#escapism – a weekend on Holmön

Actually my series #escapism tells about journeys shorter than 24 hours, but here I’ll make an exception. Too “escapy” in a positive way was the weekend stay of Annika and me on the island Holmön.

It’s the second time we stay at the hostel at Berguddens Fyr. We’ve been there exactly a year before, too. As last year the weather is a bit between seasons, partly autumnal, partly wintry. And as last year we have the large building completely for ourselves and we seem to be completely alone.

The only person I spotted nearby was a guy in hunting clothes yesterday morning. Hunter or hiker? Later, when we returned to our hostel from a hiking trip we met a car with a trailer with a freshly shot moose on it. Mystery solved.

Friday, 6 December

Annika and I meet in Norrfjärden at the ferry terminal. Here we wait for the 18-o’clock ferry. The ferry to Holmön is part of Sweden’s road network and the usage is free. We only had to reserve a place for my car since there is only place for one vehicle.

The ferry arrives and perfectly I back the car onto the small ferry. But it’s cheating, I use the great rear-view camera of the car. Ten minutes later the ferry starts. There are some loud bumps when it rumbles over an ice floe but soon on the open sea the trip becomes calmer.

Saturday, 7 December

The morning is grey and a bit frosty.

After breakfast we drive a bit by car, then we take a hiking tour through the forest to the eastern shore of Holmön. It’s really fascinating, because the forests are green and autumnal, but everything in the more open landscape is covered with hoar frost. Actually I was too lazy to photograph but I took same photos anyway.

And another photo after sunset, just about 50 meters away from our sleeping room. It’s 15:50 and in reality it’s much darker than on the photo.

Sunday, 8 December

It has cleared up overnight. We take the car to the northeastern part of the island. The forest path is narrow and I’m not completely sure if I’m allowed to take it by car. I’m glad about my Subaru’s all wheel drive, because a smaller part of the way lays 10–15 cm underwater and is covered with thick ice.

Soon we arrive at a small harbour. This area is new to Annika and me and it’s especially beautiful. We take the short but interesting round trip by the sea to Trappudden, Holmön’s northern tip and back through the forest. Later I’ll try to make a fire at a barbecue place but the wood is so soaking wet, that I give up after a while.

Actually we planned to take the 17 o’clock ferry but another vehicle was already booked on that ferry. So we decided for the 19-o’clock ferry that only goes on demand. We are however not alone. Due to weather warnings for the night and Monday morning the 7 o’clock and 9 o’clock ferries have been cancelled. The last opportunity to leave the island before Monday, 17:00.

In Norrfjärden Annika and I drive home. Annika to Umeå, I to Skelleftehamn. My car ride back is a bit exhausting because of some heavy snow showers but safely I arrive home at 21:30.

Holmön is a fantastic place, both because it’s quite near, quite special and beautiful in kind of a harsh way, at least between the seasons. A perfect place for a weekend #escapism.

 

 

 

A morning at the port of Skellefteå

The last weeks – or even months – were filled with work and I took hardly the opportunity to photograph. I drive to work round 6:45 – 2½ hours before sunrise – and arrive home round 16:00 – 2½ hours after sunset. It’s not a lot of daylight I got the last weeks.

Today however I have a day off and visit the port of Skellefteå in Skelleftehamn to check the ice conditions. Although there have been days with plus degrees and rain the bay Kallholmsfjärden has started to freeze over. I stand on a new gravel path that was built for the deepening of the harbour basin. It leads right into the harbour and is surround by ice floes. They are not frozen together but float freely on the water surface where they are lifted by the tiny waves.

The weekend I will have another view on the Baltic Sea. As last year Annika and I will visit the island Holmön and stay there for the weekend. I guess there will be even less snow than last year but probably less rain, too. Well, we’ll see …

A very wintry November weekend

It’s 9th and 10th of November. That sounds like autumn but it’s full winter in Skelleftehamn, although there is little snow. The temperatures this weekend are between -8 °C and -9 °C but the lively gusty wind makes it feel more like -18 °C.¹

I was out several times to check how long the winter has come.

Saturday

1 – Boat harbour Tjuvkistan

When I paddled by Tjuvkistan last Sunday I’m sure that there was open water. Now the whole harbour is covered with dark ice and snow is drifting over the frozen surface.

