This was a charter crossing to Estonia with clients in the early autumn. We were fortunate with the weather in that it did not rain and the winds were light too.
The cruise between the UNESCO World Heritage listed sea fortress of Suomenlinna, just off the coast of Helsinki and the lighthouse and pilot station island of Harmaja always feels special. The open sea lies just ahead and anything seems possible.
On this occasion we were off to explore the island of Prangli, a little to the east of the Estonian capital, Tallinn. There’s only one main road on the island and this gets busy when boats and ferries arrive in the harbour and people are keen to get home. There are approximately 100 permanent residents, many of whom work on the Estonian mainland.
Prangli genuinely feels like a fascinating window to a bygone age. Tours of the island are often conducted using old army trucks dating from Soviet times and on our visit we were driven around in an open pickup fitted with wooden benches. There was a distinct lack of cushions or upholstery although of course it also felt wonderfully authentic to be bouncing around on the open truck bed as we were shown the sites!
We visited the remote beach on the far southern shore of the island where we found large amounts of sea kale, this is actually a protected plant species in Finland and the northern Baltic. There are also natural gas deposits here and, extraordinarily, it’s actually possible to use these to cook a packed lunch or a picnic!
We also stopped for a look at the lovely old Church of Saint Laurentius. It was a wonderfully atmospheric place and a perfect fit within its maritime setting. It’s the smallest wooden church in Estonia and was built in 1848. The story has it that there was previously a much older and smaller wooden chapel on the same site, this was built by Finnish seal hunters who were shipwrecked here on Prangli. A storm had carried them to shore on a block of ice and they built the chapel to give thanks for surviving their ordeal.
The local restaurant had closed quite early and so we had a fantastic evening meal back on board Sweet Hope. On the return to Helsinki we passed Harmaja island in bright sunshine, it felt great to be returning home after another successful and hugely fun charter. It’s always a very rewarding feeling to be able to fulfil the hopes of charter clients and to exceed expectations.