Friday, August 21, 2009


The circle is complete.
At least the circle I was making around a small northern country this summer is officially closed.

Yes, yes, I have more blogging to do, gaps to fill, and pictures to download. These things may accumulate slowly over the next two weeks.

But I wanted to announce that I did have a wonderful day of paddling. The sun was shining all day, it was one of the clearest days I´ve experienced in Iceland, after a few hours it was warm enough to paddle without pogies, there was little wind, small waves, a beautiful evening sky that went from steel gray to purple to a light blue, and though I didn´t see any whales, I saw dolphins, I had a small friendly contingent greet me at Reykjavik´s boathouse, and of course to complete the day and properly celebrate, I had an ice cream cone dipped in chocolate. Mmmm.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Just one more day.... methinks...

Me hopes.

Okay. It could be two.

I´ve paddled as far as Hafnir which is in the middle of the end of the Reykjanes Penninsula (the arch of the foot). Right now, however I am in Reykjavik due to the great generosity and flexibility of Magnus who came and picked me up past midnight last night. Today I´ve been waiting out wind and hoping that tomorrow´s weather will continue to improve, as it seems to every time I check it. I will start late morning because of the wind, but then will also likely be fighting a setting sun. I enjoy paddling in the dark occassionally, but when you don´t know the area, encounter breaking waves, and don´t know the landing, it can be a bit of a hazard... Last night I managed to find my way into a no longer working harbour with no lights on to a strange huge pile of seaweed that one can hardly call a landing, but would never have been able to do so without Magnus on the phone directing me with Google Earth. Very amusing and highly memorable.

If I encounter problems tomorrow or find my pace too slow, I can bail out at nearly any point, (Magnus will pick me up!), and then hopefully finish Saturday morning. Not only do I now have the luxury and comfort of a roof and bed, but I also get to paddle in a nearly empty boat!!! Tomorrow (and any possible that follow) becomes a simple day paddle. ...which is really what this has been all along - a series of day paddles... Right?

One´s mental state in such an endeavor as paddling around a country is HUGE. Yesterday and most of today I´ve just wanted to be done. But now, the slight mental shift to another day paddle (and the prospect of improving conditions) makes it seem exciting again and something to enjoy. Also the reason I decided to do this in the first place... I wanted to enjoy it. I thought I would enjoy it. And I have enjoyed most of it. There have been a few times though where I´ve had to stop and check myself - 'You really don´t want to paddle today?' 'Then don´t. You don´t need to do anything. This is supposed to be fun.' Of course sometimes, the weather was not fun, and somewhere in the North I lost my ability to be amused and see the irony. But for the most part, when I´ve slowed down and accepted my circumstances I gain another gem in the situation, often in the people I meet or in discovering something I wouldn´t have otherwise.

That said, I hope I can announce completion of a summer ambition and a wonderful final day of paddling (where I see lots of whales (please!)) tomorrow night.
We´ll see...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I forgot...

to say last week -

A BIG Congratulations! to Gisli, the other paddler circling this island this summer. On Monday, August 3, Gisli became the 9th person, the 5th successful expedition, the 2nd solo paddler, and the 1st Icelander to successfully circumnavigate Iceland by kayak. (He went to work on Tuesday.) Congratulations, Gisli.

Much respect.


Once again I feel like the luckiest person in the world! Complete strangers have once again taken me in and told me to treat their home like my home... Yay! Icelanders, I love you!!
I am on Vestmannaeyjar for the day and have much to explore in only a short day. My intent is to leave tomorrow (Monday morning) and get back to the mainland before some major wind hits. On Tuesday, I hope to head inland again for some more days of hiking. My time here is drawing to a close and my original ideas of hiking and seeing ALL that I wanted to see is no longer possible. However, I´m trying to get as much in as possible, so blogging will be minimal over the next week and a half.
Lots of adventure over the last week and a half as I´ve encountered the infamous south coast. I´ve been incredibly lucky with the weather and lucky to encounter small surf for landings on the black sand. Even so, the dumping aspect of the surf is quite curious and caused me a bit of strife, most prominently that I broke my beautiful EPIC paddle! The paddling days have gotten easier as I´ve gone along and the last two days I finally had some true support with wind at my back. Leaving Breiddalsvik, however, was not so easy and the seas were quite big the first couple days, including a 4 meter wave that put me over and forced me to roll in this not-so-cold-after-all water. Then I had two days where I had very difficult landings due to strong tidal currents. Landing as Jokulsarlon was particulary exhilerating and scary as I surfed big waves coming from several directions while at the same time trying to avoid icebergs. More on all of this later...
I must take advantage of being Iceland while I´m still in Iceland! I´m off to explore! And eat! (Once again super hungry all the time!!)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

But not so far...

