The best of summer 2014

“Not another photo gallery?”  You may question.

Yes, Yes! It’s another photo gallery!

During the summer of 2014 I did A LOT of paddling, more than ever before! As a result I spent a LOT of time on the water, in a kayak, and yes, paddling! As a result I got to visit and see lotsa nice, cool, awesome looking places. If you haven’t guessed it by now, I did take a bunch of pictures while I was at it!

These pictures were taken along the coast of Finland, between Virojoki and Tornio,  one place or another…


Archipelago National Park 2015

Right after the Åland paddling trip, I went on a shorter paddling trip with Marko who wanted to try out his sealegs, in the Archipelago National Park.  The nature of this trip was to take it easy and get the sense and feel of the sea.

The rough route of the trip went as follows: Parainen ferry landing-Paraisten portti – Högland – Sandö – Högsåra – Tunnhamn – Yxskären – Vänö – Örö – Häran – Bötskäret – Hangonkylä.

Apart from the first day the weather was grey, drab, rainy and windy. So  pretty typical of the time and location in question. However I was able to get some decent pictures of the overall trip.

Kayak Sailing is FUN !!!

Sail vs. non-sail... which one looks like a "cool cruiser" ;)
Sail vs. non-sail… which one looks like a “cool cruiser” ?  😉

Now  be honest! Have you ever fantasized, in a following wind, under a heavy load , somehow .. harnessing that wonderful wind to help you get along….? Now don’t lie! I suspect EVERY sea kayaker has in one point or another thought like this. 😀

Springtime 2015 I found myself trying out something completely new. GnarlyDog  convinced me to give kayak sailing a try. Uptil now I’d only tried using windpaddle sail briefly, but did not like the concept at all as it is strictly downwind sailing and while it does not require a rudder equipped kayak, it works better with one… And I’m not going to install a rudder on my kayaks. End of discussion! Also it ties ones hands to operating the sail…

First time kayak sailor getting the hang of it! :D Lake Vanaja, Finland
First time kayak sailor getting the hang of it! After about 45 minutes 😀 Lake Vanaja, Finland

Gnarly suggested  SeaDog Sails, whom I contacted and some weeks later I received my first SeaDog Sail ! Its been fun ever since! It was early may 2015 when I was able to go out and start learning to use the sail.

About the sail, it is surprisingly smart set up. Contrary to common beliefs it DOES not require a rudder for installation! A skeg would be nice to have but basicly one can sail decently without a skeg installed, however here one will need to use corrective strokes or a paddle rudder quite often. That said I will be retrofitting a skeg in all of my kayaks!

Vortex and Whisper with Instaled with SeaDog Sails
Vortex and Whisper installed with SeaDog Sails. Sails are “up”

The sail basicly operates as follows: When you want to sail. You release it from “Stowed on deck” configuration, pop  the mast into its “mast up” configuration, cleat the up haul line and “Voila” ready to sail! If the going gets rough or you need to go into the wind, then you reverse the previously described operation and your kayak is back in its “pure kayak – mast down” mode. Quite simple! With a little practice each operation takes  no-more than 5-7 seconds to perform.

High wind testing and learning. This was Markos (orange kayak) second time out kayak sailing!!! No he didn't swim
High wind testing and learning. This was Markos (orange kayak) second time out kayak sailing!!! No he didn’t swim

While under sail, one can still use the paddle for correcting strokes, stern rudder or bracing… or not! So the sail does not tie the hands while sailing. Only during mast uphaul or downhaul, and tweaking the sail angle with the cam-cleat,  ones’ hands will be doing other than paddling. This last feature is one of my favourites!

Peacefully coasting along autumn 2015, Lake saimaa, Finland
Peacefully ghosting along autumn 2015, Lake saimaa, Finland

Another misconception is that this sail is purely for downwind sailing. Not true!  Depending on the sail set up,  kayak configuration and your sailing skills one can sail beam reach and perhaps even close reach. My rough best estimate has been to sail maybe 25 degrees into the wind, on a sharply chined kayak and quite a bit of edging…

However there are some little requirements or rather common sense suggestions before one should start installing a sail on ones kayak!

