Spring winter in Obbola

I’m sitting in the train travelling from Obbola, my “home home” to Tromsø, my “work home”. Normally the journey would have taken 18 to 19 hours but this train is four hours late. That will probably extend my journey to 37 hours including an overnight stay in Narvik.

The last days we had full vårvinter (literally “spring winter”) which is the transition period between winter and spring. Not only in my opinion this is an own season. And so it can look like:

Tuesday, 9 April

The weather is fine and calm. The drift ice that I paddled through the day before is mostly gone. I take another kayak tour to the islands Obbolstenarna and now also the sea is calm enough to circumnavigate the islands and the ice cap on the rocky shallow.

After the tour I continue my work in home office.

Wednesday, 10 April

It is raining at lunch time and the fog hides the horizon of the Baltic Sea.

Thursday, 11 April

The drift ice has come back over night. The day is sunny.

Friday, 12 April

In the village at lunchtime I spot the first Tussilago which always has been the first flower to bloom in vårvinter. And in front of a house I see some crocuses. It is +7.5 °C.

Some hours later I take a short and icy “farewell kayak tour”. It gets harder to find a good place to set in the kayak. And on the way back I was right when I doubted that the small ice floe would carry my weight. It didn’t. The ice has started to rot and then it’s not stable anymore even when 10 cm thick. So – be prepared.

We still have 50 cm of snow in the garden but round our rowan tree the snow has melted. The birds love to be there picking for food.

Saturday, 13 April

That’s today. I’m sitting in the heavily delayed train heading north. The forest ground and the bogs are covered with snow but the first patches of blueberry twigs are visible, too. It’s nice to see the landscape, but I’ll have a long journey ahead and I’m going to take a nap now.

Spring winter kayaking through the ice.

After yesterday’s ugly and windy conditions the weather today looked quite promising. A good ooportunity to take another kayak tour. At eight o’clock I put on dry suit and life vest and dragged my kayak to the open water by the islet Lillskär.

I paddled slowly to give two pairs of swans time to retreat and then kayaked round the islet. Here a large field of ice floes awaited me.

There were open patches of water, but mostly I paddled through dense ice fields that were moved by long and smooth waves. The large floes were 30 cm thick, some of them even thicker.

How does paddling through the ice work? Most ice floes are small enough to be pushed aside. I tried to paddle around the larger ice floes. Sometimes I bumped into them. and sometimes I just paddled over them by purpose – “brute force”.

After a kilometre I reached open water and then another ice field with thinner and smaller ice floes. Here I could just paddle through and the transparent ice glittered in the sun.

I wanted to reach the “ice berg” south of the islands Obbolstenarna. Out there is a large shallow with some rocks. There the waves build a temporary island of ice and snow. This year it was two to three metres high. I didn’t dare to circumnavigate this icy island because in the shallows around the waves were high and breaking. I considered this being too risky to kayak there since I was alone.

I didn’t kayak around Obbolstenarna neither for the same reasons so I returned. I could see the Finnland ferry in the harbour some kilometres away. Soon I entered the ice field again.

As on the way there I paddled through the floes without any problems. I only landed in a dead end once and that was on purpose for the photo.

Since the weather was great it was so exceptionally beautiful out there I parked my kayak on a larger ice floe and took a short break.

Then it was time to return to the ice edge, walk back to our house and enter my office because this was my first day of a week of home office. Farewell ice floes. Thanks for good company.

The right timing for a small winter kayak tour

Friday afternoon

Yesterday Annika and I took a winter bath in the ice free bay Vitskärsudden, now it is snowing and the wind has blown back a lot of ice floes. Too unstable too walk on, too thick to paddle through. How shall we paddle kayak tomorrow under these conditions?

Saturday

In the morning the sun is shining and the ice floes are gone. I walk to the ice edge that is round about 200 metres from shore. The ice is stable. After breakfast Annika and I dress properly (warm clothes, dry suit, life jacket) and drag our kayaks to the ice edge.

We get into our kayaks on the ice and then hop into the water. Then we turn right and are calmly paddling following the coastal line to the bay Vitskärsudden. First we navigate through some larger ice floes and the usual rocks (our “underwater archipelago”). When we enter the bay a layer of fresh ice is in front of us. It is so thin, that we can paddle through it effortlessly. The sounds of the braking ice are fascinating.

We are not alone. Three other kayakers are further out while other people are taking a walk ashore. One of them took a photo that we found on Facebook:

After we paddle back we build up momentum and paddle right onto the shallow ice shield. We already can see our house – shortly later we are there, longing for a shower.

In the evening the wind has turned and ice floes are drifting back ashore.

