Lighthouse day on Gåsören

Gåsören is probably my favourite island in the small archipelago off Skelleftehamns coast. It has two lighthouses, the old house-like built 1879–81, and the new tower-like built in 1921. The latter one is still in service. Yesterday was fyrens dag – lighthouse day – on Gåsören. Annika and I wanted to go but beside of my kayak I don’t a boat. How good that Mats – active both in the jazz club and the boat club – gave us a lift from the small boat harbour Tjuvkistan. The wind had weakened but the sea was still choppy and Mats had to drive slowly against the waves. Gåsören however is not far away and soon we dock the boat in the small harbour.

There were not many people on the island yet, more were expected for 21 o’clock. Tommy, who has a summer cottage on the island lit a cosy fire, while I went around and took pictures of the lighthouses and the brick-built cellar, that I’ve never been in before.

Round 21 o’clock the new lighthouse was lit automatically. The summer days of eternal daylight is history for 2019. The flag of the Swedish Cruising Association fluttered in the wind.

Round 21:30 Tommy lights the bulb of the old lighthouse and welcomes the guests. More than expected had come – round 30–40 people.

I take the opportunity to take some pictures from the top of the old lighthouse, where you can climb outside through a little wooden door. In the west it’s the industry of Rönnskär that gives light, in the east it’s the moon.

The people started to leave. Some of them have come by the booked tour boat, other by their own boat. Soon only a few people were left. Those who would stay in their summer cottages (there are only two on the island) plus Mats, Annika and me.

Round 23 o’clock we leave the island. Hopefully I’ll have some more opportunities to visit Gåsören this year.

A kayak trip shorter than expected

About neoprene suits, the post-glacial rebound and changed lunch plans.

Today I wanted to paddle to Själagrundet, an island 1.6 km from mainland. The air may be warm but the water is still cold and that’s the element you should be prepared for in case of capsizing. Today I decided against the bulky drysuit and chose a thin neoprene suit for the first time.

The suit is very tight (especially if you each too much chocolate …) and hard to put on. After I managed to squeeze myself into the suit and to close the back zipper it felt quite comfortable. Until I started paddling. It was much harder to move the paddle than usual because of the tight neoprene sleeves. Every paddle stroke felt like training with a rubber band. I got used to it after a while, but neoprene will probably not become my favourite choice of kayak clothing.

I passed the island Storgrundet and headed northeast. The waves came exactly from the side which is the worst direction regarding stability. So I zigzagged a bit to avoid the waves rocking the kayak too much. Nevertheless the island came closer and closer and soon I got out of the kayak and dragged it ashore. The seagulls didn’t like my arrival. Screeching loudly they rose in the air, sailed in the wind and didn’t dare to land as long as I occupied their private property.

There are many islands whose name ends with -grundet. From Skelleftehamn for example you can paddle to Storgrundet, Norrskärsgrundet or Nygrundet. The Swedish word grund means (among others) shallow, so the translations of the islands mentioned above are: the Large-Shallow, the North-Skerry-Shallow, the New-Shallow.

Who is to blame? The post-glacial rebound! After the last glacial period the glaciers started to melt. Slowly the land, that had been compressed by the huge weight of the ice sheet started to expand. It is still expanding and rising – round 8–9 mm a year. Therefore some islands are quite new. Själagrundet for example is hardly older than 100 years. They got their names from the old times when they weren’t islands yet but shallow underwater-banks that the fishermen had to take care of.

Today Själagrundet still is mainly a large gravel bank. Only on the higher eastern side plants had started to grow. Mostly it’s flowers, but two small bushes and a small willow tree have settled there as well.

I walked around and had a look at the 260 meter long island until I got hungry and wanted to eat my lunch – salad and a chocolate bar. When I looked at the dark grey clouds that seemed to approach the island I changed my plans. Did I hear the rumble of thunder? When I would be hit by a thunderstorm on this flat island without any shelter I could get into serious trouble. I checked the speed of the clouds and decided that the best option was to paddle back to mainland, now and quickly.

I had a fast start and paddled quicker than usual until half of the distance lay behind me. It was quite exhausting –remember the neoprene suit? When I realised that there was no immediate danger of thunderstorm and lightning I slowed down. I took my dinner on the island Storgrundet. A save place with summer houses and hardly 100 metres from mainland. Then I paddled back to the small beach at the mainland, took off the neoprene suit and had a refreshing bath in the Baltic Sea in the sun.

