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Norwegian Solstice Sea Kayak Adventure - June 19-July 1, 2019


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Norwegian Solstice Sea Kayak Adventure

June 19 – July 1, 2019



To paraphrase Tolstoy… Happy sea kayaking adventures are all alike; every unhappy trip is unhappy in its own way.  No, wait a second! – that’s not right.  Or...maybe it’s mostly right.  I find myself reflecting on the question after a member of our recently completed Norwegian Solstice Sea Kayak Adventure asked me which of the many trips I’ve taken was the best…or my favorite…or something.  Which got me thinking about the elements of a successful trip.  On deep reflection, I’ve come up with five things:  1) The people.  2) The people.  3) The people.  4) The location (to which I will add “the conditions” in deference to Donna Sylvester, for whom a stunning view is barely tolerable without rocks! waves! capsizes! rescues!).  5) The boats.  (As for the elements of an unsuccessful trip, well, they are many and mostly start and end with the participants – but that is a topic for another day, another report…)

We were twelve: two coaches (John Carmody and Ben Fothergill); seven paddlers (David Mercer, Donna Sylvester, Jane Hardy, Sergio and Deb Greguoldo, Janet Lorang and me); and three land-based spouses and friends (Marybeth Carmody, Donna Mercer and MB and John’s long-time friend, Kandy DeConti).  We hailed from five states (ME, MA, NH, RI and CA) and three countries (US, Canada and Wales).  And we variously arrived at our ultimate destination - the small village of Flø (pronounced, more or less, “Fluh”) on the island of Hareidlandet, about a quarter of the way up the west coast of Norway – by airplane (and rental car), ferry, and SUV pulling a trailer of 10 boats.  The latter, driven by Ben and co-piloted by John, made an epic multi-day journey starting in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and including a ferry to Holland, a drive across the Netherlands and Germany to Denmark where they caught a second – nine hour – ferry to Oslo for the final long overland drive to Flø.  Their effort allowed us to paddle in mostly familiar high quality boats that we had selected from an offered list months before we embarked.


Bergen, June 19 – 21


But before Flø, there was Bergen.  The genesis of a trip is sometimes hard to pin down, but in my mind, at any rate, the impetus for Norway at this time – and specifically the several days some of us spent in Bergen before the paddling began – was seeing a stunning print in Marybeth and John’s house that MB had bought at a gallery in Bergen on a previous trip.  Simply put:  I wanted to go that gallery!  As for Flø, last year John had coached at a symposium organized by a Polish paddler that a number of us had met in Wales in 2015 – when I also met both Donna’s and Jane for the first time – based at the same cottage colony that was to be the base for our Norwegian paddling.  I have to think everything came together most fortuitously.


Flying Boston to Amsterdam I awoke from a very brief sleep to sunrise over the clouds


and was asked whether I’d like breakfast, even though it was about midnight on my body clock.  No thank you.  The Amsterdam to Bergen hop was quick, and as we descended below what would be pretty much an omnipresent cloud cover for the duration of our stay, I got my first glimpse of Norway, the region around Bergen.  I was struck by this graceful bridge, unaware that island-connecting bridges were as much a part of the landscape as mountains…and tunnels.


I’m glad that I was certain that it was Bergen where we landed – Marybeth, having arrived earlier on a flight from Copenhagen, was there to greet me at the modern, seemingly deserted airport – because this might have given me pause…


Eventually, five of us reconnoitered at the lovely – spare and clean, super Scandanavian style – Air BnB apartment a hilly walk from the town center that MB had secured for David, Donna and Kandy.  This is our street:


We spent the next two days wandering around Bergen – enjoying the cobbled op art streets,


the architecture,


the street art,



and the birds.



Among many other things.

We had our best meal at The Unicorn Fish Restaurant


where we speculated on a strangely dressed group of people sitting nearby – ultimately deciding that they had to be members of Bob Dylan’s back-up band.  Say what?  Well, he was performing in Bergen that night!  The surreptitious picture that I took didn’t come out well, so I’ll leave it to your imagination to conjure an image.  I pretty much guarantee that it won’t resemble the group we saw!

In our wanderings, I made a friend


and wished that one of these colorful beauties could end up in my garden.  But rock shopping would have to wait.


We visited the gallery that I’d wanted to see and I bought a few smaller prints.


And then, city time was done, and we (minus MB and Kandy, who had booked an overnight ferry that would take them to Ålesund – our flight destination – and then beyond to a spectacular fjord) gathered at the airport for the flight north.  I was not aware that there was such a thing as a “silent airport,” but Bergen is.


I liked the silent urgency of the bathroom icons, too.


Speaking of urgency, I will leave it to Janet to tell her tale.  She was the only paddler who was unable to get extra time off, and was to join us at the airport for our flight north.  She ultimately did, but only after flight delays and cross-airport sprints.  She arrived on the plane breathless and sweaty.  But there she was.

The flight was a short one.  We got a first view of the area where we would be paddling…islands, islands, islands, mountains, clouds.  How does one drive anywhere because land ends shortly after it begins and there is another body of water to cross?


And then the drive from Ålesund (pronounded “Oh-lesund”) to Flø.  We had fretted about the ferry schedule.  Would we need reservations?  What if we missed the ferry?  We needn’t have worried.  Ferries in Norway are essentially extensions of the roads.  They are large, clean, quiet and run frequently, no reservation required.  Just line up and drive on, pay by credit card without getting out of your car once you’re underway.


The drive – including the ferry ride – was beautiful.


I was surprised, though, by the number of villages we passed.  I had – erroneously – thought that in leaving Bergen we would be heading to a small town (Ålesund) in the middle of nowhere.  In reality, there were numerous villages dotted along our route, and indeed there would be villages everywhere that we went.  I will marvel at the infrastructure that made this possible later. 

Finally, we arrived at our little cottages in Flø.  These are some views from and around the cabin I shared with David and Donna.





And here, a panorama of land and sea and mountains and clouds and sky that pretty much summed up our environment.