  1. One should be a confident and able kayaker. Minimum requirement (in my mind ) for kayak sailing is that one should be able to do self rescues, braces + some kind of eskimo roll. I haven’t had to do a single roll or self rescue under sail, but the fact that I know I can perform these gives me all the more confidence to handle the kayak under sail… me hopes ! 😉
  2. Some understanding about the concept of sailing comes handy.. though starting with light winds and  an instructor close-by one can be self taught quite quickly to kayak sail! I’ve had two “experimental students” to test this claim and both are still alive and breathing and in friendly terms with me.. 😉
Punching thru.. Lake Vanaja, Finland
Punching thru.. Lake Vanaja, Finland

While kayak sailing isn’t for the first or second time, “beginner” kayaker it does open a whole new world for the more experienced confident kayaker- A world of fun if nothing else!

At the writing of this I have logged some 360 kms with sail, of which approximately half have been under touring/expedition conditions. Most if not every km has been either fun or educational and thus very interesting! Introducing the sailing concept into kayaking also opens the world of sailing and wind in a new way to the kayaker.

I will not dwell into sail installation in this post, that will come later. However there are a couple of excellent blogs that covers sail installation: Douglas Wilcox’s site and  GnarlyDog News

Contrary to common beliefs.. A kayak sail will not make the kayak go faster! Well THAT fast.  Usually the defining factor is the maximum hull speed. But it does help make the kayak go at hull speed with minimal paddling! Going above hull speed will require high winds and following seas.. and that while is FUN as anything, it does add certain risks. I’ve usually been able to clock 9-11 km/h in winds of  approx 10m/s. This wind speed I have found to be the maximum safe wind speed. Any higher than 10 m/s one needs to be on ones toes, alert, awake and accept the fact of a cold bath.  I think the strongest winds I’ve encountered and still stay upright was in the 14 m/s range. The highest speeds that my GPS have logged momentarily under sail, high winds+following waves have been 16.4km/h and 17 km/h. This was with the Guillemot Expedition Single without any load.

Coasting along in a light to moderate breeze. Lake Saimaa, Finland
Coasting along in a light to moderate breeze. SeaDog Commander installed on the Guillemot Expedition Single Lake Vanaja, Finland

Under full expedition load I have been able to coast along at 6-7.5 km/h in a run or a broad reach, using the paddle as a rudder only. With light assisting strokes I have been moving about 8-9.5km/h.

The newest SeaDog sail , the Commander is my favorite, the added reefing points add more versatility to the sail. The sail is more efficient sailing into the wind than the previous models. The older Code Zero Black Diamond maybe easier to handle for a beginner than the Commander,  but the commander has the reefing option so this changes the balance quite nicely.  I have ordered the sail with the lower panel with Clearview panel, giving me some forward visibility, which can be useful in narrow (and congested) waterways.

Clear skies and Fairwinds, Lake Saimaa, Finland
Clear skies and almost no wind.. SeaDog Commander installed on the Guillemot “SnG”, Night Heron kayak Lake Saimaa, Finland

All of the SeaDog sails I have used thus far have excellent work quality!

Autumn sailing in Lake Saimaa
Autumn sailing in Lake Saimaa

Here’s a couple of my favorite sailing videos that I’ve found online – from downunder. Courtesy of GnarlyDog The first one shows how the sail works.

And some just sailing that brings a smile on your face..

Paddling to and from Åland – Summer paddle 2015

Some pictures AND a map of last summers paddling trip in /around of Åland archipelago.

