Friday, July 31, 2015

Norway Post 27

Day 24

I paddled past the sea wall that I thought was a marina. It was.

The wind blew from the southwest. For the first hour it was a nice tail wind. When I turned the corner into Namsenfjorden the water calmed. Farther south a headwind rose and shifted to a tailwind as the fjord curved east.

I took narrow pathways between islands until I arrived at a dead end, though my chart showed a passage. To turn back and go around the other side of the island would add at least half an hour to an already long day. I got out and dragged my boat up a short beach onto a road. From the road I saw the other side. Two hundred meters of low tide mud flats lay between me and smooth paddling.

I slogged over the flats and resumed paddling. The wind periodically blew rain clouds overhead, but they never stayed for long. A rainbow upside down smiled at me.

As I pulled into Namsos I sang songs to welcome in the Sabbath, maybe a bit loudly. When I stopped singing to ask about a guest marina the fellow above didn't really want to talk to me since my singing told him I was crazy.

In the marina I met Osla who had just finished painting his sailboat. He and his wife were math and history teachers by day and kayak instructors by night. They welcomed me into their home like family and while I napped Saturday afternoon Osla went ahead and fixed my skeg. 

It works wonderfully.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Norway Post 26

I went for a walk hoping to find a shower. I found myself walking besides a man who asked me if I was a tourist. I told him my story and he showed me where the public showers were. The village had hot showers for the workers who were rebuilding it after last year's fire burnt everything down, and I was warm and clean.

I slept on the dock next to my kayak. In the middle of the night, despite the clear blue sky, my sleeping bag was damp. I convinced myself it was raining and nodded off. I woke back up, decided to get my bivi sack out, and fell back asleep. I woke up again, got the sack out, and slept 'till dawn.

When morning came, with my clear consciousness I realized that the fuss I had lost sleep over was dew.  Down by the water, there's a lot of it.

Day 23

A north wind was forecast to get stronger throughout the day. Fortunately, almost my entire route took me through tight well sheltered passages. One small rushing tidal stream connected two fjords. The ten foot wide race wound a 40 foot passage and turned under a tiny bridge before joining the next fjord. I climbed upstream with an intense and sustained sprint. "I am a beast," I screamed through my adrenaline hazed attack on the natural beauty turned wilderness enemy around me.

At the other end of the fjord the passage was almost as narrow but the water pulled me a along like a fire hose and I wooted with joy.

After a couple more less intense narrow passages the last four miles were into the headwind. An eagle rode the thermal vents above the edge of an island's cliffs. Between that and the island just north of it a mink scooted by me in the water and climbed up the rocks. It scampered behind a stone and then stuck its head out to look at me. I looked back, and then took a bunch of pictures.

I continued my push into the headwind across the bay and was thrilled to finally make landfall. I passed a small island where some folks talked above a dock. I was tired and had been on the water for over 8 hours. I asked if that blur in the distance that looked like a sea wall was the marina I remembered from Google maps.

"No, why do you need a marina?"

"Sometimes they have showers and friendly folks." I said.

"You can shower in our house." She told me. I was also invited for dinner and to sleep over. The next day when the weather was bad they invited me to stay until I was ready to leave. I love Norway.



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Norway Post 25

Day 22

The sun shone all all day. In the morning I had a robust tailwind as I paddle between densely packed islands and the mainland.

I stopped for a brief break and noticed an otter floating at the surface just behind me. He was either asleep, meditating, or silently stalking fish from above. It was the closest I've ever gotten to one, apparently completely unaware of my presence.

I took out my camera, which made a beep when I turned it on. The otter's head shot out of the water and looked directly at me. We stared at each other for a moment. My camera made another digital sound when I hit the zoom and with a splunk the otter dived into the opaque water.  I took another moment to set my camera on silent.

I cut straight across a bay between an archipelago and the mainland and then headed north in only slightly more exposed water. Under a large light house I found a kind of seaweed that I had been told was edible and been meaning to try.

At first the large flat leaf was crunchy and tasted similar to the other sea weed I had been snacking on. As the leaf dissolved in my mouth something happened. My mouth was full of ooze. It didn't taste bad, it just felt salty and oozy. I decided to end the experiment and spit it out.

In the afternoon I paddled under clear skies over calm waters. The mountains above me stood proud in perfect kayaking weather.

I ended my happy day after eight hours of paddling just north of Uran.



Friday, July 24, 2015

Norway Post 24

I waited for my host to wake up. I didn't want to leave without saying goodbye and he offered to give me a lift to the marina to save me an hour of walking. At 11:00 I checked to see if he was in the house, maybe he'd gone out earlier without me noticing.

I woke him. Despite his hangover, he was out of bed and we were on our way to the marina, with me once again behind the wheel. I didn't know not driving while hung over is a thing, but apparently it is. I've never had one.

Kids, don't drink and drive. Also, don't put yourselves in a situation where I have to drive stick for you.

Day 21

I paddled on calm water across the southern end of the island and then turned into the north south fjord between the island and the mainland. I first felt the north wind that lasted all day.

My progress was pitiful. So slow I couldn't figure out where I was on the chart because I thought I was much further north, and an Island connected to the mainland by a bridge hid an important land marking harbor from me. My chart doesn't show bridges, which is a defect.

