After a great meal last night in Farang in Helsinki, we were picked up from our hotel St George by a driver whom Katri arranged and dropped off down in Helsinki harbour. As we approached, Sweet Hope was clearly visible towering her 10m above the docks. I was immediately taken aback how large and ship like she really looks in reality. We were warmly greeted by Katri and Mika, given a quick tour of the boat and shared a welcoming glass of champagne together. Princess Victoria of Sweden was visiting an island nearby, so there were plenty of military vessels around. For me, a key part of this trip is to learn as much as I can about Nordhavn ownership. Mika started the engines and Katri cast off. Of course, we were happy to help but Mika and Katri clearly have a well worked out route and so I simply stood back and watched the show. As we headed out of Helsinki harbour, Katri and Mika were great tour guides, explaining the history of various buildings and spots as we passed. First stop was in Barösund, Elisaari. The exact planned stop was to the be first time Sweet Hope had stayed there, and the entrance was spectacular in so far as how narrow the channel was which Mika guided Sweet Hope through. We were all keeping a keen eye on how much water was under the keel, at times only 0.5 meters, but we arrived to a beautiful secluded spot, having passed many beautiful properties and summer cottages. Visiting in September means everywhere was quiet, which was exactly the plan. Usually, the mooring spot would have been full. There were a couple of other boats moored when we got there, and I am sure that the odd new arrives were shocked when the saw a vessel of Sweet Hopes size moored up. The scenery was so spectacular on the way in, a walk ashore into the nature was definitely warranted. What made the trip even more worth, while was the wild mushrooms that we found, collected, and brought back to Sweet Hope. Now one thing you should be aware of here is that Katri is an excellent cook. I do not say that lightly, I mean excellent! My advice to any guest aboard Sweet Hope is leave all the dining decisions to Katri – having been a professional chef prior to her life aboard Sweet Hope, trust me, your culinary delights are in very safe hands! The evening meal was a delicious Boletus mushroom risotto followed by a beautifully refreshing cream, lemon and mint panna cotta and a few different red wines we raided from Sweet Hope’s supplies. Sleeping accommodation for the trip is in the forward double cabin. It’s an extremely comfortable bed, great heads and showers, and I must admit I had an excellent night’s sleep.
Day 2 Following a wonderful breakfast of freshly baked bread, vegetables, yoghurt, porridge and juice, and of course a black coffee, it was time for fishing. Mika is clearly a passionate fisherman and an expert to boot. I share his passion in this, but certainly not his expertise. We could see plenty of small bleak fish around the boat, so we decided to bait the hooks with a few works to catch some, to the bait the drag line with an ‘Anchovy Special’ lure from Canada to catch some perch or pike perch. We were successful in catching a few, but also had fun with a throwing net, which is harder to do than is looks. To our surprise though, we managed to catch 3 good sized perch by line from Sweet Hope at the dock which were put into the cooler for our supper later. I had no doubt however Katri would prepare these, they would be great. We stuck to our plan though, launched Sweet Hopes tender and tried a few runs dragging the freshly caught bleak on the Anchovy Special lure. Lady Luck decided that was our quota for the day in terms of fishing, so we headed back to Sweet Hope, to be greeted by an incredible aroma of freshly baked short crust curly kale, mushroom and Emmenthal cheese pie, washed down for me with a cold beer.
Just as we were preparing to leave, a fisherman to whom Katri had offered a coffee to in the morning, kindly gave us a bag of black chantarelles he had gathered. It’s great when you see such acts of gratitude and kindness, and I am sure this is one of the great benefits of being part of the water focused community – be it from a boat of fishing. The afternoon plan was to head about 2 hours further south to Jussarö island, which is a retired mining and military island, known for its black sands beach. The cruise there was amazing, I was sat on the fly bridge, ‘talking boats’ with Mika, which for me, as I am sure for you too if you are reading this, is a favorite topic of mine. The scenery was spectacular, specially form the 7-meter vantage point which one has from Sweet Hope’s fly bridge. Wonderful weather could not help make one but wonder how a holiday home by the sea in such a wonderful landscape would be a great way to enjoy a summer break. However, on Sweet Hope you can enjoy such scenery, quite probably be in more comfort and also change the days’ view whenever you like. I am under no illusion though; in the depth of winter, it can get pretty chilly in this part of the world. A walk around Jussarö island to the Black beach involved walking around abandoned mining buildings which felt like they would be a great spot for filming The Walking Dead, however, there were no zombies to be seen, and no other person in fact, just a pretty ferocious hoard of mosquitos amongst the trees who decided to sample me for their supper. Speaking of which, mushrooms… some more were found and brought back to Katri. A delicious dinner of the perch we caught, supplements by chanterelles, whitefish, and a perfect vegetable medley, followed by pancakes with cream, mind and fruit, and a cognac night cap rounded off another perfect day.
Rain. Life aboard is not always offering sunny days, and this actually what I wanted to experience. Aboard Sweet Hope however, it makes for no discomfort. She is warm, dry and a perfect place to be to gaze outside from at the grey sea. It feels now like winter is coming. Mika kindly completed the tour of the engine room as well as lazarette and forward storage compartments, which we had started the previous day, and explained in fascinating detail what everything did and the ingenious improvements and additions which he had implemented on his 8 years aboard. As I mentioned earlier, I really wanted to use this trip as an opportunity to learn. Be in no doubt, Mika never tired of my endless questions and answered everything I could possibly ask. His knowledge is incredible, and it has clearly highlighted how much one must know about so many things for a life aboard a vessel like Sweet Hope. A huge thank you must go out to Mika for all he shared! We decided to head to Espoo on the last full day to be closer to Helsinki for our drop off tomorrow morning. On the way lunch was a superb meal of baked chicken wrapped in bacon with barley. A really interesting introduction to the navigation systems on Sweet Hope made the 5-hour trip fly by. The evening was beautiful once the rain stopped just as we reached Espoo, and so we jumped in the tender for a spot of fishing, but no luck this time. Dinner was a wonderful reindeer steak (a first for me) and mashed potato with the black chantarelles I mentioned earlier.
Day 4 Thanks to Mika’s excellent lessons the day before, still with his guidance, I was able to input the data for the trip back to Helsinki harbour. The weather on the last morning was wonderful, and after an easy cruise, we docked in Helsinki, in time to enjoy a wonderful reindeer soup as a parting lunch. The whole trip was amazing and exceeded my expectations in so many ways. Firstly, what a great vessel Sweet Hope is, beautifully designed and maintained and so well adjusted for a live aboard cruising lifestyle. It’s true, there are many, many additional and improvements which Mika has made over the years, but the Nordhavn 64 is an awesome vessel. Secondly the food – Katri is an incredible cook, and such a warm host. You will be left wanting for nothing with the incredible dishes which come out of Sweet Hope’s galley thanks to Katri’s culinary skills. Finally – as I mentioned, I really wanted this to be a learning experience for me. Mika was so helpful in in sharing his credible knowledge, experience and expertise in all manner of live-aboard cruising and the systems, improvements, maintenance and repairs which it involves, it’s opened my eyes to what it really entails, and for that, I am really most thankful. If anyone is seriously considering such a change in their life, or wants to learn more about it, I cannot recommend highly enough a trip aboard Sweet Hope.