Despite the great sailing in Finland, yacht chartering is by no means a mega industry in Finland like it is in the Med or in the Caribbean. The fleet of even the biggest charter companies in Finland would barely fill a single pier in one of the gigantic charter marinas around the world. And this is precisely what makes yacht charter in Finland something unique. If you want to rub shoulders with other charter boats where ever you go, then Finland is not your destination. But if you want to experience a wonderful archipelago, mostly light winds and sheltered waters, have that lovely cove and the sunset just for yourself and mainly meet local sailors in the marinas, then you should definitely think about chartering in Finland.
The Finnish sailing season is quite short. The local boaters start putting their boats into the water in May and in early June the sailing starts in earnest. The high season starts a few weeks later with the midsummer celebrations (around June 25, in 2013 it is already on June 22) and ends quite abruptly at the end of July when the local summer holiday end. August and September still offer very good sailing conditions but marinas and other services start to close down in early September which means that September sailing is more for those who want to sail independently, on the “rough”.
I spent some time at the Helsinki International Boat Show talking about chartering in Finland with Ann Nyström, managing director at Midnight Sun Sailing, one of Finland’s leading charter companies. I found out that boat charter is very much tuned to the needs of tourists. At Midnight Sun Sailing, some 65% of the charter customers are from abroad. Because of this, the busiest chartering season is – a bit surprisingly – already the two weeks of June. Finnish customer are mostly interested in the July holiday season and therefore arrive a bit later.
The latter half of June (well, all of June actually) is a great time to sail in Finland as all tourist and boating services are already in full swing, but the high season rush has not yet started. June also typically offers mild winds and no thundershowers which tend to be more common in late July. The only real drawback of June is that the waters are still rather cool. In June you need to come prepared with some warm clothes and swimming is not for sissies like me that do not appreciate water temperatures below 20C when swimming.
Charter customers tend to start booking already in October/November so planning ahead is good. The charter fleets tend to have just a few boats of the any given type so if you have a strong preference for boat type of size, then early booking is advised.
Personally I was a bit surprised that August is so quiet when it comes to chartering. When the Med suffers from (at least in my opinion) almost unbearable heat, Finland offers very comfortable temperatures, especially when we get the good late summer weather that is called an “Indian Summer”. In August the crowds are also gone except during weekends so you will have plenty of space in the marinas and no queuing anywhere. So if you have your holiday in August but do not like temperatures of 30 C and above and huge crowds, then chartering in Finland in August is definitely something to look into!
I asked Mrs Nyström what questions foreign customers mainly have about sailing in Finland. Seems that most charter customers are quite aware of the navigational challenges of the Finnish water as the question about how difficult it is to navigate in Finland tops the list. The good news is that according to Midnight Sun Sailing, foreign guest are no more likely to run aground or have other navigational mishaps than local sailors so this should not stop from coming to Finland. It would however be good if the group chartering a boat had at least two members who have previous sailing experience. Finnish water typically require one person at the helm and another person navigating, the rest can concentrate on the scenery and just enjoying the ride.
The second most common question is for route recommendations. All charter companies are strategically placed and very close to excellent sailing grounds. This means that you can just set out and select your route based on weather or plot a nice course to take in the archipelago and lake sights. Sail in Finland will also get back to the topic of sailing routes in Finland, stay tuned.
For the most extensive listing of charter companies in Finland, check out this Sail in Finland page on charter companies in Finland.