Day One – Sunday, June 23 – Flø to Brandal


Before we embark, a few words on where we were.  While there are places better known to both paddlers and adventurous tourists (the Lofoten Islands farther north for example), we heard from more than one knowledgeable source that this area is among the most beautiful for kayakers in the country.  This Google Earth image shows islands big and small.  Areas to face the big open sea and places to hide from wind and waves.  Fjords nearby.  Because we were not expeditioning and had vehicles and boat trailer to get us to different launch spots, we were ultimately able to see and experience a lot more than we would have had we been camping.


But the first day, we decided to keep it easy and launch from the beach in front of our cabins.  We weren’t constrained by launching or landing times because it never got dark.  This allowed for more leisurely starts.  We had sorted out the boats the night before, adjusting foot pegs and back bands, and removing or adding padding.  We gathered at a reasonable hour to discuss plans for the day.  It was a splendid day.  There was actually blue sky above.


There was a moderate breeze from the southwest.  We had tidal information, which was not terribly important either as the tides were small – perhaps a meter.  Taking advantage of the wind direction, we decided to head north and east out of our little harbor and round the top of Hareidlandet.  With a shuttle, we could end either at Hareid, where our ferry yesterday had landed, or at one of the villages along the way.


As we talked, we saw a ship going by, which John identified as the very vessel on which MB and Kandy were traveling.  We all went outside to wave hello.  I suspect they didn’t see us.


The decision was made to end the first day at Brandal, a village slightly north of Hareid, Ben took on the always mind-bending task of setting up a shuttle to ensure that there would be sufficient seats in vehicles and trailer dispatched to stay at Brandal, and enough room in another car for the drivers to get back to Flø for the launch.  Mission accomplished, we moved the boats down to the beach.


We had been joined late the night before by Arkady, a Russian physician who had been working in Oslo for years and whom Donna had met on her Grand Canyon paddling trip last summer.  A proficient white water paddler, Arkady showed up with a sea kayak that was rather broad of beam and large of cockpit.  John quickly had him fitted out in the spare Delphin and Arkady’s boat remained on land for the two days that he was with us.  He took a group picture when the boats were all loaded.


Ben did one last chart check.


And we were off.  The following seas were lively as we headed toward the forbidding headland in the distance.


I followed Donna, who – as John was to remark later in the day – remained surprisingly far off shore, away from her beloved rocks.  David later said that the waves that pushed us along were substantially larger out where we were than they were along the rocky coastline.


Many of us were in boats that we weren’t used to paddling.  I was in a carbon Kevlar Cetus, a lovely boat that is longer and less maneuverable than what I am used to.  It took some getting used to, and the conditions were a bit of a test for a first day, but it was a useful exercise.  We would see a lot more sportiness on other days.


Jane, for one, looked pretty serious.


Donna and Arkady paddled close together, chatting in the waves.


Deb and me…


We rounded one smaller headland and found a protected spot among the rocks, where we stopped for lunch.




Sergio went for a scramble up the rocks and surveyed what lay ahead.


As always unstable on my feet in this environment, I chose more close up views, and spied this egg on the rocks.


We continued on, flushing one of two ubiquitous oystercatchers from a rock by the little cove.


As it had been asked at lunch why on earth Donna had been so far from the rocky coastline, she and Arkady both moved closer.  It turns out that white water proficiency doesn’t translate instantly into rock hopping skill.  But give Arkady credit.  In mistiming a wave through a slot, he ended up high and dry,


but kept his cool and waited for the wave that would remove him.


The bumpy water sparkled


and we rounded the final headland before a turn into what would likely be calmer water.  Here’s David


and Sergio.


As predicted, we were sheltered now from the wind and Donna paused to gaze at the view across the water.


Although the seas were calmer around the corner, there was one small rocky island  – windy and wavy on one side, calm on the other – where water wrapping around formed a surfable wave.


We played here for a time before the final leg to Brandal,


a village of less than 300 residents.


The small beach where we would land inside the jetty-protected harbor was apparently the town swimming spot.


As we disembarked and unloaded and readied the boats for the trailer



a few locals stopped to chat.  A friendly man in pink shorts and a Tommy Hilfiger polo shirt was curious about our group.  On learning that two of us were from Canada, another man approached.  It turned out he spent half the year in Halifax, near where Sergio and Deb live, and the other half in this little town.  They pointed toward a town building nearby and told us that there was a benefit bake sale going on inside.  Arkady was good enough to treat us all to delicious pastries, which we ate at a picnic table outside.  For the life of me I don’t know why I didn’t take a picture of those delicious cream-filled colorific, calorie laden treats!  My memory suffices for me.  Your imagination will have to suffice for you!

When we got home, Deb took advantage of the sun and our white sand beach.  I can’t exactly say she went swimming but she surely went in…and surely felt the chill…


while everyone else just chilled at the end of the day.


Our cabins lined up neat and tidy under the clear sky. 


But don’t get used to it…

So…it was Sunday the 23rd.  In Scandanavia, the midsummer is a big deal, celebrated with large bonfires in each town.  As we sat in front of our cabins, we could see the smoke of bonfires on islands across the way. And there would be one in Flø that night.  We walked toward the field that we had been toward, passing a closed art gallery (apparently the only commercial establishment in town) on the way.  An homage to other art establishments.


A big fat cloud hung over the mountain across the water.


There was a small crowd gathered in a field by the sea.  A large pile of crates and pallets was ready to be lit.  These folks certainly know how to do it.  The thing leapt into life once a flame hit it.


And grew


until it was sufficiently big and hot for little boys to run and throw their year's worth of schoolwork into the flames with screams of delight.


I posed in front.  You actually had to be some distance away because the heat the fire threw was quite intense.


It was that evening that our little group somehow became news, but more on that later…

And off we went to bed in the light of perpetual daytime.


Day Two – Monday, June 24 – Circumnavigation of Runde


Before we even left home for Norway, we’d been monitoring the weather forecast.  It looked pretty grim.  Day after day of at least some rain.  As it had turned out, but for a brief downpour in Bergen, and on and off rain as we’d driven from Ålesund to Flø, it had been cloudy and sunny, and our luck continued the next morning, when I could only ask, “What’s with all this blue sky?”


Now that we had had a shakedown cruise, we were anxious to adventure farther.  And what most appealed was the island of Runde,

which we could see in the blue gray distance from our cabins.


The day was sun and clouds with temperature in the 50’s and NE winds of around 14 kts.  With boats trailered and all aboard, we punched in the GPS route to Runde.


