The Hanko–Uusikaupunki fairway is the main leisure craft fairway through the Archipelago Sea. There are lots of sidetrips to be done, but this fairway is well marked and suitable for any yacht or motorboat.
The Archipelago Sea is a maze of islands and islets, having more of them than any other archipelago on earth, if also tiny ones are counted. As such it provides for varying landscapes and seascapes and nice sailing in mostly sheltered waters. But the navigation can be challenging for those used to more open waters, and thus following a well marked fairway makes sense.
Most inhabited islands en route have a guest jetty and some services for boaters, and there are quite many full-service guest harbours. Landing on any island you think looks nice is allowed, as long as you avoid protected areas, shores with cottages, and islands with nesting seafowl.
There are many fairways crisscrossing through the archipelago and additional non-marked navigable routes, so deviating from the itinerary is certainly possible and encouraged. The itinerary is meant to provide a low-threshold first approach.
For distances this article uses nautical miles and the abbreviation M. Harbour or fairway depths of more than 2.0 m are not specifically mentioned here. Check yourself if they are an issue. The main fairway is probably deep enough for you anyway (how deep? check!).
There are two main boating routes through the Archipelago Sea, one going kind of straight, more or less keeping to the inner archipelago, another going around the main islands through more open waters. The fork is at Purunpää just west of the Kimitoön main island and the fairways rejoin north of Iniö, just before Kustavi. Both are described below.
The area from Hanko to Nagu, and Iniö, are traditionally Swedish-speaking, although there now is a large Finnish-speaking minority. Rymättylä, Velkua, Kustavi and Uusikaupunki are Finnish-speaking, although you can find traces of Swedish in some place names.
As many of the inhabitants of the archipelago have been involved in shipping and fishing, traditionally "learning to row before learning to walk" as somebody put it, shipping authorities are usually fluent in all of Finnish, Swedish and English. In the yachting community Swedish speakers are likewise over-represented, although probably a minority.
The main attractions on the route are the seascapes, endlessly varied. The Archipelago Sea also has a rich birdlife, with terns and gulls; eiders, goldeneyes and mergansers; white-tailed eagles and ospreys; and many more. Many of the guest harbours are at archipelago villages that have survived the urban development.
Hanko, Dalsbruk, Pargas, Turku, Nagu Kyrbacken, Naantali, Iniö Norrby and Uusikapunki (probably also Kustavi, perhaps also Velkua) all have at least a grocery store, most of them a selection of shops, including for souvenirs. Most also have repair facilities at least nearby. Harbour masters should be able to give advice for any special needs.
You will need a vessel. Yachts and smaller motorboats can be chartered at several locations. See Archipelago Sea#By yacht and small boats for a few businesses. Sea kayaks (and canoes) are also available and a nice way to experience the archipelago, but with those you should mostly keep off fairways.
The waters along the eastern fork are mostly sheltered, so any boat can be used if you check weather and weather forecasts and can afford to wait out bad weather. A boat for archipelagos (class C on the A–D scale, i.e. between "coastal" and "sheltered waters only") should be sufficient in most scenarios.
No official qualifications are needed for skippering boats shorter than 24 m (sic!), only "sufficient age and skill". You do need a radio licence (such as the SRC) if the boat has a marine VHF radio.
As the archipelago is a maze, you will need good big-scale charts. The leisure craft chart series B (Helsinki–Pargas; needed east of Kasnäs) and D (Archipelago Sea) and an overview chart should be a good choice. Even if you use electronic charts and have good backup systems this €100 investment is probably worthwhile. A major problem with electronic charts is the lack of a chart-size screen on most boats – the charts are full of essential small details, while you still need an overview.
The Finnish charts and navigation aids use INT A (green marks on starboard when entering a harbour) with minor deviations, and EUREF-FIN, in practice equivalent to WGS84. Leading lines and cardinal marks are used extensively, also large fixed edge marks up to 50 m off the fairway (distance given on the chart). Top marks are seldom used, despite the symbols on the chart. Lateral marks are used on some stretches, and with those you should take care checking the direction, which is not always obvious and can change when passing a hidden harbour. Also sector lights are used. Most marks have either lights or reflective bands, which can be seen with a spotlight when you are close. Check these on the chart symbol explanation pages, and make sure you know how to use the associated navigation techniques.
The Finnish lights traditionally use the number of flashes as distinguishing feature; duration is seldom important.
