Tanned? Perhaps not but a good workout it was...
Packing on Bua beach. Photo: Sassa Buregren
No, it wasn´t the optimal choice of a paddling week. Of nine days I had force six or more on five, of these over force seven on four and eight on one, and rain on four days, two of them with 24 hour-rain. But headwinds and currents are great for building stamina...
(Note that the photos with a zoom icon lower right are clickable for a larger version). I have also added a chart - though with low resolution since the trip covered five full-size charts.
All this goes into the Njord? Photo: Sassa Buregren
The not cooperative weather caused my planning to collapse already on day three. I just couldn´t resist surfing out west along fjord Stigfjorden in a force six and with a mean speed of six knots. A couple of days later the opposite situation occurred and I found myself surfing back in a force seven. Who am I to turn the weather down when invited to a dance?
The Njord is a small and tight kayak – obvious from this photo - not for those who bring the kitchen sink. Photo: Sassa Buregren
But more often the old saying that "the definition of course is the direction from where the wind comes" became true. The last three days, a finishing stretch just to get home, had a lot to offer. It began in Stenungsund with a fresh force seven headwind. The waves were not a problem initially since the fjord Hakefjorden is partly protected behind a chain of islands – approx. three-four feet to begin with. But in the afternoon further down south the wind increased to force eight with gusts into nine (as reported by a passing Coast Guard boat, from which was asked what the *¤#? I was up to), and the waves reached five feet and breaking. I came to a dead stop in spite of working hard and there was nothing to do but go ashore and camp for the night.
Almost done packing (this and all following photos are mine)
The next day things looked a lot better. Down to force five-six and sun. Down at Marstrand the rain began and the wind increased well into force six and veered to south at about the time I turn to a southerly course. I kept close to land to get a little lee behind small islands and rocks. The wind and rain stayed with me (or rather; against me) all day. Before passing outside Gothenburg harbor I hesitated for an hour or so (over an evening meal). It is open, unprotected with heavy commercial traffic, and it would have taken me hours to pass, and not many hours of daylight left. Kayaking accidents often occur late in the afternoon, when someone is trying to make up for lost mileage. But around seven the wind decreased to five, and I got going. Two hours of hard work against the wind and I reached the first island south of Gothenburg and could pitch the tent with almost an hour daylight left.
Lunch at island Malö
Rain all evening, rain all night and rain when I left island Rivö. During breakfast, I had a long discussion with a sheep – not quite sure what was agreed upon but she seemed happy and left. The sky was a dense grey and I anticipated rain all day. I tried to pay Johan and Sara on Escape Kayakcenter a visit, but they had not opened the shop – good idea by the way: who would come paddling on a day like this?
A preview of what the weather had in mind
The trip down along Peninsula Onsala was a varied experience: rain, heavy rain or cloudburst. The headwind gained and I began to note a northerly current (at home I learned from a fisherman with GPS that there had been a northerly one knot current during the afternoon). A high-intensity workout for nine hours!
Thunderstorm at night at island Tornö – I left the camera shutter open for a couple of extended exposures, but did not manage to catch any of the intense lightning. The lights at the horizon are a ferry and a tanker.
Two days of hard work and wet hands led to blisters on the hands, to an extent I have never experienced.
Night at Tornö – with deafening frog concert at dusk and dawn.
At lighthouse Hallands Svartskär the sky cleared, the wind died and it became suddenly four to five degrees warmer, and somewhat surprised I sat in the afternoon sun after a nice swim with my supper at island Malö. The rest was easy and I passed island Utsö, power plant Ringhals and landed in Bua at about eight pm. 70 miles in two days, in rain, in a hard headwind and against a current. I was quite happy to step out of the kayak and into dry, clean clothes...
Island Lövö in the south of fjord Hakefjorden
But back to the start: the first days were lovely. After leaving Bua I had two days of light winds in my back and sun from a blue sky – albeit with an intense thunderstorm keeping pace on the western horizon. As usual a lot of seals at the southern tip of Onsala. First night at Tornö, where I tried to catch the thunderstorm on photographs.
Island Stora Farholmen in fjord Askeröfjorden. A night under the stars – the only time this trip.
Island Stora Farholmen
The second day was also sunny, but with the wind slowly picking up from ahead. A chat with Johan at Escape Kayakcenter south of Gothenburg, and a lot of swim-and-coffee-breaks on islets and rocks, before pitching the tent at island Lövön in the south of the Hakefjorden. The longest daily run of the week: 40 NM.
Here we go again...
