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KAYAKING THE FAROE ISLANDS - An Exploratory Experience; August 29-September 17, 2023


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Kayaking the Faroe Islands - An Exploratory Experience

August 29 - September 17, 2023




What is it that has always drawn my attention to far northern…or far southern…parts of the world?  Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, Alaska, the northern islands of Scotland…and Antarctica, the latter the only one I haven’t paddled in.  The wild barren landscapes and muted color palettes.  Stories of intrepid adventurers, of successes and spectacular deadly failures.  The absence of snakes :).  My library at home is filled with books about these places, books acquired long before I ever sat in a kayak.  But the Faroe Islands… I might never have known about this isolated archipelago but for three things (excluding a vague awareness of the phrase “Faroe Island salmon” on restaurant menus).  First, one of my sister’s high school classmates became a successful novelist and her first book was about an anthropologist doing field work in the Faroe Islands; not much stayed with me other than a vague memory of the descriptions of the mountains and cliffs, and one scene where the protagonist is attacked by arctic terns (an experience I’ve had in Iceland, by the way).  Second, two NSPN members, Rob and Cathy Folster, did a land-based trip there a number of years ago, and the pictures they posted were breathtaking.  And finally, the day we finished the Iceland Hornstrandir expedition in 2021 the team gathered for a celebratory meal, where our lead Icelandic guide, Guðni Páll Viktorsson of Sea Kayak Island asked if anyone might be interested in an expedition to the Faroe Islands.  Every hand at the table shot up.  Did I actually even know where the Faroe Islands were?  Out There, yes.  But where exactly was There?  Well…here:



Inside the diamond is the Faroe Islands, isolated out there in the North Atlantic with little protection from whatever weather systems come barreling up from the south and west.  As we were to discover…but more on that later.  Eighteen islands connected by tunnels, bridges and ferries.


Wild seas and tall cliffs.  Fierce currents running between and beside islands, and wind, always the wind.  And rain.  Tiny villages nestled at the ends of fjords.  Many more sheep than people, shaggy multicolored sheep mostly successfully negotiating steep grazing land, although evidence of those that didn’t, a carcass floating up against a rocky cliff.  What could be more appealing than that?  (I have paddling friends, and you know who you are…who wouldn’t agree.)

And so, two years after it was first mentioned, John Carmody and Guðni Páll Viktorsson were able to arrange what was planned to be an expedition to circumnavigate most of the archipelago.  Sigurð Davidsen, who runs his own kayak guiding service (www.kajakk.fo) in the Faroe Islands, joined us and provided local knowledge.  Anula Jochym and Gummi Breiðdal from Sea Kayak Iceland rounded out the guiding (and as it turned out, transport) crew.  Six of us ended up joining the expedition:  Michelle Forseth, Bernie Graham, Rebecca Hoye and Peggy O’Neal came from Minnesota; Dawn Dickie Stewart from North Carolina; and me (from Massachusetts).  Two more had planned to be with us but for different reasons were unable to come.


Cambridge - Copenhagen - Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

August 29 - September 1


And so, after all of the usual pre-trip list-making, long-range weather-checking (what to wear?!), double long-range weather-checking (will it really rain that much?), and triple long-range weather-checking (I guess it really will…and  I better bring enough layers to stay warm and dry on and off the water)…I was finally packed and ready to go.  I feared the luggage would burst open!


I had a direct overnight flight from Boston to Copenhagen, and woke to an orange Danish good morning.


  I had a good view of a perplexing sight - a bridge to…nowhere?


Thank heavens for Mr, Google, because a quick check of those very words informed me that what I was seeing was the Öresund Bridge, connecting Sweden and Denmark via a five-mile bridge, the longest in Europe, which ends on an artificial island where the road dives into an undersea tunnel for another two and a half miles.

After a several hour layover in the Copenhagen airport (pastries!), I was on the final leg to the Faroe Islands.  It was a beautiful day for flying - which would make it rather unusual.  Here are my first views of the islands.



The 45 minute cab drive from the airport on the island of Vágar to Tórshavan, the capital city was a beautiful one.  A fjord with three whales, waterfalls cascading down the steep hills.  All the sites breathtakingly new.


I was the first of the team to arrive, and spent the next day wandering about the little city.  The harbor








and buildings, including the distinctive red buildings of the Tinganes district, the seat of the government.  Grass-roofed houses…we’re not in Washington DC anymore Dorothy…




The pretty Lutheran cathedral


with ship models hanging from the ceiling, and partially submerged saint on the altar cloth.




There were colorful murals and artistic graffiti here and there







and other interesting things to look at.  Here is a map of Iceland showing the location of Faroese shipwrecks dating back to 1870


and a pretty relief of men and a fishing dory.


And then there were confusingly linked photos of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Queen Elizabeth hanging on the wall of a harbor coffeeshop.


Flowers were in summer-like bloom at the beginning of September.




On August 31, those of us who had already arrived went down to the harbor to meet the Iceland ferry,


that was carrying Guðni, John, Gummi, Anula and Michelle…and a van pulling a trailer with all of our boats.


We gathered for hellos


after which The Boys drove off to organize whatever they had to organize.  The rest of us walked over to the fort and lighthouse next to the ferry terminal.  Here’s Peggy with the lighthouse


and Rebecca peering down the barrel of a cannon.


The next day the rest of us went shopping (hand knit sweaters!  wool hats!) and took a walk through the only park in Tórshavn - complete with actual trees (not many on the Faroe Islands) and a duck filled brook.  Here we saw the first of what would be a number of modern naked-lady statues that we would see in various locations.  This one called for a silly pose.


Nor sure if this bird was mimicking us or just amgry


Beyond the park was the National Gallery of the Faroe Islands, a small but wonderful museum.  I was particularly taken by these paintings:








There was also a special exhibit that featured a dizzying walk-in underwater-esque installation.


We found the main supermarket for last-minute food shopping at an actual mini-mall not far from the harbor.  In addition to stocking up on sausage and cheese I needed tortillas, and where would one find tortillas but in the Meksikanskt section of the market.


A tiring day with a lot of walking around.  Dawn and Michelle rested with their food purchases,


then I took a seat.


The next day would have those of us who had been staying at a hotel in town move to a campground a mile away.  The whole group would finally be together, and the expedition would begin.


Saturday - Sunday, September 2 - 3

Tórshavn Campground and Eight Hours Driving N-S, E-W All Over the Faroe islands


We’d had a lovely several days in Tórshavn, with often sunny skies and light winds.  How long would that hold out?  It wouldn’t.  By the time we all moved to the campground, it was raining.  Here’s the view from the campground over to the island of Nólsoy, one of the several islands reachable only by boat.


The Windy app, so familiar to many of us for paddling in the United States (together with a Faroese app, Rak) proved most helpful for forecasting what was happening and more importantly, what was to come.  This Windy screenshot from September 2, showed the west coast of Iceland being absolutely hammered by huge seas, and that the same weather was heading our way.


And this synoptic chart also showed what was lurking farther south also heading in our direction.


We sat in the warm and dry kitchen at the campground and spread out a map of all of the islands.  Here’s John with Anula and Sigurð looking on with sober expressions.


The next morning, Sunday, we again looked at the chart.


It was clear that the wind (15-25 knots gusting to 35) would not allow us to get on the water.  The five foot short period swells also were not inviting.   And with the long range forecasts, it was starting to look as though plans for a circumnavigation of the archipelago would likely not be possible. 