On Sunday, August 2, I left my new home in Nekaupstaður and paddled to Breiðdalsvik, a town of about 200 people, where 2 paddlers (Ingolfur and Helga)from the eastern kayaking club, Kajakklubburinn Kaj (based in Nekaupstaður) live. I started out in the rain and fog, but it felt good to be paddling again. The sun made a brief appearance and at least cleared some of the fog by the time I was saying goodbye to Reyðarfjörður so that I could at least see some of the scenery. The East Fjords have a similar feel to the West Fjords (from the sea... once on land, they feel very different), but seem to me to have more rock outcrops. (Or... What are outcrops called when surrounded by water instead of land...?)
On and off I had wind and waves at my back, allowing me to surf some fairly big surf and making the paddle significantly easier. Ari (and Kajakklubburinn Kaj) loaned me SPOT to track my progress and Ingolfur and Oskar (of boat repair fame) paddled out to meet me. The waves were such that we were invisble to each other and we passed each other unknowingly. When I landed, though, Helga and Malla (Oskar´s wife) were there to meet me and helped me carry the boat up and gave me a place to change into warm dry clothes away from the returning rain. Then they took me home and provided me with a hot shower, bountiful food (including a piece of chocolate cake before a dinner of delicious lamb chops, potatoes, and salad), and a bed to sleep.

A look at the weather outlook that night and continually the next morning created a bit of stress for me. Monday´s weather looked good for paddling at least a short distance (to Djupivogur), but then the wind was scheduled to pick up significantly on Tuesday and it looked like paddling would not be wise again until Saturday at the earliest. The distance I would most comfortably paddle on Monday would put me around Hvalnes (a point before Lonsvik), but at the time I would arrive in the area, I would have a 8-15m/sec wind against me and more importantly, I was told that in those particular conditions, landing could get quite tricky and it would be a very undesirable place to wait out wind for 4-5 days. I thought about doing a super long paddle to a better landing spot around Brunnhorn/Nestrahorn/Kambhorn. That way I would cover more mileage, reach a safer landing spot, and have the option of being closer to inland destinations (like Skaftafell) to which I could possibly visit during the days of wind and rain. Problems would be an extremely long paddle with few bailout options, still paddling through that 8-15m/sec wind against me that is known to create some big waves in that area, and arrival to my destination in the dark. Decisions, decisions... another week off the water, the need to make distance, and an ever running clock drawing me closer to my scheduled departure from Iceland on August 27... I finally decided the short distance to Djupivogur would not be all that helpful and Ingolfur and Helga graciously offered their guesthouse to me and the option to stay in Breiðdalsvik, so I accepted.

It is now Wednesday afternoon and it looks like I can paddle again tomorrow. (Constantly changing Iceland weather! Sometimes it is a good thing.)

My time in Breiðdalsvik has included more waterfalls, a visit to an impressive rock museum (thousands of Icelandic rocks collected by the aptly named Petra, a remarkable woman who opened her home and collection to the public) in Stodvarfjöjorður, the next fjord to the north, watching Ingolfur as a mechanic and Helga as a machinist (kickass!) in their massive shared workshop, more good food, some catch up on sleep, and more wonderful, enthusiastic company with more insights into Icelandic culture and living.

It looks like I will have at least a few good days of paddling with little to no wind. Let´s hope this proves true and continues far into next week and my time on the legendary south coast...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Moving on...

I was planning on putting a comparison photo here ("How Tiger Got Its Spots"), but the camera is failing me and even a card reader is not allowing me to access new pictures. Trust me - the boat looks fantastic.
It´s Saturday, August 1 and I am still in Neskaupstaður. Tiger is rejuvenated, looking beautiful, ready to go. I´m a little sleep deprived because I´ve been trying to get the blog done and there is neverending socializing (and eating) with my new constantly expanding family. Last night was the beginning of a three day festival which guide books tell tourists to avoid because they turn into mad, drunken weekends. Neskaupstaður is trying to make it more of a family affair. This year for the first time they split the town into four different sections each having a different color. Each section decorates in their color and then on Friday night has a picnic together before marching to the center of town for music and further celebration. Decorations began on Wednesday night and get quite creative... yellow plastic streamers, yellow cups hanging from trees, yellow plastic plates in windows, yellow cut out figures, stuffed figures dressed in yellow (a fisherman mending a net, watering plants, etc), yellow lights, yellow football team jerseys strung as a banner or hanging from trees... Anything, everything yellow. Even the cars have been decorated. The red parade last night was led by a red tractor and had a band playing on the back, while kids in red tshirts hitched a ride balancing on kick scooters.
After the show downtown, the town dispersed to various balls and houses and we went to Ari´s grandparents' house, where hot chocolate and large quantities of waffles with cream and jam were made (and eaten.) We got home at 1:30am.
I still have about two weeks of my time in Iceland missing from the blog, but I am obviously wordy and it takes me time. I think I need to abandon the idea of catching up before I leave here... and actually leave. In short, the last two weeks of paddling were increasingly difficult and much of that was due to my psychological state concerning the weather. I had expectations of "better" weather, and if it wasn´t rain, it was fog, wind, or cold that got the best of me. The seas were also bigger and I was doing longer legs with more unknowns about landing spots.
Thanks to this wonderful week in Neskaupstaður, I am renewed and once again excited about what lies ahead (and particularly excited about paddling a dry boat with a working skeg!! woohoo!! Thank you EVERYONE.)
My next destination is Breiðdalsvik and hopefully there I will meet some paddlers who have some experience with the south coast - the most difficult and dangerous part of the circumnavigation ("You do know that, right?") Then I have under 4 weeks to make my way back to Reykjavik. There is abundant hiking I was hoping to do in this last section as well, but time and weather will determine if that´s possible.