Fishing trip — A weekend in Åland — 2016

May 9, 2016

You might remember a fishing trip we did a couple of years ago? No? Well here’s the post, Fishing trip — A weekend in Åland.

We’ve been talking about doing it again ever since we got back from the last trip. And finally last February we decided on a date, 5th of May ’til 8th of May (Thursday to Sunday).

Since I don’t live in Stockholm anymore, I couldn’t join Anders, Martin and Johan on the ferry from Stockholm to Mariehamn, but had to find an alternative route. One viable way of getting from Helsinki to Mariehamn would be by boat, but it takes ages, and the boat arrives at 04:00 AM, which was a no-go.

I could’ve taken the train to Turku and then go by boat the last stretch, but again, the time table would’ve been unfavorable for me, since I would have to go with the morning train, which leaves early (like 5 in the morning or something) and it would’ve been a huge hassle.

The third alternative, the one I chose, was by air, which was cheap (120€, round trip, Finnair) and it meant I wouldn’t arrive at the middle of the night or at the break of dawn, the only bad thing was that the 5th of May was Ascension Day, and Finnair doesn’t fly to Mariehamn on that day. Which in turn meant that I’d have to arrive a bit late to the party, the 6th of May (Friday).

On Friday, I got up at 6 in the morning, took a taxi out to the airport, and boarded an ATR-72. I was pretty lucky seeing as there was only around 20 other people flying that route, so I got a lot of space for myself. The one weird thing though is that the flight is like 40 minutes. I would’ve guessed it to be a lot shorter seeing as HEL – ARN is 55 minutes, and HEL – VAA is also around 50 minutes. But I guess the ATR flies at a lower speed and/or lower altitude or something.

One awesome thing I got to see at the Helsinki airport was a Boeing C-17 Globemaster, a plane that I really like, sadly, it was quite far away and I wasn’t able to unpack my camera with a larger lens to get a picture of it, so you’ll just have to believe me when I say I saw one.

mariehamn-airport
Mariehamn airport, MHQ

Anyway, 40:ish minutes later I landed at Mariehamn’s airport. Since this is a very small airport, it only took a couple of minutes for them to unload the baggage and delivery it to the baggage claim. Once I had my duffel bag, I exited the arrival terminal (?) and was immediately greeted by Anders, Martin and Johan.

We got in the car and drove to the closest convenience store, bought some stuff and off we went. It takes about an hour to get out to Anders cottage, last time I was there was during late fall and during a storm. This time around it was spring, with calm weather.

My crappy Iphone wasn’t able to find any reception on Åland, so it was basically an expensive paper weight. I had been thinking about getting 2-way radios for the trip, but then decided that cellphones would work just as well. But apparently I overestimated the Iphone, again. It’s really strange that the other guys’ phones, all whom have Swedish phone subscriptions, worked perfectly, but my Finnish, supposedly top-of-the-line phone, was completely unable to find any carrier in the area, even though the closest tower is within viewing distance.

But I digress.

When we arrived I unpacked my stuff, changed clothes, had lunch and when we were done with all of that, we headed out with the boat to do some fishing, or for me, take some pictures.

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Anders and Johan navigating the treacherous sea

The weather was awesome from the perspective of spring/summer, clear skies, sunshine, and warmth. But from the perspective of a photographer, it was challenging to say the least, harsh light and no clouds. And Anders, Martin, and Johan didn’t seem to have much luck with the fishing either.

After an hour or so having no luck with getting anything from the boat, we jumped on to an island to see if the fish were more active near land. I wouldn’t say that they were super-active, but we did have better luck.

land

Since I wasn’t able to get any good pictures from the boat, we decided that I’d walk across an island, and meet up with the guys on the other side. Calling the Åland archipelago beautiful during spring would be a massive understatement, and I really enjoyed hiking through the terrain.

Once I reach the shore on the other side, I started walking a long the water. After a couple of minutes, I thought I heard some kind of noise from the grass beside me, I stood still for a couple of minutes and noticed that the grass was kind of moving. My first instinct was mice, and that I should try to get a picture of them. When I started to look closer, I noticed that it most definitely weren’t any mice there, instead there were a bunch of venomous snakes moving around me, hissing at me.

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The common European viper

I’ve only once seen a snake before, and that one was a non-venomous one. So this was a completely new experience for me. All of the snakes were pitch black, crawling all around me, thankfully I stood on a rock, so I felt kind of secure. I unhooked my monopod from my bag, and used it to scare them off, which worked surprisingly well. I was able to move quite freely as long as I checked carefully were I placed my feet.

I’m not going to say that I wasn’t scared at all, I did feel uneasy, like a natural instinct that I wanted to get as far away as I could from the snakes. And I’ll be honest, I was pretty happy to get back in to the boat.

When I told the guys about the incident, Anders said that just as I had left for my hike, he remembered that he should’ve warned me about them, but he figured I’d probably notice them if there were any. He would’ve called me, if I had a phone.

Should’ve bought the 2-way radios after all.

pike

We kept at it for a couple of hours, right around 5 the luck really started to change, and they were getting a steady flow of pike (catch and release). But we had a dinner reservation at 7 PM, so we had to leave when we were at top.

Since I was wasn’t drinking, I was the designated driver. I thought about bringing my camera, but decided against it, because I was going to be busy driving anyway. And boy did I regret it, as soon as we left with the car, we almost immediately saw a deer, just like 10 meters from the car, just standing still on a field, would’ve made an awesome picture.