Before we set out, a glance at the chart made it seem impossible to get from here to there on a road.  So many islands to cross.  But here is where the truly impressive infrastructure of Norway really started to reveal itself to us.  We crossed long one lane bridges…and were the clouds trying to tell us something?...


and went through tunnels


and across more bridges


before we were finally on Runde, an island with what seemed an impossibly small population to justify the bridges and tunnels that connected it to its neighbors.   We stopped at the tourist office to inquire about possible launch spots where we might also leave trailer and cars for the day.  This immaculate new building had a small café, an ice cream freezer, clean bathrooms and a few items for sale, including this t shirt, which I really really really wanted to buy


which unfortunately came only came in XL or XXL, so I had to settle for this picture.

We were directed to a building under construction where we were free to use the extremely civilized launch setup!


All the P&H boats lined up on the beach for a photo op, the one Wilderness System kayak (the boat Jane chose) shunned and out of photo range.


The sky foretold changes to come. 


And John, never one to pass up an opportunity for a quick synoptic chart lesson, sketched in the sand.


As we paddled out of the protected harbor, I admired as I would continue to do, the clean simple lines of Norwegian buildings, these huddled side by side on a pier.


As soon as we were out of the harbor and had turned left to start our counterclockwise circumnav, the wind hit us.  We rounded the first of two sticky-outy bits along the north shore of the island, where the wind and now following seas combined forces, pushing us along.  Here’s Janet atop a wave.


John hailed me and offered to take my camera so he could take some shots of me.  A generous offer although I’m rather suspicious it’s just a means to keep me moving rather than constantly stopping to take photos!  Here I am, hustling to catch up with the rest of the group after the camera transfer.


And here’s Arkady, cresting a wave.


It started to cloud over.


Donna was loving the lively sea.



And is this John’s first selfie ever?  I discovered it when he returned the camera to me!  (Also various shots of his spray skirt and fingers.)


Continuing on, born with little effort by the elements along the top of the island, we were dwarfed by the landscape.


Final we were almost at the lighthouse marking the committing turn along the coast, at the northwest corner,



and we pulled into a calm slot under a lighthouse


where Deb paused for a stretch while John got out of his boat to scout out the turn and what lay beyond.


I had my camera back now, and got this shot of John and Sergio on the far side of the final turn, partially obscured by waves.


Once around, Sergio was greeted by a great swirling mass of gannets overhead.


Our lunch spot was, as would always – with one notable exception – be the case, a rocky inlet in a rocky landscape.  (This might be a good time– to thank John, Ben, Sergio and Janet for all of their help debarking and getting onto land – or rock! - and back into my boat in one piece throughout the trip!)


We ate


and then I wandered a bit.  I had learned on an earlier trip that a hiking pole bungied to the kayak deck is a great piece of kit to have along, and with it, I was able to explore a bit of our rocky surroundings.  Flowers




and the sight of Ben way up in the distance, off on a wander of his own (from which he returned with a very nice knit cap that matched his drysuit and boat color scheme, and which he subsequently washed and wore).


When we set out again, it was into aqua waters under towering cliffs.


Birds wheeled overhead.


Because it was calm, for the first time, we could relax our hands on the paddle and drift, head tilted back, mouth slightly open in awe (but watch out for bird poop!), gazing at the cliffs hundreds and hundreds of feet above us, and birds (razorbills in this case) nesting there.


There was a calamitous squawking of birds, magnified in echoes where the cliffs folded in.  It was all impossibly beautiful.  Sun, clouds, cliffs, birds overhead and roosting, and below, we bobbed on aqua blue waters.


I loved the shapes in the rocks - folds, and holes and swirls.




High above, three sea eagles soared on the currents.  John asked me to get a picture.  Pointing the camera above me, I couldn’t see a thing, but snapped several times and was able to come up with this:



We weren’t the only sightseers.  A small tour boat plied the same coast, and our three land-based women would do the tour a few days a later, following the route we took.


We wove in and out of the rocks.




and Sergio and rocks.



Unfortunately, this magical stretch of coast had to end.  I was disappointed not to have seen any of the promised puffins, although others had.  They were either on the wing or mixed in with a larger group of birds floating on the water.  We made a final turn to the east, and proceeding along the south coast of Runde found ourselves paddling into the same wind that had flown us along the top of the island earlier in the day.  I followed Jane toward the bridge we’d crossed to get to the island.


Her red boat and red drysuit made her a nice match for the little red fish huts along the water.


And finally we were around, our journey of 10 nm complete.  The tide was up and we landed at the bottom of the stairs and carried the boats up.  A slight digression here:  some who shall remain nameless had been craving a nice glass of wine since we arrived on Saturday.  We had stopped at the grocery store in Ulsteinvik on our way from the airport, only to find that wine is sold only in state liquor stores.  Only beer and hard cider can be purchased at the supermarket.  Our problem: the wine store had closed at 4 pm, moments before we arrived to do our shopping.  Next day, Sunday, nothing is open.  Next day, Monday – today! – we had checked to find the state store was open until six.  One car departed before everyone was all packed up with an order from the rest of the group…to find that for no discernable reason, the wine store had a special 5 pm closing that day…and we’d missed it again.

So we settled for being amused by the way folks walked the dog – fourwheeler style.


But there was still a reward at the end of the day.  Arkady, who would be leaving the next morning for the eight hour drive back to Oslo, got all the fixings for a good Norwegian barbeque, and cooked for everyone.  Four different kinds of hot dogs (spicy, wrapped in bacon etc etc), salmon, mushrooms, a salad.  (My hot dog quota for the decade was met in a week in Norway! – and most of it that night!)  Thank you, Arkady, it was delicious and everyone enjoyed it!


That night, a midnight red sunset…



although of course it never got dark.


Day Three – Tuesday, June 25 – Geirangerfjord


Although after our journey to the northwest fjord area of Iceland last summer we felt we’d had enough of fjords and wanted islands, islands, islands on this trip, we had it on good authority (among them, Marybeth and Kandy, whose ship had taken them there) that there was a most majestic fjord an hour and a half drive away, and that it would be well worth our while to paddle on it.  And so the third day was an earlier start for a long drive inland to Geirangerfjord.  (And if you want to know one of my favorite parts of the whole trip, ask Ben to say that word in his Norwegian accent and you’ll have your answer.)  The freedom to take this roadtrip was one of the things that made the trip special.  After being so close to the water since we’d arrived in Norway, we enjoyed the change of scenery as we moved away from the coast.  The drive was beautiful.




