Autumnal kayak tour

Today morning weather was calm with a grey sky, but later it brightened up a bit and I decided to take a kayak trip. Summer kayaking with just a life vest over your t-shirt are definitely past for this year, since both air and water where chilly. It always takes a bit of time before I finally sit in the kayak: Emptying the kayak from this weeks rain fall, dressing, fixing map and compass as well as the camera and finally dragging the boat into the water.

Minutes later I paddled round the northwest point of the island Storgrundet which lies off the coast of Skelleftehamn. The birches on the island where almost completely leafless, only the rowan trees still wear their many-coloured leaves and bright red berries.

On the outer side of Storgrundet the sea was a bit wavy and I tried to make pictures of the waves flooding the bow of my kayak. But I wasn’t lucky because when bigger waves came I felt safer with the paddle in both hands.  I landed on the small island Brottören, hardly more than a flat pile of stones, some birches, rowan trees and a shallow pond. On one of the bigger rocks I found a twig with rowan berries and I wondered if a human or a bird laid it onto this stone.

I continued in calmer sea between Brottören and Storgrundet where I had a nice view on the Island Norrskär with many coloured trees. Alas the sun hid behind clouds again.

Since weather was a bit dull I didn’t continue to other island but returned to the tiny sandy beach where my kayak has been laying since summer. The sharp tracks of the keel where the only tracks I left today.

Protected against wind and waterTo protected against wind and weather and – much more important – I use a dry suit. I bought it second hand, it is too big and not at all breathable. This could be a problem on longer tours since you start sweeting and getting means getting cold. The head was protected by a balaclava – there may be prettier things – because on the open sea it’s always a bit windy and chilly. And even if I love cold and even rough weather, I don’t like to freeze.

On my wish list: A neoprene balaclava – much better when it gets wet, and a better dry suit for kayaking, but those are extremely expensive and cost up to 1000 Euros.

Two cloud shots in the morning.

Living near the coast was a bit disappointing the last days when it came to making photos. Snow in the inland – for example 15 cm in Malå on Sunday? We got just twenty snow flakes on Monday morning melting directly on the wet ground. Polar lights last night? Yes, in many places of Norway, in Abisko, even in Kusfors which is just 70 km away. But we in Skelleftehamn had overcast sky the whole night probably due to the near Baltic Sea.

Therefore I neither got photos of fresh snow-covered landscapes nor of any polar lights this week. I have to wait, you, too.

But when it comes to clouds I have to admit that they can look quite nice in the morning. The following two photos showing the island Gåsören I made at the Lotsstation today.

Market in Byske

Today I visited the autumn market in Byske, a small coastal town 40 km north. If was smaller than expected and I was through it quite soon. The two main topics: Things to eat and things to keep you warm in winter. The former was divided into meat, bread and goodies, the latter one in thermal boots, warm socks, knitted Lovika mittens and last not least fur, mostly in form of warm hats.

The marketer showed me the parka on the first picture. It is greenlandic and made of sealskin. He told me, that it’s hard to get these parkas nowadays, since sealskin products are only available in Greenland and then sold to Denmark. Once he sold a parka to a professional landscape photographer, but cost 3500 Euros or more. I’m glad, that I have a huge down parka to keep my warm in even the coldest winter. I would feel a bit odd wearing a sealskin parka without being an inuk or living in greenland by myself.

Just two other random shots of today: A wave at the sandy beach in Byske and a small lighthouse on the other side of the Kågefjärden. I considered first driving to the lighthouse but changed plans, which was a good idea as I realised later, since this lighthouse is not onshore, but on the island Bergskäret.

November: sun and ice

I love the combination of sun and snow, or sun and ice. Today I got the latter. I woke up 5:45 and after a short breakfast I drove to Långhällan, where I’ve been four weeks ago. First I tested my new lens, but quickly changed to my old wide angel lens, since I don’t have a 52mm filter adapter for the new one. It was quite cold for the first of November: between -8 °C and -9 °C. The sun slowly went up but was hidden behind a wall of clouds. Långhällan is just a big rugged rock but I could take photos again and again, always trying to find new and better motives. Today I tried to catch both the cold ice covered puddles and the sky with its warm daybreak colours.

