Tuesday, May 9, 2017

NIL Sea Kayaking Gathering at Brännskär

A bit of a radio silence here in the blog, not because I'm not doing anything, but rather because I've been fairly active. Several weekends have been spent on a cycling guide course, first aid course and so on. In addition, I've also been fairly active on my mountain bikes.

Last weekend the first annual (?) NIL member gathering took place at Brännskär in Nagu. NIL (from Nordic Instructor License) is an education and certification organisation active in Finland and Sweden. The curriculum is originally inspired by the British Canoeing or BC (formerly British Canoe Union or BCU) system, though it is heavily modified to suit the rather different conditions in Sweden and Finland. I took my NIL Sea Kayaking Guide exam last year in September. In BCU terms this would most closely correspond to the Four Star Leader Award, which might or might not be something like Moderate Water Leader or Guide in the new BC system. The BCU system was rather confusing earlier, and the new BC system does nothing to clarify the picture.

Anyway, we met at Kirjais on Friday evening and paddled the short bit to the Brännskär island.


For some reason, the instructors always have a tendency to capsize. It happened this time as well, and they thought we didn't act fast enough. A fair point per se, with a temperature of about 5°C in the water.

Our landing beach at Brännskär.

First order of business, food.

Then some relaxation, sauna and talking around a fire. From the left, Eva-Lotta, Anssi and Mika, three of the foremost kayak instructors in Finland. This gathering was arranged by Anssi and Mika.

A nice evening.

Some people slept indoors, some in hammock, some in a laavu and a few, including me, in tents. The morning was quite nice.

During the evening the few remaining participants arrived, giving a total of 18 paddlers. We all had an excellent breakfast at the Brännskär cafeteria, served by Living Archipelago.

The spring is usually delayed a little in the archipelago, but not this time.

Starting the exercises, after first having informed the SAR authorities. No use causing a false alarm.

I don't remember what problem was simulated here, but Jukka got weaker and could not paddle. He was towed with support from two kayaks and of course got the storm cag on him to keep him warm. Second picture by Anu Holm, with me in the background.



We got him ashore before he lost consciousness and kept him stable and warm until the simulated helicopter arrived.

My turn to lead the pack. For some incomprehensible reason, half of us lost the paddles and we had to rely on spare paddles, half a paddle per person.

Simo got a simulated panic and capsized one rescuer before he was dragged ashore.

In this cold water, the preferred rescue technique was to first take the rescuee on the rescuers back deck, to get him or her out of the cold water before proceeding with emptying the kayak and the rest.

I seem to be having fun. Picture by Anu Holm.

Some maneuvering and short towing exercises.


In Finland, you can easily land almost anywhere. Obviously there is no reason to do that, however, instead landing on more difficult spots is fun, or at least a good exercise. At least this time we didn't have to swim ashore and drag the kayaks after us.

Lunch break.


Kayak parking place.


Paddling again.

Simulated incidents followed for the rest of the day. I cut my hand hand open, we had hypertermia, leaking kayaks, hypotermia and a heart attack.

We also found ourselves on an island from which an ordinary launch was impossible and it had to be done by getting the kayaks into the water and then doing a reentry, as shown by Simo here.

We were back around a little after four in the afternoon. The next program was an excellent dinner at the cafeteria, followed by discussions and sauna for those who wanted it.

The next night was clearly colder, as was the morning. We again had breakfast at the cafeteria.


The topic of Sunday was instructing others. We had been divided into groups and been given a topic. The aim was to learn from each other, with only minimal input from the instructors.



After a number of sessions, with lunch in between, it was time to head back to Kirjais.

A fun, inspiring and instructive weekend was over. Thanks to everyone for the company and special thanks to Anssi and Mika for arranging it. Hopefully it becomes an annual event.





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