Full Moon Paddle
Three archipelagos under the full moon — Arkösund, Sankt Anna and Gryt that comprise over 6,000 islands.
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The Full Moon Paddle – a short story about mental endurance and darkness paddling through three of Sweden’s archipelagos of over 6,000 islands
By Yahnny Adolfo San Luis
Last updated 26 August, 2021
The evening was perfect, until it wasn’t
The evening weather was perfect – clear sky, gentle breeze, placid water. The temperature was cool but comfortable. The first two hours felt great. The glorious moon rose from the horizon with brilliant stars lighting the way. At our first pit stop, sleep was creeping up. It was 22.00. Our decadent chocolate and hot lemon tea were little help. Onwards for another two hours. Erik navigated past hundreds of islands that melted together in a harmonious silhouette. The moon was high now. As she rose, the temperature dropped to 10 C (50 F). We reached the dinner pit stop for food and a change of clothes. It was midnight. Lucidity was waning and I struggled to process the hot food, but Erik encouraged me. Onwards for another two hours. I focused on Erik’s beacon. He was like a firefly floating against the moonlight. The approach to Harstena was the most difficult. I slowed to 2 km/hr. and fell asleep twice. We glided quietly into Harstena’s passage. The island was a sleeping giant. Another two hours – the moon started her gradual descent as the sidewind picked up. A brief opportunity to draft Erik during a short downwind section came with great relief. Erik encouraged me, “Breakfast island is close. You’re doing great! Just follow the silhouette. It’s beyond there.” I knew that meant another hour. The sun was rising behind us. My head slumped forward a few times. Paddling was mechanical at that point. I moved in the direction of Erik’s voice to Gubbö Kupa where we witnessed a celestial performance – the sun extended her mandarin veil as the moon bowed down. I inhaled breakfast and fell asleep on the soft moss. Our last stretch was filled with morning light revealing the islands in stark detail. Erik picked up the pace and I fought to keep the draft until the end. 8 hours of continuous paddling in the darkness made this one of the toughest endurance events of my life. I can’t wait for next year to do it all over again.
How to prepare for paddling in the darkness and cold weather
The dark horse in this situation is darkness itself:
Honesty - don’t overestimate your physical health and skill level, practice for preparedness
Blind - know how to access all gear and operate as if you were blind
Darkness fatigue - this will drop on you like a ton of bricks, practice handling it
Balance - it can compromised by darkness, choose a stable boat, don’t restrict ears and peripheral vision
Pace - calculate for 75% less than your optimal pace
Timing - paddle 50 mins / break 5-10 mins / every 2nd or 3rd hour get out or off of your watercraft, this can change depending on route and environmental conditions
Rest - plan for being far to be near land, have a plan for resting on the water when possible
The cold will accelerate fatigue:
Energy loss - layer up and bring change(s) of clothes, must be easily accessible in a waterproof bag / extra head cover and gloves must be in accessible without struggling to find them quickly
Change - first thing you must do during longer stops
Body - first layer / wool, second layer / neoprene or drysuit, third layer / windproof jacket, neoprene shorts on top of pants
Head - windproof, fleece/wool lining, salve
Hands - pogies, neoprene, waterproof, thin wool lining
Feet - wool, neoprene socks/shoes, tight shoes are a huge no
Gear depends on several factors but here’s a starter list:
Steady surrounding white light
Compasses - onboard and handheld
Headlamp - a red light will not destroy night vision
Phone - waterproofed
Watches - analog, fitness watch if desired - timing is super important
Sleeping bag with waterproof cover - tarp/emergency blanket
Tent - if you have room
Way points - share with emergency contacts, make contact as planned
Kitchen - fuel, cooking ware, utensils, dishes
Food - pea soup or any food that can be heated quickly is best
Hydration - remember to drink!, time when you will drink while paddling, this must be easily accessible
Snacks - time when you will eat while paddling, this must be easily accessible
Rubbish - take everything with you
Could this be our next ultra paddling event in Sweden?
If you’ve spent enough time on the water, you’re aware that a straight line is not always the fastest way to execute a route due to wind, current, swell, temperature...the list goes on. This is the beauty of endurance events. Everything is tested - technical skill, physical strength, mental fortitude, and most importantly - preparation.
The Full Moon Paddle may be a race next year 😁 The idea is tempting and it would fit into our idea of an endurance adventure!
Start: Date for 2022 is coming soon!
Dinner: 23.00 - 00.30
Finish: , 08.30-09.30, Ekön
Total distance: 45-50 km
Hours of paddling: 9-10 hours
The start is on a sandy beach in Arkösund where we will pack our watercrafts. We will head out while the sun sets and paddle south through nature reserves and bird protection areas that are only accessible this time of the year.
After 3 hours of paddling, we will stop for a midnight dinner. We will have time to prepare our own meals, enjoy, and chat before the next 2.5 hours of paddling to Harstena where we will have a 20-minute stop to stretch our legs and use the public toilets.
The next 1.5 hours of paddling will take us to the island Gubbö Kupa. From the top, you will have an astonishing view of the archipelago while the sun is rising. We will have our breakfast on the top while watching the sunrise.
The last part of our long paddle will be in daylight and will follow a band of beautiful islands all the way to Ekön where we will conclude our journey.
Paddling and Navigation
Any watercraft that can be paddled is welcomed. However, we recommend a sea kayak or surf ski as the best choices. This is a long paddle throughout the night which can be more tiring. You may also experience that your balance will be slightly off. We may have wind and waves against us. But usually the August nights are typically calm with no or little wind.
Navigation will be provided by our guide. However, we recommend that you bring your own map. It is fun to keep track of where we are and will improve navigation skills while being guided.
During the paddle, we will keep the group together for safety and better communication.
Our average speed will be 6 km/h meaning that we will go slower or faster whenever possible.
Our routine will be to paddle for 50 minutes and stop for 5-10 minutes to drink and snack.
Every second hour we will come ashore for toilet needs. Bring toilet paper and a bag to take everything back with you. Please do not leave any inorganic items behind.
Food and Clothes
Bring everything you want to drink and eat. On our midnight stop, we will have time to prepare hot food.
During the paddle, it is recommended to have water and snacks that will be easily accessible. A thermos with hot tea or coffee is also nice to have.
On our 2 longer stops, Nomado will make coffee for everyone and treat you with buns and cookies.
The summer nights can be chilly. Bring a warm jacket for our long stops. A hat, gloves, and an extra layer is nice to have easily in reach during the paddle.
Transportation is not included. However, we can organize transportation by request.