Cardinal and lateral marks for this route do not have lights, except on the several stretches shared with shipping fairways. On those, the marks are often sturdy ice buoys. On some stretches there is a parallel shipping fairway, which you can use in the dark; the boating fairway is often a shortcut or more interesting. There are sector lights and leading lights also along some parts of the boating fairway. Small fairways may be needed for the last miles to marinas, and these seldom have lights.
As the sun sets late most of the season, there is little need to sail in the dark. If you choose to do that you will need a spotlight and good compass handling nearly anywhere, and especially in the lesser fairways. Unless well acquainted to night sailing, keep to the light hours.
Especially if venturing off the itinerary, a harbour book is handy. The main choices are the semi-official Käyntisatamat-Besökshamnar (€23 for the volume on the coast and coastal archipelagos) and the sturdier and more thorough Great Harbour Book (ca €70) by a sea scout troop. There is a bilingual (Finnish-English) volume on the Archipelago Sea; the volume on the Gulf of Finland and the international volume covering even some harbours in Sweden and Estonia might also be of interest.
You need basic safety equipment, such as life vests, anchor, pump and fire extinguisher. You will also want a means to make your food (most yachts have a kitchenette), and berths. If you rely on a tent and lodging, you may want to call harbours to ask for advice beforehand, or just use natural harbours, with some need to use trial and error, and a good understanding of how to check that a mooring is safe.
Check marine weather forecasts and find a reliable means to get updates on the journey. The official ones are by the Finnish meteorological institute (Ilmatieteen laitos), broadcasted on FM radio in Finnish and Swedish several times daily, on marine VHF twice daily (check Turku radio local working frequencies), probably also on Navtex. The Archipelago Sea is treated as one unit, although the conditions vary considerably, with sheltered and unsheltered areas, and winds much stronger in the former. The forecasts are also available on the web: in traditional form, for smartphones, and as a map.
Hanko and Uusikaupunki are reasonably well-connected and you should be able to charter a boat in both, but you might have to make arrangements in advance. If you arrive with own yacht, or from elsewhere, check also Boating on the Baltic Sea.
If coming from Åland, you might want to use the fork west of Korpo and Houtskär, either sailing via Brändö to Iniö as described below or using a fairway from or north of Kökar and join the western fork near the Houtskär archipelago. Using the northern option you could then sail from Iniö to Hanko using this itinerary. From Houtskär you could use either leg (to Iniö or to Purunpää) and correspondingly end up in either end, or sail between Houtskär and Korpo and join in the middle.
Turku, the main city of Finland Proper, is also reasonably close, in the middle of the itinerary.
Nagu, Dalsbruk and Kasnäs are reachable by coach or car and you could probably charter a vessel also here, for sailing part of the itinerary, at least if you call in time.
The itinerary could be sailed either way. Here it is described from Hanko.
Hanko to KasnäsEdit
The Hanko peninsula projects out of the archipelago to the open sea. If you start east of the peninsula, such as from 1 Hanko's more busy eastern marina, you have to cross the freighter lanes. Keep good track on what sea marks pertain to your fairway.
A sight is the Hauensuoli (Gäddtarmen) sound just off the peninsula, where people waiting for good winds used to carve their names (and more) onto the rock, including nobles in medieval times.
Soon after the peninsula you cross a shipping lane, turning parallel with the boating fairway, with a fork northward to 1 Salo (1.9 m on the last leg) via Finnby (Särkisalo), Mathildedal and Tykö (Teijo), with the 2 Teijo National Park, and to the inner fairway via Dalsbruk, a possible alternative route. A sidetrip to 3 Västanfjärd is possible. 2 Dalsbruk has a big marina, an ironwork history and some cultural activities, such as the Baltic Jazz festival. It is one of the more urban centres of Kimitoön.
The sea west of the peninsula, "Hangö västra (fjärd)", is quite open with small rocks distributed quite evenly all around, some below the surface. Keep to the fairway, marked with pairs of lateral marks, unless you really know what you are doing. Here you cross the border to Finland Proper and the municipality of Kimitoön, comprising much of the eastern Archipelago Sea, and you pay a short visit to the eastern corner of the Archipelago National Park.
The fairway then joins the shipping lane and reaches more sheltered areas with Vänoxa to the north and soon Hitis and Rosala to the south. Hitis and Rosala are island communities, 3 Hitis with a well preserved village milieu, 4 Rosala with a Viking centre and tours to the 4 Bengtskär lighthouse in the outermost archipelago. The fairway via Dalsbruk joins the itinerary near Hitis.