Sunday (today)

Did we have calm weather yesterday? Well, not today. The wind is pretty strong and wet snow and sleet is falling from a white-grey sky. The horizon is hidden in the fog.

I take a promenade to Vitskärsudden again. The wind has filled the whole bay with small and large ice floes that wobble in the waves.

I am walking along the ice covered coastal line until I come to the open sea. Here the waves are throwing water, slush and ice ashore so that the shore is covered by metre high ice walls. This view is impressive, pretty arctic and also a bit frightening.

The waves are high and break early. It’s hardly imaginable that Annika and I had a fine and calm kayak tour yesterday. Good timing!

I have five other days in Obbola before I’ll head back to Tromsø. I’m quite curious whether I’m able to take another kayak tour. But today the weather looks quite promising.

First kayaking 2024

Today I took my first kayak tour in 2024. It was much too windy to do a longer tour (and proper photos) and my walking distance was larger then my paddling efforts but hey, at least I was outside. Now I’m eager to kayak more.

Welcome, open sea

When the plane flew above the Baltic Sea shortly before I landed in Umeå nine days ago I realised that it might take time, until I can paddle kayak. The whole sea by the coast was covered with ice.

Even yesterday the open sea was round about a kilometre away from shore. Then it got windy.

When I woke up this morning a lot of the sea ice had gone and I spotted the open water right behind the little islet Lillskär. I put on my waterproof survival suit and went there. The ice between the shore and the island was still solid.

Behind the island was a strip of ice with long cracks. I went to the edge to take some photos.

When I turned around I realised that one of the cracks – seen on the second photo above –has become broader, close to a metre. I preferred swimming the metre to jumping because the ice was slippery. Minutes later the ice floes were drifting away from land and then south. Good bye!

As soon as the wind dies down I want to take the first kayak tour of the year. The weather forecast here is not the best so I’ll have to wait and look.

No paddling in Obbola

Normally when I am in Obbola round Christmas I do some winter paddling. This year I dug out the kayaks from a thick layer of snow on 23 December. On 26 December there was still open water behind the tiny skerry that we use to call Lillskär but I was too lazy to go on a tour. One day later the Baltic Sea looked like this:

Within a single day parts of the Baltic Sea have frozen over – a stripe of 500 metres or more. So much for kayaking …

It took some time until I was allowed to publish the drone photo above. I had ask for permission at Lantmäteriet (The Swedish Mapping, Cadastral and Land Registration Authority) first.

Ärendenummer LM2023/067684

Farewell Obbola

As almost every day the last weeks I went to the coast yesterday. This place is less than 100 metres away from Annika’s and my house in Obbola. It was partly cloudy but the upcoming sunrise made the clouds and ice extremely colourful. I waited for the sun to rise and then went back to my home office room to continue working.

Today I have other plans. After three weeks of being home – part vacation, part work – it it time to travel back to Tromsø. Normally I do this by train and bus, this time I travel by car. After I’ve found a nice flat in Tromsø I took my Norwegian car here to fetch some more stuff.

Such as a box of books, kitchen stuff, an uplighter, an Ivar bookshelf, my acoustic bass guitar, a bulky winter sleeping bag and more stuff that I want to have in Tromsø. Now my car is full but I still can use the rear-view mirror.

I guess I might need my down parka for if the weather forecast is correct it might be -25 °C on my way back to “work home”. But not today where I only have to drive round about 200 km to Gagsmark to visit friends and stay over. From there its 470 km go drive to Kuttainen (Saturday) and then 300 other km to Tromsø (Sunday).

Farewell, Obbola!

An icy yet colourful art exhibition

While we had temperatures below -30 °C last week the air became much warmer on Sunday afternoon. Yesterday morning the temperature had risen to -3 °C and today to +5 °C.

Yesterday – running on the ice

Yesterday I used the opportunity to something that I rarely have done before: running on the ice of the Baltic Sea. First round the small islet Lillskär and then to the beach Vitskärsudden. All the ice was covered with ice feathers and the running felt a bit fluffy. I had a mobile phone with me and took some photos.

Well – that was fun – and beautiful. The next day it should become warm and the ice feathers probably won’t survive.

Today morning – checking the ice

What a difference a day makes! The dew made all the ice by the coast blank and a lot of melt water covered it. I walked around the island Lillskär and everything looked so different!

You see the gaps between the ice floes in the first image above? It is thick ice as well and you can easily walk on it. The whiter ice is just older and contains more bubbles while the darker, newer one was built in the days of strong frost and is much clearer and more translucent.

Today afternoon – an extraordinary ice exhibition

At one o’clock I decided to go onto the ice again. Since I wanted to go further I used a dry suit and a life vest beside my ice spikes that I always have round my neck on the ice.