2 – Next to Tjuvkistan

Outside the harbour the sea is open, but each time a waves rolls ashore it leaves a bit of ice round the rocks and stones. The waves also have formed ice balls that drift back and forth in the cold water.

3 – Storgrundet

Last Sunday I had first to slide over the ice with my kayak, but then there was open water. Not anymore – the Sea between the island Storgrundet and the beach Storgrundet is completely icebound.

4 – River Skellefteälven

Right before the bridge, where the current is greatest, the water is open. The rest of the river seems to be covered with ice as well. (On Sunday I even see the first people on the ice, pretty far away from shore.)

5 – Näsgrundet

The sea water level is quite low: -50 cm. The slowly dropping water level and the waves leave icicles in different forms around the larger rocks. Days ago they were surrounded by water, now they are on dry land.

Sunday

6 – Näsgrundet

Yesterday there was mostly open water, not there are ice floes, turning and colliding in the waves. They build the so-called pancake ice. When it stays cold, it will freeze together.

7 – Away game: Bureå beach

The shallow bay by the camping ground in Bureå is partly covered with thick ice. It snows and the wind tugs at my fur-trimmed hood. 100 Meter away I see waves splashing against the ice shield building small hills of ice.

8 – Home game: Kallholmsfjärden

It’s round 18:00 and it would be pitch black if the industry of Rönnskär would not illuminate the low hanging snow clouds. I kneel in the water to make photos from the ice covered rocks and jetsam. The last photos of the weekend.

Here’s a map of the locations. Bureå is further south and not on the map.

¹ Skelleftehamn: -9 °C. If you think, that’s cold for early November check out that: Karesuando yesterday: -29.4 °C. That was surpassed today: Nikkaluokta: -34.5 °C!

 

Taking the kayak home

After a Saturday morning with rain it became cold again today. The weather forecast believes Skelleftehamn to be subzero for at least ten other days. Since the sea at Storgrundet had already started freezing over it was time to take the kayak home from the beach. The easy way would have been to put it onto the transport cart and pull it the 1.5 km home.

Since the weather was fine I decided to paddle it to a nearer place, only 650 meter away from my house. For that I had to paddle round the island Storgrundet and the peninsula Näsgrundet. That’s round about 7.5 km. 7.5 km, that took me more than 2¼ hours today.

The temperature is -6 °C and there is a slight wind. As excepted the sea between island and mainland is frozen. Instead of the paddle I use ice claws to pull me forward over the ice towards the open water. That’s easier than it sounds until you break through. Then you are in some kind of amphibian environment, where it’s both hard to use the ice claws (where’s the ice?) and the paddle (where’s the open water?).

Luckily it is just a short passage and soon I reach open water. Now I want to let down my rudder but it does not work. The whole steering device is completely frozen. I try several times but when I realise that I even cannot use the foot pedals I give up. It’s possible to steer a kayak without.

Well, it doesn’t work very well. Although the rudder at the back is small it acts as a sail, when being flipped up and the wind constantly tries to turn me around, especially on top of the waves. Three seconds without paddling and I am 30° off-course. One photo and my kayak is turned up to 150°. Constantly I get ahead, but it’s really exhausting.

The sun has risen from behind the island Bredskär. When I pass the southern tip of Storgrundet I pass some fields of a million of thinnest ice crystals covering the sea. That’s really beautiful!

Near the small boat harbour Tjuvkistan I land the kayak and try to fix the rudder. I still cannot move the pedals but at least I manage to put down the rudder into the water to decrease the sailing area of my kayak. The kayak is covered in ice.

I follow the coast round the peninsula Näsgrundet until I have the industrial area Rönnskär ahead. I turn into the large bay Kallholmsfjärden, home of the port of Skellefteå. Luckily there is no commercial boat traffic now.

I can spot the tiny tunnel that leads into the small bay Killingörviken, my destination for today. It is 2.5 km away and it takes some time to reach it, because I have headwind and I am quite exhausted. But finally I reach the sheltered bay, cross some weak ice and finally slide over thicker ice using my ice claws again. I finish my paddling tour at 9:20 and now I’m quite hungry, since I didn’t have a proper breakfast.