The fairway towards Rosala continues to 5 Örö at the border to the outer archipelago, with tour boat connection from Kasnäs and a view to Bengtskär. The island was a military area with coastal artillery, but now is part of the Archipelago Sea National Park.
There are no official fairways farther to the south, although both the defence and local freighters have their own ones out to the sea. The official fairways to the sea lead east to Hanko or west via Utö.
By Rosala the itinerary turns north-west towards Kasnäs, more or less by the border to the national park.
Also 5 Kasnäs has a big marina. There is a ferry harbour for some of the island communities, such as Hitis, Rosala, Vänö and Tunnhamn. The village is best known for the modern spa hotel and associated services.
Kasnäs to PurunpääEdit
At Kasnäs you reach the areas covered by the Archipelago Sea chart series.
From Kasnäs the fairway continues north with big islands sheltering the route from the more open archipelago. On this stretch sector lights are heavily used. You pass the Högsåra ferry, and could make a landfall at the Högsåra marina, take a walk by the meadows and take a coffee at Farmors café.
By 6 Högsåra there is also a 7 M fairway (3.2 m) to Dalsbruk, for a sidetrip from here. There is another one (2.4 m) a bit to the north, which may be suitable as shortcut when continuing from Dalsbruk. Both pass under the Lövö bridge (for the road to Kasnäs). The northern fairway allows you to make a sidetrip to the 1 Söderlångvik manor (no official fairway, but reasonably well sounded; 3 M from the main itinerary).
At the island Purunpää the fairway forks Purunpää fork. The itinerary follows the route to the north. The western fork leads through the more open southern parts of the Archipelago Sea, via Korpo and Houtskär to Skiftet towards Åland and rejoins this itinerary north of Iniö.
Purunpää to NaguEdit
Behind minor islands you now have Gullkrona fjärd to your west, a symbol of all the outer Archipelago Sea.
You could take a sidetrip along the western fork to Helsingholmen 4 M away, unless there are strong winds. See the outer route.
Also using the main itinerary, you have a 7.5 M-stretch ahead not well sheltered for the common westerly winds. You have leading lights, sector lights and some cardinal marks with lights. Then you enter the sound leading to Pargas. The narrowest passage, a nautical mile ahead, is known as Pargas port ("gate to Pargas"). There is a restaurant here. Ahead is a section without lights.
After a few nautical miles the itinerary turns west (fairway fork) while the fairway to Pargas continues north, or rather, the shipping lane from the west turns north. The channel north has dense lateral marks. If you want to make a sidetrip to there, this is your best opportunity.
Pargas is the main town of the archipelago, although small. The Pargas marina is as close to the centre as one can get, and you have hotel, restaurants, cafés etc. in reach. The nearby grocery store is small, you might want to take a trip with your dinghy (if you have one; height restriction 2.2 m?) through the nice sound to its northern end, where you have the supermarkets.
Turning west, you are following the shipping fairway from Pargas. The channel has cardinal marks with lights and some sector lights. If you made the sidetrip, you can take a shortcut without lights to the south-west, unless the bridge works (2021) at that end of Kyrkfjärden hinder you. If so, you have to return the 7 M to the turn westward.
7 M after turning west you reach the fairway northward to Turku over Erstan (Finnish: Airisto). You could take a sidetrip to the Airisto Strand marina 1.5 M towards Turku, on the west end of Stormälö. If you do, you could use the fairway west from there, over the south part of Erstan, with a maze of navigational aids. With northerly and north-easterly winds the stretch is unsheltered, but those winds are uncommon.
The itinerary passes south of Haverö. At the point where you make your choice you pass the ferry between Pargas and Nagu, and if you turn west, the ferry to Haverö. After Haverö there are some very steep islands. You might want to climb Bornholm (check name!). This leg is without lights. In the evening you may prefer to overnight at Airisto Strand, or go via the bigger fairways over Erstan. The passage from there to Nagu has lights.
Either way you pass Själö, an island well worth a visit. The guest jetty is on the eastern side while there is a ferry quay on the east side, by the channel with the Utterberg light.
The Nagu marina at Kyrkbacken to the south is the largest in the Archipelago Sea. To reach it, you can use the fairway to the south-west after Haverö or, especially in the night, the one to the south-west after Själö, rounding Kaiplot.
Kyrbacken is the former parish village of Nagu, with the bustling marina, a medieval church, a local shipping museum , restaurants, grocery stores etc.
