Jukka Hienonen and the Baltic Sea

In August, Jukka Hienonen celebrated his 50th birthday. Instead of gifts, his wish was that his guests would make a donation to the John Nurminen Foundation’s Clean Baltic Sea projects. The collection raised over €11,500.

Hienonen_Jukka_MinaJaItameriEver since my youth, after I had the opportunity to move from inland to the coast, I’ve been a sea enthusiast. With the minuscule pay of my first spring job and assisted by a bank loan, I was able to purchase my first sailboat. It was a very modest Finn Express 64, but I was already bitten hard by the sailing bug. Since then, we’ve always had and always will have sailboats in our family. Our current one, Grand Soleil 43, is our fifth. We certainly have no need to swap to a boat any bigger than this. The boat has always been our summer cottage, and our tranquil haven on summer vacations and weekends. I travel a lot because of my job, and I think I would never have become as close as I am to my children had we not spent four weeks of every summer crammed up in the boat. If emotions flared up, we had to deal with it together. And deal with all kinds of weather, too. We have sailed practically everywhere in the Baltic Sea, from High Coast to the Danish straits, from the archipelago of the Gulf of Bothnia to the Gulf of Riga. On an average summer, we’ve sailed approximately 1,500 nautical miles. The Baltic Sea has given us wonderful experiences, time shared together, and the beauty of nature. It has also opened up a new perspective of time to our modern minds. I have learned to appreciate the various ways of living by the sea, and been able to get to know our fantastic neighbours.

Largely because of the strong seamanship traditions and hospitality of the Swedes, I have become a veritable fan of Sweden. The life stories of the people on the Estonian coast and its islands have also moved me strongly. In the archipelago you realise how the sea has always been an important mediator of influences. The sea does not divide, it connects.

I sail distances but do not race. I often stop at natural harbours, but also enjoy and support the services available by the Baltic Sea, such as good food, shops at harbour towns, cities, golf, etc. For my part, I also strive for good seamanship and seafaring culture by taking other seafarers, be they sailors, cottage-owners or professionals, into account.

The most exquisite experiences arise from nature. One memorable moment took place at Utklippan, Sweden, where, upon our arrival last summer, a flock of several inquisitive seals swam in the wake of our boat. They were simply curious about the silently moving boat. The seals closest to us were perhaps 20 m away, and they appeared to be quite fearless.

Everything begins with the individual. If we are indifferent, our environment will become intolerable. The sea holds a strong attraction, as evidenced by the year-on-year growth of recreational sailing. When we take proper care of waste disposal, we will all feel better. By setting a good example, you encourage others to do the right thing too.

The Clean Baltic Sea projects of the John Nurminen Foundation have achieved many concrete results. The results reached in the wastewater treatment of St. Petersburg, for example, are very impressive. This project was conducted with the kind of open-mindedness that is needed for things to move forward. If Russia has not yet realised what the status of the Baltic Sea is, or if recreational use of the sea does not yet have a similar role there, it is our task to take this message to them. I believe that the wake-up call will be heard and the need for action understood in due time: they have just had so many other issues to deal with in their country’s turbulent recent past. Sometimes, a responsible neighbour takes on a greater role than just cleaning up his own backyard. Isn’t it better to take care of the garbage your neighbour forgot on his yard, than wait for the wind to spread it around? You can always give polite advice, and people do learn.

The donor list of my 50th birthday collection included almost 100 % of everyone invited. This is evidence of the support my selected target received in our circle of friends. The sum accrued by the collection also surpassed all expectations. The exhibition of photographs of the Baltic Sea and its nature, displayed at the birthday event, was also widely admired. After the event, the number of donors nearly doubled. The cause was now understood on a personal level, for which thanks are due to Erik Båsk, Secretary General of the John Nurminen Foundation, who attended the event, passing on information of the Clean Baltic Sea projects.