Finland’s lake district is a dream destination for sailors. Ari Juva has been sailing his own steamboat on Lake Saimaa for decades.
There’s a popular Finnish song that says sailing is the only thing in life worth doing. For most of us Finns, the lyrics are only a joke. As far as we’re concerned all you need for a summer holiday is a cottage with a sauna in the middle of the woods somewhere. Sailing boats are not essential. However, there are some for whom enjoying the view of the water from the shore is simply not enough and whose holidays only begin once the bow of the boat pushes off from the jetty. One of them is the commodore (chairman, in other words) of the Finnish Steam Yacht Association, Ari Juva.
The largest Lake District in Europe: In a scarcely populated country there’s enough scenery and shoreline for all, allowing you to easily lose yourself in thought or be inspired by the vast clear lakes, intricately splintered by islands, isthmuses and green spits.
All the steamships still in operation in Finland were built almost a hundred years ago. The technology of the past and the patina of time make a cruise an unforgettable experience.
“Steamboats have been a hobby of mine ever since I was a child. I first got the bug when I was a little boy of ten, on a boat on Lake Päijänne with my uncle and godfather. The amazing technology of the steamship – burning the wood to make the steam that gets the ship moving and the low, booming noise of the engine – it was all so different from ordinary boats. I was entranced by the hustle and bustle of it all.”
As Finns see it, it isn’t a holiday if there isn’t a sauna. Ari Juva’s S/S Antero is always accompanied by a sauna barge. The steam session is followed by a leap into the lake.
There are many different ways of enjoying Finland’s inland waterways by boat. A steamship cruise is one of the most exotic. If there is a large number of passengers, the ships might sail in convoy.
There’s plenty going on at the harbour in the summer. A special steamship regatta is organised on Lake Saimaa every year.
“I bought my own ship, S/S Antero, in the early 1970s, as soon as I had earned enough money. Antero (the name is the Finnish form of Andrew) was built in 1924 and was originally used to tow barges. In the 1960s it was still being used to take rafts of logs to the sawmill before it was retired and finally ended up with me. Although the old steamships were skilfully built and still have most of their original parts, there’s plenty of work that needs to be done on them and the maintenance takes up every weekend throughout the winter too.”
“My steamship hobby would hardly have got as big as it has without Lake Saimaa, Finland’s largest. Made up of a labyrinth of different lakes, Saimaa is a true sailors’ paradise. The great lake has almost 15,000 kilometres of shoreline on the mainland and its over 13,000 islands, so that when you’re sailing you constantly encounter different landscapes and uninhabited shorelines where you can easily land. It adds that special excitement to the voyage that you just don’t get anywhere else.”
Saimaa is Finland’s largest lake and a true paradise for sailors. The great lake has almost 15,000 kilometres of shorelineand over 13,000 islands.