Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Images from Sweden's East Coast: Kalmar to Norrtälje

A 27 days sea kayak trip on the East coast of Sweden paddling from Kalmar to Norrtälje.
A week's worth of food and water before restocking, camping on granite islands of the infinite archipelago.
It was a relaxed trip focused on exploring the glacially polished rocky shores.

This is a "work in progress" upload of the images captured along the way, in no particular order...

Sunset at Blueberries camp_c

Evening light at camp_c

Heron Is_1

FEKS sunset_c

Sheep Is_wash up_c

Magic Is sunset_1

Skinny on deck in Sweden_c

Magic Island1_c

Magic Is camp_c

Magic Is sunset_3

Magic Is sunset_2

Magic Is sunset_5_c

Magic Is sunset_4_c

Sunset at Windy camp_c

Heavy rain_c

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The wind didn't stop

I was frustrated and increasingly worried that we would not make it that day, our progress remarkably slow. As I bowed my head into the wind and methodically inserted the blade into the frothy waters trying to advance closer to the little island ahead of me I calculated that we were just moving too slowly to reach our destination. Johan was on my stern somehow psychologically cheating of thinking he was slightly sheltered being behind me but the wind was just as strong.
The strong wind warning was lifted but the breeze was still pushing around our loaded kayaks every time we crested a wave. We are going to get some rest once we reach this island and then probably turn back to try again tomorrow, I thought to myself.
On the lee of the cliffy shores there was some calm water and we landed to get a bite to eat and reassess the plan. I expressed my thoughts to Johan and said that we won't make it to our campsite: we were both rather tired after only one third of the distance to be covered.
"So why not camp here?"  Johan asked.
Unloading the kayaks_c

For some reason it didn't enter my mind that we could camp on this small island. There was one flat clear spot for a tent but was exposed to the full grunt of the wind; it would be a sleepless night with the tent flapping furiously. We ate a basic lunch, with fresh flat bread since it was our first day of the trip. Then I found this spot that was just protected enough from the  breeze but an old cactus was growing in the middle of the stony spot. We cleared the rocks and removed the noxious introduced spiky plant. Suddenly I could envision a night on the little island.
Sunset camp1_c
We hoped for a less windy tomorrow and fell asleep, tired from the strenuous paddling.

Sunset on Pelican_c

My friend loved the warm water; back at home in Southern Sweden the sea ice only melted a few weeks back. He smiled a lot and was incredulous of the chance of paddling without a dry suit. He also loved the large waves since his waters, the Baltic, rarely have spaced apart ocean swell type waves, instead he paddles short and steep wind waves. It felt like being in an elevator with the kayak rising and falling to the rhythm of the swell with only the occasional wave breaking over the deck.
Johan has never sailed a sea kayak but he was immediately thrilled by it. He paddles and he sails small boats but he has never experienced the two together, at the same time.
There was no need for lengthy introductions and trials, he immediately transferred his sailing skills and balance to the borrowed kayak.

Sailing with Johan_c

We often raced each other to see who could go faster without corrective stokes using only the skeg and body weight shift for direction control. I am afraid to say the Swede had better skills than me but I blame my beamy slow kayak :-)

We had the whole place to ourselves and what must have been busy with campers just a week prior (Easter) was now deserted with not a single boat in sight. The wind was still blowing but now we were sheltered by a larger island that offered a calm bay to play without battling the breeze.
Johan at sunset_or_c

The sandy beach faces West and the sunsets were spectacular: "red sky at night, sailors delight". Not sure if that was meant to give us clear skies or actually more wind?
Sunset on beach_1_c

Sunset beach_c

The weather produced decent swell that smashed against the cliffy side of the island. We spent a few hours observing the force of the crashing surf against the shore imagining what would be like to paddle there, if the wind was not so stiff. Well, the following day we ventured out of the protected bay to find only 15 knots but with the swell still present.
We could not resist the thrill of the effect of rebound exploring the shore just a bit closer.
Johan misjudged the sets and he got caught in a breaking wave not knowing that there was a large rock below the surface spilling the force of the water.

