If you think Archipelago sailing in Sweden is wonderful, just come to Finland. It may not look like a dense archipelago on our map, but you can almost walk across the islands from Åland to Helsinki, and many of them are unpopulated.
Mariehamn in Åland is just 25 miles across the Baltic from the Swedish coast, and getting there is easy. There's a Swedish joke that says that the best way to navigate across the Baltic to Mariehamn from Sweden is 'to follow the boat in front'. (The Swedes are renowed for their sense of humour). Many foreigners rush to Mariehamn and then turn round - if so, you are missing one of the most delightful parts of the whole Baltic. It's only about 250 miles from Mariehamn to Helsinki via delightful island routes - and we think Helsinki is the nicest Scandanavian capital to visit by small boat.
Although the Finns joke that Motor Boats navigate by the map in the front of the local phone book, local charts and pilot books are essential for visitors. Many tales abound of Finnish charts being mysterious and that there are unmarked rocks everywhere. Our experience is that the (recently converted to International format) charts are excellent, and that providing you are careful, rocks are avoidable. See our charts page for details. Buoyage is excellent - in fact there are so many routes that its sometimes difficult to work out the best way of getting from A to B.
There are fewer harbour guides for Finland than there are for Sweden and Denmark. The most popular is the Sea Scouts Guide (see our review). The HafenHandbuch has some coverage (Ostsee II), and the Baltic Sea covers the main destinations.
There are many organised guestharbours with power and water. These are listed in the Käyntisatamat Besökshamnar, which dovetails with the Finnish charts, and available from the same suppliers. Like other areas, some of the popular spots can get busy in the height of the season, but a splendid alternative will be no more than a mile or so away.
The Finnish language is impenetrable, especially for Brits, but many Finns speak Swedish (its the official language in Åland), and all the ones we've met speak excellent English. In the southern coastal districts many towns have dual names (Swedish and Finnish) and these are shown on road signs, apparently in order according to the most popular languge in the town (i.e the largest number of native speakers).
Our map shows the most popular area, between Stockholm and Helsinki. The Finnish coast extends both north and east, with attractions in both directions. The Saimaa lakes, east of Helsinki, are another popular area. If you fancy further afield, St Petersberg, in Russia, is about 250 miles east of Helsinki, and Tallinn, in Estonia, is about 50 miles south.
The following pages give you a taste of each of the main areas.