Saturday, June 15, 2019

Achipelago Sea All Night Long

Sometimes you get assignments that you simply cannot refuse. I do sea kayak guiding for Benjamin Donner's company Aavameri Sea Kayaking, and got a question if I would be interested in something a little more unusual.

The first idea would have involved fatbiking as well, which I do have quite a lot of experience in, but it soon was refined into a longer through-the-night kayaking trip in the Archipelago Sea. An English adventurer/writer/endurance athlete, henceforth F, wanted to do something like this, even though he had never been in a sea kayak before.

The planned date was somewhat suboptimal for me, but we went ahead anyway. On Thursday morning I arrived home in Turku with the morning ferry from Stockholm, where I had been on a two day vacation with the family. I didn't sleep well on the ferry and my back was already stiff from having carried a big backpack for two days. I also had to go to my real work and check out the situation there. I still managed to get ready without being more than five minutes late and picked F upp from the train station. A little after six in the afternoon we arrived at our starting point in Granvik and a little later started paddling.

Based on the background information I didn't doubt that F wouldn't have the strength and endurance to do this, and I mostly gave some pointers about correct technique and tried to see that he didn't do anything terribly wrong, which could cause problem later. The beginning was a bit slow, but otherwise everything looked fine. And it looked it would be a fine evening.

A first break at Knapulön, just to stretch the legs.

We continued a little south to Duvholm.

It was a beautiful evening, and the wind was well below the forecasted 5-6 m/s.

I had planned a route which would be at least 60 km, with possibility to lengthen it to almost 90 km, which I deemed would be enough.

 The sunset was of course to be observed from a nice place along with a dinner and we arrived to Järvskär Mellanlandet in perfect time for this.

This time of the year is perhaps the best one for archipelago flora, though we focused more on birds this time. It turned out that F was quite interested in birds and I noticed some gaps my English vocabulary here. In addition to the seabirds, like gulls, mergansers, eiders, several species of geese, golden eye etc, we heard a trush nightingale on Mellanlandet.

The sun set at 22:40, but we were in no hurry and went up to the highest point of the island to enjoy the view.

Around midnight we started paddling again.

It did become a little darker, to the point that it wasn't possible to read any names on the sea chart.

The darkest period should have been around 01:20, but it seemed like it was a bit earlier, probably due to clouds. We went east from Mellanlandet towards Högland, but turned south after a while. It turned out that my compass light was a bit weak and I couldn't see the course with enough accuracy, which gave an error of about 1 km on the 8 km stretch, and we came to Helsingholmen instead of Sandön. Part of the reason was also that when I thought I saw Sandön, there were some peculiar lights, that shouldn't have been there and I wanted to check them out.  When we closed in it was clear that it wasn't Sandön, so we just turned straight east to get us where we wanted.

We had a one hour break at Sandön, keeping quiet in order not to disturb people sleeping on the sail boat anchored just outside the beach. Hot chocolate and cheese sandwhiches gave energy. When we continued there was clearly more light.

We continued towards south and planned the next break on Högsåra. At one point there was lightning and thunder about 15 km away and the clouds had a peculiar color.

The sun rose again a little over four in the morning.

Occasionally we noticed a bit harder wind, but we still had shelter from Högsåra.

A short break on the southwest point of Högsåra. At this point we heard a black grouse, which I thought was a little late in the season.

The next leg was 13 km stretch to Örö, where I planned to make morning coffee, in an increasing head wind. At one point I even had some problems keeping up with F, as he muscled through the wind. I tried, and managed, to keep a good technique that would allow me to go for many hours still. Seals were singing not to far away.

We had our morning coffee and breakfast at the north tip of Örö around halv past seven. At this point F thought that there was no need to lengthen the route. The morning was nice and F had a duet between a common whitethrout and the same sound from his smartphone.

Eventually we started paddling again and were in no hurry with the last 8 km stretch to Rosala, where we arrived at eleven in the morning.

We were welcomed by Paul Wilson of the Rosala Viking Centre, where we first started with a sauna, after which we had an excellent viking style lunch in the Chieftain's hall. This is a place well worth visiting and it is built on the place of a viking age marketplace.

A few hours later we took the ferry back to the mainland for our ride back to Turku.

And that's it. A really excellent little kayaking trip with paddling through the night. We had longish breaks and headwind in the morning, and therefore only paddled 61 km (I've once paddled 100 km on a all night long paddle in Ostrobothnia in about the same time). This was still a very nice experience.

The next night I slept for a solid ten hours, and actually didn't feel anything in my muscles from the trip, except for the back which definitely hadn't become any less stiff. I had another kayaking job that day and a shorter paddling trip loosened all the tensions in the lower back. I felt great.

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