Thursday, November 30, 2006

Frostbite Paddle

This past weekend I had the pleasure of going on the Frostbite Paddle to Äskörn Island, about 70 km west of Helsinki, in the Gulf of Finland. The trip was organized by the Sipoon Kanoottiklubi (Sipoo Canoe Club) (SKK). (Click on the British flag for English translations for some pages.) On Saturday morning, we picked out our sea kayaks at the clubhouse, and then began the drive westward.

One of the areas we drove through was Porkkala, which was the peninsula with the closest distance between Estonia and Finland. After WWII, the Russians "rented" this area from the Finns to protect the narrow passageway up the Gulf to St. Petersburg. The train that headed westward from Helsinki featured "the longest tunnel in Finland" because Russians would board the train and make the passengers draw the blinds on the windows so that they couldn't see out.

Once arriving at Orslandet, we 8 paddlers changed clothes and loaded up the boats. It was overcast and about mid 40s. We wore dry suits and pogies (covers acting like gloves that attach to the paddles to protect your hands from wind and water). We paddled 4 km to the island of Äskörn, which was owned by Clas's son and had several cabins on it, an outhouse, and a woodfired sauna. After unpacking and relaxing for a bit, once it got dark, the women went to the sauna. When they returned, it was the men's turn. (More on the sauna experience in the next post.)

The island was forested with pine trees with rich underbrush and moss, all clinging to the granite bedrock.

Afterward, it was dinnertime. Clas's wife's pork curry recipe is a club favorite and continues to be passed down. Let me say that was a wonderful meal, followed by general merriment and drinking.

We woke up casually the next morning, cleaned up the cabins, then headed around in a loop around a larger island, briefly stopping at Lindstrom's Wolf to hear the story of its name by Clas (the "wolf" was a rock in the water confused by an old woman in the fog to be a wolf). Later that day, the wind calmed down and the sky cleared up, making for a real special treat. Swans were floating around (although beautiful, they are kind of the Canada geese of Finland--all over the place). We had paddled almost 13 km on Sunday, before packing up the cars and heading home.

Thanks for a great trip, Clas and SKK!

Update (8 December 2006): Here are pictures and the story told by Clas from the SKK web site.


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