The Archipelago of Ideas

DAY 1, July 16th

Everyone arrived! Time for introductions, getting to know each other better and getting familiar with the totally new environment that will host this big family for two weeks at sea. All trainees and mentors are overwhelmed by new things but still gather their first impression on every single detail on board. It’s the moment when the plan and program are presented, and the hype rises every minute!

Dear reader,

Today is the first day on board the Valborg in the Helsinki Harbour! It was the start of our two-week sailing program, from the 16th of July until the 30th of July, 2022. Initially, we would be sailing from Helsinki to Tallinn, to Turku. But unfortunately, because of practical reasons, we will not be going to Tallinn. Instead, we will visit Mariehamn and other islands in the Aland region. Before going to Valborg, Wiebe and me (Lina), both from the Dutch group of participants, went for lunch in the city centre. We realised that we had to get used to the astronomically high prices here in Finland… And the lower temperature as well! Now that I am writing this, we are on an evening watch on deck and it’s actually getting pretty cold now that the sun is gone.

Just before 16 o’clock, Wiebe and I arrived at the Valborg. There was already a big group on the boat, which we were eager to meet. During our watch (Lina, Elena, Wiebe) we enjoyed the beautiful Finnish sunset and the lights in the. Around 23:30 the last participant from the Dutch group arrived finally due to flight-related issues.

Groetjes Wiebe, Lina, Elena. Watch III

The Hungarian group arrived in Helsinki Harbour at around 1 pm. The embarkment went well. I had a chat with the captain and we sorted out our bunks. We had a tasty lunch and tried to feel at home in our little community as soon as possible.

The captain’s briefing made us familiar with the crew, the watches, the basic safety rules and how to deal with seasickness. He also asked the trainees to go ashore in groups, always leaving their names, phone numbers and the time they are back on board. He passed a sheet of paper around and the three groups were set up.  He told us all about the watches and what the duties include.

I got to know Fabienne, the representative of The Ocean Movement and we had a meeting to plan the activities for the next day.

I met the Ship’s Cook as well and checked if he has the ingredients and the recipe for the National Dinner.

Mentor Andrea

DAY 2, July 17th

Let’s get started with the first full day on board! Some people still need some time to adapt, others are feeling already pretty comfortable with the ship environment and with the fact that we all have to live so close to each other for 14 days. It may sound scary, but on a ship, you cannot escape! This is an opportunity to learn how to deal with difficult situations without affecting the personal relationship with the rest of the people on. And what better way to learn something than just by doing it, trying and adapting your attitude to a certain situation?

The captain informed us about the ship’s safety plan and showed us the lifesaving equipment. He also told us what to do in an emergency e.g. ’Man is overboard’ situation. Then we had a real drill. After putting on waterproof overalls and safety belts we jumped into the water one by one. In the water, we practised different formations. Everything went well, we had fun!

In the afternoon the Finnish group took us on a sightseeing tour in Helsinki. It was a trip to Sea Fortress Suomenlinna by ferry which departed from Market Square. On the island, we visited Dry Dock, King’s Gate, a submarine and some artillery points. We admired the shoreline, some beautiful vessels and the animals/vegetation living there. We also bought some souvenirs made by local artists.
– Trainees

Today we woke up at 8 AM, for the morning watch. After a quick breakfast, we arrived on deck. Not much is happening yet because the ship is still in the harbour. Around 10 o’clock the captain called us for a meeting below deck. At first, it was a basic safety briefing about what is to happen in case of emergency, which will of course (probably) not happen Then the captain said we were going for a swim. Yes, a swim in the cold Baltic waters. Luckily, the ship has got these emergency suits, which will keep you warm for 12 hours at zero degrees temperature. So, we tried them on. And they worked well! Apart from some water entering through the face gap at your chest, it was very nice. In the water we did some emergency (warm-keeping) manoeuvres, like cuddling with everyone, making a large round shape of people, and forming a large snake of people. (Can be done by grabbing people’s feet under your armpits). In the end, it was good fun and we (most of us) stayed dry. Luckily, the cook prepared salmon soup, so only happy faces below deck 🙂
Groetjes, Marijn. Watch III

DAY 3, July 18th

Time to start sailing! And of course, sailing comes with some extra organization and adaptation to the new condition. Having rules and jobs to do on board is another way to strengthen the soft skills of group cooperation, and communication and also to improve English skills when it comes to being able to understand every rule correctly and ask questions about it if there is something not really clear.