 

White nights

Since the summer solstice on 21 June the nights are slowly getting longer again. Last night sunset was 23:21 and today’s sunrise 01:56. At this time I usually sleep.

I was extremely lazy photographing the last weeks, so I decided to ignore my tiredness and drive to the coast. This time I chose a new place I’ve never been before. I left my car at the side of the small gravel road that I had followed for some kilometres. I took my camera bag with the tripod and crossed the hilly forest until I reached the coast.

While photographing I decided to publish at least two photos in this blog, whether I like them or not. I have to admit that I’m not so content with the result, but anyway, here are two shots of last night. Both pictures are taken in the last minutes before sunset, the first 22:59, the second 23:12.

 

Fog in Skelleftehamn

Yesterday fog patches pulled up from the sea. At the coast was quite dense and hid anything further than 20 meters away.

But fog does not only hide things farther away, it also reveals other things nearby. For example the many spider nets in a small bog nearby.

 

Opening the kayak season 2019

Two days ago a personal weather record was beaten. It was almost 20 °C in Skelleftehamn. in April! In town 22.1 °C was measured, the warmest April day for at least 15 years. And that’s what my garden looks like: beside of a stubborn patch of snow in the shadow of my neighbour’s garage my garden is completely free of snow.

While the air was warm, the seawater was still very cold and I would not dare to paddle without a drysuit. I didn’t want to be boiled in the drysuit and so I postponed the kayak opening to today, when it was colder again.

When I leave the house at 8:45, it is 4 °C. My favourite starting point is still icebound, so I walk to the peninsula Näsgrundet with the kayak in tow. I use a belt and a rope to drag the kayak behind. When the kayak is balanced on the cart I have the hands free and can walk normally. 25 minutes later I reach the shore where I put on drysuit and life jacket. Soon I sit in the kayak and realise, that even though I miss winter there are fun things to do when it’s warm as well.

It’s colder on the sea and I put on my neoprene gloves and waterproof hood. As I expect some of the paddle routes are still blocked by ice. There is still ice between the island Bredskär and mainland so I cannot circle the island. I have to return. I pass a large ice floe – time to enter the floe for some minutes. It doesn’t move, probably it sits on a large rock.

I kayak along the islands Bredskär, Klubben and Flottgrundet, always along the open outsides. Then I head for the island Nygrundet, where I made a very special snowshow tour a month and a day ago. The ice heaps have vanished, only a long strip of ice follows the coastal line. Time to take a break and to have an early lunch. Crisp bread, cheese, fresh grapes and a bar of chocolate. I feel a bit cold and put on my lightweight down jacket, but I would have preferred my winter anorak. I even make a small fire on the ice but more for having it gemütlich than for additional warmth.

After the break I’m full and warm again. I pack my stuff and continue my kayak tour. I paddle along the outside of the islands Nygrundet and Gråsidan, where I make a short photo stop.

Then I continue to Bredskär, where some quite high ice walls are reminiscent of the winter.

I try to paddle between Flottgrundet and Bredskär but soon come to a large area of old and soft ice. I measure the thickness with the paddle – round 30 cm. I decide to walk over the ice and drag the kayak behind. First it works well …

… but then the ice gets softer and softer. Just some steps next to the island I break through. It is not a sudden movement, the ice just slowly gives way. Paired with the buoyancy of drysuit and life jacket that’s probably the reason why I only break in up to my chest. The hole is small and it’s a matter of seconds to get on the ice again. Carefully I take the last steps until I reach land.

Sea ice and lake ice have a strange way of melting in spring. The solid ice transforms to an array of long vertical ice needles. There is hardly any connection between one needle and the next and it’s not possible to lift larger pieces of ice from the water without breaking them. When you get out a smaller piece and drop it, it will splinter into many parts. The structure shown on the photos below is round 10 cm thick.

I continue walking, partly on ice, partly in shallow water. Then I can paddle again. But not for long. Soon I reach another ice field, this one looking very unstable. So I cross the ice by staying in my kayak and pushing myself forward with the hands. Ouch – the vertical ice needles hurt, even through the neoprene gloves. Alas it’s only 15 meters to cross, then I’m in open water again.

The rest of the tour? Slowly paddling back to the starting point – taking off the dry suit – putting on soft shell and down jacket because I feel cold – put the kayak onto the cart and attach it to the belt – walking home. The tour took 5 hours, 40 minutes. 5 km of walking, round 10 km of paddling. Here’s a sketch:

Legend:  on foot | kayak

Spring sprint

The warm weather of the last ten days has made the snow melt quickly. Many birds have arrived, among others swans, geese, cranes and northern lapwings. The first spring flowers are blooming and butterflies flutter around.