I stopped at 17:30 without having hit any of the distance landmarks I expected to find. I needed a toilet. Five identical red vacation homes were lined up above the water next to the small marina. The marina had a number of small cabinless fishing boats, each with five rods held ready in upright shafts. The wind made the fishing line sing.

I didn't want to take an afternoon poop in the marina with people about.  Looking for a bathroom I found that none of those people spoke English. It turned out they were mostly German tourists on a fishing holiday.

Up at the red houses a number of them were cleaning and gutting their catch of the day. Families set to work happily with knives, fish, and a hose. Nobody knew where I might find a toilet. Nobody wanted to give me the least bit of help.

I walked past the last house and found a secluded spot next to the water. I used the fish cleaning hose to shower and slept in the one boat that had a cabin. It did not have fishing rods set up as the others did and only smelled mildly of gasoline.

The next day, while walking some distance from the marina I met a man who knew Schell, my Thursday night host. He had heard about me and was all too happy to host me in his guest cottage for Saturday and Sunday night.


Sunday was Tisha B'Av, the Jewish day day of mourning.   

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Norway Post 23

My skirt was a little too big for my combing; the result had been that every time I turned hard, cold water spilled onto my leg and into my boat. I tied a string around the front of my skirt solving a problem that had annoyed me for the last 18 days.

It didn't seem like lowering the skeg had made much of a difference since the last time I fixed it. I checked to make sure it worked and discovered it didn't. I might be able to fix it with a hex wrench which I do not have. I weighted the stern to reduce weather cocking.

Day 20

I paddled in the tight space between islands and under their connecting bridges before setting out into more open waters.

To the northwest the sky and sea were bright blue. To the southeast they were doom gray. I paddled the glassy sky-reflecting waters in between passed small islands. To the east bulbous stony mountains were great puffs of smoke reaching towards the heavens forever frozen, broken by fjords meandering deep into the mountains.

I tried some seaweed. The leave's pea sized enclosures perpetually reached towards the surface where the sun was brightest. There was a rough sawdust after taste.

A tail wind picked up. The waves began to break around me left and right as I pulled into hyperdrive. Without a skeg, my boat wanted to weathercock, despite the extra weight in the stern. The wanting wasn't subtle like I want a Jewish Norwegian wife, it was powerful like the need to go to the bathroom after I eat insufficiently cooked Norwegian peas.*

I edged way over nearly using my gunwale as my keel. I held my paddle from the end and only on one side.  Each stroke I exaggerated pulling water away from my bow. Barely, and only with my most massive effort, did I keep my boat going straight-ish.

At least I was going fast and I soon arrived in Stokko's marina, phenomenally exhausted. There, in an unattended marina building, I found a hot shower, kitchenette, and well heated living room with a comfortable couch.

The next morning the wind continued. After my own failure to fix my skeg, the locals gathered together with all their tools and wisdom to repair it for me.

In the end, they told me "There's a place up north where they may be able to help you with the stripped screws," that were part of the problem. They showed me on my chart. It was a week and a half away.

In the afternoon I sat at a bar to use the internet. A man started chatting with me and invited me to sleep over. Only, I'd need to drive him home since he'd had too much to drink.

The last time I drove stick was in Naples after the first leg of my Spain - Cyprus expedition. That was for three blocks and the car stalled as many times. My host helped by occasionally operating the BMW's stick and telling me to press the break. Before long I figure out that by break he meant clutch and we were moving. Sometimes I did it all by myself, but occasionally went to the wrong gear. Fortunately, I managed to stay clear of the reverse, except for when I needed it and that wasn't so fortunate.

That night at the beach he introduced me to Andrea, who had just come back from studying in Paris. She was a little taller than me and made a point in life a facing her fears. I wonder if she knows how long to cook peas. She wanted to hear my stories, which was good since I wanted to tell them to her, and then maybe speak of love.

The young lady sitting next to Andrea got up to go to bed, but not without a long intimate romantic parting good night kiss with Andrea. Andrea told me that she had an extra bed in her room and I was welcome to stay with her for the weekend if I wanted to remain on the island for a few extra days.

I went to my very comfortable bed that evening confused and slightly titillated.


*Hopefully my Norwegian wife will know how long to cook the local peas, and I'll hit two birds with one stone.




Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Norway Post 22

Day 19

I paddled north under a tiny bridge and then weaved in and out around around extended seaweed rocky areas that were probably completely underwater at high tide.

In the distance I saw a black buoy. Black is a strange color to choose for a buoy since they're usually designed to be visible. The buoy vanished.

Twenty minutes later I saw it again. It was closer, but farther north and to the west of where I saw it the first time. It vanished and reappeared again about thirty feet from me. The seal tried to figure me out.

There's something about almost every dog's face that says, "kiss me I love you." Seals seem to have that going on for them also, maybe because they look like sea dogs. In reality, seals should neither be kissed nor clubbed, respect wild animals. They're wild.

I passed the Kjeungskj light house, which is a big red light house in the middle of the sea.

I entered a marina in Nes to investigate. It was much too early for me to stop, but maybe I'd meet the great sailors from Kristiansund. I found a sailboat that had two sea kayaks on deck! I complimented the sailor, but she wasn't really interested so I moved on.

