Utö is a small island located approx 85 kms southwest from Turku, Finland. It is quite “far out there”, away from most things, located at the edge of the open sea. Despite being far away, it really is a very nice place to visit! The small isle community living its peaceful existence at the edge of a dark and often stormy sea really defines the term of ‘haven’. Migratory birds are often being spotted and photographed by avid birdwatchers. Bird species rare to this area sometimes get lost and are found there first! There is something about the place, that words fail to describe, something just waiting to roll of the tip of ones tongue, something universal, yet unexplicible!
Getting there with a kayak can be an operation of “touch and go”, and does require co-operation of the weather gods as well as fluent seakayaking skills! Not for the beginner. However one can get there also via a regular ferry service. There is a hotel and some rental cottages as well as a B n B.
There is a nice website about Utö, with lots of useful information about the place.
One of the most prominent features of Utö, is the lighthouse, built in 1814 surrounded by the houses of the small community. A lot of history relating to this small place. Much of it fascinating.
These pictures are from a recent “non-kayaking” trip. I first visited Utö by kayaking there in 2012.. then I promised I would visit the place another time, with more time, which eventually I did! After the second visit I realized that I will have to visit Utö yet a third time!
Before kayaking, I was an pretty avid photographer. That involved lugging and loving a DSLR, with all the clunky, heavy and bulky lenses wherever I went. After all I could fit everything into a backpack! Thats not much ? Or is it?
The first summer of sea kayaking I faithfully lugged my DSLR with a couple lenses wherever I paddled. All was packed under deck in a waterproof Ortlieb camerabag. For on the deck, on the water action I had a small Olympus waterproof PHD camera (Press Here Dummy). All performed sort-of-nicely. The PHD camera worked when wet.. but it was sloooooow to do anything other than use up the battery! The DSLR was great but I daren’t use it on the water. So while things were great on paper, things were’nt really working on the water.
“Ahhh what fun!” that first summer of lugging everything! I had waken up to the realization that a DSLR just wasn’t very practical when seakayaking. Sad but true.
I decided to minimize.. rely solely on the small PHD camera. Soon I learned that action photography was out. Taking pictures of the grass growing, rocks resting and when things got really wild: The sun going down was the best I could manage with the PHD! And since I had no choice, I suppose I was happy, kinda like a average marriage?
Many years passed with this sad, passive existence, one camera followed the other. I went thru two Olympus waterproof PHD cameras in 7 years. All of them performed somehow. Low light image quality wasn’t that great.. actually piss-poor. Fine for FB postings and general documentation. Camera start-up/Focusing speeds were low. Only enough time to get a quick snap shot of grass growing on a cloudy day! Batteries drained fast until one learned to switch off most redundant “helpful” settings! The only thing that these Olympus PHD cameras excelled in was that they remained functional in adverse wet conditions and careless handling!! And they took better pictures than what I could draw.. so I was satisfied!
On preparation for this years kayaking trip I realized that my semi-crappy-yet working olympus tough model…?? something something was getting slow and some of its buttons were getting a bit sticky, so I went out asking my trusty camera dealer if they had something to sell?
Shure enough, just like the previous two times, they sold me a demo model of a camera that was being discontinued! Wuhuu! I bought a 12 month old, discontinued camera model, that had had limited demo handling and for a cheap price!
Like the previous two times, this was a Olympus. Model Tough 860. An added bonus was that it works with the same battery model as the previous model! Size was about the same. Startup speed was quite a bit better than anything I had used uptil now, also it had a nifty “selfie” button and a tilt preview screen, which can be nifty in certain cramped photo situations. Whats best it has a “ULTRAwide angle” lense which is perfect for on the water photos!
As the model is a discontinued model, I won’t use more time to go through the characteristics, other than its:
A.) waterproof and pretty robust
B.) Takes pictures…
C.) Reasonably small
D.) Came be remotely controlled via smartphone
E.) ULTRAwide angle lense
F.) Has a nifty camera holder (sold separately) from which it can be taken out faster than a pocket..
These are the features I appreciate in this particular model.
What could be improved on? Well, startup speed could be yet faster . as well as focusing speed. But what REALLY REALLY bums me, is that during the 12+ years I’ve used Olympus cameras, they have been unable to do anything to clearly improve the lowlight image quality, ie. NOISE! Using ISO settings above 400 is reminiscent of film times! Image is Noisy / grainy! I don’t know if Olympus does this as a “retro” thing or what?
These are minor gripes because at the end of the day, the most important feature that I appreciate in a camera for seakayaking is that the darn thing keeps working, taking pictures even if its been wind and waves for 2 weeks in a row!
Downside for the moment is: NO RAW capability.. but for the moment I can live with that…
For the upcoming finnish coastal paddle, Marko and myself took our new Beauforts for a ‘spin’, or more seriously a trial run. A couple night trip with basic camping loads to figure out how these kayaks work, how they should be loaded, how we perform, how new bits of kit work, what we forgot, what we won’t need and also.. just for the fun of it! 🙂
We logged some 100 km’s total trip. The weather was beautiful! Not so much wind, = very little sailing. The sun and warm more than made up for the lack of the wind.
Overall the kayaks worked VERY well ! Both were pleased. On smooth waters and a semi-full load paddling @ 6.5-7 km/h daily average speed was surprisingly easy for day trips of 36-38 km. We could have improved that average quite easily if we felt like it. But being the first trip of the season, we took it easyish.. Nothing fell off, nothing broke so all in all a VERY good trip!
A more complete or review of the kayak will follow after this summers trip!
Got a couple semi-decent pictures along the way. Trip took place in the Lake Saimaa system, mainly: Yövesi, Liittokivenselkä, Varissaarenselkä, Pajusaarenselkä and Hietasaarenselkä
“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…
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…
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!
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.
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!
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!
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 ! 😉
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.. 😉
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.
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.
All of the SeaDog sails I have used thus far have excellent work quality!
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..
This post doesn’t have any kayaking.. but it still has something to do with kayaking ! Orkney is one awesome destination for sea-kayaking and it is my sincere wish, hope, plan, nay a master-plan to go kayaking there someday… hence this post and hopefully pictures will explain more!
Last summer, during a 10 day visit to Orkney I was strictly on land and while watching the waves, came to the conclusion that when the day comes to go kayaking there.. I should know more, be more experienced and hopefully have some local expert to teach the quick low down.. ie. “where not to be and when..? ”
I bought the local sea chart of the Orkney area waters… and I must admit there were some new markings and timetables to learn. I gathered that they have something to do with the tidal flows, waves , BIG water thing-ama-jigs! .. yikes – Crikey!
There was something in the rugged, windswept look in and around Orkney that I found alluring. I cannot quite put my finger on it, but somehow it felt like a place I might like. The most foreign feature in Orkney was the distinct lack of forests! Very very rare occurrence! For someone who works with wood and lives in a country where there are like a zillion trees.. this was very Veird! Takes abit to getting used to.
In the meanwhile, enjoy some pictures from Orkney! It’s s surprisingly nice place! 🙂