Thursday paddling around Grindøya

Two weeks ago we were only five paddlers at the traditional Thursday paddling. Today we were almost thirty. While most followed the coast to the bay Telegrafbukta I joined a group of seven that paddled to Grindøya. The conditions were gorgeous. No wind, hardly any waves and beautiful light. We took a break on the island with a special bonus: Two eagles sitting on a dead tree. There were too far away for taking good pictures but beautiful to observe anyhow. On one of the photos you can spot them as tiny specks.

Takk for turen – thanks for a great tour, my fellow kayakers. Now I’ll leave Tromsø for a while until I’ll be back for more tours to come.

 

#escapism – midnight sun at Lyngstuva

Sunday, half past five in the afternoon. I just arrived in Breivikeidet by car, waiting for the ferry.

It was a quite spontaneous decision to take the car to the northern tipp of the Lyngen Peninsula to watch the midnight sun before the polar days are over in Northern Norway. Without the ferry I would have to drive 200 km one way, using the ferry it is less than half the distance. And there the ferry arrives.

Eight a clock. I have parked by car on a camping ground and the backpack is packed. Camera equipment, something to eat and drink, an extra jacket as well as sleeping bag and camping mat. Hopefully I can sleep in the tiny hut that is near the lighthouse I want to hike to. If not, I’ll sleep outside and get eaten by mosquitoes …

The way there is only 3 km. First I follow the broad gravel road then I turn right and hike along a path that meanders through the mountain landscape. The forecast of the Norwegian weather service yr was right: the weather is nice and mostly sunny. Hopefully it will be clear this night.

And there it is: Lyngstuva Lighthouse. The hut is tiny but it’s open and no one else is there. Nice!

Behind the lighthouse lies the open sea with the prominent shape of the island Nord-Fugløya (Northern bird island) in the north. On the sea there are surprisingly many ships, some of them large. The largest (and ugliest) is the touristic cruise ship Viking Mars with place for 930 passengers. Then there are two Hurtigruten ships. From the left comes Kong Harald on its way to Skjervøy, from the other side Richard With with destination Tromsø. Both have a capacity of 590 passenger.

As usual the ships greet each other with the ship’s horn. Again and again they toot, apparently checking who will have the last word.  Finally some minutes after she ships have passed, Richard With toots a last time for half a second and Kong Harald answers the same way. Then it gets silent.

I enter the tiny hut and take some pictures before I make myself at home. It’s cosy!

I soon realise, that I may have the hut for myself this night but definitely not the place. The french couple has gone but in the next hours many other people will appear “on stage”.

Dramatis personae: A couple from Amsterdam. Two people from Lithuania (he’s here for the 7th time) with friends. A group of Finnish scouts. Some more random people. M. and F. from Bavaria.

With the latter two I spend the evening and night. They are the perfect outdoor hosts. They already have collected wood for a campfire, that is soon is burning. We sit round the fire and chat about all sorts of things. I’m even invited to a glass of red wine if I have a glass. No, I don’t have any glass or cup but I have a pot of yoghurt. I only have to eat the yoghurt and clean the pot and – voilà – I have a high standard quality wine glass. Later this evening F. surprises me once more: He brought a travel guitar and so we have live music while we watch the sun slowly lowering but mostly wandering to the right.

At 0:28 the sun has vanished behind the island Nord-Fugløya in the north.

Will it be visible in the mountain gap at 0:44, the time when I think it’s lowest? Yes, at 0:42 it shows up and at 0:44 it is mostly visible again. It’s not my very first midnight sun I see, but a very beautiful one. I’m glad, that I have come here.

I take some more pictures – from the lighthouse and hut and from the mountains behind whose red rocks now seem to gleam by themselves.

Then I say goodbye to my “outdoor hosts” and enter the hut to sleep.

I decide not to take the tiny room under the roof but to roll out my camping mat in the main room. The camping mat and I have some disagreements on the topic of sleep comfort but anyhow I sleep quite ok. Just much too short. Because the next day is today and today is Monday and Monday is a working day. A quite tired working day but it was worth it. I never regret being in nature.

