Sail Estonia? Not usually on any roaming sailor's radar, Estonia, virtually a peninsula in the Baltic Sea, is a natural for roving sailors who are looking for fresh unexplored places with reasonable infrastructure. You can either charter there for a holiday, or make it part of a Baltic circumnavigation if you are taking your own boat.
Sailing in Estonia - conditions, though, can be changeable
So what are the attractions?
Sail Estonia - the Baltic Sea, the lovely Gulf of Riga - and St Petersburg, not far away copy
1. Well, it's new. Estonia, along with Latvia and Lithuania, recently opened their doors to cruising boats, the sailing authorities are keen to promote their numerous islands and wonderful historic coastline.
2. The facilities are improving all the time, and the signs are everywhere that this is a newish member (2004) of the European Union.
3. Provisioning is inexpensive, but the products familiar. Best facilities are at the Olympic Yacht Marina in Pirita near Tallinn, which has a wonderful old walled city. Then there's Pärnu, which has a yacht club with pontoon spaces for visitors.
4. It's still 'unspoiled'. From the medieval silhouette of Tallinn to its cliff-lined coasts and from the bird life on its islets to its picturesque lakes, it's a delight. To catch Estonia with its original old buildings intact inside the villages and cities, you won't want to leave it too long to go there.
Sail Estonia - street scene in Riga
5. There ARE essential local charts published. Care needs to be taken if you don't use the local charts, as British and US charts have inaccuracies.
6. The islands are a delight. There's something always different about lifestyle in island communities, and the islands feature lovely old resort towns, with ginger bread architecture and picturesque landscape.
Sail Estonia - docking is the opposite of Med Moor
7. It's a chance to try a new docking system - like Med mooring in reverse. Bow to the shore, stern to a mooring ball. If you charter locally your boat will likely be set up for this. Newer marinas, however, have finger pontoons like everywhere else in the world.
8. If you're on a Baltic circumnavigation, Russia and St Petersburg are not far away. While Russian law to allow yachts was changed back in 2008, it has taken until May this year for rules governing the sphere to be worked out.
Some initial ideas about where to sail:
First do spend a few hours sailing around Tallinn Bay, then you can also set out from Tallinn to the nearby islands of Aegna, Naissaar and Prangli. From Pärnu most boats head for the islands of Kihnu and Ruhnu, while from Haapsalu you can make for Hiiumaa and Vormsi and from Saaremaa for Abruka.
What you need to know about sailing in Estonia:
All sea-lovers and their families are welcome at the Tallinn Maritime Days and Saaremaa Maritime Week festivals each summer, while more serious sailors can take part in (or simply cheer on) the annual Muhu Offshore Sailing Championships – the oldest competition of its kind in the country.
Sailing venue from the Olympics in Tallinn
The weather at sea is often changeable. The availability of safety equipment is ensured by service providers, but you should make sure you take warm, weatherproof clothing with you, as well as sunglasses, sun cream and something for your head.
While Estonia may not be big on the world scene in sailing, she has her own sailing stars.
Uku Randmaa, triumphant in 2012
Uku Randmaa, the first Estonian to sail around the world solo, made it back home in February 2012. The Pärnu native began his voyage in December 2010 at Cape Verde. From there he set sail across the Atlantic on a 43-foot yacht, Temptation III.
After a year and one month of sailing, and 24,400nm, Randmaa crossed his outbound route. He told Sail-World at the time that he avoided media hype during his journey. He said his goal was to get away from everyday routine and stress, but also to prove to himself that he could do it. Yes, a true cruising sailor.