Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday Morning Work-out

This morning I joined Barry and Justine for a play in Penrhyn Mawr. We had a late start but with this big spring tide we could still play for more than two hours. I got lots of long rides catching multiple waves in succession. There was hardly any wind so I could do a lot of experimenting with edged stern rudders to manoeuvre and keep onto the best waves. Another work-out exercise paddle.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Another Exercise Paddle

Today there was a trip planned to the Skerries out of Cemlyn. Unfortunately the wind was more like a strong 5, than the forecasted 3 to 4. Phil called the Skerries 'off' and instead we played at Harry Furlough's race off Cemlyn. It is one of the biggest spring tides of the year and the race is rougher than I have experienced here before. And it is not even wind against tide. Unfortunately the waves are difficult to catch. The current and the headwinds are too strong for easy surfing. While standing on shore to make pictures I had a good view of 'treadmill paddling'. After lunch some of us decided to paddle all the way back to Holyhead harbour, around Carmel Head. The decision to paddle out into the favourable current resulted in a change of plans to paddle all the way back to Porth Diana in Trearddur Bay. I was already a little tired from al the playing and now it felt that I was involved in a sprint-race. By the time my boat touched the beach at Porth Diana I felt really tired; but also, that this was another exercise paddle.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Exercise Paddle

I am (again) in Anglesey to pick up kayaks. Nigel Dennis had arranged for a coast guard rescue exercise involving multiple groups of kayakers 'in distress' and the lifeboats from Trearddur Bay and Holyhead (a total of four lifeboats). Rowland had an 'incident' at Trearddur Bay, requiring the large Holyhead Lifeboat. My 'buddy' paddler was in serious trouble. Together with Ryan I had towed him (and his flooded kayak) for a while. When at Penrhyn Mawr all of our 'Wave Catcher' group went for a play and I did not notice that I had lost my buddy... He was last seen at 6:15... Now 'dummy' was drifting with the tide through PM and off to South Stack and maybe even beyond. Not only we 'lost' dummy, but Phil and Tom were drifting out to sea as well. Fortunately the lifeboats found all of them and even dummy was saved! Our next challenge was getting back upstream of PM. By now the tide was so strong that many alternatives were sought and found to get past the chicken run. For me this involved choosing 'micro-eddies', turbo paddling and lots of previous experience here. Ryan, a river paddler, but never before in PM, had no problems whatsoever to get upstream. In darkness we made it back to Porth Dafarch.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Vliehors Express

© Photo by Folkert Janssens

What a mess that I put myself in. My cockpit is partially flooded and I am still in the surf zone. I was not fast enough closing my spray deck after putting my map case below deck. One of the clips of my map case got torn-off from the bungee by a breaking wave a minute earlier. I normally 'needle-and-thread' the clip onto the bungee. But as I had given away my previous personal map-case, I had not 'surf-proofed' this replacement one.

Every year the Dutch Canoe Union (NKB) organizes a sea kayak instruction week on the Island of Vlieland. For many, the week starts on Saturday by paddling out of Harlingen, weather permitting. For Karien it would be much more convenient to paddle the 24 km from the adjacent Island of Texel, saving a ferry ride and a 70 km car drive.

Originally we had planned to paddle on the Friday and have an extra leisure day on Saturday awaiting the others to arrive. Unfortunately, Friday had strong winds that made us decide to postpone to Saturday. The route that we wanted to take was along the North Sea side of Vlieland and crossing the treacherous Eierlandsche Gat. This gap between the Islands of Texel and Vlieland is notorious for it's sand bars, changing channels and a wide surf zone. We were in for a challenge and discussed some 'worst-case' scenario's and escape routes.

We set out at 09:00 and crossed to the southern side Vlieland easily. This area is called the 'Vliehors'. From there we had to weave our way through the channels, the sand bars and the multiple surf zones. This took much more effort and time than we had anticipated. Moreover this was quite 'nerve-wrecking' and tiring: dodging the occasional breaker and judging the best route to weave between the surf lines. And then I flooded my cockpit...

We made it as far as the 'Reddingshuisje'. Here was the last possibility of taking a break on shore and so we did. We both were already a little tired and it had taken much more time to get to here than we had planned. We were late in the (spring) flood tide and we would face opposing current shortly. With these surf conditions we would have to paddle far out at sea and thus paddle against the increasing current. All still possible, but do we want all this when we have a whole week of paddling ahead of us?

