Day 143. Vardo to Makkaur Fyr

Posted by: James on May 23, 2009

Distance 58km | Time 12hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

Day 143.1 Just passing the headland of Blodskytodden on a grey morning with Harbaken prominentary above the bow in the distanceThe alarm went at 0300 and I got up at once and went to have the breakfast which was laid out. It had finished it just as the north going Hurtigruten ferry arrived at 0400. By the time I had packed up the boat and set off the ferry had long gone and it was already 0500.

As I paddled out of the harbour entrance the south east breeze started to give me a small push. Initially I went between the main island and Reinoya island. Reinoya is rich in birdlife and attracts many international birdwatchers, who sometimes see the rare migrant also.

The large swell of a couple of days ago has gone from three metres to one metre. It was coming from behind me, as was the breeze and as the tide was ebbing in the direction I was going. I was doing about 8 km an hour and if I sprinted about 12.

From the north tip of the main island I cut across the sound to the jagged grey rocks and boulder beaches at the point of Blodsyktodden. This was a rugged and wild coastline. On reaching the point the view across the open Persfjorden opened up with the rounded prominentary of Harbaken some 20 km across the fjord.

Initially I started to head across the fjord to a great rock edifice near Seglodden and then I was going to follow the dark rugged steep coast a bit before cutting across the fjord again to reach the once thriving and now abandoned village of Hammingberg and the Harbaken prominentary. However the conditions were so favorable to cut across the fjord I just set a course for Harbaken.

Hammingberg was a village which was abandoned some 40 years ago when Norway was poor and the government withdrew support for services like keeping the road open in winter and schooling. As a result people left and the 10 odd houses here now are summer cabins. It would not be allowed to happen in today’s Norway with its bursting coffers.

I had been in the kayak for 4 hours when I rounded Harbaken prominentary and headed for Skjavika beach. there were a couple of sea eagles having an ariel fight here with one no doubt chasing the other off it patch or partner. Also for the first time this trip I saw some seals here.

Day 143.2 The raised boulder beach at Skjavika looking out across the mouth of SyltefjordenIn the sheltered bay I found a spot to land and went ashore to stretch my legs and shoulders. This was at the bottom of a series of raised beaches, as indeed is so much of the coastline here. The land has risen many, many metres since the weight of ice sheet disappeared some 10000 ago years ago and the beaches formed at the then sea level were simply elevated. The current beach I was on merged with previous beaches into a long shallow slope of bare boulders and cobbles. It was strewn with drift wood and I contemplated a fire.

I had no water so went for a walk to find some however the whole landscape was so boulder strewn and porous, even in the gullies which came down from the plateau above, there was no chance of finding any. There was an old sea cave at the base of a cliff now far above the ocean.

Day 143.3 Crossing Syltefjorden with the gannetry of Sytlefjordstasuren in the cliffs on the centre leftOutside the bay was Syltefjorden, which is a steep sided inlet some 10 km across and 30 km deep. On its far and northern side is a long line of cliffs and buttresses. One of these was buttresses is separated from the rest by a steep chasm. This is Syltefjordstauren. It is a haven for sea birds as the steep chasm prevented any predators preying on chicks and eggs. It was about 20 km from me and even from here I could make out the paler coloured rocks which would be covered in guano or bird droppings. This bird colony is especially known for its gannets. Unfortunately visiting this colony would have been a considerable detour so I skipped it.

I headed straight over the fjord with the wind behind me and the negligible current against me. On the north side was a bay called Russevik which I had been warned was a rough place to land and poor place to camp. To the east of this bay was a headland called Syltefjordklubben, also with a prominentary on it, which I headed for. As I paddled the grey drab morning was replaced by an advancing curve of perfect weather which was nothing but blue sky and sunshine. It was still too cold to take the poggies of my hands though.