Mentor Meri arrived and Valborg set sail after breakfast. The trainees had some difficulties getting used to the system of watches so Meri started with the schedule and the rules. She also let the trainees know the plan for the day. She handed out a post-it: I want to…/ I feel scared to do…/ I did… Fabienne started to put together the Valborg trailing to make it easier for everyone to learn the basic sailing vocabulary.

The ship moored in Örö. We explored the island, made contact with the locals and had nice talks with each other. The groups had to write their own shanties and present them after dinner on board. They were really creative; we laughed a lot. What’s more, Hans, the chief mate sang and played a nice sailing song on his violin. He also organized a kind of skill competition on the pier that we really enjoyed!

After dinner, the Finnish group did their country presentation. It was cool and we learnt a lot about Finnish culture, stereotypes and people.
– Mentor Andrea

Today was the first day we set sail. We left the port of Helsinki at about 11 am. At first, it did not appear to be very windy, but later the wind picked up and we hoisted all the sails up. There was lots of work on board 4 volunteer had to loosen the ropes so that the foresails could be hoisted. Handling ropes is a common job on a ship therefore everyone needs to be able to do it. We also washed the deck and while on watch we had to bundle up because it was cold. By the time this log was written we have looked on the map and noticed just how far we have gotten away from Helsinki.
– Watch 2: Tunde, Lili, Bogi, Bori.

We were quite lucky; our watch was a little bit shorter because of the Finnish group presentation. I learned some interesting stuff, didn’t know about their love for hard rock. Our watch has this far been a little uneventful, the ship is still motoring towards better winds. There is also an interesting sight on the horizon, some kind of little island with a lighthouse/church kind of structure on it. Visa, from the crew, says it was built in 1920 and that it is currently being renovated.
– Marijn, Watch III

It is 11:41 pm and I’m sitting next to Sverre and Meri talking in their own language. So, the only thing I hear is arcmdfsklv. On the watch, I let Bori listen to some Dutch music, Drank en drugs, 123 and Marbella. She said she liked it but I’m not sure.
– Camil

DAY 4, July 19th

On this day the first island was visited and the group was ready for another day at sea. There was some sail training in order to bring the ship smoothly to the next destination. The routine is always one of the hardest parts of the sail training, but when it starts, it does not feel so tiring anymore. The sail training went very well and many trainees started getting more and more familiar with the knots and with the best system to pull ropes when it’s too hard to do it alone.

 We were on watch from 8 am to noon today. It was really hard to wake up and everyone’s tired but at least the weather is nice and sunny. We didn’t have too many things to do, we just had to clean up the deck and take in the sails. We stopped at an island and we’re going to stay here for the night. We also have to write a sea shanty by 6 pm but we haven’t even started it yet, because we’re waiting for inspiration. Tonight, there’s going to be a presentation about Hungary as well, so we’re preparing for that too.
– Watch II, Bogi, Bori

We had watch from midnight to 4 am, so this was a very early morning. At that time, we were still out at sea, which was a really unique experience. This was our first time sailing at night. Unfortunately, Zoli and Akos got seasick, so they went to bed. Only I (Boti) stayed on deck from the three of us. I got to learn about navigating on the sea and I also helped hoist the sails. Now we’re docked on an island and I’m looking forward to exploring it.
– Boti

DAY 5, July 20th

Today the sailing brought the Valborg to the little port of Kasnas. Meri stepped off and Davide got on board. Lead mentor Davide got sick just before the journey, so Meri stepped in for the first few days, until Davide got his negative test results back and could safely join the group.

The manta trawl was used finally during the morning and the samples were analysed in the afternoon. No plastic was found!

In the first half of the watch time, I had my own little adventure which consisted of finding this pen and finding out today’s date. The port was quiet and we had a nice clean sky with shiny morning sun.
– Watch II: Tunde

The crew is busy with everyone getting the ship ready for sea. Everyone seems excited about going back out there after a night in Oro. The next stop will be Kasnas, which means my time on board is coming to an end. I’m really proud of the trainees. Slowly but surely, they’re learning the ropes of the ship. I wish they’ll make memories that they’ll carry with them for life, create friendships for life and do things they never knew they were capable of. Sailing is all about learning about yourself and others, and I hope each and every trainee will take each day and moment on board as an opportunity. Last, but not least, I hope everyone gets to see at least one sunrise as beautiful as the one Oro had this morning. It really made my heart happy. I’ll miss you all, give it your best and the ship will give her best back to you!
– Love, Meri 🙂

