Agneta Finneman discovered her home patch in the archipelago and had her eyes opened as to what can be done in the countryside when she went on an eight-year study programme in managing outdoor life at Åland Folk High School in 2005. “When you navigate by boat you have to know where you can steer it, but with a kayak you don’t have to worry about navigable channels and sunken rocks – you can discover new routes and favourite places instead,” says Agneta. She recommends shorter trips inside the skerries and in sheltered coves for families with children and people not used to paddling. It’s also a good idea to stay away from the bigger channels. It’s useful to have an experienced paddler with you, or a guide.

On your own

If you’re coming on your own, Agneta recommends all the incredibly beautiful islets that are to be found around the bigger islands in the Åland archipelago. There is plenty of paddling to be done inside the skerries on Föglö and Kökar. You can make shorter trips and stop for coffee or lunch at an open-air restaurant as an alternative to going ashore into the countryside with your own picnic. “Food and adventures in nature go together, but never light a fire on the rocks, and take your rubbish away with you!” When you go paddling, you don’t have to carry your equipment – it goes into the kayak. You’ll have your raw produce and outdoor stove with you so you can cook your food out in the countryside. “It tastes much better than it does at home,” reckons Agneta.

Expertise

It’s important that you have both the necessary expertise and correct equipment to set out on longer trips. An itinerary and a map are essential, as it is to know what’s going on in terms of wind and weather. Agneta recommends: “Always tell someone where you’re thinking of going and take with you a waterproof pack with a change of clothes as well as food, drink and sunscreen.” Personally, she likes to go off on longer trips to the outermost areas of the archipelago (Utö – Kökar – Föglö) involving one or more overnight stays. It’s a wonderful feeling to wake up with a wild landscape outside your tent. “When you paddle further afield you get into a different state of mind. First I bought one kayak and then a second one because it’s both fun and safer to have someone with you for company,” says Agneta.

Excellent round trip

An excellent round trip, according to Agneta, is to start in Sandvik in the north of Kökar, paddle to Källskär south of Karlby, on to Peders Aplagård apple orchards in Österbygge and then back. You should only go to the outer skerries if you’re experienced and the weather is fine. Agneta qualified as a master mariner at Åland University of Applied Sciences. She was born and grew up on an island in Kökar and would like to continue to live in the archipelago.

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