The trip across this fjord was fast and easy. The wind which was a good force 3 gave me an extra 2 or even 3 km per hour. All sorts of sea birds came to investigate me, especially gannets which circled above me, judging me with their piercing eyes. There were also quite a few puffins, Tysties and guillemots.

day-1434-the-wild-coast-from-syltefjordklubben-to-korsneset-with-the-stormollvika-bay-on-the-leftAs I went round Syltefjordklubben the swell and waves hit the flooding tide and this slowed them considerably making them much steeper. The momentum of the upper part of the wave carried them on while the bottom part slowed, so there were tumbling white caps everywhere. They were smallest near the shore where the current was less so I could paddle a less bumpy path here but had to remain vigilant for skerries which could suddenly erupt when a larger swell rose up on them.

Day 143.5 Stormollvika bay with the huge pile of boulders forming the km long beach.Once I was passed Syltefjordklubben and into quieter waters I headed along the coast and into Stormollvika bay. Here I found a sheltered spot to land and sneaked in. The steep beach here was a vast pile of boulders, it was km long and seemed to loom over me up to a height of 25-30 metres. If I camped here and the wind changed to north I would be stuck, imprisoned by huge dumping waves onto this unforgiving beach which would make short work of fibreglass. There was not a hint of that now in this quite glorious sunshine. For the first time since Bugoynes a week ago it was almost warm.

I lingered a bit on this beach but did not bother looking for water as despite the map showing a river I could not see one and assumed it was under the boulders which stretched for a good few ankle twisting kilometers. It certainly was a wild spot. I also wanted to stretch and wait for a while until the tide slowed otherwise the next headland, called Korsneset, could be bumpy as it was a bit more exposed than the previous ones. It was just across the small but remote Makkaur-Sandfjorden.

After another hours pause I set off and crossed this small fjord in glorious sun. I reached the headland quickly and the anticipated current and choppy water were almost gone. The tide must be turning and the water slack. I soon saw the lighthouse at Makkaur some 5 km along the coast. With the wind behind me still it look less than an hour to reach it. By now the sun had veered round and was almost in my face. It was so bright with its reflection from the water also I think you would get snow blindness without glasses.

Day 143.6 The Makkaur Fyr lighthouse with the wrecked bow of a ship hurled up the rocks in front of itOn the rocks below the lighthouse was the bow of a large ship. It was shocking to see just how high above the current sea the waves at the time had carried this massive iron edifice before smashing into smaller pieces. After the wreck I paddled into a bay where the lighthouse was. I would be able to get out here and I did.
The Makkaur Fry lighthouse was the lighthouse itself, two accommodation buildings for previous lighthouse keepers and numerous sheds. I had a look round and then prepared a meal in the shelter of a shed in the sun. my plan was to have a bite and a couple of hour’s siesta and then continue through the evening and night to Berlevag. I laid out the foam mattress and sleeping bag on a grassy patch and slept. It was just 1800 but I had been up since 0300.

The sun must have cooked me in my bag as when I woke at 2100 I was hot and confused. The wind was still in my favour, but the tide was just about to turn against me again. Suddenly the bravado of paddling to Berlevag disappeared and I decided to stay. I found a shed which was open and had a table and chair. It was rustic and mostly clean. I am sure no one would mind me sleeping here rather than putting the tent up. The whole lighthouse complex here was now automatic and unmanned.

I pulled the boat higher and took out a few more possessions from the boat and made a base in the shed. It was nice to be able to use the table and chair. In a way I was squandering a perfect paddling evening, but I had also just used a perfect paddling day to the maximum. There is no great hurry as the quicker I get to Oslo the quicker the paddle tour is over.

It had been a perfect day. Paddling paradise!

One Response to “Day 143. Vardo to Makkaur Fyr”

  1. Camilla Wikström Says:

    Hi James,
    Nice to hear that you are “going” again. Though you did not tell how the rudder is working. I had a chat with people at “Utsidan” http://www.utsidan.se/forum/showthread.php?t=55817 about possible experience of Smart Track. According to Trapper’s Hans Friedel, there should not be many problems. Though Trapper has the fixing bolts casted into the glass fiber hull, so you cannot get a leak here. (My kayak is a Trapper)
    I can see on the weather forecast that bad weather is coming, so I hope you get over to Nordkinn before it comes.
    Thank you again for the nice reports on your blog. I look forward to them every day. I can see the landscape in front of me, I visited the Varanger coast some 40 years ago on a botanical expedition.
    Keep up with the good work!

    Camilla