you always scratch me at the wrong places
It is not very complicated to understand why one would choose Aland as a destination when the time is scarce but you need to get away from Estonia. Aland provides plenty of tiny to bigger islands to take shelter in bad weather but also enough free water to enjoy some beginner-intermediate sea-kayaking. Multitude of islands and possibilities to plan a course will definitely provide reasons to come back over and over and if you`d add the Turu archipelago to the equation possibilities will triple.
My plan began with a short overnight ferryride to Mariehamn and the on my own power to paddle around the main island and the cycling to Helsinki. Ferry schedule in the Baltic sea is pretty good and therefore it doesn`t require much long-term planning and left me plenty of freedom to manage my time.
There are many kayak rentals in Aland and I found a suitable one in Eckerö. For your information it`s a real hassle if not impossible to get your own kayak to Aland from Estonia if you`re flying solo and not willing to take on the longer crossings alone. As I went alone I wasn`t ready for that mentally or physically.
I disembarked in Mariehamn in the very early hours, when there is not many people moving around. Distance to Eckerö is a bit over 40km and I was at Peters place at 8AM to receive a red Prijon SeaYak 520Hv. Peter kindly allowed me to leave my bike in his garage to wait for my return and at about 9am I started paddling. The wind was from N to NW and quite strong for me and I quickly decided to change my plan to paddle counter-clockwise around the main island to get use the shelter of islands more effectively. I paddled a bit in the headwind and the turned south to the wide channel leading to Mariehamn. The kayak proved to be very stable even in the sidewind and I made good progress. In a few hours I turned south the channel and took a short nap at the bridge connecting HAmmarland and Eckerö. I had 4 hours and 20km of paddling done and the weather was clear but windy. In an hours I continued SE and I arrived back near Mariehamn in the evening and spent the night in the small Skogsö island only 300m away from the main ferry line. The only inhabitants were birds as I took a stroll around the island. Distance/time biking 47km/4,5h; paddling 46km/9h
In the morning of the second day a tailwind took me near Lemland and into a tricky maze of small islets, where I had to paddle under a road. There`s no wind between the islands but to go forward I had to go on the open water and pull-out two crossings about 2k long with waves I`m not exactly use to. A bit out of my comfort zone, but that`s how you get better. The island of Bäcko provided some shelter when I sneaked east along the southern shore. Got lost when turned the bow to north. The island are all so similar from the water level and my map not that accurate – like a 1000-piece puzzle. At least I know the direction. Locals in some little harbor pointed me to my location and to my relief I found out that I had progressed way better than I thought. I had paddled for over 9 hours and 40km. The weather wasn`t that great and as fatigue started to settle in I started to think and look out for a camping place. I didn`t wan´t to paddle out from between the islands to be sheltered if the wind should rise. Found a decent spot among the thatches and set up the camp just in time to be under the tarp when it started raining. Camp routines and off to sleep. Distance paddling 54km/11h
The morning was clouded again, navigation complicated and I made some extra distance. I passed a ferry going a short distance to and fro between islands – a huge raft actually, which uses a motor to haul itself along a cable. The crux of the day is the leg between Langholm and Bergö. It`s open and windy. The plan was to cover most of the distance using the leeward sides of the many island to avoid most of the headwind. Wind was still blowing from N and NE and there were occasional short and intensive sidewinds. It`s sometimes easier and safer to paddle straight into the wind than take it from the side, because some shores are all rock with waves crashing hard into them. Didn`t want to get between those. On many occasions the waves washed all over the deck right up to the sprayskirt and it took some work to make forward progress. Sun came out right after the hardest part and paddling became easier. The wind and waves eased up too. I made a short stop to take a nap in the sun. There was a Anna`s shop marked on the map and I took that as my next target. Reached the landing spot in an hour and walked around on the Grundsunda. Needed to fill up on water too. The shop turns out to be a souvenir shop, kept by an old ship captain called Erik. To spend time and for fun he makes furniture and thingies and sells them. He also had some painting by and Estonian artist. He speak a multitude of languages and is very friendly. I spent and hour there and planned to return when on bike. At that time the day was getting to an end and I found for a camping place near the next days longer crossing. The water was a bit cold for swimming as I found out right after jumping in. A little walk assured me that I wasn`t in anybody’s back yard. And only a roe deer showed it`s displeasure with some short barking sometime during the night as it was making it`s rounds. Distance paddling 44,5km/11h