What’s common between the waves of Lake Saimaa and bilberries? Well, the color, of course! For some time we had planned a “blue” sailing trip to an island. Our destination ended up to be Hietasaari, because it was one of the few places, where I had seen bilberries this year. For some reason bilberry crop is very modest this year, but fortunately there are places, that have them abundantly still.
We had a cruise around the waters north of Kyläniemi peninsula before arriving at Hietasaari island in a fair wind. We beached in the sheltered northern bay of the island. Even if the most popular holiday season was over and it wasn’t weekend, there were many visitors in the island, mostly retired couples. There were some exceptions too. One of the most interesting visitor group was a German couple, that had towed their Sailart 20 boat on a trailer from Germany to Finland and then launched it in the Lappeenranta harbor. Instead of crossing Sweden, they come by a ferry from Germany. They had cruised in Lake Saimaa for couple of weeks, reaching even Savonlinna. The couple was on their way back to Lappeenranta, Helsinki and their home country. They considered waters of the Finnish Lakeland more interesting than those of Central Europe.
When the German couple was approaching the sandy beach of the island, I told them, that there is a pier in the southern bay too. That would be an easier place for a keel boat to moor. However, they considered the sheltered side as a better option. I was surprised, how close to the shoreline their boat was able to come. Later I studied Sailart 20 boat closer and noticed, that it’s actually a centerboard boat, that you can tow on a trailer. I’m not considering upgrading my Wayfarer, but the boat was an interesting one still.
Gathering bilberries in the forest took several hours. I managed to gather 10 litres and my friend around 15. Naturally many berries were eaten too. Gathering berries in an island was a nice experience, especially because there were no breezeflies, mosquitoes or deer keds. Who knows, whether wind, time or location made them stay away.
We slept the night in a tent. In the next morning it was raining and the temperature is bit cooler. I swam in the northern bay, that was a nice experience, because water was warmer than air. As far as I remember, someone mentioned in the sauna in the evening, that water temperature was 24°C still, that’s rare in mid-August.
Around noon both we and the Germans started to leave the island. The wind speed was around 17 knots (Force 5) in the beginning but became lighter as we started to approach the boat ramp. It was a pleasant feeling to make your hand swim in water, which was clearly warmer than the air blowing to the sails.
Sarastus paid attention both in the island and in the continent. It seems, that especially the older sailors come admire its beautiful plywood surface and look back to their experiences with Windmill or Snipe dinghies with bright eyes. Those stories are interesting to hear.
Rest of the evening was spent on cleansing and freezing bilberries. We had a great trip again and it’s nice to remember it, when eating warm bilberry pie or soup in winter.