Closing the kayak season 2018

I was stuck. I couldn’t go straight ahead, I couldn’t go backwards, I couldn’t turn. And I definitely couldn’t go sidewards because I sat in a kayak on the Baltic Sea and was surrounded by ice.

Back to the beginning of the day: I took a day off today because of the nice weather and decided to make a kayak tour. My goal was to sea the sunrise from the open sea. When I came to the tiny beach were my kayak has been lying since June it was still dim. The sea between the island Storgrundet and the mainland was covered with a fresh layer of clear ice. Two days ago these parts had been free of ice.

I already changed into paddling clothes at home: Woollen underwear, a drysuit that would keep me dry when falling into the ice cold water, a waterproof face mask and neoprene boots. It just took some minutes to take of the warm anorak – it was about -7 °C – and put some stuff into the cargo hatches of the kayak. I put on my woollen mittens and the long, waterproof overmittens, then I was ready to start the tour.

The question was: How thick is the ice? Would the kayak slide onto it or break through?

I sat in the kayak and pushed myself backwards, first with the paddle, then with the hands. The ice didn’t break. Anyway I was still quite near the shore. I continued pushing myself backwards until I came to the area of new ice. The ice didn’t break.

It is both exhausting and very ineffective to sit in a kayak and push yourself over bare ice with waterproof mittens. You just don’t get a grip. I realised that I wouldn’t come long. I returned ashore, got out of the kayak, went to the car and drove home.

At home I got my isdubbar – my ice claws. They look like a jumping rope with nail attached to the handles and are used for self-rescue, if your break into the ice. I changed also into winter boot, because my feet were freezing. The neoprene boots are not the warmest. Ah, that feels better! I got into the car and drove back to my kayak. Second try!

It was still exhausting to move the kayak over the ice, but with an ice claw in each hand I could pull my kayak forward with a speed up to 5 – 6 km/h. The sun had not risen yet and the air was calm and chilly. The horizon started to turn pink.

I found a bit of open water at the narrow passage between island and mainland. Then I came to another sheltered bay that was frozen, too. First the ice was quite thick, then it started to become thinner.

Here my problems started. The kayak went through the ice and floated. The ice was too weak for using the ice claws, but too thick to use the paddle. After some metres I was stuck! Every time when I used the paddle to move forward another meter I was surrounded by ice and couldn’t use it anymore. During the seconds that it took for changing from paddle to ice claws the kayak drifted back and I was surrounded by open water again, making the ice claws completely useless. Finally I started some kind of dog paddling with hands and arms, still the ice claws at hand until I could reach ice again, pull me forward another meter and break through the ice again. The sun had already risen minutes ago. (Goal missed!)

These are the situations where I learn a lot about my lack of patience …

Anyhow the island Storgrundet was near and with some efforts I reached a spot where I could go ashore. I just wanted to check the water and ice conditions on the outer side of the island.

Beside of some pancake ice near the shore the Baltic Sea was completely clear of ice, exactly as excepted. I returned to my kayak and went along the stony shore pulling it nearer to the open water. The sea was still covered with ice but it was thinner and I could hack my paddle through it. Small patches of open water were enclosed in the icy surface and tiny waves vibrated in the rhythm of my paddling. Very funny to look at! And then, some curses later, I finally reached open water – almost two hours later than my first arrival at the beach this morning.

What a relief to put the paddle blades into normal water. Ice cold water, but just normal, liquid water. Delighting. Where should I go? To Finland …?

Soon I spotted a possible destination: Nordlundsstenarna a.k.a. Själagrundet, more a gravel bank than an island, 1.6 km from shore. When I arrived there I looked at the next island Medgrundet, which would be much more attractive for taking a break than this pile of stones. I continued paddling. The wind increased slightly and it got a bit chilly, but it’s only 1.1 km from Själagrundet to Medgrundet so I arrived there quite soon.

The first think I did when I was at land was to put on my winter anorak. Then I explored the island. Some photos:

Actually I could have spend the whole day on this island, but I made a huge mistake: I didn’t bring any food with me. (Don’t try that at home, kids!) So after a stroll over the island I returned to my kayak that was as ice covered as the rock nearby.

What I did bring with me were my sunglasses. I was really glad having them because the trip back was straight against the sun. Ok, time for some selfies …

The way back was nice and beautiful and not very spectacular. I enjoyed the sun and the colours of the sea – it could be covered with ice and snow quite soon.