In Tromsø the first sunset will be in three days, at the Lyngstuva Lighthouse it will take another day, because it’s a bit more north. Now I’m looking forward to spot the first star. The last one I think I saw in the end of April.

 

Norrbyskär – after rain comes sun

After to weeks of home office home in Sweden Annika and I have a week of vacation. Yesterday we went to a concert of the Umeå based balkan folk band Mullin Mallin on the island Norrbyskär. On the ferry there it rained.

But then the weather became better.

While the soundcheck it was drizzling a bit but then the sun came out and we could listen to Mullin Mallin under a blue sky.

After the concert Annika and I had almost two hours until the 22:30 ferry that only runs after evening events. Time to sit by the sea and watch the sun set. While the sun was disappearing behind a cloud the ship was approaching. We went on board and were brought back to Norrbyn on the mainland, where Annika had parked her car.

After a 40 minute drive we were home. That day was a great way to start our vacation. Norrbyskär is always worth a visit, even when it rains and you have to eat the ice cream inside.

 

My first Thursday paddling 2023

Today I was joining the “Thursday paddling” of the Tromsø Sea Kayakers Club. They started the season two weeks ago, I joined today for the first time this year.

At 18:00 a group of 13 kayakers left the shore by the boat houses and headed to Telegrafbukta, the small bay near my apartment. In the dull weather the kayaks and the paddlers in their drysuits always look quite colourful.

Although I’ve already been paddling in Sweden several times this winter it took me some time to find a rhythm. When I’m alone, I use to paddle slower.

At Telegrafbukta we decided to continue to Sydspissen, the southern tip of the island Tromsøya. There we turned back, paddling through snow showers.

We already saw it on the way there – there was very low water at Telegrafbukta, or just “Bukta” as the locals say. We took a break there but only a short one. The weather was too chilly to be comfortable.

We talked about the weather and came to the conclusion, that summer probably already was on first of May and now summer season is over. I’m not completely sure, if this theory will prove true, but on the way back spring or summer seemed to be far away.

It reminded me at last years first Thursday paddling. It was on 28 April and the weather was as snowy as today. Let’s see how the weather is next week.

Arctic preparations

Have a look at these two images. They have something in common.

Both are related to my participation in the Arctic Ocean cruise in June. After the Nansen legacy cruise last year this will be my second scientific cruise to the Arctic with the Norwegian Polar Institute. And this time I’ve got extra tasks.

1. Drone flying

A scientist asked if I could fly a drone to map the ice stations. I didn’t have any experience in drone flying so I bought a private one to practise some weeks ago. In addition to that I made the Norwegian online course in drones (class A1 and A3) and the exam. Now I’m registered as a drone pilot in Norway, both in private and for the Norwegian Polar Institute. That was the easy part.

The interesting part starts when I shall take photos with latitude and longitude information from a drifting ice floe. But I’m not there yet (and quite happy that I have another month of preparation).

The drone photo above was taken in Norway. In Sweden it is a lot of paperwork to get permission for the publication of photos, especially when they show the sea as well. In Norway this is not the case, as long as you know the legal rules and restrictions.

2. Ice chart and weather info

To help both the cruise leader and the crew with planning it will be my job to provide them with current information. That’s ice charts coming from a SAR satellite and weather forecasts for e.g. wind, temperature and pressure. The data will be presented using the Open Source Geographic Information System QGIS. The screenshot above is just from a small learning session where I loaded in quite unrelated data as a topographical map of Svalbard, an ice chart from two days ago and current wind information.

The interesting thing will begin when we head north, leaving Svalbard behind. Then we do not have internet access anymore except sending and receiving emails through the slow and expensive Iridium network. So I cannot use all the cool QGIS plugins to gather data directly but I’ll have to send data requests per email and then receive the data later. This will be both interesting and challenging. I’m somewhere in the middle of being quite excited and pretty nervous.