It got foggy as we went along, and bright green forest and red farmhouses all muted into shades of black and white and gray.



And when the fog lifted, tidy farms nestled in the mountains.


We entered the last of many tunnels, passing men changing lightbulbs (how many Norwegians does it take…?)


and emerged at a small settlement where boats picked up passengers for fjord tours.  (On the way back, we counted the tunnels and bridges we traveled.  Thirteen tunnels ranging from 200 meters to 7 kilometers and one bridge!)

The day was cloudy and still.  Some of us made for a large building with a large “SOUVENIRS” sign running up the side and came away with hats and stickers.  Others scouted out a kayak launch, which we found at the end of a camping area over which no one seemed to be presiding.  Assuming that it would be ok to leave vehicles and trailers for the day, we unloaded.  This is the launch spot.


The water here was shallow and filled with long green mustache material that lay in and on the still water.


We set out.


We had a ways to go before we made a right hand turn into the fjord itself, although even the beginning was pretty nice.  We were dwarfed (aplogies if I'm overusing this word!) by our surroundings, not for the first time.


We weren’t alone, and it wasn’t only the landscape that dwarfed us in our little boats.


But the tour ships were quiet and moved very slowly, in keeping with the peace of the surroundings.

John and Janet.


We got even smaller.  Look for the little red boat at bottom right.


It was a strikingly lush landscape.  I got ahead for a while and had the view and silence to myself.  But soon, I was aware that it wasn’t quiet.  The steep mountains were alive with bird song.  While there are aspects of the landscape that remind me of my previous years’ trips to Greenland and Iceland,  Norway stood out because there were trees.  And hidden in those full trees…birds.

Lots of waterfalls.



This one gave us the opportunity to rinse off our salty boats and dry suits.  First David,


then Donna


and Ben.


We were surprised shortly thereafter to find an actual rocky beach that one could land on that was hemmed in on both sides by mountains that plunged steeply into the water.  When Ben got out of his boat, he tried to do some surface dives (hard to do wearing a dry suit and a pfd!) to see how far down he could see in the clear water.



ohn had been lagging behind, and soon pulled up with a lapful of mussels that he’d plucked from the seaweed at water level.  Beautiful!  (The next night, vegetarian that he is notwithstanding, he cooked them up in a heady broth and everyone but he partook.  Delicious!)


We ate


and then wandered a bit looking for souvenir rocks.  Only Deb was successful.  (But it was too heavy for her to take home, so it ended up going with Ben in the truck back to Wales.)

After lunch, we paddled slowly on the flat water, spread out and not worrying about the distance between us.  Donna and Jane were ahead


and Janet. 


In the distance, a homestead.  What a spot!


It was here that we rafted up and conferred about our options.  Ahead several miles was the fjord’s most famous feature: a cluster of waterfalls called The Seven Sisters.  But a few more miles to get there there meant a few more miles back to where we were now, and we decided that we were sufficiently enjoying single and double waterfalls and would just have to imagine the seven together.  We opted to turn back.  But it had been a pretty leisurely paddle thus far, and Deb had every reason to wonder why Janet was so pooped.


More waterfalls.








and stripey rocks



and swirly patterns washed constantly by a veil of water.


We stopped for another rinse off directly under the chilly waterfall.  Gasping breaths in the cool water.


It sprinkled a bit under the leaden skies but there was no wind.  David in his Delphin.


Part of the group in that familiar dwarfed state.  I think they were heading across to see the other side.


I stayed with Donna and Jane far in the front.


And then, the little village ahead where we’d started.


The three of us continued on, the paddling easy in the magical waters.  The others were specks behind us.



ventually, we were all on shore, and rain began in earnest.  We wanted to get going in hope of finding an elusive open wine store.  We didn’t succeed.  It was a long day and we stopped in Ulsteinvik for pizza…and a glass of wine that came from a box but that didn’t matter!  At last!  (But note to self:  never again give in to impulse to order a Hawaiian pizza in Norway…stick with pepperoni!)



more than any other place I’ve paddled, the little point and shoot photos I took of Geirangerfjord don’t do it justice.  We all came away awed by the day, the steep mountains, the bird song, flat calm water, and whatever thoughts we were thinking alone, or those that we were sharing with a friend.  It was a humbling, rather spiritual day.  But Donna did wish more action!  And John commented that it was probably the farthest Ben had ever paddled under his own power as Ben is all about finding currents, wind and wave to do the work for him.  We had had none for an entire day!


Day Four – Wednesday, June 26 – Two Lighthouses


And on the fourth day, we took it really easy.  The drive to and from the fjord had been long and we weren’t back until late after stopping for pizza.  Everyone was up for a lay in the next morning, and we would launch once again from our beach.  But because we didn’t have to be at the boats until late morning, Janet and I went for a walk in the hills behind our cottages.


We ran into some cows.  This one was clearly the alpha gal and was quite curious.  We kept telling her that we came in peace, but neither Janet nor I were convinced that she was buying this.


We ended up detouring off the path, which alpha gal had appropriated, and walked a wide berth around her through the tall glass, stepping carefully to avoid the plentiful cow patties.  This was as far up as we got that day (although Janet and others would subsequently go higher, using fixed ropes for the last bit; no thank you!).


We were bolder on the way down and determined to let alpha gal know she wasn't in charge, so we shooed her away, probably frightening the one calf more than the others, although all ended up trotting away.

Time then to suit up.  Nothing like launching from the front yard, and being able to dress in one’s own bedroom.


Janet decided which of the two boats she’d been using would be appropriate for the day.  Delphin it was.


We also got a nice sendoff from the non-paddlers.  (They’ll have to write their own trip report, but I know that over the week that did art under Donna Mercer’s tutelage, walked a lot, took a ferry to Ålesund and took a boat ride around Runde.)  After we posed for a picture, though.


The paddlers headed out through the breakwater.