A couple of hours before I intended to stop I saw a scary storm on the horizon.  I needed to get off the water before it hit. As the waves picked up I used the distance between my fingers held at arms length to estimate the storm’s progress in my direction.

I passed an older heavyset Norwegian woman in a bikini about to go for a swim as her kids watched from the rocks above. The waves jostled me up and down and crashing into the shore. She was strong! And extremely helpful. There was a marina just around the corner and the boathouse next to it had a couple beds. I could walk to the nearby farm and probably get permission to sleep in the boathouse.

The beds were being use by a Lithuanian couple working in the area, but a man offered to let me sleep in his clean comfortable motorboat.

I walked up a narrow gravel road through meadows and hills towards the village. I met a dog and his walker. The walker told me the supermarket was too far to walk, but I could borrow his bike.

I biked the length of the island and over a bridge onto the mainland to the market. After my shopping I returned past the farms and very old small homes. When I brought the bike back the fellow insisted that I stay for dinner. His wife made an enormous amount of salad for me that was wonderful.

My hosts told me that if I worried I wasn't getting enough salad, then I could and should eat seaweed. Two of the three kinds I regularly paddle through were edible and highly nutritious. I shouldn't eat too much at once however since it might upset my stomach.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Norway Post 21

Day 18

I set out on foot to find a wifi connection so that I could at least check the weather. The only shop in town was for fishermen. I asked if I could use their wifi connection.

"We only have by phone here," the shop owner told me.

"Okay, have you seen the forecast?"

"Yah, it might be sunny in the afternoon."

"What about the wind?" I asked. "I'm kayaking."

"No wind, it's summer." he assured me.

"Yesterday it was really windy." Why was I arguing?

"Yah." He said.

On the water there was no wind. The sea was calm. I had to cross Trondheimsleden. I could do it at the narrowest point where it turned into Trondheimfjorden and headed inland. There might be a current there, but I would spend the least amount of time in the shipping channel that way. Or I could start crossing much earlier at an angle. I'd spend much more time in the shipping channel, but I'd be farther away from the current danger zone and my overall route would be shorter.

The sea was calm so I began my crossing early. As I got closer to my target island Garten at the northern edge of the fjord just off the mouth of Trondheimfjorden the wind and current picked up and my pace slowed to a crawl. I passed a channel marker one inch at a time, and watched as the water poured around it.

I had to poop.

At the southern end of Garten, where the current was at least two and a half knots against me without the wind, I found a well sheltered bay. Though it was an hour early and about six miles before my target for the day, I pulled onto shore, changed into land clothing, and found a quiet corner of the sea for my business.

The small island was mostly populated by summer homes with a few farms and other permanent residents.

I asked a woman if she knew where I could find a market she said "Brekstad, it's 15 kilometers from here [you should go and never come back.]"

I walked around the island looking for a wifi connection. At the end of a small sideroad near the sea two kayaks sat on the grass. I went closer to examine them. Maybe they belonged to fellow northbound expeditioners!

They didn't. When I came to that conclusion the same woman who implied I should leave the island earlier stepped out of her house. "Here you are."

I went back to my boat and asked for water from the family living above the harbor. They gave me water. They let me use their laundry machine, and their shower, and their wifi, and their spare bedroom, and their dog. They brought me with them to their dinner party, and were basically the best people in the world with one of the best dogs in the world.

That bed was so soft.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Norway Post 20

Day 17

I paddled under a bridge through Skarso's tiny placid eastern fjord into Tronheimsleden. It's the central fjord which after a couple of significant twists and turns leads to Trondheim and beyond, though I wouldn't be taking it that far.

Near where the the two fjords met I saw a deer and two fawns down by the water. When I got close to take a picture they fled.

I paddled north east through Tronheimsleden and passed an ugly industrial building with a dock designed for a boat much larger than mine. The water around it was bubbled slime in the light chop.

I left the building behind and an eagle swooped overhead. They're huge.

I enjoyed a robust tailwind. Going strait was hard, which oddly was not alleviated by lowering my skeg. I'd have to pack my boat so that it would weathercock less.

I tried to hug the shore, there was a better chance I'd find the plaque that way, but a number of smaller fjords that were not on my route branched off so crossed them at the skerries. I paddled to an island and around a fish farm and then another island. Finally after one larger crossing I squeezed between a final island and a point against a mild current to arrive at a Hennskjelo.

The water was glassy flat and two great blue herons swooped about with each other just before the first house. A large barn sat just above a dock with an old kayak out front and an open door. I kept paddling. A man stood next to a boat house.

"Hi," I said. "I kayaked here from Alesund. Can I sleep in your boat house tonight?"

"No." He told me. "I don't like this."

"Thanks anyways. Have a good night."

"Enjoy your trip and good luck."

I paddled through a narrow space under a bridge that connected the island to the mainland. A woman asked if she could take a picture of me and I said sure. I asked her to email it to me and she said sure.

She did! I think that's the first time anyone has ever followed through on a random kayaking picture email.

Just after the photographer was a marina. I pulled up and used the hose for a quick shower. A fisherman pulled up, offered me a fish he just caught and a bed on his extremely filthy boat. Life couldn't have been better.

It turns out fish are easier to gut if I cut the head off first.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Norway Post 19

In the afternoon I asked the ferryman if he knew where I might find a wi-fi connection and before I knew it I was showering in the ferries spacious underbelly. After my shower, towel provided of course, I had PB&J sandwich from the kitchen while reclining in a deeply comfortable chair and talking with my new friends the ferry crew.