Since I hardly could recognise anything on land I went a bit wrong but the detour was small. After a while I reached Storgrundet and then the ice covered parts again. This time it was much easier because I could follow the ice-free channel that I had cut into the ice on the way there. But when I had to use the ice claws on the more solid ice again to pull myself forward I realised something: There are many things I lack, one of them is strong chest muscles. They will ache for certain tomorrow.

 

 

A short kayak tour

The rain of the last days has washed winter away and all snow that had covered my backyard has melted already. When I parked my car in town two days ago the whole parking place was covered with wet ice. I was very glad about my shoe spikes that prevented me from slipping.

Today it cleared up during the morning. I took advantage of the nice weather and made a kayak tour. The tiny bay where I started was still covered with 2 cm of ice but it was so soft that I could paddle through. The rest of the Baltic Sea was open. It was quite windy and so the kayak tour was quite short, but fun anyway.

I measured the water temperature at the beach: +2.8 °C. I considered taking a bath but decided against it. It was less the water temperatures but the vivid wind that discouraged me. Perhaps tomorrow …

Autumnal high water

It had been more than three month, since I used my kayak the last time. It’s a shame, especially since the kayak has been lying at a small beach right at the Baltic Sea and it would have been so easy to make a short trip in the evening.

Yesterday however I finally found time to make a small tour again. The small beach had almost disappeared because the water level was 60 cm above normal. That’s quite a lot for the Bay of Bothnia. The kayak was partly filled with rainwater and I was glad about my little hand pump with which I could quickly remove the water. Soon I was on the sea again.

My first idea was heading south-east but the wind came from the north-west and I prefer paddling against the wind when I start. I kayaked along the shore to an island I thought was Björkskär. While I tried to paddle around this island I realised, that it was not an island. Accidentally I had entered the bay Djupviken (“the deep bay”) which is anything but deep.

Because of the high water level I could go on paddling much longer than usual. I decided not to return but to carry the boat across small gravel road. Normally it’s more than 100 metres to walk, this time it was only round 20.

 

I definitely prefer paddling before carrying a 27 kilo boat over land. A gust of wind almost brought me down. A five meter long kayak has quite a large sail area, when you carry it. So I was glad to sit in the boat again this time heading for Björkskär and the bay Harrbäckssand.

Here I turned. This time I paddled along the outer coast of the island and then back across the open sea. It was too windy and wavy to stop paddling and make any photos. Within seconds the wind would have turned the kayak across the wind, making it quite unstable.

When I approached the island Storgrundet (which is almost home again) I decided to continue my tour. It was fun to sit in my kayak again, i wanted to head the small island with the coloured trees and furthermore I wanted to take the opportunity to cross the island by boat.

Crossing an island by boat? Well, many parts of the islands that lie off the coast of Skelleftehamn are quite flat. Storgrundet has such a part, too. It’s just a passage of rocks that connect the main part of the island with an extra part. Normally you can go there (at least with rubber boots), yesterday it was possible to cross this part by kayak.

From this point it was near to the islet Brottören where I could catch the last sun before clouds approached.

The rest of the kayak tour is quickly told: I went around the island Storgrundet, met a man in a small motorboat (until then I had been completely alone), paddled along the tiny beach where I use to bath (it was mostly flooded) and finally arrived at the starting point again.

#escapism – kayaking to Gåsören

This article is part of the series #escapism. It’s about being outdoors and leaving civilisation behind in excursions that take less than 24 hours. Everyone should have time for such!

Yesterday I wanted to take advantage of the good weather and decided to make a kayak trip to the island Gåsören. I planned for an overnight stay and that means packing a lot of things:

Anything on the photo beside of the empty plastic box came with me. From left to right: Dry suit, life jacket, food and stove, camping map, spare clothes, tent, camera equipment, water bottle, book, sleeping bag, neoprene boots, 5 litre water canister. It’s almost miracle that everything fits into the kayak. Since it was quite warm I only wore pants and a t-shirt and of course the life jacket, that’s a matter of security and therefore principle.

I paddled between the islands Storgrundet and Brambärsgrundet, passed Vorrgrundet and then headed to Klubben and Flottgrundet. Here I left the islands behind and continued to Gåsören. The weather was nice and the sea was calm. Already 50 minutes later I arrived. I dragged the kayak ashore, took all baggage and went to my favourite campground (and one of the few placed not completely covered with pebbles and rocks) where I put up the tent.

After “cooking” and eating I visited two friends that own one of the two summer cottages on Gåsören. It’s really a beautiful place they have. We talked about paddling, hiking, skiing and much more. It was late when I want back to my tent and the sun started to set.

