Sunday, August 19, 2018

A kayaking course at the Archipelago Sea

Last week I spent five days at the sea, with a Vigu specialization course in sea kayaking. It was really nice to participate in a Vigu course again, though this time it was as an instructor, since I graduated from the school last spring.

We started from Pärnäs in the late afternoon, a bit late to actually have time to get to the place I would have preferred. Packing the kayaks was a challenge, since everyone had plenty of food for the extremely prestigious kayak cooking championship.

Some headwind at first, but we soon got shelter.


Since we were a little late there was some trouble finding a tent spot for the night, but I think we got a perfectly reasonable one. Ideally, I would like to be able to see the sunset at the horizon, but that isn't always doable.

The landing itself, while not the easiest possible, had some entertainment value.

Then it was time for dinner and going to sleep. The next morning had some thunder in the distance, but that weather passed a bit west from our position.


The point of the course was to train leadership, in addition to paddling and touring techniques. Each day one tent group had the responsibility for everything, with me following and giving feedback (and instructions). We again had mostly a headwind of up to 8 m/s.

We almost immediately got the chance to practice towing, due to one participant getting a beginning wrist tendonitis.


The ready-made goulash soup was quite ok.


We continued for less than two hours, before arriving at a suitable tent spot for the night. We set up camp and then went paddling again to train some paddling techniques in the wind, since there clearly was some need for that, considering the weather forecast.

There were some accidental capsizes,but everyone had trained rescues quite a bit.

Maneuvering techniques.

Quick tow out from danger.

Back in shelter we had some more techniques and roll training.

A typical example of the head coming up much too soon and the paddle sinking. This roll probably failed.

And after that it was time for the cooking championship. Some people took it easy and trusted their preparation or talent...

... while other were more busy.

The first team. Cocktail sticks for appetizer, fried potatoes with minced chicken in Bearnaise sauce as the main course and a chocolate drink with mint liquor for dessert. And, yes, the water meloon had found space in a kayak.

The second team. A really excellent mushroom soup with rye bread for appetizer, tortillas with a vegetables for main course and ananas and bananas with chocolate fondue for dessert. It was immediately clear that this was one of the strongest contestants.

The third team had hamburgers with chickpea "beef", excellent potatoe salad and a apple/oat stirfry with vanilla sauce for dessert.

The fourth group had a really good toast for appetizer, but nothing more and hence had no chance in the competition.

The chocolate and mint liquor dessert in the making.

The second team took a clear victory.

A good dinner is no reason to skip the plank challenge. You can even eat at the same time.

The camping spot was quite nice in that it had a good view to the north, but the sun set behind an island and not above water. The night was almost intolerably hot and the temperature probably didn't sink below 22° C. I didn't have a sleeping bag, but even the thin silk liner was too much.

The next morning.

The weather forecast for the day was interesting. There was a good chance for a thunderstorm, in which case you don't want to be on the water. It was also clear that the wind would be fairly hard and it would be mostly headwind and some sidewind from the right. I wanted to go to a certain place, to have the option to send one participant back with the ferry from Aspö, in case the tendonitis would get worse. Towing for three full days isn't really fair against the group in my opinion, if there is an easy way to avoid it. All this set some challenges for the group leading the day.

Shelter from the wind at first.

A short break before starting the 4 km crossing. One of the military (?) leading beacons has fallen victim to the weather.

Constant checking of the weather in case the forecasted thunder would appear.

The first crossing went well, but very slowly. The wind was probably still a little under 10 m/s, but clearly more in the gusts.

Lunch break at Ormskär.

During the lunch we checked the weather forecast. It was almost certain that the thunder would come upon us, so we erected the tents to wait it out.

It did rain, but no signs or sounds of thunder.

At four in the afternoon we started again (despite some protests), for the last crossing of around 3 km, if we would go straight.

 The wind was now probably around 12 m/s with a lot more in the gusts. The waves a little under one meter, but some waves were clearly higher than that.

 We had one capsize about a third into the crossing. The rescue went swiftly and the water was warm, but I did reconsider the situation. This was clearly quite close to the limit for this group, but I couldn't find a reasonable scenario that would have caused any real danger and we continued without any further incidents.

The crossing took about an hour and we then continued to look for a tent spot in the sheltered archipelago. I rejected a first suggestion, since I do think one should have certain criteria. The next reasonable place was a bit more exposed, but there wasn't much to choose from.

The tent spot did have a 180 degree view towards the north and the sunset could be seen.

I had my tent on a more exposed place with a good view and in the middle of the night the wind turned and started to come into the tent, through the open side. It was nice to be able to use the silk liner and even longjohns. I'm not into hot weather...

Breakfast in the making.

One of the first comments from today's leader group: Are we really going out in that weather?

We did go out and had a fairly short section to try it out in, after which there would have been a bailout route if needed.

There was less wind and waves than the day before, but it came mostly from behind, which is more difficult. No capsizes, though.

A short break.

Rafael, who is a good paddler, got some more liberties to play in the waves.

Lunch break.

Some rather eventless paddling to back to the inner archipelago.

We found a reasonable place and set camp there, after which we did another technique session.

And then there was the plank challenge. Markus didn't think it was a challenge to do it on land.

My intention was to make a yellow curry with chicken, but I had so much vegetables left that I left the chicken out. Quite good actually.

A nice evening.

The weather forecast once again had a doomsday feeling, and during the night there actually was a thunderstorm passing south of us. I could see the horizon from my tent and there was quite a lightshow there. Fairly far from us, though, but after that it started to rain and I had to close the tent.

It rained during the morning, but stopped just before we started packing the kayaks. After a while the sun appeared.

During the 8 km route back to Pärnäs I analyzed and gave feedback to everyone's forward paddling technique. For most of the participants that needs work, in order to get up the speed and distance. And then there was the NIL special exercise.

Looking back, we decided to skip an extra technique session and just head back, in the hope of packing away everything before the rain would arrive. We managed just in time.

A fun week, and I do feel that most of the participants learned something.

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