Paddling again in Upernavik July 31 2011 Kayak Travel Notes

Gail Ferris


7/31 Sunday at 3:30am sure enough that huge iceberg nearby, too close for comfort, underwent dramatic breakup.  The event sounded like there was a thunder storm right close by.  The sounds were a combination of thunder and explosions. 

Talk about too close for comfort, all this time I would just see the icebergs come and go, well this time it went to pieces!

I thought about it and went out looked at the waves they would have just grabbed my kayak in an instant.  Now I was especially glad that I left my kayak up high off the rocks next to my tent rather than below on the rocks because those waves would have just swept it away.



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And this was a horrible lesson about choosing more carefully a campsite because the steep waves nearly reached my tent.  Just a touch higher and I would have been a goner! It is one of those always look for tent rings and if an area looks very flat it might have been washed over by just this sort of wave!


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showing the kayak that has been positioned in front of tent.  The tent is tied off with two lines to the center of the X arch and the kayak is tied off bow and stern to the rocks with the same 50 foot throw lines.  Two fifty foot throw lines should always be taken and stowed on the deck while paddling ready to grab by the paddler.


It is a good thing I had everything tied off to the rocks because my eminent fear was when I heard the iceberg go to pieces was that the waves from the berg could just lunge up the rocks behind my tent and wash me away.

Sunday morning I decided it was time to get out of here.  I was by this time really a nervous wreck.  Nothing like the threat of getting blown into this frigid water and washed away by an iceberg to rattle your nerves!


I had to figure out how to use the rocks to my best advantage for launching what would be a heavy boat without stressing the frame or damaging the hull on sharp rocks.

The trick for launching I figured out was to take advantage of the exposed rock ledge during this period of incoming tide.

I realized my best choice for loading was to would position my boat parallel to the water on dry rocks as close as possible.  First I would load the stern and close the loading port. I would position my kayak with the stern afloat in the water.  Next I would load the bow, close it and ease the rest of the hull into the water careful not to abrade the hull or to stress the boat with this heavy load.

Finally I would install the inner sprayskirt and load the deck with maps, instruments and cameras in their dry bag.

Then I would lift and drag the heavy boat on top of the slippery nylon covered inflated wine bags into the water careful to not stress anything.  This time I find that I had brought too many clothes, food and old stuff.  I am glad about my new tent how much easier it is to use and how light weight it is.



2011 07 31 1114 (1314) dog island far away)





2011 07 31 1115 (1315) currents on surface crossing



2011 07 31 1115 (1315) summer dogs on island



2011 07 31 1114 (1314) dog island far away)

a look at the waves



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the dogs on the rocks



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back at the launching rock ramp at Gamel Havn


The only way I could safely launch was to roll the kayak down the rocks until it was afloat then at just the right moment between the foot high waves I launched backward.  I have done this trick before and I choose this way because the cockpit was easier for me to access with my normal right leg that has limited mobility due to the prosthetic hip joint.  I have to be very careful not to sublux that prosthesis.

I did not want to risk damaging my rudder by washing into the rocks.

Once I was down inside the cockpit I paddled backward got out and about and paddled around to a quiet out of the waves area to put on my spray skirt.

I need to figure out more suitable batteries and program for my GPS-CSX because its failure is very annoying.  The silly little program just needs way points and a compass map!

Page 13 7 31 22 Sunday started out with a following wind from the glacier to the east clear barometric pressure at 30.25.

Going along in Torssut which is west the passage acted as a funnel to amplify the wind speed which I knew would make paddling less work but there would be following seas that are trickier to negotiate in the sense of balance the kayak.  I was most concerned how the seas would be as I neared Umiaq mountain where there are high vertical cliffs on both sides.  On the south side is a notorious downdraft zone that features unseen winds coming from above that can put a boat down.

I wanted to keep a fairly straight line down this passage, Torssut, but not get near Umiaq.  Wind was darkening the water so I tied my paddle to the deck line attached to my bow.  I headed up the west side of the island north a little way to clear this dangerous area and headed due west across..  Wished I had determined by GPS my 09 waypoint position to head for but I wound up doing some zigzagging on my way over.  I took some interesting photos of birds and some dogs living on an island.

There was a strong current on the opening off Long Island tidal then a following wind at that point to a wind from the west 10 to 12 knots which made my paddle a slog all the way back to Upernavik.

It was Sunday morning and many boats were on the water showing e that just about everybody in Upernavik now owns a small boat of some sort which is a huge investment.

Rounding the corner at the old town part of Upernavik the waves were larger because now I was on open water.

Getting into Gamel Havn was a real trick because there were a bunch of lines across the harbor opening tying boats off side to side.  I had to wait for just the right moment for slack to happen and I shot my way through.  I got to my regular launch rock and a fellow I know was only too kind to run down and pull me up the rock.  He lives just before the museum and has been descended from one of the town founding families.  We know each other since I have been coming to paddle in Upernavik in 1992.

It was a very warm day especially in this harbor.

I unpacked my kayak put everything into the shoulder bags that are like Duluth packs I had made.

I broke down the kayak dredged out all the water in the hull with my pack towels drying it as much as possible and removing any dirt or sand that was in the hull as well.

This is one of those moments when I am so glad the Long Haul Mark 1 kayak has loading ports bow and stern.

I had a very difficult time carrying my equipment up the hill to a place on top of a pile of boards where the dogs could not get at it because I was just exhausted, over heated and my legs are not as strong as my upper body.  With fantastic luck my friend helped me carry my kayak in its bags up the hill to this safe place.

I had such trouble carrying my camping gear and just walking up the road to the museum that I found a porch laid down on it and went to sleep for a while hoping my strength would return and my dizziness would stop.

A few hours later I filled my water bag at the nearby water station.  Then I finished my walk to the Gamel Bageri at the museum where I erected my tent, laid out my sleeping gear, put my other gear in the tent, crawled in and fell asleep.

There was high over cast ceiling and when I arrived the barometer was down to 3020.  I ate moderately resting so glad to be in a place where an iceberg won’t wash me away.