With the kayaks and the Wechsel Halos 3 on the Aland Islands
"It's pretty stormy here," I tell Nina on the ferry from Kapellskär to Mariehamn. Can we kayak here? Paddling with fully packed kayaks and wind force 6 on the open sea? That is far beyond our abilities, so we wait a few days and change our plan.
It's pretty stormy here
Instead of paddling eastwards towards the Finnish coast, we look for a good entry point in the south of the archipelago consisting of countless islands, which belongs to Finland but is actually Swedish. The wind is supposed to stay like this for the next few days, but our route is well protected from the wind, so we can realise our plan of paddling the Alands. In a much shorter form, but still. In Brattö we sort the equipment and pack our kayaks, as we are used to from our previous tours. This time we took along our new Wechsel Halos 3. With its freestanding construction, it is a good pick here on the rocky islands.
After our arrival a few days ago, we are hot as fry fat for paddling and the weather gods seem to be favourable to us, at least here in the area. While the storm rages 20 kilometres further north, it is nice and calm here. At least as long as the wind doesn't shift and suddenly comes from the south instead of the north. So we find our way through the countless small islands that form a world of their own here in the south.
Above us, sea eagles are on the lookout for prey, but we seem much too big for the largest bird of prey in Northern Europe. Although we are in the middle of the Baltic Sea, the salinity here is relatively low, but still enough for a jellyfish invasion. Swimming is probably out of the question tonight, as our mood for slippery encounters tends towards zero.
However, with the prospect of a beautiful sunset, we find a spot on a rock and watch the perch and pike hunting.
We set up our shelter on the only straight surface. Digging pegs into the rocky ground is impossible, but fixing the guy ropes with stones work very well here. As we open the tent the next morning and enjoy the view, we hear the sea eagles circling overhead again. After studying the map and the route over coffee and breakfast, we set off for Degerby. It's a good 18 kilometres from our campsite. And the route takes us partly across the open sea. Fortunately, the wind has eased a bit and we reach the Sund in the north unharmed. The four-kilometre-long Sund is quite shallow and weedy. You would expect such a landscape in the Danube Delta, but not in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
Impressed, we reach our campsite on the beach of Degerby – a little outside the town and definitely out of season.
So we are completely alone - even the jellyfish make themselves scarce here and we try to swim at least a little, but this time it is not because of the jellyfish, but rather because of the water temperature of 14 degrees. But it's enough for a refreshment.
As if freshly "showered", we set off the next morning in a southerly direction. Always along the west coast of Föglö we let ourselves be driven by the tail wind.
But the search for a suitable place to camp for the night turns out to be more difficult than expected. Either we can't get out of the kayak, the potential spot, which looks promising from afar, turns out to be completely unsuitable on inspection, or the island is built over with a hut and thus off-limits to us.
So the planned 13 kilometres turn into 21, but in return we have a place that is second to none. With perfect orientation towards the west. Always facing the sunset.
So we enjoy the last rays of sun before it storms and rains again at night as if there were no tomorrow. But that is exactly where our tour ends – in the south of the peaceful archipelago – between Sweden and Finland.
Location: In the middle of the Baltic Sea, at the beginning of the Gulf of Bothnia, lie the Aland Islands. With over 6700 islands and archipelagos, they form an almost unmanageable labyrinth between Finland and Sweden.
Politics: Aland is a politically largely autonomous region of Finland. Although the euro is used here as in Finland, the inhabitants feel more like Swedes than Finns.
The status of the Aland Islands as a demilitarised zone, which is still valid today, stems from the history of the 1920s.
The approximately 30,000 Alandans live peacefully in their island world.
Language: Although the archipelago is part of Finland, the majority here speak Swedish and feel Swedish too.
Kayaking and camping: The kayak is the perfect boat for cruising the islands, and even though everyman's rights are limited on the Alands, there are plenty of wonderful camping spots – assuming you can land your kayak.
How to get there: Either by ferry via Stockholm to Mariehamn or from Kapellskär to Mariehamn. There is also a ferry from Mariehamn to Turku in Finland.
About the Author
"I just have to get out all the time - I search for balance in nature", that's how I would describe myself. Lying on the beach is not really what I call a holiday, so I always try to be active. After several trips on my motorbike (e.g. crossing Siberia and Central Asia) or various off-road tours, I was drawn to the water in 2021. As a part-time photographer and freelance author for various magazines I have to rely on my equipment. That’s why I make no compromises when it comes to my outdoor accommodation. "If you don't sleep well, you don't travel well!" ;-)
All pictures © Dennis Ciminski and Nina Harenberg