We started from the Ferry stop of Vuosnainen, Finland. The trip lasted some 2 weeks.  The planned one day of rest in Maarianhamn, grew to two days! It was such a nice town to see! Much recommended! We finished at the ferry stop in Parainen, Finland.
Overall it was a great trip, but we had to keep a constant watch on the changing weather and plan and re-plan our routes accordingly. Fortunately we were able to come up with alternate routes in the labyrintine passages of the archipelago and weren’t held ashore due to bad weather. We were lucky in that respect.

Picture gallery Åland 2015
Map of route taken


Maps for the Finnish coast

These maps pretty much cover the whole coast. total weight 2.18kgs

Usually when undertaking a 1200+ km paddling trip one compulsory item required for said trip besides the obvious kayak, paddle and a myriad collection of camping equipment is a map.. or two or three!  That is , if one  has an idea of where one wants to go AND actually perhaps find onesself at that hoped destination without accumulating too many extra kilometers in between.

However, if one is the lacka-daisical, exploratory, “que sera sera” -type then , by all means traveling without a map of any kind is always an refreshing, exciting experience, if you don’t believe me, ask Cristoffer Columbus! 😉

Many paddlers in the past have, paddled the finnish coast equipped with nothing more than a collection of 1:250,000 road or bicycling maps, locally known as “GT maps”. This probably is the most economical and lightweight option available. This is fine, the information contained in these maps is minimal and the accuracy is tolerable, but the trip can be accomplished!

I have compiled a list of the maps I have found useful for the Finnish coastal paddle and which I intend to use next summer.

First off is a selection of maps that are made for paddling purposes, and thus are GOOD as is! That is to say, slap them in a waterproof map case and Voila, its ready to go!

Kokkola isles map set. printed on water resistant paper, A3, ringbinder, 1:50,000
Kokkola isles map set. printed on water resistant paper, A3, ringbinder, 1:50,000
  1. Kokkola region isles. ” 7 Sillan Saaristo” The map maybe ordered online. Queries thru the local paddling club in that area ( Central Ostrobothnia Touring Paddlers ) . The map is made by paddlers for paddlers.  Ringbinder A3 size, scale 1: 50,000, so it is good “as is“. Even though it is printed on water resistant paper, it should be used in a waterproof mapcase

    Setail of Kokkola maps
    Detail of Kokkola isle mapset
  2.  Qvarken region (Vaasa) . ” Merenkurkun melontakartta “. This map was also available from the Vaasa Tourist region, but at the writing of this post it is out of print. The map works nicely with the Kokkola region map as this Kokkola map continues from the northern reach of the Qvarken Map. Only difference from the Kokkola map, the Qvarken map is that it consists of two sheets instead of a ringbinder format. Otherwise same style and ideal for paddlers.

    Detail of the Qvarken mapset
    Detail of the Qvarken mapset
  3. Porkkala-Helsinki-Pellinki. Available for purchase thru Karttakeskus, Single large sheet, printed on a water resistant paper. Scale 1.50,000 . has camping sites, restricted zones, navigational aids etc marked. Ideal for paddlers
    Porkkala-Helsinki-Pelllinki paddling map

    Then came the hard part. I had to make choices and none of them easy.. there are sort of reasonably priced nautical chart books available, scale @ 1:50,000 showing all of the Nautical information that one could possibly hope for! These charts do have several drawbacks that essentially make them un-usable for seakayking purposes as is.

Size: they are larger than A3 size, way too big to fit the kayak deck or any of the commercially available waterproof map cases.

Material: some form of semi hard paper/cardboard which doesnt take too  well to being folded repeatedly. Maps being over-sized, they NEED to be folded IF used in kayaking.. dilemma

Information: being navigational maps they mostly have ONLY  information in regard to nautical navigation. Nature preserves, restricted bird preserves, camping areas etc ARE not marked..

SO with these kinds of charts the only option is to buy them, scan them, print, add missing required information and then in the end laminate them! An awful lot of extra work for something that one has paid for in the begining..

