Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Örö kayaking trip

The fortress island Örö was opened up to the public in 2015 as part of the Archipelago National Park. Incidentally, I was one of the four first persons on the Örö national park, in a group of four that paddled there immediately on the New Year's Day. Örö was also a natural destination for a trip by the local paddling club, and Esko was the natural choice to lead such a trip, since he had worked with preparing the island national park for quite some time. He asked me to be his assistant guide for the trip, which suited me fine. The date was set to the last weekend of September. A few weeks earlier we had a meeting with the participants to plan the trip. The trip would eventually have a total of 13 participants, including Esko and me.

The weather forecast looked fine, but the actual weather was rather depressingly gray and rainy when we started the 100 km car drive to our starting point at Kasnäs.

The rain stopped the minute we arrived and soon the sun peeked through the clouds, which was quite a relief. Of the three hours of paddling that it would take to get there, two hours would be after the sunset, which in cloudy weather would have meant real darkness. Now we could count on sufficient light for all but the final hour. We got started a little after six in the evening.


A group of thirteen is quite large, but I think the paddling went very well, with a nice even speed.

I've moved the pump to the foredeck, since it is less in the way of rescues that way.

There were still clouds in the sky.

My bike riding buddy Jarkko started kayaking in May.

The sunset, while not spectacular, still justified some photographing.

Kayaking with a Fury. The Polish Kayman kayaks have gained a foothold in Finland and seem to give a lot of kayak for the money,´.

After a short on-water break I took over the navigation.

Me. Photo by Jarkko Holopainen.

We paddled on and it got darker...

... and darker...

.. until it didn't get any darker. The full moon provided enough light for paddling and the feeling was magical.

We arrived at the correct beach at Örö after three hours and immediately put up the tents. It was now time for a late dinner and Esko, with whom I teamed up for the food, made a delicious salmon sauce with pasta. Photo by Jarkko Holopainen.

The night was warm and we had a lot of time the next morning. While I woke sometime around seven in the morning, I didn't get up until at least a half hour later. The morning was nice and sunny, though it didn't reach the tent area.

After breakfast Esko gave a short tour in the vicinity.

The exercise field and air strip was surrounded by trenches and gun nests, since it was clearly a place where the enemy could drop soldiers.

The exercise field was also home for some rare species, in this case the pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris). I wasn't really aware that it didn't exist in Finland, except for the very few plants on Örö, since I've seen it several times. It must have been in Sweden or Estonia, though.

A little after ten in the morning we paddled away for a little day trip.

Nice narrow passages in the nice archipelago southeast of Örö.

Rounding Grisselkobben next to Kuggskär.

A longer lunch break at Kuggskär.

Kuggskär was a really nice island with two small lakes.


Esko had this idea that the lake next to us was the southernmost one in Finland, so we naturally had to paddle on it. We carried my kayak there, since it was the lightest one. Esko started...

... and I was next. A closer check at home revealed that the other lake on Kuggskär would have been about 15 meters more to the south. There were also some ponds on Russarö outside Hanko more to the south, but this was still a cool thing to do. Photo by Jarkko Holopainen.

Nice cliffs on Kuggskär.

About 10 km to Bengtskär, which has the highest lighthouse in the Nordic countries.

Time to paddle back to Örö.

A selfie from fish perspective.

There was now a head wind of 7-8 m/s.

We got back and had afternoon coffee, before Esko took us on a guided tour to some military history sites on the island. In 1910, when Finland was still a part of Russia, the constructions to make Örö a fortress island were started. The location was strategically very important: Together with some other fortresses south of the Gulf of Finland it could prevent the Germans from entering the Gulf of Finland. The heavy 12 inch Obuhov guns, of which there were four in this battery, had a range of 45 km and were state of the art a hundred years ago.

Replacement barrel number 91, made in the Obuhov factory in St: Petersburg in 1914.

Almost 16 meter length and 50000 kg weight.

The gun in its housing.

There really is a lot to see on Örö, both in history and when it comes to the nature. It is definitely worth more visits. After this little tour we returned to the tent site...

... and started making dinner. It was now my turn and I prepared a Thai chicken curry.

Sunset and after that sauna.

Another beautiful full moon night.

The next morning it was Esko's turn to make breakfast, an excellent pancake with bacon and cheese, topped with maple syrup.

The wind was supposed to be around 7-8 m/s from nortwest and I went to check out the the waves on the west side of the island.

The easy choice would have been to take the east side of Örö back, since it would be totally sheltered from the wind. We still decided to take the west side, since we thought it would give more to everyone. The risk that someone would capsize was there, though it wasn't too big. A capsize would in no case have been dangerous, since it would only take a few minutes for the rescuee to be back in the kayak. It would be a little uncomfortable to get into the water without a drysuit, though, and in that case we would have had to land to get dry clothes on. The waves came almost straight from the side and everybody did fine. No pictures, though.

Arriving at the north end of Örö to check out some bunkers.

A seal observation?

End of the road.

Some fall colors at last.

Continuing. Jarkko was appointed to volunteer for navigation duty.

Time for lunch. The clouds were now getting darker and it didn't feel that warm anymore.


Not everyone felt it was cold.

Exactly a year with the Aquarius Sea Lion kayak.


The viola tricolor provides color from late spring to early fall.


The final stretch.

We were back at Kasnäs around four in the afternoon. When we started the car ride back home it started to rain...

This was a really nice trip to an interesting destination. Thanks to Esko for the guiding and to the participants for a fun trip.

Jarkko wrote a blog report in Finnish.