Less than two nm from Flø was a lighthouse on a rocky island, Flørauden  where we would not able to land because of nesting birds, of which we saw none, by the way.  the crossing was relaxed, plenty of time to chat.


When we got there, we found several play spots.  There was a small pourover.




Even I got in on the action, which is not always the case.  Fueled by leftover Norwegian Hawaiian pizza.  Hey, maybe that stuff isn't so bad after all!


and a slot.


We then did another 2 nm crossing to Grasøyane, a slightly larger island with a second lighthouse.


Here’s Deb with the lighthouse in background.


We found another play spot.


There were some jellyfish so probably no one wanted to capsize.


But not even jellies stand in the way of rescue practice, where David was the willing swimmer.


The more the merrier!


I’m not sure what Janet was so pleased about here.  There probably doesn’t need to be a reason.  Just being out there… 


There were skerries made of rocks formed in waves, just south of the island itself, and we landed for lunch. 


The water was very clear.  Hello limpets!


Janet, agile on the undulating surface, went off to explore and came back with a fabulous rock (of which I neglected to take a picture) that she hoped to be able to take home.  I knew there was no way I could walk up to where she had found this specimen, and saw none anywhere in sight.  All of us who have worked and paddled with John appreciate him for many things, but that day, I think I most appreciated his respect for my love of accumulating rocks to bring home from faraway places.  He motioned me into my boat and said we’d go find some.  And so we did.  Around the corner, oh my, a treasure trove!  The biggest here were about six inches wide.


John got out of his boat, and like a salesman in a high class jewelry store, reached down into the clear water and brought up specimen after specimen to proffer that might please madam.  I ended up with three.

The day had started out overcast and a bit windy, but after lunch, the sky had started to clear from the top down.


We had a flat calm ride home.


John, David, Janet and I stopped on the way back to do some science: an experiment involving one of the treasured rocks, a dry bag and a tow belt.   The water was very clear.  How deep could the weighted dry bag go before we lost sight of it?  I can’t remember what we discovered, but it took up a lot of the length of the tow belt.



here are the chunky rocks I chose sitting on our cottage porch, looking back out from whence they came.  (They're in my garden now.)



Day Five – Thursday, June 27 – Nerlandsøya Circumnavigation


OK, enough of this lollygagging around!  Time to get the convoy going again and find an island to see.  Our choice: Nerlandsøya, a large island southwest of Flø.  Again, looking at a map, it wasn’t immediately clear how it was possible to get there without swimming the cars and trailers across numerous bodies of water.  Including the heretofore unknown sixth great ocean of the world – the Norwegian Ocean!


Six and a half bridges and two tunnels later, we were on the island.  We drove around searching for a good launch spot.  It is impressive how apps such as Google Earth and downloaded topo maps aid in the effort.  In this case, though, we were reduced to stopping at the local Joker store (kind of a beefed up Seven Eleven) and asking the teenage cashier where we might put in.  He got on the phone to a local fisherman, and soon we were heading to a private marina on the northeast side of the island.  As soon as we all parked,


the fisherman, dressed in neon orange bibs, came out to greet us.  He was – as we had heretofore found with every Norwegian we’d met – kind and welcoming, and interested in what we were doing.  While his English was less fluent than many we’d talked to, I was impressed at how easily he conversed, and thought of how parochial we Americans are, speaking our language and generally no other.


All along the populated coastlines we’d traversed, we’d seen tidy rows of buildings along the shore.


Fish sheds.  The fisherman invited us into his


explaining that he had rooms upstairs to rent to vacationers while downstairs was a kind of museum.





I noted the Liverpool United banner hanging overhead and asked if he was a fan.  Indeed he was.


To a sports fan from Boston, this has particular significance.  

John Henry, the owner of the Red Sox, also owns Liverpool United.  I asked him if he was a fan and told him my Boston connection and he smiled and immediately said in his thick accent, “John Henry!”  Small world when a Norwegian fisherman knows the name of the owner of an American sports team.  He then informed me that John Henry was actually then in Norway – Oslo, I believe he said – on his giant yacht!

But enough with the trans-national sports talk.  Time to launch.


Chart of area secured on deck of my boat.


Not only is John attuned on a daily basis to lots of weather data he finds online and just being outside, 

he is a bit of a weather/sea state station for the rest of us.  When he wears pogies, you know it’s cold and windy.  When he puts on his helmet you know conditions are going to get sporty.  And when he's wearing a wool hat, you know it’s chilly!  Here he is modeling his latest, knitted by Marybeth from the remains of a sweater kit he bought her last year in Iceland.  Nice work, MB!


Our fearless leaders were actually both modeling hats – Ben had washed the hat he found on Runde and it matched his outfit nicely.


On the way out, I paused at the sign welcoming one to the little harbor.


And then we were out of the harbor, but still protected by the land from forecast winds and swell.


Across a wide expanse of fairly calm water to our right we could see the island of Runde where we’d paddled several days ago.  As soon as we got around the headland just to our north, we encountered the bumpy water we’d been expecting.


Here’s Sergio, close to the rocks.  He is in his boat.


Here’s most of the rest of us.


I didn’t get pictures of it, but Donna, ever seeking rocks and waves with which to interact, was greeted by a larger than expected wave coming sideways at her in a long slot and went for a swim.  We all stood by as Ben, who has nearest to her, initiated the rescue.  John soon joined to put an anchor on them.  It was impressive to watch how seamlessly the two of them worked together and Donna was soon back in her boat and secured and we were on our way once again.


Another headland to round at the northwest tip of the island, and then we were in calmer water.


Cormorants on the rocks.


Jane, red in an otherwise gray landscape.


The next task:  find somewhere to land for a lunch break.  Those apps I mentioned?  Ben had consulted his cell phone topo map and saw that there was a sandy beach along this western shore.  But all we could see were boulder fields leading up to grassy fields.  We kept going.  I was trying to decide which of these bouldered areas would be least impossible to land on (my knees!  my terrible balance!) when Ben, who had powered on ahead, came back with a small cry of triumph.  Just ahead, a sandy landing area – just as the map had shown.  It wasn’t a very big beach, but it would do.   There was a wee bit of a surf landing to negotiate.


After we ate, Ben pulled out the phone and showed us the topo map of the area.


