Hyvässä slöörissä · sailing dinghy cruising

Autumn Thoughts

Even if sailing is a wonderful way of enjoying of the Finnish nature, from time to time weather and other chores change priorities. Since the end of my summer holiday, Sarastus has been on the trailer. According to Finland’s Environmental Administration, surface water temperature at Saimaa is still 17.6°C, that’s an acceptable temperature still, even if a wetsuit might not be a bad idea soon. During the summer, the waters were so warm, that you could even swim for several hours in middle of the lake without any significant risk of hypothermia. As the autumn progresses, the effect of cold water has to be acknowledged, especially because often there are children aboard.

Now the first summer aboard of Sarastus is behind and it’s time to have an analysis of the season. The summer confirmed my vision of the dinghy cruising. Compared to the bigger keelboats, they have several undeniable advantages. Easy trailerability between different location using a normal family car is one of the most significant strengths and opens new dimensions to sailing, if your home waters start feel too familiar. On the other hand, in a dinghy you feel the closeness of water better than in a big boat, because you sit close to the water. Traditionally the floor level of a dinghy is under water level. Myself I appreciate, that you can store the dinghy in your garage. During a stormy night you don’t need to worry about survival of your beautiful boat in a narrow slip or at a buoy.

Naturally the biggest weaknesses are limited space and risk of capsizing. To large extent they both are manageable and preventable, and outright I’m very content to the freedom and adventurousness of sailing dinghies. The Finnish summer is short, but in a dinghy you get immensely out of it.

Recently I have read thoughts from Roger Barnes, who started hist sailing life in dinghies and then “upgraded” to heavier boats. When he sailed his six ton cutter and spent time on maintaining its wooden surfaces, he noticed yearning for the world of sailing dinghies. Eventually he switched back and realized spending far more time in his small open boat than in the big cutter before. In an article of Classic Boat magazine, he describes the difference incisively:

Dinghy cruising is a diametrically different attitude to sailing: a delight in simplicity and minimalism. It is the same sensibility that attracts fell-walkers and climbers into the upland landscape on foot. A powerful 4×4 vehicle would be much more comfortable, but the experience of wild country is heightened if you only take the minimum of simple gear with you. The sea is the last great wilderness on Earth, a place of escape from the stress of modern life. To go out onto it in a small open boat is to experience all its beauty and splendour in the most direct and powerful way.

(Roger Barnes, A personal view: Why I sail dinghies, Classic Boat, July 14, 2014)

Even if the sea is one of the last wildernesses on Earth, sailing in a small open boat in a lakeland is an equally wonderful experience. I have read and heard from several different sources, that the popularity of dinghy sailing has started to increase. Maybe the same trend is reflected here in the North in the raise of popularity and demand of the traditional archipelago boats (talonpoikaisvene in Finnish). As someone said, “small boat, small worries.”

Klara o Rosa, copyright Lasse Nilsen, used with permission

During the off-season, my plan is to make some minor improvements to Sarastus’ rig, sails, hull and equipment. Also, my objective is to deepen my knowledge of dinghy sailing by reading and to get a VHF radio certificate. Naturally there are many great salty sailing plans for the next season, but during winter there are a lot of time to make them detailed and complete. You can read more about those all subjects later.