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.

Breaking the ice

6:15 rang my iPhone alarm and woke me up, far too early for a Saturday, but I made up a plan yesterday when I took pictures from the ice: I want to see the sunrise. From my kayak! I took a short breakfast, packed my camera, water, a snack and my immersion suit and drove to the small Storgrundet beach again. Half of the sea between the island and land was covered with ice.

immersion-suitSome minutes later I sat in my kayak and started my trip. It was harder to get ahead than expected. Even if ice was just three to five millimetres thick you could easily lay down the paddle without braking it. And so I had to prick the blade through the ice to force me forward. The cracking sounds of the ice smashed by my kayak reminded me on the tour with the “Arctic Explorer”, an ice breaker in Piteå. But I’m not sure if I would break as little as a single centimetre with the blade of my paddle. The immersion suit that I wore for protection in case of flipping over or falling into the icy water is quite alike the survival suits on the Arctic Explorer, too. You can lie in ice water for quite a long time without even freezing. But moving in it is hard because the neoprene is quite thick and stiff and the attached gloves are not very comfortable.

The sky was mostly clear, just some clouds in the east gleamed in warm early pre-sunrise colours. And far afield just over the horizon you could see a big wall of grey clouds. The locals call this clouds vinterväggen (The winter wall), since this is a typical cloud pattern in the winter months. It was awesome to be out, feeling the chilly air in the face, listening to the cracking sounds of the fresh ice and watching the changing sunrise colours reflecting on the icy surface.

But the ice gave me a quite hard time and so I decided after a while not to round another island but to head back to the beach and perhaps take another nap after the short last night. Therefore I turned my kayak and paddled back. I could see the channels of open water that the boat cut into the ice on my way there. I tried to use these channels to make paddling simpler, but it hardly help. Not the boat is the problem but the blade. Finally I went ashore again after one of the shortest kayak trips ever. But it was completely worth it!

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.

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!

 

 

 

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!

 

Paddling round Storgrundet

Two weeks ago the sea between the island Storgrundet and the mainland was still partly ice covered. Today I paddled round Storgrundet and couldn’t discover any ice left. The view of the blue sea almost looked like spring, but it didn’t felt like spring at all, it was very windy and chilly. When I left the protected bay I tried to make some photos but soon gave up since I was blown back ashore faster than I could take my camera out of its pocket. I only made a selfie on which it’s quite visible that – measured by temperature – spring hasn’t come far yet.

At the outside of the island I didn’t had a chance to release the paddle for a photo, too high were the waves. I regretted soon that I paddled without spray deck, because some of the bigger waves made it into my kayak. The next photo I made in a sheltered bay, where the water finally was calm enough and I could empty my kayak with a sponge (it wasn’t so much water, that came in).

Some hours later …

I had a look at “kanotudden” (literally: the canoe bay), a bay of the river Skellefteälven, where the ice is finally gone, too. Almost. There is some leftover ice, mostly crushed to small bits that were jingling and clanging with each arriving wave. But even the small bits were still solid enough to bear a wandering wagtail looking for food.

The canoe club, which is located at kanotudden still seems to be in hibernation, I’ll have to check later …

 

 

 

Some images of a short kayak tour

Today I took a short tour from the small boat harbour Killingören, just 650 meters away from my house. After taking the Kejsar Ludvigs kanal – a small channel, that splits the peninsula Rönnskär – I headed to the small island Kalkgrundet, where I landed my kayak. In the shadow of the trees there’re still some patches of snow left – up to 30 centimetres. I guess it’s the leftovers of a huge snowdrift.

I walked round the island and saw a Canada goose swimming nearby. One more step and I saw another one fleeing from land to sea. It was really near but I didn’t see it before it fled. I took some photos and continued my walk. Then I saw the reason why the geese didn’t just swim away: They were nesting. Sorry, my geese, I didn’t know this. I took a very quick photo of the nest and continued walking round the small island. When I was round the corner I peeked back and could see the geese going on land again.

I continued my kayak tour to an old pier at the shore of Örviken. From the distance it looked quite stable, but when I came closer I could see that it was ruinous and many of the wooden logs wobbled in the tiny waves.

I crossed the Sörfjärden and entered the bay Kurjoviken.  I could see the bright coloured blossoms of the marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris). I love these flowers and when I was home again two hours later I visited the place from land to make some photos. Here they are:

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

Spying the land

Tomorrow I thought about paddling through the freshly snowy winter landscape. Is it realistic? Let’s check:

A: the snow warning

smhi (Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute) released a class 1 warning for tonight: 10 – 15 cm snow should fall at the coastal areas of Västerbotten. But actually it’s too warm, most of the precipitation has come as sleet and rain. Probably we will have a centimeter of wet snow tomorrow, not much more.

