Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Tape Can Fix Anything

Rising early to ensure we caught the bus we laboured down the road to the bus stop with all our bags. We were feeling a bit defeated, Tom especially, at packing the boats and worrying about if The Brave Sausage would be doing any more paddling this trip. We took an almost empty bus to Fiskebol where we changed to a much busier bus. We’d picked the little town of Gausvik as our destination as it had easy access to a beach from the bus stop, wasn't far from Harstad (where we could get a ferry to Tromsø) if Tom and I had to bail and it was a doable distance from Tromsø by paddle. The bus broke down ten minutes after we boarded and we sat in a lay by, sun shining on still blue waters and wondered if we’d made a terrible mistake. Almost the entire journey we spied what looked like perfect paddling conditions, that is until we haul our gear off the bus and head down a track to the beach at Gausvik. The water was choppy and the wind strong and we had a crossing to do. We ate lunch before attempting to reassemble the kayaks and were so lucky to have done so. A lady out waking her puppy got chatting to Justin and Melissa and invited us to build the boats at their place as there was a bit of shelter from the wind. We carried all our gear down there and got chatting to the couple, Jahn & Ann-Hilda. They owned a beautiful house on this little spit of land and had built a little apartment they rented out on Airbnb.
We began to put the boats back together, explaining to Jahn that the Brave Sausage was in need of some assistance he took a look at our broken pieces and ran off to get a rivet gun and a big roll of mega duct tape. The rivers were a no go unfortunately, but using Jahn’s dad’s motto ‘you can never have too much tape’ we got the boat back together. Jahn told us the right time to attempt the crossing and offered for us to camp in their garden as the best time would be to cross between 4am and 5:30am. They also had a couple from New York staying in the Airbnb who went out fishing with Jahn while we hung out drinking coffee and chatting with Ann-Hilda. We cooked dinner early, had some utterly delicious rhubarb and cinnamon jam Ann-Hilda had made on crackers for pudding and the watched transfixed as Jahn prepped the fish they'd caught. He kindly gave us two big cod fillets. We bid everyone farewell and hit the hay as we were going to be up before 3:30am.
Photo Credit - Melissa
We were on the water by 4am and the crossing was easy. Glassy water, light winds, barely any currents. We paddled into the sun, passing a massive sea eagle and under the bridge. Tom and I decided that The Brave Sausage deserved recognition for her continued service and knighted the boat, forever to be known as The Brave Sir Sausage. We stopped for breakfast and coffee on a bit of rock down the coast before paddling on towards Grov where we’d been told there was a shop and we’d likely be able to find somewhere to stay. The water was so glassy and in the misty morning light it was hard to determine where water ended and sky began. We spotted porpoises and a weird large fish swimming just below the surface. We struggled to find Grov as it is very well tucked away at the end of a fjord, but we tied up the boats to the dock by about 11am. 
It felt weird arriving before lunch having done 7 hours of paddling already. We changed into our dry clothes only to discover the gate to the dock was locked. Fortunately after only a few minutes of us dithering, wondering what to do a guy turned up and unlocked the gate. He said it was locked at night but not during the day. We headed into town to the shop and then back to the picnic tables outside the community centre. Despite a retired ships officer regaling us with many, many tales and a tour of his boat house we were no closer to finding somewhere to camp. Just as we were packing up thinking we’d have to get back in the boats to loom for a place to stay a friendly guy approached us, he knew Jahn, and suggested we stay at a campsite across the fjord, about a mile away. He rang the owner to establish the cost and make sure he had space and happy to have a definite place to go we got back in the boats and headed over. We met a group of Swedish guys gutting and cleaning their catch for the day, including a seriously mean looking catfish whose stomach was full of shells. We enjoyed hot showers and cooked next to a hobbit hut, before another early night. 
The next day we had a number of crossings to make and the conditions weren't as glassy as the previous day. In fact it was pretty choppy, but we were lucky that the wind was in our favour so we made good progress and Melissa and I both felt more confident in the less than ideal conditions. We noticed that along this stretch there were far fewer little boat docks for us to pull up to and also a lack of sandy beaches so finding spots for breaks was tough. We had spotted a little harbour just before another bridge and crossing we needed to do so we were planning on stopping their to ask local advice about the imminent crossing. The boat ‘dock’ when we arrived was by far the ricketyest piece of floating junk we’d come across. But a kindly local told us we needed to make the crossing in the next hour if we were going to so we had a quick refuel and got back in the boats. As we rounded the headland we were hit with a strong headwind and whilst the crossing was straightforward the wind was really something to contend with. There was also a fair amount of swell as we turned down the coast and started scouting for somewhere to finish for the day. Sadly this bit of coast was primarily rocky and offered little in the way of a safe place to come ashore. We had spotted what looked a bit like a beach on the phones but when it came into view on the other side of a bay it didn't look promising, however there was a rather large house with a little dinghy in front of it so we had eyes peeled hoping for a dock or boat ramp. There was neither but there was a little bit of a gap in the rocks which we could safely land the boats on. We were a bit concerned about pitching our tents on their lawn, but since no one appeared to be home and since it really wasn't a good idea for us to continue with no idea of where we could safely get ashore we made dinner and went to bed.

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