The briny breath of the sea brought by the waves from the open sea. A pulse-quickening invitation to adventure. An inexplicable call, heard by some, ignored by others. There are no alternatives. The sea calls you to it, and in that call there is no room for hesitation. You choose the time and place. The rest is in the hands of the sea.
On Saturday, June 17, 2023, there was something special in the air of Hanko’s Eastern Harbor. A jewel of Finnish boat building, Swan 651, had docked in the charming town waking up to the summer season. Ex Fazer Finland, now Spirit of Helsinki, had been attracting curious pairs of eyes from the morning on. And for good reason. Months of relentless volunteer work at the Loviisa shipyard was visible on the gleaming surfaces of the beauty and in the smiles of the crew reaching their ears.
The number 71 on the side and deck of the boat told the essential. Ocean Globe Race is a reality and it’s just around the corner. Less than three months until the starting shot sounds in Southampton. The crew’s close ones who came to the site got to see and touch the boat that would be their living environment for a long time. Small squares, tight crew. There was pride, amazement, excitement, and even worry about the future in the discussions. Southern Ocean and Cape Horn. Many have read about them, but few have experienced them. All of this is still a glimmer on the horizon for Spirit of Helsinki.
The boat needs its name. The carefully nurtured beauty will be christened in the manner required by tradition and with reverence. Anna Vartiainen’s decisive swing with a champagne bottle at the anchor of the boat’s bow was exactly what the spectators were expecting.
“Spirit of Helsinki, Godspeed”
The sentence electrified the audience and the crew on the boat’s deck. Exuberant cheers erupted, giving goosebumps. Whether it’s superstition or not, certain things belong to tradition and they must be respected.
At the Hanko Casino, Captain Jussi Paavoseppä’s speech was short and to the point. Trust in the crew and the boat is rock solid. The captain’s confident demeanor conveyed the message more powerfully than words. The crew had already seen it, now all the relatives saw it too. The adventure will be carried out through considerate and capable hands.
As the evening progressed, the cheerful chatter turned into loud rejoicing. The waves grew in height and the salty water of the oceans frothed more furiously. The strong sleigh carried along forcefully, but no one strayed from the course. The night was for the crew and the close ones. A break together before the ropes are untied. An important and warm memory that gives strength during a cold night’s watch duty far out there in the midst of house-high waves. Sometimes you just have to leave.
The joy is the home port to return to.
The author of the blog, Jussi Evinsalo, is a Helsinki-based writer and journalist, who has the salt of the sea running through his veins thanks to the heritage of several generations. Jussi is a second-generation boating journalist, whose father (Seppo Evinsalo) was there photographing the departure of Fazer Finland in Portsmouth in 1985. Father and son, riding the same wave. Jussi has followed and will continue to follow the journey of the Spirit of Helsinki towards the starting line and eventually around the globe. The end result is the story of the Spirit of Helsinki, which is already worth reading.