Anyhow I wanted to have jobs and tasks and I’m glad I get the opportunity in a more active role than last year, were I was more like an observer. I guess, I’ll learn a lot.

Arctic Ocean, soon I’ll come!

A calm afterwork kayak tour on the Baltic Sea

Low water. I have to walk a bit. First over the remaining ice, then over the soft sand and through shallow water until I can set in the kayak.

The weather is extraordinary calm, the water surface soft as silk. The water melts with the horizon and I cannot measure sizes in the distance. The other two boats that I spotted while paddling to Obbolstenarna were sea birds.

I go on land on two places. One island of the Obbolstenarna, and a leftover ice cap on a shallow bank nearby. It has become quite warm in daytime and snow and ice are melting.

I play around with my drone that I bought two weeks ago and made some aerial photos. I probably will never publish them in the blog. Too bureaucratic the process to get the Spridningstillstånd, the permission to publish such a drone-taken photo in Sweden.

1:45 hours later I am home again. Today it looks like equally fine weather. Probably I’ll go kayaking again.

Like ice in the springtime …

In the rare cases where the temperature rises above 0 °C something special happens: Ice and snow melt and become a liquid known as „water“. One of these rare occasions is called „spring“ and this is what has started happening right now. In these days many things happen that are related to ice, snow, and water.

8 April: Vattenplasket in Malå

Last Friday Annika and I visited our friends Lasse and Martine in Kusfors and stayed over. Lasse is a journalist and had a job in Malå the next day. There was a very special ski competition named “Vattenplasket” – the water splash. A ski hill and instead of a finish line a large basin with knee deep water. Is it possible to downhill on ski or snowboard and have enough momentum to cross the water? Let’s see:

Most of the competitors failed, two actually managed it. True sportsmanship showed a small boy that did not get enough momentum with his sled and just walked into the water. Kudos!

9 April: almost a kayak tour

On Sunday Annika and I tried to do another kayak tour. Five days ago the ice was stable, this day it had got holes and was not reliable anymore. While Annika stood on safe ice I tried to cross the old ice to the island but **splash!** broke through several times. No biggie, the water is quite shallow and we have drysuits but it is exhausting. When Annika started breaking through as well, we decided to return. Another time …

10 April: winter bath

Finally. Annika and I. Twice. And then: sitting on the rocks in the wet bathing clothes without freezing because the sun is so warm. Springtime!

12 April: ice work

This is a piece of ice seen from the side. You can see the different horizontal layers that accumulated over time.

This is however no glacier ice nor Arctic sea ice. It is a piece of ice from our way to our house. Annika and I have been chopping the ice bit by bit for many days and today was the day: the way to the car and the road is free of ice and snow.

12 April: another “almost” kayak tour

There are other parts that are free of ice: Most of the weak ice between land and the island Lillskär is gone. After work I tried to paddle around the islet. We had low water (-30 cm) and some of the stable ice was grounded while large parts of the sea were open.

The first part was easy but when I almost rounded the island I came into an ice field. I already had seen it before starting the tour and thought I could paddle through. In theory this was possible, but the wind and the layers of ice made it near to impossible to steer the kayak.

So I got off the boat, jumped into the 60 cm deep water and while standing turned the kayak back to course. Now I could continue my island circumnavigation. Anyhow I consider exiting the kayak on the tour cheating, that’s why I say: I almost circumnavigated Lillskär today.

Even though the ice floes may have been 7–8 cm thick you couldn’t stand on the ice any longer. The ice was “rotten”. Many tiny vertical channels had weakened the ice and made it sensible to vertical stress. You can see it on the next photo. The piece on ice is standing, the bottom part of the ice floe is on the left.

A day cruise to Finland

A day cruise from Sweden to Finland and back.

HolmsundVaasa: 11:15–16:00. VaasaHolmsund: 16:30—19:00. The ferry is not faster on the way back but the Finnish time is one hour ahead.

Just some photos:

What a wonderful vårvinter kayak tour!

Yesterday the weather was calm and sunny. A perfect day for kayaking! Perhaps to Vitskärsudden, our favourite beach?