We had two options at this point:  we could turn back and retrace the sporty route we’d just traveled and play along the way before returning to the harbor.  Or we could continue around the island, about twice the distance we’d already gone.  There is something very satisfying about going all the way around a piece of land.  (If it weren’t, why would all those paddlers be going around Iceland…and Australia…and North America…and….?)  I knew what I wanted and cast my vote.  Others agreed, and so it was…continue on!

We got ready to go.  Ben was briefly halted in his efforts when he found some…Norwegian quicksand?!?


If it had been me, I would have been…nonplussed…but Ben took it with his usual cheerful equanimity.  Knee deep in sinking sand, he posed for a picture


before slowly extricating himself, being mindful to ensure that he didn’t leave his boots behind.


Then it was surf launch time



and away we went.  On the same stretch of coast, not far from our sandy beach, we all of a sudden – and briefly - found ourselves on an aqua blue sea.  This is not touched up!


But the gray waters soon returned as Ben and John turned yet another corner, this time into a passage between Nerlandsøya and Skorpa, a smaller island to the southwest. 



It must have been a slow news day on Nerlandsøya, because as soon as we were in the passage, we were greeted by a herd of curious sheep who stoop on the rocks staring down at us.  Donna stared back.


The passage between the islands turned out to be a journey of pure fun.  The high cliffs funneled the wind, and although you can’t see it here, with wind at our backs and on pretty calm water, we positively flew down the passage.


To our right was Skorpa, which you can see here looming over tiny John and Ben. 


A few words about Skorpa’s important history in World War II.  Norwegian resistance fighters in the Nazi occupation were aided by British soldiers on the “Shetland Bus,” a special operations group formed to aid the resistance fighters.  They established a link between Shetland, the islands north of Scotland, and Norway.  Many of these soldiers first landed on Skorpa on their into Norway, and exited from here as well.  We had hoped to go around Skorpa as well, but didn’t have the time.

As we flew on down the passage, we admired the rock formations to our left.



You can almost see the wind pushing Janet here.


And because they could, and because boys will be boys, well, there was this…


Under lowering skies


and with surprisingly little effort, we were at the bridge we’d crossed to get onto the island that morning.


We were back on the inhabited side of the island, and the boys raced to try and catch a ride on the wake of a passing boat.


They didn't make it.


It seems that every circumnav needs to end with a slog into a headwind, and it was no different here.  Janet and Deb.


And a bit later, just Deb,


and then we were almost back.


Oh…and remember Donna’s close encounter with a wave earlier?  Well, she apparently also had a close encounter with the rocks.


After we landed and were loading the boats, the fisherman came out to see how the day had gone.  John, who had tried earlier to pay him for the use of the marina’s launch (and the clean bathrooms as well) and been turned down, tried again.  The fisherman would not accept anything.  We were very grateful for his generosity.

John approached me just before we all got back into the cars and said, “Thank you.”  Huh?  What?  He said he would have voted for turning back after lunch so that we could play once again in the lively sea along the cliffs, but was glad for the vote to complete the circuit.  It had indeed been a wonderful day.  The variety of conditions, the startling stretch of aqua water, the greeting party of sheep, the wind-aided flight down the passage by Skorpa, almost feeling the historical importance of that uninhabited island as we flew by it…and the satisfaction of going all the way around something…it all added up to a special day.


Day Six – Friday, June 28 – Downwindin’


I had already decided that this would be my last day on the water.  I wanted to spend one day with the Land Ladies, and as Saturday would be a short day on the water anyway since the boys had ferries to catch on their long voyage back to Wales, that seemed the best day to be a tourist.

For various reasons, others opted out of paddling on the sixth day, so it ended up being John and Ben and some gals: Donna, Jane, Janet and me.  The weather forecast was interesting…


Severe Weather Alert!  Potential disruption due to wind! Do not go out at sea in a small boat.  Woo hoo!  The day’s paddle was constructed to take advantage of this.  Ben talked enthusiastically about “downwindin’,” one of his favorite activities in which the wind and waves would do most of the work.  We pored over our charts and came up with a plan to take advantage of the forecast SW wind and also have some protection if we needed it.  We drove to a smallish island that was one in a chain that ran up the west side of Hareidlandet.  Having opted out of paddling for the day, Sergio and Deb assisted by driving some of us to the launch, and would assist in retrieving Ben’s SUV and trailer at the end of the day.

Here's the launch spot.


Now where the heck is it on the chart?



Oh dear, was this to be a Don’t Mess with Donna Day?  (She was still a bit sore and swollen from the fight she’d lost with the rocks the day before.)


It almost felt as though it could be Maine.


We launched and passed beneath a bridge between two little islands, where Sergio and Deb waved us on our way.


This old ship that was part of a small local museum


and I particularly admired this guy at the stern.


We passed a tidy house at the end of the rocky island.  Nice spot!


While we did have some wind at our backs, it wasn’t much.  Ben gave instructions on catching wind waves that I found helpful, but the waves were so small at this point it was hard to do much of anything.  I had a few rides.

We passed under one of the ubiquitous single lane bridges that connected the islands.  This view doesn’t give a good sense of its size.


This support better shows you…it’s big.  And sports a nav aid.


We paddled up the island chain, looking to our right at the town of Ulsteinvik, where we  periodically shopped for groceries – and where Deb and I would end up buying very cool Norwegian hiking pants!

I didn’t take many pictures, enjoying the easy paddle,


trying to keep track of where I was on the chart, and wondering where all the wind was.  John and the other ladies paused for a time to orient themselves as well.


Eventually, the wind found us, and then it was a challenge to find a protected lunch spot.  We settled on a little island, Vattøya, but didn’t really get out of the wind.


All around us…remember those candies you used to get at the movies?  Dots?...


After lunch, the wind and waves finally combined for a proper bit of downwindin’.  I found the following waves sufficiently big, however, that I was loathe to try Ben’s “speed up at the trough” instruction because I didn’t want to be hurtling down the wave face.  But it was a nice ride back that took no time at all.

Here we are, almost home.


This was to be our last day together as a group so we’d made reservations for the whole group at a restaurant in Ulsteinvik recommended by our host at the cottage colony.  It was in a lovely old building, the ceiling supported by big posts, on the water.


