A short and rainy Hurtigruten trip

This article is part of the series “2021-08: Northern Norway”.

After 2700 km by car we had arrived in Bjørnevatn near Kirkenes. From there it would be another 900 km back to Tromsø, my temporary home. So Annika and I had decided to use go by ship and use the Hurtigruten for our journey west. Last Friday we went on board of the MS Vesterålen, the smallest and oldest ship of the current Hurtigruten fleet. I left it to be parked while Annika used the regular gangway. The ship departed round 12:30, round 35 hours we arrived in Tromsø.

The weather was rainy, chilly, windy and although parts of the upper deck are well protected against wind and rain we often sat there alone. While it was quite rainy there were a lot of small holes in the clouds that let the sun peek through. Especially the light on the first day was very wonderful.

I just show some of the photos I made from the upper deck. All of them are made with a telephoto lens and focal lengths between 150 and 600 mm. To avoid blurred images because of the ship vibrations I hardly used a tripod but used ISO 800–1600. But now to the photos:

Fylkesvei 8100

This article is part of the series “2021-08: Northern Norway”.

There are places that are so fascinating, that you want to return there for a longer time. For me the road to Hamningberg is one of these places.

Originally Annika and I didn’t have the plan to visit Hamningberg. It’s a detour of 2×40 km just to see a former fishing village whose houses are now used as summer cottages. On the other side the road 8100 that leads there is closed in wintertime and we never had the chance before to drive there.

So right before Vardø we spontaneously decided to turn left into the road Fylkesvei 8100. We could turn if it was boring. Well, it wasn’t. We were both extremely fascinated by the roughness of the landscape and the many light moods because of the constantly changing weather

The photos are just some snapshots I made on our tour. Maybe I have time to return there some other time with more time for making photos.

Back in Tromsø

This article is part of the series “2021-07: Back in Tromsø”.

After eight months of home office home I travelled back to Tromsø last Saturday to continue working at the Norwegian Polar Institute. My wife Annika has joined me for a week and I took some days off. Yesterday she travelled back to our home to Obbola. Tomorrow my Tromsø everyday life starts –at least for three weeks, then Annika and I will meet again for a two week vacation.

Sunday, 25 July

A grey day, a foggy day. Good for relaxing after a long journey from Sweden with train car and bus, that took eighteen hours.

Monday, 26 July

My first working day onsite since 20 November 2020. My boss has bought suksessterte (success cake) to celebrate my return. The seagulls have occupied my windowsill.

Tuesday, 27 July

Annika and I planned to hire a car for a trip, but none of the car rentals have free cars. Instead we are looking for a 2nd hand car for me. We find an old Subaru XV and may test drive it for 24 hours! Road trip to Sommarøya. Lunch at the hotel, watching private kayak lessons at one of the many beaches. Realising that the car fits onto my small parking place.

Thursday, 29 July

After work (well, after lunch) Annika and I take the bus to Tromsdalen on the other side of the sound Tromsøysundet. Here we use Sherpatrappa to hike up the mountain Storsteinen. Sherpatrappa is a stone staircase with 1203 steps built by Nepalese mountain road workers and finished in 2019. Then we hike to the summit of the mountain Fløya (671 m a.s.l.). After a break we return to the mountain station and enjoy our dinner in the sun. Then we walk down the stairs again. My knees are sulky, but that’s worth it.

Friday, 30 July

After lunch we fetch my car that I bought on Wednesday. Not the Subaru XV, but a three year old Suzuki S-Cross. After that we take a road trip to Tromvik and Rekvik on the island Kvaløya. And – oh – it’s so beautiful at many places here! Personal highlight: the two relaxed reindeer at the beach.

Saturday, 31 July

Farewell Annika! Now we are separated by at least 930 kilometres but fortunately for only three weeks. After I farewell Annika at the airport I drive to a parking place on the island Kvaløya and take two promenades. One at the beach, one over the bogs. The variety of landscapes is so impressive.

Sunday, 1 August

After a more or less lazy a short trip by bus to the center of Tromsø. The Indian restaurant is fully booked, but the sushi restaurant has place. 12 bits 189 NOK. Regular Norwegian prices. On the way there I find this narrow shortcut. Old dustbins, but a photo exhibition.

No winter bath today

Five days ago at Vitskärsudden, Annika’s and my favourite all-season bathing place looked like this:

Looks like bathing season would be over there soon, I thought but last night’s hard wind had crushed a lot of the sea ice along the coast. Annika and I packed our bathing things, wrapped ourselves up in warm winter clothes and headed to the beach for a winter bath.