Chapter one – Bredskär

Kayaking needs a bit of preparation, especially in winter. After we have fixed a problem with Annika’s rudder, dressed ourself and went over the ice to the northern tip of the islet Lillskär we are ready to start our tour.

Annika goes first, I follow. We turn left and paddle along the edge of the ice.

Sometimes we cross fields with crushed ice. Many of the ice slices are thin and in the waves they sound like tuned bells.

We paddle along the island Bredskär. The waves are shallow and there is hardly and wind. I have to make a short stop to take a picture of the “ice monster”, then I follow Annika to the sandy bay in the northeast of the island.

We continue following the coastal line until we come to Bredskärssund, the sound between Bredskär and Obbola. As expected the sound is covered with ice and we have to return.

Time for …

Chapter two – Vitskärsudden

Slowly we paddle back enjoying the exceptionally beautiful weather and the ease of movement. Leaving Bredskär behind we cross the water heading for the rock that marks the entry to Vitskärsudden.

Arriving there more ice fields wait for us. Here are many layers of thin ice and it is not easy to find gaps to put the paddle in. Often it just glides and slides away.

It is not possible to paddle into the bay. It is covered with ice floes, many of them thick and large. But we do not want return home – too beautiful the day – and decide to paddle to the islands Obbolstenarna where we shortly have been two days ago.

Chapter three – Obbolstenarna

The way there is easy. No mentionable wind, just open water. In front of the islands there is another ice field, but it is small and easy to cross.

The next ice field is thicker. We try to break through but decide to go round. We just follow the coastal line.

In the south we go round an ice cap. According to the nautical map there is no island, just a shallow with some rocks.

Again I take a small detour to take a photo. This time to a large ice block.

Then we paddle north. First along the islands …

… then …

Chapter four – Home

we are leaving Obbolstenarna behind and head home. We enjoy the effortlessness of our today’s kayaking but we got a bit hungry. 10–15 minutes later we stand on the ice near our house.

We take a tour selfie then we drag our kayaks back home. First over the ice, then through the snow.

Thanks for the fabulously beautiful tour, Annika!

Annika tracked the tour with her smart watch. Here’s a small map. I added some names.

Back in Obbola – 20 hours

Sunday 10:30

After a breakfast in the sun heated winter garden Annika and I dress for a kayak tour. Special challenge today is not the frozen bay but the deep snow in our garden. I plunge through the snow, Annika is taking snowshoes while dragging the kayak behind. We are walking over the ice to the small skerry island Lillskär and then turn left until we approach open water. There we start the tour. I give Annika a push, then be both are sitting in our kayaks hopping forward until we reach open water.

We paddle to the islands Obbolstenarna. The way there is fast, a clear sign that we have tailwind. And true, the way back takes much longer. Yes, we are cold, but the winter garden is very warm and soon are we.

Sunday 17:00

A friend from Stockholm is visiting us today. Time to dig out our barbecue place. The two benches are covered with 20-30 of snow and it takes a bit of digging, until they are usable again. On the photo you still can see last day’s ski track crossing the bench.

Sunday 19:00

It gets cold and we have moved to the winter garden again. Blue sky, blue sea, blue snow, blue hour.

Sunday 20:23

A bright greenish light crosses the night, much faster than a plane. What was that? Many other sightings in Sweden confirm my thoughts: it was a bolide, an extremely bright meteor. I never saw anything like this. Since it was a matter of seconds, I couldn’t even think of taking a photo.

Monday 5:45

I wake up. Unnecessarily early for having vacation. Anyhow I peek out of the window. A beautiful morning, and with -13 °C a cold one for beginning of April. I pull ski pants and a down jacket over my pyjamas, slip into my boots and go out to take photos and wait for the sun. The icy edge at the horizon is already sunlit and I can see a weak light pillar above the island Bredskär. Fifteen minutes later the sun rises over the forestal island and I enjoy the sun for a short while.

Monday 6:30

When I’m back in the house it is still early. Time to take off the warm overclothes and continue sleeping …