Sigurð had mapped out a driving route that would allow us to drive from island to island to the extent that we could, both to see some spectacular sites and also scout out possible launching and landing spots for future paddles.  And so we set off, in van and Sigurd’s car.  Every road trip requires fuel - for both vehicles and passengers.  At a gas station outside of town, we all fueled up.  Extreme merriment followed Michelle’s hot dog purchase


which inspired Dawn and me to join.  Let’s just say the merriment was sufficient that a complete stranger asked to take our photo!


Off we went into the foggy and overcast day.  The views didn’t disappoint.


We went from the island of Streymoy to Vágar in the first of a number of tunnels that day.  The undersea tunnels all feature art installation - blue and green lights - at their lowest points.


One of the interesting features of driving around the Faroe Islands is that the weather on one island can give way to something completely different when one emerges from either an undersea or through-a-mountain tunnel.  On Vágar, we left the fog behind and enjoyed an interesting and changing sky of sun and clouds, both puffy white and threateningly gray.  We stopped at a beach (where as I recall there was a small, flat, unprotected campground) and looked out to the Drangarnir sea stacks in the distance.


To the right is the island Mykines, another reachable only by boat.  It had acquired some fame for us after we’d seen a youtube video of a Norwegian sailor caught up in a huge and fearsome tide race that had taken him by surprise - surprising in itself because the fierce currents throughout the Faroe Islands are well known and well documented.


Next, we stopped at the Mulafossur waterfall.  Breathtaking…and windy!




Our boys in blue gazed down at it.


We took the path up to the little village you can see in the first photo.  Here’s Sigurð and Anula.


And a look back from where we’d come.


The settlement featured the traditional black buildings and sod roofs.


Nearby, a shaggy little horse grazed


and in the distance, dwarfed by the sweeping hills, were four little cottages, available to let according to a sign we passed on the road.  Frankly, it looked like an abandoned movie set and I have no idea if anyone can actually stay there now.


Back in the car, we drove on.  By now, I was completely disoriented.  Which way is north?  Tunnels take away your orientation unless you have a map on your lap.  What are we looking at in this gray view?  I have no idea!


We stopped for a break and I admired these painted rocks


and of course was particularly drawn to the bear.


Dawn, Michelle and I powered up with a Snickers bar, which turned out to be the power snack of choice for this Faroe Island group.


Another stop at a ridiculously windy place - I think this was overlooking the channel between Streymnoy and Esteroy.  We were looking down at huge long period swells rolling in from the sea.  But for the wind, it might have been a fun place to be in a kayak!  Bernie took a video - which unfortunately won’t post here - of all of us trying to stand and stay still enough to take pictures.  John’s beard and the ladies hair least tell which way the wind was blowing.


And here’s Gummi literally leaning into it.


On the drive back, we saw the Giant and the Witch stacks in the distance.


And like good tourists we all ended up taking the same picture!


We headed next for the north end of Eysturoy, along the way admiring more sun and light and views.




Here’s the village of Gjogv on Eysturoy, which features a long canyon entrance at the bottom of a long flight of stairs.  Fortunately for us (for we would end up here in a few days) there’s a proper boat ramp around to the right.


Kalsoy Island is across the way.



A village - not sure which…


And at our final stop, Gummi perused a vending machine somewhere surprisingly located in the last of a row of boat houses.  A few minutes after I took this picture, a man came along and locked the door.


And it was finally time to head home after a last look at what appeared to be a too-treacherous launch/land spot.


Another view under friendly skies.


And here is the route we took that day…No wonder a good deal of the time most of us had no idea where we were!



Monday, September 4



Almost a week after I arrived on the Faroe Islands, we moved from the campground in town to what would end up being our home for the rest of our time there.  The long-range weather forecast offered no hope for our being able to do the circumnavigation we’d planned.  Sigurð´s  father and sister were the currenrt owners of a long-held family farm on the water in Streymoy overlooking Eysteroy across the way.  They raised sheep, geese and hens.  The geese bound for a Christmas table in several months, the sheep also for eating I’m not sure when.  His father had a boat for fishing moored down by the dock, and there was a small rocky beach just fine for launching kayaks.  Best of all, there was a house!  with heat!  and a bathroom!  and kitchen! that proved to be a most welcome retreat when the weather turned particularly nasty later in our stay.

We set up our tents in the sheep field (fortunately for our stay the sheep were confined to another on the other side of the road) that required a bit of grooming before we could pitch them.  Shovels and rakes were perfect for moving aside piles of sometimes prodigious amounts of sheep poop.  (A quick word here on some of the clothes that we wore…  Having been to Iceland, all of us had come to learn that the footwear of choice was low rubber boots - which proved perfect for the Faroe Islands, not only because of the rain and wet grass, but because they were just the thing for trudging through a field recently vacated by sheep.)  Here is the whole camp, all set up.


It was finally time to get on the water, if only for a quick shakedown cruise.  We had all spent weeks on expeditions in the Scorpios that had come from Iceland, so there was instant familiarity.  We launched and headed north, fortunately fighting only a bit of current.








Sigurð stopped by a dock and started fooling with some ropes hanging in the water.


It turned out that mussels were making their home there, and he and Rebecca stopped to strip some off for later consumption.


It felt great to be on the water again, and paddling unloaded boats was certainly a plus.  It was mostly sunny and there was no rush to get anywhere, so we paddled and looked at the scenery.  Here’s Dawn.


On our way back, Sigurð and Guðni conversed as they headed back toward the launch.


On the far shore, there were bouldery fields.


We would become very familiar with the bridge between Streymoy and Eysteroy as time went on and here’s Sigurð paddling under it.


Our camp from the water.


And after a paddle of only a few hours, we were back on land.


The sun was still shining (!) and we took the opportunity to pull out our camp chairs and enjoy the afternoon.  Michelle


and Rebecca and Dawn, sunning with beers.


This was the view to the south from my tent.


We later joined others up at the house, one of the very few times that we sat outside to end a day.


Sigurð cooked up the big fat mussels he’d culled.  Just plain, with no butter, they were delicious.


When it got dark, we moved inside to discuss plans for the next day.  As always, it was serious business.



Finally, time for bed as the day turned to night.




Tuesday, September 5

Eiði - Tjørnuvik - Eiði


As was the case on our Icelandic expedition two years ago, John and Guðni encouraged us to come up with a plan for the day.  Utilizing our charts, and Windy (wind and seas) and Rak (currents) apps, we would come up with an itinerary.  Paying attention to the currents running between islands and along headlands was of special importantance.  The Faroe Islands feature tidal currents much faster than we are generally used to dealing with in the US.  A route that required commitment to continuing in a certain direction because tidal flows would prevent returning the way we’d come were of particular note.  Fortunately, the Rak app gave information about the speed and direction of the flow throughout the day anywhere in the Faroe Islands.  We relied on knowing the time of slack and turning tides to plan a route.  The team (Michelle, Bernie, Rebecca, Peggy and I) would generally sit down in the morning to come up with a plan.  We did so this morning, planning what would be our first day of “real” paddling.  I can’t remember the plan we made because as it turned out, everyone else had piled into the van first thing that morning to check out the sea state from the overlook on Esturoy that had been so windy the day before.  They returned with the news that the giant swells were now gone and that paddling out into and across the channel from the town of Eiði at the north of the island would be possible today.

Eiði featured a very hospitable boat ramp in a calm harbor.


John and Guðni prepared by the Salmon Protein factory, our first up close view of the Faroe Islands salmon industrial complex.  There would be more views - both on and off the water - on other days.


