside of the catamaran mostly consists of sitting areas; there was one bar and a rather small store, plus a nice staircase midships. To make a purchase it wasn't even necessary to leave the seat.
Considering the crossing only lasted an hour and 40 minutes I didn't really feel like anything was missing. Looking out of the window and feeling the catamaran roll a bit more easily than a large ferry gave a nice feeling of actually being at sea. 

Mandatory staircase photo
And since there is no funnel to photograph for the mandatory photo, here's another staircase

The nice feeling especially hit the spot during the return trip, which is the main reason why I'm writing this. The weather was gorgeous, just a little windy. As soon as we got out from between the islands of Helsinki and slammed the gas, the catamaran started rolling very heavily. It was difficult to even stand, not to mention walk. Had the trip lasted longer I would probably be writing this down as a negative experience, but the intense part probably didn't last longer than 40 minutes. Nonetheless, that 40 minutes was enough for me to get a few bruises while walking or by missing the seat while trying to sit. Most of the passengers seemed quite badly sea sick, but fortunately I was not the only "enthusiast" who found it the perfect occasion to hang around on the sundeck. I actually dare to say that the fresh air and view there kept me from getting very seasick and trying to hold on and not fly away was quite a lot of fun. I also enjoyed the fact that at one point I saw the islands of Helsinki as well as the coastline of Estonia at the same time, not to mention the evening ships that had departed from both ports.

Silja Symphony departing
Mariella showing off her beautifully done new stripes as she departs
Not the usual Kustaanmiekka route
The best photo I got of Viking XPRS with all the rolling...
.. and Norwegian Star, outbound from Tallinn
Quite an impressive trail, creating rainbows and all
Me enjoying the rolling, the wind and the splashes. Leaning was the only way to stay safe and still for a bit. 
As the catamaran arrived in Tallinn, we had a very nice view of the cruise area.