Opening the kayak season 2021

The last time I sat in a kayak was on the technique sea kayaking course in Tromsø almost four months ago. After a cold February home in Obbola that made the Baltic Sea freeze over the sea has now been open again for a few days.

Today we had calm weather – blue sky and temperatures round -10 °C. I woke up at 6 o’clock and took the opportunity to open the kayak season with a pre-breakfast paddling. I had to drag the kayak to the islet Lillskär because there is still thick, solid ice. At Lillskär’s northern tip I got into the kayak.

I decided for paddling to the group of islands called Obbolstenarna – the Obbola stones – about a kilometre in the south. I tried to use my woollen mittens but then the partly ice covered paddle was so slippery, that I lost control over it. So I had to be content with the rubber gloves, that are attached to the waterproof floating suit, that I was wearing for security.

First I paddled over open water, then through thin ice, easy to break through with paddle and kayak, then through slightly thicker ice where I had to back several times to find a better way.

But even when your slow you’ll reach your destination and so I arrived at the northeastern edge of the ice covered rocks of Obbolstenarna. I can see this place from my home office window but now I was glad to take a small “promenade” through another ice expedition – this time not by ski but kayak.

No, I didn’t dare to paddle under the ice tunnel. I guess it was several tons of ice arching above the small passage. A weight I don’t want to fall on my head.

It looked like I could continue for hours along the ice coast of the islands, but I already had realised that I would have headwind on my way back and the wind was stronger than expected. The way back was actually exhausting – both for the condition and my finger tips that started to get very cold in the chilly wind. I had to stop from time to time and rub the gloves to get my fingers warm again and in these seconds my kayak was blown halfway back again. Alas, it’s only a kilometre (a bit more when you zigzag through the ice fields) and finally I reached Lillskär again.

I heaved the kayak on land and walked it back home, first over the islet, then over the solid ice between islet and mainland.

Now I had to cross a hundred metres of snow, leave my kayak beside our still snowed-in barbecue place, walk another twenty steps and I was home again. First action: taking a hot shower! Next action: buy a new drysuit, the survival suit sucks for paddling.

Look for the rainbow!

If you live in Northern Sweden and love snow, and it rains in the end of February …

… look for the rainbow!

Photographers note: click on the image to get a better version. This photo is not made for jpeg compression.

Drip, drip, drip …

… it sounds, when I go outside. After a longer period with frosty winter weather a period of warm period has started today. The forecast predicts plus temperatures for the next ten days, at least in the daytime.

Yesterday was quite windy, -4 °C and it had been snowing a while. Despite the frost temperatures the snow was mixing with tiny rain drops that froze on the outer window pane of my home office room. I took the opportunity for a last “sub zero” tour with skies.

First I had to climb a snow drift beside the house. There I had a look on our barbecue place. Do you see the two benches in the photo below ;-)? Then I entered the sea ice and followed the coastal line until I reached the spot where I saw the open water last weekend. Now the ice floes first had frozen together and then were covered with snow. Now it’s not possible any longer for me to distinguish between stable and weak ice. So, the sea ice skiing season may be over now. The rest of the tour I skied on land until I was home again.

Appendix: That’s the table on our terrace. We had waited for the snow to cover it completely but this place heads to the sea and is exposed to the wind, so the snow drifts were lower than on the other side of the house.

 

Changing plans

Last Sunday in Kont, 30 minutes by car from home:

Annika and I skied around on the sea ice and reached places we’ve never been before. We were not the only ones. A lot of other people skied, skated or walked and some of them just sat there in down jackets on the ice or used the barbecue areas on land. All of them seemed to enjoyed the wonderful winter weather.

We saw a lot of reindeer tracks, caused by the very same herd that I saw yesterday. And we realised, how near the island Tarv is from there, that’s the island I skied to two weeks ago. So a plan was made: next weekend we shall ski to Kont and back again. That’s about 10 to 12 km.

Now it’s “next weekend”. It has become grey, foggy and snowy with much warmer temperatures round -1 to -2 °C. Not the exiting weather that we hoped for. So we cancelled the tour for today. Instead I skied alone heading for Obbolstenarna , a group of small skerries that we visited with friends last Sunday, also on skis.

When I should turn to Obbolstenarna I hesitated. I looked like the open water had come nearer and that last Sunday’s way over the ice wouldn’t exist any longer. So instead of turning left I followed the coastal line straight ahead.

A good idea.

The open water reached to the southern tip of Obbolaö and it wasn’t longer anymore to go round on the ice. So I stepped up the ice covered rocks. From there I could spot a large rock, that I had skied around several times. Now it had become impossible without taking a cold bath. So our plans were not only crossed by the dull weather (our decision) but more from the wind, that blew from the sea and crushed large areas of last weekends sea ice (Nature’s decision). We wouldn’t have come long.

After taking these photos I didn’t dare to explore further and skied back the same way. I could hear the foghorn of a large ship but I couldn’t see it. When I almost was home again I spotted it in the harbour of Holmsund. It was the Wasaline ferry that goes between Holmsund and the Finnish town Vaasa.

I met some ice fishers, who told me, that this winter has been extraordinary for Obbola. Both the amount of snow and the large area of solid sea ice is not usual for here. I’m glad and grateful that I was able to experience such in my first winter in Annika’s and my new home.