This day has been nice. This morning we docked in Kasnas, where I was sad to see Meri go, but luckily, she left some nice words for us on the previous page. We had ice cream in the town and welcomed Davide onboard. So it wasn’t all bad. We set sail at around 14:00 towards Oro, where Camil left his ID card. Luckily someone found it. We’ve just done the Dutch presentation, in which we shared stroopwafels and ontbijtkoeken. We’ve also cooked stamppot with rookworst as national dinner, so that was quite fun. Now the sails are up, the sun is low above the water making a nice sunset. It is really quiet and relaxing, just slowly floating across the waves. My watch starts now, and we get to steer the ship while sharing stories with Hans and the captain, which is great.
– Marijn, Watch III

DAY 6, July 21st

This day was dedicated to reaching Mariehamn. On the way there was a session of “trawling”. Fabienne, a scientist from The Ocean Movement, took a trawl that she designed, called “manta trawl,” and used it with the cooperation of the trainees. Basically, is a metal tool with a net inside that is used to catch the microplastics present in the upper surface of the sea and analyse them. Some participants with a deep interest in science decided to help the scientist and keep track of what was happening. The trawling lasted half an hour and then the results were written in a sheet that is used for research purposes.

This morning we woke up with blowing winds, nothing in particular on the horizon and no clouds in sight. We’ve just past the island of Bogskar, which has a small lighthouse built on top of it. It is kind of crazy to see how this region is formed, sometimes, seemingly random, little rocky islands pop up. When we check the ship’s depth meter, we see these huge underwater gorges 150+ meters deep! And seemingly out of nowhere there is an island next to it? I will try to understand this when at home. Also, the wind has picked up during the previous watch, Ilja managed to reach 7.1 knots which is currently the ship’s speed record. During my watch, we only reached 6.9 knots, almost!
– Marijn, Watch III

We were on watch from 8 pm until midnight. Nothing really happened, we arrived at Mariehamn. We split up our watch and went sightseeing. After that we just had to look out for the ship and our flags. We were lying outside on deck, we got some pillows so it was quite comfortable. I actually stayed outside until 4am with the next watch because it was really nice outside.
– Bogi – Watch II

I was breaking a speed record on Valborg which means I was steering the ship with no engine and all sail and I’m so proud of that. Hans and Ilja were there and Ilja took a picture so I can prove it and after that I was that guy and it was a good feeling. The record is 7.1.
– Akos

DAY 7, July 22nd
Today Fabienne, the scientist from The Ocean Movement, had a workshop about plastic pollution which the whole group really liked and followed. The most important and urgent issues of the current situation of the plastic pollution were presented and some daily-life solutions were given. The group reacted with a lot of participation and interest, especially because with the manta trawl mentioned before we would have the chance to see some plastic from the sea.

Mariehamn. This Morning we woke up quite refreshed from yesterday’s adventures. We had watch in the, then we had a long sleep without any of the previous day’s rolling and heaving, which was nice for a change. Today we went to the museum ship Pommern, a gigantic windjammer, so big that Valborg could fit in it at least 3 times in length, and maybe more than 20x in terms of displaced water. The hold of the ship was truly massive. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a big sailing ship and I’ve seen a few big ones.

Back at Valborg we analysed the trawling samples for microplastics in them. We’ve found a few of. I think tonight we’ll stay around the ship to relax and talk to each other.
– Marijn, Watch III

DAY 8, July 23rd

After the usual routine of happy hour and preparation for the morning clearing and explanation of the programme, the rules of the tea bag trading were explained. The group was divided into couples and each one received a tea bag. The goal was trying to trade the bag for something bigger or more valuable, and while doing it, explaining to the citizens where they came from, why they were there, what they were doing and what their intentions for the following days were.

The afternoon was dedicated to the open ship preparations. First, everyone was gathered and told to start organizing the ship to make it look even more beautiful that it was, because we had to welcome many guests on board that were interested in our project and of course in the ship itself. Some tasks were handed out depending on what the trainees felt more like doing or are good at.

This event was a big success and brought a lot of satisfaction to the group. Even the table with all the ship parts names in all languages was updated and Swedish was added by some visitors who wanted to contribute to our project!