Gummi was clearly happy to be launching, maybe especially in his brand new drysuit.


Indeed, after days of anticipation, we were all feeling good about finally seeing what the Faroe Islands had to offer from sea level.


As I said, the harbor was protected and calm.


Michelle in her orange boat paddled next to the orange rescue boat.  (Sigurð told us that each day he’d call the rescue service in Tórshavn to tell them our plans and would also call when we were off the water at the end of the day.  He said they expressed appreciation for the knowledge.)


Once we rounded the breakwater, we were out into choppy seas.


We approached a cave.


Closer, where we had a better view of the lively water at the mouth,


and closer, 


Did we go into that one?  I don’t remember.  There would be plenty more to come.  So we started across the channel toward Tjørnuvik.  Rebecca was happy about that; of course she always seemed happy about everything.


The farther we got, the livelier the water - and the better the view of the other side.  I think John has his cell phone out to take a picture.  I’d never seen him take pictures on the water before.  The Faroe Islands pretty much beg for being photographed!


Once across, we could see the little village of Tjørnuvik, which in addition to being wonderfully scenic is apparently known as a cold-water surfer’s paradise!  Really…you can look it up!  From this distance, it was hard to see the waves, but we did see people on the beach.


We landed for lunch up a set of stairs to the right of the village.  That evening, when we were discussing our favorite moment of the day, John said his was when he got out of his boat onto the stairs to find that they weren’t at all slippery!  Good thing (and good thing that we mostly had plastic boats) as we were hauled up one by one.






There was a beautiful aqua blue slot next to our landing spot.


Guðni offered Anula some sum of money if she would jump in.  She walked over and peered down, appearing to be ready to accept the challenge, but in the end just opted to eat lunch like the rest of us.


After lunch, we walked a way to get a better view of the village.  You can actually see the waves here, but there weren’t any surfers that day.


We were drawn to a cave across the fjord that ran under the narrow road into the village.




The view from inside.


We returned to the other side, where Michelle found a fun spot to play.


Then it was time to leave the fjord and follow the coast north a ways.  Here’s Bernie, with the famous Giant and Witch stacks we'd seen from land in the distance at the tip of Eysturoy.


There were more caves




There were lively seas outside this one,


and more views of the stacks, here with Peggy and Gummi.


I wish I had some photos of the crossing back toward the launch, but the sea became increasingly confused the closer we got to the other side and it was two hands on the paddle for everyone.  We had hoped to be able to head toward the stacks but the sea state had something to say about that.  As Guðni put it,  he “just wasn’t feeling it.”  But the stacks weren’t going anywhere, and as it turned out, there would be other opportunities to paddle to them.  It was a challenging paddle back with waves hitting us from all sides, but eventually we were back in the calm of the harbor, with a nice view of Eiði spread across the hill.


On the way home, we rewarded ourselves with a stop at Rose’s cafe, for coffee (for coffee-drinkers) and pastries.  Rose greeted us; it turned out she had relatives in Minnesota!  The food was really good - enough that we planned for a dinner there later in the week.  And as if cookies from Rose’s - and a mango(!) Diet Pepsi from the gas station weren’t enough, Sigurd’s parents stopped by that evening with delicious sweet rolls baked by Sigurð´s mom!



Wednesday, September 6

Æðuvík - Syðrugøta


This was to be our longest (about 15 nm) paddle, a journey from the southeast corner of Esturoy, past two headlands that may or may not be challenging, and on to a village at the end of a bay past the second headland.  The forecast called for fog and overcast with winds of 11-13 knots from the SSE that might help push us along.  Gusts to 20 also forecast.  As it turned out, the day was very calm with little wind and no gusts.  It did, however, remain very foggy throughout the day.  We launched next to a fairly depressing campground that may or may not have had room for tents.  All we saw were a few RV’s.  Maybe it was just the day that made it appear unappealing.  For the first time, we had to set up a shuttle because we were doing a one way trip.  While the shuttle was being set up, the rest of us launched and headed south toward the end of Esturoy, planning to turn around and meet up with the shuttlers when we passed the launch on our planned northward journey.


The sea was so calm, it was a helmet-less day for many, including Rebecca, at least to start.


Bernie kept his lid on, though.


John and Anula lagged behind in the fog.


We turned around after about 20 minutes, and saw a ship in the distance.


There was a group of school kids playing on the rocks by the launch.  (You can see the campground RV’s up above them.)


The shuttlers arrived just as we did, and we all headed north.  Guðni and Sigurd paddled next to a waterfall.  Sigurð told us that above the cliffs that we could see were steep hills - likely covered with sheep - that we couldn’t see because of the fog.


It was relaxing paddling along, hugging the cliff face and admiring its varied colors.




There were caves, but we had miles to go and unfortunately it wasn’t to be a play day…  Rebecca had donned her helmet by now in hopes….but it was not to be.  We passed on by.


Another appealing cave that no one went into.


Although there are none in this pictures, sheep grazed above us a good deal of the time as we glided along.


We stopped for lunch - not everyone got out of their boats - on some rather uninviting slippery rocks.


It was chilly being out of the boat, and I was glad when it was time to get back out on the water.


John did a nifty launch that required some 180 gymnastics to end up facing the right way in his boat.  (If it had been me, I would likely have ended up taking a swim, but of course John pulled it off with aplomb.)


We did stop in one cave.  At this point, we were getting sufficiently jaded that - as one person put it - if it wasn’t big enough to fit a cathedral inside, it wasn’t worth stopping for.  This one might have held a small cathedral.


There were waterfalls




and little caves.


The headlands we had to go around proved to be easy, with perhaps a small tiderace, easily avoided if one wanted to, at the end of one of them.  We had to make one crossing of a mile and half or so in dense fog, and comnplctely nailed the landing.  I didn’t take any pictures.  As we ended the journey, we passed some modern houses up on a hill, which Sigurð said were among the most expensive in the Faroe Islands.  


We approached the village of Syðrugøta, drawing the attention of a local news blogger as were to find out.


We landed on a nice sandy beach


where Anula manned (womaned?) the convenient hose (many spots where we landed had fresh water hoses) and sprayed down both boats and paddlers.


Above the beach, there was a helpful bird ID sign.


Dawn stopped for a portrait


before everyone got out of paddling gear into warm dry clothes, and waited for the arrival of the shuttle so that we could load up.


The paddles were neatly stashed


and we carried boats up onto the trailer.  Here’s Peggy tying one down.


And Anula and Gummi…


and Anula, who is small enough to be able to crouch on loaded boats.


The news blogger approached and interviewed Sigurd in Faroese.  On the way home, there was this view as we approached home.  The bridge, and our camp under the clouds.


It wasn’t likely that anything wold dry hanging here.  Later, we got in the habit of hanging drysuits in the little low-ceilnged half-basement in the house.


That night, Sigurð went online and found the article the blogger had written.  Apparently it starts with something about seeing a group of paddlers emerging from the fog.  For those of you who can read Faroese, or those who just might enjoy photos from a different vantage point, here’s the article…



It was a satisfying day, if not as exciting as the day before!  The fog had obscured a lot of the view, but we had enjoyed putting in miles without much effort.  The next day would be another weather and conditions wakeup call!


Thursday, September 7

Around the Peninsula - Eiði and the Giant and the Witch


When I woke up on Thursday morning, it was pouring rain and the wind was blowing.  I wrote in my journal - in caps - “ABSOLUTE SHIT WEATHER TODAY.  Wind g[ust] to 30; rain! WHAT ON EARTH ARE WE DOING?”  Well, what we did was go out and paddle…having one of the most challenging, varied, beautiful days of the trip!