That afternoon the wind started to blow again making the circumnavigation of one the island a real bliss, but only half of the way; the return trip was on the lee of the hills but the last passage of few miles saw us again battling the full force of the breeze.

Johan's visit was coming to an end and we could not afford to wait a few more days to explore the coastline further. On the last morning Murphy's law came true again: the South-Easterly wind that we had to battle into on our way to the islands subsided and the desired surfing ride back to the launch site was not as exhilarating as desired with barely a 15 knots pushing as along on a quartering stern. By now Johan has decided that sea kayak sailing is just too much fun and he now plans to set up at least one of his (25) kayaks with a sail.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Highlights of South East Queensland

I had a friend from my old stomping grounds of US and A come and visit me.
She only had a short time to spend here in South-East Queensland and didn't want to hit the touristy sites. Instead she wanted to see the best outdoors the area had to offer.
We combined two of my favorite destinations in a short week : the Granite Belt area and the upper reaches of the Noosa River.
Both destinations are a couple's of hours drive from MEI Headquarter and offer unique opportunities for a small adventure, especially if coming from California.
Fern bush bashing_1_c
We packed light for a two nights camping on granite boulders.
Just a tarp and minimal gear for easy travel, off trail.
The weather still mild (Downunder is in autumn right now) and with little wind, it was ideal conditions to camp on exposed rock.
Sunset at Girraween_2_c
We were graced with amazing sunsets while we prepared dinner on the little camp stove.
Alfresco dining_1_c

The second location was on the water.
I have camped on the Noosa River many times before but having a novice kayaker with me allowed me to slow my pace down and enjoy the surroundings without rushing.
Upper Noosa River_MAR11_4_c
The dark waters of the river mirrored the overhanging trees and the overcast sky. Only the passage of our kayaks rippled the still waters.
Upper Noosa River_MAR11_3_c

The slower pace took longer than expected and brought the evening to us while we were still paddling.
evening reflection_1_c

And then suddenly the grey skies lit up with fire and the clouds glowed like embers.
Getting to camp before dark was not a priority anymore: we were just happy to watch the liquid gold of the kayaks' wake.
Sunset on the river_2_c

The return trip was in light drizzle. Rarely I have the opportunity to be outside in nature's elements when the mind tells me to take shelter instead. And again, there was no reason to fret: the paddling top I was wearing took care of keeping me dry and warm.The reward was the lush surrounding green vegetation that was beaming at me, like it only can in the rain.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The rocky coast

My closest paddling environment is a rather calm bay with no ocean swell.
The beaches are sandy and occasionally choked by mangroves.
The waters are pollution-free but some parts of the bay are a bit muddy.
Paddling there is fun, but the bay does not often offer enough opportunities to have a wilderness experience.
I love going away from the motorized crowd.
Unless I pick a windy day I can rarely experience solitude.
So, I was in heaven when I and Adventuretess undertook a two week sea journey exploring the rocky coast of Central Queensland.
No tight schedules. No GPS 'plotted' itinerary.
Only a few pointers from a friend that has paddled there before.
We didn’t want to have too much info on the location; we wanted to “discover” the coast ourselves.
We allowed enough time in case of bad weather (strong wind) and had drinking water for a week, which we planned to resupply during the trip.
For most of our trip we had very little contact with others and certainly didn’t book into any resorts half way through.
Being self sufficient is what we like. Being away from civilization is what we cherish.
The rocky coast was an incredible new paddling experience in an unfamiliar environment: swell and rebound

Select 720P if you have a high speed internet connection, let it load and then view it in full screen

For this trip I took fewer photographs but more videos.
The movie runs for 11 minutes and is uploaded in High Definition.

or use try this upload on Vimeo, if Youtube sux:

The rocky coast from gnarlydog australia on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Windy weekend on the bay.

I have been sea kayaking in Moreton Bay for a few years now and while that is my closest paddling destination it also has a lot to offer.
The bay is protected from the ocean swell and the waters of the southern part of the bay are generally easy to paddle on calm days.
There are several island that have muddy shores and only a few sandy beaches where camping is permitted.
A particularly picturesque bay of a smaller island is very popular with power boats.
On a summer weekend it is not unusual to see more than 40 vessels anchored in that bay.
The sand is white and the shore offers excellent camping right on the beach.
Unfortunately where there is access by motorized means (boat) usually there is noise; and I don't mean just the one coming from the motors of the boats and jet skis, it's the blaring poor taste music and the incessant shouting and foul language that bothers me too.
Well, it was all very different last weekend.
With the forecast of Southerly winds of up to 20 knots there was not a single boat in the bay; not one!
My paddling trip over to the Island took less than usual since I used a sail on a tail wind.
Sailing towards Peel_2 (c)
I was able to surf the little wind waves and I had a ball side surfing some of the slightly larger ones.
Sailing towards Peel Is (c)
Once at the island I was very pleased to see that I was the only one there.
The whole beach and bay were deserted: it reminded me of the Whitsundays.
empty bay (c)
this bay is usually full of boats
I then realized how seaworthy sea kayaks are.
As long as one has the skills to paddle in slightly demanding conditions chances are he/she won't see any of the usual weekend traffic found in the bay.
Only the ferries were still going but they were a distant sight.
The wind never increased to much (occasional gust up to 20 knots) and in the evening it calmed down almost completely.
Some stormy clouds gathered on the horizon but never closed in on us.
They however offered a spectacular sunset.
With the low tide exposing some shallow ponds the pre-dinner stroll was captivating.
Low tide sunset_1_lg (c)
Now I know how to achieve peace and quiet in the Bay over the weekend: head out when the wind is blowing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Whitsundays 2009: Shute Harbour to Dingo Beach

I saw this object floating in the rough water.
It was round and bright red.
Then a wave picked up my kayak and I surfed towards it a bit too fast to work out what it was.
Instinctively I extended my arm and picked it up: it was a thick slice of watermelon!

A hastily placed in my skirted lap and braced before the wave broached my kayak.
Some sailing ship must have lost it overboard but it still looked fresh.
Later once landed on the beach I had a nibble at it: salty but still good. I offered it to my paddling Team but had no takers.

Ah well: more for me...

We were into our 4th day of a two week trip and the wind was blowing a good 20 knots on the stern. The following seas against tidal flow made for nice steep short waves that we could surf while sailing. It was a real hoot.
We were in high spirit since conditions were absolutely great for kayak sailing, unlike the previous year where we battled 35 knots winds on the bow.
The previous night we camped on a rather exposed coral beach and worried a little bit about the stormy clouds that the evening showers brought. The tents were secured with big chunks of coral, close to the high tide mark but I was a bit nervous nevertheless.

Just as well I brought my luxury new sleeping mat or it would have been an uncomfortable night sleeping on that rough coral beach.
before the storm (c)

We all knew each others paddling abilities and limitations, in our little group of 4 paddlers, but we have never spent more than a long week-end paddling or walking together.
Eventually the differences of character revealed themselves and the individual ambitions and goals clashed. Somehow it was not clearly communicated before the trip what we all wanted from this journey and since the obvious was not stated a few hours of "negotiations" took place to sort out the differences.

But how could anybody not a have a great time in this tropical location.
sticking in clear waters (c)

We decided that we wanted to stay away from the tourist destinations (Whitehaven Beach and the resorts) and try to have a "remote" experience instead.
Coastal paddling (c)
The islands that we visited were not on the German and Scandinavian hit list therefore we rarely shared our solitude with the occasionally yachtie.
They have proven to be a much more understanding bunch than your typical boatie.
A yachtie is used to be out at sea for period of times and knows how precious drinking water can be.
And water was what we were offered most often which we accepted eagerly.
We could not have carried more than a week's supply of drinking water and our resupply location failed: the desalinator had broken down and they could not spare us absolutely any water.

Evening dinner was shared: the two cooks alternated between the nights. The other two were on dish duties.
Dinner on the beach (c)
Most of our meals were prepared back at home and dehydrated.
It was surprising how little room a dinner for four takes. Add water, a bit of cooking and magically it came back to life... well, most of the times.

One particular meal of chicken red curry with green beans remained chewy and luckily we had spare food to substitute the failed recipe.
Vanilla was hoping to provide fresh fish but despite his best efforts only one night he was lucky to catch enough for all of us. The coral coast is a hard place to try to land a fish: once they take the lure they run under the coral and snag or snap the line. A few lures were lost.

Surprisingly the biting critters did not bother us as much as other times. It could have been the Candlefire with citronella wax, it could have been the different locations but I want to pin it down to "San-Fla' Van" that Vanilla had concocted just before the trip.
Not satisfied with the commercial offerings of mosquito repellent that contain DEET (toxic and very damaging on any plastic item made from Nylon) or the ineffective new alternative containing Picardin, Van decided to make his own.
He has revealed me the secret ingredients but I have been sworn to secrecy.
The "San-Fla' Van" however worked like a miracle: where applied it would repel the pesky midges (noseeums) for hours. It would leave the skin dry and if I put my applying hand accidentally in my mouth I would not have to spit for ages to clear the foul taste that DEET gives.

Exploring the high cliff area was thrilling.
Seacave at Glocester Is (c)
Adventuretess exiting a sea cave on Gloucester Island
Around every corner a new "secret" little cove awaited to be discovered. On calm days we were able to paddle very close to the oyster encrusted rocks.


A couple of sea caves had small blowholes "breathing" like a scary dragon with the surging waves.

Van sea caving at Gloucester Island

We played for hours along that coast and managed to scratch the gelcoat of our hulls on a few occasions.
clear water paddling (c)
Snorkeling was also much better this year. The seas were calmer and most of us had Reed garments to keep us warm enough to swim among the incredible underwater seascape.
Van floating (c)
Van cladded in Reed doing a "water angel"
Tropical fish were not afraid to almost brush against me and when I swam into a school I got surrounded by brightly colored blue and yellow fish. All around me they were glistening at under the surface bright sun.
The soft coral moved in waves at the motion of the swell: it looked like long blonde hair blowing in the wind.

We had two weeks in this paradise. We moved our camp often, progressively furthering ourselves from the beaten route.
view from the tent (c)
Some of the crossings had to be timed to minimize tidal flow drift and to land at the high tide mark, if possible. Tidal variation is rather big compared to our usual paddling location; we had up to 5 meters of difference. Selecting the wrong beach to camp could mean not being able to paddle away next day because of the long coral or rocky beach exposed at low tide.
We came across one couple in a double sea kayak that did not seem to take notice of this: they were left stranded a few times and had to wait for the tide to rise.
Unfortunately some of the campsites had evidence of overuse and abuse.
It does not matter that National Parks had signs stating that campfires were illegal: there were ashes scattered in many locations making camping a "dirty" affair. I tried to get some sense into a Tasmanian visitor that insisted that campfires were OK and did not deplete the local limited resource (was he a logger?). Needless to say he did not bother booking any campsites either and planned on just crashing-in on other's booking. I wonder how much a fine would be if caught having a wood campfire?...

The Northern section of the Withsundays was more remote.
coastal paddling_7 (c)

Vanstix at Gloucester (c)
We did not come across other people for days.
Our main concern was the wind since being caught on a little island during days of high winds could have been taxing.

