Lunch break

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Days grow shorter and shorter in Tromsø so I took a small outside promenade in my lunch break to catch a bit of daylight. Tromsø is so beautiful with 10 cm of fresh snow that had fallen since yesterday.

I’m not sure if the snow will stay for longer or melt away soon but it doesn’t matter for me. That’s because on Sunday I’ll take the airplane home to Obbola in Sweden and will stay there the rest of the year.

But that’s another story that will be told on Sunday when I’ll spend many hours in Oslo Gardermoen and Stockholm Arlanda waiting for the connection flights.

Technique sea kayaking course

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

I was really in doubt about writing this blog article and showing photos of the last weekend, where I participated the course Teknikkurs Hav (Technique sea kayaking).

Why? Because my photos lie. They show sea kayaks lying on nice beaches and us paddling in calm waters. All these photos are true but they tell only a fraction of the experiences I made when I kayaked in Northern Norway in the beginning of November.

Saturday – day 1

The paddling course was supposed to take place on Sommarøya. A beautiful place, but quite exposed to wind and weather. Due to the wind forecast (average wind 15 m/s) the instructors chose a more sheltered place for the first course day: Eidjordneset, just 12 km away from the boat house of the sea kayak club Trulle.

We gathered round 7 o’clock in the morning: We are the instructors Tim and Pål and four participants. Kind of luxury! We put the kayaks on the trailer and started driving: Past the airport, over the bridge crossing the Sandnessundet strait, to the left and then taking the turn to the island Håkøya where we parked and changed clothes for the tour. In my case: woollen underwear, two pairs of socks, a thick woollen sweater, drysuit, neoprene boots, gloves and hood. In addition to that the sprayskirt, life vest, towline system and helmet. We do not only dress for the chilly air but for being in the water as well. Tim wrote in the email: “We will be doing a lot of swimming”

We started to dress in darkness but when we were ready it had got light.

We put the kayaks into the sea and started paddling east along the Håkøya. After getting our paddle strokes improved we started to practise partner rescue. One kayaker capsizes, opens the sprayskirt and swims. Then there are different techniques of emptying the capsized kayak and support the swimmer to enter the kayak again. While we were training this several time. As Tim said: a lot of swimming. While practising the wind blew us more and more to the east. Time to turn back.

Now we had to paddle against the wind. First it went quite well but we already could see the huge shower cell coming towards us. Round 2–3 °C in the air. Would it be rain, sleet or snow? No – it was a grown up hail storm approaching. Within minutes we had wind speeds of round 20 m/s howling around us, blowing spray from each wave and throwing hail right into our faces (ouch, my lips!). The instructors decided to guide us to land where we waited for the hail to stop.

Soon the weather was calmer but still very windy. It took a while until we reached the bridge, where we started the tour. On the way back I had one of the rare opportunities to take some photos with my iPhone while paddling. Mostly I was too occupied with practising or catching up.

When we arrived at the bridge we crossed under it, because on the other side the sea was a bit more sheltered. Here we practised a lot of different paddle strokes as edging or low and high brace. This was quite intense – only interrupted by a short and frugal lunch break – and I’ll have to train a lot until my body has understood the movements. We ended with a rescue case: One of the participants had to pretend having an injured shoulder and we had to both give support balancing her kayak and tow her on land. Well, there was a lot of discussion but finally we managed it. Ok, it was only 20 metres or such to tow.

To make it short: changing into warm clothes · putting the kayaks onto the trailer · heading back to the boat house · I got a lift home · hot shower · great!

Sunday – day 2

Two of us met Tim at the boathouse, where we got a lift to a petrol station, our meeting point. As you can see it had been snowing and it was quite slippery.

Now on day two we would drive to Sommarøya and take the second course day there. Great, because the area round Sommarøya is wonderfully beautiful. Sommarøya is more than 50 km from Tromsø and the shorter way is leading through the mountains, so due to the weather conditions it took a longer time to travel there. And that’s how it looked like from the bay Steinsvika on Store Sommarøya.

We paddled to a flat rock covered by breaking waves and tried out some paddle strokes from the day before. That gave us opportunities for more buddy rescues, because of three capsizings. We made a short break on one of shallow beaches.

After that we started to round the island Storholmen where the Sommarøy lighthouse is located. First we tried to stick near the rocks to play with the waves. The further we came to the open sea, the higher the waves became and we increased distance.

Especially at the northwest tip we had waves up to 150 cm coming from several directions so that it took all my concentration just to paddle on while feeling quite stressed and a bit helpless. A bit further the waves coming from the open sea behind us built up to huge rollers and breakers on the shallow bay. I was too scared to join the others that played in these waves (with several capsizings and rescue manoeuvres). Therefore I paddled a bit further to reach a more sheltered part of the bay and wait there not to split the group. One other paddler joined my shortly after. Then all of a sudden a really huge wave came, broke just where we were and knocked us both over. There was nothing I could do. I immediately lost my kayak in the wave and it took a bit of time and help from the others to fetch my kayak and get us in again. I know that I have to learn to paddle under such rough conditions as well, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever enjoy it.