An excellent meal – except for those who chose “risotto” thinking that it would be…risotto…only to find that it was really just a pile of…rice.  With some chicken on top.  I had bacalao (salt cod), which I had always thought was a Portuguese dish.  Turns out it’s a thing in Norway, too.  At the tourist office the next day I found a brochure for  “The Bacalao Tasting Experience” for merely 325 NDK (by which I mean 325 Norwegian krone, not Nigel Dennis Kayaks!).


Day Seven – Saturday, June 29 – Ålesund

And on the seventh day, back to being an on land tourist.  MB, Kandy, Donna M, Deb and I decided to get on an early fast (no cars) ferry to Ålesund so that we could climb the 300+ step path that overlooks the city and then cruise around and do a bit of shopping.  Rain was forecast, but ended up holding off for most of the day but for short bouts of more than sprinkles.

Here’s the view from the deserted ferry terminal as we awaited the arrival of the 8:30 am boat.


Once on the – almost empty – ferry, we admired the view and saw the car ferry (that discharges cars and passengers some miles from town) some distance away.


Our ferry docked right in the middle of town, and we walked immediately uphill to find the stairs leading to the overlook.  Ålesund is a beautiful town – rebuilt after a 1904 fire with many art nouveau touches in unexpected places.  Sewer covers for example.


We climbed a lot of stairs


and it was worth it for the view.


On the way back down, we paused at this kanona.  Wonder how far it could shoot?


At the bottom, we had a goofy celebration - photo courtesy of Donna, who stayed in the park below, sketching, while the rest of us tested our quads.



In town, we stopped for coffee (well, others did, I had a diet coke) and pastries.  It rained a bit.  Then we did some touristy shopping.  I found another friend!


Several hours later, it was time to catch the ferry back, as MB and Kandy would be leaving with the boat boys and trailer later in the afternoon.  Under threatening skies, this view from where we waited for the 12:30 pm ferry.


When it arrived, a few teenage girls looking a bit green about the gills disembarked.  We discovered why when the ferry got going.  It was one swelly ride back!  Fun to look out the huge windows and see the smooth swells advance at an angle toward us and feel the ship go up and over.

It turned out that the sea group had had a wonderful and somewhat wild day, launching again from our beach and looking for conditions out toward the little islands we’d visited on our Two Lighthouse day.  They found them!  Here’s a few photos Donna gave me.




Beautiful waves and light.


But their day ended prematurely with thunder and lightning.  They apparently made a beeline back for safety, led by Jane, who is always the pack-leading energizer bunny in the group!  They were all excited about their day, and John said that he wished that we’d all been out there together.

And then, we had one last sit down together.  All of us, both land and sea creatures.  John asked everyone to come up with three words to either describe or refer to some aspect of our experience in Norway.  No one could repeat what someone else had said.  Awesome, spectacular, magnificent, beautiful…were all quickly snagged.  I kept the list as people spoke, but won’t reproduce it here.  It was a nice way to end the week, each of us offering positive nouns, adjectives and verbs to the group, an enriched stew of descriptors  of the week that we had all shared.

It was sad to see John, Ben, Marybeth and Kandy leave.  Perhaps the rest of us felt – at least momentarily – a bit at loose ends.  It was only mid afternoon, and of course it would be light until…September, maybe?...so the ladies all decided to take a walk at a nature preserve a short drive down the road.  We could walk as long as we wanted on a path overlooking the coastline where we’d paddled the first day.

There were cows,


more pacific and a lot less interested in us than those Janet and I had encountered on our previous walk.

Donna and Jane posed by some big boulders.


And here’s Donna, Jane, Janet, Deb and Donna.


We stopped for a time to gaze out at the sea.


Everything was looking pretty ominous as we turned back,


but it was reassuring to know that we could stay oriented.


A nice end to a somewhat sad last day.


Sunday and Monday, June 30-July 1 – Last Days


Only it wasn’t the last day!  We actually had two more days to explore, rest, read, pack and enjoy the view of our little harbor and its boats, a broad expanse of water, the islands (including Runde, which we’d circled) beyond and above it all an always changing tapestry of clouds and light.

Having missed seeing Ålesund, Jane and Janet took the ferry to town, while the two Donna’s and I drove around a bit.  We returned to the little village where we’d landed the first day.  We stopped at the beach and shopped for rocks.  Very colorful.


We had wanted to see the local museum, a modern structure constructed around an historic ship, but we were too early to meet the locals.


But we strolled around, looking at what we could.


It was a nice day to be out and about.


The friendly man in the pink shorts from the first day, whose house was on the main street, saw us walking by and leaned out his window to greet us.  Today he was wearing a pink shirt.  We chatted briefly, then got into the car to continue our leisurely tour of the island.

I had admired this barn every time we passed it, and asked if we might stop the car so I could get a photograph.  It actually reminded me of old barns in the part of northeastern Connecticut where my family used to have an old farmhouse.


I also enjoyed seeing all the houses with actively green roofs.


And the lupine, the giant lupine, everywhere!



We returned briefly to Flø as we’d heard the town gallery would be open and several of us wanted to buy one of their Go With the Flø t-shirts.  It turned out that not only did they have a downstairs gallery of rather strange (and to me, unappealing) modern art, there was also a special upstairs gallery that one had to pay to visit.  Because we bought stuff, the owner let us in for free.  It featured an exhibit of artwork by Brian Eno of all people.  The name will mean something to you if you are of a certain age and liked a certain kind of music.  He is a musician, artist and record producer.  He was a member of Roxy Music and produced albums by the Talking Heads among others.  I have some of his music, recorded with David Byrne, formerly of the Talking Heads, on my cell phone.  What his work was doing at this remote gallery in a small town in a non-touristed part of Norway I do not know.  I do know that mid five figures would get you a strange piece of art and the music that he composed to go with it.  Or for less, you could something smaller.  I enjoyed the effect the art made in the stark upper gallery, but was not tempted to buy…


We still had time to kill before picking up Janet and Jane at the ferry and came upon a beautiful long and broad white sand beach.  At one end was a memorial to a famous Norwegian sea battle in the year 986, when the Norwegians defeated the Danish Vikings, thus preventing a new era of Danish rule.