This morning started with a group meeting and a quick breakfast. During the meeting, we were divided into international pairs and sent into Mariehamn for a trading challenge and more importantly to promote today’s open day! Regarding the challenge, we needed to trade a teabag for something more valuable which eventually results in a very great object. Bogi and I were together and were trying our best to spread the word about the open boat and trading experience with the residents of Mariehamn. We traded for a case for contact lenses (with lenses in them) to matches, to a tennis ball.  After returning to the boat, we presented our results and some others even had multiple things. After this the boat needed to be cleaned and the open boat was ready to start! After this dinner was served and Lina and I went to an old car parade which was happening at the road close to the boat, this was really awesome! And a little bad for the environment. Now we are on deck for the watch till 00.00.
– Wiebe, Watch III

DAY 9, July 24th

On this day the sustainability focus is the main one. For our project, we promised to leave the places visit cleaner than we found them. In this way, we would show our gratefulness to the places that hosted us and make our presence useful.

A city clean-up represented a final goodbye to Mariehamn. After it, the sailing started again, this time for just a couple of hours heading to the island of Rodhamn.

An interesting part of the intercultural exchange happened today, where everyone could enjoy some free time after dinner. It may sound like a joke, but the sauna on board was the part of the ship where the most intercultural exchange from Finland happened. For non-Finnish, the sauna is just a place to relax and sweat. For Finnish people, it is part of the culture, is a habit and it’s the place where new friendships, new ideas and (as explained by the Finnish group) even international treaties were created. So, the moment of the sauna in the night was the one where the storytelling of the Finnish group started, followed by a lot of questions and curiosities by the other groups. This allowed everyone to look at this simple hot room from another, more social and inclusive perspective.

DAY 10, July 25th

Today has been a great sailing day so far. There are nice winds, strengthened by a funnel effect from the islands. I’ve been up all morning to adjust the sails and learned a lot! Emil and Manne are giving some more freedom/responsibility than before when we started. So, for example instead of “pull the rope” or “slack that rope” they now say “slack the main sail” and we’re expected to find the ropes on our own. It’s a really good learning experience and me and watch 1 are starting to be able to predict what to do with the sails when the ship adjusts course. This afternoon we also hit a new speed record! We hit 8.1 knots for a little while. I’m actually not on watch currently, it starts in about 20 minutes. The sailing experience is just too enjoyable to pass. At some points the winds make the sails whistle, it’s great. I’m going to enjoy it a little more.
– Marijn

Today I had to steer to Kokar. It is really hard if you compare it with the ocean. I think it is one of the best memories I’ve made here. I had to steer between the buoys and avoid the shallow water. There was one point I had to steer very precisely because otherwise, we had to take down the sails to avoid crushing on to an island. Luckily enough I did such a great job that we could sail for an extra hour. I hit twice 8.0 knots! But unfortunately, not 8.1 knots or above 🙁 I feel very fulfilled with today because I steered at least for three hours straight!

DAY 11, July 26th

After spending a night in the island of Kokar and visiting one side of it to do the speed dating activity, the morning of this day was dedicated to the visit of the actual village on the other side of the island.

After lunch, before going back to sailing, there was a short meeting where I explained how the last days were going to look like and adding one little task to do throughout the last days. I hanged envelopes with the name of every participant written on top of it. On the table in the saloon there was a lot of paper and pens available and everyone could write a note to the people they cared about and to who they wanted to tell something nice.

DAY 12, July 27th

The sailing was intense today, and kept everyone pretty busy for the first part of the day. After the training, there was another manta trawl workshop led by Fabienne. With the help of some volunteers, the trawl was dropped into the sea and left there to catch plastic for about 30 minutes. Two participants helped Fabienne with writing the log of this manta trawl session and helped also in the analysis of what was found in the net.

In the late afternoon we arrived in the village of Nauvo, our last stop on shore before reaching our final destination, Turku. The city was very interesting but on this very first night we explored it not so much because everyone was tired and the programme for the following day was already filled with activities.

