The Sea of Bothnia

Sea of Bothnia archipelago sunset

Sea of Bothnia archipelago sunset (photo: VisitFinland)

An often overlooked sailing area in Finland is the Gulf of Bothnia, the body of water that separates and unites Sweden and Finland. The Gulf of Bothnia is subdivided into three areas, each with their very own characteristic. The largest area is southern basin, appropriately called the Sea of Bothnia. The narrowest section is called Kvarken or Quarken and the almost round basin to the very north is the Bay of Bothnia. In this post I’ll discuss sailing along  Finnish coast of the Sea of Bothnia, a very interesting and different sailing area.

Most of the coastal region of the Sea of Bothnia belongs to the province of Satakunta. Satakunta has excellent travel information to help you plan your perfect trip. If you want to find out about ravel opportunities along the coast, then check out  these travel tips or if you are looking for specific services, then this service guide will help you!

Beyond the chart foil D

For Finnish sailors, the extent of the Sea of Bothnia is defined by the division of the Finnish chart foils. The Archipelago Sea foils (series D) reaches the city of Uusikaupunki. North of Uusikaupunki you need the E-series charts. It’s curious how Finnish sailors and boaters make Uusikaupunki their northern-most turning point just because you need to buy a new set of charts if you want to continue further north along the coast. The good thing about this is that the Sea of Bothnia coast does not see the same kind of crowding as the Archipelago sea during the peak sailing season in July (the rest of the year there is not much of a difference). If you want to experience a bit more solitude and not rub shoulders with quite as many other sailors, head northwards into the Sea of Bothnia!

The galeas Ihana from Luvia is proof that you can sail the Sea of Bothnia even on big boats

The galeas Ihana from Luvia is proof that you can sail the Sea of Bothnia even on big boats

Shallow and rocky waters

Another reason people tend to be a bit cautious of  the Gulf of Bothnia is that it is shallower than the rest of the Finnish waters. The receding ice of the latest Scandinavian ice age (which lasted for about 100 000 years and ended a mere 11500 years ago) ironed out the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia into a very flat landscape. The ice age also pressed down the ground and the land is still rising along the whole Finnish coast but nowhere does the land rise faster than on these Gulf of Bothnia shores, up to 1 cm (yes!) per year. While the marked channels are safe to navigate, making detours requires very careful navigation.

Sea of Bothnia lighthouses

The Kylmäpihlaja Lighthouse (Photo: Antero Kangasluoma)

The Kylmäpihlaja Lighthouse (photo: Antero Kangasluoma)

One of the nice things about the waters is that a lot of lightouses used to be needed for safe navigation. Now many of the lighthouse have been turned into exotic boating destinations. Starting with the Isokari lighthouse on the border between the Archipelago Sea and the Bothnia Sea, the trip northwards is a veritable lighthouse pilgrimage. Choose for instance between the modern Kylmäpihlaja (built in 1952) or the archetypal, all white Säppi (built 1873) or Yttergrund, the second tallest lighthouse in Finland.  Note: The harbors of both Säppi and Yttergrund are very shallow!

Marinas

Sheltered harbors close to the town centers like here in Rauma

Sheltered harbors close to the town centers like here in Rauma (photo: Visit Rauma)

Sailing along the Sea of Bothnia coast is a little bit of town hopping. You mainly find marinas in the small and often very pretty towns along the coast. They combine the charm of small towns with a good selection of services and interesting places to visit.  A full list of marinas along the coast of the Sea of Bothnia can be found on guestharbours.fi and natural harbors can be found on luonnonsatamat.fi. Below is a small selection of the nicest cities to visit.

Rauma

Pretty wooden houses create the atmosphere of the towns along the coast

Pretty wooden houses create the atmosphere of the towns along the coast (photo: Visit Rauma)

The first town destination along the coast is Rauma, best known for Old Rauma, a very well preserved wooden district that is a UNESCO World heritage site. A perfect time to hit Rauma is during the annual Lace Festival (Pitsiviikot in Finnish). One of the most popular programs of the Lace week has nothing to do with Laces but is called “Peek into the yards of Old Rauma!” when many gardens and yards open for the public and many of them also turn into Flea Markets. The perfect destination if you are into antiques!  There is a very nice marina in Rauma at the Poroholma camping ground.

Pori

The Pori Jazz festival light up the city of Pori every summer

The Pori Jazz festival light up the city of Pori every summer  (photo: VisitFinland)

The city of Pori (Björneborg) plays a very interesting role in the history of sailing in Finland. The first yacht club in Finland, the Björneborg Segelförening, was founded here in 1856. And the club is still going strong! There is a marina in the center of Pori, but it is behind bridges so only accessible by small boats. The main marina in the Pori area is located some 20 km from the city center on the island of Reposaari. The island has been the main harbor for the Pori area and also an important industrial site with lots of boat builders and sawmills. Today Reposaari is a rather tranquil suburb to Pori but very well worth a visit.

In Finland Pori is possibly best known for the biggest annual jazz festival in Finland, the Pori Jazz. From it jazz roots, the festival has moved quite a bit towards popular music and nowadays chart busters tend to be the headline performers.  Still, one of the best urban festivals all summer. Another thing Pori ia famous for is the beach Yyteri. One of the longest beaches in Finland and also one of the best spots for surfing, Yyteri is a must-see destination for beach bums!

The best beaches in Finland - like Yyteri here - are found along the Sea of Bothnia shores

The best beaches in Finland – like Yyteri here – are found along the Sea of Bothnia shores (photo: Visit Finland)

Kristinestad

Most of the coast of the Sea of Bothnia is Finnish speaking but the main language changes to Swedish when we arrive in Kristinestad (Kristiinankaupunki in Finnish). Kristinestad is also a very pretty city with lots of wooden houses as well as empire style buildings. And f slow life is your thing, then Kristinestad definitely needs to be on your route, it is the only Cittaslow in Finland. Boaters can moor right in the middle of the city in a marina hosted by the hotel Kristina.

The Bothnian Sea National Park

If you are more of an outdoors and nature type of a person, the the number one attraction for you is the The Bothnian Sea National Park, covered in separate post here on Sail in Finland.

Sea of Bothnia map

Map icons courtesy of Nicolas Mollet/CC license