It had been a pretty idyllic week, but then, you see something that reminds you it can be pretty weird and creepy world out there…even in beautiful Norway at midsummer.  As we went to retrieve J and J coming off the ferry, I saw this tumbledown farm building and something about it caught my eye…


See anything?

 We stopped and sure enough as I got closer...


Freddy Kruger!  Yikes! 


After this, it was cheering (if not tempting) to see this pastry in the gas station where we stopped to fill up on the way home...


Although it would still be light until...September...we were glad to get home, where we could read


play cards and eat bad pocorn,


and watch the kayak lessons in our little protected harbor that never seemed to involve more than paddling in circles not far from shore…in really good boats!  It drove Donna crazy watching the mindless NO FUN activity.  If she were running the class…  well, rocks and waves…


On Monday, our last full day, it was raining and foggy.  We took a ride up a gravel road to some lakes high up in the craggy hill/mountains behind us.  The streams were running.


Wildflowers blooming.


It was hard to see the lake below.


I liked this little cottage tucked by the lake.


Janet posed in the fog and rain.


Cows looked at us blankly as we passed.


It rained more and then it didn’t.  I took a walk out onto the long jetty that protected our little harbor.  Wildflowers on the way there.


and there were impressive rocks.


But I particularly enjoyed the view back at our little cottage colony.  David, Donna and I were in the cabin farthest to the left and next to us were Sergio and Deb.  And at the far right, two newer cabins housed John, Ben, MB and Kandy and Donna, Jane and Janet.


We packed and fretted about suitcase weights as many of us were bringing home rock souvenirs.

The next morning, some of us had very early flights, so we had to catch the…2:30 AM ferry!  Which meant leaving at 1:45 am.  Which meant getting up around 1:00 am.  Which meant…don’t bother to go to bed!  I dozed on the couch and got up at the appointed hour.  We were early for our final ferry ride of the trip.  We didn’t have much company on board for the smooth crossing.


As it turned out, the airport didn’t even open until 5:00.  But we were greeted by this friendly ball of fur, who promptly settled atop Janet’s duffel, where he remained until they opened the airport doors an hour later.


And so our adventure ended early on a Tuesday morning.  We all made weight despite the rock souvenirs many of us brought home.  We said our goodbyes and scattered to our different flights.






So…Those three words we all had to come up with related to our Norwegian midsummer adventure…  One of mine was “blessed.”  Those of you who’ve paddled with me may have heard me use it before in reference to an experience we were having.  Maybe I first felt blessed relative to paddling when I was out on the water in Maine in the fog or rain and we had it all to ourselves because who else would want to be out there in those conditions.  Everything might have been quiet, and perhaps fluorescent buoys were the only color we could see around us.  Maybe a small rocky island topped with small fir trees loomed up out of the fog.  Or there was an eagle.  Or an osprey loudly guarding a nest.  Or a seal and pup.  Or a fish – or even a dolphin – jumping, startling us with a splash.  So many experiences that have been special up and down the New England coast.  And now, I feel very fortunate (blessed) to have taken the show on the road, to have seen some extraordinarily beautiful places in distant countries from the seat of a small slim boat in the company of people that I really like.  Happy sea kayaking adventures are indeed all alike.  The scenery has changed (although I favor – sorry, Donna – cooler northern climes); the conditions have varied dramatically; boats have been just fine or acceptable or barely ok.  But the trips from which I’ve come away smiling and renewed and feeling ever so grateful – blessed – have been those that I have shared with friends.  Thanks to our coaches and all of this trip’s participants.  I know we’ll do it again!  Without you all to share it with, Norway’s extraordinary and varied beauty would have been memorable but ...  It was the shared experienced that made the trip great.  It also didn't hurt that the dire weather forecasts we'd all tracked as we prepared for the trip turned out to be wrong.  We'd had blue sky and some sun and clouds and wind and a very little bit of rain - until the last day when we were all off the water for good.  Did i say that we were indeed blessed on this trip?

Some of you have likely forgotten that I made reference to our merry band gaining some measure of local fame.  More than one person with whom we came in contact commented on how unusual it was that a group of Americans (and that includes our northern neighbors, too!) would find itself in this part of Norway.  One such person was a newspaper reporter at the midsummer bonfire, whom we referred to John and Ben – not knowing if there would be any followup.  There was.  Toward the end of the trip, the reporter returned and interviewed them. This was the result:


I am fortunate to have a Danish friend who is also familiar with Norwegian who translated it for us.  (Thanks, Satu!)  My favorite bit:  “many local paddlers would have been hesitant to do” what [our] group did.  Thanks to our combined skills, and the presence of two world class paddlers, we were able to venture to the exposed sides of different islands.  (And thanks to cars and a boat trailer, we were able to go inland to one of those most beautiful fjords in the country.)  Did I say that I think we were blessed?

But no trip is perfect.  I came away with three regrets: 1) That we didn’t paddle all the way to The Seven Sisters in Geirangerfjord; 2) That we weren’t able to circumnavigate Skorpa and soak in its historical significance; and 3) That we weren’t all out there together playing in the rough water and racing a thunderstorm home on the last day. 


Maybe next time?

























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Best trip report yet. What a magnificent place (is that one of the words used by the group at the end of the trip?). Stunningly beautiful. Thank you so much for taking all those photos and taking the time to write up the detailed report. Blessed indeed.


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Thanks for the memories, Pru. My Norway trip was farther north, starting in Bodo and paddling across the arctic circle. I think Norway is like Italy: plunk down anywhere and you can't go wrong. I had posted a trip report but could not find it. This was the trip:


Crossing The Arctic Circle” Exploratory Expedition 2000

10 days. July 4 - 13. $1,950.00

For the first time Crossing Latitudes will offer an exploratory expedition south of the Arctic. This allows us to paddle across the magic latitude of 66°33’, the Arctic Circle! It can’t be more exciting than this. According to fishermen and friends in Norway the coast of Helgeland is a paddlers paradise. Come and join us explore this wild archipelago with thousands of islands. Paddle by some of the largest pelagic bird rookeries in Norway and visit small coastal fishing villages. The Svartisen Glacier, Norway’s second largest, is an awe inspiring landmark along our route.


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