After a while I turned the car and drove back a bit, but stopped at another shallow beach. In contrast to Långhällan which is quite exposed, this small bay starts to freeze over. The ice is still very thin and even small waves can break it into large, irregular pieces.

All grass and reeds where covered with hoarfrost which gave the landscape a quite wintry mood, even if it’s only first of November. First I was annoyed with myself because I left home the macro lens. But the new wide angle is surprisingly good for near shots, too.

Now it got cloudy and warmer, +1 °C. So I guess I can have a lie-in tomorrow.

Kajak home

Two photos from a small kayak trip today: Between these two photos lie round 2.5 kilometer, enough for a change from idyllic islands to grey industry, and 30 minutes, enough for a weather change with gathering dark clouds and increasing wind.

But it’s the same tour, the “bring-the-kayak-back-into-the-garage-tour”. Yes, I could have gone to the tiny private beach where my kayak lay under the summer, take it and just drag it homewards. But that’s boring. So I paddled it to the small boat harbour Killingörviken, which is quite nearby from my house. The tour is just 6.5 kilometer long but shows the different sides of Skelleftehamn: The beautiful small islands with forest and summer houses, the open sea, the industry on the peninsula Rönnskär, the small but active port and last not least the small boat harbour that probably won’t see any boat before April next year. Season is over.

We’ll see when kayak season will be over. As long as parts of the Baltic Sea are clear of ice I’ll try to be out, but that may change quite soon. At least the kayak is back in the garage where it is sheltered from the upcoming winter weather.

From bed to sun rise in 11 minutes?

Today I woke up 7:26, sun rise should be 7:37. That’s eleven minutes to get into warm clothes (-11 °C!), get the camera, change the lens, change camera mode, get the tripod, put all stuff into the car and drive to the peninsula Näsgrundet. This should be one of the last days where I can make a photo of the sun going up behind the light tower of the island Gåsören. Eleven minutes were slightly too short and I arrived two minutes late. So I was a bit in a haste but at least could capture the motif just in time, even if the light tower is not perfectly in the center of the rising sun. But anyway, it was really nice to be outside and I continued being outdoors.

 

Roller coaster weather

This December the weather is like a roller coaster, going up and down, bringing frost, rain, hail, sleet and storm. It’s not at all the winter you imagine when you think on Northern Sweden.

Monday started with sunny weather and temperatures round 1 °C – cold enough to cover the windscreen with a thick layer of window frost. (I prefer the German name “Eisblumen” which means ice flowers.) Then it got colder.

Tuesday it was quite clear and cold with temperatures round -7 °C with a minimum of -9 °C at 22:00. In the next three hours temperatures rose by 10 °C and the next morning we had +3 °C and heavy winds. I left my car at the car service station to get it checked before my winter journey and took some photos on the way back home. I attached spikes to my boots because the wet icy roads where extremely slippery. When I went back some hours later to get the car I was surprised at the high water level. This day the water level climbed 70 cm, that’s a lot for the Baltic Sea and only happened because of the storm pressing the sea water ashore.

The next two days were cloudy, temperatures round + 2 °C with some drizzle that instantly froze on the cold ground. Saturday evening – which was yesterday – it started to get colder and rain started to mix with snow and some soft hail. In the evening it finally started to clear up a bit und got colder.

Today it was quite clear, temperatures round -8 °C and I took a tour to the peninsula Örviken. Örviken has an area of 1 km², 400 people are living here. Even if it is quite near I hardly has being there, which is a pity since it’s a nice place, especially if it’s clear and you’re waiting for the sun rise.

And that’s what I did today. A good activity if you caught a cold and want to take it easy.

On the photos you can see the impacts of the weather: The storm destroyed the ice cover leaving a lot of floating ice floes, but in the cold night the surface started to freeze over again. Do you see the stacked ice in front of the trees? Its laying on land and I guess it was left there after the high water some days before.

After that I drove to another place I already knew and took some photos of the last motif today:

Now it’s half past five and -7.4 °C outside. The weather tomorrow? +2 °C and rain! Probably the whole day! Onto the frozen ground! Sounds familiar?