The adventure is over, but not the journey. My kayak are I are at one place, my car is parked 2 km away. I have the cart at hand but the belt to fix the kayak I forgot home. Luckily Annika drives me around, first to my car which I leave home, then to my kayak that I walk home. After a hot shower I get finally a breakfast. Great!

 

Closing the bathing season in Skelleftehamn?

7 o’clock. The sun was still below the horizon but already colourised sky and sea at Storgrundet.

Some minutes later – looking into the opposite direction revealed another colour impression.

There was thin ice on this bay. It was partially broken. You may already guess, why. I’ll tell you.

I love bathing in the sea and this bay is my favourite beach and bathing place. In mid-August the water temperature had been 18 °C, in September it had fallen below 10 °C and this morning it was only around 0.7 °C.

Anyhow, time for another bath.

I undressed and started wading through the ice. First I stalked like a stork, than the water got deeper and thinner and I just walked normally, breaking the ice with my thighs.

Soon I reached both open water and swimming depth. I love bathing in cold water and think it’s invigorating and refreshing. Bathing before sunrise with these beautiful morning colours is an extra bonus.

Ouchie ;-)After a bit of bathing and some swimming strokes I waded back to the beach. I already had expected cutting my legs at the sharp thin ice and so I did.

As long as the skin is cold, you hardly feel such scratches.

Being still wet I started freezing because the air was not warm neither. -9 °C the car thermometer had shown. Then the great moment came where I realised, that I had forgot to take a towel with me!

I dried myself a bit with my hands and slipped – wet as I was – into my clothes. And warm clothes it was!

This worked much better than expected and I decided to drive to the office directly. Arriving there only the tips of the socks felt a bit damp, the rest (outdoor pants and woollen sweater) felt warm and dry again.

Since the ice will get thicker and thicker every day I guess that this was the end of my bathing season 2019. At least at Storgrundet.

Some random comments

  • It has been quite cold for late October the last days. In some parts of Finnish lapland temperatures had dropped below -25 °C.
  • Later this morning I realised that I had got many more cuts and scratches from the ice than excepted.
  • The definition of a winter bath is a bath in water colder than 10 °C. According this definition I took my first winter bath this season on 9 September. But it was today that I took my first ice bath of the season.
  • While I am writing this blog article I realise that I had a roll of kitchen paper in my car. So I could have dried myself this morning.

First ice on the Baltic Sea

This morning: -6 °C · clear sky · 40 minutes before sunrise. The first thin ice has settled on the sea.

I know, it hadn’t been there the day before, when I had taken a short bath in the sea before work.

From Haparanda to Tromsø through the bus window

Four pairs of looking-through-the-window photos and a bonus proof photo

I’m sitting on my bed of room 223 in the Clarion Hotel “The Edge” in Tromsø. I’m here to join the Barents Press International Media Conference that will take place tomorrow and the day after. We from Skellefteå took a car to Haparanda at the Swedish-Finnish border already yesterday. Today we took the bus to Tromsø.

I took photos through the bus window, all with my Nikon D750 and an old 70-210mm/ƒ4.0 lens.

Pair 1 – along the river Torneälven

The Torneälven is the border river between Sweden and Finland. We drive on the Finnish side of the river. Almost all snow has melted and the river is ice free now. Sometimes large walls of ice floes lie along the riverbank.

Pair 2 – moorlands

We already have crossed the Arctic Circle. The coniferous forests are behind us and large moorland frame the road. It’s windy and temperatures are hardly above zero. From time to time it snows.

Pair 3 – winterland

The more up north we travel the snowier and more wintry the landscape becomes. We pass Kilpisjärvi and are in Norway now.

Pair 4 – fjords and mountains

Fjords and mountains – both are typical for Norway. And both can be seen from the bus. A lot of other participants have never been here before and the Oh-s and Ah-s do not stop. And they are right, the landscape is both beautiful and impressive. (… and quite unphotographable from a driving bus.)

Bonus photo

At 7 o’clock we departed in Haparanda, at 17 o’clock we arrive in Tromsø. Later I make some pictures from the roof terrace of our hotel. A Hurtigruten ship with the ishavskatedralen in the background. Take it as a proof, that I’m really in Tromsø.

