Distance 66km | Time 13hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m
I looked at the forecast when I woke to confirm it would still be a good day. The forecast was a bit ambiguous but if luck fell my way then it would be no more than a force 4 all day. I was excited as I contemplated making it round the infamous Stad peninsula. I got up at 0700 and had everything in the kayak and had left the enclosed beach by 0900.
As I paddled out of the breakwater the Hurtigruten ferry went past heading north and the island of Runde, famous for its’ bird colonies, especially the puffin colony, was basking in the sun under an otherwise overcast morning. Runde looked quite green.
I first paddled south down the coast past the smaller island of Vattoy and on to the village of Torvik on the island of Leinoy. Torvik was very rural in contrast to Ulsteinvik across the fjord on the island I had just paddled from. Ulsteinvik, despite being on an island was a town of around 2500 people with a couple of large ship building complexes and other industries.
At the south end of Leinoy was a bridge and causeways connecting this island its larger neighbour of Gurskoy to the south. I went under the bridge and then started heading west through Stokksund. Again there were some nice idyllic islets in the sound but some industry on each side of it. On Bergsoy to the north was a quarry and a small town called Heroy and to the south was the large village of Moltustranda where there was a rusting factory. It is surprising how such industries can survive in these relatively remote locations and one imagines that there is a fair amount of government support to such places to enable them to survive.
I rounded the north west corner of Gurkoy and noticed a gentle swell coming in from the Atlantic. It was only about a metre high and the crests some 100 metres apart. From a higher boat it would have been indiscernible, but from my low position I could see it. I quickly crossed Sandsfjord to reach the island of Sande.
Sande was a beautiful island with a few sandy beaches around it. One on the south side beneath the church was large and white. It was still overcast and there was absolutely no wind at all. Just to the west of Sande were the last islands of Kvamsoy and Riste before Stad.
Kvamsoy was reasonably large with some very nice sandy beaches to the north of it. There were some quaint old farms around the beaches. The best beach was perhaps to the east of the village of Ristesund and this would make an ideal base to camp if the weather was such one could not continue round Stad. To the north of Kvamsoy was Riste which had a single house on its Celtic green slopes and was probably grazed by sheep.
I paused on the coast to the north west of Kvamsoy beyond the beaches to eat in the kayak and was helped along slightly by an east breeze which was developing. As I ate I drifted through some islets and skerries where there some dozen seals and many gulls and shags. Most of this year’s gull chicks, mottled brown bodies with black beaks, were now able to fly. They could not catch their own food yet and still whined at their parents to regurgitate their catch of small fish to eat.
After lunch I set my sights across the Vanylvsgapet stretch of water towards the most northerly and easterly of the headlands on the Stad peninsula There were 4 such headlands, this one in the north and three down the west side. It was a gently and easy crossing with the smallest of swells and a bit of drizzle.
Stad has a fearsome reputation. Perhaps the worst on the entire Norwegian coast and it is considered one of the most dangerous pieces of water in the world. As I rounded this northern headland called Stalet I could not help thinking how such reputations are exaggerated and how lucky I was with the weather. There were a few skerries off the actual point where there was the now 1.5 metre swell breaking in a quiet roar, but otherwise all looked good,
Just after Stalet was a deep bay where there were the hamlets of Honningsvag and Arvik around which there was the occasional green field for fodder and grazing but mostly these would have been fishing hamlets with easy access to the rich fishing grounds right outside the bay. Beyond the bay was the next headland, perhaps the main one called Kjerringa, translated as ‘The Old Hag’. It was the most northerly of the three headlands on the west side and it rose nearly 500 metres straight out of the Atlantic Ocean.
Had I looked at the map with less rose tinted glasses I would have realized I was still in the lee of the weather and was lulled into a false sense of security. As I reached Kjerringa the south westerly swell started to build and build quickly. This swell was not local but was travelling across the Atlantic Ocean from a low pressure centre where the gale or even storm winds some thousands of kilometers away had generated them. They had travelled at about 20 km per hour pretty much unimpeded from this stormy origin.
When I got to the tip of Kjerringa this swell was now a good 4 metres high, but the crests where 100 metres apart. I climbed for 5 seconds and then fell back into the trough for 5 seconds. There was nothing too anxious about this. However when this swell was approaching the rocky ramparts at the base of the steep slopes it was flowing into shallower water and this caused the base of the wave to slow down while the top still had momentum. The result was the swell suddenly built to 5 metre waves which then crashed onto the rocks with great violence and plumes of spray.
Then this same wave then crashed back into the sea and started rebounding back in the direction it came. When the rebounding wave hit the next incoming wave the crest would suddenly leap into the air in a white claw of foam. Of course it is never as simple as this and the waves rebound at different angles causing the whole sea of leap wildly, with these white claws developing everywhere. This is called Clapotis.
I could avoid the worst of this clapotis by keeping far out and went round Kjerringa some half km from the base of the cliffs. Here the swell was largely unaffected by the rebounds and was relatively gentle. I continued to paddle south past the base of the cliffs until a bay appeared. This was Ervika bay.
Some 2 km off the coast from Kjerringa is a group of skerries and shallows called Bukketjuvane. These have claimed many, many lives through the centuries. These shallows just break the surface rising from the seabed of 60 metres. Today they looked like a place to stay well clear of in my small kayak with the occasional explosion of spray as swell crashed onto them. With really big swells of 10-12 metres which on can find here sometimes the waves which leap into the sky here can be around 30 metres high and even toss larger ships about before breaking them up. Even the Hurtigruten ferry ‘Midnatsol’ very nearly came to grief on these shoals in December 2003 in just a severe gale of force 9 when it lost power.