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

roller coaster – Achterbahn
drizzle – Sprühregen
soft hail – Graupel
peninsula – Halbinsel
Ice floe – Eisscholle

108 free days

Yesterday I worked the last day for a long time. Now I have holidays. Long holidays! The first day I’ll work again will be the day after Easter Monday and that means that I have (just a moment, I’ll have to check it again to believe it: 12 + 31 + 28 + 31 + 6), that I have a 108 day holiday starting today!

108 days – isn’t it great? Um – err – I don’t know! The last months were quite tough with much work (both privately and on the job) and I’ve been in “survival mode” for many weeks – and still I am. I don’t realise yet, that today my longest period of free time since pre-kindergarden times started. Probably it will take some more days until I really understand.

Yesterday it was sleeting – a bit of snow, quite much rain. But in the afternoon it got colder and rain changed into snow. Today it’s round -5 °C and we have ca. 8 cm fresh snow. In contrast to the last weeks the snow will probably survive, since the weather forecast promises temperatures below zero for the rest of the month.

My friends know my passion for winter and snow and of course I went out and took a walk round the lake Rudtjärnen. The whole lake is covered both with ice and fresh snow and I saw the first two skiers today. They tried to cross a part of the lake but they had to stop to scrape the freezing slush from the bottoms of their skis. The ice under the snow is still wet. No surprise after yesterdays rain.

Later this morning I took the car to the peninsula Näsgrundet where you can see the island Gåsören with its red-white lighthouse in two kilometers distance. It still snowed and long waves rolled on the beach, broke on the shallow shore and flushed away the snow of the nearest rocks. And in the background lay Gåsören covered with the first noteworthy amount of snow.

It took more than 60 shots of this motiv, until I found the right place and – much harder – the right time with surf in the air and the red spotlight of the lighthouse on. I’m still not content, but it’s the best shot today.

The rest of the day: Celebrated laziness – it’s my first day off!

In round about three weeks I will start my long trip through Northern Sweden and Northern Norway – the reason why I took such a long period off duty, and by the way the reason why I started this blog.

Abisko: White snow, white sky

Day 18

Another ski tour today, not up the hills but down to the lake Torneträsk, which ist the seventh biggest lake in Sweden and 168 metres deep. But on the lake there’s a layer of at least 50 cm ice and a bit snow. This snow was so low in contrast that you could see just a uniform white without any structure at all. When I came to the first small island I could hardly see where the slope began. White snow, white sky.

I went half around the first nameless island and half across. Then it was only some hundred metres to the island Ábeskosuolu which is bigger and higher. I didn’t dare to climb the top with my skis but went around here and there. After taking a rest I continued to Abisko Turiststation, the big tourist station in Abisko. I went over the ice straight ahead.

Even on land I tried to continue quite directly, which was both quite stupid and quite funny, because the labyrinth of steep small hills was full with a thicket of birches. A snow hare looked at me from a safe distance. I guess he thought, I’m mad and perhaps the hare is right. I continued plunging through the deep snow taking many detours to come uphills until I reached the station. Arrival 13:45 – just in time to get a late lunch. I enjoyed especially the salad bar. After a rest and eating a bit too fast and too much I went back to the village Abisko, but this time on the direct way near the road and the railway line. That’s only two kilometres and I was soon home again.

Meanwhile home: A snow storm has covered Skellefteå and around with huge amounts of snow. Some people wrote on Facebook, they’d been snowed in. I looked at the photos and – yes – I, as a snow fan would love to could have shared this experience. But on the other side we had much snow in Skelleftehamn the last years, especially because the nearness to the coast. For example:

Here in Abisko wind starts to increase and snow shall come tonight, but just some centimetres.

Abisko: Where are the mountains?

Day 19

Where are the mountains? I guess they’re still there, they are hard to move. But I couldn’t see them the whole day. When I stood at the edge of the lake I could see the island Ábeskosuolu, 700 metres away, but the rest of the terrain was hidden in a greyish white. I guess it was less the falling snow but the blowing snow that hid the surroundings, because the wind was quite fresh and gusty. SMHI, the Swedish weather office published a level 1 warning for today: hård vind med snödrev/nederbörd (high wind with ground blizzard/precipitation).

