This is a try to depict a kayak tour performed in the spring of 1991. Since some time the idea with Havspaddlarnas Blå Band was brought out and established
among an amount of paddlers and interested. I now wanted to make an attack to if possible become holder of the Blå Bandet.
(Havspaddlarnas Blå Band = The Seapaddler's Blue Ribbon of Sweden)
According to the enclosed rules the number of used days are not a determination. But within myself I had put up a dream limit of fifty days. Facing the tour I felt in better shape than ever in mature age. Despite this came to be the coldest, most windy and wet spring in thirty-six years, I managed to keep within the limit and fulfilled the paddling in forty-three days.
Thanks to the mild winters I had from April 1987 been able to paddle every month the years around. Lately I had been running and also regularly used a program in a leisure centre. Furthermore I have the advantage to be able to start that early in the year before it is too warm. Colder weather is considerably kinder to the body and one keeps stronger and with staying power. I feel enormous rich and privileged that I may spend my time in this way.
Furthermore it was of great advantage to me that I know the whole distance and could sneak into positions for the long and difficult passages.
1991 July 11 the jury of Havspaddlarnas Blå Band had a meeting. After scrutinizing my tour the jury certified that this had been made according to the rules and approved the same.
I am now legitimate (and also a bit proud) holder of Havspaddlarnas Blå Band. It would please me if I soon get followers.
Let me tell this at once: The coast of Sweden is without doubt my favourite distance to paddle. Here are the most of nice variations. All from a little of the wide sea in west with unshielded coastal distances and some major crossings if one likes, to the shielded islands- swarming archipelagos and in some places big forests all way down to the water line at one side and open sea on the other. And no tidal water to fight against.
This I knew when I with a shiver of delight paddled out from the abutment of Svinesund's bridge at the Swedish side, because twice earlier I had paddled the entire coast, but then in stages. Now, the third time, I should try to in a continuously sweep make the whole coastal line and in this way conquer Havspaddlarnas Blå Band.
It is April 21, and the time is 06.15. With fully loaded kayak I glide out on the glassy water in Svinesund. The temperature is minus 5 degrees and the frost shines white on my craft. As I after some paddle strokes turns around, I see the rising sun colour the sky red behind the silhouette from the high arched bridge connecting Sweden to Norway. From down here the bridge looks dizzy high where it stretches between the steep rocky landscapes. Way aft the water surface moves in V-shaped silver coloured lines in the light surging sea from my kayak. I regain my position and turn my sight forward. Soon the narrow strait opens up towards Singlefjorden. - I am on my way.
I have more load than at any other long tour in the kayak. It runs deep and worthy its way along the rocky coast towards Strömstad. The sun is shining and the wind is still light. The frost on the deck slowly melts and the first waves seek their way up on the kayak at the shadow side and wash off remaining ice crystals. No doubt the kayak is heavy, but contrary to what one first believes I will with thanks to this in total run faster. I don't need to paddle time wasting detours to refill supplies but passes by. My brought 48 kilos of cans should come to last all the way to Haparanda - and still some would be left over.
It takes long before I stop to refill fresh food and water. From start I bring for instance four cheeses, three litres of yoghurt, four loafs of bread, eleven point five litres of water. Fresh food stored low in the kayak will last very long, as the water temperature in the sea still is low.
The increasing wind from southwest creates waves that bounce out from the rocks in Bohuslän. I am closing in on the notorious passage at Tjurepannan where the sea often is difficult. Have made 47 kilometres and search a night camp in order to be fresh and rested tomorrow. I see today's paddling as a strategic move forth in front of this tough passage.
It is always something special with the first camp. One gets the opportunity to make small adjustments in outfit and load and stands on the threshold ready to
take the step into ones expedition. Behind a sandy beach at Amundholmen shine last year's blades of grass brown. A reindeer stands still like a statue on a spot where my
tent surely will get space. Both the reindeer and I remain stock-still. This must be a sign, it is surely meant for me to tent just there.
Finally the reindeer disappears in agile bounds into the island. I spread seaweed over the small stones on the beach and drag my kayak ashore as careful as possible. With all that load one must choose landing place with care. Soon the tent is raised, today's office work done, dinner enjoyed and the kayak tucked in for the night. I pupate in the sleeping bag and fall asleep at once.