I went along Lillskär and headed south. The sun was already low and partially covered behind a thin layer of clouds. As some hours ago the ice looked endless like you could walk to Finland (which you couldn’t).

Ice, water, air, sun – these were the ingredients of the art expedition exhibition that took place on this sea ice today. “A picture is worth a thousand words” – so let the photos speak (although they need some more editing due to the extreme contrasts):

I could have stayed for hours, so beautiful it was going on the ice from object to object being alone on the ice and taking pictures with my small Sony camera that I carried in a waterproof bag. Anyhow the sun was going down and I had to continue working so I headed back to our house.

So, this was my photo studio today. Thank you, sun, thank you, air, thank you, water, thank you, ice!

It gets even colder

After the first days of the new year with temperatures down to -26 °C it got even colder.

4. January

In the morning temperature is between -26 and -27 °C and despite the weather forecast the sky is clear.

At lunch time I take another promenade along the coast. The sea ice Baltic Sea looks extremely cold due to the frost patterns that cover everything.

In the afternoon it gets colder and in the evening the temperature sinks below -30 °C for the first time. I go out and take a photo of our tree in our garden. It’s the very same tree under which Annika and I got married three and a half years ago – barefooted. Now it is covered in frost and Orion and Sirius are in the sky.

Luckily I have a lot of very warm clothes. To go out I only had to slip into my down suit and my Russian rubber boots, put a hat and woollen mittens on and I won’t freeze at all.

5. January

Twice I was awake and outdoors this night to enjoy the cold air and the starry sky. At 3:18 the thermometer shows -33.4 °C, the coldest temperature ever I experienced being at home!

These days a lot of places experience temperatures below -40 °C and less and many people (including us) have trouble with their cars or heating. Near Arjeplog a guy measured -51 °C with a laser thermometer the day before. That’s exceptionally cold even for Northern Sweden.

In the morning it was time for Annika and me to repeat a known experiment in the cold that we never tried out by ourselves: Throwing hot water in the air and seeing it freezing almost instantly into a cloud of ice dust. While my photos are ok-ish, Annika took gorgeous photos with my Nikon showing me doing this experiment. It works best with temperatures below -30 °C, which we had.

While I write this article in the night to the 6. January it is still cold, but “only” -22 °C. You get used to the cold after some days. And yes – I love these cold and crisp winter days a lot! The weekend will still be cold, then it will get warmer. Much warmer! On Tuesday, four days from now, it may be 40 degrees warmer than yesterday morning with day temperatures round +6 °C!

 

 

The year 2024 starts cold

1. January

It’s midnight. Clear sky, -13 °C. Annika and I stand in the snow outside of our house with a drink to toast with and some sparklers to set alight. Farewell 2023, welcome 2024! Happy new year!

The next morning Annika and I stand outdoors again. No sparklers needed, the sun rises over the frozen Baltic Sea and turns the sky orange.

When we start a little cross country ski tour at lunch time the temperatures already have dropped to -18 °C. Before we drive home we take a small detour to our favourite beach Vitskärsudden where we watch the sunset over the sea. Sunrise and sunset on the same day – that was long ago.

2. January (yesterday)

In the night it has become colder. -25 °C shows the thermometer in the morning. I bring Annika to the bus station by car but first I have to scrape ice on the windshield. Yes, I am a bit overdressed in my down suit ;-)

On this day I am outdoors twice. First to catch the colours before sunrise …

… then to take a lunch promenade to Vitskärsudden. Despite the sun it is still round -22, -23 °C. The Baltic Sea is frozen as far as I can see and the low hanging sun is accompanied by colourful parhelions.

I thought the down jacket would be too warm but I gladly put the hood on when it started to get a bit windy.

In the evening it gets colder. -26.9 °C, the coldest temperature I experienced here in our home in Obbola since we moved there in May 2020. While I worked from home Annika took the bicycle back from the bus station. Brrr!

3. January (today)

Another cold day with temperatures between -22 and -26 °C. Although I have to work I go out several times. First shortly after sunrise. The sun is damped by clouds and looks like a very mysterious eye.

Then I take another tour at 11:00, this time with back country skis. What a beautiful day!

I go out a third time to watch the sunset, but clouds cover the horizon. At least I take a photo of the large, wooden barrel of unknown origin that stands in the water – now frozen – of our shallow bay.

… oh I forgot, I was out a fourth time, this time by car to get some things done. Luckily I had camera and tripod on the back seat, because the frosted trees in the cold artificial light looked really special.

I really love this cold weather. Only taking photos can be a bit of a hassle because sometimes you have to take off your gloves and then the fingers can get cold very fast. Beside from that: great!