The ship moved back and forth across the fjord while I sheltered in style in its underbelly. The ship's engineer was there in case something went wrong. If that happened he wouldn't know what to do. The guy who directed traffic on top had better English and asked me about America. He periodically disappeared to direct traffic.

We watched a program on television that showed a boat traveling up the coast of Norway. The boat's famous and when people know it's coming they go out and wave Norwegian flags, so that they'll be on TV.

The scenery on the program was fantastic, almost as nice as what I could have seen from up on deck, but I was quite content in my warm soft chair.

Day 16

I turned from a narrow fjord into a more winding one. I passed a town that might have been my last supermarket for a while so I stopped to go shopping.

I think there's something about Norwegian culture that makes it especially impolite to mind someone else's business, ask about their kayak, introduce yourself, offer a stranger a shower without him directly asking for one, or commenting on him wearing a wet suit in a supermarket.

When I introduce myself to Norwegians I find they're overwhelmingly polite, but trying to subtly get them to offer something without directly asking for it, is usually futile.

Another kayaker in a kayak nicer than mine (a Nordkapp) was paddling with a beautiful homemade Canadian inuit paddle southbound. He had started in Bodo, my most likely take out, in May and was heading to Bergen. So far had lost 15 days to bad weather and expressed the supreme frustration that I knew all too well. My frequent tailwinds had been his headwinds.

He used to have a dry suit, but he discarded it with his spare paddle and lots of other unnecessary gear a few weeks back. He never capsized and paddled in a long sleeve wool shirt under a poorly fit life jacket. His deck was covered with more clothing that he had stripped off throughout the first wonderfully sunny day in ages.

We talked joyfully, since we were both the only fellow long distance paddlers we had met. He told me of what I could expect ahead and I him. Eventually we parted, since we both still had a long ways to go.

I try to paddle between seven and eight hours a day, though sometimes it's closer to six. I added an hour onto the end of my day to make up for time lost shopping. I stopped to change chia drink nalgenes at a dock. A man was working on the dock and was excited to see me. He had talked to me at the ferry.

I didn't remember him. I'm terrible with faces. Was he the engineer who let me shower and was full of kindness? Or was he one of the random people in cars waiting to get onto the ferry that I asked for wire hangers to rescue my knife. I didn't know.

I turned around one last narrow corner into a fjord that was nearly closed at both ends making for a very peaceful body of water. At the far end of it, in Aure was a sea wall protecting a dock. On that dock there was an unlocked sailboat that was my home for one rainy Shabbat.



Thursday, July 16, 2015

Norway Post 18

Day 15

After Mr. Barnes helped repair my skeg I was off feeling good despite another rainy day. I think part of my problem, aside from the shortage of showers and associated chafing was that Norwegians seem to be more withdrawn than Meditteranians. It was really nice to enjoy sailor's hospitality.

I paddled off my chart and won't be on the next one till tomorrow. When I was getting ready to call it a day I waved down a motorboat to ask for directions. I was in the wilderness. There was nothing for miles in either direction. The last settlement I had seen was 40 minutes earlier and the next, the motor boat man told me, would be in 14 nautical miles, almost five hours of paddling.  There was nothing until then he assured me. I didn't want to paddle forward another five hours and I certainly didn't want to paddle back for 40 minutes.

I wanted a boathouse. It was raining. I didn't want to make camp in the rain. When I was ready to give up on my lengthy inquiries with the motorboat man, who was traveling at 28 knots from Trondhiem to his summer cottage, suggested that I try the village just around the corner.

In twenty minutes I found the village that google maps told me might or might not be a village. There was a dock and above it a boathouse with a substantial awning that could keep me dry in all but the worst storm. I had everything I needed.

That night the storm's worst came. Horizontal rain drenched my sleeping bag and my things at 2:00 am when I scurried to get out of my bivi sack and close my dry bags. At 3:00 am I looked up at the line above my head where I hung my dry top in the evening. It was gone. I climbed down the sea wall to pull it out of a heaving bed of surf and seaweed, washed it off in a local stream as the heavens crumbled around me and went back to sleep. At some point in the night I heard the wind blow my knife off the table.

In the morning I found it on the rocks beneath the deck's floorboards. It had fallen between the cracks. Aside from serving as my spoon since I lost my regular spoon in Geiranger, I also need my knife for safety issues like getting caught on a fishing line. It had a special way of attaching to my life jacket and I liked it.

I asked the men on the ferry boat if they had a wire hanger. They did not.

Rain poured all morning. My Gore-Tex shell has lots of holes in it; it's come quite a long way with me and is no longer the least bit waterproof. My rain pants are still pretty good though.

I knocked on the door to a house and the grandfather that opened it brought along some thin flexible aluminum rods. Just as I was getting it out, the ferry man showed up with a magnet, and together we finished the job.

