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Purtse Harbour

Purtse Harbour is the newest of Estonia’s gateways to the sea. The purpose of the harbour complex, which was established according to the regulations of small harbours in 2015, is to welcome visitors from home waters and afar. The harbour’s navigation period is from 1 May-30 September.

There is a slip and 18 spots for boats, 10 of which are for visitors. Purtse Harbour belongs to the Estonian network of small harbours and meets the service standards set for them. The quay and surrounding area is well-lit and guarded electronically. Seawalls have been constructed to protect the quay and harbour from waves, floating piers have been established, and the aquatic area and fairway dredged and marked with spar buoys. The minimum depth by the quays is 2.5 m. There is a slip, the quay is equipped with water and electricity, safety equipment is available and septic tanks can be emptied. The harbour building offers hot water for washing purposes and a lavatory, which are also accessible by disabled visitors. Free WiFi is available in the harbour area. Visitors can use the hot tub, barbecue and barbecue equipment.

Location

Purtse Harbour is located in the Purtse River delta, on the western shore. Due to the natural features of the delta, the harbour cannot be accessed by very large vessels. Harbour services are only provided to vessels with a total length of 24 metres or less.

Coming over land

Access is from the Tallinn-St Petersburg highway at the 137 km mark via the Kõrkküla-Liimala road. (Coming from Tallinn, turn left before you reach the Purtse River bridge.) There are signs along the Tallinn-St Petersburg highway that point the way to the harbour.

Coming from the sea

Entry to Purtse Harbour begins from 272 metres to the north-east (course 155). The sea lane makes a change in direction 109 metres from the start of the lane (course 147). The lane is 8 metres wide and marked with three pairs of spar buoys. Check the map here.

Coordinates

59°26’7”N 26°59’28”E
VHF radio call signal: PURTSE

Price list

You can view the price list of services at Purtse Harbour by clicking on the following link.

Regulations

Here you can download the rules and regulations of Purtse Harbour.

Map

You can zoom in on and download the map of directions to Purtse Harbour by clicking here.

Harbourmaster

The founder and owner of the Tulivee complex is Heigo Prits, who is also the harbourmaster of Purtse Harbour.

sadam@tulivee.ee
Tel. +3725255268

History

The Purtse River delta has been an important centre of trade (and an illicit centre of traffic) throughout history. Mighty men have lived here, including fishermen, merchants, smugglers and warriors.

Centuries-old harbour

The first traces of human settlement near Purtse River originate from the late Bronze Age, when villagers were engaged in cattle farming, fishing and seal hunting.

In the early Iron Age, the importance of the region increased due to its location by the ‘amber road’ that ran from Visla to Rome and because of it being a naturally suitable place for a harbour at the mouth of Purtse River. The eastern stretch of the north coast of Estonia is not particularly indented and does not offer many options for safe landings or shelter from storms.

In ancient times, the Purtse River delta was the gateway to the sea of what was then Askäla County. In the 8th century, the Tarakalda stronghold was built on the right bank of the river, approximately 500 metres south of today’s delta. It was designed to defend the harbour and local residents against raids from the east.

Friendly trade and smuggling in Purtse

Friendly trade between Estonians and Finns (sepralaitos) began as early as the 13th century, when permanent settlements were established in Central and Eastern Finland. This intensified during the Middle Ages. Since the northern part of the Gulf of Finland is richer in fish reserves than the southern part, which instead boasts better cultivation conditions, a basis for trade relations was established. Language formed no obstacle, either.

A significant change in coastal trade took place after yet another war between Russia and Sweden (1808-1809), when the whole of Finland came under the power of the Russian Empire and Alexander I was appointed ruler of the Grand Duchy of Finland on the basis of a personal union. Finland acquired special rights (autonomy) upon joining the Empire. The parties began to establish barter trade between Estonia and Finland. In 1813, such trade was only allowed in Toolse and Muhu harbours, where Finnish and Estonian peasants were allowed to exchange fish for grain. Financial transactions were prohibited. In 1846, an exchange and trade point was opened in Purtse. The Russian-Finnish Trade Regulations of 1859 mention nine such points: Toolse, Mahu, Käsmu, Jägala-Jõesuu, Vihula, Vergi, Keila-Joa, Purtse and Võsu.

Purtse also made a name for itself during the Crimean War (1853-1856) between Russia and Turkey and its allies England, France and Sardinia, during which the battleground extended as far north as the Baltic Sea. The British-French squadron blocked the entire Russian coast of the Baltic Sea in 1854 and 1855. The Purtse River delta was the easternmost point in the Gulf of Finland where the British landed. In 1855, British soldiers landed in the delta, burned down a military cordon, drank vodka in Rannu Tavern and fired shots at the castle (the Purtse fortress residence) when leaving.

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The Crimean War and sea blockade also led to significant changes in coastal trade. The blockade led to a dearth of salt in Estonia. This problem was particularly severe in coastal areas. Since salt was the only way to preserve fish at the time, coastal dwellers started actively importing salt from Finland – for their own use and for sale, earning great gains from the exchange by risking their boats and lives. Estonian peasants’ trading trips to Finland, which gained momentum during the war years, gave Northern Estonian coastal folk the possibility to start building new, larger vessels after the war that would allow them to get into trading even more. In addition to salt, matches and iron goods were imported from Finland, the prices and quality of which were a lot worse on this side of the gulf.

While elsewhere in Estonia trade with Northern neighbours receded over time, in the Toolse, Mahu and Purtse areas the tradition carried on into the 1930s in the form of annual Baltic herring fairs. The main trade was carried out with residents of what were known as the Daughter Islands. The last Baltic herring fair on the coast of Estonia took place in spring 1939.

Friendly trade was based on trust, as often the fish were given as credit, getting grain and potatoes in return in autumn. Such relations contributed to the development of smuggling.

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Friendly trade was based on trust, as often the fish were given as credit, getting grain and potatoes in return in autumn. Such relations contributed to the development of smuggling.

Bootlegging and Purtse

After World War I and the subsequent War of Independence, all kinds of smuggling sprang up along the Estonian coast. There was a lack of many goods, and trading was not officially coordinated. The new country’s customs and border controls and the Prohibition enforced in Finland in 1919 provided further impetus. Smuggled items included food, matches and caustic soda, as well as tobacco and coffee. In the late 1920s, bootlegging pushed aside other less profitable contraband.

It appears that local men immediately took advantage of this new commodity. In 1919, moonshine was confiscated on just five occasions in Estonia – a total of 141 litres, which seems ridiculous compared to the thousands of litres that would come later. One such instance occurred in Purtse. Corruption can be spotted behind the few times people got caught – for example, old police reports state that “Great deal of collusion between smugglers and coastal guards at Aa beach in summer 1919”.

In general, it seems that Purtse’s bootleggers were wary men whose capture did not come easy for border guards. Thus states the Wirumaa Teataja newspaper in 1928 that “Although Purtse’s cordon commander and the local police have known for a long time that bootlegging takes place, the bootleggers are so well organised that it is impossible to catch them”. Although most local border guards’ ‘professional victories’ were limited to canisters found on the beach, the few occasions smugglers were caught with cargo are proof of organised activities in large volumes. For example, on 9 September 1925, 980 litres of moonshine was found on Saka beach. Local bootleggers mostly sold their wares to Kiviõli and Kohtla-Järve miners.

EXPERIENCES STRONGER THAN ANY PROHIBITION