Sunday, 7 May 2017

Vibeke: First solo multi-day trip

First solo multi-day trip

This is something I have been wanting to do for quite a while, but always found an excuse for not going. Whether it be not having transport, the weather not being right or not having the equipment I need. And of course being really spoiled and invited for trips with my friends in the most amazing areas would always be the preferred option. Then I could go safely out in more challenging conditions. And never have to worry about navigation or safety issues. The decisions were always taken for me, and I only ever had to think about paddling.

Lately however I have realized the importance of not only being able to navigate and be responsible for others as well as myself. I have been realizing the importance knowing the real limits of my abilities as a paddler, team-mate and what I need to work on. And really be a self sufficient and confident paddler in my own right. I never really have had the need to find out these things before. Now it seems quite crucial. I have been in a weird mental state paddling wise. Having had to go on land on a couple of trips, seeing my friends who are much better and more experienced paddlers continue. Feeling not good enough for certain conditions when my paddling partners are so fearless and confident and good at what they are doing. Not really knowing what the problem was, I kept finding myself in conditions my body handled good enough, but my head kept telling me «this is too much, you are not good enough for this». So instead of driving my surroundings crazy, I felt that I had to do something. My decision was I needed to go out on my own and be responsible for everything myself. So I did.....

Day 1:
I started late in the afternoon, after a day of shopping all the equipment I was lacking. Like a cooker and gas, drybags for a lot more equipment than I normally bring, powerbank for charging my electricals and little bits and bobs.
When I got to the boat house I was a bit stressed and really nervous. Had I remembered everything? Had I planned everything correctly? Had I missed anything important?
Packed my boat. It was the heaviest it's ever been. And finally set off. Made sure to let my on land support group know I was starting. And got all the «good luck» and motivation I needed to collect my nerves and paddle out into the busy shipping lanes. Managed the crossings safely, and slowly got used to the different unknown movements of my now heavy boat. I really started thinking about the balance and weight distribution of my packed load, and decided to change it the next day, as the boat kept reacting weird to wind and current. Knowing my boat is quite perfect, this had to be «a human error» somewhere.
Then the boat traffic became severe. The big tankers and ships are easy. You see them coming from far away and you stay out of their way. The leisure boats are a whole different scenario. It really can get quite dangerous. And this being one of the first really nice days weather-wise in Bergen, it was probably worse than normal. And I chose the worst possible time of day to go out. So it became a problem. At one point I was forced on a barnacle covered big rock by a smaller boat. Got stuck. And could hear people laughing in the background. I was sure i had put a hole in my boat, and was really quite frustrated. However my NDK Pilgrim Expedition is made of strong stuff and got away with just a few cuts and bruises. I did realise I couldn't continue like this, it just was too dangerous. So I went on land first useful camp spot I could find. 

Having only paddled 18 km I was disappointed and a little bit discouraged. I had planned quite a long trip, and this would make it hard to reach my imaginary end goal. But setting camp was fun. I had never done this on my own before. And found it quite rewarding. Unpacked in the lovely sun. Hanged my paddle gear for drying. And got ready to cook my evening dinner. Only......No matches...How will I light my cooker without matches??..aaaah sandwiches for dinner. Oh well...Let my support group know I was safe on land. Had a few supporting words and went to sleep in my tent.

Day 2:
Woke up and it was freezing cold. I hadn't slept much. I learned the importance of a good camp spot. This one wasn't completely flat. So I ended up sliding off my sleeping mat all the time. But I was excited. I was getting out of the shipping lanes and out to the sea and wilderness. So I got out of the tent. Running around trying to pack and eat whatever I had brought that didn't need cooking. Gathered my paddle gear which was neoprene for the occasion. Only to find it completely wet and frozen. As I saw it I had two options at this point. I could either just find the strength to slide the completely stiff shorts and socks onto my bare skin, or I could wait for the sun to rise and warm it up a bit. Having had such a bad first day, in the end I went for option number one. I had to get the day started. And what a day it would turn out be. The weather was amazing. Ocean was completely flat. And most of the area I paddled, I had never seen before.