But first,  I greeted several of the farm’s sheep.  Feeling a bit sad that they didn’t know their fate, where I did.  (OK, I’m a city girl who is generally able to be in denial - as many of us are - about where, exactly, our food comes from.)




Once again, we launched at Eiði, this time planning to stay along the Esturoy coast rather than crossing over as we had done two days earlier.  The wind from the south would push us along - at least to start - and we wouldn’t have seas crashing confusingly against the coast as we had previously.  This would also mean that it would be possible to approach the Giant and Witch stacks as we had elected not to try before.  The weather actually started to look promising when we got to the harbor in Eiði.  Peeks of sun lit up the green cliffs opposite.


Would the day become an unexpected sunny blessing?  Well…no…


Minutes after we got onto the water the skies opened.  What could one do but smile into it, as the three of us did.


We sought refuge in a cave


with its vivid colors.


Looking out, rain and gloom.


If the rain wasn’t enough, there were always waterfalls to rinse oneself off…


This was the coolest cave we saw…and unfortunately I took my worst pictures here.  Please forgive the blurriness.  It had two entrances


and a roundabout inside!


And a waterfall at the entrance.


It eventually stopped raining and we took little time moving north, pushed along by the very strong wind at our backs,


but stopping in the most appealing caves.  I liked the way the rock stripes drew one in from the top and sides.


But the area of caves was past and now we had to pay attention to building seas as we approached the end of the island and the stacks around the corner.  But first, we were blessed with the complete low arc of this rainbow.  It wasn’t easy to let go of my paddle to document it, but it was too beautiful not to.


And finally we could see the stacks, with the rainbow ending to the left.


Guðni took the lead to scope out the best course past the stacks.


He scouted ahead while we waited 


and eventually we all took the route between the Giant and island.  Here we are coming around the headland under a faint rainbow…If you look closely, you can see Guðni leaning into his stroke as he hit the wind funneling across the flat narrow stretch between the town and campground, where we’d eventually land.


The next group came around under darker skies and more prominent rainbow.


The wind was absolutely howling directly in our faces.  John later said that it was likely about 25 knots gusting to 30, but many of us would swear it was more!  Getting back the mile or so to where we could land was a real chore for everyone - some more than others.  But with great effort, we all made it one way or the other, landing on a beach covered with big uneven cobbles.


We all made it up without any twisted ankles - or worse! - and it was a relief to change into dry clothes.  (It was also nice that Anula, who had stayed ashore to move the van and trailer, was there with cookies and cake for everyone!)


Kudos to the people who managed to carry all the boats up to the trailer without incident.  Peggy’s boat had had a skeg issue, which John and Sigurð inspected.  You can see the grass - and Peggy’s hair - blowing out to where we’d come from.


Grass here blowing out at well.  Someone joked about continuing on toward the waterfall and beyond but there was no way that was going to happen!


Instead, we welcomed the van, trailer, and Anula (in her borrowed Ikea hat! - Thank you for the laughs, Jeff!


Our final view,  before we dove back to our camp, was this look at a new rainbow.


A day that had started with so little promise had turned into a fantastic one.  Insane pouring rain to start, caves and more caves (providing in each case welcome respite from the wind and rain, warm air and cold inside), stacks, wind and more wind and yet more wind, and magical rainbows appearing and disappearing.  One of those days that despite the challenges, felt like a blessing on the water.


Friday, September 8



Oh lordy, what a night!!!  Torrential rain and WIND!  Thank heavens I restaked tent before turning in!


And the day wasn’t going to get any nicer on the water.  I mean…look at what was coming our way!


It was for sure not a day to paddle.  It was a day to head into a town where we could do a little shopping, have a nice lunch and get a hot shower (for those without bathing suits) or taking a hot shower after swimming and soaking in indoor and outdoor hot pools (for those with).  I unfortunately was one of the former, but was happy to anticipate a change of (some) clothes and having freshly washed hair.  Klaksvík is the second largest town in the Faroe Islands, located about a 45 minute drive from our camp, on the island of Borðoy.


It is situated on a saddle between two fjords, and it is possible to walk from one fjord to the other (which some of us did to eat lunch at a restaurant recommended in the tourist information shop).There were nice clean-lined modern buildings, this one in the foreground with neatly clipped grass roof.


And more interesting sculpture in the naked lady genre.


After lunch, we all went to the svimjihol.  I was sorry not to have brought a bathing suit (frankly it hadn’t occurred to me to do so after I heard there were no hot pools like those in Iceland), but I’ve learned my lesson: never travel without one.  Swimming pools, hot pools, water slides (three who shall remain nameless apparently ignored a sign - in English! - saying one person at a time on the slide, and following the lead of three young persons, slid down in a connected train), sauna, showers.  But just a hot shower followed by sitting in a warm lobby had me almost asleep by the time others emerged, smiling and squeaky clean, an hour later.

That night, we had dinner at Rose’s cafe, where we had the (small) place almost to ourselves.  I had a delicious meal of cod, roasted baby potatoes and a green vegetable.  I would go back if I’m ever again in the neighborhood.

Before we all turned in, we had a discussion about what we might do with the next week.  One of the options was actually pulling up stakes and taking a ferry to an otherwise inaccessible island and camping there.  Only one person favored that option.  The general argument against: it would take two days to move (a day to take the ferry and drive to the campground and another to return), and as several of us put it, we had barely scratched the surface of amazing places easily accessible from our present spot.  We slept on it.


Saturday, September 9

Eiði - Gjógv


It was a rather dispiriting night with more wind and rain.  Not conditions that would favor a vote in favor of packing up and going somewhere else.  As Guðni put it at some point, we had all grown “soft” with a nice warm house to retreat to when it was nasty outside - as it often was.  (And did I mention that the front hall, where we left our rubber boots, had radiant floor heating, which dried things off really quickly?)  And so a vote was taken and decision was made: we would stay.  Although it had been a dreary,  windy night, it was nothing like the day before.  Winds were forecast from the WSW for six to 15 knots, with gusts up in the low 20’s.  This was starting to feel like normal conditions.  Swells were close to six feet at 10 seconds - and these tended not to be nice gentle ones that one could just slide up and over.  Our group did some thinking about routes that would offer some protections, until John interjected\, “Why are you trying to hide from the swells?”  Given the forecast for the days ahead - likely until the end of our trip - he said that “this would be our last chance to be in big swells,” which we would be if we “went around” the peninsula to the east of where we’d landed two days before.  OK…swells, bring ‘em on! 

We had all been hoping to go around the large peninsula to the east we’d already seen from the campground landing spot in Eiði, and this seemed to be the only day we could do it.  The main issue was getting around the huge headland at the tip of the peninsula.  We agreed that we couldn’t control the weather - wind or waves - but could control where to be when the current was running at its strongest.  That is, we could time our paddle to avoid the max flow around the crux point.  This would determine when we’d get on the water. 

And so began another adventurous and challenging paddle.  It wasn’t nearly as windy as it had been here two days before.  We unloaded the trailer in preparation for another shuttle.


A beautiful low-cloud view of where we’d be going.


We were finally passing the waterfall we’d first seen two days earlier.


As the cliff face rose up, there were caves to explore.


Credit to John for this terrific photo of a cresting wave and various paddlers almost obscured by the seas as we got past the last cave we were to enter on this side of the peninsula.


