Saturday, April 9, 2011

Paddling from Vestfossen to the Swedish border, or....

On Thursday, me and my youngest son, Åsmund had planned an “expedition” from Vestfossen river, into the fjord, cross to Østfold, and all the way down to the Swedish border. All together a 150 km. trip that we had 4 days to do. We packed food, water, tent and all other necessities in our new built double baidarka, and headed out early Thursday morning.


The trip started well, in spite of ice cold water and cool weather. We noticed several types of ducks, geese and other birds that had returned from their warm winter residence. We also saw fresh beaver tracks and a mink running along the shore.  When we had our first break, the sun came out, and we could really enjoy warm weather.

It was joyful to follow the change of landscape on the way, from the crooked and shallow Vestfossen river, to the straight and deep Drammens river, and finnaly Drammen city, Drammen harbor to the Drammen Fjord.

As we approached Drammen, the wind grew stronger, and on the fjord, white topped choppy waves rose. We paddled partly in lee, and partly with the wind in the back, but had a hard time steering safely sometimes, when the waves grew really big. We were close to shore and both wore dry suits, but didn’t want to take any chances with a heavily loaded double kayak.

I was a bit anxious about the Svelvik stream – a narrow passage at the entrance to the Drammens fjord. The current here can be as strong as 10 knots and great ships pass here constantly. As we came close, it was obvious that there were no problems passing, even though a great timber freight ship passed us, when we were half ways through.
Just after Svelvik we found a nice beach sheltered by some pine trees, and we decided to camp for the night. We had paddled 45 km. then, and Åsmund was a bit tired. We enjoyed a nice evening meal and coffee in the setting sun, and went for a small walk before we jumped into our sleeping bags and slept well – what a day!

According to the weather forecast, the weather should be sunny with light winds from south east. Our route should continue around the Hurum peninsula, and we would make a crossing to Østfold at the shortest possible place. From here we would follow the coast south, either on the inside or the outside of some sheltering islands, depending on the weather.

That was the plan, but the weather turned out slightly different then the weather forecast. Light breeze became breeze about the time of our first break – 15 km. from out campsite. This was on Rødtangen, Hurum. During the break the wind got even stronger, and when we stood up and tried to look in the direction of the wind, we actually had problems standing straight. A gale was on its way. Strange, because the sun was shining and the weather was otherwise good.
The outer Oslo fjord where we were is open, and offers few alternatives for paddling in bad weather. Continuing was not safe, and we decided to cancel the trip for now, and call for someone to come and pick us up.

Not far from where we were, was a car road down to the water, and we decided to try to paddle back to that place, 1 km. from where we were. There was no real danger, since we paddled close to shore and would be blown to shore within few minutes in case of capsize. This last bit against the wind was almost as exhausting as the 45 km. we had paddled the day before. Breaking waves kept pushing us sideways, and the wind made us feel we were hardly moving forward. After 30 exhausting minutes, we finally made it to the car road, where we had a good break, organized and unpacked the kayak, and were picked up after an hour by Hanne, my wife.
It was a bit disappointing for us both to cancel the trip, but there were no other good opportunities.  We could have chosen another route, that would be safe with the weather that came, but we planned according to the weather forecast, which was completely wrong, so….. We have decided to make another attempt some other day. As I write these words, I read today’s paper, speaking of yesterday’s weather:”Stormy wind blew the roof off a school building” is on the front page……Perhaps it was anyway a wise decision to cancel the trip!