Thursday, August 14, 2014

Vigu Sea Kayaking 1

It was time for the first sea kayaking course of the Vigu Wilderness and Nature Guide education. Having started kayaking again this summer after a long break, I had looked forward to this one. And our main instructor would be Benjamin Donner from Aavameri, who is probably the foremost sea kayaking instructor in Finland.

We met in the Turku harbor on Thursday morning and took the ferry to Åland, where we drove 40 km to Sandösund, where we erected our tents in the camping place, before starting the exercises of the evening.


Full speed ahead.

We focused on rescue techniques this first evening.



Benjamin shows the final exercise, which was somewhat demanding. I think only Nicke managed to stand up fully before falling.

We then made dinner, slept and packed our kayaks for five days out after breakfast.

On the move.

I, and a few other, went for a closer look at the islands on our route. This first leg was familiar to me. I did some fatbiking there on the ice a few years ago.



Lunch at Börsskär.



Continuing northwards.

Selfie.

Fred.

Johan.


Our place for the night was Harskär Södra Skäret. My team of three got the best tent spot.

The Hilleberg Keron 4 was anchored with stones.

Something to eat before starting the exercises.


Gathering for the exercises, which would consists of manouvering techniques, in addition to rescuing fallen comrades.



Benjamin.

Vigu 19 course mate Simo worked as the second instructor this time. He got his NIL Sea Kayak Guide some years ago, but I guess he is not allowed to have a feather in his cap yet.

The final exercise of the day was to follow the leader, in groups of two, as close to the shore as possible and using the manouvering techniques just covered.



A late dinner again.

No reason not to bring wine (and beer), since the weight doesn't matter much in a kayak.


The evening was quite nice.


Gathering for some kayaking theory.

Good night.

The next morning offered continuing nice weather. We had breakfast before packing everything into our kayaks again.


On the water again.

Nicke.

Towing practice.



Lunch.

Sea aster.

Rescuing an involuntary swimmer.

Simo would need wheels under his kayak.

There were a few waves giving a least some small surfs. Nicke hit land, though.

Vigu village at Hamnskär.

More manouvering and rescue exercises. Anna was supposed to rescue an unconscious me, but failed twice. I had to regain consciousness and roll up myself.


Dinner time.

Simo's stories are great and occasionally true.

Our group had pancakes for dessert.

A deserted boat.

Another nice evening.







Sea mayweed.

Our instructors.

There's probably a perfectly valid reason for the umbrella.

The next morning saw a change in the weather and it also rained a little during the night.


Simo strained a muscle when he pulled up Benjamin, who played unconscious in the kayak, and needed some patching.

This time we were to paddle in small groups. My tent group consisting of me, Christa and Fred went first. We had a longer route planned.



We fully expected to get some rain upon us, since the clouds were quite threatening.


Vinkelskär.

Arriving at Låga skärgården (the low archipelago), which was our goal for lunch.




Lunch at Stora skäret.






I had my own kayak, a Prijon Kodiak made of bomb proof HTP. It was the only one with a rudder, which I didn't use except when towing (in order not to get trouble with the towing rope). The instructors had their own kayaks and the rest used the Valley PE kayaks of the school.

Going south again. This time we had nice waves from the side.


Christa is stuck :-(

We were now in a really interesting place with some funny water labyrinths.

A few photos of yours truly take by Christa.


Funny nest boxes.

Arriving at Bockholm after 26 easy kilometers. We were supposed to be there at 17:00. We arrived at 16:50 with three other groups, all with different routes. The fourth and last group arrived at 17:00.

We erected the tent and had a quick sandwhich, before going out for the exercises of the evening. In addition to some rescue techniques, we now started practicing for rolling. I feel my own rolls use too much power currently and I got some tips, but failed to improve much. I should probably do some training on a kayak easier to roll for a change.

After the exercises we actually had a hot sauna, which felt really great. After the sauna, it was time for dinner, a delicious vegetable thai curry. Our butter, which had smelled a little funny in the morning, was now completely useless. I almost puked when I tried to smell it. Generally food stays fresh fairly well in a kayak due to the cold water, but this time both the air and water temperature had been well over 20C.

An optimistic fisherman.

Sea campion (silene uniflora).


The next morning was sunny and nice. We had breakfast and coffee before starting the morning exercises.


Simo had my kayak, while I borrowed his, a Skim Braveheart. For some reason I didn't like it much, even though it should be a very good kayak. It was a little too small for me and I found both the primary and secondary stability to be a lot lower than in my own kayak. It also felt a bit slower. It was very agile, though, and easier to roll. I managed to do a few really good rolls, using very little power, with it.

Nick is stuck.

After the exercises we hurried to make lunch before the rain would start.


It was still warm. A chocolate cake had to be eaten with a spoon.

Packing the kayaks in the rain.

Much to the instructors disappointment, the wind was not nearly as strong as forecasted. We paddled in two groups and had no problem with the wind or waves.



Coffee break.

Continuing.


Benjamin's kayak went hard on a virtual rock causing a virtual hole in the hull and he had to evacuate to my kayak while his was being repaired on water.

The sun came out again.

Benjamin is a truly dedicated instructor. Despite a nasty flu, he had no problem getting into the water and have us rescue him.


Nicke empties Benjamin's kayak.

We soon arrived at Malören, a sand island, for the night. After having unpacked my kayak, I noticed that I had some stowaways. Obviously the ants had found something of their liking in my trash bag.

The water was warm to swim in.

Making dinner, pasta with tomato sauce and beer sausages, I noticed that our vegetables now smelled quite bad. Despite being a strong advocate of taking all the trash back home, I threw the vegetables into the forest. I figured since they were already half rotten, they would decompose before the summer is over. The parmesan cheese, however, was still in excellent shape.

Our instructors naturally had excellent food.

A nice night again. We stayed up for quite a while, finishing off the wine and some stronger beverages.



The last morning of the course.

We had around 10 km back to the Sandösund camping place and also had some time constraints.

Simo.

A stony passage.

Getting towed through the jungle route.


We arrived at the camping place, sorted and cleaned the gear before driving to Mariehamn, where we had lunch before catching the boat back to Turku. I was home again on Tuesday evening after a great course in great company.