As we went on, the sea got bigger and more confused.  Waves were coming at us seemingly from every direction.  No one had anticipated the experience of going to plant a paddle in the water…and finding at that moment, no water there any more.  But it was just a matter of…keep paddling, and at some point, the confusion lessened and it was just big lumpy water.  We gathered up near Guðni and John to discuss how we would approach going around the two headlands that lay ahead.


We anticipated that the second most exposed headland would be the more challenging.  The decision was made to divide us up into pairs to “go around.”  Rebecca and I paddled together.  The waves got bigger and again a bit more confused, but it was all eminently doable.  I wasn’t able to take any pictures because…you know…two hands on the paddle.  We got around the first point, and thought it would get worse but as it turned out, while the waves and swell got even bigger, both were more predictable.  At some point, John, who was to my right closer to the cliffs, called me over and we rafted up in the heaving water.  “You can’t go around these without getting pictures that show you did it,” he said - and so I took out my camera for several very quick shots before returning to the safety of two hands holding paddle.  These are the two best of the quick shots.  They don’t really give a sense of what the conditions were, although the second one clearly shows Rebecca going uphill!




And so we continued on until the major crux point was behind us, and much (relalatively) calmer water lay ahead as we traveled southeast down the peninsula.  Rebecca took a picture of Gummi and me, celebrating after making the final turn.


There was a waterfall to admire,


and beautiful cliffs.


Here I am against the cliff.


At some along the way, a rock actually fell from somewhere up above into the water and Guðni shouted for all of us to get away from the cliff face.  It was intermittently sunny, and it felt good to have the headlands and all the confused seas behind us and to have the chance to admire the sun shining on Kalsoy across the channel.


There were more waterfalls and pretty cliff faces.




And finally we were at the canyon harbor in Gjógv that we’d seen from the land on our drive-around day.


Interesting rock formation on one side.


And a nice view from the canyon.


But fortunately we didn’t have to land and carry the boats up the million steps to the top.  There was an easy boat ramp right around the corner


and we all landed.


Pretty village for sure (not that any we saw weren’t!).


The van and trailer were there waiting for us, and the drive home was under skies that were simultaneously sunny and threatening.


One switchback below was the van and trailer.


We stopped to look out over the Witch and Giant stacks, remembering the windy, rainy, rainbowy day we’d paddled by them.


It had been another challenging fun day, the edges of my comfort zone pushed outward.  I felt very grateful for the experience.



Sunday,  September 10



We’d seen some of the spectacular cliffs of Vágar on our road trip, the Múlafossur waterfall most notably.  Sigurð said that the southern edge of the island featured perhaps the most beautiful cliffs in the Faroe Islands.  Head due south away from the cliffs and you will end up…nowhere.  Just vast open ocean to the south, and nothing but steep cliffs and no landing spots for mile after mile.  The weather forecast wasn’t great - it never was! - but it was acceptable, with sustained winds of 12-13 knots with gusts not much more.  Swell was predicted to be from the SW six feet at 10 seconds.  It would clearly be a lively, but doable, day.  And so we set out for Vágar, an hour’s drive away.  When we arrived, it was around 11 in the morning and church bells started ringing, calling for the faithful, whom we saw spilling out of houses and walking along the road toward the pretty church.


We were planning a 15 mile paddle along the cliffs, and Gummi found a nice spot for a nap while the shuttle was set up.


Napping, but not camping, allowed…as this sign made clear.


After a 45 minute nap, Gummi and the rest of us were on the water.  The bay before we’d make a right hand turn to the open ocean was a bit lively.


Here’s Sigurð with the island of Mykines in the distance.


The southern cliff face didn’t disappoint.  Cave after cave after cave after cave…too many to count, all guarded by waves and swell.  I wish I could have taken more pictures along this beautiful coastline but again, it was a two hands on paddle day.  


Gummi looked relaxed, as always, as he sat calmly in his boat.  


We paddled on, with stops for some to play along the rock faces, until after an hour or so we approached an impressive set of cliffs that formed a great bowl, bounded on the outside by a large headland that we couldn’t see around.


It was marginally calmer inside - and by marginally, I mean marginally.  Here’s Bernie


and Michelle.


We all ended up bobbing around here basically holding our positions and snacked as Guðni disappeared around the corner to scout out what lay ahead. 



At one point Dawn came up to me to report we’d only gone five miles so far, with double that still to go.  A somewhat daunting prospect given the concentration and focus most of the first miles had required.  And so we waited.  For the first time ever, I wondered what it would be like to be seasick-prone.  Up and down, up and down.  I felt fine, not queasy, but I did wonder.  Here I am in the foreground, bobbing and waiting with everyone else.


At some point, John headed around the point as well, and after some time - I have no idea how much - we saw them returning.  The word from Guðni:  the seas were definitely bigger around the corner.  He’d struggled against the current to get back, and if we were all to go around the headland, there would be no turning back, no option but to keep going.  The decision was made to turn back now while we could, shuttle waiting to pick us up on the other end be damned.  And so we went back.

We had to paddle through a tide race going against us for a time, but finally we were out of that.  Again, there was no time or opportunity for photos.  It was just hard paddling with following seas, until finally we turned the corner through a last bit of choppy and confused water, and we were heading back for the beach from which we’d launched three hours before.  Here’s Bernie


and others heading home.


I took a final look out to sea, and saw Gummi, and then Guðni, passing in front of Mykines for the last time, the clouds still shrouding the top as they had been when we were setting out.




Rebecca and Dawn passed by one of the several large salmon pens in the harbor.


And then we were almost back at the beach.


John passed in front of the church, services long over no doubt.


Once we landed, we knew it would take time for the shuttle to unshuttle itself and come back for us, so some of us walked over to the church, where we learned the story of the Shepherd of Sondum, which featured a giant woman and the shepherd.  Briefly, the shepherd was out on horseback tending his flock when he came upon a red dress lying on a rock.  He took it, not realizing that it belonged to a giant, who when she went to retrieve her dress found it gone.  In the distance, she saw the horseman and started to chase him.  She got close enough to tear off the horse´s  tail, while the shepherd steered the horse toward the village church, knowing a giant couldn’t set foot on holy ground.  He reached it safely, but not before the giant was able to grab the dress and retrieve all of it but the sleeve.  The red sleeve was big enough that it was made into a cloak for the clergyman, and the minister of this beautiful Vágar church wears that cloak to this day.  Which explains yet another naked lady statue, right in front of a church no less.  Here she is, and the horseman with her cloak attempting to flee from her.




It was fun to end the day with a really good story about a giant and the power of holy ground.






Monday, September 11

Fuglafjørður - Hellur


After two challenging days that required work and focus amid all the fun, the Weather Gods finally threw benign conditions our way - some sun (but not all day!), light winds (8-12 knots gusting to 18 from the west) and swells coming from the WNW that could be easily avoided by finding the right spot.  We settled on a point to point paddle around another peninsula on the east side of Eysturoy island.

It was an easy launch from the beach in Fuglafjørður, 


next to a really cool wrecked boat.


We launched.  Here I am, helmetless on this benign day, in my Norway hat.


Michelle and Dawn happily heading out.


Turns out Fuglafjørður was a center of the salmon industrial complex, seen here along the coastline,


home to Pelagos - Pelagic Fish from the Faroe Islands.


Nothing but puffy clouds, blue skies and imposing views,


P9110580.thumb.JPG.1de39fd8f4f9f86b8b804adddfb069da.JPGcalm seas,

and sheep to watch


as they watched us


and walked along a rock shelf close to the water


and stopped to watch us some more.