Well, it didn’t look looked too promising, but I gave it a try. The first obstacle was the ice wall at the beach – at least half a metre high. Slowly I crossed it barefoot until with the last step the wall collapsed and I stood in the shallow water. Well, standing in water was part of the plan. Check.

Then a wave came. Not a huge one but nevertheless it covered me with sea spray from tip to toe. Brr! At the same time the wave pushed ice floes and crushed ice against my shin with more power than expected. The water was too shallow to knock me over but the sharp ice cut my shin on several places.

So I just shouted “Back!” to Annika in case of her making a try as well and instantly returned to the snowy beach to dry myself off and got dressed again. I’m glad, that I didn’t try it any longer. Probably I would have got so many cuts the I would look like a survivor of a piranha fight.

So – home again. No winter bath today.

Later I took the car to the same beach again to make some photographs. The pictures hardly transport the energy of the overlapping waves and the impression of wind and snowfall. Anyhow, here are some of the photos:

Was the action stupid? Well, perhaps. At least it wasn’t dangerous since we never planned to go into deeper water. So it’s more under to motto: “Another good idea that didn’t work!”

Kayaking to the Obbolstenarna

It’s the last weeks in Obbola in Västerbotten/Sweden before I start working in Tromsø. Annika has started working again on Monday while I’m idle.

2020, what a year! Two ski tours just before Corona – cancelled projects because of Corona – Annika and I buy our beautiful house in Obbola – I get the job at the Norsk Polarinstitutt in Tromsø – I start selling my house in Skelleftehamn – I “park” my Swedish company – Annika and I get engaged – I find a room in a shared flat in Tromsø, hardly 500 m away from the beach – Annika and I marry in our own garden on 21 August ⚭ (yes – we’ve been married for three weeks now!) – we drive to Tromsø to move some of my stuff to the flat.

It was a lot of things to organise the whole year through. Now most organisation is either done or out of my control and I have to lean back and relax a bit. Sometimes so much, that I spend half the day watching more or less silly YouTube videos. A state quite untypical for me.

Today after lunch I was in the danger of becoming a couch potato again, but I managed to stand up, put my drysuit on, stuff the camera into a waterproof bag and go paddling. Destination Obbolstenarna, a group of islands nearby. Obbolstenarna is hardly more than a kilometre away but a headwind of round 10 m/s and rolling waves from the front slowed me down. Normally I love taking photos from the kayak, today I dared it only when I started to get into the lee of the islands where at least the waves were less high.

To my delight the center island has a small and sheltered bay, where it was very easy to moor the kayak.

I left the kayak and started looking around. Small birds fluttered around, summer and autumn flowers were blooming and some of the leaves of the rowans had turned orange and red.

I could constantly hear the waves breaking at the rocks of the southern shore. I went there and was impressed by the force of wind and waves. I looked where the rocks were still dry to safely make some photos of the breaking waves without getting wet. It all went quite well until a huge wave came … *KERSPLASH*!

I managed to turn away to protect the camera at least a bit but I myself would have been completely soaked without my drysuit. This wave came at least five metres further than all others before.

Since the camera lens got wet anyway I looked for saver motives. Rocks, for example or the large anchor partly rusted to pieces.

Then I climbed on some of the small rocky tops to get some wider views. I could see the open Baltic Sea in the south and the Wasaline ferry to Finland docking in Holmsund in the northeast.

After strolling around a bit more I got into my kayak again and paddled home. I didn’t measure time or speed but I guess it took less than half of the time paddling back with the wind behind me and the waves pushing me forward.

The whole tour took less than two hours including the preparations. And – as always – I deeply enjoyed it. Learning today (again): Olaf, be more outdoors!

And you? Where have you been outdoors the last time? What did you do? What did you enjoy the most?

Two short kayak tours

Two short kayak tours from the new home by the sea.

The first one morning last week. Just round the island Bredskär. The water surface smooth as silk and in beautiful pastel colours. Everything was quiet beside of the complaining sea birds.

The second one the day before yesterday in the afternoon. Just to the beach at Vitskärsudden. Through tiny waves and a lot of rocks. At the sandy beach I met Annika for a bath. She came by bike. The Baltic Sea not as cold as last time. Summer is coming.

Both tours were equally fun and both of them made me very grateful that I may live here at this fantastic place.

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!

 

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.