B: the sea ice cover

smhi has another warning, this time for the sea: “higher than 80 cm above mean sea level.” – I took the car to Storgrundet and smhi was right: Parts of the beach are submarine now. But unfortunately the high water didn’t break the sea ice. The ice near the shore is quite soft, I could paddle through. But the rest? Will I manage to break through or do I have to give up?

C: the forecast

At 7:00 it will be clear sky and -6 °C. Nice weather, but at this time it’ll be pitch dark; sun rise is round 9:15. According to the forecast it will be cloudy at 9:00 and start to rain at 13:00. Not enough with that, smhi had another warning for tomorrow: wind will be round 30 knots, that’s round 60 km/h – too much for my kayaking abilities.

Let’s summarise: Hardly any snow, the ice maybe to thick to break, windy + cloudy + some rain later on. I guess, my kayak will stay in the garage tomorrow.

Blue sky, blue sea – opening the kayak season

Finally the Baltic Sea round the peninsula Näsgrundet has been open and free of ice. Time to open the kayak season!

To Näsgrundet it’s just a 2.8 km walk from home. The kayak is tied onto a small two-wheeled dolly. I wear the same waistbelt, that I use for my pulka. Hereby I can walk and drag the kayak behind me without using my arms.

Soon I reached the peninsula and dragged the kayak onto the surrounding ice shield. After putting on my dry suit, lifejacket, neoprene boots, gloves and balaclava I was dressed for the first paddling. Perhaps I looked a bit overdressed, but despite of the springlike air temperatures it’s still winter paddling – the water is as cold as it can be.

I paddled along the ice shelf, that still connects the islands BredskärKlubben and Flottgrundet with the main land. The ice is soft and starts to get transparent, but it’s still quite thick.

Soon I reached Klubben and paddled along the icy coast.

From Klubben it’s just 200 metres to Flottgrundet and from that it’s only 500 or 600 meters to Gåsören

… at least, if you take the direct way. I preferred a detour to paddle between the ice floes. It’s a great experience. Some ice floes are quite big and welcome resting spots for ducks, geese and seagulls. Others are so tiny, that they are hardly visible, especially if they are completely transparent and clear. They sparkle and glitter like huge diamonds.

After some detours I headed to Gåsören, circuited it to look for a good anchorage and went on land (or better said, on ice) to make a small rest.

After I stilled my hunger and thirst I entered my kayak again and returned to the Näsgrundet, this time on the direct way, which is round about two kilometres. When I got out from my kayak and stepped onto the ice that surrounds the peninsula, I heard a noise: A snow mobile crossed the same ice shield I paddled along some hours ago – in same distance to the open water. Spring, meet winter!

After taking of the lifejacket and dry suit I went home, dragging the kayak behind again and enjoying the springlike temperatures. No warm jacket anymore, no woollen cap – no gloves and no warm boots. Round 40 °C warmer than 12 weeks ago – glorious!

Second kayak tour 2016

What a contrast to the first kayak tour six weeks ago: Last time dry suit, today t-shirt. Last time between ice floes, today birches with fresh leaves. Last time Baltic Sea, today the river Skellefteälven.

I put my kayak onto the new two-wheeled dolly (the old one broke down) and dragged it to the small bay Killingörviken, where I started my today’s tour. First I paddled along the harbour, then I turned right into the channel Kejsar Ludvigs Kanal. It always reminds me a bit of the “Ruhrgebiet” in Western Germany, where I lived for eleven years. After the last tunnel waited the Sörfjärden.

There I left harbour and industry behind and considered, where to go. The tour into the Nördfjärden wan, since it was windier than expected and I didn’t want to cross the Sörfjärden. So I paddeled upstream.

After a while the peninsula Örviken to my left ended. That’s where the Nördfjärden starts. I knew the first part and paddled to one of the rotten wooden piers. Luckily I realised that there were also under water parts – there were almost everywhere. I slowed down to avoid a collision with one of the big rusty underwater-nails. Finally I came to one of the four old platforms that probably formed an old pier, too – many, many years ago.

Now it was not far to the small island Gustavsgrönnan, where I made a short break. The whole shore is wet and covered with reeds, that lay flat on the ground.

