I slowly opened my eyes. The watch showed 02.30. The mosquitoes buzzed in the apse. A few metres away laid the kayak drawn up on the beach at Torne River. I changed into sitting position, had some coffee and sandwiches and sank back into the sleeping bag with a sigh. This was a moment to enjoy.
Within 45 day I had fulfilled my forth HBB-paddling. Remaining hours of the light northern night I just wanted to lazy lay in comfortable knowledge of that the body now could rest. To feel so well, to feel so trained and healthy. What is a higher reward than this?
I had in the beginning paddled out from the old bridge in Svinesund and passed under the newly build span of the new bridge over the sound. The long Swedish coast lay ahead of me. It was so familiar to me that different stages could be replayed whenever I liked to. It was as travelling at one huge home water, more and more dear each time.
It became however a most demanding paddling with a lot of wind and waves. I often had to do large roundabouts to avoid the risk of by the wind be brought so far out at sea that I would be unable to reach land. I had carefully looked my safety zones over, well aware that I at age seventy not was as strong paddler as I had been only some years ago.
Under the past winter the lust of a new long tour had as usual increased in strength. And it was the Swedish coast that attracted me most. During a running in the hilly surrounding of Ursviken in Sundbyberg, where most of my runs are made, I took the decision. In the terrain there are two very nice tracks, one of five kilometres and of ten. This very day I was out on the 10 kilometres track.
The track was dry and nice. The warmth from the sun of spring was mixed with scent from Scotch pine and needles. The track of 5 kilometres I had at this occasion run six hundred and seventy times and was out on the 10 kilometres for the three hundred and seventy second time. It went naturally slower than before, when I at age sixty made my personal record on this track with the time 45 minutes, 34 seconds and 10 hundreds. Nowadays the challenge was to run the 10 kilometres under an hour. The first half was made in 29 minutes and 30 seconds. I thus had to run the second half almost just as fast to fulfil my challenge. The thoughts played in my head. I was in my kayak at sea and had to reach land before the thunderstorm began. I had to hurry. At eight kilometres the time was 47 minutes and 25 seconds. At nine kilometres 53 minutes and 38 seconds and at goal 59 minutes, 23 seconds and 6 hundreds. I did it. I dragged the kayak up on the shore. There is good hope to conquer the Swedish coast.
By and by crystallize the highlights from each of the made tours. In this case there are especially three that most clear come forth. The first are the crossings of Laholmsbukten and Skälderviken. Strong winds and troublesome sea had been ruling along the entire coast in west. And suddenly, just as mentioned crossings were at hand a window in the weather opened. The wind lay down and I pitched a straight course across Laholmsbukten and reached Hovs Hallar before the breeze from the sea gained speed.
Early next morning, long before dawn, I sat course towards Kullen on the other side of Skälderviken. At the sea outside my camp opposite Påarp at Bjärehalvön there are some small skerries and sunken rocks, which I the night before tried to memorise. Now in the dark they were invisible, but a mighty sound from the breakings revealed their position as heavy swell came on from the sea. As I had gone clear and reached deep water it was free passage to Kullen. In comfortable long tour stroll I travelled southwest in a landscape of heaving swell. Across my right shoulder the flashes of the lighthouse at Hallands Väderö were in sight. Straight ahead, from the edge of every swell, were the welcoming sharp flashes of Kullen's lighthouse. After three hours and sixteen kilometres I rounded Kullen in the red light of dawn. Shortly after came a strong wind from southeast. Once more had an early start saved me from attacking weather.
The second highlight took place on land. From my five-folded place of camp at Rakö east of Åhus in Hanöbukten, I travelled with violent following wind towards the high towers by Björkelund at Listerlandet. As I finally rounded the cape just before Nogersund, I came in shelter from the westerly wind in strength almost of a gale. With the shelter from land across port side I could effortless paddle the six kilometres up to the lighthouse at Lister head. From here the course will normally be sat at northeast towards the 15 kilometres away Tärnö. However Tärnö was just as unreachable as if it had been across the Atlantic sea. The sea was white and foamy and utmost ill-timed to paddle at.
In Hörvik is a sheltered harbour, but I was hoping for a more undisturbed place for camp. I was lucky. As I centimetre by centimetre fought the kayak forth outside the harbour pier, I got a glimpse of an abandoned place for a boat with a mouldered ramp and a badly knocked down wall. This was at Knutsäng south of Krokas and a perfect place for my purpose. Nice landing and my tent in shelter and hidden away. It was a pleasure to be held back by wind in this wonderful place. I cooked some food, made coffee and beheld the scenery at Pulaviksbukten.