Two other images of today, the first showing one of huge snowbanks that were built up on the houses lee side. The other shows the restaurant and bar from the outside with blowing snow.

Photographers note: I like the last photo of the restaurant’s outside. And I took it without a tripod: ISO 3200 35mm f/2.0 1/320 sec

 

Ascent of the Komsa

The second day in Alta. The afternoon I parked my car at the end of the street Tilfluktsveien. My plan was to go up to the top of the hill Komsa. The winter ways turned out to be ski trails and I since I went afoot, I went beside the trail. First I thought about getting my skis, but soon I found a trampled path that brought me to the top of the Komsa. Thank you, locals, for knowing the best way and tramping this path! On the top of the Komsa it was very windy and I sought shelter behind the radio station to change the camera lens. Nearby stood two sheds with parabolic antennas. The green camouflage pattern revealed the military usage. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous standing there with my camera and the long telephoto lens, especially when I aimed directly to the sheds to catch the mountain view above. I’m quite sure that it’s strictly forbidden to take pictures of military installations in Norway as in many other countries. After taking some images (landscape, no military installations!) three soldiers appeared and approached. They went into my direction and they seemed to be in a hurry. (Gulp!) But they just said “hoi”, passed by and entered the wooden house of the radio station. (Phew!) There were not at all interested in my photographing and probably just wanted to avoid the chilly wind. I was reliefed and wandered around a bit. The stormy wind was chilly but the views where so beautiful.

Two other photos of today.

One: The Nordlyskatedralen (The Northern Light Cathedral) in Alta, a remarkable building.

Two: Wakan, an Alaskan Malamute, that will participate the Finnmarksløpet, a 1000 kilometre dog sled race that starts in Alta in a few days. Good luck!

Home in Skelleftehamn

I’ve been home again for some days. The weather in Skelleftehamn is between winter and spring. The sky is clear and the nights are cool (last night for example -7 °C) but as sun the sun comes out the temperatures rise soon to degrees above zero.

Parts of the ground are covered with hard snow – in my backyard i measured 45 cm – but other parts are completely free of snow and I’m waiting for the first flowers to come out and blossom.

The Baltic sea is mostly free of ice, but near the shore and in some sheltered harbours there is still a thick layer of ice covering the water. And since the night was quite cold, parts of the near harbour that was completely open yesterday was covered with thin new ice this morning.

Two photos that I made near the small boat harbour Tjuvkistan this morning:

I could walk over the ice to some islands that still are connected to the mainland or I could take the kayak and paddle to some islands, too. But to be honest – I’m quite lazy after the long journey and I guess I stay home today and take it easy.

Opening the kayak season

“4:45” showed the clock when I woke up this sunday. Seventy minutes later I stood at the shore – just on time to see the sunrise. My kayak still was fixed on its cart with paddle, camera and dry suit inside.

I put on the dry suit, pushed the kayak into the water and started the tour. When I left home it was -6 °C and parts of the sea where covered with thin new ice. Thin enough to melt under the day but thick enough to give me a hard time to break through with the kayak.

I’m always a bit nervous when I stick my paddle into the ice. Will it break one day? But until now it went well. Sometimes it was easier to take the hand and pull the kayak ahead. And sometimes, when the ice got really thick I used the paddle to hack small holes into the ice that I used as handles for pulling me forward.

But after a time I reached open water and paddled along some old ice floes that were much, much thicker.

And a bit later I came to the huge icy surface, that lays between the mainland and the islands Norrskär and Bredskär. I got out and stepped onto the ice. I think, this is the first time that I stepped onto the sea ice from my kayak. I wasn’t nervous, first of all is this old ice really thick, I should guess at least 30 centimetres, probably more. Then I always wear my completely waterproof immersion suit when I make a kayak trip in winter.

After a short break I continued the tour and headed to the island Gåsören. On the outer shore there were some impressive ice floes left.

