Monday, September 29, 2014

First paddle

I had planned to go with Vigu course mate Anna on a kayaking overnighter to celebrate her finishing her new kayak, which she built entirely herself. For different reasons, the overnighter was changed into a day trip, but as an added bonus I had a new kayak myself, bought the day before.

While I've been quite satisfied with my Prijon Kodiak kayak for overnighters and longer trips, where it really excels, I've been checking out potential other kayaks now for two months. My interest is currently kayaks of the British style, since I want to learn the advanced techniques of that particular style, since it becomes increasingly clear to me that I will do my main specialisation of the Wilderness and Nature Guide studies in sea kayaking. While the Prijon Kodiak still is fairly nimble for its size with the rudder up and with no extra load, it is still a still more of a battle ship than ballet kayak. Hence I started looking at other alternatives. I tested a Seabird Scott HV, which I liked a lot. It was very manouverable and not too expensive, but it was a bit heavy and floated a bit high unloaded. The MV version could probably have been nice, but I didn't test it. Other interesting kayaks on paper was the Tahe Reval HV, which wasn't available in Finland and then a bunch of more expensive kayaks like the Valley Etain 17.7, Tiderace Xplore L and P&H Cetus HV. I tested sitting in the Cetus MV, but it was a bit short for my long legs. The HV version might have been ok.

I also started to think about getting as small a kayak as possible, for technique practice and such, and to keep the Prijon Kodiak for now when more load capacity was needed. I visited Bear&Water, the biggest kayaking shop in Finland, to check out more alternatives. The Valley Etain 17.7 wasn't really big enough for me. The knee braces were placed in the middle of my thighs, which was quite uncomfortable and the cockpit could have been a few cm longer to make it easier to get in with my long legs. I was then shown an Aquarius Sea Lion, from a less known Polish manufacturer. It is on paper a very tempting British style kayak: It is half the price of the expensive British kayaks and with a kevlar/carbon construction very light, around 22-23 kg, which is a definite advantage. It is about the smallest volume kayak that I can get into, but there was plenty of space for my legs. I could get my legs after having seated with some difficulty and a few cm of cockpit length would have been nice, but it seemed very nice and I bought it. A first short test paddle was very encouraging.

I took the car with both our kayaks and Anna to Granvik, which in the relative hard wind was a good starting point.

Ready to leave.

Anna's exciting first moments in her new kayak, which she had spent almost a year building.

And off we went.

A short break after an hour, sheltered from the strong wind by an island.

It took some time to get to know the kayaks, and Anna was also new to the Greenland paddle,
My new kayak felt a lot more lively than the Prijon Kodiak. With a width of 52 cm compare to the 59 cm of the Kodiak it was also a lot less stable.

Anna seems happy.

Closing in on our lunch site, Trollö.

The sunny side was to windy and exposed to land on.

Lunch time.

After lunch we went looking for a Giant's kettle, which Anna's map showed with a precision of a kilometer or so. I had a marine chart, which showed almost nothing of what's on land. We failed to find it, but some late chanterelles compensated for it.

I think the Sea Lion is a quite good looking kayak.

Proudly made in Poland.

This one is proudly made in Finland by Anna. It is an East Greenland style kayak, the design is a Hunter by Björn Thomasson. The woodstrip construction method makes a beautiful kayak, while being strong and light (< 20 kg).

The seat design is very nice and interesting. It is made form carbon fibre and fits tight against the hull, thereby minimizing the amount of water that can enter in case of a capsize. The knee braces seem a bit aggressive, but they can be reduced if needed.

Back on water.
Anna tries out some stuff.

It was fun to test my kayak as well. I think it manouvers really well. A bow rudder with some edging really had effect, as opposed to in the Kodiak. When going about 45 degrees against the wind I noticed that having the skeg suitably engaged, I could turn the boat but simply leaning forward and backwards. Leaning forward puts more weight on the front, which then is tighter in the water, while the wind affects the stern. And vice versa.

Paddling back with tail wind this time. The waves were not big enough to give any real surfs, though.

Some pictures of yours truly by Anna.

Almost back after 20 km.

We put away some stuff like mobile phones and headgear, before doing the first rolls with the kayaks. Anna waits for the water to get warmer. Or something.

She decided to show how nice the bottom side of the kayak is.

And there it is. The first roll with the new kayak.

My turn (photos by Anna).

