While some protected parts of the Baltic Sea are covered with clear and solid ice, most of the Baltic Sea is still open. So is the bay Kalmholmsfjärden, my nearest access to the sea. At the shore of the shallow end however the water starts to freeze over. The so-called pancake ice is formed – floating ice floes that spin around, grind off their corners and therefore get a circular shape. When it’s cold enough they will freeze together, but wind, waves and changes in sea level can break them apart again.
This morning I stood on the lake Snesviken to watch and take pictures of the moonset. You read right – I stood on the lake. The ice is already at least 5 cm thick and bore my weight. Beside of that the water wasn’t deep at that spot.
After the moon disappeared behind the line of trees at the opposite side of the lake I looked for other motives. No snow has fallen the last weeks and the ice was transparent and clear. I spotted cracks and bubbles of air in the ice and even a lily pad, dotted with many tiny bubbles.
One of the cracks fascinated me. Looking from the side the tiny air bubbles looked like vertical dotted strokes, like another world.
I tried to get nearer with my macro lens to explore this little world, but if was quite complicated to take a photo of this small crack. The best snapshot:
And that’s how it looked like, when I made these photos:
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.
Vargavinter – “wolf winter” – that’s an especially cold and harsh winter. And that’s what the newspaper Expressen warned about yesterday:
“Long time forecast · prepare for the wolf winter · cold for several months · snow from arctic.”
As a winter maniac I would love to believe Expressen, but I have my doubts. Let’s the when Expressen warned about vargavinter the last years …
- November 2017 – forecast: coldest winter for five years
- October 2016 – forecast: coldest winter for many years
- November 2014 – worst wolf winter for many decades
- November 2013 – risk for extreme winter in Sweden
As you can see, especially extreme winters seem to be quite common in Sweden, at least in the headlines of the tabloid press.
My friend Hans has not only a Lego shop and a camping site in Bureå but also three rafts, two of them with cabins. You can hire them for an overnight stay and then can use the sauna on the third raft. I’ve been there several times, when they still floated in the bay Kågefjärden north of Skelleftehamn. Not for staying overnight but for having a sauna. This week Hans moved the rafts to the boat harbour in Bureå which is south from Skelleftehamn.
The weather is still quite boring: Some degrees plus, day and night – thick clouds, day and night – fog and drizzle – day and night. I was quite eager to have a sauna and therefore invited myself to Bureå this weekend after Hans told me, that he and two friends would be there.
First we took the motorboat to move the floating rafts a bit farther, while his friends Stefan and Kenneth helped from the rafts. Then we took fika while the sauna was heated up. Before the sauna we all took a bath in the sea. As you can see, I look less relaxed than on the photo from Monday. Hans took these photos right after I climbed into the ice cold water and I hadn’t started to relax (it always takes five or ten seconds for that.) After that we all had a sauna together (with a non-alcoholic beer and chorizo sausages grilled on the sauna oven!)
Cold bath and hot sauna – a good combination to cheer up when the weather is hardly inviting. I’m longing for snow and colder weather but I guess I have to wait a while.
(Hans made photo 3, 5, and 6)
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 …