West Greenland - Days 11 and 12
In the morning it was definitely windier. Paddling in this weather would likely be cold and potentially dangerous. As I hadn’t taken much rest thus far I decided to stay put for the day. I had brought a book to read during my flights that I had planned to throw away afterwards, but had forgotten to do so. This meant I actually had something to do besides just sitting in my tent. During a break in the storm I took some very nice photos down the length of the fjord.
Near the evening I thought I saw something floating in the far distance, but even when using my camera with maximum zoom it was only 9 pixels big, so I couldn’t see if it was a slightly larger chunk of ice or a boat. I hadn’t seen any boats while paddling and was more than 80 km removed from the nearest village (which only had 353 inhabitants) so it seemed unlikely somebody would be here, especially in the bad weather. Thus far I hadn’t seen anyone since I left the fjord where Johannes dropped me off.
The next morning the weather still wasn’t great but the weather predictions were slightly better and it seemed less windy. Well rested I packed everything and got on my way. During the first hour the sea was rougher than during the other sections I had paddled, but definitely not unsafe.
I was approaching a massive turn in the fjord with several huge glaciers ending in it on the other shore. Steadily the current and wind were picking up and moving me forward. Over the course of 15 minutes the waves were definitely getter higher than I felt comfortable with. I wasn’t worried about flipping over, but it took a lot of effort to keep my packraft going straight. I considered turning around and returning to my previous campsite, but this would be difficult as I would have to go against the wind and currents. The weather predictions also weren't any better tomorrow.
As soon as I turned the corner the wind got even stronger and now came from upfront. This was definitely not safe anymore. I kept as close as possible to the shore and continuously looked for a place to get off the water, but couldn’t find any level area. There were several inlets were the water was a bit calmer and where I made sure to eat, drink, and send my location home. At one gap in the rocks I rested for half an hour, but there was no sign of the weather changing.
I was impressed by the stability of my packraft and slowly got less worried about falling in the water. Nonetheless, this was not a safe situation as the waves were often over half a meter high. Because of the strong wind I needed to paddle at full strength while only moving forward less than a meter per stroke. Only after several hours did I find an inlet at the base of a small glacier where the water was much calmer and where I found a sandy area. The area was about 35 meters long and 10 meters wide. I dragged everything to the rear and pitched my tent, tired and relieved. After eating dinner, I took a well-deserved rest and fell asleep.
When I woke up an hour or so later I realized I had made a big mistake. Although I had only slept for a while and had pitched my tent at least 20 meters from the shore, the water was now almost hitting it. Being tired and glad I had finally found a place to get off the water I had forgotten about the tides. I was really angry at myself for making such a stupid mistake. Quickly I dragged everything to the highest point of the sand bank, which seemed to always be above sea level, but only barely. I put on clothes, repacked my sleeping bag, mattress, and tent, and inflated my boat.
The weather was too bad to paddle long distances, so I only went to the other side of the river forming the inlet. There was no easy place to camp there either, but at least I could get off the water. After some searching I found a level section in between a large field of shrubs and a good distance removed from the shore. It took several trips to carry all my stuff there, but at least I now was well above the water and out of the wind.
Today had definitely been too dangerous. Although I never felt like I lost control of my packraft it had taken a lot of effort and attention to keep going. In case I would have fallen in I wore a life jacket, had tied both myself and my paddles to the packraft, kept all my clothes in waterproof bags, and carried some food, a map, and my GPS communicator on my body, but it would still be pretty bad. According to the weather predictions the wind speed had been 5 Bft in the area, but it’s difficult to say if that also held for the fjord.
In hindsight it was obvious I should have stayed at the previous campsite until the weather had gotten better. However, as the weather predictions didn’t change for the following 3-4 days, and I was unaware the wind would pick up so much around the corner in the fjord, this had been hard to predict. Next time, I will consider bringing a wet suit and try to avoid paddling in places where it's difficult to leave the water (although also that had been hard to judge without ‘boots on the ground’). I will also buy a floatation lanyard to make sure my GPS floats in case I accidentally drop it in the water.
The evening fortunately passed without much trouble. I took some photos of the storm raging over the glaciers.