I didn’t go to sleep directly but watched the sun going down and the many fluffy but extremely clumsy seagull chicks walking around. They cannot fly yet and use to stumble over every other stone. What a contrast to the elegant flight of the grown ups.

It was much brighter than it looks like on these backlit photographs. It doesn’t get dark in the night  and I found it hard to sleep, not only due to the bright night but also to the increasing wind and the constantly screeching seagulls. I put on a woollen cap. It was not cold at all but it helped to block the direct light (though not the shrieks of the gulls).

At half past five I gave up and started to finish a book I’d been reading for a while. That took some hours. At half past eight I took a frugal breakfast: Toast with cheese.

Then I packed everything together. Clouds had started approaching and I wanted to have everything stowed in the kayak before the rain. The sky above was still blue but the sea started to get choppy.

I stopped by my friends again to say farewell. They have their cottage on the lee side of the island and we enjoyed the last hour of sun before the clouds started to cover it.

I dragged the kayak into the shallow water. It was hard to start against the wind, because the kayak was constantly turned parallel to the approaching waves. Wrong direction and quite unstable. But after some tries I managed to leave the island behind. It was exhausting but easy to paddle against the wind. Anyway I wouldn’t have dared to cross the open sea in these conditions without wearing a dry suit even if it’s only 600 metres. The water is still very cold and in case of the kayak capsizing I wanted to be completely sure to be able to reach the shore without hypothermia.

It took twice the time than the day before. The sky was grey and cloudy and it had started to rain. It may not sound like that, but it was real fun paddling through wind and waves. The hardest part was going round Vorrgrundet where I had to go parallel to the short waves. Here I had to be fully focussed to keep my balance. As soon as I reached Storgrundet I was in the lee of that island again and the water was much calmer. Soon I arrived at yesterday’s starting point.

The whole trip took less than 20 hours and is therefore a candidate for the series #escapism.

Finally, two selfies, one sunny from yesterday and one rainy from today (made in the lee of a small island).

 

The first paddling 2018

At last – the first paddling of the season! The sea ice came early this winter and remained until late April. In early May Annika and I visited Gotland for a week and when we came back spring had arrived in Västerbotten. Since then I was either working or it was too windy or I was too lazy.

Despite to problems with my elbow I decided to kayak today. It was mostly sunny and hardly any wind – good conditions for a start. As many times I started at the beach of Storgrundet which is 1.6 km to go. I used the waistbelt of my pulka and a cord for dragging the kayak behind on its cart without using my hands. Quite comfortable!

At the beach I put the cart aside, put on my life jacket and started the tour, that took me first round Storgrundet and then along the outside of the islands Storgrundet,  Norrskär and Bredskär.

I took it quite easy to avoid overstressing my elbow. The first kilometre the elbow still hurted but became gradually better. I watched the blue sky, the approaching cirrus clouds, the ripples on the water and was glad to be on the Baltic Sea again.  Last time I was walking …

When you paddle along the outside of Bredskär you only see forest and a stony beach. The summer cottages are on the other side. One of the cottages belongs L. and S., my neighbours. I went ashore and was welcomed by S., who invited me to fried herring, caught by net just the day before. Delicious! We sat outside and talked about everything while I deepened the friendship with dog Dolly.

Finally I left the island and continued my tour, slowly heading home. Thank you S. for the herring and nice company!

I arrived at Storgrundet round two o’clock but it took an hour until I was home. First I just had to take a refreshing bath. Yes, it’s definitely refreshing with a water temperature round 15 °C. My tight back however loves the cold water. Then I met another acquaintance and we had a longer talk. Finally I walked my kayak home where I arrived six hours after departure.

Kayakvideo – my thing – winter kayaking in Skellefteå

Last summer I was asked by filmmaker Johan Granstrand if I would be interested in making a small film about my winter paddling. I felt honoured to be asked and gladly accepted.

Despite to this year we got a lot of snow already in the beginning of November last year. Since weather was nice (and cold) we decided to make the film on November 12, exactly one year ago.

I already blogged about this day in my post “Kayak – is it a boat or a sledge?”. Some weeks ago I got the permission to share the link to the video and that’s what I do today.

“Min Grej – Kayaking i Skellefteå på vintern” on Vimeo.

(I really like this film but I don’t like listening to me talking. My Swedish sounds awfully!)

Late autumn paddling

It’s so nice to kayak on a sunny summer day, wearing just shorts and t-shirt, feeling the warm breeze, taking a bath and having dinner on a warm sunlit rock by the sea.