Then everything fell apart. Out through Stigfjorden, south to Skärhamn, north to Mollösund, further north to Vallerö and Nordströmmarna, back through Stigfjorden – at the mercy of the wind. In Skärhamn on island Tjörn there was a wooden boat festival going on. Crowding. Long queue to the watercolor museum, even longer to the museums very fine restaurant, old hot bulb engines throbbing on wooden fixtures on the quay, beautiful wooden hulls under construction, handmade linseed oil and Stockholm tar for sale, lots of old boats on display along the floats and quays – the most beautiful of them all "Lady in Red": a hundred years old Pettersson boat, restored to an absolute unbelievable finish by Mats Stefansson on island Tjörn. After that a very nice and civilized meal at classy restaurant Pater Noster, at what probably was the only available table in Skärhamn then.
Old steamer Bohuslän on its way to Skärhamn
Adventurous night. After the wild surf along Stigfjorden I pitched my tent at the beach below Björnshuvudet (the bears head) - a magnificent and very prominent rock. I found some lee for the still hard easterly. But in the middle of the night, the wind unexpectedly changed into a westerly force seven and I had to move the tent and my other stuff in the rain half a mile across the peninsula to find new lee (my tent is not very reliable in winds like that from the wrong direction). During the walk, I lost my camera, my pouch with money, credit cards and my glasses – having to spend another half hour searching the path with a flashlight.
Björnhuvudet in western Stigfjorden (the nightly path)
My food planning was based on an old list from paddling with a group and had to be revised during the week. Since I normally paddled until almost dark, dinner was a break in the paddling instead of a social event with colleagues in the late afternoon – hence very little wine. No discussions around the campfire meant fewer peanuts, olives, and less chocolate.
Island Räbben at Kyrkesund – a surprising sand beach and grassy field among the barren rocks.
Island Räbben at Kyrkesund
The best meal was a late supper on Stora Farholmen: a plate of mache salad with added couscous of dinkel wheat, grilled halloumi cheese, with some acacia honey and roasted pine seeds. Mmmmmmm... (the only serious drawback was that wine cellar of the kayak at this time was unable to provide any red wine, so white wine it had to be!)
A crowded wooden boat festival at Skärhamn
Talking about food I must mention the superb bread I brought from Lund! It is from an old-style bakery: sourdough, stone oven, the lot. By far the best kayak bread I have ever eaten. It kept soft and tasty and in one piece for eight full days! The pic below is from the eights day. Goodbye to all industrial bread caricatures I have been buying along the way on previous trips – dry, tasteless and turning to crumbs after a day in the kayak.
The galleass Atene at Kyrkesund
The worst meal I had was when I for the first time ever tried a dried meal of a well-known Swedish brand – lazily done when the chef's ambition was a bit low after a day in headwinds. How can anyone eat this disgusting glutamic glue-like goo? I just hope that the fishes of western Askeröfjorden did not suffer too much from the deposit.
Björnshuvudet one more time...
View from the tent at Björnshuvudet
Oddly enough I did not meet another paddler during those nine days on the Halland and Bohuslän coasts. I saw two kayaks far off at Askerön and a double on the beach at Skärhamn. That´s all! Normally I would meet dozens of paddlers during a trip like this. Did they not like the weather?
The fantastic bread from Lund – day eight
Statistics. Total 240 NM. Longest daily run: 40 NM. The shortest: 10 NM. Daily mean: 26 NM. My original plans were to reach Grebbestad and Fjällbacka in Bohuslän, but with the weather and even more the predictions I was afraid of not making it back in the available time.
South of island Mjörn – small waters and forests
The best meal: grilled haloumi cheese on mache salad with acacia honey and roasted pine seeds.
The wind-and-rain tarp was often used – for one or both of the intended purposes. Quickly pitched with the spare paddle.
View over Hakefjorden after being beaten by the headwind – it is a force eight out there
Lunch under a grey sky - the bridge to Marstrand in the background
Morning at Rivö – Gothenburg in the background
The barren Onsala coast
Clouds lifting over island Malö
(the plotted trip)
A FESTIVE ENDING
Back in Bua, I was invited to a late release party for the new website (a collaboration with me doing the visual design and front and back end programming) of Sassa Buregren, artist, author, and my sister. A drink up on the cliff in her back garden, then seafood plates at dusk in the garden (with oysters harvested earlier in the day at the lighthouse point), followed by grilled angler. At sunset cheese and fruit and later strawberries and ice cream, coffee, and avec. Mmmmmm...
The release party for Sassas new website
I like release parties. Anybody in need of a website...?