Kristin and I flew to Sweden in summer 2012 to join a group
preparing to kayak across the Baltic. We
planned to start at the capital city, Stockholm, making our way to Mariehamn
the capital of Åland, and finishing at Helsinki, capital of Finland.
The main group was from the Gettysburg College Expeditions
Institute led by John Regentin. Planned as an experiential learning voyage, the
students would take on the day to day planning and logistics while also taking turns
to practice leadership skills. With that in mind the trip allowed for plenty of
time for discussion and a lot of flexibility of route.
kayaking experience was not of great importance. Of greater importance was that
everyone should be able to get on well together. It was fun to be part of such a
diverse group including students past and present from different college
faculties and a professor of English literature. Also with us was Russell
Farrow from Sweetwater Kayaks Florida, who together with John conceived the
We collected a fleet of Whisky18 sea kayaks at the Point65
store. The store's location on the waterfront of lake Malaren in Stockholm offered
an ideal starting place, so our journey began there on fresh water as far as
the tidal lock by Stockholm's busy Gamla Stan waterfront. Passing boats and
ferries we then weaved a route between the city islands to find our first
camping spot on an uninhabited island east of the city.
Our way north along the mostly sheltered channels between
forested islands of the inner archipelago led to Grisslehamn, and finally a
view of open water. The 25-mile crossing ahead was anticipated with some
apprehension by some group members: it was far enough to take a whole day. To
everybody's relief the day dawned clear
and sunny as we all slipped quietly from the campground shore. But the
conditions were short lived. Once in the open, fog closed in around us for the
rest of the day.
Paddling by the clock on a compass bearing we took a timed break
every hour. Finally we were startled by the abrupt appearance from the fog of a
rock island, the first tangible indication we were nearing our goal, Eckerö,
the western island of Åland.
With the big crossing over, we made our way to the Åland
capital Mariehamn, then via the historic island Kökar to find ourselves at
Nagu in Finland for midsummer celebrations. Midsummer in Sweden, and in western
Finland, is a huge excuse for celebrations which last for a couple of days: not
that it gets dark for long during the brief northern night in between.
Helsinki, our final destination, was still more than a week
away: we arrived on 3rd July with time enough after cleaning and shipping the
kayaks to USA for a little sightseeing.
The group scattered from Helsinki, most flying more or less
directly home. Four of us took the slow route back on the ferry to Stockholm with
the opportunity to see the extent of the amazing archipelago once more before
A memorable trip with really fun people!