Snillfjord

mid Norway

Snillfjord almost 15km long and under 1km wide for most of its length. It is one of my favorite fjords and has so much to offer for the paddler and nature lover. With resident sea eagles, golden eagles, kestrels, a long cliff over 3km and almost 200m high is host to many cormorants and many other birds especially during the mating season. A solitary white sided dolphin also frequents the area.I have paddled it many times and I am never disappointed. One early winter morning the water was so still and air temperatures low that ice starting forming around me. As it thickened to a porridge like consistency, paddling became more and more difficult. I had decided that I would have to turn and try to get to land before it got worse. But the tide was turning and the incoming waves quickly disintegrated the slush.

Another solo journey, in spring, I learned just how fast conditions can change within a steep sided fjord. Having paddled out from Krokstadøra, the village at the end of the fjord, I disembarked on a sharp rocky ledge. Getting out and lifting the kayak was no problem. I lit a small bonfire with some wood I carried in my kayak. While sitting and drinking my coffee, the wind started to pick up, the bonfire rared into action, the flames increasing and I had to grab my kayak from being blown into the water. The wind continued to blow stronger and stronger, the waves increasing at an enormous rate. There was only a steep cliff at my back and the only way out was to paddle.

Paddling in waves up to one metre are not a problem, setting a fiberglass kayak in the waves and then trying to climb into the kayak from a sharp rocky ledge was a problem. Irritated at myself for getting into such a situation, I had no choice but to launch and turn back to the village. So with the paddle in one hand and holding to the rock, I clumsily fell into the kayak seat while the waves washed over the deck and seawater entered through my cockpit. One handed trying to attach my spraydeck the other hand holding to the rock, I decided it was better to push away from the rock and fasten the spraydeck when the opportunity allowed. With the kayak pointing into the waves I had to balance, hold the paddle and fix my spraydeck. I managed and turned the kayak towards the get out, deciding that it would be easier to paddle with many litres of water inside my kayak rather than pumping it out by hand. With the wind and waves at my back, I was enjoying the free ride, surfing for long stretches at a time, but it was considerably harder to steer the kayak with so much water inside.

Lesson learned, although the forecast was for winds no more than 4 to 8m/s the narrowness of the fjord funneled the wind creating a wind tunnel effect, allowing the waves to gain momentum as they travelled the length of the fjord. The importance of weather forecasts is essential, but with the sea, open or sheltered it is always unpredictable. I have encountered this on the same fjord twice since then, but I was better prepared and ready for such changes.

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