Monday, June 20, 2016

The Vigu Sea Kayaking Guide Course Pt. 4/6

Two weeks ago it was time for the fourth part of the sea kayaking guide course, six days at the Archipelago Sea. It was a very welcome respite from the rather intense and stressful pace at work. For this course we had Niclas Perander, a very skilled kayaker and kayak builder, as our instructor.

We gathered at Pärnäs and had a quick lunch before starting paddling at noon. The weather was sunny and nice, but better training conditions where forecasted.

A carrot leash, one of many essential pieces of kayaking equipment.

The archipelago starts to open up.

After a little over 16 uneventful kilometers we arrived at Konungskär, where we would spend the night. The first order of business was dinner. (First photo by Anna-Maria Bühler).

The evening was a nice one.

I slept very poorly during the night and it became clear that I had caught a cold. It's not entirely unusual to get sick when you quickly relax after a longer period of much stress. I had actually felt sick a few evenings the week before, but the sickness was obviously kept in control by the stress level.

I got up a little before seven. Alf had already had his first dose of coffee and relaxed with a book. Our team (me, Alf and Anna) had agreed that we weren't allowed to get up before six in the morning.

The next day continued with nice weather and uneventful paddling through a nice archipelago.

Anna's new kayak, a Björn Thomasson Frej in plywood. It was the second kayak she had built.

A short break at Brunskär to ponder our options. It was clear that we couldn't do the planned route with the rather low speed we had now.

We decided to shorten the route and instead opted to go to Besaskär for lunch.

After lunch we headed for Långlandet, about 12 km mostly in southern direction.

Anna's kayak is named "Bitch" and it has attitude.

We did of course have some rescue exercises along the way. Especially our instructor seemed to have difficulties staying in the kayak.

Just before the final stretch I held the pace for 2 km at a speed of 8 km/h. Despite being sick I didn't find this too hard, but not everybody was able to keep the pace. It just seems that some people have a harder time learning to paddle fast and efficiently, something which I've noticed earlier as well.

When we arrived after 25 km Nicke announced that it was time for the extremely prestigious kayaking cooking competition. Dinner was to be ready at nine in the evening.

The first team made a vegetable Thai curry with rice and bread cheese cooked in coconut milk served with cloudberry jam for dessert.

My team would have needed an advanced notice of the competition, to allow the dried beef to be marinated in red wine for at least six hours. We had to improvise and made a starter with tomato, mozzarella and basil with balsamico, avocado pasta for main course and strawberries with whipped cream for dessert.

The winner was the third team, with salmon pizza for starter, an Indian lens stew for main course and a cheese cake with peach for dessert.

Nicke made fennel caramelized in orange juice, eaten with raw rice. Quite creative and tasty, but he was more than 30 minutes late.

We had to wait even longer for the final group, but the waiting was easy with lots of food and wine.

The result was a nice tortilla meal with a fresh chocolate cookie for dessert.

We saved all desserts for last.

Time to sleep.

During the night the weather changed and we were finally getting the training conditions our instructor had hoped for. It rained a little during the night and morning, but stopped when we got going.

The plan was to surf to Jurmo, about 13 km away. The wind was to be around 12-15 m/s and more in the gusts. This promised to be fun.

The first part was easy with strong wind and no waves.

At some point the waves started to grow and even came from slightly different directions. Nicke noticed that the one of the teams started to go around an island in the wrong side and went after them.

I didn't have any problems at all, but had to hold back to stay with my group. Surfing would have given excellent speed, but with some amount of risk.

The waves were about one meter, with some occasional higher ones. I've been in worse with a less stable kayak...

... but for some it was well beyond their comfort zone, which had us land on a small island and change plans.

When not actively paddling I felt quite sick with fever and a horrible headache and had great difficulty keeping my warmth. Since Jurmo was now out of the question, we decided to go east towards Aspö. This would have the wind and waves mostly from the side, a little turned towards headwind. The stronger paddlers were set up to tow the weaker paddlers, mostly to help keeping the course. I wasn't allowed to tow because I was sick and got navigation duties instead.

A short respite from the waves, but not the wind.

Going back out.

Arriving at our lunch place, Gråharu.

When the paddling and the focus stopped I felt really cold and sick from the fever and spent most of the lunch break shivering in my quilt. Photo by Anna-Maria Bühler.

The final stretch.

Good training conditions indeed.

Annika towed Åsa and both ended up on a cliff. Åsa got out and I managed to release the tow line from her kayak, but Annika got out of the kayak and Nick performed a rescue.

We arrived at Aspö after only making 9 km that day. The wind was quite hard, though.

Relaxing and some theory.

The others went to the sauna, but I opted to sleep for one and a half hours instead. After that I felt good enough to join the others for dinner. Our team made pizza, which was quite delicious.

All in all, this day was quite a confidence booster for me. I could stay relaxed in the wind and waves (the kayak is excellent in these conditions) and had no problems to paddle powerfully even though I was sick with a fever, though it needed some amount of focusing.

I slept very well during the night and felt better in the morning, but I wasn't allowed to join the others for the rescue training in the hard wind. Nicke made that good decision for me. I would have had trouble making it myself...

The others went out training...

... while I took a stroll on the island. This would have been an inviting tent place.

I found the place where Jarmo, a fatbike and kayaking acquiantance, lived for a full year in a Tentipi with his girlfriend. (Read about it here).

A sunny place, the wild strawberries were already ripe.

Lots of rowan blooming this year.

Some more pictures from Aspö.

A local inhabitant.

Lesser butterfly-orchid.

The church of Aspö.

I had time to sleep for two hours before the others returned, after we had lunch and they had a nap.

In the afternoon we went out for some technique training in the wind.

I still look a little sick.

Ok, we won't use the asparagus for dinner.

The dinner was excellent and the beef marinated in red wine delicious.

The next day my group would take the lead. (The course is as much about leadership as it is about actual techniques). We had a longer day planned, for training purposes. The first stretch would take us from Aspö to Fårö.

My kayak at Fårö. The Arrow Play HV is an excellent kayak, in my opinion perfect for me, functionalitywise. It it stable also in hard weather, very manouverable, fast enough, fun and has room for enough gear. Unfortunately, after just six months mine is developing too many cracks. I'm hoping the manufacturer comes through, since this one is clearly from a bad batch or something.

Magnus and Åsa are practicing an ancient cormorant technique for drying their wi..arms.

Shallow waters.

The next stretch took a nice route...

... to Långören, where we had lunch.

After lunch we made the crossing leading to the line of islands leading to Jurmo.

Afternoon coffee at Jurmo. We would now decide whether to stay at Jurmo or continue to Utö. Somewhat surprisingly, almost everyone wanted to go to Utö, even though it we would get there quite late. Not what we as the leaders wanted to hear, but when we presented an alternative it got more support after all. Hence we ended up exploring the waters around Jurmo.

A short break at Sandvik Harun, which has become a favorite of mine,



Still shallow.

Rounding the western tip of Jurmo.

Relaxed paddling the last stretch.

The remaining group (three left at Aspö).


The final night had our tent starting to look at the watch around 4:30 in the morning. At six we were finally allowed to get up. I took my stuff with me to the hill on Jurmo and enjoyed my morning coffee there.

A little before ten in the morning the ferry back to Pärnäs arrived and we got onboard, for some final discussions. In the afternoon the course was over.

A very nice course, where I again learned a lot. Thanks to the instructor and the participants for a fun week,.

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