Gotland is the largest island of Sweden and is located in the middle of the Baltic Sea. For Justin Düber and I, it was a white spot on our map. Justin and I knew about a North Sea weekend of paddling, at which we could meet and test whether a longer kayak tour would be possible for us. After determining that it was, we began planning. We had 3 weeks before departure to plan the trip via Skype, because we live in different states of Germany.
The second time we met each other was at the port of Travemünde, where a ferry took us to Sweden. After a relaxed 5 hour drive through Sweden, we arrived at Oskarshamn, where another ferry awaited to take us to Gotland. During the travel to Gotland we had 27 hours to think about the most fundamental question - Which way around? Neither of us wanted to be the one who chose the wrong way, so there was only one solution - throw a coin. The coin solved the problem and told us that we should paddle clockwise around Gotland. Having determined our direction, we set off to circumnavigate Gotland.
The ocean welcomed us with waves that we were not use to from our sheltered training waters. Nothing that would intimidate me, but Justin doesn’t have the luxury of living by the sea. In order for him to reach the same training distance of 20 km, he had to paddle 6 laps around his small lake. He didn’t have any training paddling in waves, but his years in a race kayak seemed to pay off. Without complaining, he quickly found himself comfortable in these waves.
As a filmmaker, I travel with lots of additional equipment like a drone, microphones and bigger cameras. So this means the space needs to be reduced somewhere else, which in the end means pasta every day. But I did manage to make enough space for some fresh vegetables. Nevertheless, in order to advance in new culinary depths, I have a 3-step program.
Stage 1: Noodles with fresh tomatoes and zucchini
Stage 2: Noodles with tomato sauce
Stage 3: Noodles with pesto
The coast of Gotland is characterized by limestone formations. Near steep coast there is often 200 m of shallow water, giving you a wonderful view of the underwater world. One of those places you can only visit by kayak.
When cold currents from the north collide with the warm air at Gotland, it often creates sea fog. While paddling in these conditions we would sometimes pass through moments of warm air currents.
North-East of Gotland is a smaller island called Fårö. There was no doubt we would make this beautiful island part of our circumnavigation. The island has many geological formations called ‘Rauk’ and this one in particular is called the ‘Rauk Dog’ as you can see.
We never had a problem finding places to camp for the night because of the many beaches. One of the best campsites was at Langhammar.
After we had the northernmost part of our tour behind us our compass needle turned south, but unfortunately the wind did not. At this point we realized that the coin toss decision was the wrong choice in direction. For the next 200 km we had to paddle against 4-5 Beaufort headwind. It was necessary to make daily goals on the map to make enough process against the wind.
Reaching the South Cape of Gotland the wind picked up even further. We were really looking forward to getting around the corner of the South Cape and experiencing backwind again. Before we could round the cape, the wind speed picked up to 7-8 Beaufort, so we had to stay on land and wait. Wind and kite surfers from all over Sweden arrived to surf at the spot we were camped at, so at least we had fun watching them ride the waves during our compulsory pause.
As days passed by we came closer to our deadline for the trip. We only had 2 days left to paddle the last quarter of the circumnavigation. Time to switch into sport mode and pull hard on the paddle in order to complete 100 km in 2 days.
The conditions at the South Cape were rough, but we paddled with a larger distance from land which helped to avoid the large breaking waves.
After 14 days and 400 km / 250 miles we were back at the starting point. Another white spot on our map has disappeared and we are looking forward to further expeditions.