At 04.00 I paddle out in the dark next morning. The temperature is about zero centigrade and the wind drafts from southeast. It starts raining. As expected the sea is rough and rowdy outside the cliffs at Tjurepannan. The incoming waves are squeezed from several directions.
I throw glimpses with desire towards the lighthouse Väcker, where the breakers glow white in the beginning light of dawn. I have passed twice before and denied myself to conquer this lighthouse as I thought the sea too rough. Also now my first thought is to pass by. But I feel strong and safe in my heavy kayak that moves balanced in the waves from ahead. So I change my course, aim at the lighthouse, paddle a loop around it and steer against the wind towards the outsides of Pinnön and Otterön. Also out here the obstructing crests of waves are impressive. I paddle with highest concentration. I have double-checked spray skirt and lines. Here must nothing happen.
It feels good as I reach relative shelter from the wind behind Stora Klövskär. In the narrow strait a coast guard vessel passes. The crew answers my greeting. I bring forth a thermos and pre-made sandwiches to enjoy the new day's second break. It will be heavy against-the-wind paddling for the rest of the day. After 50 kilometres I make my camp at Grindholmen just south of Smögen. Waves from an outgoing fishing boat seek way up on the rocks below the tent.
It is still temperatures below zero centigrade in the mornings. But the daylight comes earlier for each day and I am lured to earlier starts. Thursday April 25 at 03.15 I sit before dawn in my kayak. I push out from the night's camp at the island Adeläget. I soon experience a nice and rare act. In the lagoon the water still lies as a dark mirror, but for every time I dip the paddle blades in to the water it creates the nicest pattern of fluorescing rings. Also the wash around the stem is coloured, shines and sparkles in the most wonderful green-shimmering tints. From time to time small drips roll as self-lightening balls away over the water surface and out in to the darkness. With greatest respect and admiration in of nature wonders I am fascinated of this beautiful phenomena. It feels like paddling straight into the world of fairy-tales.
I believe all paddlers have some waters that they by different reasons have a certain great respect from. To me Laholmsbukten is such a water area. I have passed the archipelago at Gothenburg and the more and more open coast outside Varberg and Falkenberg and have just got ashore on Tylö, from its highest point I gaze south. The sight is good. I see Hallandsåsen's running towards Bjärehalvön and 24 kilometres away I indistinctly find Hallands Väderö as a dark pancake at the horizon.
Naturally one could go around the bight instead of crossing. But this is a long roundabout and at winds on to the land the sea gets worse towards land. But today the wind blows from northeast and according to the weather forecast it will only increase slowly. I turn and screw my head, look at the sky with some clouds. It feels good in the body. I decide to soonest possible start my crossing. I recharge with a cooked meal, fill the thermos and make some sandwiches for a break at sea.
At all crossings, especially under wind from land, one must perceive that the wind soon might increase, even if the forecast tells different. A weather forecast is after all only a calculated result of signs in the sky and no one could ever tell about local variations. One must feel strong and be well equipped with reachable food and prepared for several hours hard paddling and avoid drifting to sea in case of increasing wind.
In order to soonest possible reach sheltered area I set my course towards Hovs Hallar at the opposite side of the bight. I often look east, but the wind has still not increased. I turn up straight against the wind and have a brake. I am half way across the bight and alter my course towards Torekov. In front of me I sometime get a glimpse of something white between the waves. Not until I come really close I realise it is a dead swan. It feels tragic out here in the middle of Laholmsbukten.
I continues with equal rhythmic paddle strokes all the time to keep my heavy kayak moving and try to use the living power. It feels good, as Bjärehalvön at last has come abeam to port. I pilot towards the shallow water and empty bathing-place at Torekov and makes my camp for the night.
Next day, April 27, the wind is blowing at 5 Beaufort from northeast in cloudy weather. I set my course to 208 degrees out at Skälderviken towards Kullens lighthouse 19 kilometres away. Wind from land and following wind is a hard combination, which desire respect and judgement. I am aware of that a kilometre out the waves will increase and break. The following wind gives me extra speed despite I decrease my paddle strokes, this for giving the kayak time to follow the waves. This crossing was made in just two hours and forty minutes, equal to a speed of 7,125 kilometres per hour.