I continued my tour by surrounding the island and paddled to the islands Stensgrönnan and Björnsholmen. To these islands you can drive by car and I was curious, if there would be a bridge or a tunnel to allow me continuing my trip.

First try Stensgrönnan: No chance! A solid dam connects the island to the main land.

Second try Björnsholmen: A small chance … . This island is connected to Stensgrönnan by bridge, but it looked really low. I didn’t believe I could manage to squeeze me underneath it until the end, but it worked. I had to bend my upper body onto the kayak and drag myself forward slowly by hand.

(Reminder to myself: This tour works only when water level is ±0. 20 cm more water and I wouldn’t fit under the bridge. 20 cm less and paddling could be hard due to the shallow water round the islands.)

Now I paddled downstream, which was not as much help as expected since the wind increased and came right from the front. But soon the bridge of the Sundgrundsleden was in view, the tiny cabins ashore and the dry dock with the read ship that I already saw on the way there.

I was a bit exhausted when I turned left to enter the bay Kurjoviken on the other side of Kallholmen. Now I was almost home, I just have to take the tiny tunnel “Lappstrupen” and I’m …

… well, that didn’t work. Due to roadworks this tunnel was completely blocked. Can I traverse the tunnel anyway? No. Do I want to walk and get the jetty? Neither. So I returned to the open water again and had another two kilometres against the wind until I entered the Kejsar Ludvigs Kanal again.

Now I headed back to my starting point. Another kilometer to go and I was onshore again. Phew – the last part was exhausting!

Today’s tour: Round 19 km total. (3.2 km extra because of the blocked tunnel Lappstrupen.)

Kayaking in the sunrise

“BING-BINGA-BINGA-BING-BING-BING-A-BINGA …!”

… yells the alarm on my mobile. I open my eyes, still partly caught in my dreams. Then I realise: It’s 5 o’clock in the morning and I’ve planned a paddle trip today. Out there it’s still pitch black and reluctantly I get up and get some breakfast. I’ve already packed the day before: dry suit – neoprene boots, gloves and hood – camera in a waterproof bag – water and chocolate. The compass and the live vest are already in the kayak. I leave, pulling my kayak behind on its trolley and the temperature is -4.5 °C – the coldest day since April. Round half an hour later I’m ready to start the tour. The sun hasn’t risen yet and some pink clouds hang in the blue sky.

At the sandy beach I drag the kayak into the water, lay the paddle on both the boat and the shallow ground to avoid tipping and climb in. I do some strokes, unfold the rudder that helps my steering the kayak and turn right. It’s low water and much more stones and rocks are visible as usual. I turn right again to paddle between the island Brambärsgrundet and the mainland. After that I turn left again and see the horizon and an archipelago of stones. I have to make my way through and more than once I hear the typical clicking sound, when the sea is so shallow, that the rudder at the rear touches ground and is lifted up.

The colours start to change: From light pink to something you could call apricot to warm orange. And then the sun starts to rise. It’s not that I’ve never seen sunrises before, but still I love to watch.

The sun rises a bit higher and starts to illuminate the colourful trees on the island Storgrundet which I’m approaching. Before I reach that island I turn right again and head to the open water. All I see in front of me is water, waves, the sky, clouds and midmost: the horizon. It looks like I just could paddle straight ahead to the horizon for ages. Probably it would take ages: it’s round 150 kilometres to the Finnish mainland.

So I turn left again and paddle along Storgrundets outer shoreline, go round the western peak and to the same beach were I started my tour one and a half hours before. A quite short, but pleasant kayak trip.

I go ashore and drag the kayak to the beach. It’s still below zero. The spray water on the kayak is frozen and there’s hoar frost on leaves and wood, especially in the shadowy places.

Now I exchange the dry suit for pants and jacket and the neoprene hood for a woollen cap. Dry suit and such is great for protection in case of falling into the cold water, but the “normal” clothes feel much more comfortable. I make a last photo of the beach and the island Storgrundet in the back, then I return home dragging the kayak behind.

At 9 o’clock I start my normal work.

“New Year’s resolution”: Be more outdoors in my everyday life, even if it’s short.

 

 

Kayak – is it a boat or a sledge?

Today I was out and did some canoeing. There was a special reason for that: Johan from Sweet Earth wanted to make a short film about kayaking in wintry conditions for Skellefteå kommun, the municipality of Skellefteå. He asked me whether I wanted to be the canoeist and I accepted gladly. Since the weather forecast looked good for today we planned to make the film today.

