#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.

Welcome, winter 2019!

Today was the first “real” winter day. Some more snow fell last night and today it was subzero the whole day with temperatures round -5 °C and a lot of sun.

Now I’m longing for the start of the ski season.

The second image with the blue sky and the snow covered trees is a bit special: it’s made through the window of my current office. What you cannot see: behind the trees is the European Route E4. But anyway,  there are worse views.

Greeting the winter – a kayak tour shorter than planned

I had planned it for days: today I wanted to paddle kayak – that’s a thing that I do much less often than I would like. The conditions for paddling were – well …

The sky was cloudy and it was snowing at temperatures around freezing. At least it was not too windy. Already at home I had put on my dry suit and neoprene boots. At the coast I completed my outfit with the mandatory life jacket plus neoprene gloves and hood. I even had ski goggles with me.

The sea between the island Storgrundet and mainland was calm as usual. I could however hear the loud noise of waves breaking at the outside of Storgrundet. I assumed, that the open sea could be rough – and so it was. As soon as I paddled around the western tip of the island I could see turf and breaking waves everywhere. The waves were steep and too short to lift the kayak. I just paddled through them – a wet pleasure and each wave tried to turn my boat parallel. I realised that the conditions were to hard for my kayaking abilities, managed to turn around and reach calm waters again.

Therefore I took a shorter tour round the island Brambärsgrundet where the sea was calm. I knew that paddling around the eastern tip could be a challenge. When I saw the waves and turf I decided to get off the kayak and pull it around wading through knee deep water. It was hard enough.

But the rest was easy as pie and I could make some photos from the boat without fearing of capsizing. Another snow shower approached.

The second photo is made through the ski goggles, that I didn’t need on this short tour. It was only 3½ km. But as always: I never regretted having been outside.

At the coast the snow on the grass and my car had started to melt away. Some hours later I drove into town. There it was slightly colder and 5 cm of wet snow had fallen. When I drove home in the evening the temperature had dropped to – 2 °C and the formerly wet snow in town had frozen and was crunching under my feet. Now it’s time again for winter boots.

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.

Four variations of autumn

The first autumn colours on Gåsören

21, 22 September – Annika and I are invited by Solveig and Tommy to their summer cottage on Gåsören. Tommy picks us up by boat and after a short cruise we arrive at the small harbour, where Solveig already waits for us.

We have a wonderful evening with delicious food (hand-picked porcini mushrooms!) and inspiring conversations. And the weather is just great – first a blue and sunny sky, then after sunset a starry night. After a short nightly walk to the lighthouse – built in 1912 and still active – we go to bed.

The next morning I wake up early and take photographs of the splashing waves at the eastern shore. It’s a bit windy and the temperatures are near freezing. A lot of trees still have green leaves but some of the birches and rowan trees have become colourful, especially when illuminated by the low morning sun.

After breakfast we take a stroll round the small island together before we get a lift back to the mainland. Tack så mycket, Solveig and Tommy. We are looking forward to meet again!

Fog by the river

28, 29 September – I’m with Annika in Umeå. On Saturday we make a trip to Strömbäck-Kont, one of our favourite locations by the sea. Again the weather is sunny but due to the frost of last week’s nights a lot of more trees show coloured leaves. Especially the bright yellow birch leaves look wonderful.

On Sunday I wake up early as usual and take a promenade along the Umeåälven, one of Northern Swedens largest rivers. The morning air is damp and chilly and the landscape is fog-shrouded. The fog muffles all sounds and noises and gives me the impression of being completely alone. Half an hour later the fog goes away and the magic is gone.

Nightly squalls

Yesterday, 2 October – at 3:00 I’m awakened by storm squalls shaking the house. I almost expect that my house is lifted up and lands on the Wicked Witch of the East. But the gale is no tornado and my house resists the squalls.

The weather doesn’t come completely unexpected, both wind and enormous amounts of rain have been forecasted. But as usual the forecast was – ahem – imaginative but at least the wind speeds are quite accurate.

Hail, sleet and snow

Today, 3 October – again I’m awakened at 3 o’clock, this time by a hail squall drumming on the window. It’s round 3 °C and even colder at 7 o’clock on my way to work. Between my home and the town another rain squall buckets down. It is mixed with wet snow. Beside the road I can see white patches. Is it snow or last night’s hail? When I arrived at the office at Solbacken outside of the town of Skellefteå I see, that it’s snow grains – tiny frozen white balls.

At 8:33 I look through the window of my current office room and it’s snowing. The first snow on 3 October – exactly the same date as last year. Now I’m longing for winter even more ❄︎ !