I have included all into my calculation, even counted on something unforeseen to happen. This time it is the strong southbound current that surprises me, as it sweeps around the rocky cape. Afterwards I have in the booklet "Lighthouses along the Swedish coast" read that the speed can reach 5 - 6 knots. The last hundred of meters the gush is intense and I paddle at the top of my ability to round the cape. There the west lighthouse of Kullen appears, a small satellite to the large one up on top.
Shielded behind the cliff it is almost quiet and the ravine at the peak of the cape the sea does not noticeable breath. That is the advantage with wind from land, one may comfortably get ashore. With delight I paddle in to the ravine and make a landing where I have seen breakers running high and loud at earlier occasions.
The rain comes abundantly this spring. During the distance from Kullen to Smygehuk it rains incessantly, altering from normal rain to pouring rain. This combined with good wind put high demands on the discipline. In the morning one got to dress in clothes eventually still wet from yesterday as well as see to that clothes that are dry, will stay dry.
At landing in order to put up a tent goes the necessity to close the cockpit with its cover and free the watertight bag with the tent from the rear deck. And then, as the tent is up and stuff needed for the night is inside the tent, well then comes the golden moment, as I in dry clothes cook a badly needed dinner. Before this I have, regardless how hard the route might have been, done my office work, that is drawn my track and measured it in my internal numbered maps and also made the daily note in my logbook consisting of distance, wind speed and other unique events, to finally arrange the maps needed next day.
At launching during those periods of rain reversed routines apply. Used stuff is rapidly loaded in to the watertight spaces. Last of all comes the tent and is firmly fastened on to the rear deck. After this hurriedly down into the cockpit and on with the sprayskirt. After a while of paddling I am comfortably warm and able to appreciate the special beauty that rightly seen upon a falling rain can be.
The rain continues pouring down. I sit in the kayak shielded from rain and wind under half a meter wide jetty in Falsterbo canal and having lunch. Just beside me make the raindrops hit the water hard and make a lot of craters in the surface. Paddle in to Kämpingebukten towards Trelleborg well aware that the most stubborn rain will end some time and the sun will once more shine - but when?
The wind takes a short pause, as if it is having a break before next period of blowing. I comfortably pass Ystad and Simrishamn. It is true that it is grey and peevish with noisy surf along the long-shore bars outside the bow-shaped point at Sandhammaren, where the nice Heidenstam-lighthouse can be sighted among the sand-hills in the dull weather, but I make it to Gropahålet in Hanöbukten, before the wind once more increases.
In the afternoon May 3 I leave my shielded camp and break out from Gropahålet against the incoming sea at Hanöbukten and paddle laboriously 21 kilometres in headwind, before I as planned pitch a camp at Rakö northeast of Åhus.
SMHI forecasts further increasing northeasterly wind and more rain. It will be, as so often during this expedition, headwind paddling. I am now along the coast of Blekinge in Hanö sound and approaches Listershuvud. There at the lighthouse I must decide either to go for the shield in Hörvik or to cross Pukaviksbukten towards Tärnö. That is 15 kilometres over open water in headwind partly from the side and poor sight. In the wavy sea outside the lighthouse I have some coffee and sandwich in my jumpy kayak, set the course to 58 degrees and start the crossing. In the fine drizzle Hanö soon disappears behind my right shoulder. A returning fishing boat crosses my course, the lone fisherman comes out on the rear deck and watches me a long time.
After an hour of paddling the visibility temporary gets better and a short while I can see the contours of Tärnö far ahead. I am almost exactly on the right course. I just manage to make a slight adjustment after my eye bearing before the island disappears in the fine drizzle again. After another two hours of paddling I reach shelter behind the south cape of Tärnö. I continue another hour before I in pouring rain and ruthless wind finds a possible place for the tent and succeeds in pitching the camp. Through an opening in the apse I see from the inside of the tent how the wood anemones are bent down to the ground by heavy raindrops.
In the archipelago of Blekinge the stubborn northeasterly wind goes on increasing. Just as stubborn I launch my kayak each day and continue to slowly make my way forth. I get the wind obliquity from land, why the sea isn't especially high but it is hard paddling and the daily distances decrease. It is May 5 and the fifteenth day. As I in relative shield behind a skerry have a coffee break I see the first female eider with chickens. It is windy and cold and the clucking duck nervously guards her newly hatched nestlings.