Yes, maybe I have been a wee bit naughty and done as described as above, I can neither confirm nor deny… 😉

To some areas of the finnish coast there are nautical charts printed on weatherproof plastic which are almost at the A3 size,scale @ 1:55,000 which as is, works reasonably well.. however these also have the same problem as their paper brethren. Only navigational information printed on map! Now being plastic sheets I have yet to find a permanent ink pen which markings will last longer than 1 paddling season…. so these maps also need some work!

Map set 1 .
Starting from Virojoki towards Hamina there is no ready made map for paddling use. Sea Chart is available paper printed @ 1:50,000. Camping sites, No-GO nature preserve markings need to be penned in afterwards…

 Map set 2.
From Hamina to Hanko, Karttakeskus offers a ready printed on weatherproof plastic ring-binder type @ 1:55,000 scale. Basicly this is OK. it has the nautical, navigational markings. It is slightly bigger than A3 sized which is about optimal for kayaking use. However it is missing restricted areas, nature preserves and camping areas, also it is very difficult to make lasting markings on said plastic as almost all “waterproof” marked markers aren’t really very waterproof at all on a weeklong seakayaking trip. Just about all over the selfmade markings will wear off at some point.  Also it is pretty heavy for kayaking use. To boot it is pretty expensive, list price is around 149 €…

Map set 3.
So I was missing a bit between Hanko-Kasnäs, Her I used an old  1:50,000 scale sea chart I’d bought back in 2009. It seems a bit of an overkill for this small portion of the trip. I used adhesive bookcovering plastic to give some protection for the map. I think this map cost 20€ back in the day. Miising markings added as required

Map set 4.
. I had to buy the set  (Sea Chart set D, Turunmaa) of maritime charts for the area in question. The cost was about 49 € for the set. Scale is 1:50,000 ringbinder, size is larger than A3, also it is printed on a stiff cardboard like paper which has no weather resistance whatsoever, and once folded will leave a crease that will eventually break off! As is, this map is not suited for paddling in anyway whatsoever…

DIY map set

Map Set 5
 Uusikaupunki-Tornio  North of Uusikaupunki the coast becomes less dotted with islands and at this stage I figured that maybe the accuracy of  1:100,000 maps should be enough for my purposes. Also at this stage I was broke, so I had to DIY the maps entirely. To my luck the National Land Survey of Finland (NLS) had released some  digital map data for the public use in 2013! I was able to download Topographical maps of the rest of the coast in 1:100,000. After I had the map rasters, I needed to spend lotsa time playing around with PhotoShop  to get the rest of the coast in A3 size @ about 1:100,000. This time around the problem with the NLS material was that while they had most restricted zones, nature preserves etc marked they lacked all maritime navigational markings as well as water depth lines… GRrrrr !! Apart from the printing and laminating cost,  I got these maps for free.

With the above set of modified, DIYied, bought maps I should be fairly well set for the trip. total weight of the map package is 2.18 kg. It is a pretty heavy package, but I intend to mail used portions back home as the trip progresses.

….  Ofcourse there is the option of using the GT bicycling maps scaled @ 1:250,000, currently a set covering the entire finnish coast costs approx under 60 €uros  😀


Rough Guesstimated route for summer paddle 2016

My biggest anticipated paddle for summer 2016 is the Finnish Coastal paddle. That is to say, paddle the finnish coast in its entirety from the Finnish-Russo border, Virojoki to the Finnish- Swedish border, Tornio.

To give some idea of the planned trip I made a VERY ROUGH DRAFT plan of the trip. That is to say it gives a very basic idea of where I will be paddling with Marko. From experience I know that the routes will probably differ either somewhat or alot depending on the weather, mood and /or  physical conditions encountered and experienced on the trip… so regard the map with a pinch of salt .. or two.



Reflections on paddling 2015

Paddlingwise,  year 2015 was kinda lazy.   Not as much touring as the previous two years. I spent only about a total of 5 weeks “out” kujuking. The trips weren’t as long as I’d hoped either, but still  2015 had some definite highlights.

