Sunday morning I set out away from the fjords into one of Norway's most beautiful archipelagos and a world heritage sight. Some 6,000 low islands cluster together just north of Vega. Across that pristine expanse is the island of Husvaer where a kayaking couple live and host other paddlers. They advertise on their website that they're there and paddling all year round so come on by. The few other kayakers I've me on my journey told me that I have to visit, both because it's so beautiful and because I'm sure to meet other paddlers.
My first crossing was to the island Ylvingen. Leaving Bronnoysund I passed a number of small islands before getting out into the channel proper. About five minutes after I passed the last of those, with a substantial tailwind, I began to panic that I didn't pack my phone and wallet.
I wanted to just keep going. Worst case scenario I would arrive in Husvaer and figure out how to take public transportation back to Bornnoysund. It wouldn't cost me more than two days at the most. Or, I could turn around and head back to that last island. If I had it then it would cost me about ten to twenty minutes. If I didn't then I could paddle back to Bronnoysund and only be two two hours behind schedule.
I estimated it would take me a total of ten hours to paddle from Bronnoysund to Husvaer. It was farther than I liked to go in a day, but I wanted to visit with the kayak hosts.
I turned around and returned to the last of Bronnoysund's islands. I slid my kayak into a bed of seaweed in a rock crevice. The most likely place for my phone was in the orange drybag in the hatch immediately behind my cockpit. I could get it without getting out and pulling the kayak onto the island, but if I did that and dropped anything important* I risked losing it.
I opened the bag. My phone and wallet were on top, so there was no need to take anything out searching for them. I returned the bag to its hatch and resumed paddling.
The wind was supposed to come from the south, but it seemed to be coming from the east, as though blowing out of the mainland's mountains. That was still favorable, but not as helpful as I liked.
From the north end of Ylvingen it got tricky. There were 6,000 tiny islands ahead of me, and I had to find Husvaer. It was at the far end. I had it marked on my chart, but my chart didn't have enough detail to show half the islands out there, and of those it did show many were nothing more than dots or plus symbols. This was going to be the first major navigational challenge of the trip, if not of my post military life. Fun!
I set my course and five miles due north I arrived at the first of the 6,000. It was populated by fuzzy chicks and their parents tweeting at me angrily from the air above. The small birds are black and white with bright orange beaks. After seagulls, I've seen these birds most often in Norway. They're almost always in pairs and quick to use themselves as loud low flying bait to lead me away from their nest. This was the first time I'd seen the chicks.
Occasionally a parent bird would swoop low with a small shiny fish in it's mouth and feed one of the little folk, but most of the parents were busy swooping low and tweeting, "That island is boring, come check this out!"
I took some bearings with my pocket compass off of the mountain range known as Seven Sisters, Analshatten, and Donmannnen. The nearly flat archipelago was surrounded by steep snowy thousand meter peaks. Not only did that make the view breathtaking from every island, but it also made it possible for me to triangulate my position and confirm that I was on the island that I wanted to be on.
I paddled north for another eight miles. Gradually the islands accumulated on my right and then they were all around me. Around every corner was a new view of a new world. Some of the islands had sheep, some had red tinged pine trees, some had both.
I was aiming for the island of Skaalvaer because it was clearly marked on my map and probably recognizable in real life; if it had a name on the map it probably had a village.
The island I thought was Skalvaer had three houses. There was a channel marker of sorts which might have matched up to the one on my map, even though it seemed to be the wrong kind of channel marker. I turned around the north end of the island where I saw the right sort of channel marker next to an island with a village. I paddled to Skaalvaer.
I took a bearing to Husvaer off my chart and matched it up to a distant island with an especially high forested hill. I headed straight towards it, only there was an island in my way, then another, and another. I was a mouse in a maze. Did this pass go through? Probably not. I paddled farther in one direction, then another. Sometimes the space between islands was too shallow or full of seaweed. Other times in the low light I just couldn't tell if I was looking at a dead end or not. My glasses prescription being slightly off wasn't helping.
I found my way through, and after nine hours and forty five minutes of paddling, faster for the tail wind slower for the maze, I arrived at Husvaer. The kayak hosts who advertise on their site that they're there all year round, take August off to go on vacation. But a woman with a guest house next to her dock generously invited me to sleep in it and I slept like a log.
*Everything was important.