It was an easy take-out on the rocky shelf


for a sunny lunch - our first and only - on the water in the Faroe Islands!


Peggy struck a contemplative pose.


Our quiet reverie was interrupted, though, by a train of sheep that came clambering along from behind a rock right where we were lunching.  Not sure who was more surprised - them or us - but  all kept moving through but for one, who seemed particularly surprised by seeing a standing Guðni


and responded by breaking into a run, scrambling with clattering hooves over two of our boats.  We were all laughing so hard I didn’t get the shot, but here he was on the other side.  Fortunately they were two of the plastic boats.  Don’t know how a composite layup would hold up to the frantic run of a frightened sheep.


Excitement over, it was time for a nap.


Across the way, rain fell from a single cloud.


Then it was time to get going again.


What turned out to be a day of rainbows started right after lunch.




There were caves,


and the rainbow arcing over Kalsoy across the way.


It was hard to choose which way to look - landward toward the many waterfalls of different configurations






or out to sea again to observe what the rainbow was doing.  It was really, really something


positioned as it was, rising from the water into the sky.  Here’s Peggy.


And finally, under skies that were still partly sunny, we were approaching the town of Heller.


Looking back, as the clouds lowered over Kalsoy, we saw the last of the rainbow.


As it turned out, it was a long - and wet! - wait for the shuttle to come back.  It started raining as soon as we landed, but fortunately we’d all left dry clothes in the vehicle at this end.  Here’s one happy group sitting in the rain.


And another, not looking as happy…


We ended up finding what we joked was the one tree in the Faroe Islands (ok, complete exaggeration) and huddled under it for what seemed to be an interminable wait.  (As I recall, it was close to an hour.)  As the crow flies, it was only a little over a mile across the neck of the peninsula, but crows don’t need roads, and it was a good deal longer for cars.  So it was greatly cheering when the vehicles returned and Sigurð told us his parents had stopped by the house and left a fish soup for us for supper!

Oh my!  The perfect meal after our long soggy wait.  It ended up being the best fish soup I’ve ever had - a light creamy base with carrots and peas and tiny shrimp (from either Greenland or Svalbard - Sigurð wasn’t sure which) and big chunks of cod that his father had caught.  Oh - and homemade bread with wonderfully salty Faroese butter.

A really special end to a mellow and beautiful day.


Tuesday, September 12



Overnight, it once again rained hard and the wind blew, but when we got up, the rain had moved out and we were faced with a sunny morning.  The Weather Gods once again made a decision for us.  The winds had shifted, and were now coming from the NW, the worst direction for being on the water because of the NW orientation of all the islands.  The wind funnels down all the channels and increases in speed.  A storm was a-comin’…  So it was another day off the water.  It was nice day, but for the wind, and I stopped on the way from tent to the house to look at the Christmas geese in the making.


We decided on (another) day in Tórshavn because some had only experienced it on a day of pouring rain.  While it was to be an increasingly windy day, it was sunny.  We planned for hot showers and for those with bathing suits a swim and soak in the pool in town.  As it turned out, it was closed for some kind of construction, so we just went wandering and shopping instead.  I found a nice light wool cap in a traditional Faroese pattern at a shop where others had bought sweaters at the beginning of the trip.  I also walked back up to the National Gallery of the Faroe Islands to pick up something at the gift shop, passing on the way yet another naked lady sculpture outside the football stadium.


And eventually joined up Rebecca, Michelle and Dawn on a giant bench in the middle of town.  We all felt wonderfully silly sitting there in the sun,  rain pants, puffy jackets, boots sticking out.  It ended up being an interesting sociological experience.  Younger people who walked by invariably (attempted to) ignore us.  Older people all smiled, waved and some came over and talked.  Two offered to take our picture (we actually never asked!) and here is one taken by a nice Danish woman.


It was a highly amusing end to a nice day in town.  Leftover fish soup and scrambled eggs with sausage for dinner, then off to bed!


Wednesday, September 13

Velbastaður - Leynar 


It was a very cold night;  had it been clear part of the night?  For the first time, I had to put on extra layers and a hat in order to sleep.  In the morning, I could see that the bottom of my tent was coated with frost, and when I got out, my wet paddling boots were white with frost as well.  It was 36 degrees, overcast and now spitting rain - a raw start to the morning for sure.

Everything was the weather.  Maybe that’s always true when one is paddling, but it seemed more the case in the Faroe Islands than anywhere else I’d been - perhaps because there was just so much wind and rain (the latter on its own not being a disincentive to paddling because it is, after all, a water sport…) while we were there.  Looking ahead, it appeared that this would be our last day of paddling.  Thursday would be…stormy!  For once the team wasn’t asked to make plans for the day; rather, Guðni and John came in at breakfast and announced our itinerary.  We would go to southwest side of the island of Streymoy and do what they anticipated would be an easy and speedy one way paddle with wind from the SE at our backs and current running along the coast in the same direction, toward another village about 11 miles NW up the coast.  In other words a nice and easy downwind run.  Oh, the best laid plans…

It was a long drive to Velbastaður, along increasingly narrow roads with hairpin turns along very steep hills.  The first white knuckle passenger ride - at least for me.  I didn’t envy Guðni driving the van with boat trailer…or Anula, who would not be paddling but who would be shuttling the van and trailer to pick us up at our final destination.  When we finally arrived, and started to change into paddling gear, it was raw, wet and cold.  I was worried that even with all my layers I wouldn’t be warm enough.  I tried putting on my thick Icelandic sweater, but it was just too bulky under the drysuit.  So I settled for what I had and hoped for the best.  But I did, for the first time, attach pogies to my paddle to keep my hands warm.

We launched into the gloomy day.


Guðni stopped for a moment before turning north.


The beginning of the paddle was as advertised - a nice easy downwind run.  I warmed up quickly and enjoyed paddling along the coastlines, gazing at sheep and waterfalls, as Becca was here.


But for our colorful boats and clothing, the day was different shades of gray, water and islands in the distance.


It started raining harder - see it coming down diagonally across this cliff face - and we intermittently sought shelter in caves.






This one featured layer on layer of white etched rock above us that reminded me of layers of scrim in a stage setting. 


Peggy with a waterfall behind her at the entrance to another cave.


We were starting to experience winds coming down valleys to the east, and the easy downwind run was turning into something of a slog.  We decided to cut across a big bay rather than follow the coastline in as we’d planned as it became clear we’d be fighting headwinds at least half of the way.  Not as advertised!  Here’s Dawn at the start of the crossing.


It ended up being a mildly bumpy crossing that took a full hour to complete.  Here’s Rebecca getting closer.


And all of us there at last.


There was an easy brief stretch afterward with caves


and a big stack.  Remembering that a rock had fallen from a similar cliff face a few days ago, there was some discussion about whether we should paddle between cliff and stack.  Most of us elected to do so, but we did so quickly and didn’t stop for pictures.  I think John went around the outside!


Rebecca stopped to longingly gaze at a slot we didn’t enter.