That's it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A late summer kayaking weekend

I really got into kayaking again this summer after a long break, so it felt natural to join the local paddling club, Saaristomeren Melojat, to get in touch with more people doing kayaking. The club arranges trips and courses and an interesting one that also fit my schedule was to take place in the middle of September. I got in touch with Kristian, who arranged the trip and he interviewed me by phone to see how I would fit into the trip. A useful thing for a guide to do, though the final truth is revealed on water. The trip promised fall weather, paddling in the darkness and maybe bigger waves.

We met at the paddling club to pack everything into and onto cars, and then drove the 40 km to Granvik, where we got ready for the water.

At six o'clock we were ready to leave. There were fourteen of us, including Kristian and assistant guide Olli-Pekka. With around two hours until sunset and around 13 km to the planned destination we were a bit ahead of schedule, putting the darkness paddling into jeopardy.

Some instructions before the darkness paddling. We were all assigned a number between one and fourteen, enabling a quick check that everybody is still with the group.

It did get darker.

And darker. The route was lengthened a bit with a section that lacked all navigational lights.

We arrived at a small island a little south of Pensar around ten in the evening. Everybody just erected their tents and soon went to sleep. I had a place in Esko's tent, but opted to sleep in an open place in my bivy bag. The night was a little cloudy at first, but later the clouds disappeared to reveal the near full moon.

The next morning was foggy and the bivy bag was wet from dew.

My spot. I had a bug net hanging from the tripod, since there were some late mosquitoes out.

No more porridge for me. An excellent breakfast with Putin cheese spread. (Because of the sanctions against Russia and countersanctions, we have some products originally intended for Russian export in our food markets.)

Some other tent spots.

Ramaria flava, When I was a kid, this was mentioned as a tasty mushroom, but nowadays it is considered edible, but not much more.

The landing place.

The rowan leaves had some small spots of red...

... but we soon started to suspect that this was not fall trip at all. The sea campion was still in bloom.

Planning the route of the day.

The ducks were loaded and we got going at around eleven in the morning.

By now most of us had accepted that it was indeed summer and paddled in short sleeved shirts, but Kristian persisted.

Lunch break a few kilometers southwest of Gullkrona.

I settled for a salad.

Summer indeed.

Viola tricolor.

On the move again.

Generally this is the mark that you should avoid, but with a kayak it doesn't make a difference.

Riitta studies the map.

A short break just north of Fur-Birskär. Just before that I actually paddled onto a water snake, or rather it swimmed into the side of the kayak.

The last leg of the day.


Arriving at Mellanlandet, a nice island for the night. 23 km was the distance of the day,

Though I've been contemplating switching to a more agile British style kayak, the Prijon Kodiak really is excellent for kayak touring, It has lots of room, big hatches that make loading the gear easy, it is both stable and quite fast and the material is bombproof.

Chili con carne for dinner.

Dinner time for everyone.

A nice evening.

This belongs to the plants I really don't know and as I have understood it is somewhat difficult to determine the exact species.

Click to see the panoramas in a bigger format.

Sea mayweed.

Another tent group.

Just a few more pictures of the evening.

Time for an evening gathering. The ducks have their own pond.

Evening gymnastics.

The evening was nice, but there were also a lot of mosquitoes out, and I happily retired to my bivy after some photography. I still stayed awake for a while and woke quite often to check for Northern Lights. A fair chance of auroras was forecasted and I had a unobstructed view to the north, but nothing appeared.

The night again saw moonshine. For some reason there was no morning fog, even though there was even more dew this night.

Purple loosestrife

The famous levitating islands of the Archipelago Sea,

My DIY wine bag pillow started leaking after a little under four years and maybe 120 nights out. I guess I'll have to buy some wine then.

The bivy bag protected from the dew, but the quilt still collected some moisture from inside.

Sebastian makes breakfast.

More sea mayweed.

Kristian got the dishes again.

Anyone know this little bug?

Morning briefing.

Common jellyfish.

Paddling again.


Lunch break at Högland.

A view back at Mellanlandet in the middle of the picture.

Paddling back towards Granvik.

A slight navigation dispute.

The last bit was again in the inner archipelago.

Some final games or exercises. The duck shows if you move your head too much when paddling.

Back at Granvik after 14 km.

This was an excellent trip in good company. Thanks to all the participants and especially Kristian and Olli-Pekka.