Well, we were in for a challenge and that is what we got. A little bit too much of it. Deciding that it would not be wise to continue, we could only go for 'Plan-C'. Plan-B was paddling via the Wantij under Vlieland, but we were too late in the tide for that route. Paddling back to Texel and driving to Harlingen by car...

Then Karien took her mobile phone and contacted a friend on Texel for the telephone number of the 'Vliehors Expres'. The Vliehors Expres is a big-wheel tractor-bus that takes visitors on narrated tours all along the North Sea beach of Vlieland and to 'Sil's Dock' for the seasonal 'ferry' 'de Vriendschap', connecting Texel with the Vliehors sand flats on the southern tip of Vlieland. Although the ferry was not running today, the Vliehors Expres would be taking people on a tour to the 'Reddingshuisje' and they would make a small detour to pick us up from Sil's Dock first. Now we only had to walk/paddle a short distance back to Sil's dock (water accessible) where the Vliehors Expres came to our rescue.

Folkert, the driver, greeted us with camera in hand taking pictures of us and our two kayaks. Quickly we were part of his narrative, explaining to the visitors that we had been stranded here for three days...

But the adventure was not over yet! The Vliehors Expres took us as far as 'het Posthuis' restaurant. There, the kayaks were immediately loaded into Maarten's Ford Transit van. Anyone familiar with the dimensions of a van like this will raise his eye-brows, and so we did! Our long sea kayaks only fitted half-way in the rear and we had to sit on the bow to keep the heavy loaded kayaks from falling-out! Now imagine a drive for about 20 km this way! What an adventure, what an experience! We were dropped-off right at campground 'de Stortemelk'. What a service! The people from the Vliehors Expres saved our day. Thank you Folkert and Maarten! And just as we had recuperated from our 'ordeal' the other attendants of the NKB Vlieland week arrived on the campsite.
Check-out Folkert Janssens' Blog at

The Vliehors Expres ( has seasonal service all along the North Sea Beach of Vlieland and can also arrange custom tours.

The seasonal ferry service to and from Texel by 'de Vriendschap' ( is a nice way to travel to the islands 'off the beaten track'.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Homeless Bound

Part 1
I hugged goodbye to Shawna and Leon. Tonight I am heading 'home'. But what is home when I feel homeless, emotionally that is? Home is where the heart is... Home sweet home... Wherever I lay my head that's my home... Home is friends, close friends, even if they are far away. On the Orcas Island ferry dock my mind drifts across the ocean to a very dear friend. How deep can friendships go? The strongest sense of understanding that not everything has to be understood or can be explained? Knowing that I might never know, acceptance. Wish upon a falling star, only dreaming. The logic of illogic. Futile reasoning. The mind, galaxies of thoughts, at light speed, too fast, slow down! Travelling, bound for home, somewhere out there, sometime.
Part 2
There I stand with my still empty trolley at Schiphol airport, waiting... The conveyer belt at the baggage claim comes to a stand-still. All my travelling possessions, including my outdoors home (tent) did not make the final Heathrow leg.
Part 3
Back 'home'. Just got a call from the airport. My baggage has arrived. I am glad it did. It contains some Pacific Northwest sea kayak collector items... Memories of home everywhere. It will be delivered at my doorstep tomorrow.

Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home, where my thought's escaping,
Home, where my music's playing,
Home, where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

- Paul Simon -

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Girls Kick Ass!

I made it to Body Boat Blade! Leon picked me up at 01:20 from the Orcas ferry terminal. In the afternoon Kathy, Leon, Shawna, Terry, Wendy and me went to Cascade lake for Greenland rolling practice. Leon, Shawna and Kathy will be demonstrating Greenland rolling (alternative style) during the upcoming West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium.
Leon does all of his Greenland rolling with a Euro blade, which for most of it, is much more difficult than with a Greenland paddle. Shawna and Kathy will be giving a demonstration of Greenland-style rolling a double sea kayak.
I tried to keep up with the experts and learn some. For the first time I could do consistent forward finishing throwing-stick rolls and even managed forward finishing hand-rolls. And Leon taught me the deep sculling roll. This is fun and I am amazed how easy it actually is once I find out what the starting position under water is. It is all about body movement. We practiced for more than four hours. I felt sick and dizzy after about two hours, but Shawna and Kathy kept on going. The double had with marker pen written on the side: "Girls Kick Ass!". Inspirational 'brick-solid' double rolling... Be sure to watch them roll at the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium.