Monday, 10 July 2017

Introducing The Brave Sausage

We had been told about a tidal race near the bridge north of Henningsvær and the islands beyond it so we planned our departure from Sandvika campsite to hit this stretch as the tide was flowing from low to high. We made good progress down the coast and under the bridge to Henningsvær and stopped for lunch in sight of the bridge with the tidal race. As we approached the bridge we noticed the water flowing pretty fast against us, so I'm not sure if we misunderstood the advice we got or if this was as good as it gets if you're paddling north in this channel, but it was harder work than we’d expected. Luckily the wind was at our backs which gave us some help, but also caused some chop and some strange eddies and lively patches of water we’d not encountered yet. As we continued up the channel towards the open sea the current seemed to now be in our favour so we made good progress. Rounding the headland with open ocean stretching away to the horizon on our left we began to experience increasing swell and I really found this next stretch scary and trying. 
Our destination for the day was a white sand beach on an island in a bay in a nature reserve, Laukvikøyene. We’d been told this island-filled bay was like the Caribbean, but approaching the dozens of islands in the swell it didn't feel tropical and it was hard to determine which island we wanted to aim for as all we could see was rocks. Melissa had thought she’d seen another suitable beach on a different island when looking at the maps, but we couldn't see either as we tried to just position the boats to minimise the effects of the waves. Finally we spotted the beaches and decided Melissa’s was a better shout due to the direction of the swell. We landed on the beach, the sun came out and I instantly felt better. Tom had somehow been unfazed by the conditions and had found the sight of the open sea exhilarating not terrifying, but I was thrilled to be safely on dry land.
We had a little explore, checked the tide times and heights and decided pitching the tents on the beach was the best bet. Melissa and I cooked whilst Justin and Tom put the tents up. It was warm, sunny and we had our own deserted island. It felt particularly rewarding after a hard day's paddle and, as always after a day of exertion, dinner tasted incredible. There was some heavy rain and wind in the night and morning came with a less Caribbean feel. We expected to spend the morning lazily paddling between the islands in this bay as we slowly made our way to Laukvik. John had commented to us how navigating islands in a kayak can be very tricky as it's hard to get a good vantage point and he was certainly right. As we had timed our departure terribly we were at mid-tide going to low. On this occasion it wasn't that the currents were a problem, but these little islands were only in very shallow water and it was hard to distinguish between rock and seaweed and whether the water was deep enough. Justin and Melissa took a more cautious approach whereas Tom and I fearlessly (and foolishly) pressed on. We very quickly found ourselves beached. Tom got out to push us into deeper water and found his feet sinking knee deep into mud. He nearly lost a croc and we had a few moments of worry as he struggled to get back in the boat, before basically having to use our paddles as punting sticks and drag ourselves back to deeper water where we followed Justin and Melissa back out of the islands and towards the open sea.
The conditions hadn't improved from the day before and as we left the protection of the islands we faced chop, wind and swell. I hated this next stretch. It was less than two hours but I was so scared the whole time. We finally spotted Laukvik and headed in. It was hard to see where the dock was but an opening appeared to our right with a large sea wall protecting a big harbour. I burst into tears as we paddled out of the swell and into the calm waters. Justin and Melissa chatted with a fisherman as they paddled by who said that this stretch as always rough as there was nothing between here and Greenland but open ocean. We moored the boats and Tom gave me a big cuddle. We grabbed our bag of dry clothes and walked up to the cafe. It wasn't open, but a sign said ‘Keans Beans this way’ so we followed the signs into a big old boat shed and to a door that said ‘come in’. Opening the door we were totally amazed to find a little artisan coffee roaster. We filed in, found places to perch and he made us some delicious coffee. We spent the next hour chatting to Chris, drinking delicious coffee and warming up.
Our next stop was the cafe. We all agreed continuing in these conditions wasn't possible. Tom thought the boats were up to it, but he didn't want to subject me to hours of terror. So now the hunt was on to figure out the logistics of what next. Norway’s impressive bus network extended to Laukvik and the decision was made to pack up the boats, take the bus to where we thought it'd be safer and then continue paddling to Tromsø. Justin and Melissa’s boat, The Green Onion from Stockholm, was as it had been when they assembled it in Narvik. Unfortunately our boat, The Brave Sausage, was a little worse for wear. There had been a number of cracks when we assembled the kayak in Narvik which we’d repaired with liberal quantities of Gorilla Tape, but on taking it apart we found a number of new cracks including one of the plastic plates becoming entirely unattached from the poles. Not good.
Having packed the boats and dried our stuff as best as possible we started to look for a suitable place to stay. The little town was in full setup mode as their local fair started the next day so we thought we’d offer to help with the preparations, but the locals weren't interested. We opted to pitch the tents on a patch of hard ground near some camper vans, had dinner and strangely had the best nights sleep so far. 

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