Opening the kayak season 2019

Two days ago a personal weather record was beaten. It was almost 20 °C in Skelleftehamn. in April! In town 22.1 °C was measured, the warmest April day for at least 15 years. And that’s what my garden looks like: beside of a stubborn patch of snow in the shadow of my neighbour’s garage my garden is completely free of snow.

While the air was warm, the seawater was still very cold and I would not dare to paddle without a drysuit. I didn’t want to be boiled in the drysuit and so I postponed the kayak opening to today, when it was colder again.

When I leave the house at 8:45, it is 4 °C. My favourite starting point is still icebound, so I walk to the peninsula Näsgrundet with the kayak in tow. I use a belt and a rope to drag the kayak behind. When the kayak is balanced on the cart I have the hands free and can walk normally. 25 minutes later I reach the shore where I put on drysuit and life jacket. Soon I sit in the kayak and realise, that even though I miss winter there are fun things to do when it’s warm as well.

It’s colder on the sea and I put on my neoprene gloves and waterproof hood. As I expect some of the paddle routes are still blocked by ice. There is still ice between the island Bredskär and mainland so I cannot circle the island. I have to return. I pass a large ice floe – time to enter the floe for some minutes. It doesn’t move, probably it sits on a large rock.

I kayak along the islands Bredskär, Klubben and Flottgrundet, always along the open outsides. Then I head for the island Nygrundet, where I made a very special snowshow tour a month and a day ago. The ice heaps have vanished, only a long strip of ice follows the coastal line. Time to take a break and to have an early lunch. Crisp bread, cheese, fresh grapes and a bar of chocolate. I feel a bit cold and put on my lightweight down jacket, but I would have preferred my winter anorak. I even make a small fire on the ice but more for having it gemütlich than for additional warmth.

After the break I’m full and warm again. I pack my stuff and continue my kayak tour. I paddle along the outside of the islands Nygrundet and Gråsidan, where I make a short photo stop.

Then I continue to Bredskär, where some quite high ice walls are reminiscent of the winter.

I try to paddle between Flottgrundet and Bredskär but soon come to a large area of old and soft ice. I measure the thickness with the paddle – round 30 cm. I decide to walk over the ice and drag the kayak behind. First it works well …

… but then the ice gets softer and softer. Just some steps next to the island I break through. It is not a sudden movement, the ice just slowly gives way. Paired with the buoyancy of drysuit and life jacket that’s probably the reason why I only break in up to my chest. The hole is small and it’s a matter of seconds to get on the ice again. Carefully I take the last steps until I reach land.

Sea ice and lake ice have a strange way of melting in spring. The solid ice transforms to an array of long vertical ice needles. There is hardly any connection between one needle and the next and it’s not possible to lift larger pieces of ice from the water without breaking them. When you get out a smaller piece and drop it, it will splinter into many parts. The structure shown on the photos below is round 10 cm thick.

I continue walking, partly on ice, partly in shallow water. Then I can paddle again. But not for long. Soon I reach another ice field, this one looking very unstable. So I cross the ice by staying in my kayak and pushing myself forward with the hands. Ouch – the vertical ice needles hurt, even through the neoprene gloves. Alas it’s only 15 meters to cross, then I’m in open water again.

The rest of the tour? Slowly paddling back to the starting point – taking off the dry suit – putting on soft shell and down jacket because I feel cold – put the kayak onto the cart and attach it to the belt – walking home. The tour took 5 hours, 40 minutes. 5 km of walking, round 10 km of paddling. Here’s a sketch:

Legend:  on foot | kayak

Spring sprint

The warm weather of the last ten days has made the snow melt quickly. Many birds have arrived, among others swans, geese, cranes and northern lapwings. The first spring flowers are blooming and butterflies flutter around.

Some days before I still had up to 40 cm of snow in my backyard, now there are only some snowy patches left that probably will thaw away soon.

Even at Storgrundet – my favourite beach and one of the places where the sea ice uses to remain longest – the first large patches of open water can be seen.

Since most of the sea ice has been vanished I want to open the kayak season this week. I need however another starting point than Storgrundet. Even though the ice has holes, most of it is still thick enough to walk onto. I met a couple that crossed the ice to visit their cabin. The man told me, that he crossed the ice a week ago, too – by car!