Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Terschelling in a day

At 21:00 we land on the beach at the Stortemelk campground on Vlieland. It has been a long day, this Tuesday 12 September 2006...

The Island of Terschelling is the biggest of the Dutch Wadden Isles. 30 km long and 4,5 km at it's widest. Part of the Dutch advanced sea proficiency training at the NKB (Dutch Canoe Union) sea kayak instruction week on the island of Vlieland is an overnight trip to one of the adjacent Wadden isles. The weather and tides are good for a two-day trip around the island of Terschelling. Because of it's length and exposure this trip is not common.

For day-one of this trip, Marieke has been put in charge for trip planning and leadership. She starts her leadership role by asking us (Karien, Louis, Patrick, Paul, and myself) if we mind getting up an hour earlier than previously announced. She asks this the night before, just before we want to go to our tents to go to sleep! We all agree.

At 07:30 sunrise we push off from beach at Stortemelk campground. Marieke puts Louis in front to set the pace. It turns out that Louis is very good at keeping a very steady pace. Unfortunately for the most of us, especially at this early hour, his paddling speed is rather high. The tide has turned a little earlier than expected and Marieke is pacing to get us out of the incoming flood and into the favourable current along the island. After two hours of frantic paddling we turn east to paddle along the Island, way out at sea. When we are in sight of the TS cardinal marker, 4,5 kilometres off-shore, we start heading towards the north-eastern tip of Terschelling, where we land at 12:30.

After only an half-hour break we head out again to paddle to the 'wantij'. The 'wantij' is the area behind the island where the currents meet. Being at the 'wantij' at high water means a favourable flood current towards the 'wantij' and a starting ebb current beyond it. The original plan was to camp at Oosterend, near the 'wantij'. But paddling conditions are unbelievable perfect. Flat calm sea and negligible wind. Very warm, but the sunshine is dimmed by a haze, obscuring everything more than a kilometre away.

Despite the pace-making in this heat, we all are still in good shape. We all find access to our food, drinks and snacks. This is too good of an opportunity not to continue and try to make West-Terschelling.

We now have a full ebb tide to reach it, so why not? Paddling speed drops a bit by the tiredness that slowly overtakes the euphory of knowing that we will make it to West-Terschelling. At 17:30 we land at West-Terschelling. After two cups of soup at the Walvis restaurant Karien is expressing her opinion to continue and return to Vlieland today, pushing for a one-day circumnavigation of Terschelling. Silently, I think, the rest of us had already hoped that we would continue. We are now at the end of the ebb. Our paddling speed is faltering, despite the fact that Louis is still setting the steady pace. We have to walk our kayaks through a shallow gully where a stranded flat-bottom ship is waiting for the flood.

The sun is setting when we cross the Vliestroom. In twilight we have to wait for the ferry to pass. Near darkness we reach the eastern tip of Vlieland and notice the tide is flooding again with force around the headland and over a submerged breakwater. I am aware of all the looming signs of it all falling apart with increasing risks. We need to be back real fast now.

At 21:00 we land on the beach that we left at 07:30 today. In 13,5 hours we completed a 87 km single-day circumnavigation of Terschelling. This one-day circumnavigation has probably been done before, but if so, not very often. It should not set (new) standards for the Dutch advanced sea proficiency. But I am very pleased indeed with the fact that this group had the guts and stamina to make this possible. With a little luck with the weather, tides and our physical shape.

We are awaited by Michel, a chef cook. He has saved lots of a delicious pasta meal for us of which we all take at least three servings.

1 comment:

karel said...

hoi axel ik ben een lid van de terrasanta kayekers hier in israel maar wat ik leuk vondt onm te lezen is over terschelling waar ik opgegroeid ben dus bedankt voor het artikel je kunt meerover mij lezen op de terrasanta web site onder about us.