#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 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!

 

Another kayaking

On Friday came a lot of rain, but yesterday on Saturday the weather was forecasted to be nice – and so it was. Time for a longer tour with my kayak, that I hardly used this year. A quarter past 9 I was on the water.

Soon after I passed the near-shore island Storgrundet the sea became quite wavy. Still no dangerously large waves but enough to keep me busy instead of photographing. Shortly before the island Medgrundet I came into the lee of the island and the water calmed down. There I could take photos again and it was easy to go ashore.

Do you see the brown stuff covering the stones? It guess it was some kind of algae washed ashore. Phew – the smell was awful! On the island I saw probably the last blooming circumpolar pea for this year. Other plants were already bearing bean pods. It was end of August and you could see autumn approaching.

In opposite to most other islands nearby, there are no summer cottages or other buildings on Medgrundet. I went through the forest to the other side of the island, which is hardly wider than 200 m at its widest point. There are some beautiful trees in the small forest, a nice contrast to the many commercial forests in Northern Sweden. From the other side I could spot my next two paddle destinations for today: Snusan and Kågnäshällan. On my way back I accidentally found a shelter amidst the forest. Maybe it’s new, I’ve never seen it before but probably it’s Medgrundet’s first building.

When I approached Snusan I scared away an eagle. It rose into the air to the big dislike of a seagull that tried to shoo the raptor away. The eagle hardly noticed the seabird but spiralled higher and higher into the air. I observed it only en passant, I had to focus on the waves.

Again I approached the island from the lee side. While Medgrundet is covered with a forest – mostly pines – Snusan is quite bleak and looks more like a huge flat rock. Probably it’s quite young, an old map from 1926 shows that it had been much smaller then.

On the north side of the island I could see the island Kågnäshällan, but also the breaking waves, that I already had heard a while before going ashore.

Parts of the island were very wet with a lot of water puddles, inhabited by small fishes and aquatic insects of the family Corixidae. Other parts of the island were very dry and many of the rowan looked dried up. Probably there’s hardly any soil that can store water for a longer time.

I continued paddling. First I had to cross some quite large waves then the sea was much calmer so that I could take a picture of the next island to visit: Kågnäshällan.

The calmness however was only temporary, because I kayaked along the outer coast of Kågnäshällan, where there are a lot of rocks and shallow areas – invitations for the waves to break. I went round the island, just focussing on the waves to come until I reached the sheltered bay on the land-facing side. On the outside I could hear the roar of a water scooter, at the horizon I could spot a white sail of a sailing boat – two very different ways to travel on water. My preference however is still the kayak.

After a yoghurt as a snack and remembering the last time I’ve been here six month ago I continued my kayak tour. To Kågnäshällan I had paddled quite directly over open sea, now I would follow the coast until I would be back again.

I passed Kågnäsudden, a fishing village, and a lot of summer cottages. Some people were working (mostly involving tools or vehicles with a motor), some were just sitting in front of their houses enjoying the warm and sunny weather. And warm it was, although some clouds were gathering. Since I left Kågnäshällan the sea was much calmer and I could take pictures from the kayak.

That made paddling much easier but also a bit more boring. It’s nice to have waves as long as you feel safe. Part of my safety was the drysuit that I put on when starting the tour. And a life vest of course, but that’s common sense and hardly mentionable.

Now I looked for the beach I use to bath sometimes but I just hopped over that very bay. What a pity! Anyway I found a nice replacement, a small and shallow sandy beach.

Lunchtime! The menu: Västerbotten cheese on crisp bread garnished with grapes. One of the ants liked the cheese, too and robbed a large piece. It dragged it over the beach that still was wet from last days rain until it got stuck.

After lunch break I continued paddling, passed the beach Harrbäckssand, the island Björkskär and then I could see on of the summer cottages, where my kayak uses to lie in summertime. One longer final spurt and I was back again, very glad that I could make this extraordinary fine summer kayak tour. Hopefully not the last for this season.

Appendices

I Paddling

More and more I start to enjoy paddling in the waves. I guess I should learn how to use a kayak sometimes. Perhaps next year?

II Tour stats

17.5 km / 3 hours 40 minutes plus a lot of breaks. That’s less than 5 km/h. It’s more leisure than sports.

According to my tracking app the elevation gain (and loss) was 287 meter. The waves?

III Wildlife photography

I saw the eagle, I had a camera, but I didn’t take a photo. Why? Well, there’s a rule set for that, the Eagle’s legals:

(1) When you see me – the eagle – you will not have a camera with you (I had)
(2) But if you have, then you will not have the telephoto lens with you (I had)
(3) But if you have, then you will not have it mounted on the camera (that’s right)
(4) But if you have, then you will be busy with other things until I’m long away (true, I was struggling with the waves)

IV A riddle

I found this shell of a cockle on the island Snusan. It lay on the rock. There are no cockles in the Bothnian Bay, this part of the Baltic Sea. The next place where you can find them is in Norway, 400 km away. How does this shell come to this place? I know that seagulls use to take shells in their beaks and let them fall down on rocks to crack the shell and get to the meat. But would a seagull transport it such a long distance? How? And why? A riddle that probably remains unsolved.

A kayak trip shorter than expected

About neoprene suits, the post-glacial rebound and changed lunch plans.

Today I wanted to paddle to Själagrundet, an island 1.6 km from mainland. The air may be warm but the water is still cold and that’s the element you should be prepared for in case of capsizing. Today I decided against the bulky drysuit and chose a thin neoprene suit for the first time.

