The Crown of the Work

The summer was drawing towards its end and the autumn approached in both nature and body. I would like to make a significant long tour, maybe the last in my kayak.

Havspaddlarnas Blå Band, a paddling from Svinesund to Haparanda, runs a class for older veterans. The paddler should at start be 80 years. It suits me. I had truly during five years mentally and physically prepared myself for this tour. Now the time had come.

In the matter of safety I felt secure with my Eskimo roll. Especially as I recently experienced my first involuntary capsize. It happened in windy weather at Mälaren, but mostly due to inadvertence of a shoal in my course. A flat-bottomed working boat with a crane made big and short washes that flushed me on top of the shoal and turned me up side down at the other side. There I suddenly was hanging underneath the kayak with my head down, actually a well-known position, after more than 25 000 practice rolls. Without being shocked or even thinking did I place the paddle in correct posotion and rolled up at the first try. I felt how the filled and watertight bag at the rear deck helped like a float in the roll.
During practice to enter the kayak on deep water if I had fallen outside the cockpit, I had however big problems to manage in complete expedition gear. Such a situation would be very dangerous to me and the only rescue would come from a re-entry and roll.

The tour is started

Well. 2014 May 15 my Quest sea kayak was launched at the starting place at Svinesund. The total weight of my craft reached 224 kilos. As I got it into right speed it almost ran by itself, I felt like. This first day I paddle 62 kilometres. A distance I could not reach until the very last days.

The entire distance of the tour became 2460 kilometres and it took me as much as 65 days to reach Virtakari Cape at Haparanda. The long time was due to northerly head winds that at one occasion went on for 16 days, but mainly also to my age.

From start I was programmed not to abandon regardless how bad the weather ever would be or how long it would take. Only an accident or medical reason would be allowed to stop me.

Just medical problems were threatening around the corner. Since some time I suffered from Carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. I have been told this is caused by some reasons making the passages for strings and nerves contracted in hands and wrists making the hand go numb and loose feeling. I knew operations were at hand, but thought I could fulfil this tour before.

I denied, as usual, to make camps at harbour and camping lots if faintest possibility was at hand to reach desert and rather hidden places that I knew from earlier. In respect of my nowadays decreasing strength I carefully choose my way. For the first time ever I did not cross Laholmsbukten from Tylön to Hallands Väderö or Torekov as before, but in unstable weather I rounded the entire bay. Skälderviken however, I cross with straightest course towards Kullen in nice weather and satisfied made camp 1 kilometre south of Mölle.

Like this I continued the tour searching the most merciful grip around the paddle to nurse my hands. Apart from two incidents after Iggön and a real effort at Tavastudden north of Holmsund did nothing alarming happen..
At the incidents after Iggö in wily waves twice pressed my body and head down under the water. At both times I made a quarter roll back up again. At Tavastudden a strong land wind stoped me from reaching sheltered area. My left elbow became overstrained in the very hard paddling and affliction was intense.

The following days I showed a somewhat different way of paddling. The pain in my elbow could be accepted if paddling with straight arm, the hands made it plausible if I held the paddle as close to the fingertips as possible. A rash at my left bottom had become an abscess. With a leaning body and all weight at the right half of the bottom and the left up lifted in the air did I make it forth like a flapping crow. After some day was the elbow operating normally, but the abscess remained and the numbness in my hands got worse.

The Crown of the Work

While I a few times was idling for strong wind I lay in the tent and thought of previous tours. My southbound tour in 1989 from The Arctic Sea stands like a class by itself. But after all, if this tour, in my age, will be fulfilled it feels like it will be "The Crown of the Work".

And it really became fulfilled. In Tornio River, July 18 I started to glimpse the Virtakari Cape. I soon put my feet on solid ground at the white quoin making the inline mark, not far from border mark No 59.

Now the best of the entire tour remained. My divine wife drove more than a 100 mils from Solna to pick me up. I had daily sent SMS to her about positions. It could be strenuous to be alone at home and not participate in the tour.

Now it is finished with the really long tours.

But if I really would make yet another long tour. What would I then call it?

"The Jewel of the Crown"

Of course

(a webmaster translation)

Other stories written by Jim Danielsson from his HBB-paddling in year — 1991, 1996 1999, 2004 or 2009