Outside Karlskrona I measure the wind speed to 15 metres per second (Beaufort 7). It is a fight not only about decimetres but also about centimetres and I burn a lot of energy. Away by a rock a seagull has caught a half a meter long eel. Soon other birds are tempted to the place and the only way for the seagull to maintain control of the situation is to swallow the eel. That's exactly what the seagull tries to do. But the eel is long and how seagull ever tries with jerky moves to get it down it still stretches out some decimetres from his bill. The kayak has glided in closer. Finally the seagull takes to his wings with his throat stretched out in a peculiar way and the eel still visible.
May 7 the wind roars all day at about 12 and 15 metres per second (Beaufort 6-7) and it rains uninterrupted. Rounding Thorhamn's cape, making the corner of Kalmarsund, will be dramatic. The sea surfs roaring over the shoals and sunken rocks outside the beach of the lowland. To avoid it all I am forced to paddle far out and get the wind and waves from Kalmarsund straight on to me, when I turn the kayak north I slowly make my way in to the fishing village Sandhamn, from where I in cold weather have a nice stroll to Thorhamn for some minor purchases as well as by telephone announce my position to folks at home. When I later pitched the camp in the soaking wet terrain in level of Truseryd, I sit in the tent listening to the well-known voices from SMHI. The meteorologists feel like friends, who undoubtedly and stick on time comes back. On the outside patters the rain and the wind howls in the swaying trees.
In Kristianopel, that is reachable from the sea without detours, I refill my fresh water supply. As I fill the drums, the wonderful thing I have longed for happens: The wind suddenly calms down and blue sky starts showing behind the clouds in rents. Kalmarsund calms down rapidly, it becomes quieter, warmer and friendlier. From Hagbyudd I paddle straight towards the 17 kilometres distant Kalmar. It is calm and free sight. In the east the distant blue like Öland, in the west the sunny Småland. I love paddling in calm water, one makes every kilometre fast, gets good pay for each stroke and may comfortably have lunch at sea.
The town Kalmar slowly emerges over the horizon. East of the castle Tjärhovet looks still like an island, before a road- and railway- embankment also rises over the horizon and connects it to the land. I land at Grimskär, the old medieval fortress island in Kalmar and looks toward the town, where the honorary members of the Blue Ribbon are living, namely Jan, Tomas and Gustav Herstad. They who so meritoriously carried through their successful paddling 1989.
During a couple of days I could enjoy calmness and weather without rain. I pass S:t Anna archipelago, where another a honorary member, Olle Perlefelt, who 1986 fulfilled his long tour and became the first honorary member of Blue Ribbon, has his summerhouse.
In the calm clear weather I stretch out methodically and paddle as straight as possible. Outside Oskarshamn I paddle in an unbroken trace from Norstö via Furö to Simpevarp and have, via Mönsterås the chimneys of the sulphate factory aft and the nuclear power station's ahead, perfect bearing. When crossing Bråviken I take a short cut direct to Femöreshuvud and reach the south of Stockholm's archipelago, before hard wind and rain once more is at hand.
There are moments during a long tour when the paddling it self runs automatically while the thoughts wanders back or forth in time. The mind brings forth pictures from long ago, studies them for a while and puts them back into the archive. Some time one solves a problem one have thought a lot about and is surprised how easy the solution was.
And some time one might do a little mathematics. Like this with my topographic maps over the coast of Sweden. 97 "vegetable-blades" (named the green map) are brought with me in the kayak. If I per day use 2 maps, I will with 1,5 day margin manage to fulfil my "dream limit" of 50 days.
Or as this with the question sometime raised: "How long have you been paddling?" Yes, how long have I actually been paddling? I am in the unique situation to exactly know how long I have paddled. I use to answer the question: "almost three years." The reaction at first is: "Well, not longer." But after the explanation that the almost three years are effective time, the conception is cleared. My first paddle stroke in own craft was indeed made 1981 July31, but until 1991 June 2, when I landed in Haparanda, I have paddled 39.083 kilometres in 1.045 days. That is, if you tomorrow sit down in your kayak and each and every single day paddle 37.4 kilometres during next 1.045 days, you will reach that distance.
I start counting on a minicalculator in a try to establish how many strokes I will be making during this tour. With or against the wind taken in consideration, my average speed usually is 4.5 to 6.5 kilometres per hour. The frequency of strokes varies between 56 and 60 per minute, say 60 per minute or 3.600 strokes per hour.