I had the biggest smile on my face all day. I was quite nervous about this one part that people kept telling me about. Known for its rough conditions and no landing spots. But I got there and it was completely flat. Sparkling water. And I could use the whole day for sightseeing and practicing my navigation. I had promised myself a long lunch break when I got this area out of the way, and I found a fisherman who kindly donated his lighter so I could light my cooker.
Got on land. Packed out all my cooking equipment. Only to find that my brand new cooker self ignites. It's times like these you can either die of shame or laugh at yourself. I laughed as it was just too good a day to be ashamed of anything. So had a two hour break just having a quick snooze in the sun. Just enough to get quite the sunburn, and set off on my final leg of the day. My body was tired, so didn’t move in lightning speed. Hands started to get sore, and blisters started appearing on my fingers. 

But I did feel like in those scenarios it was kind of nice being a solo paddler as you can set your own pace. I was in no hurry. I was just getting to this one place on the map that marked a camp spot. Only..Turned out there was no camp spot. That was when I got really tired. How far did I need to go to find one?. And what was the best tactic now? Ended up paddling for another 5 km before I got lucky and found a perfect spot. 55 km done. Perfect day. Great paddling. My confidence grew!

Day 3:
Had a lovely night. It was not cold. And I could cook myself a lovely breakfast. I had decided the evening before that it was going to be an easy day, and I could sleep in as the winds would turn to a favourable direction around lunchtime. Had a lovely morning, and just as I was putting on my paddle gear i noticed something black in my belly button..So i brushed it out as one do..Only it was stuck. Brushed again, and I noticed it had legs. A TICK...Panic set in. I absolutely hate ticks. And this one was in my belly. I kept imagining it drilling itself in there. Time to call in the support system. What do I doooooooo????? Might seem like a minor issue for some people. This was a real thriller for me. So after 5 minutes of minor surgery with a big knife. I mutilated myself enough that the tick found it best to just release and go.
I got on the water really quickly after that. Would not spend another minute on that tick infested camp spot, did another crossing over to another island. Luckily it wasn't to busy to cross. I chose to cross over at a wider spot than I normally would. But felt it was best as I had a better overview from all directions. And then to this small island where I knew there was supposed to be a good camp spot. As I got closer this huge fishing trawler passed in front of me. I was wondering why it went so slowly. And thinking what would be the best direction for me to take to be out of its way. So I picked a side. And saw that it was turning after a while. So I took a breath of relief and paddled on. Only, after a while I heard it behind me. What was it doing? Going in a circle? That’s when I realized what it was doing. It was putting out a net in a circle around me. It must have not seen me. And I was smack in the middle. I'M ABOUT TO GET FISHED I thought to myself. And started waving my paddle around franticly. When nothing happened I figured a decision had to be made. So I put my skeg up and gunned on all I could. Jumping over the nets rather big floating device and into safe waters. Waved a fist in the air at the boat and paddled over to the island.
My back was really painful from the long paddle before, and hands really sore. So I felt a short day would be nice. 

But after about two hours of rest other people started to come to the island. Barbecuing, drinking beer and playing loud music. I started to get unhappy. This did not feel like the wilderness experience I was hoping for. So I decided I've come this far, might as well paddle all the way home. Once the decision was made. I packed my boat in a hurry, and set off. It was a slow paddle. But I kept imagining my shower and bed, so it kept me going. Another crossing of a shipping lane. But timing was perfect and I just managed to set foot on land before it got dark.
Trip done. 110 km done in 2 and a half day. On my own. And I survived. The plan changed a bit as I went along. But I didn't mind. What I needed to get done. I got done. I had a very good training session covering everything from planning, camping, paddling, navigation and decision making. Being able to change plans along the way is important I think. And I really feel like I'm not as bad a paddler as I convinced myself before I went. So the mental training for this is worth more than anything.

And I've learned that paddling on your own can be quite rewarding and beautiful!


1 comment:

  1. Check my post on your page "3 weeks to go" ... Info and weblink there may be of some practical use. Good luck . J.