The weather forecast concerning the sea warned for strong gale and very hard squalls. The notes from Hanö said westerly wind at twenty metres per second (Beaufort 8-9). The squalls rushed over the black waves out there with white spray at the same time as it was calm and peaceful in the camp. This was the second Highlight.
The third occurred the last day way up north and belongs to a completely different category. I began to enter the delta at Torne River. I chose this time a groove west of the islands Kuninkaankari and Öystinkari. I wasn't sure of weather this was usable or if a sandbar or rocks would stop me. In such case I should just turn around and use the old and experienced way, I had no fixed time to reach the goal. The groove was considerable more narrow than any other I know of. The vegetation was rich along the shores and the current weaker. In shore and water meadows yellow flowers were glowing and the water could be imagined in between the tussocks.
Then, behind a bend, I saw an enormous elk. The large brown-grey mass with the long legs raised above the fauna of the meadow. A weak ago I had seen two elks swimming across a sound, get ashore and disappear into the wood. They couldn't be compared to this magnificent one. I came closer and closer and the elk looked more and more mighty. It had all his attention on me, maybe he hadn't seen a paddler before. Finally I was so close that I felt relief as he turned around and ran away with gigantic strides and water splashing around the body. I had reached the cape at Virtakari and had carefully landed at the HBB-paddlers new place of landing at the small reef by the two in-line marks about 60 metres north of John Waltari's sandy beach. I had walked the few steps to the landmark 59, placed my hand on top of it, hereby was the tour ended, returned to the kayak, pitched my camp and gone to rest.
The sun was warming, the mosquitoes buzzed. New strength came into the body while the night went on. In the morning I sat far out on the small reef to be protected from the mosquitoes. I looked at the current in the river and towards Finland on the other side. The tent was now in shadow and gave some freshness as I entered and closed the mosquito net to have some coffee with buns from Härnösand. I then lay back on top of the sleeping bag and closed my eyes. I memorized the long tour.
I had been caught by violent squalls in an intensive thunderstorm outside Gothenburg. With my body flat on to the front deck I had by short strokes with effort advanced trough spray.
Along the piers at Helsingborg, where Öresund is at its most narrow part, the current had been faster than at any other of my passages. As usual fishing persons were in rows on top of the piers with casting rod in high action.
I think of the dramatic dawn June 14 at the inlet to the sound between Buskön and main land south of Pite Rönnskär in level of the mouth of the river Åbyälven. In high sea with strong following wind, rain and poor visibility I had passed Timmarksgrundet and aimed towards the sound another kilometre up north.
West of the sound and Orrholmsudden a bay cuts in to the land. Surrounding typography makes the bay misleadingly look like a sound. In a weather situation like this the sea gets worse the closer to land one gets. It should be nice to slip into the sound and reach calm water.
The surf got wilder and wilder ahead of me. I suddenly realized that I had entered the bay instead of the sound. A deadlock. Oh no, Oh no I did not want to be forced in landing and locked up in here. To turn a long kayak in hard weather is a heavy piece of work. The time was short. Within a moment I would be washed ashore.
With great luck and perhaps combined with some skill I did in the last moment make a half pirouette on top of a wave as bow and aft hung free from the water. The margin to land was at that stage so small that the aft hit the sea bottom between the waves. I managed to slowly work my way through the surf towards, as it felt, safety at open sea.
As I finally entered the right sound and had a peaceful break with coffee in shelter, I thought of the tour made in 1991. I had then in twilight, mist and calm weather also been fooled by the typography just here and made the same navigational slip. Let's hope there will not be a third time.
Without doubt there have been idyllic moments with clucking female eiders with chicks eagerly looking for first food while streaks of sunshine mirrored in clam water. The sky was coloured by sunrises and sunsets. Rainbows have been stretched as beautiful arches above woods and sea. At some rare occasions the moon had spread its silver glow over nightly waves that it in the imagination felt like travelling on a sea made by billowing aluminium.
I finally think of the Swedish map on the wall at home. With the new track that it will be updated with, the tracks will now run in sevenfold lines along the entire Swedish coast. They come from four HBB-paddlings and three paddlings made in stages.
I once more stretch out my body. Out there the Torne River floated indefatigable by. The tent was still fresh and cosy in the shadow. All other outfits were packed and ready. I knew a car was on its way to pick me up. But still had some nice hours to my self and my thoughts.
(a webmaster translation)