It took a while until I could go ashore, because I had to cross another field of new ice. I took a longer rest and took of the dry suit. Ugh! Like always I sweated in the thick neoprene suit and now I smelled like a dead Puma. I took on some other clothes and first it was quite chilly. The spring sun however had enough power to warm me up and soon I took of my gloves and cap.

Most snow has melted and beside of the ice covered rocks at the eastern bank Gåsören almost looked like spring was here.

After a while I dressed for paddling again, entered the kayak and returned to the starting place. With the last ice behind I had a beautiful view of the islands Klubben, Flottgrundet, Gråsidan and Nygrundet. With the blue sky and the blue sea I had the feeling of leaving the winter behind me and paddle into the spring.

When I was home again the thermometer showed +7.3 °C. Almost spring!

 

 

 

Sun rise 5:16

If you love to witness the sun rise you have to rise up early. Today I managed to stand up round 4:15 and half an hour later I stood at the sandy beach of Harrbäckssand to see the sun coming up. Well, sandy beach it is in summer, now the shore is covered with snow and ice. And today it was even quite cold with temperatures round -12 °C. This may be the last “real” winter day this season, but you never know, last year it snowed in May.

5:16 the first bright orange beams of the sun appeared behind the island Medgrundet.

Minutes later the sun illuminated ice, snow and pine trees with warm colours between orange and pink.

I loved the swirly ice patterns on the half frozen water of the shallow beach.

After a while I drove home again and took an additional nap. 4:15 is too early, even for me.

 

A short kajaktour to the island Norrskär

What a contrast – two days ago I skied through the snowy winter forest in Äkäslompolo in Finland, today I paddled on the Baltic sea under a blue sky with two friends and it almost felt like spring.

Hans, Stefan and I met at the pilot house, where the Baltic sea is completely free of ice. We paddled to the island Klubben and started to round it, but a thick layer of old ice still lay between Klubben and Bredskär.

So we turned left, and paddled along Bredskär and Norrskär.

On the outer side of Norrskär we went ashore and took a fika, a break with drink and food.

On the outer side the waves were a bit higher and sea spray splashed ashore.

The old ice has a fascinating structure, it’s like a mosaic of thin vertical sticks. If you smash it, it splinters into many pieces, but the sticks are quite stable.

After the break we continued our tour and paddled along the southeast peaks of the islands Storgrundet, Brambärsgrundet and Vorrgrundet. Here we had a bit more waves. More than twenty whooper swans rose when we came closer – a spring sign. But on the ice between Storgrundet and Brambärsgrundet people still stood on the ice, perhaps there were ice fishing.

Now we were on the way back and the waves got smaller again. The ice edge is quite fascinating. The ice itself is still quite thick but at the edge the underwater ice got a lot of holes and looks like a frozen sponge.

Three weeks ago I stood on the thick ice between the mainland and the island Bredskär and it was possible to go to the islands by snowmobile. Today we paddled through the open water, but on the remaining ice in the small boat harbour Tjuvkistan you could still see some snowmobile tracks and they were quite fresh.

Soon we arrived again at our starting point, a short but very pleasant tour. Thank you, Stefan and Hans!

They packed their car and I put the boat onto the small cart and started to go home, dragging the kayak behind. (Foto: Stefan)

The air was still cold – round +3 °C – but the sun already got a lot of power and it feels much warmer. On my way home I discovered another spring sign: The first blooming flower, a tussilago. Spring is here!

 

Umiak I

It started like many kayak trips: I put out to sea at the tiny beach Storgrundet without any plans at all. Unlike yesterdays weather forecast it was a nice and sunny day, although not very warm. Since the sea was calm I paddeled along the seaward sides of the islands Storgrundet and Brottören, crossed the Bredskärsviken to the islands Norrskär and Bredskär, continued at the east side of Flottgrundet and headed to Gåsören, probably my favourite island nearby. Some photos:

But much more fascinating than nature, birds and islands was the moment when I looked at the horizon and saw the faint but large silhouette of a big ship. The blurred outline looked more like a fata morgana than a real object. But I wasn’t the only one watching the ship. Two tugboats came from the port to bring the ship into port.