Nagu to IniöEdit
From Nagu the fairway leads to the north, by the Finnish speaking Rymättylä. First you cross Ominaisfjärden (Finnish: Ominaistenselkä), with a maze of fairways, including the shipping and cruise ferry lanes to Turku and Naantali.
North of Ominaisfjärden the fairway keeps a steady course north-northwest. No lights here; to get lights you have to take the 10-m fairway to the north-west from Ominaisfjärden, directly towards Heponiemi. On that fairway you mostly have leading lights.
When the 5.5-m fairway turns west-northwest after Iso Maisaari you could make a sidetrip to the Röölä marina. If you feel like going to Turku, you can also use the narrow sounds by Röölä to get to Erstan. If visiting the Röölä marina, you then probably need to backtrack, as the bridge east of Röölä is just 2.4 m. The bridge on the south fairway is 16 m high.
The fairway turns north again between Pakinainen and Ruotslainen. After 7 M you reach Palva, with the (former) parish village of Velkua. From here there is a 2.1 m fairway eastward via to Naantali, would you be inclined to visit that town (the fairway directly from Turku has an 11-m bridge).
After Velkua you turn west over Länsiaukku, again a less sheltered area. To the north is Kustavi. A 2.4 fairway leads to the south-west to Iniö, also once an independent municipality, the smallest such in Finland except Åland in the 1990s. On that stretch you have some lights, but the channel is narrow and mostly marked with lateral marks without lights.
The outer routes leads over outer waters, not suitable for boats for sheltered waters ("D"). Still, you will seldom see the horizon. The itinerary keeps close to the larger islands.
Purunpää to GullkronaEdit
Before Purunpää there is an opening between the islands to Gullkrona fjärd, and the outer route leads north-west via 7 Helsingholmen 4 M away. The harbour is in a bay on the north side, use the 2.4 m fairway to get there, otherwise there is a narrow passage by its south-west shore.
Helsingholmen has a nice guest harbour, sheltered but for north-easterly to easterly winds. If you are continuing towards Pargas you can turn to the north-east between Sandön and Södergrunden, take the 7,5-m fairway north after Helsingholmen and turn north-east for Pargas port, or continue via Gullkrona.
From Helsingholm the route continues to the north-west towards 8 Gullkrona, a further 7 M to north-west. The area around Gullkrona and Gullkrona itself is a maze of islands and islets; the fairways are well marked, but by sail you may have to plan your manœuvres well. There is a small sea pilot museum on the island. The harbour is now commercially run.
If this was just a sidetrip you can sail north partly along a "boating route" instead of a proper fairway, or north-east and north, also joining the inner route in inner archipelago, or north-east and east to join it before Pargas port.
Gullkrona to KorpoEdit
The boating route continues westward, with 9 Brännskär 3 M ahead. The island is nowadays owned by a foundation for keeping the archipelago inhabited. The family living there keeps a guest harbour and cottages besides handicraft and other work.
The boating route turns south-west, then west. Another more sheltered fairway (4.3 m) leads to the north-west. 4–5 M after Brännskär, after crossing Haraskärsfjärden, you reach 10 Berghamn of Nagu (there is another island by the name in Houtskär). Also here the channel to the harbour is a bit tricky.
The 4.3-m fairway northward leads to Nagu Kyrkbacken and Erstan.
If you turn to the 4.0-m fairway to the south-west on Haraskärsfjärden and continue over Ådöfjärden you reach 6 Nötö. Fairways from here go to 7 Jurmo and 8 Utö. The itinerary keeps closer to the main islands.
The itinerary continues west over Barskärsfjärden, crossing a 10-m fairway north to Ominaisfjärden between Nagu and Korpo. If you are going to Korpoström, you could use this fairway and then the one through the Korpoström strait between Rumar and Kait. You can also follow the outer fairway, which turns north to the other end of the strait.
11 Korpoström has fuel, coach connection to Turku, restaurant, and events and exhibitions of the "archipelago centre" (Skärgårdscentret).
The fairway still continues to the west and then turns north, passing the Gyltö restricted area and shooting range (there is a coastal artillery base here). A 2.4-m fairway leads to the Verkan guest harbour, with restaurant (Buffalo), near the parish village of Korpo.
Korpo to SkiftetEdit
The main boating fairway turns north-west and west-northwest over Lövskärsfjärden, crossing the 13.0-m fairway to Turku and Naantali, used also by the big cruise ferries to Stockholm, and then past Houtskär's Berghamn.