I wonder, why I hardly do that! This summer I paddled exactly twice – once in May, once in June. Now it’s November!

When I saw the thin layer of ice at Storgrundet this morning I was kind of alarmed – the days of paddling this year are numbered.

I fought a while with my weaker self but finally it was me who won. I put on my drysuit, neoprene boots, hood and gloves, took my little waterproof camera and fetched my kayak from the garage. The weather was still a bit sunny and temperature round -4 °C. (According to the weather forecast it should have been cloudy for hours, temperatures above zero and rain on its way. But well, the Swedish weather forecasts are hardly reliable.)

It took less than ten minutes till I reached the small bay Killingörviken where I launched my kayak. Within this short time period clouds have been approached from the sea covering half the sky.

The first 70 meters were hard work. Even when the ice is only 7 mm thick it’s not easy to paddle through because you have to break the ice not only with the kayak itself but with the paddle as well to be able to push forward. But soon I reached open water, crossed the street and reached the larger bay Kallholmsfjärden, home of the port Skellefteå Hamn. At the rear the sky was still blue but in front of me dark clouds approached and soon it started to snow …

No! Wrong! It didn’t snow. Snow stayed home and sent his asshole cousin: Freezing rain. (Rain indeed, sometimes the weather forecast is right.)

I thought back to the time, where I had lived in Essen. In that time I used to say “winter is coming, the rain is getting colder”. And so it felt today. It was chilly, wet, grey, twilit and dull. A typical autumn day in Essen. Or winter day. Or … . But I get off the point …

Anyway when I crossed all the bridges that traverse the channel Kejsar Ludvigs kanal, my mind wandered back again. Here it even looked like Essen.

But there are differences. First of all I never paddled in Essen and then Skelleftehamn is a coastal town which means that you reach the sea in less than no time:

Near the coast there was another layer of ice and again I had to cut through. My plan was to paddle round the peninsula Kallholmen, meaning that I would have to cross the sheltered bay Kurjoviken. Would I manage it or would the ice shield be too thick to be easily crossed? Well, I’ll see …

I paddled along the southern side of Kallholmen. There was hardly any wind and hardly any waves. Time to stop photoing and just enjoying the motion. Kurjoviken however came nearer and when I went round the west tip my misgivings became true. The whole bay was iced.

I gave it a try and started paddling through ice a third time this day. Already after ten meters the ice was 10 mm thick and I knew that I had 500 meters more to go. I decided to give up my original plan and returned. Backwards since it’s hardly possible to turn in ice.

It was still grey and quite dark, but it stopped raining and there was a a silver lining on the horizon.

It started to rain again. The raindrops were so tiny that I hardly could see the drops impacting the water surface. The surrounding looked hazy and mysterious and it was hard to guess distance and size of other objects.

“Is there a man standing on a rock amidst the sea? Or is it just a rock? Did it move or not? It moved! Is it a bird? I’m not sure. Yes, it’s a seabird, perhaps a cormorant. And the four dark spots ahead? Is it small rocks? Or big rocks? Or seals? Or trees far away in the haze?” Probably it was trees, that spot was further away than excepted.

Finally I reached “Ice Shield II” were I used the ice-free channel that I created an hour before. A second time I paddled along Kejsar Ludvigs kanal and reached the harbour.

A second time I crossed the bay, reached “Ice Shield I” and soon went ashore.

Well, let’s say I tried to go ashore. It was easy to leave the kayak but hard to go up the shallow slope, since the cold rain had instantly become ice on the still frozen ground and it was extremely slippery. Did you ever tried to drag a trolley with a kayak behind on freshly frozen streets? With neopren shoes made for water, not for ice? One patch on the street was so slippery that I really felt stuck. I could not move in any direction but finally I made it and some time later I arrived home.

My plan for 2018: Much more kayaking. In sun or rain, night or day – doesn’t matter as long as it’s save.

 

 

It’s summer

When you look out of your window and see long green grass in the urgent need of being cut, where 4 weeks ago a snow shower covered the whole garden with white

When you go along the river Skellefteälven and finally other flowers started to bloom than only tussilago

When nights are no dark nights any longer and it will take many weeks until you can see the first stars again …

When you paddle on the river Skellefteälven, barefoot, just with t-shirt and shorts, not with a drysuit as three weeks ago and you even enjoy becoming wet by some breaking waves, because it’s so refreshing …

… then it’s summer in Northern Sweden.

And summer is more than welcome after the long winter. By the way, summer solstice is just 10 days away.