I really was glad about the lunch break. Here Tim and Pål told us about the star rating system for waves. It goes from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), and mostly we had 3-star conditions out there, with one two-metre-wave probably being a 4 star.

Even after lunch I was mentally quite exhausted. But at least we had started heading back and were soon in calm waters again. The others learned some more rescue manoeuvres and such but I kept aside for a while because I couldn’t focus any more.

Finally we made another towing manoeuvre, where two of us towed another kayak while the fourth paddler supported balance. While I was mentally tired I still had physical energy so I tried to drag a bit harder the last part to come up onto the sandy beach as long as possible. And that’s where Tim took this photo of us. I’m in the front – watch the nice violet helmet!

(Photo: Tim Vanhoutteghem – True North Adventures)

Conclusion: This course was too difficult for me. I was too scared and overchallenged. But I had skilled instructors, great fellow paddlers and learned a lot – though the hard way. I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to join this course and already decided to take the same course again as a fresh-up next spring.

Dark, windy and wet

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Perhaps you saw the photos that I took on my way to work five weeks ago. The sky was blue, it was quite warm and the sun was shining.

Today it was completely different. For the first it was dark. Dark on my way to work and dark again on my way back. Sunrise was at 8:33 and sunset already at 14:21.

Then it was quite windy and very rainy the whole day. Sometimes it just rained a bit, sometime it was bucketing down huge amounts.

Here are some photos from my way to work. Taken with my iPhone and black-and-white again.

The way back was more exciting. When I went round the Framsenteret – the marina to my left – I first thought I was totally lost in the dark. I didn’t know that there was a huge artificial lake to the right. I never saw it before. Carefully I tested with my rubber boot, it was 25 cm deep. Then I realised that this was no lake but the parking place. It was completely flooded. Did it really rain so much? Apparently.

I continued stomping through huge water puddles. My outfit: rubber boots – rain pants — waterproof parka – reflective vest to be seen by others – headlamp (in one of the parka pockets)

Then I realised that even the sea water level was exceptionally high. Would I be able to go back the very same gravel path you can see on the second photo? That path lies quite low and in the morning I could see a chain of seaweed lying on the side facing land. When I arrived, the way was completely gone. I could only see the water of the sea up to the site fence.

To make a long story short: I continued the path. Mostly it was 30 cm of sea water covering the gravel. That still worked with my rubber boots, but it shouldn’t have been more. I was really glad to have a bright LED lamp. Probably I wouldn’t have dared without it. And not it beacme clear that there will come a day where this part of my favourite way to work will be impassable without offshore survival equipment.

Appendix one: and the sun?

Tromsø is located at the latitude of 69° 39′ N, almost 350 km north from the polar circle. That means, that the days not only get shorter and shorter but that there’ll be a time where the sun doesn’t rise and set at all. This time is quite near: In three weeks it will be the last time you’ll be able to see the sun and then again in January.

To illustrate this I made some charts. The y axis of each chart shows the dates from 1 January (top) to 31 December (bottom). Each row shows the solar altitude for that day by color.

From left to right: München, Germany – Obbola, Sweden (my home) – Tromsø, Norway (my current workplace)

Sun | Sun (golden hour) | civil twilight | nautical twilight | astronomical twilight | deep night

These are the main differences:

München has sun each day, but a real dark night, too.

In Obbola in Northern Sweden there’s always at least 4 hours of sun (if the clouds allow it) but it hardly gets dark in summer.

Tromsø has the most extreme changes of sun altitude during the year: Round seven weeks of polar night in winter and almost ten weeks of polar days with midnight sun between May and July.

So there’s much to experience here. The next experience will be the technique sea kayak course this weekend. Probably with a lot of rain at 3 °C and on Saturday even gusty winds round 14 m/s.

 

Sea kayaking in the dark

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

It’s 2 °C air temperature, a cloudless sky and sunset at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. A good day to end working at 14:30 and do some kayaking.

The reason for that I kayaked today is that I want to join a kayak course the weekend after next but I do not have all the required skills. So Tim, the course leader I’ve been in contact with gave me private lessons today.

I came to the meeting place right before sunset, where I met Tim. We changed clothes in the club house of the “Trulle” sea kayaking association, put on our dry suits, sprayskirts and life jackets and finally chose two kayaks from a large selection.

Then I stopped making photos. First of all I had to focus on everything that Tim showed and taught me. I learned a lot because Tim is an excellent teacher. The first half was mostly about paddle techniques, the second half more about rescue manoeuvres, which literally means capsizing by purpose. Into quite cold water in the dark.

Was it dark? Not really. Although the moon was too low to illuminate the sea there were street lights nearby, some light of the near airport, the lights attached to the stern of the kayaks and our head lights. What a wonderful atmosphere! And as the icing on the cake we got a stunning aurora, that covered half the sky – swirling and moving in green, red, and violet colours.

Tim managed to take pictures from the scenery. So I’m not the photographer of the next photo, I’m the motive.

(Photo: Tim Vanhoutteghem – True North Adventures)

I have to admit that I was quite nervous before the private lessons today but now I’m really looking forward to the technique seakayaking course.

