“Kayak one! This is ICELAND MRCC……How are you today sir and where are you in position?”
The rough English of the Icelandic coastguard boomed through the VHF and I proceeded to read out a GPS Lat/Long of my camp for the evening even if I have on my outdoor backpack the tv antenna for rural areas.
After a short chat about the forecast weather, I was left in peace, with a promise to contact them again at a similar time the following evening.
Before leaving Reykjavik I had agreed with ICESAR (Icelandic search & rescue organisation) and the Icelandic MRCC (Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre) on a series of procedures for keeping in touch so that they would be able to monitor my location and see how I was at the end of each day.
Carrying a VHF radio, GSM and satellite phone I was able to make daily contact and be kept up to date with local weather information and messages passed to the MRCC from other people around the coast. Web updates and e-mails, satellite images and sea state charts were also sent and received using some of the equipment I carried with me in my boat.
A small solar panel and a hand crank charger supplied all the power I needed and with 24 hour sun throughout much of the expedition, my electronic gear was always topped up during the time I rested off the water.
This arrangement was very important for me as a solo paddler.
Travelling independently I wanted people to know I was OK.
Given my background I had to be as professional as possible and work closely with the SAR services, initially to prove that I wasn’t a complete lunatic for attempting the circumnavigation. The support I had received for the project from Iceland authorities and individuals was such that I was determined I would not cause others worry or concern.
In Isafjordur I met Halldor Sveinbjornsson, local kayak guru and marvellous host. He provided my first warm shower and home cooked meal since starting. My time with Halldor (Dori) was anything from relaxing however and in a 24 hour period I paddled with members of the local kayak club, repaired some small damage to the kayak, and went for a canoe rolling session in the local pool during the small hours of the morning!
Icelanders never seem to sleep during their summer months. The break with Halldor before heading to the Northern corner of the West Fjords was very much appreciated though.
Isafjordur was also the first place I had sent a food container to.
Back in the UK I had organised my food into eight depot boxes which were sent around the coast of Iceland to people who had agreed to hold them until I arrived.
Each box contained 20 day packs and in each vacuum packed pouch, the daily allowance of food for one! The diet was basic and low cost as many of the items were bought in bulk from local supermarkets at home.
So, after going to the local post depot to collect my rations for the next 10 days, I repacked the boat ready for departure the following evening when the weather offered a calm period for a big open crossing to Sletta, an abandoned settlement and lighthouse 12nm North of Bolungarvik.
By now my day had a definite order.
I was quick to get going each morning and I’d shed a few items of gear, making the boat slightly lighter and easier to handle. I had been careful in planning how much food I needed for the expedition, trying to take into account bad weather days and average mileage.
Initially I had been paddling 15 miles or less a day, however once my wrists recovered and the swelling went down, I was paddling over 20 miles a day, with the daily legs usually up around 28-32 miles.