We listened religiously to the VHF radio transmission of the next days weather forecast and planned our best route for the following days.
Wind met the tidal flow in a few spots and standing waves could be surfed on a few occasions. Doing it with a loaded boat with gear and supplies for a few weeks was however tricky.
tidal race (c)
The sails added speed to our crossings and prevented us from being really tired at the end of the day.
We allowed ourselves a few lay days: there was need to rush.
There were coral reefs to be snorkeled and fish to be caught, books to be read and stressful lives to be mended.
midday sun shade(c)
Van on the "mend"
chilling on shore (c)
Tess working on her "feet tan" (having to wear paddling shoes around the coral beaches would leave your feet untanned)

It actually took longer than expected to fall into the tune of the islands time where things should not be scheduled too much and where accurate minutes of meetings were not essential.
Our goals became simpler: paddle to a new picturesque camping location, observe some marine life and worry about dinner. We didn't care about distances, happy to paddle at times just 10 miles but with little hurry: the rocky coastline's features needed to be explored, not just passed by.
Evening brought often spectacular sunsets.
There is a strange melancholic joy sitting on the beach pondering over the day's events; something that I don't have time to do when back in the city.
nothing to see but so much to look at (c)
The Prof and Gnarlydog solving life's problems

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Whale watching on Fraser Island_SEP07.

Sea kayaks are the ultimate adventure vessels.
There is a particular pleasure to be able to travel to remote places under your own power.
Being immersed in water and gliding on its surface is a feeling that you cannot experience with a motorized boat.
The slow pace and constant interaction with the sea while paddling brings a new dimension to encounters with marine life.
11 members of Queensland Sea Kayak Club joined me on a 4 day trip in Hervey Bay, off Fraser Island. We could have not wished for better conditions since our aim was to observe Humpback Whales on their yearly migration from Antarctica to warmer waters.

Easy paddling for 28Km to our campsite

Our “show pony” leader Gaza could not believe his eyes when within seconds of dropping his lure into a school of fish landed his dinner.
He lost his first one but held on to the second hook up.

The one that did not get away
Admittedly the first day paddle was a bit far for some but it put us in a better position for spotting whales the next day.
Since it is technically “winter” and most common folk don’t venture in this “terrible” conditions we had the place to ourselves, camping right beside a freshwater creek.

Bowarrady Creek

Some of us camped right on the beach
The forecasted perfect weather delivered as promised.
In the evening we gathered on the beach to witness the spectacular sunset. We had high hopes to encounter whales the next day.

Morning dawned clear and calm but somehow we were in no hurry to paddle 15Km into the bay. We had a few days left of paddling, surely we will come across something…

We saw them first in the distance surfacing to exhale. The tails were prominent on the horizon. It was only once we got closer that we realized their size!

The exhilaration continued long after the whales have departed and even back at camp we were still buzzing from the experience.
To end a perfect day we had again a spectacular sunset view.

Wooralie Creek
For our last night on the island we moved camp closer to the last leg of our journey.
And while we spend a lazy afternoon socializing on the beach a pod of dolphins came to play on our (tent) doorstep. Literally only a stone throw away they were jumping out of the water like it would be a show at Sea World. We did not know if they were expecting us to clap or something… :-)

Last evening
While most of us thought the last crossing back to Urangan Harbor would have been a picnic there was still something is store for us that made some of us a bit concerned.

As we rounded Big Woody Island suddenly thick fog set in.
Visibility was not more then 100 m (300 yrds) and we certainly could not see any landmarks.Our knowledgeable leader Gaza (not just a show pony after all :-)made us line up side by side and we proceeded into the white unknown purely by compass and chart navigation. Halfway across the channel we realized that there was considerable tidal flow that was drifting us off target. I regard my navigation skill to get us back into the narrow opening of the harbor possibly a fluke but nevertheless I was happy that we all made it safely without too much running around.

Thick fog pod formation
I had high expectation for this trip. I wanted to see whales and spend 4 days away from so called civilized environments. I encounter the whales at very close quarters (almost too close for comfort…) and the camping was exceptional too.
This trip rates as one of MEI’s top ten.