Circumnavigating Moskenes Island
It starts with a dream. A dream of pushing boundries and exceeding one’s comfort zone. A dream of exploring the outer parts of Lofoten by kayak. Only us, the Midnight Sun and the ocean. Beyond the horizon is Greenland.
It all started with a text from OJ: “Wanna go?”
Of course we wanna go.
Northern Norway, passing Trondelag. Mosquitos everywhere. We’re halfway, noticing that gas stations with 24h service is is few and far between on the E6. Finally – it’s after 7 am and Norway is coming to life, while we have been catching Z’s in turns. Gateway to Northern Norway.
Camped at an abandoned fishery-base, waiting for the last expedition member to arrive. Our plan is good, the weather-report not so much. Do we venture on the outside of Lofoten? Do we scrap our main route and opt for the contingency route? Will the weather provide us with a wide enough gap? Last thing we want is to put ourselves in a situation where we have to radio for assistance. Discussions are excellent arenas for learning.
Finally! Setting off, fully laden kayaks, need to be carried by all together, team effort does it. The thrill of descisions finally made – now we’re on our way! Spirits are high. Lofoten will show us her most beautiful smile this morning
We pass the headland at Fredvang and the Southern outside of the Lofoten-wall becons. Chatter dies away and we take inn the sights. Temperature is a comfortable 20°C when in the sun but plumets to 8°C in the shade of the mountains.
First coffee-break of the day. Incredible scenery. Logged 12 km, still 22 to go before landing at Hermansdal and setting up camp for the night. This is an old, abandoned smallholding.
Passing by on an expedition is one thing, what about living here? We’re in awe of those who did. Decades before drysuits and GPS.
Norwegians may by tradition be sea-farers, however, tide charts are not what people from the South-Eastern part of the country needs to spend a lot of time reading. But in Lofoten, and especially when planning a crossing of, perhaps, the strongest ocean tidal-stream in the world, these charts need to be studied closely.
Planning, assessing risks, planning for contingencies, discussing options, having dinner, further discussions, then setting off.
Paddling in exposed areas should be undertaken as part of a group who can look after each other. Solid group dynamics include balancing team efforts and allowing the members personal space and time during an expedition.
Katabatic winds and squalls are common along the whole of Lofoten. Surely as the Midnight sun doesn’t set, these winds come down off and around the moutains, changing conditions from a gentle light breeze to near gale in an instant.
Beyond the next twenty paddle-strokes lies Moskstraumen. A freely interpretation of section five in The Norwegian Pilot’s Guide, could be that this is the the actual place of Armageddon. We study tide charts and tide tables and cross when the tidal flow is within the envelope of safe passage. Proper risk management, planning and group effort is key.
First landing during the crossing from Moskenes to Veroy is Keilholmen. These islets have an emergency shelter for fishermen. Luckily we didn’t need to make real use of it, but rather had the opportunity to enjoy the sun and spectacular scenery, while watching the tidal flow pick up and race by, knowing that we got the navigation right.
On some rare occasion, everyone else are unreasonable. What do to? Just sit at the lighthouse and look out at the ocean, it’ll all go away…
But then someone gives out a hug, and everything is just dandy. Yoghurt anyone?
We found a beach. One created by a dream. Putten Sand at Veroy is mesmerizing. Only accessible by boat, arriving there by kayak is breathtaking.
Paradise. Just for us.
On some legs of our trip, landing sites are few and far between. Never the less, we have “lefse” (sweet bannock) to eat and coffee to go with it. Moor the kayaks and scale the cliffs. Balance with a smile comes in handy for that.
Weathered and experienced. What is he pondering about?
The sea that’ll carry us farther?
Perhaps about where he stowed the Genever – for sure not in the dayhatch with the rest of the first aid kit…
The geology of Lofoten is overwhelming. Suddenly a cave we can paddle into, the size of a cathedral. “Trolls live here,” says Ken, but really, all we saw were birds in the cave next door. We tried not to bother them…
OJ as we’ve seen him on numerous occasions during this trip, collecting memories for the rest of us to enjoy when the expedition is over. Here, shooting one of Ole in a cave at Veroy. People have come here for millenia.
Exiting a cave, tens of meters high, and gazing towards the ocean makes you feel small. Lofoten humbles you. Anyone venturing out here unprepared and unaware of what conditions you may encounter, may find himself in a very unpleasant situation.
The body odour of a paddler after hours in a drysuit is ripe, the water is crystal-clear, and images of tropical islands linger in your mind. Never mind the water temperature, a swim is called for.
Pretending to own the beach, to be Kings and Queens – for a mere instant. Surrounded by friends and mountains, we can at least enjoy the feeling of accomplishment before realizing that we are small when on the high seas, and then once again be humbled by the elements as we take in the perpetual sounds of the waves, the winds and the currents.
A seakayak is neither a boat, nor a vessel, it’s an opportunity for bliss. It carries happiness across the ocean.
A trip like this takes a firm hold in your memory and your feelings, giving a great sense of achievement and adds confidence to the training we’ve put down to safely navigate these waters.
We’re grateful to have had such an experience