There was a large sandy beach at the end of Ervika bay where there was a small hamlet. This bay would be fully exposed to the north west and west weather and the inhabitants of the hamlet must have seen some fearsome storms in their time. There was a breakwater here but I am not sure how easy it would have been to get behind. Otherwise there would have been a huge surf for me to get looped in if I aimed for the beach. However, I was aiming to get round all the headlands while the weather was good.
I cut across Ervika bay to the next headland called Hovden there were more shoals offshore here called Vossa where there was also some surf erupting when it caused the biggest swells to rear up and explode. I aimed for the beacon on a islet called Buholmen. There was a large breaking swell on the outside of Buholmen and I would have to go some 500 metres off shore to avoid it. On the inside of it there looked a disturbed channel which seemed quiet enough to try. As I was watching it a three metre wave suddenly reared up in the middle of this channel and made me think again.
Rather than take the sensible option and paddle out for 500 metres I decided to nip between a slot between the headland and a rock called Kobbeholmen on the landside of the disturbed channel where the wave had appeared and unsettled me. I waited for a couple of minutes watching the sea in this slot. When a big set of swells came through the wave in the disturbed channel reappeared but the slot seemed OK. I waited until the next set of big swells crashed through and then sprinted for the slot. I sliced through the foam and emerged some 10 seconds later on the other side and kept paddling until I was clear of any danger.
I now had another large bay to cross before the final headland. This bay was called Hoddervika. Like its neighbour to the north, Ervika, this bay had a large sandy beach across its end. There was no breakwater here and the swell was charging into the beach. I would have been pitch poled had I tried to land here today with the kayak cart wheeling in the large breaking surf. This was a surfer’s beach and not the place to land nearly a quarter of a ton of kayak and contents in anything but an emergency.
The coastline between Hovden headland and Hoddervika bay was very spectacular. It was one of the few place in Norway where I have seen some sea caves; which shows this land has not risen so much since the ice melted some 10,000 years ago and that it could have been relatively uncovered by the ice sheet. There were huge buttresses rising up from the sea with a roar of surf crashing on the rocks at their base. Where there was not rock there was very green grass. The place reminded me of the west coasts of Scotland or Ireland. This particular section was very like a giant version of one of my favourite paddling areas; namely the west coast of the Isle of Skye.
The wind was getting up considerably now as it blasted out of the Hoddervika bay. It was a force 5 but from the land so it did not affect the waves. However it did slow me up until I got to the relative shelter of the final headland with its twin points called Furestaven and Furenes. There was some magnificent geological folding on Furestaven with some 300 meters of rock folded in a huge arc.
As I approached the point of Furenes I noticed more shallows. These were called Gamla and Gnullane and lay some 400-500 metres off shore. I found out these shoals were also dangerous and had claimed many live as the swells drove helpless boats and ships towards them and then tossed them about in the huge waves which reared up here before smashing them. There were also some smaller waves breaking on other shoals between these two monsters and the headland, and this was the area I had to paddle through.
It was only a few hundred metres but I spent a long time observing the way the larger sets behaved when they passed over there shoals and where they broke. After some 10 minutes I worked out a route and marked my reference points while treading water in the increasing wind which was against me.
With some anxiety I set off and weaved through the skerries. A large set came through just as I was half way but luckily I was in the right position and away from the white claws which reared up above the shoals be4side me. Even when I was beyond these shoals and rounding the point I kept looking back over my shoulder to see if any monster was going to come up silently behind me.
I finally crossed into quieter waters but was now facing a force six wind against me and it was getting late at around 2130. I slowly pulled myself up to the abandoned hamlet of Ytre Fure with two well kept houses high above the rocks. There was no place to land here despite the fact the swell was now virtually irrelevant again as the shoals had passed through took their force.
Looking at the GPS map I could see there was a kind of breakwater some 2 km east along the coast into this strong force 6 wind. With the light starting to fade I decided to aim for this breakwater at the hamlet of Indre Fure. As I paddled up the rocky coast I saw nowhere to land at all. Progress was slow due to the wind and I was having to dig deep and strain my sinews to move up the coast. Eventually I was the breakwater and pulled round it.
I have occasionally had some surprises when figuring out places to stay from the map. Nothing quite matched Indre Fure. Here on the other side of this small breakwater was a beautiful white beach. Above the beach was a cluster of very nice buildings and houses in a green landscape. The houses were all surrounded with masses of plants and flowers, especially roses which were all in full bloom. It was an exceptionally idyllic sight. It was as if I had walked through a wardrobe door into a different world.
I landed the kayak on the beach and found a nice camp spot just above it. There was no one around and I put up the tent. I was now after 2200 and the last light of the day was just lingering. A lady appeared from the nicest house and I went over to explain. She and her husband were one of three families who lived here. Like many small places in Norway they had the same surname of the hamlet. They were Kjell and Marit Fure. I chatted with her for 10 minutes until it the drizzle and wind drove her in again and I went to the tent. I crashed out straight away with the rain lashing into the tent.
It had been a magnificent day and getting round Stad was another hurdle crossed. It was exposed enough to be exciting and yet the weather was clement enough for it to be reasonably safe. It was not as easy as Nordkapp, but much easier than Slettnes and Kinnarodden on Nordkinn, the first of which was quite fearful.