Hyvässä slöörissä · sailing dinghy cruising

Dinghy to Finland?

So, Wayfarer sailing dinghy looked like an interesting option, but the first challenge was, where to find one. In the Finnish Internet boat markets, there were no Wayfarers for sale or even an option to search for such a boat. It seemed, that the options were few. Either you had to ask someone to bring it or transfer it by yourself. Building or having it built didn’t seem like realistic options, because of required time, costs and licenses. Windmill dinghy can be made of glass fiber or wood and is good for hobby boat builders, but Wayfarer is harder. Also my own experience in building sailboats was limited to bark boats. For those, who are interested in building a Wayfarer with an official sail number, the best option, according to Wooden Wayfarer Restoration Manual, is to buy an old one in bad condition and practically built it from scratch.

There were some Wayfarers for sale in Denmark, but the best choice was absolutely in the British Isles. The best sources were the marketplace of UK Wayfarer Association and ApolloDuck. I suppose, that there is a Dutch web site available too.

Bringing the dinghy from abroad seemed like the way to go. Perhaps someone else would have abandoned the plans or chosen another dinghy, but I started to be fascinated by the idea of importing the dinghy. That was like the first step in the Wayfarer hobby. As a result of thinking about different ways of importing, three options were found. They are analyzed below.

Sailing from Great Britain to Finland

Because Wayfarer was designed as a seaworthy dinghy, of course assuming that the weather conditions are normal and the crew has adequate sailing and navigation skills, sailing one from UK seemed like a quite simple but time consuming job. Basically the sailing would be mostly about following shoreline as opposite to open sea sailing. This option should be the cheapest one, because wind power is not commercialized or taxed yet.

Even if the cheapness of the sailing option looked attractive, it would have had many challenges. My estimation was, that a journey from the Great Britain to Finland would take many weeks, that’s more than an average worker has annual leaves! Ralph Roberts sailed by his Wayfarer from London to Helsinki couple of years ago, but even his trip was split into several legs, sailed during consequent years, and he is an experienced sailor. This sailing option would not allow bringing the trailer with the boat, but it should be transported by some other way.

I shelved this option quite quickly as an unrealistic one.

Towing with a Car

Because Wayfarer is designed to be towed in a trailer, bringing the boat from United Kingdom to Finland seemed like a relatively easy job, even if time-consuming. As traffic in the United Kingdom is on the left, you have some extra challenges. Geographically Finland is located far in the North, over thousand kilometers from the Central Europe.

Driving on Via Baltica to Poland and from there to Germany, France and Britain seemed like the cheapest alternative. Ferry from France to Britain would be more affordable than the Channel Tunnel. However, it should be noticed, that studded tires aren’t permitted in Germany, that might be a problem during winter. This route would make about 3,000 km in total, that itself would add some risks to the trip. Also, how safe it is, to tow a leisure boat through economically weaker countries?

A shorter route to the Great Britain would be taking a ferry from Turku to Stockholm, drive through Sweden to Denmark. Ferry over Øresund is cheaper than the bridge. From Denmark you can take a ferry from Esbjerg to Harwich. Another option would be driving through France or Belgium to the Great Britain across the Channel.

Driving plan[1]

However, towing a dinghy in a trailer brings a surprising challenge. In United Kingdom trailers are typically not registered or insured, but car’s registration and insurance cover the trailer too. When towing a trailer, it usually has a copy of the car’s register plate. In my case towing would require a Finnish insurance. My own insurance company didn’t want to make such an arrangement. Another company would have been ready to make one for me, if all our insurances would have been moved to that company. Of course you could tow a trailer and trust in a good luck, but in case of an accident, compensations for the opposite side would be unbearable for economy of an average Finn.

The registration issue is also complicated. Basically Nordic agreements make it possible to use temporary register plates between Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The problem in this case is, that you can get a temporary Finnish registration only, if your journey starts from Finland. I called to Danish registration administration and after 7-8 call forwards was able to discuss with a man, who understood the situation and told, that it’s possible to get temporary register plates from Denmark. In this case, they would be given in Esbjerg port. In Sweden progress would be slow, because trailers without breaks have a speed limit of 40 km/h (25 mph).

Outline of the towing could be like this:

  1. Driving by own car from Finland to United Kingdom, following the most optimal route
  2. Buying the dinghy
  3. Having trailer towed to Harwich port
  4. Switching driver to own car
  5. Ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg
  6. Temporary register plates from the port
  7. Driving through Denmark and Sweden to Stockholm
  8. Ferry from Stockholm to Finland
  9. Inspection of trailer in Finland

An unexpected complication to these plans was, that temporary registration requires a serial number in the trailer. Before 2012 British trailers don’t have serial numbers. In Finland such a trailer have to be inspected like a brand new one and it should have a contract for sale, which mentions country of origin, age, make and some other details. I wasn’t motivated to ask for Danish practices about a trailer without a serial number.

If the trailer originated from Finland, there wouldn’t be this kind of circus. Someone suggested, that I could “borrow” a register plate from an old trailer and attach it to the trailer in United Kingdom. Naturally this would violate laws, that I don’t encourage anyone to do…

Shipping as Cargo

Container ship

There are several shipping companies, that offer shipping services for big machinery and objects, that should be transported long distances. I requested a quote from some of them. Some were not interested in such a small delivery, but others responded with offers, that were proportionally too big compared to the whole budget. Mann Lines sent an offer, which was less than half of the others, and I accepted it. Shipping makes many things simpler and it’s costs were comparable to towing with own car. The shipping would be from Harwich to Turku port.

The plan was ready, the Wayfarer would be transported to Finland in a container cargo ship.


[1] NU Free Documentation License / attribution / share-alike / Europe topography map en.png, San Jose/Wikipedia