We got to the restaurant, a converted barn, Smakbyn. We were kind of under-dressed to say the least, we had our outdoor clothing on us, Smakbyn isn’t a super fancy place, but a pretty fancy place nonetheless. However the waiter didn’t seem to mind, she just asked us if we had had any luck out on the sea, and then took our orders. I guess we weren’t that out of place after all.

We all got the 3 course dinner, which was wonderful, I can’t remember what it actually was, but I liked it. Smakbyn was a great place for dinner, good food, nice staff, nice atmosphere, and all around a great restaurant.

After a couple of hours dining, we started to head back, and I got to regret not bring my camera yet again. We saw three Elks, and a hoard of Deer, all of them just standing still, just waiting to get their picture taken.

waiting-ferry

I was hoping to get back to the cottage before the sun set, but one of the two ferries broke down, so we had to wait for what felt like an eternity (probably around 30-40 minutes) which meant I missed any golden hour photo opportunities.

On Saturday we got up kind of early, we had decided that we’d start off the day with fishing, and then have a long pause during midday, and then head back out during the evening.

fishing-trip-16
Johan and Martin weighing in a 4.5kg pike.

It was a bit windier on Saturday, however I still managed to somehow burn the top of my ears in the sun, even though we were only out for a couple of hours.

I kept on struggling with getting any good pictures because of the harsh light, but the guys on the other hand, did manage to snag a couple of pikes, and Johan managed to get a perch as well.

fishing-trip-18

A bit after noon we headed back home for some lunch, we went with burgers again, and just like the previous day, they were incredible.

One of the things Johan had wanted to do during this trip was to fell a tree with an axe. And so Anders pointed out a Scots Pine that needed to be removed.

Me? I got ready to document the process.

tree_felling-1
1. Start by hacking away with the axe. Create a <-shape on the side that you want the tree to tip.

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2. Stay hydrated.

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3. Once you’re done with the <-shape, hack a straight slice on the opposite side, then push.

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4. Timber!

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5. Tree gets stuck in branches, push harder.

After getting the tree lose from the branches, it fell down, but it took quite a while before we got it down.

Johan didn’t have a plan on what to do with the tree after he had cut it down. Naturally, it should be hacked in to firewood, but doing that with an axe would take far too long, as in splitting up the whole trunk in to small pieces.

So Anders brought out a small chainsaw, and I got to play with it.

chainsaw

It was the first time I’ve had the pleasure to use a chainsaw, and once I got the hang of it, it was really fun. But as you can see in the picture above, at first, I had a real hard time standing correctly — which really wasn’t good for my back. I also had to fetch my sunglasses after the first cut, in order to avoid dust flying in to my eyes.

Once the trunk was cut up, Martin and Johan got to split the pieces in to firewood.

firewood

It was really nice doing something else than just fishing / taking pictures. I pitched the idea that Anders could start a spa, where city-people get to go out to his cottage and pay to do some honest work. I really think there’s a business opportunity here.

Anyway, when everything was done, me and Anders wen to enjoy the sauna, whilst Johan and Martin went and relaxed in the cottage. When we were out cooling off from the sauna, I was just centimeters away from stepping on a snake, but thankfully it was just a grass snake, I wouldn’t even have noticed it if it wasn’t for Anders shouting at me to look out.

After a couple of hours of down time, we started making dinner. Since this was the last day here, we had some proper steak.

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Just before dinner I went to take a leak. And I found myself in an “awkward situation”, I found a snake curled up in a crack in the mountain. And since I was at an elevated, and safe, position. I seized this opportunity, and actually had a wee on a venomous snake.

snake-rock-crack-100

Payback for ambushing me. To my huge disappointment though, it didn’t seem to mind.

As soon as we were fed, we geared up to hit the sea one last time during this trip.

martin

unpacking-boat

The water was calm, but the fish were no where to be found. We only gave it an hour or two before heading back.

We still had to clean up, pack our gear, pull up the boat, and do the dishes. Since my flight was going to leave at 10:30 AM, we’d have to leave quite early because I didn’t want to risk getting delayed by a broken ferry again, and that’s why we wouldn’t have any extra time on Sunday morning for the chores.

moving-out

We got up at 7 AM, had breakfast and left the cottage by 8. When we drove out to the main road, an owl flew past us, which was also a first for me. Though I wasn’t quick enough to take a picture (to be honest, I didn’t even try).

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you see it, the ferry worked, so we got to the airport two solid hours before the plane was to depart. I checked in my luggage, which took all of 60 seconds, and then we sat around for an hour or so.

mariehamn-mhq

The guys were pretty tired, and I felt a bit bad for dragging them out so early just to sit outside the airport.

But I’d say all in all we had an awesome trip, we enjoyed good food, and good company, in the calmness of the outer archipelago.

I took 1,268 images (Sony A7 [543 pictures], Canon 5D [725 pictures]), I edited ~150 and uploaded 71 to flickr.

I messed up a lot of the images, but I’ll chalk it up to the fact that I’m still not completely comfortable with the A7 button layout, which meant that I had to fight with it a couple of times. However, I’m quite surprised that I only used 72% off of my primary battery on the A7 (I have a battery grip with two batteries) leaving the second at 100%, the A7 is a notorious power hog, so I would’ve thought that I’d run through both batteries easily through out this trip. I’ve also got a battery grip for the 5D, with two batteries, but it’s a tank, I didn’t even bring a charger and the battery indicator still says it’s at 100%, it can go months before I need to charge them again.

There’s not much else to it. Had a great time with great people. I’m already looking forward to the next trip, let’s hope it won’t take two years again before that happens.

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