Monday, May 25, 2020

Real whitewater with the packraft

I finally got to try some whitewater with my packraft.

Caj Koskinen asked again if I could join a trip to the Kymi river some 300 km from Turku. I decided to give it a shot, trying a solution to protect my left ear, which mustn't get water in it. We drove to a shelter at Kymijoki and arrived late on Friday evening.

On Saturday we drove a short bit to the Pernoonkosket rapids, pumped up the packrafts and got going, first paddling a bit upstreams to start at the Myllykoski rapids. I have done very little real whitewater stuff (class II) in my life, so this was a bit exiting. While I had no actual fear, having done quite big water in my sea kayaking guide education, real whitewater was still a new element for me. The first runs were a bit tense, but I got down quite well. It was maybe the fifth run when I tried to take the waves more from the side and then I of course capsized. The self rescue didn't go well. I had trained it with the much thinner Astra V-Eight PFD I have, but the more bulky Palm Kaikoura, which has never caused any problems with a sea kayak reentry, proved too difficult. It is a whitewater capable PFD with a buoyancy of 75 N, but it is also very bulky in the front. I got up with some help stabilizing the packraft, but this is something I have to work on. A few more runs went well, until I capsized during a ferry through some bigger waves, again when I entered a wave sideways. After a few hours we went down, training eddies in and out and other stuff. Our lunch place was at the Sittaränni rapids, which I went down without having looked at a line one of the other had done. It felt quite chaotic.

Here is a short mobile phone clip with Caj going down Sittaränni.

After lunch we concentrated on the Sittaränni rapids. After a while I felt I could relax quite well, and while I didn't have much control over the direction I felt I had control over the packraft. The next excellent pictures of me are taken by Katja Koskinen.

 Caj Koskinen in the background.

Eventually the whitewater fun ended, you cannot do it for too long, since it does take a lot of energy. We continued back to the shelter and had a nice evening there. On Sunday morning we packed everything into the car and drove to the Pernoonkosket rapids again, for a few hours of packrafting before driving back home.

It took a few runs, but I did again manage to relax quite well. A short clip filmed with a GoPro on my helmet follows:

And thats it. In the afternoon we drove back home. This was an excellent introduction to whitewater paddling by Caj and Katja Koskinen, many thanks for that!

The packraft (MRS Alligator 2S Pro XXL) felt good in the rapids, though I wouldn't be able to tell how it compares to other packrafts. The model is used in whitewater by some very skilled people, so I guess it should be good. I did manage to tear a hole in the inflatable backrest, probably during a rescue, and from Saturday lunch onwards I didn't have backrest. I've had a sea kayak without a back band, so I'm to some extent used to it, but I do prefer some support for the lower back and I think it gives you a little more control and it also makes for a very comfortable seating position. The Alpacka rafts the other used had a kayak style solid back band, which I think is a better solution. A replacement backrest is already on the way, so I'll have to see how that one holds up.

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