It was noon. The temperature was 46 Fahrenheit. The fjord was not calm and the rain kept on coming. I decided to take the rest of the day off.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Norway Post 17

Day 14

After sleeping in one of the marina’s small gasoline stinky motorboats I set out slow, tired and feeling like I was ready to end my trip. In Kristiansund, my destination for the day, I could take the Hutigruten back to Alesund and from there paddle to Flo to return the kayak. After all, I had already paddled Hjørundfjord and Geirangerfjorden, likely the two prettiest fjords on the entire route. I missed my friends back in NYC. I wouldn’t decide until the end of the day after I’d arrived in Kristiansund, for the time being I’d just have to keep my eye on the immediate task.

I paddled between islands until arriving at the Attlanterhavsveien, a narrow road that curves and weaves along an island chain across the mouth of Kvernesfjord. I passed under a bridge into a brief but heavy current so as to paddle on the more sheltered fjord side of the islands.

The island hopping road is a popular tourist destination and people from near and far strolled along the boardwalks on either side. A little girl with her family waved to me from a small motorized rowboat.

When I passed back under the road farther to the east I had a pleasant if brief ride now that the current was at my back. From there I headed through more thickly clustered islands and skerries. Some of the passages I took were well marked on my map and others not at all.

After taking a passage through a village of thickly clustered homes, many with their own docks and boats, I found a very narrow passage to a larger fjord. The water poured out of the fjord dropping several inches as quickly as gravity could pull it. The fjord with the extremely narrow mouth was out of my way, but because the tide race was so strong, and the hills around me so green, it seemed like a likely place to find Slartibartfast’s plaque. I sprinted uphill. With great vim and great vigor I was soon at the top of the current and looking into the fjord from a level height. I didn’t see any plaques.

I turned around and went back down. “Wheeeeee.”

I passes through a wider channel crowded by giant industrial building, trucks, and parking lots on either side. Tankers and work ships lined the shore.

I was tired and the question of whether or not this was my last day bounced around my head.

After another island chain, a moderate crossing, and not getting run over by the Hurtigruten, I arrived in Kristiansund. The city is spread across three islands and after several inquiries I got directions to the tourist marina where my boat would be safer were I to walk away from it.

I wanted a shower and a bed. I’d be able to decide about ending my trip much better with a shower and a bed. According to the internet I’d find a hostel at the top of the hill. I walked for half an hour and found a motel that wanted $100 a night.

I walked back to the marina. I took a cold shower. I could have inserted coins into the slot to make it warm, but I didn’t have any coins and I didn’t want to spend money. It was nice to feel clean again.

I made friends with an american family on a large aluminum hulled sailing boat. The parents were former adventure school administrators now sailing from the Antarctic to the Arctic and elsewhere with their kids for four years. The kids were being home schooled and I suspect learning quite a bit more than my students do. I talked to them about how I might end my trip. I had lots of good reasons, especially that I was sick of wearing the same stinky neoprene every day. But with an ear for my whining and the break from my loneliness that they offered, I was no longer so desperate to go home.

A German father and son in the boat next door invited me to sleep over on the couch in their saloon. With a bed and a shower of sorts, the next morning I was ready to continue my quest.



Monday, July 13, 2015

Norway Post 16

Sunday evening I had a phone interview for a really great job, and since I didn’t know where I’d have access to Skype next, I decided to stay where I was. A robotic lawn mower kept me company.

Day 13

I paddled north along the island Gossa. The sea was a little choppy and there was some headwind. The region was known for sinking ships with a combination of bad weather and shallow waters. At least I didn’t need to worry about the shallow water.

Half way through crossing to the mainland a ship came down the channel towards me, so I changed my course so that it was perpendicular to his to get out of his way.

I cut between a couple of islands and found myself in the harbor of Bud where new boats floated next to old docks.

I came out from between more rocky islands and rounded a corner to head east when the weather began to make itself felt strongly on my port side. A path hinted safety between the the rocks to my right. I followed it around a corner to a dead end, and returned the way that I came.

A hundred meters later another path wound into the rocks. This time it went through. For the rest of the day I paddled in narrow channels between islands and the mainland that were not on my chart. Sometimes they were dead ends, and other times a channel under a bridge or between seawalls would take me to a whole new section of the sinuous inland water way.

I arrived at a small marina in Farstad. Cozy houses populated the thick cluster of islands in the area and their occupants left their cars in the parking lot above to take motorboats the final leg home.

A French couple spent the night in the back of their minivan in the parking lot as well. They were touring the country and complaining about the weather. Last summer is was so much warmer.

I remembered just enough French so that they felt comfortable talking to me at length in their native tongue. I didn’t remember or possibly ever know enough French to understand a word they were saying.

I walked into the village looking for a supermarket, but there were just a few houses. A man washing his car told me that the next village had a supermarket and I could probably walk there in an hour, so I walked. When I was most of the way there, I got a ride.

After my shopping I walked out of the store and realized I didn’t know the way back. I hadn’t paid enough attention as a passenger. I asked a fellow shopper, a tall bicep tattooed fellow, the way to the small marina to the east and he pointed me down one of the roads.

When he drove alongside me and offered a lift I was happy to accept. I told him my story as we cruised along a road that did not look familiar until I recognized enough of the scenery to know that we drove west. The marina he wanted to take me to was a touristy one I passed earlier in the day, which he naturally assumed was the one I was looking for since I was a tourist.

I explained again that I needed to go to the marina to the east. I could show him on a map if he had one. He asked me to hold his open beer while he loaded up a map on his phone.

I mumbled something in surprise that ended with “not that I’m judging.”