Thank you Tim for giving me private lessons today. I can warmly recommend his company True North Adventures.

Winter is coming … in Tromsø …

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

This week the temperatures have started to fall.

On Wednesday I could spot the first fresh snow on the tops of the higher mountains and on Thursday evening the top of the near mountain Fløya has got a white cover, too.

Last night even in Tromsø snow started to mix in the rain and this morning all mountains beside of the lowest hill were covered with fresh snow.

The sun sets earlier and earlier each day. Today sunset was 16:52. I took the following photo at the nearby bay Telegrafbukta at 17:27, 35 minutes after sunset.

In three weeks sunset will be at 14:11 and after three more weeks the sun won’t rise for seven weeks. Then there is polar night in Tromsø.

Hooooot! Hooooot! Hooooot!

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Today it was the 5th day I worked for the Norwegian Polar Institute in their office at the Framsenteret in Tromsø. But it was the first day where I was distracted by three loud hoots of a ship. I left my office to walk to a gangway with a view to the seaside. And as I already guessed a Hurtigruten ship was in the process of docking. The Polarlys. I took a photo with my iPhone for this blog.

Normally two Hurtigruten ships should dock in Tromsø each day. A northbound at 14:15 and a southbound at 23:45. A map of today however shows that the Polarlys is the only Hurtigruten ships north from Trondheim at the moment.

(Map source: https://global.hurtigruten.com/map/#norway)

This is of course because of – guess what! – Corona.

After work I left the office and could already see the ship because the landing stage is near the office. I went there to take two more photos, then I went home. Weekend!

I would love to continue with my photo series “bevegelse” (motion), that I started on a Hurtigruten journey in winter 2016. However the next northbound departure on a Saturday is not before 31. October and then the days have become quite short. Probably I’ll must have some patience.

To the photo series “bevegelse” >

My way to work

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Today I got the test result: corona negative. So I was allowed to go to work at the Norwegian Polar Institute. It’s a bit more than 2 km to walk and I did walk.

Here are 16 photos, from the street where I live to the entrance of the Framsenteret.

As usual: A click will enlarge the photo, then you can navigate by clicking or using the left and right cursor arrows on your keyboard.

A small after-work promenade

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Today I had my first work day at the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø. Since I am in quarantine I had to work from home. Not easy when you don’t know what to do yet.

Right after work I took a walk to fight my fatigue. First up the streets, then along some tiny paths through the forest-like park Folkeparken. One of the paths led down to the western shore of Tromsøya, the island which Tromsø is on. Here I started to take pictures.

You see the coloured spots at the right side of the last photo? It’s people taking a picnic. There are not extremely many people around, but more than I expected. They jog, they cycle, they sit round a campfire. They take photos, they act as photo motives. They take care of their children, they walk, they talk. They take a winter bath from the wooden pier, they paddle kayak, they sail. All these people present Tromsø as an awesome place to be. The gorgeous autumn weather is just the icing on the cake.

Oh yes, I miss Annika! Anyhow I think, I’ll like it here.

Different ways of kayaking

Since Annika doesn’t have a kayak yet I use to paddle alone. Mostly it’s short tours as for example the day before yesterday. I paddled to the beach Bredviks havsbad to join the yoga group at 8:30. To my surprise it’s shorter to paddle than to take the bicycle or car and so I was 20 minutes early.

After yoga I took a small tour – first north and then along the coast of Obbola.

Then I took an early lunch at the boat harbour since I didn’t had any breakfast. The kiosk there has not only hamburgers but tasty dishes as hummus or ćevapčići and Annika and I eat there quite often. After lunch I slowly paddled home. Slowly, because (a) being stuffed with food, (b) being lazy and (c) the increasing wind from the front.

Yesterday afternoon Annika and I got guests. Corry and Mark from Germany have written on Facebook about the difficulty of finding good tenting places at Västerbottens coast. They have been on a long kayak tour that they started in Haparanda four weeks ago. A common friend commented on the post asking us whether we wouldn’t have a nice meadow for tenting in our garden. Well, we have, and we even have our own little guest house, that Mark and Corry gladly accepted after they had arrived here yesterday afternoon. Last weekend Svitlanda and Ebbe (almost) came by sailing yacht, now we got our first guests that landed by sea directly at our house. It’s fun to live by the sea!

We had a nice evening together with outdoor cooking over open fire and inspiring conversations yesterday. This morning Corry and Mark continued their sea kayak tour. I had the honour to join them a bit.

At 8:15 we started by setting in the kayaks and paddling south. Since they have inflatable kayaks they have to be more careful of rocks and shallows. So we paddled further away from the coast than I use to do. I got some technique tipps about paddling more effortlessly and I really enjoyed the company.

Anyhow I decided to say farewell after an hour. Mark and Corry started crossing more open water and I wouldn’t dare to return the same route alone. Thanks a lot, Corry and Mark for nice company!

While the adventurers headed for the horizon I circled the island Tarv and slowly headed back. To my amazement the whole tour took only 2½ hours; I’ve miscalculated.

Now I know, that there are many destinations to be discovered by kayak and that they are not far away. It’s fun to live by the sea!