You could take the 3.0-m fairway westward over Österfjärden to Jungfruskär, which is a lush island, where the trees are still cut in a peculiar way, traditionally to ease harvesting of leaves as winter fodder. The island belongs to the Archipelago Sea National Park. The name Österfjärden (öst=east) hints on that this area was once thought to be part of Åland. A sidetrip to here may mean you have to backtrack. There is no fairway to the north-east, use your best judgement on whether you want to take a shortcut. If you are coming from Åland, this may be where you join the itinerary
The fairway rounds Fiskö and turns north-northeast. This is the glimpse you got of Skiftet between Åland and "mainland" Finland – unless you continue north-west to Brändö. If you do, you can take either fairway from the Snöbådan lighthouse, to north-west for 12 Lappo or north for Torsholma or Brändö proper.
Skiftet to IniöEdit
If you did visit Brändö, you will probably return to the main boating fairway by one of the fairways via Nåtö to Iniö.
The main boating fairway circles Houtskär, turning mostly north-east. After Hyppeis you have an option of a 2·5 M sidetrip to 9 Näsby, the parish village. A bit farther you could moor at Björköby, which used to be a big village with grocery store (which might get revived). The village has maintained much of its traditional character.
Then you pass Nordanlands, better known as Mossala. The guest harbour is where the Archipelago Trail ferries for Iniö leave. Mossalafjärden has a peculiar shape, caused by a volcanic intrusion nearly two billion years ago.
The fairway continues zigzagging to the north and passes between Keistiö and the main island of Iniö. A 2.4-m fairway leads north toward 1 Kupmo and north-east and south-east to the main village Norrby. The main fairway circles the main islands to the west and leads then to the north-east to Heponiemi. If you go via Norrby you can continue between Kolko and Hepmo and then north to Heponiemi. The outer fork of the itinerary joins the inner one off the peninsula.
Iniö to UusikaupunkiEdit
The forks rejoin off Heponiemi, with the ferry port for Iniö. There is a marina a little further. From here the fairway goes north-west through the sound between Vartsala and Kustavi without lights, passing the parish village and continuing between Lypyrtti (Swedish: Lypertö, showing the movements of the language border) and Kaurissalo. Kaurissalo has the last marina before briefly getting out on the Bothnian Sea before turning into Uusikaupunki. There are some lights near the marina.
On the unsheltered leg you firs have some lights. Soon you will soon turn in among islets and rocks with leading lights ahead. You then have sector lights until you reach the bigger fairways to Uusikaupunki.
You could choose to follow the fairway for one more stretch with a leading line at Putsaari and turn to the 4.5-m fairway when reaching the 10.0-m one. This is a little easier to navigate than the 3.2-m shortcut, which is certainly challenging in the night.
Regardless, sail by Humalainen and Nuhja (south of Hanko, namesake of the city), joining the 8,5-m fairway for a while, to get to the Uusikaupunki marina. If you have draught over 1.8 m, check where to moor: the 2.4-m fairway ends about at the marina.
Make sure you have the boating and navigation skills needed, that your vessel is seaworthy and that you have proper large-scale sea charts. Have a means of getting sea weather forecasts. Don't sail in dark hours unless you know you can handle it.
Beware of ships in the major fairways, including the large and fast cruise ferries on Ominaisfjärden and Erstan. These are mostly restricted to the fairway itself and therefore cannot safely change course, and will often not see you when you are close.
Keep a keen watch. When sailing, other boat are often hidden by your sails, and with a motorboat the time between another boat becoming visible and your passing (or crashing into) them is surprisingly short. Such collisions in good visibility are all too common. Also mind paddlers, swimmers and birds, especially birds with offspring. If using GPS and autopilot, mind that other boaters might use exactly the same waypoints, getting on a countercourse even if there is plenty of room around.
Water is cool and the shore is often surprisingly distant once you find yourself in the water. Stay on board and wear life jackets. Also the rocky shore and the quay are dangerous, especially for children.
Keep in contact with your friends on shore, to avoid them thinking you have got in trouble. If you cannot reach them, rather call 112 to tell them you are belated than have your friends call them to start a rescue operation.
After this introduction, you will probably want to spend the next summer exploring the Archipelago Sea. For now you could continue north to the Bothnian Sea National Park, circle Åland counterclockwise through waters with few other boaters and finally reach Mariehamn, with an interesting maritime history – or just explore the coastal cities, such as Uusikapunki and Rauma.
From Hanko you could join Helsinki folks returning from their vacation in the Archipelago Sea, for some more archipelago sailing, or sail back through the southern, more open parts of the Archipelago Sea, to Utö and then over the open sea to Gotland.