It’s 3.30 in the morning, the end of a hectic week at work. I’ve been flitting between projects all week, I crashed out last night having carved out some time and finally finished a report that’s been sitting in my desk since returning to work after Christmas. I immeadiately receive a direct reply that the client is out of the office for the next week. Great. My head is full and I’m aware that I am becoming forgetful as if there just isn’t enough space for everything. Like a full bucket with water sloshing over the edges.
I woke up concerned about Utsira. It’s dark outside and the sounds of the first birds are taunting me. I have an early start as I’m driving north with some friends to kayak around the Farne Islands. I should’ve packed some kit last night but the shift in focus was too much, so I’m planning the usual grab and go technique. Luckily my flat is small and my kayaking kit is in a constant state of drying, festering or hanging so it never really gets put away. But Utsira is bothering me. It’s not just Utsira actually it’s Heligoland and Denmark too. There’s s strange thing looking at google maps on a phone, it’s so easy to zoom in and out, so I’ve convinced myself that none of the legs I’m planning for the trip are too far, they’re probably all just a short jaunt along the coast, right? Hmm. Time to zoom in again. I’ve put some time aside this week to plan the trip in more detail and although it’s neatly broken down into sections, each one is a Pandora’s box of questions.
I’m not an over-planner but I do want to be safe. I’m not going for distance either so the long slog down Denmark’s exposed west coast to German Bight isn’t appealing right now. A brief look at the satellite indicates miles upon miles of sandy beaches and I wonder if it is really worth it. I’ve been in contact with Smirl line who operate the ‘Norrona’ from Iceland to the Faroe Islands. Heidi is not happy with me walking onto the ferry with my boat on a trolley and has suggested it needs to be cargo and ideally would be packed in something. I naively think that taking an international ferry with a kayak will be just like hopping on and off the CalMac ferries in Scotland, which in itself is not an entirely stress free experience. She wanted to know why I didn’t have a car and I wonder if I would have been better not asking and just turning up at the terminal and smiling.
The logistics of the trip are complicated and I know the plan will change. I’ve heard stories of at least one person getting a sea kayak on a bus before and some friends have hitched lifts with their boats but I’m not sure if Iceland is ready for that. I remember a recent walk in Delamere Forest with my mum. It was Autumn, the shadows were long and the days short. What I’d thought could be a gentle amble through the changing colours of this ancient broadleaf forest, turned into a looping speed walk with only the most basic of maps. As we got more lost in the trees and I became more agitated, my mum, who has an acquired brain injury and is unable to plan ahead, took the approach of blind optimism that we were nearly there and it wouldn’t be long. Where ‘there’ was and how long it had actually been was pretty much unknown but she was right and eventually we rediscovered our path.
Before leaving London the next day, in a blur of tiredness and excitement of the first day of the holidays, I realise I forgot to pack my Thermarest. When we arrive later the following day at the small rocky outcrop teetering on the edge of the North Sea, which is home to Longstone lighthouse, I seem to be missing my tent poles. Luckily there was only really space for two tents and I have kind friends. Blind optimism and living in the moment can be helpful but maybe a bit of planning and some more careful packing would be a good idea next time.