Monday, June 15, 2009


Yes, this is the frist swimming pool I went to in Iceland and after a week of no showers, it was absoultely wonderful. The slide added to the fun and sitting in the hottub, I could see why this is a regular practice of Icelanders. How wonderful to sit in warmth no matter what the outside weather is...

Hello all,

Greetings from Iceland!

I am experiencing my first day off from paddling in this beautiful little city of 1230 people. I´m feeling the pressure of little internet time and so much to say... I´'m not sure I will be able to make many updates to this blog myself, especially as I head into the West Fjords and an even smaller chance of encountering computers.
I´m sure most of what I have to say here is cliche, but some of that is difficult to escape. I´m sure it is no news to anyone that the landscape is fantastically stunning. It simply dominates my experience. I am gradually finding my way back into a cherished life of simplicity of eating, sleeping, breaking and setting up camp, and kayaking. There´s ocassional reading, writing, and simply sitting...
What I found most surprising at first was my incredibly slow progress. I started off slowly in many senses... having not paddled much in the last few months, I´ve eased into this with 4-5 hour paddling days to start. First few days I was catching up on sleep from the last few weeks. It also took me nearly 3 hours to launch - lugging boat and gear down the beach - and where did I fit that last time..? I need to eat more food - get rid of some of this weight! I indeed have a very heavy boat and realize that I took enough food at first to last me at least a month. I would not be surprised if I still have some of this food when I (hopefully) return to Reykjavik in (hopefully) August.
The weather has been phenomenal and I´ve been very lucky. However, that said, I will add that every day has been a mild fight against current or wind until yesterday when I had my fist tail wind (woohoo! - What a difference!) I also am a self-procalimed cold whimp and yes, I knew this before coming to Iceland... but... this affects my paddling time each day. I´m comfortable (for the most part) when I´m paddling, but I cannot stop for more than 2-3 minutes on the water before I feel the cold creeping in. Must keep moving!!! These minutes are usually pumping water from the cockpit (yes, i´m leaking a little), getting 2-3 bites of food, or adjusting glove or hat situation. The idea of landing and stopping for a meal in my wet clothes (yes, drysuit is leaking a bit too) for 15 minutes + is unfathomable. The idea of stopping and changing clothes, etc. makes it easily a 2 + hour stop - might as well set up camp for the night. The 10-12 hour paddling days I imagined do not seem likely. 8-9 hour days are probably my limit and that of course will depend on conditions. We´ll see if this changes with time.
Once, I´ve camped I also have a tendency to wish to dry out before I begin my day. Depending on rain, etc. this usually doesn´t happen till post 11am. This has led to many days of starting to paddle at 3, 4, or even 5pm. Having the sun here 24 hours is a godsend and probably makes this entire trip possible for me considering my lazy, unconventional schedule. Still, at about 9-11pm, I can feel the temperature drop and the later I set up camp the more uncomfortable it is.

For the most part my paddling consists of pure wonderment. Disbelief that I am here.
Time is losing meaning and I can´t believe it´s already been a week. It will likely be difficult to finish this venture on time. Nevertheless, I hope to continue to benefit from good weather and gradually up my mileage per day. (Nancy - I don´t have mileage per day, etc.. but example of last few days... Thursday night I was in Hellnar, Friday in Skar├░svik, Saturday, close to Akurtra├░ir.)

Thanks for all the support and help along the way!

Now I´m soon off to a much needed shower, hopefully a little hike up Helgafell, some reading (I´m down to 6 books) and a good night´s sleep. Tomorrow I will paddle towards Flatey and the West Fjords.

Safe and happy paddling (and living) to all!


  1. hey magaret =)
    wish u good luck and the best for your trip.

    julia ( au pair) ;)

  2. glad the weather is treating you well. hope you got into that thermal pool--looks NICE.
    we missed you in boston--everyone sends good weather / paddling thoughts and encouragement. can't believe you have more food than you can eat!
    hoping marcus can fill in some of the mileage so i dont have to drag out the atlas.
    update when you can.

  3. Margaret—

    Polar Bear Alert: A polar bear shot by police in early June is said to be the first in Iceland in 15 years. Now there’s another. This appeared today (6/16/09) in Ice News:

    “Barely two weeks after a polar bear was shot by police in northern Iceland, another sighting has just been confirmed in the same area. The bear is on Hraun Farm in the Skagafjordur region.” Full article at .

    Glad to see your recent post. Locals may have told you about this already, and I’m sorry to be the bearer of such news, but you need to know this. Stay strong.

    --John Thornton

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  5. Hi Margaret—

    Sorry to have to deliver news about polar bears. During a couple of BCU courses I took from the Nigels (Dennis & Foster) I learned that Nigel Foster was chased by polar bears (in northern Canada around 2003, I think). That area is part of the bears’ normal range, and he had taken a rifle to defend himself in camp. But he was chased while paddling and had stowed the gun where he couldn’t reach it. Considers himself lucky to have escaped. I just found out on the web that polar bears haven’t been regulars in Iceland during recent history. I’m sure you already knew that. I don’t know how you’ll react to today’s “news you can use”, but I can’t not pass it on.

    Just located Stykkisholmur on map. Dicey projecting far ahead, but it looks like same rate of progress that got you there in a week would just take you that 1500 miles by late August. But what you write about leaks concerns me, since time tends to make leaks worse, not better; and (according to web sources) water temp along north coast (where the bears were spotted) should be 10-15 degrees (Fahrenheit) colder than at the start. Can you stop those leaks?

    Here’s what I was going to write before I spotted the bit on polar bears.

    Glad to see you’ve checked in. Saw your crew in Boston (great outing) this weekend. You are missed, and—though all agree you’d be the one to pull this off—worried about. Everybody’s rooting for your safe return. Ticker tape would be but icing on the cake. We hope for reports, even from West Fjords and north coast; but even if you can’t check in, a whole bunch of paddlers hope you hear them cheering.

    Stay smart, stay strong,

    --John Thornton

  6. Update: second polar bear shot June 17. This from Ice News:

    “A second polar bear, which was found roaming in Northern Iceland yesterday, has been shot. Stefan Vagn Stefansson, police chief from Saudarkrokur, said the polar bear had bolted towards the sea and they were left with “no choice but to shoot it”, reports

    The polar bear is reported to be an adult female. It is the second sighting of a polar bear in Iceland in a month and follows the shooting of an adult male in the same area on June 3rd.”


  7. Hiya MM!
    Greetings from the west village. Sending you good juju for lotsa tail winds. Enjoy the adventure!

  8. At every kayak polo session here in Charlotte, somebody wonders how you're doing out there. You go! Stay strong.