After that, the fun part was over and what lay ahead was a long gray stretch


interspersed with fierce squalls of wind and rain - sufficient to make it impossible to paddle forward, let alone take pictures!  We had the interesting experience of having squalls coming at us from both the front and back simultaneously.  How was that possible?  The worst were the wind blasts coming from the side…the kind of wind that threatens to capsize boats.  Thankfully that didn’t happen.  When we were finally on land again, John reported that he’d been hit full on by a water spout, which instantly blasted him backward!  Crazy conditions generated by valleys funneling and accelerating winds.  So we paddled forward and then just ducked down and attempted to hold position when the squalls hit, then onward again.  As we got closer to our destination, Guðni was calling out instructions as to when to turn and what to aim at.  Failure to follow a correct line might have had us sailing on past out landing spot.  But we made the turns.  I’d caught a glimpse of what I hoped would be our ending point, but it was soon hidden behind a small headland - with a larger village a mile or so farther on.  We paddled toward the last turn


hoping our village would be around that corner.  It was!


An easy beach landing, with car and van waiting for us, so there was no standing around in the wet and cold.  If this was to be our last paddle, it seemed somehow fitting - the conditions, the unexpected bits, the challenges.




Thursday, September 14


No paddling today for sure.  BIG storm bearing down.  We’d been watching the Windy forecast for a number of days, and there’d been talk of moving camp to somewhere more protected…or even finding an Airbnb or just piling into the house for the night.  But the dire forecast diminished minimally and we decided to stay put.  It was still very windy, with speed forecast to increase throughout the day.


We were glad we weren’t out on the ocean in these waves…(noted in meters, not feet)


It was another day to go into town and have a shower and a swim.  So we all loaded into car and van and headed back to Klaksvík.  We had a nice lunch (I had a seafood that wasn’t nearly as good as Siguarð´s mom’s) at the restaurant next to the information center, where we puzzled over this giant painting.  What’s up with the hoods?


It was nice to return home to the warm and cozy farmhouse.  There had been some worry about the safety of the boat-loaded trailer, which had been parked down by the water where it would take the full brunt of the wind, so Guðni moved it up next to the house and actually tied it down.


We sat inside, looking out the window at the walls of our tents flapping in the wind, and actual waves marching down the water.  We hadn’t seen that before!  Despite the chaos outside, it was warm and placid inside.  The house was made of concrete blocks and the windows were triple-paned.  There was absolutely no rattling or wind opportunistically whistling through any cracks - because there weren’t any!  Anula sat in her favorite spot, knitting.  These are socks she’s making for me!  (And she also made the sweater she’s wearing!)


At one point, we looked out the window to see Sigurð positively sprinting down the driveway toward the water.  He’d seen his father drive past the house toward the dock, where the two of them ended up dragging the open fishing boat, which was being banged against the dock by the strong wind, around to the south side, where it would be more protected.

And so we spent the rest of the day inside, warm and dry, talking, eating, reading, knitting…and some (me!) fretting a bit about how my tent would stand up as conditions were worsening as the day went on.  We all had Hilleberg tents, but the Staika´s seemed to be holding up the best.  My Allak, modeled after the Staika, was different in one important way - all the side panels weren’t the same size.  The wind was hitting one of the broader panels and it wasn’t possible in those conditions to unstake and rotate the tent.  One person actually ended up taking down their Hilleberg (which was neither an Allak or Staika) because they feared it wouldn’t stand up to the storm, and slept in a nice bed inside that night!

Bedtime - 8 pm! - came, and I looked out to see Michelle and (I think it was) Guðni restaking her tent. It was so windy it was hard to hold the camera steady!


She came to check on me



and then John was outside restaking my tent.  Thank you!  He ended up sending all of us an email after everyone was tucked in for the night.  Sleep tight!” it said in bold letters, and went on to say that if “anyone had trouble during the night” to text either Guðni or him, or “Alternatively, yell really loud!”  It was a cheerful, reassuring note on which to start a night in a rocking and rolling tent.  The next day, I found that some had fallen asleep right away.  Not me.  I took videos on my cellphone of the tent shaking inside and out and of the wind howling outside.  It was gusting in the 40’s, but felt a lot more than that!  I kept thinking of another night two years ago, when I was in a tent pitched at the edge of a tall cliff in Iceland on a very windy night.  The stakes pulled out, the tent flattened onto my face and I struggled to get out, needing the help of the lighthouse keeper, who’d seen this sh*t show from his window and come running, summoning help from others who hadn’t yet gone to bed.  Five of us wrestled the tent down and moved it to a better spot - far from the cliff edge!   As I lay in my tent, I thought of that night, of what it would have been to be blown over a cliff.  But here, even if my tent exploded in the night, the worst that would happen is that I’d end up being rolled across big piles of sheep poop!  I turned on my cellphone and distracted myself reading the news (for the first time since the trip had started).  It was here that I learned that the Red Sox had fired their inept general manager, Chaim Bloom.  I read every article that I could find and time passed.  At 11:30 pm, I noted that the gusts seemed marginally less fierce…and over the course of the rest of the night, during which I still hardly slept, the winds did diminish more.

No tents blew up.  No one was rolled across the sheet pasture.  All survived the night and many actually slept!



Friday, September 15 - Sunday, September 17

The End of Our Kayaking Faroe Islands Exploratory Experience 

Tórshavn - Copenhagen


On Friday, some of us were scheduled to head back to our hotel in Tórshavn before flying out in a few days.  Others would be moving back to the campground outside of town the next day.  I packed up everything and loaded it all into Ikea bags and then took down my wet tent (thanks, Michelle and Dawn for the assistance) in the windy drizzle.  Leave only footprints…


Our little encampment was being disassembled bit by bit.  Sigurð had told us our camp had been the subject of some interest and discussion by neighbors across the water, who were used to looking at a field filled  with sheep, not tents!  A group of boy scouts perhaps?  Soon it would be returned to the sheep.  For now, some would remain for another day.  Bernie, Peggy and I - and all of our gear - were driven into town and deposited to unpack wet gear and spread it out in the hotel room in the hopes it would dry in time for flights out.  (It all did.)

The next day, Saturday, Bernie, Peggy and I took the longish walk to the National Museum of the Faroe Islands, a museum covering many aspects of Faroese life, from living conditions to religion to botany and zoology and folklore and more.  The museum is located a couple miles out of town.  Some of it is outdoors.  We headed out, guided by Google maps, walking to the outskirts of Tórshavn before being directed onto a dirt path heading into a boulder-strewn expanse.  It was nice to be walking again  (in actual shoes! not rubber boots…).  It was overcast (what else?) and breezy, and the rain mostly held off until we were walking home.  Here’s the view over to Nólsoy across the water.


Glacial erratics balanced on a hill.


Stonewalls wandering.


And then a red village, which turned out to be the outdoor part of the museum.


We toured the main building, which had been inhabited until the 1980’s (I heard someone say by the Prime Minister or his family, but I don’t know if this is true or not).  It was a rambling, much added-on-to, and reminded me of some the buildings at the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, MA.  The docent told us that we were the first visitors of the day - it was early afternoon by then - but that in the summer, there might be 100 people coming through.   We enjoyed having it all to ourselves.

We knew that The Boys were planning to paddle that day - wanting to return to the tide race near the campground where they’d done a training session for Sigurð´s club before our adventure began.  As we walked on, we looked down to the water and saw the Friday tide race paddlers arriving and unloading boats.


We continued on through the museum village, turf-roofed barns and sheds.


More stonewalls.  Would the winds just blow through the gaps so it wouldn’t tip over?


The main museum was in a large industrial-type building and we spent several hours there looking at the exhibits.  There was a lunchroom overlooking the sea, and we would see the paddlers out in the tide race.  They are the tiny figures to the right and below the big rock in the textured water.  It was fun to watch them!