And the weather was good – it was fantastic! When I woke up at 6 o’clock, the sky was still dark but starry and completely free of clouds. The thermometer showed -13.8 °C – the coldest temperature in Skelleftehamn this season. I was curious about Storgrundet, where it happened to be open water the day before. How would it look like today?

Some minutes later I stood on Storgrundet’s boat bridge and lit my strong flashlight. As almost excepted the water has completely frozen over last night and the rim of the new ice was about 3 cm thick. Too thick to break through with my kayak. Anyway, it could be less thick a bit farther away, I considered.

At 7 o’clock Johan arrived and we discussed the possibilities:

  • Plan A: starting at the Lotsstation farther away, where there’s open water and probably no ice at all, but perhaps less motives.
  • Plan B: trying to start at Storgrundet, where it might be impossible to kayak, but it would look nicer. And there would even be a Plan B2.

We decided for Plan A. I fetched the kayak from the garage and pulled it through the deep snow to the street where I put it onto the trolley. I pulled the kayak to the beach while Johan followed by car filming. Soon I arrived at Storgrundet’s parking place, but not Johan. Some minutes later my phone rang: Johan’s car got bogged down in the snow and he had to shovel it free. I returned to give him a push. Luckily his car was free soon again and we arrived at Storgrundet for sunrise.

I took off my winter anorak and slipped into my waterproof immersion suit – ugly but vital. I removed the kayak from the trolley and pulled it to the end of the boat bridge. Near the shore and round that boat bridge the ice was white, it was older and thicker. Some metres away it was transparent and you could see the sea bottom. That ice was less than 12 hours old. I positioned the kayak at the rim of the white ice that bore my weight and entered slowly the fresh ice. It took just some steps and – Splat! – the ice broke and I stood in chest deep water. Well, that came not unexpected. That’s why I had the waterproof suit on and my isdubbar round my neck.

“Isdubbar” or ice claws are sharp spikes with handles. These are attached to a cord to be worn round your neck. If you fall through the ice you can use the spikes of the ice claws to pull yourself out of the ice hole back to safety. A must have when going onto the ice in early winter or unknown terrain!

I managed to crawl onto the ice even without the ice claws, because the immersion suit has so much buoyancy. I put the kayak onto the little ice hole and climbed in. Unfortunately the kayak wasn’t heavy enough to break the ice. I tried and pushed, wiggled and jiggled until I managed to forge ahead perhaps ten meters. Anyway I only succeeded into bending down the fresh and soft ice, instead of breaking it. Since the paddle had zero grip on the wet ice I couldn’t steer at all and turning was completely impossible. Finally I gave up and pushed myself backwards with the glove protected hands.

When I came to the older and slightly higher ice I was kind of trapped. I couldn’t push myself backwards hard and fast enough to come up onto the safe ice surface. I tried several times and at last I just left the kayak – Splat! – went through the ice again, crawled onto the safe ice and dragged the kayak back to the boat bridge.

The result: Paddling on ice: round 25 m. Paddling in water: 0 m. Baths taken: 2. Photos taken: zero. I hope, that Johan filmed my abortive efforts. It will make me laugh watching it.

But as I said, there was Plan B2:

500 meters to the northwest the Baltic Sea is not in the lee of the island Storgrundet anymore. Here at the bay Flunderviken it usually takes much longer for the water to freeze over. While Johan had to take the save way on land I could go straight ahead by crossing the ice with my kayak in tow. First I had to plunge through soft ice and water again but then the ice was of the older and stronger kind and it was easy to get ahead. I knew, that Johan would be slower and I would had time to make some pictures.

Anyway even Plan B2 was in danger: Flunderviken was iced, too. At least I could see open water 100 or 150 meters ahead. Perhaps the ice would be weaker and I could go through the ice howsoever and reach open water. But first I had to wait for Johan who had to stomp through more than knee-deep snow to arrive. Time for another photo, time for going through the ice again, this time only knee-deep. Even here the ice was 3 cm thick – too thick to paddle.

Soon Johan arrived and I made my reservations. I didn’t believe in “ice-paddling” that far. Johan got an idea: Wouldn’t it possible to use the ice claws to push oneself forward? Well, I could try. The idea appeared to be brilliant. It was quite easy to push oneself forward, even it was hard work for my non-existing arm muscles. It went great until the ice got weaker and the kayak started to break it. Here it was hard to reach ice solid enough to pull oneself forward with the spikes. It took a long time and I had to take breath several times until I reached the last meters of the ice cover where ice was so thin that I could use the paddle again and finally I was free. Hip, hip, hooray!

