Day 117. 26th of June. 25.4 km, 7.1 km/hr average speed.
A kayak whale safari was the plan for the day, so we broke camp with a (tiny) bit more urgency than usual and were in the boats by 0900.
15 km to paddle to the appropriately named Cape Beluga, and two hours to go to low tide when the whales gather in pods of up to 30 animals.
Flat water and following current so we made it in time and we were not disappointed. When we got there one pod in particular of between 15 and 20 animals were swimming back and forth and playing just outside the cape. We understand they do this between about June and August, at low tide in calm seas. Water depth was maybe 2 meters sometimes they were swimming even shallower.
There were two small motorboats there with whale watchers. By regulation they could not move for fear of hurting the whales, so they were at anchor.
We could move and take advantage of the current so we drifted right through the pod. We came within tens of centimeter of the whales. They whales were not afraid and only mildly interested, a few came over swam under the kayaks and threw a sideways glance as they passed on.
A very memorable encounter.
After four or five passes each we went ashore for lunch just as a group of tourists arrived. They had walked about five km. Judging by the women’s dress, their primary reason for visiting Solovki was not whale watching, but rather religiously based.
All the women wore ancle long dresses and a headscarf. A symbol of piety. And another version of the Abramic religions focus on how women dress and cover their hair.
It is no surprise to meet such a group here. Solovki Islands is a major destination for pilgrimage in the Russian Ortodox church. The old monastery is not only restored, it is also once again an active monastery. As Erling walked an evening tour round the Monastery, monks chanting could be heard from the inside, while numerous couples walked in hushed conversations outside of the walls. It did generate an atmosphere of intense spiritual quest, a characteristic of the Russian Ortodox church, at least judging by the great Russian novelists accounts.
Back to something we know a little more about: Paddling. Once the sea started to flood rapidly, the whales left and we paddled on to the village of Solovetskij.
We had been informed that all hotels were full, at least near the harbor, where we could stay close to the kayaks.
But we managed to find accommodation in a private flat/flat for rent. The entrance looked a little dubious, but the flat was OK, and we have line of sight to the kayaks from the shared kitchen.
Tomorrow we plan to be tourists and learn more about the long and at times dramatic history of this place.
UPDATE: Day 116 is updated with photos.