Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vigu white water canoeing course

It was finally time for the four day white water canoeing course, which I had looked much forward to. I knew pretty well what was to expected due to a video made from the same course a few years earlier. I expected to learn a lot and have lots of fun.

We started driving one of the Vigu vans from Turku at eight o'clock in the morning. Eight hours later we started to close in on Nurmijärvi a bit north of Lieksa.

Erästely has hosted the Vigu white water course for 19 years now. An old school building was to be our base camp for the next three nights.

We started with a little theory in the evening.

The next morning we got our gear and loaded the canoes onto the trailers, before driving to our starting point at Teljo at the Jongunjoki river in Kainuu.

The first task was to take a little swim. This served several purposes: To test that the drysuits were tight, to show that falling into the water is no big deal and to practice the right way to swim in white water.

And then we launched.

There was a lot of water in the river.

There are obviously a lot of beavers in the area.

My only selfie.

We soon encountered moving water.

The next one had to be scouted. Note the amount of water in the forest. There was even a little snow left.

Everyone got down without getting into the water.

An old fireplace a half meter under water.

Lunch break.

And then we continued.

A slight capsize.

We didn't just go down the rapids. We also practiced landing and launching from eddies, ferrying etc.

The final rapid of the day was Aittokoski, our first class II rapid. My canoe got down without problems, but of our ten canoes three capsized.

Done for the day.

Waiting in a shelter while some went to get the cars.

We got back sometime after eight in the evening. Time for sauna, swimming and dinner.

Our accomodation.

The next morning we started at Jonkerijärvi. The weather was nice.

Henrik and Virve, two of our three instructors.

High water.

Daphne mezereum, which I've only encountered a few times.

A beaver lodge.

Rain again.

Checking Kangaskoski, a class I+ rapid.

Yours truly in the first picture.

No problemos.

Some did however swim.
Lunch a the Kangasjärvi shelter. We had company by a reserve officer's guild on a canoeing trip. They had a slightly different approach. Of their seven canoes five had capsized and they spent three hours rescuing each other before arriving at the shelter. It is possible that the generous amount of alcohol they drank had something to do with it.

Common European adder, probably full of baby adders.

The next task was to swim through some white water.

This looked a bit nasty. Ellu got caught and could not get out of the vortex. The total time was probable less than a half minute before she grabbed the throw-line, but with the head mostly under water it looked rather unpleasant.

Kalliokoski was a class II rapid, which got a bit exciting when the canoe got filled with water. We didn't capsize, though. A spray deck would be in order when there is this much water in the rivers.

Nice paddling.

The final rapid of the day was Hiidenportti, class II+. It was quite interesting and slightly scary. About 80 m3 of water per second went through a rather narrow canyon. Tage did fine with a small canoe.

I went with Anna in the front of the canoe.

And straight into the rock. We managed to push out and continue without capsizing, though.

This was a bad place to capsize on.

Not capsizing was great fun, though.

After this we mostly had easy lake paddling to the landing place at Teljo. The rest of the evening went eating, being in the sauna and swimming.

The following morning we packed up everything and drove to Ruunaa and the Lieksanjoki river.

The task of the day was to practice at Neitikoski, which might be the best spot for freestyle paddling in Finland. With this water level, 170 m3 per second, it is a class II+ rapid. It consists of a big wave, followed be a series of progressively smaller ones. Capsizing takes you a good bit out in the lake.

It wasn't actually difficult to just paddle through it, but a spray deck would have been necessary. We stayed there for a few hours, practicing what we had learned the two previous days. The ultimate aim was to get the canoe to surf in the wave, which some smaller white water kayaks had no problems doing. The canoes, however, might have been too long for that, and the attempts inevitably resulted in capsizing.

After a capsize.

I paddled with Patric this time.

There was a slight miscommunication about when we were to continue.

Eventually we continued downstreams. The following rapid was Kattilakoski, class II. We stayed there for a while as well, practicing. This is the only thing that was to be avoided there.

The most fun rapid was Murrookoski, class II+. Our merry gang had a small briefing before going down.Yours truly the second from right.

My canoe got down early and I took some pictures.

Danni got down first and took pictures of everyone...

... including me and Patric.

The rest of the day was just the long Siikakoski, class II. We took the most out of this one going forwards, backwards, sideways and so on. Some people played so much they even capsized.


The next morning we again started with Neitikoski, to get some more practice.

Kattilakoski again.

I paddled with Alf this time.

Murrookoski again.

We had planned the first run to miss the first big wave, which would fill the canoe with water, and then go into the fun stuff, but we missed it slighty. Fortunately we got a new chance which went as we wanted after having ferried the canoes back up the rapid.

The second run. As can be seen from the smiles, everyone had fun.

Siikakoski again.

The final section saw everyone trying to capsize each other. A nice and wet end to the course.

Afterwards we had sauna at Ruunaa, before starting the 8.5 hour drive back home.

A intensive course was over. The concept has been honed for almost twenty years now and it really was excellent, with a good progression and lots of practice, going from zero to class II+ rapids. Thanks to the instructors and everyone else for lots of fun and lots of new stuff learned.

PS. The photos are of a lesser quality than usual, because of the lacking image quality of the waterproof Panasonic FT 4. I hope the documentary aspect justify using them.

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