Reindeer on the island Obbolaö

Annika and I live on an island called Obbolaö. If you want to leave it by car you can take the road E12 either to the west in direction Holmsund or to the north directly to Umeå. When you take the latter you hardly realise, that Obbolaö is an island, because the channel that separates it from the mainland is less than 40 metres wide and you can easily miss it.

Anyhow you have to use one of these roads if you don’t want to take the boat (or swim) in summer or cross the ice in winter.

I wonder, how the reindeer have come to the island. Probably they crossed the ice somewhere. They have been around for some days as Annika told me. She passed some of them when she cycled to or from the bus station and they have been quite near to where we live.

Today I took the car to Holmsund but was I stopped on the road Södra Obbolavägen, little more than one kilometre from home. A large herd of at least 100 reindeer blocked the road. They hardly moved, a sign that there might have been another car on the other side. I stopped the car and waited.

Soon I could hear some glee shouts from the other side and a man on a snowmobile appeared. He was the owner of the reindeer and used the snowmobile and his voice to lead and guide them.

After some minutes all reindeer had left the road. I greeted the man, he waved back and I continued my driving.

It’s not the first time that I experienced reindeer blocking a road, but I never experienced this so near from home. Lovely!

Outdoor exhibition II

As the island Tarv, Even Bredskär, an island nearby has an ice art exhibition. I went there by ski today, taking a rest from work. Sunny calm weather, -10 °C and it’s always nice to catch both fresh air und sunlight when you sit at the computer the whole day.

While I am writing this article it gets colder and colder outside. Now – at 19:45 – it’s already below -20 °C. It could become the coldest night here this winter.

Outdoor exhibition

A Covid-19 compatible art exhibition visit.

What’s that? That’s the Baltic Sea off Obbola. When you stand on the ice, you see the frozen surface reaching to the horizon.

Today I take the skis to explore our coast the first time from the frozen sea. I head south and ski along the coast until I reach our beach Vitskärsudden.

From there I can see an apparently higher wall of ice at the southern tip of the island Tarv, 1.3 km away in the southwest. I do not know this part of the Baltic Sea in wintertime. Is it safe? Can I dare to cross the ice? Well, let’s check for tracks or prints.

OK. There is roe deer prints, footprints, ski tracks, ice skating cuts and a snowmobile trail. And I can see skiers on the ice. Doesn’t look too dangerous. Of course I have my ice picks round my neck as a rescue tool in case of breaking into the ice. Spoiler: the ice sings but nothing happens.

I ski across the ski and there it is. This year’s ice art exhibition:

How large are the exhibits? Here, where I took the photos mostly between 150 and 200 cm.

Most impressive is the ice wall along the coast. But some of the ice formations on the solitaire rocks look interesting, too. If you lay down they look like mountains.

I follow the coastal line of Tarv and finally find a place where the ice wall is so low, that I can enter the island. On the sea there was hardly half a cm of snow, here it’s more half a metre. And a lot of forest.

Parts of the forest are quite dense but after a while of squeezing between the trees I find a snowmobile trail that leads back to the coast. Although it is one and a half hours before sunset the light starts to become a bit orange.

Now I ski back quite the same way.

When our House comes into view I see that the front chimney is smoking. Has Annika warmed up the uninsulated winter garden? Yes, she has! A fire is burning in the stove and I even get a hot chocolate. A warm welcome! And a cool tour!

From dawn till dusk

After some cloudy days the sky cleared yesterday afternoon so that Annika and I could do cross-country skiing under the full moon. Beautiful!

This morning was crisp (-17 °C) and sunny. I took a short break from work and skied a bit along the icy coast, just in time to see the sun rise behind the layer of clouds at the horizon.

I stopped working already at 14:30 and directly put on the skis again. I managed to follow more or less the icy edge to the bay Vitskärsudden, our favourite bathing place. The sun was going down already and lit the ice in warm sunset colours. The scenery looked really arctic. And it felt arctic, too. I felt quite cold and was glad, that I had a down jacket with me to put over the touring jacket.

It was mostly the forests that revealed the fact, that it’s not the Arctic Ocean but the Baltic Sea that I ski along. And of course the houses, hardly 200 meter away from the icy shore.

When I arrived at Vitskärsudden I realised that – unless another storm would break all the ice – bathing season is finally over. I posted a picture on Facebook in the Umeå winter bathing group and then returned home, still on skis but mostly following the roads.

Even with taking the photos the tour took less than two hours. But it felt like having holiday. It’s really a privilege to be able to live here!

 

Three kind moose

Sometimes I have to interrupt my work for the Norwegian Polar Institute that I’ve been doing from home in Obbola/Sweden since late November. It’s my home office window to blame. Sometimes it’s a beautiful sunrise that I can witness and sometimes it’s animals.

Today it was three moose, mother and two kids. First they stood on the other side of our bay Grundviken and gnawed a bush. I put on boots and winter parka, got out and went into hiding behind a fence. The mother looked skeptically in my direction but the moose stayed. After taking some photos I went in again. Just when I started continuing my work, they came nearer crossing Grundviken. I jumped into boots and parka again and managed to make a nice photo before they vanished behind our neighbours house.

Thank you for your visit. You’re welcome to drop by again.