“Don’t worry,” he told me, “It’s my first one. I got in a fight with my girlfriend.”


I showed him on his phone where my marina was and he we drove there. He took my picture while he dropped me off so that he could prove to his girlfriend that he had really been doing a good deed and not gallivanting.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Norway Post 15

Day 12

I paddled past a couple of big islands and plenty of small ones to Aukra. On the eastern end of Otroya a bunch of pipes ran out along the surface of the water to some fish farms I had passed inland of about ten minutes earlier.

I could go over them or back around the way I had come adding much too much time to my already long day.

I hauled my boat over, first by ramming the pipes to get my bow up, then powering over with heaving strokes.  When I was close enough I reached out to gorilla scoot with my hands lifting me over the pipes.  Finally finishing with more heaving strokes to free my stern. The pipes were definitely floating on the water, going up and down with the gentle waves, but they did not sink very much under my boat's considerable weight.

A dolphin came up and submerged several times about 20 feet off my starboard bow. It turns out they're not dolphins, but some other marine mammal. I guess that explains why there smaller than the dolphins I've seen in the past.


video

In Aukra some folk picnicking above the water invited me to stay for the weekend, have a shower, do my laundry, drink scotch, and have dinner with them. It was a super victory. My host played the accordion and we tried to sing along.





Thursday, July 9, 2015

Norway Post 14

In the hostel I ran into Married Sara. I gave her pictures I took and we cheerfully talked of what we'd been up to since we last paddle together.

Day 11

After installing my skeg and failing to get my phone straightened out I launched at two in the afternoon, the woman who sold me the sim card told me it might take a few days. I started off tired and despite the heavily archipelagic seascape I navigated through, I felt a little scared. I was going north, I could have gone south but I was going north. It'll get prettier and more interesting and a number of experienced kayakers told me this was the way to go. The sea and air temperature will also get colder. I hope I'm up for it.

After three hours it was pouring rain. I fought into a head wind and passed a man in a small motor boat pulling cages out of the water. I had only paddled half the distance I wanted to, but I was tired and cold.

"Ahoy!" I called out. "Can I sleep in your boat house tonight?"

"No," he told me.

"Thanks anyways."

We talked a little more and I pulled into the marina. He came in just behind me and told me he changed his mind. I went crabbing with him for an hour and then slept wonderfully in his clean dining room boathouse where he brought me chocolate.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Norway Post 13

Two nails protruded from the side of a boat house on the main dock. I tied a line between them and hung my kayaking outfit to dry: I wear a neoprene farmer Jon, cap, skirt, dry top, and booties to stay warm. The water temperature is in the lower 50's.

Boathouses lined the placid water of the bay, all locked. A man walked by and asked me if I was going to sleep in the boathouse I hung my things on.

"I can't.  It's locked. Is it yours?"

"No, but I'll call a guy who can let you in." He made a phone call and a few moments later a car pulled up and a smiling plump bald man let me into the boathouse. The floor was buried under a foot of refuse. Old cardboard boxes, broken glass, and all sorts of garbage made it impossible to enter without climbing a dump. There was some chuckling from the few men who were now gathered to welcome me into their town.

"Kids used to throw their garbage in here at night, before we started locking it," he told me, "but there's a clear space in the back."

I put on shoes and went to check it out. The space was clear, but dirty. Pieces of a torn up mattress littered the corner.  It was more or less the right shape of floor to sleep on.

"Thank you for the offer," I told the men waiting for my response. "I haven't made up my mind yet. I might prefer to sleep under the stars after all."

I found an abandoned boathouse that was empty. The lock on the door would have kept me out if the whole in the wall hadn't let me in. I slept dry in the rain and woke only slightly dusty in the morning.

After breakfast I walked up the hill to use the market's bathroom and ran into the man who let me into the rubbish filled boathouse "So did you sleep inside or out?"

"Inside, thank you for everything."

Day 10

After passing under Northern Europe's largest stone bridge I followed a chain of islands east through a narrow fjord shaped by two larger islands with low hills. I stuck to the southern side of the smaller in between islands to shelter from the strong north wind. Whenever I crossed from one island to the next, I edged strongly into the wind to compensate for the weather cocking. The crossings were short, though on account of my skirt being a little bit too big, whenever I edge cold water seeps into my boat.

The plan was to pull up to a boat house on the northern end of Alesund and then walk to the hostel that I had my new skeg shipped to.

I passed what looked like a mining operation, an a factory or two, but no boathouses. They're everywhere a village or single cottage is lining the water, except for the north side of Alesund.

I pulled into the main harbor in the center of town and asked a sailor working on his boat if he thought my kayak was safe overnight on the dock. He kindly offered to let me keep my kayak on his deck. Then thought I might also want to talk to the kayak rental place five minutes away.

Jonathan at kayak tomorrow was happy to let me store my boat in his shop. He had everything set up to get the salt of my gear and hang it to dry. 

 From there I got a Norwegian simcard for my phone for about $55.  The phone still didn't work, but the woman in the store told me to just be patient.

I went to two different post offices to pick up two packages sent to the same address. In one package was my skeg and the other my skeg chord. Jonathan was happy to help me install them.



Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Norway Post 12

Day 9

For most of the day I paddled into a headwind. I stuck close to the edge of the fjord  to keep away from the strongest winds except for when I had to cross.