That night, everyone gathered for a final dinner together at an Irish Pub run by an Australian man with a thick accent and booming voice who wouldn’t answer any questions about how he’d ended op in the Faroe Islands.  One can only speculate… 

And then there was nothing but to be up early on Sunday morning for a cab to the airport.  Of course it was an overcast day but not too windy (we’d heard that winds over 25 knts from due south will shut the airport down) to prevent my flight taking off.  My last view of the Faroe Islands before we disappeared into a cloud…


to emerge at the other end in Copenhagen, where it was bright-blue-sky-sunny and 70 degrees.  I took the metro into the city center and wandered around enjoying the bright colors and the warm sun.




And in one canal, a solo kayaker in a P&H Cetus, paddling along in a relaxed fashion.  We’re not in the Faroe Islands anymore, Dorothy…






I clearly remember the campsite in Iceland where two years ago many of the same people as ended up in the Faroe Islands sat in a circle discussing what made a trip an expedition.  Our voyage to the Faroe Islands had been intended as an expedition - a self-supported circumnavigation of most of the island archipelago, moving camp every day and having deadlines of where we needed to be.  But even when the Faroe Island trip/expedition was in the planning stages, we were aware that storms might affect our plans and that we would have vehicles available to move us out of harm’s way if conditions required it.  When we all arrived, it became clear almost from the outset that our original expedition plan was not realistic.  Storm after storm was marching up through the Atlantic Ocean toward the unprotected islands.  We were very fortunate to have our Faroese local knowledge kayaker - and that his family had a farm that they were willing to make available as our base.

So if we were no longer on expedition, what exactly did we do?  Two “ex” words came to mind.  First “exploration.”  We certainly explored the Faroe Islands, especially on our first on-land day when we hit so many beautiful spots, a number of which would become part of our disjointed paddling journey.  But I also increasingly thought of the word “experience.”  Because many of our days on the water were exactly that.  From the calm beauty of seeing a rainbows over the water - an experience I’d never had before; to the number of times we were in big water, or confused water, or both; to the sometimes ferocious winds, some of which stopped us in our tracks…  Experiences all.

We had numerous discussions about the fact that the seas were the biggest many of us had ever been in, some seas the most confused we’d experienced as well.   John said that as advanced paddlers, we all could have managed the paddles that we did on our own, without the safety belt of his and Guðni´s presence - not to mention Gummi, who was with us every day; and Anula, who missed several days because of shuttle driving; and Sigurð´s local knowledge, although some of the venues were new to him to him as well.  True, but it was still very reassuring to have them along.  Could any of us managed to power back against the current around the last headland in Vágar as Guðni, aka The Beast, said he was only able to do with great effort?  I don’t know.  Maybe we wouldn’t have sought out the conditions that we ended up in, the most extreme of which served to push all of our comfort zones a bit.  

While it was disappointing not to even start the expedition, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade…and lemonade we made.  We went on a wonderful range of paddles in a wide range of conditions.  We saw amazing sights, both on and off the water.  We obtained experience thinking about how weather and currents/tides interact - and sometimes collide - in the Faroe Islands.  And we got first hand experience with why and how it is so windy there.

And rain.  Let me say something about that.  We had heard that “in the Faroe Islands it rains a little a lot.”  Well, our experience was not quite that; rather it was “In the Faroe Islands it rains a lot a lot!”  If we didn’t actually have rain every day, it sure felt that we did.  Living in New England we like to say that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.  We’re exaggerating to make a point.  In the Faroe Islands, it is no exaggeration.  Sun gave way to torrential downpours, tailwinds to beam squalls.  The only constant, the wind.  The wind.  Other than the incredible landscape, seen from both land and sea, it remains the defining characteristic of the trip.  We were all privileged to experience all of it - wind, waves, rain, sun, clouds, cliffs, “velvet-covered rocks” (as my sister wrote me in response to a photo I sent - making the first line of a haiku I have yet to complete), sheep, the generosity of Sigurð´s family (that soup! those sweet rolls!), and being really out there with a wonderful group of really competent paddlers.  Our Faroe islands exploratory experience was one of those great gifts that being part of the kayaking community has given us.  Thanks to all who made it possible!






And this, by the way, is a map kindly provided by Peggy O'Neal that shows exactly where all of our paddles took place.







Edited by prudenceb
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Awestruck doesn't do my reaction to this report justice!

Thanks for taking what I can only imagine as the painstaking effort to capture this extraordinary adventure... and sharing it. 

It's a poignant reminder that our sport goes way beyond planting a paddle in the water to include history, culture, skill development, weather impacts and mitigation, decision-making, nail-biting experience, good friends and much more. 


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Prudence thank you for the great write up. I always enjoy your trip reports. I was thinking about you guys and kept checking for info. and was wondering how plans went or got changed. Glad you did it and thank you for sharing!

Deb G.

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What a spectacularly beautiful and soberingly rugged corner of the earth! Just amazing. Thank you for detailing the trip so thoroughly that I don't feel I must go and do it too :)

Your epilogue points to the importance of going with a plan but without expectations that the plan will be realized. Then, there's no disappointment, only fresh adventure. My hat is off to you for taking on this adventure. 

One question: water temp? Does it benefit from the Gulf Stream? Or is it frigid?

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Fantastic trip and report, Pru! Well worth the wait ?

We all continue to vicariously paddle through your worldwide adventures. What’s next? Shetland I.?

I dare say, it’s naked lady and XL(rated) hot dog overload on the Faroes!

You seem to go into increasingly challenging conditions from one trip to the next and it seems to faze you less each time.

What’s the story behind the Viking ship replica in Tórshavn?

Did you get feedback from “the boys’” tide race trip?

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Thanks, everyone, for the kind words.  If you've ended up with a sense of what the trip was like, then I've succeeded.  

As for questions folks have asked…

Cathy:  Will I go back?  Probably not, and definitely not in September!  Of course if would kill me if another group went and had calm water throughout and could paddle all of the amazing cliffy stretches on the south and west coasts.  Not to mention the Cape Enniberg aka “super cliff" (750+ meters) in the northeast, the tallest vertical cliff directly to the sea in Europe.  I also regretted that being there in September meant that we saw few seabirds.  They'd already raised their young, pushed 'em out of the nest and all taken off for wherever they were going to spend the winter - at sea or down south.

Kate:  yes, Faroe Islands are affected by Gulf Stream.  Water temp was in 50's.  Even on windy, rainy days I didn't wear gloves or pogies - except on the last day when it all just felt too raw.

Andy:  I don't know what's next…other than having a nice, warm, comfy bed to sleep in for the next many months!  As for Shetland, I've already been there!  I wrote a trip report…you can find on NSPN…of trip to Shetland and Orkney Islands.  We had a trip all planned and reservations made for Outer Hebrides in 2020, but…Covid…  I'd actually like to do more trips that don't require international airline travel.  




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Wonderful trip report, another fabulous tour of another amazing place! I have often referred non-paddling friends to your trip reports when they ask me "why do you kayak?"

As always, thanks for taking us with you!

Edited by BethS
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  • 2 months later...

A superb account, with moments when I actually gasped (some of those swells gave this paddling novice the jumps). I so appreciated your detailed account of the omnipresence of the weather--it really is a character unto itself, beyond the otherworldly beauty of the islands. I spent 7 weeks in the Faroes last winter and loved it. It was so great to see the backside of my beloved Kalsoy, where I lived. Thank you for this, and congratulations on getting the adventure you did, weather and all!

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