Pakitsoq – sunshine and tide races

After the winds of the day before it was a pleasure to wake to a calm morning.  Breakfast was a very pleasant affair as we knew that we would be heading south, towards Pakitsoq, after the delays of the last 24 hours and could start to relax, with a good forecast for the next few days.  We were quickly underway and our first stop for the day was Kugssuaq, where we knew that there was an easy landing and a good stream.

Iceberg
After the winds of the day before it was a pleasure to paddle in such calm conditions.
Beach
Always a pleasant place to stop for lunch, the beach at Kugssuaq.
Washing hair
In addition to being an ideal lunch spot Kugssuaq is a great place to wash your hair.

I have crossed Pakitsoq 13 times in the last few years and on every single occasion have seen whales.  This year was no exception, although the views were rather distant.  The first indication of whales in the vicinity is when you heard their breathing or saw the spray from their breath rising above the surface of the sea.  Our focus though was ensuring that we managed to enter Pakitsoq safely, through the tidal narrows.
I have always found that the safest way to enter Pakitsoq is to arrive at the narrows early, whilst he tide is still pouring out. Then either sit and wait or play in the tide race, until the outgoing flow has slackened enough to enable you to paddle through the narrows with a degree of control and in relative safety.  We managed to enter, with a bit of uphill paddling at 17.30, this was on a day when high water at Ilulissat was at 21.05 and low water was at 14.18.  The tide times are available here.

Pakitsoq
Looking into the narrows which lead into the inner part of Pakitsoq. It was just a matter of waiting for the tide to rise and the outgoing stream to slow down.
Pakitsoq
taken a couple of years ago this shows the quantity of moving water in the narrows

Once you are inside Pakitsoq a totally different world is revealed. The biggest difference is that there are no icebergs, so camping and moving the kayaks is much easier. There is no longer the need to have the kayaks 10 metres above the high water mark, just in case a large berg should roll over. Just as no bergs will make it through the gap because of the narrow water and the tides the same probably applies to large marine mammals so don’t expect to see whales swimming around in here.
One thing to take into account is that the two daily tides are unequal in height. The evening tide is normally quite a bit bigger than the morning one, so take this into account when deciding how far to lift the kayaks up, the last line of wet seaweed is probably not far enough. On the day we entered the evening tide had a height of 2.6 metres, which seems to equate to a Spring, whilst the morning high water was only 1.8 metres.
Once inside there are a number of options available but we chose to paddle the southern arm, which is much narrower and to explore some of the small islands scattered around the bay.

Pakitsoq
This was the furthest we could paddle into Pakitsoq. The icecap wasn’t to far away. Wind blown deposits were gradually smothering the vegetation. This felt a very bleak spot.
Pakitsoq
Some of the group felt the inner parts of Pakitsoq to be claustrophobic and felt happier as we headed back towards more open water.
Pakitsoq
There is always a desire to climb to the top of the island and this was no exception. Great views alround. Note everybody is wearing Crocs the perfect footwear for kayaking in the Arctic.
Pakitsoq
Paddling away from one of the islands inside Pakitsoq. The water is coloured by the small particles which have been carried into the bay by the glacial meltwater streams.

Overall a very enjoyable day and made that much easier by the fact we didn’t to pack and unpack the kayaks.  A day paddling an empty kayak is almost like having a rest day.  The evening was spent relaxing around the campsite, admiring the view and rejoicing in the fact that there were no insects to bother us.  The only negative feeling was a growing realization that in the next couple of days the trip would be over.  Greenland was once again casting its spell as a truly special sea kayaking destination.

Camping
Just inside and on the southern shore of Pakitsup ilordlia is a perfect camping spot. Great views and no worrying about icebergs, because there aren’t any.