Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

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'.


René said...

Hi Axel

Nice experience. Very wise not to keep on paddling. In fact you are rewarded for this with the nice people you met while being brought "home"

When are you going to return to this "waves-hot-spot"? Join you if you like it.


derrick said...

I would have loved to see the rest of that landing! LOL!

René said...

Hi Axel,

A simple question came to my mind:

As you paddled from Texel to Vlieland, avoiding the ferry and 70km by car, HOW did you get back to Texel??

Paddling? Walking? ;-)

Axel said...

Hi René,

We called the 'Taxi' (again). The Vliehors Expres took us to the Vliehors at Sil's Dock and we paddled across to de Cocksdorp. We had to wait to Sunday though, because it had no space on the Saturday.