If the total distance of this tour will be as calculated about 2.300 kilometres and if I keep an average speed of 5.5 kilometres per hour, I will reach a number of used paddling hours 418. Multiplied with the frequency 3.600 per hour gives the result of totally 1.504.800 strokes.
It is then easy to understand the benefit of trimming ones paddling technique to avoid damages, one of the reasons why I paddle with almost flat paddle, except in hard headwind.
In cold and rainy weather it is important to keep the hands dry. The none feathered paddle gives the utmost driest paddling. If the paddling gloves are sealed with tape to the shaft, one is also protected from rain running along the shaft in to the gloves.
In face of planned tours in cold climate it is wise and interesting to study the old arctic paddling technique, where hands never were brought above the shoulders and never ever touch the water, except at advanced manoeuvres.
The difference is seldom so obvious between paddling among islands or skerries in sheltered waters and paddling in open sea as it is when you in good northerly wind leave the sheltering area south of Öregrund and paddle in to Öresundsgrepen's sea waves.
Via to me well known Kanholmsfjärden, with attack-weather in the shape of thunder and squalls south of Möja, passing Kapellskär and through Väddö canal, I have reached Öregrund, refilled fresh water and bought some food. Once more the wind is constantly blowing and the rain is pouring. I might be slowed down at the open passages at Gävlebukten and it feels good to have filled up the supply.
At the edge of exhilaration I climb over the waves. The kayak is once more loaded to its maximum but in the long waves it constantly moves on top and takes no water above it self. To the east Gräsö has faded off in the mist. It is time to search for a calm place and rest for the night. At Långhällan in the outlet towards Kallrigafjärden I pitch a camp at one of my old places.
I remember the old long tour paddler Elis Sundqvist. In 1936 he passed those waters from Stockholm to Hudiksvall. In his nice and captivating Swedish he told about the tour.
The following day, May 17 it is tough and rainy weather and on land coming sea along the coast of Uppland. Today's distance measures only six kilometres, as I find for good to pitch a camp at a small beach meadow among islands and skerries with pine-forest. The small meadow is waterlogged. With a couple armful of last year's reed I make a bed for the tent. Dry reed has since long been used as isolation and works very well.
The wind decreases somewhat. I cross Gävlebukten more comfortable than expected and paddle on the outside of Iggön to avoid the due to elevation of the land
more and more shallow sound at the inside. In 1936 could Elis Sundqvist paddle through the sound without any problem. Today there might be a possibility during high water and
break no rule within Havspaddlarnas Blå Band even if it takes to partly drag the kayak through if stepping out of the kayak in the same way as Humphrey Bogart did in the
film African Queen.
(2009 - This passage is nowadays blocked, as there is no water in it any longer)
In the 31st day of this expedition, May 21, with Hornslandet within sight, I have already before midday searched shelter. The morning started so promising and nice with a blackcock's calls and rising sun. Then headwind increased up to 12 metres per second (Beaufort 6), better top pitch a camp an extra time, cook some food and regain strength.
Towards the evening the wind decreases more and more. I paddle round Hornslandsudde, see the lighthouse at Agö towards south, enjoy the tour along Hornslandet's very special look with gravel beaches terraced from old and modern time. It is getting late. The moon shines at sea forests, so despite the late hour, it never gets pitch dark and I easily find my place from earlier at Hästholmen, northwest of Kuggören.
The northerly wind still remains with only short breaks. I test my body with one 17 hours and one 20 hours hard against-the-wind paddling. Every morning I wake up eager to begin a new distance. What luck, what satisfaction to feel so good. In fact one of the nicest advantages to feel so absolutely sound - a fact I most humble and grateful think of every day.
"Höga kusten" (the High coast) can be difficult to paddle, this time I am lucky. No storm warnings are mentioned and it rains less and less. The birches are dressed in spring-clothes and along Sannasundet, north of Härnösand, they shine light green. Here I see the last pair of swans and the eiders are more and more replaced by velvet scoters, but the blackcock's courting is constantly heard from hills and meadows.
From the island Väster-Värnsningarna I make a 18 kilometres long sea paddling to Skagsudde, which I reach at the same time as a tug is dragging timber on its way to the sulphate factory in Husum.
