The first multi-week sea kayaking trip that I went on was in 1981, when Nicky and myself spent 4 weeks paddling around the southern Danish islands. We crossed the 12 nautical miles from northern Germany to the Danish island of Lolland, avoiding the numerous ships which were transiting from the Baltic towards the Kiel Canal.
During the next 4 weeks we wandered around the southern Danish islands and one day we stopped at Nysted, camped and headed out for an evening paddle. As we paddled along the inlet an elderly gentleman followed us along the shore, waving regularly. When we landed he came over and introduced himself as Kurt Behnke and he became quite excited when he saw the name “Nordkapp”. I was paddling my first Nordkapp HM.
He invited us to his caravan where we met his wife Elli, and through a mixture of German, English, French and maps we pieced together a fascinating story.
In July 1936 Kurt had paddled around Nordkapp, having left from Hammerfest a few days earlier. It was part of a much larger trip that he had undertaken, having left from his home town of Berlin. This story was confirmed when we arrived home as we had been sent a copy of the original article from the German magazine “Kanu-Sport” printed in 1937. I had the article translated and it was reproduced in the newsletter of the Advanced Sea Kayak Club, which was produced by John Ramwell.
Whilst we sat in the caravan on that Danish island in 1981 another story was revealed. It appeared that Kurt and a partner paddled across from Germany to Denmark, several times, during the Second World War bringing letters from Danish prisoners. If true, and I have no reason too doubt it, this is a remarkable story.
The final outcome of that evening was another article describing the journey around Nordkapp by Klaus Muller in 1970, which was written up in another “Kanu-Sport” article from January 1971.
This remarkable meeting and the stories which were revealed to us, that night in August 1981, were all the result of a chance encounter because that evening we decided to have a quick paddle, even though we had been on the water all day.
Me on an evening paddle into the inlet at Nysted in August 1981. We were camped near the entrance and this was just a pleasant few hours on the water. We were unaware of how close we were to meeting a truly fascinating sea kayaker.
It was to be another five years, in August 1986, before I was fortunate enough to be able to paddle around Nordkapp, but in conditions which were far more pleasant than those described in the article written by Kurt in the 1930’s.