First try at kayak sailing, with Viatrix on Lake Vanaja, May 24th 2015
Second time trying  kayak sailing, with ‘Viatrix’ on Lake Vanaja, May 24th 2015
Welcoming committee on entering Åland waters.
Welcoming committee on entering Åland waters.

Paddling around the Åland isles was one definite highlight, another highlight was getting started in kayak sailing!

Paddling in and around Åland had been something I had been putting off for some time now. Mainly due to the fact that the isles “were out there”, at least from my limited experience/perspective. After reading and hearing many trip reports, not to mention photo blogs of said isles, I decided “what the heck” and went for it. It was a great trip, at times somewhat demanding due to weather conditions but we got through. Lotsa places seen and explored, yet (thankfully) many more left to be explored at  later tripS.

There were lotsa things to see in Åland...
There were lotsa  (odd) things to see in Åland…
One of the odd things to see in Åland.. we only saw 4 snakes during the 2 week trip.
One of the odd things to see in Åland.. we saw only 4 snakes during the 2 week trip.
Sunset , somewhere in the Åland isles
Sunset , somewhere in the Åland isles
One of the many nice sunsets
One of the many nice sunsets
Yet another quiet camp location .. somewhere in Åland.
Yet another quiet camp location .. somewhere in Åland.

The second “super-duper-I’am-So-EXCITED-I just can’t hide it!” highlight of the year was: kayak sailing!!!
Kayak Sailing had been something I’d read and heard about and always thought that “maybe some day” I’ll give it a try. Then with some coaxing from Gnarlydog, (it really didn’t take that much), I ordered my first kayak sail , from Sea Dog Sails, and that “some day was” here !  Its been great ever since! Kayak Sailing has brought many new aspects to sea kayaking. With some 360 kms of sail assisted kayaking/sailing logged for year 2015,n salt waters as well as fresh,  it is safe to say I will have a sail installed on all of my kayaks eventually!  One might be as bold to say that kayak sailing is just about the best thing to do with one’s pants on!

Whenever there are fair winds to enjoy – Up goes the sail! 😀

'Whisper' got her own sail just in time for the Åland trip.
‘Whisper’ got her own sail just in time for the Åland trip.

Learning to sail in slightly rougher conditions, has been very rewarding and helpful in finding ( some of ) my limits.

Trying out sailing in slightly rougher winds. Lake Vanaja October 2nd 2015
Trying out sailing in slightly rougher winds. Lake Vanaja October 2nd 2015
Zooming along in wind and waves, Lake Vanaja october 2nd 2015
Zooming along in wind and waves, Lake Vanaja october 2nd 2015

Didn’t build that many new paddles but just enough to keep the interest going. A couple, (well a bunch really) of prototypes are on their way for 2016 paddling season as well.20151208_164151

A bent shaft Aleut paddle in the making
A bent shaft Aleut paddle in the making

Kayak building was quiet, but I did manage to build one kayak. ‘Viatrix‘,  a Guillemot designed Night Heron “Stitch and Glue” kayak, was first afloat almost as soon as the waters were free from ice, also she was the first one to have a sail installed on her.  On her own a very fine kayak for waves and light touring BUT  excellent fun with a sail !! Best overall  kayak I’ve built thus far…

The cockpit opening of 'Viatrix' slowly taking shape
The cockpit opening of ‘Viatrix’ slowly taking shape
Adding some peace of mind aka extra strengthening elements here and there in 'Viatrix'. In this case its carbon/Glass hybrid cloth..
Adding some peace of mind aka extra strengthening elements here and there in ‘Viatrix’. In this case its carbon/Glass hybrid cloth..

Already many new kayaking adventures are on the drawing board for 2016 (and beyond) ! Here’s hoping that I will learn to be a bit more diligent in my blog postings as well….