Also across Degerfjärden I am able to set a straight course and soon land at Långroudden. It seems like I have passed a climate zone. The deciduous trees are once more bare and the grass is brown. To me who comes from the south it feels like been returned to March or early April.
Slowly the period of rain ceases and the weather stabilizes. Indeed cold air from the Arctic Ocean still sweeps down along the coast by the northerly winds. But the hours with sun increase and I experience glimmering days during the remaining tour.
I pass Bjuröklubb in glittering sunshine on the head sea and I reach Skelleftehamn where I without detour can paddle almost all the way up to the shop to make the last buy of fresh food, which now will last until Haparanda. I hereby avoid the sometimes hard paddling in to Luleå and will instead be able to pass by far out in the nice archipelago.
At the outside of Stora Hindersön in Harufjärden there still remain old pack ice, pushed up by waves among the rocks on the beach. Sun lighted water drops fall from the melting pack ice. They shine and glimmer as a ribbon of pearls. I have laid the deck with coffee and buns. The air is crystal clear and with free viability to the horizon. I enjoy it all sensually.
Suddenly, I think, am I already north of Seskarö and heads northeast towards the outlet of Torne River. It is still a lot of water in the river and outgoing current is mighty. I follow the water way upstream, which runs close to the Finnish side. Once before I have paddled upstream, but that was later in the year with less water and slower stream.
I let the kayak be carried carefully by the current across to the Swedish side. The river is wide with whirls here and there. With purpose I let the current push me backwards until in level with the cape at the outlet. There at the cape at Virtakari I get out of the kayak close to landmark 59 - a safe and secure spot for landing where one needn't enter the river. It is June 2at 19.50. In forty-three days have I travelled 2.297 kilometres. I have reached my destination.
I sit by the beach at Torne River. Thinking back of my journey along the Swedish coast. Thinking of the morning April 21 when I in minus five degrees and on glassy water at Svinesund went out for the first distance. At the reindeer that stood pitch still as a statue. At the bouncing waves among the rocky islands in Bohuslän. How I in rain and hard wind travelled just outside the surf zone along the wide sandy beaches of Halland and Skåne.
I think of how I quivered face to face with the crossings of Laholmsbukten and Skälderviken. At the oaks and wood anemones in Blekinge. At the formation of clouds above the coast of Småland and the blue faded silhouette of Öland along Kalmar sound. At the islands in Misterhult, Gryt and S:t Anna and the well known waters in the archipelago of Stockholm. At the rocky coast of Uppland with eagles and fish hawk. Hälsingland's and Ångermanland's blue faded mountains inland far away. I think of Luleå archipelago's bare birches and lilac twigs and white trunks in front of the dark green conifer of the north. The enjoyable Nordic light and the peculiar feeling of being moved back to early pre-spring. At the satisfying but at the same time sad feeling as the bridges between Sweden and Finland came in sight in Torne River.
On all this I think, as I get into the waiting car for the return back home and let the eyes once more sweep out over Torne River. And inside me I know - I would like doing this again.
Icefloe, seakayak made 1983
2 x Lendal Sea 2-Piece
Distance of tour: 2.297 kilometres (1238 Nm)
43 — Average distance: 53,41 kilometres (28.8 Nm)
Weights at start:
97 topographical maps 1:50 000, 5 kilos
Office utensils 2.0 kilos
Tent, pump, boots, duffel bag 8.0 kilos
Rubber mattress + cover 2.0 kilos
Sleeping bag + cover 1.5 kilos
Trangia stove 1.0 kilos
4,5 litres meth 4.5 kilos
Various including kitchen utensils 8.0 kilos
11.5 litres fresh water 11.5 kilos
2 pare of Shoes including 1 spare 3.0 kilos
Camera and 20 film rolls 2.0 kilos
Radio 0.5 kilos
Winter paddle including gloves 1.5 kilos
Non-perishable food 48.0 kilos
Dry food 7.0 kilos
Spare victuals 1.0 kilo
Thermos - filled 1.0 kilo
Milk, bread, cheese 5.0 kilos
First aid kit 2.0 kilos
Sum so far:
including: spare paddle, compass, distress-signal rocket, lifeline, ground sheet
Personal own weight:
Total weight: 234.5 kilos
(a webmaster translation)