The suit is very tight (especially if you each too much chocolate …) and hard to put on. After I managed to squeeze myself into the suit and to close the back zipper it felt quite comfortable. Until I started paddling. It was much harder to move the paddle than usual because of the tight neoprene sleeves. Every paddle stroke felt like training with a rubber band. I got used to it after a while, but neoprene will probably not become my favourite choice of kayak clothing.

I passed the island Storgrundet and headed northeast. The waves came exactly from the side which is the worst direction regarding stability. So I zigzagged a bit to avoid the waves rocking the kayak too much. Nevertheless the island came closer and closer and soon I got out of the kayak and dragged it ashore. The seagulls didn’t like my arrival. Screeching loudly they rose in the air, sailed in the wind and didn’t dare to land as long as I occupied their private property.

There are many islands whose name ends with -grundet. From Skelleftehamn for example you can paddle to Storgrundet, Norrskärsgrundet or Nygrundet. The Swedish word grund means (among others) shallow, so the translations of the islands mentioned above are: the Large-Shallow, the North-Skerry-Shallow, the New-Shallow.

Who is to blame? The post-glacial rebound! After the last glacial period the glaciers started to melt. Slowly the land, that had been compressed by the huge weight of the ice sheet started to expand. It is still expanding and rising – round 8–9 mm a year. Therefore some islands are quite new. Själagrundet for example is hardly older than 100 years. They got their names from the old times when they weren’t islands yet but shallow underwater-banks that the fishermen had to take care of.

Today Själagrundet still is mainly a large gravel bank. Only on the higher eastern side plants had started to grow. Mostly it’s flowers, but two small bushes and a small willow tree have settled there as well.

I walked around and had a look at the 260 meter long island until I got hungry and wanted to eat my lunch – salad and a chocolate bar. When I looked at the dark grey clouds that seemed to approach the island I changed my plans. Did I hear the rumble of thunder? When I would be hit by a thunderstorm on this flat island without any shelter I could get into serious trouble. I checked the speed of the clouds and decided that the best option was to paddle back to mainland, now and quickly.

I had a fast start and paddled quicker than usual until half of the distance lay behind me. It was quite exhausting –remember the neoprene suit? When I realised that there was no immediate danger of thunderstorm and lightning I slowed down. I took my dinner on the island Storgrundet. A save place with summer houses and hardly 100 metres from mainland. Then I paddled back to the small beach at the mainland, took off the neoprene suit and had a refreshing bath in the Baltic Sea in the sun.

 

White nights

Since the summer solstice on 21 June the nights are slowly getting longer again. Last night sunset was 23:21 and today’s sunrise 01:56. At this time I usually sleep.

I was extremely lazy photographing the last weeks, so I decided to ignore my tiredness and drive to the coast. This time I chose a new place I’ve never been before. I left my car at the side of the small gravel road that I had followed for some kilometres. I took my camera bag with the tripod and crossed the hilly forest until I reached the coast.

While photographing I decided to publish at least two photos in this blog, whether I like them or not. I have to admit that I’m not so content with the result, but anyway, here are two shots of last night. Both pictures are taken in the last minutes before sunset, the first 22:59, the second 23:12.

 

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

A view from the rock dump

The peninsula Näsgrundet is one of my favourite places for photographing in Skelleftehamn. There are many motifs especially in wintertime. The snowy rocky coast, the ice covered Baltic Sea or the island Gåsören on the horizon. Probably you have seen some of the motifs here in my blog.

Mostly I take the car. I drive along the street Näsuddsvägen. To the left there are the huge cisterns for storing oil and other chemicals, part of Oljehamn, the oil port of Skellefteå. To the right, on the other side of the bay Kallholmsfjärden there’s the peninsula Rönnskär, home to several industrial facilities. Most prominent is Boliden Rönnskär, one of the world most efficient copper smelters.

There are several rock dumps beside the street. Since last year there’s a huge one between street and bay. Today I went up the slope and watched the sunset. These are perhaps not the photos I normally made home in Skelleftehamn, but the industry is part of this coastal region, too.

Have a look at the last photo: It looks like the peninsula Näsgrundet with its red houses and the tug boat to the left would almost touch the island Gåsören with its lighthouse. The distance between them however is more than 1.5 km. It’s the telephoto lens that makes the distance shrink, at least visually.

By the way: if you live here and wonder why my car is so dirty – one of the reasons is this huge water puddle that I have to “ford” when going to eller coming from Näsgrundet.

 

Last day of February – polar light

Just one hour ago: finally a polar light above Skelleftehamn that was more than a pale green arc. It was just a short intermezzo and when I had found a good place for photographing it already weakened. That’s normal. Many of the beautiful auroras do not last long. I got some shots anyway.

You see the open water on the last image? Well, that’s another story to tell.

Kågnäshällan – between land, ice and sea

Kågnäshällan is a small island in the Baltic Sea with a lighthouse. The linear distance is only 7 km, but it’s 18 km by car. Since I cannot fly (and neither skies or kayak would do neither) I took the car this morning to Kågnäsudden, the cape nearby to take some photos on Kågnäshällan.

The sea is almost free of ice, only at the coast and between the islands there’s a thick layer of ice left. That makes the area quite amphibian. I took snowshoes and pulka for walking along the coast and for crossing the wet but safe ice between mainland and Kågnäshällan. Then I wanted to get near the ice edge and chose waterproof equipment. The waterproof Nikon AW-1 for taking photos and my red immersion suit to keep my warm and dry in the ice cold water. I felt like a bright red seal hunting for photos, not for fish.