The passenger ferries departing from the Port of Turku are not just floating shopping and entertainment centres, but a means of public transport. One of the people that go to work by a ferry is Tuomas Mansikkaoja who works in Mariehamn. We took a trip home from work with Tuomas.
Viking Grace has left Stockholm five and a half hours before and moors to the quay in Mariehamn one minute ahead of the schedule at 2.09 p.m. The lowering of the passenger ramp takes a few minutes, and soon it is filled with people. It is the winter holiday week in Southern Finland, and there are plenty of families with children on a cruise who need to change the ship in Mariehamn.
Among the last people entering the 218 metres long ship is Tuomas Mansikkaoja. The embarkation has exceeded the 15 minutes permitted by the schedule by a couple of minutes. The trip to Turku takes 5 hours and 25 minutes.
As a commuter vehicle, a ferry that carries thousands of passengers is unusual. It’s like travelling on a nightclub-casino-department store where everyone but the crew is on holiday. There are no statistics on commuters, but they are easiest to meet in cabins, the quietest corners of the ship, sauna, or perhaps walking out on the deck. Ferry commuters include, for instance, sales representatives, installation technicians and construction workers who work half of the week or have a contract job on the Åland Islands or in the Stockholm region. Tuomas works at the Mariehamn Coast Guard Station.
Peace and quiet and a power socket
Unlike cruise passengers, commuters wish they would get to their destination as quickly as possible. The distance is 134 kilometres as the bird flies, but it takes 325 minutes, because Viking Grace is not a bird, and it has to navigate through the most spread out archipelago in the world.
Nevertheless, Tuomas thinks that the ship is the most convenient alternative when going to Turku. There is not much to do, though, and not much peace and quiet on board, as the ships have understandably been designed on terms of the cruise passengers whose needs differ from those of commuters.
On our trip the ship is full to the brim, which means around 3,000 people, including the crew.
“Most of all I wish for a place to plug in the computer or charge my mobile phone. Maybe take a nap in a comfortable chair”, Tuomas ponders.
On the other hand, there would be time to do other things on board, too.
Tuomas says that on the way to work, Viking Amorella which departs from Turku to Stockholm in the morning has good facilities for resting and quieting down.
“It still has the easy chair salon where you can find peace and quiet.”
Wonderful views and good food
The commuter vehicle used by Tuomas also has many unique positive sides.
“I like the light and the large windows on Viking Grace. Such vistas are not on offer for most commuters. When the weather is nice I always go out to the deck to enjoy the view and get some fresh air.”
Otherwise Tuomas spends his time listening to music, reading and making work-related plans on a laptop. On the way home he sometimes goes shopping.
”I don’t usually join the fun, but stay on my own, although I’m otherwise a sociable person. I usually check out the performers who are sometimes quite good, and the setting is great”, the young man says.
Text Kalle Kirstilä
Photos Robert Seger