Now I was able to paddle freely as on a warm summer day. Beside of the floating ice needles. Beside of wearing my heavy immersion suit. Beside of the snow that covered all shores. Beside of the ice crust on my kayak …

And beside of my exhaustion because of the struggles traversing the ice. Anyway I wasn’t here for a long tour but for being filmed. I didn’t want to get too far away from Johan who was landbound. Therefore I took just a short round and made some more photos before I started back.

I followed my old route where the ice already was cut and it was much easier to get ahead. Soon I reached the thicker ice – first still cracking under the weight of me and my kayak, then thick enough to bear us without any complaints – and then the shore where I had to plunge in into knee-deep water for the last time before I went ashore.

Conclusion

It was great fun testing out the limits of winter paddling in Skelleftehamn today. It won’t be the last time that I do such. However this is only possible with proper equipment. Without immersion suit or dry suit, isdubbar and such this tour wouldn’t have been possible at all.

So, folks: Be crazy and be safe!

I’ll post the film when it’s ready in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

Winter Paddling

Yesterday I haven’t had the time, but today I finally opened the paddling season 2017. Normally I would expect the Baltic Sea to be completely ice covered at this time of the year, but warm and windy weather has prevented that until now.

First I was unsure whether I should paddle today because of a wind warning (more than 14 m/s), but when I looked at the Baltic Sea this morning the wind already had calmed down. Some hours later my kayak lay on some old ice floes ready to depart.

I put on my waterproof neoprene suit, entered the kayak and started to paddle along the icy coast. It felt a bit like late April – open water, hardly any snow left on land, just -2 °C and only the coast was covered by a thick layer of old ice. That impression changed when I came to the Bredskärsviken between the mainland and the islands Klubben, Bredskär and Norrskär. Here the water surface was covered with ice. Not with large ice floes as in springtime, but with crushed ice of all thicknesses between 1 mm and 15 cm. I entered the zone of crushed ice which made my kayak bumping against some thick underwater ice floes I didn’t see in time but soon I was amidst the drifting crushed ice.

It took me some minutes to leave that ice zone, even if it was only some meters to the open sea. I continued paddling southeastward along the rim of the drifting ice. I could see two people crossing the solid ice between the island Bredskär and the mainland. The ice on that part of the Bredskärsviken had been solid for weeks since it is sheltered by the wind.

… in contrast to myself. I felt the wind freshen more and more and the waves got more and more vivid when I paddled along Klubben heading for the island Flottgrundet. Here I decided to cancel the tour and to turn back. Probably a good idea, because now I really had to work against the high wind. You could see the wind blowing tiny ripples onto the already wavy water and more than once I got my face sprayed by water and wind. I couldn’t rest longer than for four seconds without floating back and the thick neoprene of my drysuit may be great for staying safe but not for a workout like this. Soon I was quite exhausted.

Finally when I was almost back ashore I “parked” my kayak in the drifting ice to make some more photos. The ice stopped me from drifting back. Next time when I’m in the need of a rest period I shall remember that.

In this segment the crushed ice was some centimetres thick. Because of the waves had been constantly pushing and pressing the ice together parts of it stood upright. An odd view.

The last stage of my short kayak trip was less exhausting since so near ashore the wind was less strong and soon I was on land again. A nice first kayak trip 2017.

What happened next?

  • I undressed the neoprene suit, put on pants, boots and a softshell jacket
  • I put on the belt with an attached rope and carabiner
  • I pulled the kayak over the ice and up the embankment to the street where I put it on the cart
  • I fixed the carabiner to the kayak and went home pulling the cart with the hip like a five meter long red dog
  • Home again I hung up the neoprene suit for drying, changed clothes and had a meal

It’s summer

When you look out of your window and see long green grass in the urgent need of being cut, where 4 weeks ago a snow shower covered the whole garden with white

When you go along the river Skellefteälven and finally other flowers started to bloom than only tussilago

When nights are no dark nights any longer and it will take many weeks until you can see the first stars again …

When you paddle on the river Skellefteälven, barefoot, just with t-shirt and shorts, not with a drysuit as three weeks ago and you even enjoy becoming wet by some breaking waves, because it’s so refreshing …

… then it’s summer in Northern Sweden.

And summer is more than welcome after the long winter. By the way, summer solstice is just 10 days away.

Late autumn paddling

It’s so nice to kayak on a sunny summer day, wearing just shorts and t-shirt, feeling the warm breeze, taking a bath and having dinner on a warm sunlit rock by the sea.