We had a lot of things to do today. In the morning (in our standby watch) we had to put up the sails. Then when our sea watch started and it was quite chill in the beginning. But then when we had to turn the sails to the other side, the weather got really bad and everyone was just rushing everywhere with everything so that was exciting. Then we had to put down the sails. The weather got better but it was still raining. We were done with that without any complications. I had to tie up the jibs, which was probably the hardest thing I’ve done on this trip so far. We also put the manta trawl in the water, then of course took it out. So this watch was quite busy, I enjoyed it very much. At least it wasn’t boring. Now we arrived at another island that I forgot the name of. The weather is pretty good (for Finland standards), we’ll stay here for the night. Emil left for New York, good for him… Now we’re having a meeting and then we’ll go and explore the village. But I’ll surely have dinner before that, cause I’m really really hungry.
– Bogi, Watch II

DAY 13, July 28th

We started our visit at the church, a really important one for the sailing culture of Finland because it hosts some little wooden ship models that were given by sailors that, in the past, successfully moored in Nauvo after a difficult sailing journey and wanted to say thank you to the Lord. Then we went on just wandering around in the city, as always paying attention to the nature and pollution of the environment there.

Later on, it was Fabienne’s moment to introduce another workshop, in the form of a quiz. We all gathered on deck and she started presenting some questions about plastic pollution. The trainees had to take note of their answers and after some time to think about them, they could have the correct answer. Some of the questions had a really surprising correct answer for some trainees, and Fabienne was there to explain why that answer was correct.

For the evening, we had to change our plans because the cook had to leave early. So, we all have to decide on a solution to that, since finding a new cook was not possible until the following day. I thought it would be a nice idea to transform this unexpected event into a cultural activity: another National Dinner! Since every group had already done their dinner, I suggested having an Italian dinner night and workshop on how to cook risotto, and about Italian hand gestures. Some trainees were really happy to help me cook, get the recipe and get to know more about Italian culture. This showed the participants that no problem is an actual problem if you try to use some creativity and find the best solution, possibly making it even fun and a learning opportunity.

In the afternoon, it was time to start sailing again, to our last port, Turku. It was a short sail but very intense.

Just while we were on deck, we had an interesting event. The main sail got a bit loose. It was okay before. After we arrived to the island, we heard that our watch leader had to leave. Me, Boti and Akos gave him a little gift and said goodbye. I really liked our time with him, getting things explained to us well and we learnt also about navigation. I will miss him for the rest of the trip. He also helped me learn to tie knots and safe the placement of the rope.
– Zoli, Watch I

The last sails were taken down and packed. Our last sea watch is coming to an end and our last sailing part is just over 🙁

It was a good one! The wind was strong and our speed was relatively high! Because of this we did not raise the mizzen, outer jib and flyer. When looking back I felt so much more confident handling the ropes than when we just stepped on the Valborg. Soon we will arrive in Turku where we will spend the last of our days. Missing the freedom of sailing already.
– Groetjes, Wiebe (Watch III) 

DAY 14, July 29th

We arrived in Turku during the evening of Day 13.

After lunch, we had to start a moment of reflection about the voyage. The group was gathered in the saloon and was told to write a “letter to yourself” that will be sent to their address 6 months after the end of the voyage. They committed to writing something meaningful and were prompted to be introspective and think about what they learnt, even the most simple and unexpected things. Everything has value and if you do not take track of it by writing it, you could forget about it in a short period of time. They handed over the letters to me and I gathered them.

Later, there was another workshop by Fabienne, this time about how to create sustainable toothpaste and deodorant with simple ingredients. We only used baking soda, corn starch and coconut oil, plus some essences to make our DIY products smell delicious. The participants put a lot of effort in trying to create their own product and were really focused on doing it the right way. The result was fantastic and everyone was happy because they learnt something by doing and they can share this knowledge now also with other people, inspiring them to be more sustainable.

We enjoyed the last dinner together and for another time, the Finnish experience in the sauna with more stories by the Finns.

We arrived in the port of Turku yesterday. We are moored near the outskirts of the city, next to the maritime museum. We walked around for a bit and had some fun. The ship in the harbour is so nice. It is another classic windjammer called the “Finnish swan” in Finnish. Now we are going out again, I’m hoping to visit the fjord. Tomorrow we’ll have to disembark, marking the end of our journey. I feel sad to see everyone on board go. But let’s enjoy the last day here first.
– Marijn 

We are near the end of our journey together. Let’s not forget our moments, however. So, this way a part of it would live forever.

P.S. The sunny nights and swimming were the best.

DAY 15, July 30th

Sadly, this voyage has come to an end. The morning routine today needs to be followed as usual but in addition to the standard happy hour, there was also a big goodbye cleaning to be done. Of course, the motto was “try to leave the places we visited cleaner than we found them”, and this also applies to the Valborg, the beautiful wooden ship that gave the chance to this big, international group to share experiences, memories, fun and to learn a lot in many fields – lead mentor Davide.