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?

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!

A kayak course by the Umeå Kanotklubb

It’s the second week of Annika’s (and my) holiday and we are registered for a three-day paddle course which is carried out by the local association Umeå Kanotklubb. Two days we’ll be on the lake Nydalasjön in Umeå to learn the basic technique, the last day we’ll do a tour on the Baltic Sea starting in Holmsund. I’ve been paddling for almost ten years now but never learned any technique, so I was eager to join the course. Annika has paddled only a few times before and was interested in testing paddling before buying a kayak herself.

The first day. While the others sit in very short and agile whitewater kayaks, Annika and I have chosen sea kayaks, which are longer but much less agile. The others have it easier to make turns and bents, we have it easier to paddle straight ahead and are faster, too. In the beginning we learn the basic paddle strokes forward and backward. Part two is to capsize intentionally just to learn the feeling. Do we get wet? No – we are already completely soaked by the heavy rain, that is chattering down from black clouds above us.

The second day – same location as the first one. It’s not about learning something new but more about repeating and deepening the first day’s learnings. We do a short tour to the bridge Kinabron – hardly more than 700 metres away and then we train capsizing again.

Annika and I try kamraträddning – a rescue technique. We test on our own because the instructors are more into whitewater kayaking where you use completely different rescue techniques. While Annika succeeds in rescuing me I do a mistake and her kayak is flooded almost up to the rim within seconds. We do not have a pump with us but luckily we are only ten metres away from shore and can walk the kayak ashore.

Day three – for us the highlight because we want to make kayak tours on the sea and that’s what we do today. Using sea kayaks is quite different from using whitewater kayaks and so we have an additional instructor that tells us everything we need to join today’s tour. After the instruction we carry the boats into the water and start a tour to the island Lill-Haddingen which is 3–4 km away. There we make of course a fika – a break for eating, drinking, resting. The conditions are good. Hardly any waves, hardly any wind. It would have been a really easy tour for Annika and me if we hadn’t chosen a tandem kayak. It is quite challenging to steer together and to always paddle synchronously to avoid our paddle blades colliding. It is fun to test the tandem kayak but we prefer the single ones. After paddling back almost the whole way we are shown kamraträddning – the rescue technique Annika and I tried the day before but we do not train it by ourselves. It has become later than expected when we finish our tour but especially the third day was a fantastic experience. Thank you, Umeå Kanotklubb for the course! We come again when you offer a rescue course.

 

Solstice paddling

A kajak tour through the darkest hour of the shortest night

This night is summer solstice. So it is the shortest night of the year. That means that tonight is one of those nights where there is a sunset and a sunrise but it doesn’t get dark.

The weather was calm and warm, a good opportunity for a short midnight kayak tour. When the clock showed 23:30 I felt actually too tired to paddle, but I was able to pull myself together. And I am glad, that I did. It’s always pleasant to be outdoors and the colours of the first half of the tour were incredible.

When I started to circle the island Bredskär the light of sky and clouds became magic. Yes, I do like polar lights but the beauty of the translucent clouds lit by the invisible sun was at least of the same value.

I moored my kayak at a tiny beach on Bredskär and took a photo in the darkest minutes of the night.

Then I continued to circle the island. Now I had to concentrate on the waves and didn’t take any photos until I reached the sound between island and mainland where the sea was calm again. I moored my kayak another time – same island, but the other side. A nice place, but the magic of the light has vanished.

After some photos I entered the kayak and continued my short trip. The small promontory that is visible from our house was already in view and soon I arrived in the tiny, shallow nameless bay.

Home again!

 

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.

Two kayak premieres

10 o’clock in the evening– it is still bright daylight because sunset was a quarter of an hour ago. A good time for two kayak premieres.

On the one hand it’s the first time I paddle this year. Last time was in November, more than half a year ago.

On the other hand it’s the first time I start a kayak tour from my new home in Obbola. Yesterday the furniture lorry made my move. Not only my Yamaha grand piano and more than 150 boxes (mostly books) but also my kayak moved from Skelleftehamn to Obbola.

I had it quite near to the coast in Skelleftehamn, but here I have it much nearer.

Behind the garden of Annika’s and my new house there is a small edge of wetland – frequently visited by deers and many sea birds – and then there is the Baltic Sea.

I draw the kayak to our fireplace and then through the puddles of the wetland. There I let the boat into the water, enter it and circle the islet Lillskär*, that lies less than 250 metres from our property.

It doesn’t take much time – the islet is tiny and soon I’m back at the wetlands where I lean the kayak against the wall.

While I sit at my computer it has grown dark. But when I look through the window I still can see the Baltic Sea, the islet Lillskär and when I stand up even the place where I left my kayak. How lucky I am, that Annika and I not only have moved together but found this awesome place by the sea.

* by the way: officially the islet seems to by nameless. It’s too small. According to our neighbour some people call it Lillskär – small skerry.

ICROSS

I walk along a forest path. The snow has become too deep for the car. In the right hand I carry a large waterproof bag, in the left hand my bright red neoprene drysuit. On the back I have an ICROSS.

A what?

Let’s quote the ICROSS websiteWhat is ICROSS? – ICROSS® is a new type of watercraft. It resembles a float tube, but has many characteristics of a kayak.

My friend Hans Brettschneider bought two ICROSS for his camping ground In Bureå and invited my to test them today. We want to paddle over the Baltic Sea to the near island Björkön. According to Hans the Baltic Sea is still open.

When I arrive in Bureå Hans already had started inflating the ICROSS with a motor-driven air pump. We put the rafts into his car and drive to a place near the beach where we manually inflate them until they are filled to the brim.

(You see the rectangular patch free of snow on the ICROSS? That’s where Hans’ iPad was before I took it away for the photo. Hans uses it as a camera and takes it into the snow, the hot sauna, just everywhere)

On the back of the ICROSS there are D-rings where you can attach belts to carry the ICROSS as a backpack. That’s what I do in the first photo. We start carrying the ICROSS until one of the plastic hooks of the belt breaks. We then realise that it is much easier to drag the raft behind like a sledge. It’s winter!

After 800 metres walk through the forest I arrive at the coast. I must laugh. The Baltic Sea is far beyond from being open. It is covered with ice and snow to the horizon! Is it just slush or solid ice? I put on my drysuit and life jacket and enter the sea ice. I splash through sludge but underneath there is ice thick enough to carry my weight.

Time to change plans.

Instead of paddling (or walking) to Björkön we take fika here at the coast. There’s even a table with benches. Hans has coffee and sandwiches while I have tea and a pretzel. It snows.

Hans however has a plan B in mind. Right beside his fantastic camping ground, just behind the sauna there’s the river Bureälven. And this stream is still open. After fika we walk to the car and take it to his camping ground. There we trudge through the snow to the sauna by the river.

Again we put on waterproof clothes and put the ICROSSes into water. We have to rearrange the belts that hold the seat to improve the balance, then it’s fun to paddle to and fro. While my touring kayak is long and keeps direction, the ICROSS is easy to turn and very agile. Anyway I wouldn’t use it for longer paddle trips. Too exhausting.

(Do you see what Hans has in his hands on the last photo? I told you that he takes his iPad everywhere.)

After a while of testing and taking pictures we go ashore. Did I mention the sauna? Hans had fired it before our winter paddling experiment. It is not hot, only 30 °C, but it’s nice to sit there and relax a bit. I go into the river again, this time for winter bathing. Then a bit of sauna again until we call it a day.

Tack for turen, Hans – thank you for the tour. And thanks for your photos, which I cropped and edited for this blog article.

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.

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.