The cruise to the Mickelsörarna islands begins from Maxmo, close to the archipelago farm of Varppi. On the 29th of June 2016, there are 25 travellers gathered on the shore, ready to embark on the two-hour journey to Mickelsörarna on M/S Svalan, at a speed of eight knots.
During the cruise, the visitors learn about the different islands.
During the trip, the captain of the vessel and owner of the Varppi farm, Jussi Mendelin, tells stories about the islands we pass. As Mendelin talks, people turn their gaze from one island to the next. Having grown up in Vaasa, Mendelin has played around in boats all his life and is well acquainted with the archipelago. He has been transporting visitors to the islands on his own boats since 2010. Last summer, each of his cruises had an average of 21 passengers.
“You can see all kinds of things when you go ashore”
Mendelin thinks the most interesting part of the cruises is going ashore.
“You can see all kinds of things going ashore. A boat trip without making a landing lacks magic,” Mendelin says.
Soon it's time to moor at the Mickelsörarna islands. There used to be a coast guard station here, but it was closed in 1993. Today, the former coast guard station’s facilities have a new life as a Nature Station. The first permanent residents settled on the Mickelsörarna islands in the 19th century, but no one lives there now during the winter.
“The last permanent resident on the islands was Ida Lundberg. As she got older, she could no longer live on the island alone through the long winter and so she moved to an old people's home for the winter. But she held on to her old islander ways and insisted, for example, on frying her Baltic herring herself. The smoke created caused the smoke alarm to go off, and the fire brigade hurried to the retirement home. This happened again and again, and finally the fire brigade began to call first and check whether Ida was just frying fish again,” Mendelin smiles.
Jussi Mendelin told the passengers about life on the islands and the signs left by the last Ice Age.
Signs of the Ice Age and fishing along the nature trail
When we get there, we are offered delicious fish stew. After lunch, we climb up the Nature Station's observation tower, which offers a magnificent view of the archipelago. After everyone has finished photographing and admiring the scenery, Mendelin tells us more stories about the islands. We listen with rapt attention as he describes how a boat carrying alcohol during the Prohibition ran onto the rocks.
The scenery from the Nature Station’s observation tower was stunning.
There’s also time to walk along the Mickelsörarna nature trail. The trail is about two kilometres long and runs through the forest, displaying signs of the Ice Age, such as erratic boulders and a boulder field (known in Finnish as a devil’s field) which used to be the shore. In the middle of the forest you can see arrangements of old stones that used to serve as drying places for fishing nets and there are also the rocky foundations of landing places for boats. Hundreds of years ago, this was the shoreline, but land uplift has caused the sea to retreat and allowed a forest to grow.
The nature trail is about two kilometres long.
On the return trip from the Mickelsörarna, the boat stops at a sheltered spot close to the shore. We stay on the boat though, and enjoy some coffee and buns on board.
Pirjo and Hannu Pöyry from Laihia have taken their godchild’s children, 6-year-old Anni and 10-year-old Matti Huita, along with them on the cruise.
“The children were well entertained even though it’s a long journey,” the Pöyrys say happily.
The historical setting of the archipelago farm Varppi
The boat trips to the Mickelsörarna islands begin at 10 in the morning and end at 5 in the afternoon. Sometimes visitors stay the night on the archipelago farm Varppi before or after the cruise. The farm accommodates travellers throughout the year and also offers entertainment for groups.
The cruise starts close to the archipelago farm Varppi. The main building dates back to 1888.
The archipelago farm’s main building dates back to 1888 and the building which houses guests was built in 1878. Mendelin and his wife live in another building located in the same farm yard.
“We love this place and found it so cosy that we were sure other people would like to stay here too. This is my eighth summer as a full-time business owner. My wife has a job elsewhere, but she helps me whenever she can,” Mendelin says.
Text and photographs: VASEK
Translation: Taina Pemberton
The Kvarken archipelago is the only World Natural Heritage Site in Finland listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The archipelago is rising from the sea in a process of glacio-isostatic uplift in which the land that used to be weighed down by the glacier during the last Ice Age continues to lift today. Nowhere in the world is this uplift better displayed than in the Kvarken, and at rates that are among the highest in the world. Consequently, you can see unique glacial formations in the Kvarken archipelago, such as De Geer moraines and ribbed moraines, which make the scenery so exceptional and varied.
For more information go to: http://www.kvarkenworldheritage.fi/experience-kvarken/
Read the other articles about the Kvarken archipelago:
Molpehällorna island, Granösund Museum, Sommaröhallen crafts shop, Aava Kerttu homestead, Merenkurkun Majatalo inn, Kvarkenturer & Villa Meribjörkö.