Some days before I still had up to 40 cm of snow in my backyard, now there are only some snowy patches left that probably will thaw away soon.

Even at Storgrundet – my favourite beach and one of the places where the sea ice uses to remain longest – the first large patches of open water can be seen.

Since most of the sea ice has been vanished I want to open the kayak season this week. I need however another starting point than Storgrundet. Even though the ice has holes, most of it is still thick enough to walk onto. I met a couple that crossed the ice to visit their cabin. The man told me, that he crossed the ice a week ago, too – by car!

 

Boats between ice and water

Normally I try to make a winter kayak tour as soon as parts of the sea are free of ice. Not this year. Either it was too windy or the sea was ice covered again or I was travelling.

While my kayak is still sleeping in the garage two other boats have already been taken out. I saw them in the afternoon but made the photos in the evening.

It may look like the sea is frozen again, but the transparent ice is floating freely. Look closely and you’ll realise that the second boat has moved while I took the photo and therefore is a bit blurred.

Although the boats are a clear spring sign the ice makes the photos look still wintry. Today’s day temperature however was round 10 °C and for the first time I jogged in a t-shirt.

Sea ice in April

It’s hardly three days ago, that the water level of the Baltic Sea was extremely low. Now the level is -20 cm, a normal situation.

But there are always changes at the coast. Two cold nights with temperatures below -5 °C were enough to cover some open bays with new fresh ice. The first two photos show the same bay as three days ago, the other two photos show a place near Näsgrundet, 2½ km away.

#escapism – an overnight stay on an icebound raft

Thanks to Facebook I saw yesterday afternoon, that my mate Hans planned to have a sauna in the evening. I took the opportunity to invite myself. Hans answered I should take a sleeping bag with me when I wanted to stay over.

Half an hour I had packed sleeping bag, warm clothes, camera and food and took the car to Bureå. Here in the bay of the marina Hans has parked his rafts. Two rafts are equipped with a cosy cabin with two beds each, the third raft has a toilet and the sauna. In summer the rafts are floating freely and you need a boat to get there. Now it’s possible to cross the ice. When I arrived Hans already had fired the sauna. But first we took an ice bath.

We warmed bread and grilled sausages directly on the sauna oven, the only source of heat. After our third ice bath we warmed up in the sauna and then went in the left cabin. Soon we wrapped up ourselves in our sleeping bags because it was quite chilly. Outside -5 °C, inside only slightly warmer.

I slept well although I woke up several times because the ice cracked loudly. Either it was the frost expanding the ice or the rising water level. Already at 5 o’clock it was so light that I went out to take some photos. Brrr, -10 °C! I could hear the ice crack and the hooting of the whooper swans. Far away some of them swam in the water of one of the few ice-free places.

When I came back it was still early morning and Hans was sleeping. I thought that looked like a good idea, went into my sleeping bag and slept another hour.

When we stood up I was curious about my food for breakfast. The water in my large plastic bottle was partly frozen but still drinkable. To my surprise my yoghurt hadn’t turned into ice over night. Cheese and bread neither. Since it was almost warmer outside than inside we had an outdoor breakfast under the blue morning sky.

After breakfast we called it a day, crossed the ice to our parked cars, said hejdå and left this nice place. Tack så mycket, Hans – thank you, Hans for a relaxed evening and a wonderful spontaneous experience.

Extreme low water in Skelleftehamn

When I was a child we used to drive to Cuxhaven, a coastal town in Northern Germany. We never checked the tidal calendar in advance, so it was always a surprise what we got: high tide or low tide. Bathing or mud walking.

Here in Skelleftehamn at the Bothian Bay the situation is much simpler. The tidal effect is insignificant. Low water and high water may occur, but they are mostly caused by wind and independent from the gravitational effects of the moon.

The last two days the water level was extremely low. Yesterday evening the relative water level was -103 cm. Last time that this happened was in 1998 – 21 years ago.

Where ice fishers sat on the ice of the Kallholmsfjärden only weeks ago was now a wide area of wet sand and stones. A very unusual view. I went there twice and made some photos. They are not particularly beautiful but a memory of a special situation I’d like to share.

I would have loved to explore other bays as Harrbäckssand or the Innervikfjärden but these are still completely covered by ice. Perhaps another time. Perhaps in 21 years …