“Just don’t fall in. Don’t fall in.”
The waters were icy cold in defiance of summer as I dipped my feet into the Archipelago Sea and climbed into my kayak. I asked our guide, Benjamin, how many people tend to capsize, and his “oh, about one in ten” response didn’t do much to reassure me. There was no way I was taking a dip in the sea on this chilly summer day.
My first few minutes out at sea consisted of me giving myself a very serious pep talk while trying not to wobble over the dark waters.
“Just stay centred, don’t be stiff, breathe. You are in control of this. Now just don’t make any sudden movements.”
Despite my lack of kayaking experience (I had only done it once before in the jelly infested waters of Halong Bay in May), I was very excited to be going on a full day island hopping adventure.
The Archipelago Sea is home to thousands of islands and small islets, so the best way to enjoy the scenery is by hitting the water and skirting around the string of forested islands.
One of the highlights of the excursion was spotting sheep. (Not quite the wildlife I was expecting!) We were greeting with melodic ‘baaahs’ by this flock who seemed undisturbed by our presence. They stared at us as we got of our kayaks to stretch our legs and then continued chewing on grass while they eyed their strange new guests.
The reasoning behind keeping the sheep on small islands is that they can graze freely, but unless they are planning to go for a swim, they can’t really wander off anywhere – and when was the last time you saw sheep going for a swim?
The journey from the small seaside village of Kasnäs out to Högsåra was very leisurely. Even though we only travelled a grand distance of 4 kilometres to reach our destination, it took us just over 2 hours to get there – that’s almost double the regular pace. I’ll admit I was the one who lagged behind in the trio, but when you’re going to be kayaking for several hours in one day, the best thing you can do is find your rhythm and stick to it. Slow and steady was my motto.
By the time we reached Högsåra, we were all famished and ready for lunch at Farmors Cafe - a family establishment that specializes in hearty home cooked meals and succulent desserts. We served ourselves platefulls until our stomachs were content and our bodies were…ready for a nap. It was hard pulling ourselves away from Högsåra’s idyllic setting knowing we still had a 2 hour journey back to where we had come from, but with the rain coming it was time to slide into our kayaks again.
I am happy to say that aside from the light rain that drizzled over us on much of the journey back, I arrived back on land without capsizing, which is more than I can say for Sam over here. You see, just as we were pulling over to the shore, the boy lost his balance trying to climb out of the kayak and made a swan-like exit into the water…
(Whew! So glad that wasn’t me.)
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A few tips for the newbie kayaker:
- Bring a change of clothes…just in case you capsize or make a rather ungraceful exit out of your kayak. (It happens.)
- Considering wearing a fleece and a windbreaker. Even if it’s summer, the temperature can drop on an overcast day.
- Don’t overdo it with the distances. If this is your first time kayaking consider starting out with a half-day or full-day trip as opposed to a longer and far more demanding excursion. It’s not a matter of just getting to your destination; you’ll also need to paddle back and that’s when your muscles start to burn.
- Choose the right sized kayak. I didn’t know this before, but kayaks come in all shapes and sizes. The fit should be snug, but you don’t want your legs to be cramped, otherwise they’ll go numb halfway through the journey.
- Use proper paddling technique. Your arms shouldn’t be doing all the work, if they are, you will tire very quickly. Twist your torso from side to side when you paddle; by doing so you will be exercising larger muscles in your body, which will keep you going longer.
- Sit up straight. Leaning backwards or slouching forward will only limit your upper body’s mobility.
- Look out for boats. Be aware of your surroundings and always be on the lookout for speedboats or sailboats that may be out cruising for the day. Sometimes it can be difficult for larger vessels to spot a small kayak.
A big thank you to Benjamin of Aavameri Open-Air Adventures for taking us kayaking and showing us the beauty of the Finnish archipelago.