Shortly before finishing in Skodje I passed through a channel about 15 feet wide. For a hundred meters or so I pushed into a tidal current that made me feel like I was paddling up a brisk river, but then the waters widened and the current died down.

In the clear water I passed a jellyfish the size of a microwave.

Here in Skodje there are lots of boathouses on the water. They're all locked, but an old one has a big hole in one of the walls. Hopefully it'll keep me dry tonight. It rained yesterday. It rained today. It's expected to rain through the end of the week. It's cold.




Monday, July 6, 2015

Norway Post 11

On Sunday I separated my hat from my life jacket so that I could wear my hat while climbing to the top of the fjord. I separated my hat from my glasses when I got too hot in the shade and wanted to take my hat off. After the hike, when I rolled my kayak to cool down I lost my glasses.

Day 8

For the third and final time I paddled through Geirangerfjord past it's fantastic waterfalls and beneath its enormous cliffs.

When I got to where the fjord split I turned south into a strong headwind and paddled to Hellesylt because when I came up with my route back in NJ it seemed like I'd want to take a look.

After the enormous struggle into the wind, I turned around and made great time with a robust tail wind.

I ended my day at Uksvika. Sadly, as I knew they would be, the Germans were gone. I had hoped that someone similarly friendly would be renting the house, but it was empty.

I walked for another kilometer or so to the next house with my empty water bag. The woman who answered the door was happy to give me water, though she did not ask if there was anything else she could do for me like invite me into her shower. When she returned the bag several children were squeezed into the doorway to quietly look at me. The bag was only about a third full, not enough. I thanked her and took the bag.

Back at my boat I filled the bag from a stream with my water filter, having used my extra day in Geiranger to kill the colony growing there with bleach.




Sunday, July 5, 2015

Norway Post 10

Over a week ago I spent a night in a hostel in Oslo, and it was there that I met an American named Sara. She was pretty, energetic, and to my great surprise accepted my invitation to kayak with me for nine weeks in Norway. Nobody ever accepted my random invitations. I was shocked. The only kayak she'd ever been in was a sit-on-top, which is not really a kayak at all. I talked her down to a week. Perhaps I wouldn't make lots of miles, but she was pretty enough so that it didn't matter.

She couldn't start right away, but she'd rent a boat from a local outfitter and meet me in Geiranger. I never thought she'd actually show up so far from anywhere. What were the odds that I would get to paddle for a week with a beautiful woman in Norway's breathtaking fjords? We're talking about me; I'm about as likely to hook up with a beautiful woman for a week of kayaking as a princess is to find a prince while kissing frogs, because that's the girl I need, only I don't turn into a prince so hopefully Sara won't be disappointed.

She showed up Saturday afternoon after a long bus ride through the night. We talked about kayaking and how my trip had been so far. We talked about the gear we had and the gear she needed. We talked about her time in Norway; she's looking for work in communications. We talked about her schooling and her husband back home and how she's working on her thesis for her masters to graduate.

Maybe she meant ex-husband. Did you say you were married?

"Yah. He's applying to medical school."

I should have taken my grandma's advice and become a doctor.

It looked like I'd be kayaking slowly for a week with a girl who, like most others, wasn't the least bit interested in me. Maybe she had some redeeming characteristic that made up for her being married, like the ability to juggle flaming batons. That would have been cool.

Except there was news in the evening. The outfitter she was going to rent the kayak from changed the price. The old price apparently hadn't included delivery to Geiranger, even though that had been discussed at length. The new price was too expensive for her, so she couldn't come after all.

I felt guilty that she came all that way on account of me with nothing to show for it. My hosts, who only did daily kayak rentals, gave us a kayak for the day for free. We paddled for an hour to a trail head at the bottom of the fjord and climbed to a breathtaking vista near the top. The paddling and the climbing took almost all day, and it was a day well spent for both of us.

Besides the great hike, my chafing wounds got to heal a little bit. I taught some kayaking techniques to my hosts in the evening, and I was invited to go backpacking in South America with Freeda in the fall. Freeda is a dazzlingly beautiful Scandinavian who studied at the University of Miami on a full rowing scholarship.

I don't yet have a teaching gig for next year since the school that I taught at last year announced on the last day that they were closing. It would be amazing to go to South America with Freeda. I don't know if I have enough money, and I'd probably meet her there only to find that she brought a boyfriend. Except what if that boyfriend turned out to be me?


Friday, July 3, 2015

Norway Post 9

Day 7

I headed south into Geirangerfjorden. Aside from the occasional gust, the weather was calm. Clouds passed in front of the sun intermittently.

Streams gushed off steep snowy peaks besides the water. They poured over cliffs and fell for such a long time that they almost entirely evaporated into mists before spreading over the rocks or sea below. Every nook and cranny of the tree patched rock faces was a conduit for the melting mountain top snow to find its way to the sea. The brutally tall peaks were alive with water. Their veins flowed with the stuff of life, and on every spot that some form of life could cling, something grew.

I passed four Dutch kayakers in fancy boats with top notch gear and we stopped and chatted for a bit. I would have loved to join them but they were headed in the opposite direction and I was expected in Geiranger. They're only paddling for three days, so I'll likely see them again on my way out of the fjord.
It was near one of the most breathtaking natural displays, where seven waterfalls fell from the same towering cliff into the sea, that I met two other paddlers in a tandem. They rented it for the afternoon from the place around the bend.

