Finland by water, part two

A three hour tour…

“Just sit right back, and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip” – a boating adventure

We though we would try the cabin’s inflatable boat. The owner had asked us a couple of times if we’d used it, so we broke down and gave it a try. Our host recorded videos about the house, the e-bikes, and the rubber boat, as he called it.

We watched the video and started to prepare. We located the main battery – essentially a car battery – and set it to charge. The charger said it was already at 90%. Next we headed out to the garage and located the boat and all its parts. We quickly determined it was too heavy to carry down the path to the boat launch, so we threw the boat, paddles, life jackets and electric motor in the car. By this time, the propulsion battery was 100% charged, so we put that in the car too. We couldn’t find a charging cable for the cordless inflator, so we hoped it would be charged and put it in the car. Brenda drove to the boat ramp while I walked over with the boat floor, which was too big to fit in the car.

We noticed a small hole under the boat, but we weren’t sure if it would cause an air leak or not. We started inflating the boat, following the directions to inflate the sections in order. Sections 1 and 2 went according to plan. At the start of section 3, the cordless inflator died. I trudged back to the cabin to get a handpump. By the time I returned, Brenda had inflated section 3 with another handpump that had been in the bag with the boat. The bad news was, section 3 was leaking. Smarter people would have taken the hint and given up at this point, but call to the owner revealed that there was a patch kit in the boat bag. We flipped the boat over, applied the patch, and reinflated section 3.

We were finally ready. We installed the motor, got in, and headed out. I noticed that the motor controller was reporting a battery level of one out of four. The owner had mentioned in the video that “the motor lies about the battery. When it says it’s empty, you still have two hours.” Thus reassured, we pressed on. I discovered that the motor would cut out if I set it to the highest setting of 5, but it was happy at 3, so I left it there.

The scenery was beautiful. Islands and headlands, rocky outcrops, wooded uplands, reeds, jumping fish. With all going well, we decided to circumnavigate a little island called Norrbyholmen.

Around the back of the island, I turned the power up to 4. The motor cut out again, so back to 3. By this time, the battery gauge said the battery was empty, but we have established it had a reputation for lying. Halfway round the island, the motor cut out on 3. I dialled it back to 2, and started wondering if Norrbyholmen was Swedish for Gilligan1. Three quarters of the way around, the motor started cutting out on 2. We pulled out the oars and set them up. Sure enough, the motor began to cut out on 1. If I turned it off for a few minutes and then back on, it would work for a while longer, at first another 10 minutes at a time. Then 5 minutes. Then 2. A headwind was picking up. We had a channel to cross with power boats and boat wake. Brenda started rowing. And so we limped back, with electric power down to maybe thirty seconds out of each minute.

Back in the cabin , I plugged the battery into the charger. It read 50%. The motor was lying alright, but apparently it believed its own bullshit. We told the owner all about it. He was thrilled with our adventurous spirit, and blamed the problems on Mercury being in retrograde. Sounds reasonable.


The next day we went for another swim. The water looked a little greener, but not too bad, so we went in anyway. On our way back, we saw our neighbor on the porch and asked if they were swimming today. She said not today because of the algal blooms. As in Puget Sound, agricultural runoff high in phosphorus and nitrogen results in algal blooms. We had wondered about the purpose of a box and probe attached to the swimming dock. She explained that it’s an algae sensor which feeds data to an app that they check before swimming. We headed indoors and showered off before hitting the sauna.

Next up was an e-bike ride. This was bit of a performance as we had to charge the batteries, fit them, figure out how to turn them on, and, hardest of all, open the garage door. It’s a door that folds in half up against the ceiling, so to open it requires pulling in the middle. It was stuck at first, but as soon as it released it was spring loaded and threw me back on my butt. Other than that, the ride was great. There are bike paths lay all the busier roads. Drivers are patient and courteous. The scenery was beautiful, with forest interspersed with farm fields. I couldn’t help wondering though how much those farm fields were contributing to the algal blooms.

Jellyfish and water snake

Today was our last day in Finland. We managed another swim in much cleaner if slightly colder water. In an interesting juxtaposition of wildlife, the water is salty enough to support moon jellyfish but fresh enough to support grass snakes! We met our swimmer neighbor on the dock. He suggested a set of meditation stairs built in an oId limestone quarry which we checked out, all 471 of them. Now we’re all packed and ready to head to the airport in the morning, there’s a shift in the weather as a squall blows in.

All this waxing lyrical about Finland doesn’t mean to imply that there are no problems. The world media feted the charismatic young female prime minister, Sanna Marin, who brought Finland into NATO, but her party was recently voted out of government and replaced by a center right coalition including the anti-immigrant Finns party. The weekend after we left Helsinki, there was a massive demonstration against the government’s weak paper on tackling racism. The latest news is that Sanna Marin has joined the Tony Blair Institute, which specialises in governance-washing for autocrats. You can read about current events in Finland right here on Substack from Focus on Finland. Even an egalitarian paradise needs constant vigilance.

The happiest country

All in all, it’s been an amazing trip. But for the Ironman, we might never have visited, and we’re so glad we did. Finland has been named the happiest country in the world for the sixth year in a row. Having visited, I completely understand why. We’re going to try to bring that energy into our own lives. And a sauna!


Gilligan’s Island is an American sitcom created and produced by Sherwood Schwartz. The series follows the comic adventures of seven castaways as they try to survive on an island where they are shipwrecked.

4 thoughts on “Finland by water, part two

  1. And thank you again! We’re home now, with a post to come about our week in England. We’ve been telling everyone to visit Finland! We’ll be back!

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