T., whom I met on the Island Gåsören knew the ship. It’s Umiak I, an ice breaker, that can break 1.5 meter ice and still going 6 knots (ca. 11 km/h). Impressing! I do like summer, but I really adore winter and started dreaming of travelling with the Umiak I in winter and cutting through solid ice.

Later today I made a better image of the ship in port.

It’s at least so famous, that it has its own Wikipedia page! I looked at Shorelink as well, to get some more information:

  • Cargo: 9257 tons copper concentrate
  • Coming from: Edwards Cove via Brunsbuttel

Of course I had to look up Edwards Cove, too. Never heard the name before. If the internet is right, Edwards Cove is a harbour west-northwest from Nain in Labrador, Arctic Canada. If the ship would go back the same way, I guess I would ask for a lift.

Links:

An overnight stay on the island Gåsören

Saturday

The advantage of short kayak trips with overnight stay: you can start quite late. It was 7 p.m. when I started pulling my loaded kayak from home to shore. A quarter later I sat in the kayak and started paddling. It’s only four, five kilometres to the island Gåsören that shone in the warm light of the evening sun.

The first thing to do: Put up the tent before sundown. The second thing to do: Taking a picture of the lighthouse before sundown. The stomach reminded me of thing number three: Preparing food and eating. Todays dinner: Graved salmon on fire roasted bread à la plein air.

I was quite curious if I would catch the first polar light. The short term forecast of Soft Serve News wasn’t too bad. But even if the sun already went down round 9 o’clock – two and a half hours earlier than eight weeks ago – I still had to wait for the sky getting darker. After a while however I could see the first faint greenish garlands. My first Northern Lights of the season 2015/16! Great!

But then I saw something in the sky that I thought was much more fascinating: Right above the red coloured northern sky I could see a layer of lucent clouds. They looked really strange because there weren’t red or purple – they were pale white! I never saw something like that before. They looked extremely far away, almost extraterrestrial. I wondered if this perhaps could be noctilucent clouds – clouds that are found in extremely high altitudes of round about 80 kilometres. I stayed awake for a long time, I just couldn’t tear my eyes away from this wonderful phenomenon. Two pictures of the clouds:

Of course I checked my hypothesis directly, when I went home. Yes – I guessed right. My first noctilucent clouds ever. I was really lucky and I’m happy that I could see them just from my tent.

But let’s leave the Mesosphere and go back to earth again. If you tent on the island Gåsören, you can see other lights, too. Lights of civilisation: The peninsula Rönnskär is quite nearby. On Rönnskär there is Boliden Rönnskär, one of the most efficient copper smelters. You think industry is unsightly and ugly? Well, not Rönnskär by night in my opinion:

Sunday

I woke up in broad daylight although it was only half past five. I took one halfhearted picture out of my tent and then I started reading.

I started the book “Norwegen der Länge nach” written by Simon Michalowicz that was published just some weeks ago. Simon hiked from the Southern tip of Norway to the North Cape – round about 3000 kilometres.

I read in the tent – I read sitting in front of the island’s sauna — I read sitting or lying on a floating boat bridge, only interrupted by a short bath in the Baltic Sea. I followed Simon’s tour and just couldn’t stop reading. It was noon when I finally finished the book. If can warmly recommend it to all German readers that love Scandinavia or are interested in hiking. There’s a website as well: www.simonpatur.de.

I wasn’t alone on the island. Some people hired the old lotshus – the pilot’s house for an overnight stay. The first motor boats came in for a day visit. And both summer cottages – there’re only two on Gåsören – were used, too. From T. who owns one of the cottages I learned that it was international lighthouse day today. So before I packed all my stuff together and paddled home I went up the two stairs in the old lighthouse and made a last photo.

I was home again half past two. Many experiences and a good book in less than twenty hours – that’s a fine weekend.

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedish
Noctilucent cloudsLeuchtende NachtwolkenNattlysande moln

Two sides of an autumnal morning

A cold side and a warm side. The difference? 19 Minutes and 500 meters.

It’s really fascinating that even larger water areas than mud puddles start to freeze over after just three mornings with temperatures below freezing; today round about -5 °C.