Good. The guy, who's name I couldn't remember, rented out kayaks in the fjord. Apparently he was the only one, my fellow paddlers informed me, so I'd paddle the short remaining distance in their company and be done. I was tired. It had been a long day and a long week.

The couple were Norwegians from Oslo on holiday. He was an engineer and worked with the country's hydro electric system. I had seen two station on the fjord so far. The system provides the country with most of its electricity, and with all the water falling off the mountains, it's no surprise.

We arrived at the dock. My host, whose name I still couldn't remember, told me that he'd have someone wait for me since he couldn't be there himself. However, the guy at the dock never heard of me and wasn't waiting for me. He suggested that I look for my friend at another kayak rental place in the main part of the village a kilometer on.

I looked around. I was tired and getting cold. My chafing hurt.

After I gave up on finding another kayak rental place, I got out and looked up my host's name on my phone. I then paddled the kilometer back to the first dock and asked if Rubio worked there.

He did. I was welcomed into Rubio's home and invited to shower. Rubio, a co manager with Mark at Geiranger Adventure was a wonderful host. Rubio and Mark are also exceptional kayakers and guides, and if you ever find yourself in Geiranger go for a paddle with them. You'll have a great time and be awed and inspired by this spectacular fjord.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Norway Post 8

Day 6

I slept wonderfully, waking up only once in the middle of the night to check if the tide had taken my boat. My efforts to haul it up cleared the high tide line by half a foot. I figured it would be safe if I got it above the lowest point where I could find green land grass growing between the rocks, and it was.

In the morning, as I ate my breakfast, dolphins snorted and surfaced about 50 meters out. Based on their size, I suspected it was the same trio I had seen previously. Once I'd launched and was on my way I saw them again, together with two other slightly larger members of their pod. 

Later in the day I saw the squirrely water creature that might be an otter for just a couple of seconds. They're very shy.

In the bay at Skotet there's a dock at the bottom of a heavily wooded incredibly steep slope. A young Norwegian ran to the edge and leaped off the dock with a hoot. It was warm and sunny; the water was about 55 degrees.

He yelped in Norwegian what undoubtedly translated to "COLD!" and swam back to the dock.  His friends chuckled as he climbed back onto the dock.  Hopefully they'd give it a shot themselves.

I wanted to confirm that I was where I thought I was, so I asked if I was in Skotet.  It was, strange that I didn't see any houses.

I followed the fjord south and finished wearily in the small marina in Uksvika. There I met some Germans renting a house for the week. They gave me a shower, beer, seasonings for my dinner, and lots of good cheer.  Norway seems to be full of happy people and flowing with showers.



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Norway Post 7

I slept in a covered gasoline pungent motor boat. Wind and rain jostled the boat about through the gray light night and jerked the boat at its mooring. I woke repeatedly, scared that the boat's owner was looking in at me through windows and wanted me out. I did not get the best night's sleep. But besides my night light induced paranoia and the fumes, I was comfortable and dry.

Day 5

The morning started off with similar stomach problems to the previous day. And like the previous day I bolted out of my sleeping bag barely managing to aim my but over the side of the dock on time.

Unlike anywhere I'd been since Alesund, there was a market in Hundeid-vika. I walked for about ten minutes, stopped to poop in the thick woods on the side of the road, then walked for another ten minutes and was there. The market wouldn't open until 10:00 and it was 9:34. I meandered around town looking for an unprotected wireless signal.  Amazingly, I found one. There are fewer of them than there used to be. As far as I know, Hundeidvik is not large enough to have a cafe, library, or some other public point of access.

I bought tasty Norweigan bread with lots of seeds on it, cream cheese, and pickled jalapenos. My pea free breakfast was wonderful.

I launched at 12:30 with a spectacular tail wind* that blew me out of the Fjord in no time, then became a headwind and eventually died down altogether.

Continuing east, I crossed the mouth of a smaller fjord. At the far end of the crossing was a ferry dock taking people north across the main fjord's channel. International maritime law gives human powered vessels the right of way over more nimble motorized vessels like ferries.

I passed in front of the ferry. I gave him plenty of room and plenty of time, and if he did need to slow down or stop for me then it was at the entrance to his dock where he needed to slow down and stop anyways. But I don't think he needed too, the sea was big enough for both of us to get where we needed to go at our own pace.

Somebody said something in Norwegian on the radio that might have been addresses to a yellow boat, the color of mine. I don't speak Norwegian. The message was repeated a couple of times before the broadcaster gave up.

I decided I could use a short day since I wanted to take it a little easy the first week. At around 16:00 I found a suitable beach near a sufficiently small stream; I pulled over and set up camp.

With the help of Dr. Bronner's and my sponge I washed myself in the tiny stream and had some peas and rice for dinner. The peas do not agree with me. Since they don't sell dried lentils or American peas in non specialty stores here I'm hoping my body will adapt. In the meantime, tough shit.

The sun came out this afternoon and it's shaping up to be a really warm day. Perhaps I'll be able to work on my tan while I sleep tonight. My camp lacks nothing except for a flat spot to lie down, but I'll make do.

*Not related to the peas.