Helsinki Arrival

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From Oro we made a two-day run to Helsinki, where we would stay right downtown for two weeks to explore the city and make trips to Tallin and St. Petersburg. We had wonderfully calm conditions for the entire run, enabling us to check out a couple of offshore lighthouses. We also passed a large fleet of navy ships in a NATO exercise, including the USS Graveley, the first American-flagged vessel we’ve seen for a long time.

Below are trip highlights from May 13th and 14th en route to Helsinki, Finland. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

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Sunrise Beam
An unusual vertical beam in this morning’s sunrise.
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Another spectacular Baltic sunrise.
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Approaching the tiny skerry of Bengtskar. The prominent lighthouse there is visible for several miles, and the light itself for 10 miles.
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Bengtskar Lighthouse
The 170ft (52m) Bengtskar Lighthouse, built in 1906, is the tallest in the Nordic countries. The large house been converted into a hotel and the island itself is a popular tourist destination, drawing 13,000-15,000 visitors annually. Nobody was apparent as we passed by though.
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We’re taking a more direct route offshore to get close to Helsinki tonight and arrive early tomorrow morning and can see a fair amount of traffic in the Baltic lanes to our south.
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NATO Exercises
In the distance we could see several helicopters and navy boats about five miles away in what appeared to be a military exercise.
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NATO Warships
Some, but not all, of the navy ships were broadcasting AIS as “NATO Warship”.
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USS Graveley
The 510ft (155m) USS Graveley, Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, taking part in the NATO warship exercises. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen another US flagged vessel. Also participating were French and Turkish navy ships.
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Fuel Filter Vacuum
Last year we installed a sensor to measure the fuel pressure on the main engine primary filters, but the fuel quality in Europe has been so high that’s it’s taken nearly a year to build up sufficient suction to justify replacing the filters. The report shows fuel suction at the RACOR 900s in PSI, but we actually use inches of mercury when deciding when to change this filter. The recommendation is to replace the filter at 7″Hg but we normally change when it gets above 5″Hg.

The display here (yellow near the bottom left corner) shows fuel pressure at 2.5PSI, roughly half inches of mercury. We show yellow at 5″Hg and red at 7″Hg. We also send email at 7″Hg.

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New Fuel Filter
We changed the fuel filter and the vacuum is back down to 0 PSI
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Approaching the tiny island of Kallbadan.
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Kallbadan Lighthouse
The Soviet-era lighthouse on Kallbadan was built in 1920. The light was eventually automated and then shut down in 2015, replaced by an adjacent sector light.
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Watchtower on the island of Makiluoto. The island is an unmanned military installation with no public access allowed.
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One of several coastal artillery guns on the island of Makiluoto.
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Helsinki Sailing Club at the island of Ormholmen. The club, established in 1899, owns the entire 12-acre island.
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Landing Craft
A Finnish Navy Uisko class landing craft passing near our anchorage. The vessels can do 35 knots.
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Evening Light
The islands around our anchorage aglow in the evening sun.
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Sunset from our anchorage about 22 miles out of Helsinki. We’ll be there tomorrow morning.
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Grahara Lighthouse
Pilot station and Grahara Lighthouse on the island of Harmaja as we approach Helsinki.
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The Tallink ferry Star departing Helsinki for Tallinn, Estonia. We’ll be taking that ferry to Tallinn two mornings from now.
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The 18th-century fort Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage site, prominent to port as we enter Helsinki.
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Helsinki Skyline
Helsinki skyline about 10 minutes out of our berth at Helsinki Marina.
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Icebreakers moored for the summer at Helsinki.
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Helsinki Marina
Dirona moored at Helsinki Marina right downtown. This will be our home for the next couple of weeks.
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Low Voltage
As we’ve travelled, we’ve seen many different power configurations and quality. Cape Town South Africa voltage levels would drop down to around 195V most afternoons but the nominal voltage there was only 220V. 195V is quite low, but it’s still only down 11% when the regional power loads were highest. Another common configuration is 208V at the dock. Here again voltage levels can easily drop down to 195V or less even with good quality dock wiring.

Here in Helsinki, we have a nominal voltage of 230V at 50hz but there is excessive voltage drop in the dock wiring and any circuit where the draw goes up above around 11A has the voltage plunge to 195. If the full 16A of load is put on a shore power connection, the voltage quickly drops down below our voltage cutout point in the 185V range. This is the point where the power quality is so poor that we automatically disconnect from the shore supply to avoid equipment damage and then reconnect as the voltage climbs back up to normal.

These voltage drops we are seeing are upwards of 20% from the nominal voltage levels of 230V. One solution is to use a boosting transformer, but few of those can deal with more than 20% drops. What we do is set our shore power draw to avoid dropping down below 195V. In this configuration we’re effectively running two 11A shore side connections and, in this configuration, the voltage stays above our minimum and everything continues to work fine.

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Reducing Draw
Due to excess voltage drop in the shore-side power supply, we’re running on two 16A shore supplies but we have turned down our max draw to 11A rather than the rated 16A. This avoids the exponential voltage drop-off as the weak shore circuits are pushed too hard. In this case, everything works perfectly well when de-rated to 11A.

Here we are adjusting the max draw of our two Mastervolt chargers to 70% of their rated 100A output. This adjustment is a common one for us where we often draw less than full circuit rating where the shore-side breaker is old and no longer able to hold it’s rated load.

We also “turn down” the chargers where running on very low amperage shore supplies such as the 10A common in Sweden. Less commonly, we’ll adjust the chargers to limit the voltage drop on a weak shore power supply where excess resistance or poor wiring is causing a deep voltage sag.

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First Smell
Spitfire getting his first smell of Helsinki from our berth at Helsinki Marina.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at


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