I wonder, why I hardly do that! This summer I paddled exactly twice – once in May, once in June. Now it’s November!

When I saw the thin layer of ice at Storgrundet this morning I was kind of alarmed – the days of paddling this year are numbered.

I fought a while with my weaker self but finally it was me who won. I put on my drysuit, neoprene boots, hood and gloves, took my little waterproof camera and fetched my kayak from the garage. The weather was still a bit sunny and temperature round -4 °C. (According to the weather forecast it should have been cloudy for hours, temperatures above zero and rain on its way. But well, the Swedish weather forecasts are hardly reliable.)

It took less than ten minutes till I reached the small bay Killingörviken where I launched my kayak. Within this short time period clouds have been approached from the sea covering half the sky.

The first 70 meters were hard work. Even when the ice is only 7 mm thick it’s not easy to paddle through because you have to break the ice not only with the kayak itself but with the paddle as well to be able to push forward. But soon I reached open water, crossed the street and reached the larger bay Kallholmsfjärden, home of the port Skellefteå Hamn. At the rear the sky was still blue but in front of me dark clouds approached and soon it started to snow …

No! Wrong! It didn’t snow. Snow stayed home and sent his asshole cousin: Freezing rain. (Rain indeed, sometimes the weather forecast is right.)

I thought back to the time, where I had lived in Essen. In that time I used to say “winter is coming, the rain is getting colder”. And so it felt today. It was chilly, wet, grey, twilit and dull. A typical autumn day in Essen. Or winter day. Or … . But I get off the point …

Anyway when I crossed all the bridges that traverse the channel Kejsar Ludvigs kanal, my mind wandered back again. Here it even looked like Essen.

But there are differences. First of all I never paddled in Essen and then Skelleftehamn is a coastal town which means that you reach the sea in less than no time:

Near the coast there was another layer of ice and again I had to cut through. My plan was to paddle round the peninsula Kallholmen, meaning that I would have to cross the sheltered bay Kurjoviken. Would I manage it or would the ice shield be too thick to be easily crossed? Well, I’ll see …

I paddled along the southern side of Kallholmen. There was hardly any wind and hardly any waves. Time to stop photoing and just enjoying the motion. Kurjoviken however came nearer and when I went round the west tip my misgivings became true. The whole bay was iced.

I gave it a try and started paddling through ice a third time this day. Already after ten meters the ice was 10 mm thick and I knew that I had 500 meters more to go. I decided to give up my original plan and returned. Backwards since it’s hardly possible to turn in ice.

It was still grey and quite dark, but it stopped raining and there was a a silver lining on the horizon.

It started to rain again. The raindrops were so tiny that I hardly could see the drops impacting the water surface. The surrounding looked hazy and mysterious and it was hard to guess distance and size of other objects.

“Is there a man standing on a rock amidst the sea? Or is it just a rock? Did it move or not? It moved! Is it a bird? I’m not sure. Yes, it’s a seabird, perhaps a cormorant. And the four dark spots ahead? Is it small rocks? Or big rocks? Or seals? Or trees far away in the haze?” Probably it was trees, that spot was further away than excepted.

Finally I reached “Ice Shield II” were I used the ice-free channel that I created an hour before. A second time I paddled along Kejsar Ludvigs kanal and reached the harbour.

A second time I crossed the bay, reached “Ice Shield I” and soon went ashore.

Well, let’s say I tried to go ashore. It was easy to leave the kayak but hard to go up the shallow slope, since the cold rain had instantly become ice on the still frozen ground and it was extremely slippery. Did you ever tried to drag a trolley with a kayak behind on freshly frozen streets? With neopren shoes made for water, not for ice? One patch on the street was so slippery that I really felt stuck. I could not move in any direction but finally I made it and some time later I arrived home.

My plan for 2018: Much more kayaking. In sun or rain, night or day – doesn’t matter as long as it’s save.

 

 

Kayakvideo – my thing – winter kayaking in Skellefteå

Last summer I was asked by filmmaker Johan Granstrand if I would be interested in making a small film about my winter paddling. I felt honoured to be asked and gladly accepted.

Despite to this year we got a lot of snow already in the beginning of November last year. Since weather was nice (and cold) we decided to make the film on November 12, exactly one year ago.

I already blogged about this day in my post “Kayak – is it a boat or a sledge?”. Some weeks ago I got the permission to share the link to the video and that’s what I do today.

“Min Grej – Kayaking i Skellefteå på vintern” on Vimeo.

(I really like this film but I don’t like listening to me talking. My Swedish sounds awfully!)