Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ocean Paddler

Earlier this year I learned about the new Ocean Paddler sea kayaking magazine. I finally had time to subscribe to it and I received my first issue. The September issue is 82 pages thick! From first kayaking adventures, incident management (by Jeff Allen), breathtaking undertakings (Patrick Waterton's "Scottish Extremities") to the crossing of Bass Strait (by Justine Curgenven). And much more stories and information on sea kayaking "British Style".

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Season of the Falling Leaves

While most of us want to head out to explore far away islands to get away, Karien, who lives and works on an Island, every once in a while wants to explore the mainland.

On 14 October, a truly gorgeous Autumn day, we went hiking around the Naardermeer; a 19 km roundtrip. The Naardermeer is one of the very few natural and un-drained lakes in the Netherlands. There was an effort to drain the lake from 1883, but after three years the effort was given up. It was economically not viable; too much water kept flowing in from beneath.

The trail leaflet advised to wear proper hiking boots for the swamp-like terrain that we could encounter. Thus there I was wearing my sturdy hiking boots, last worn in 1993 on my last Alaskan backpacking trip. We are amazed by the enormous variety of mushrooms alongside the trail. We do not make much progress because we stop quite often to make pictures of them. The Dutch have something with mushrooms.
Wearing my hiking boots was not a good idea. First of all, we do not encounter any swamps and secondly, I am not used to these boots anymore. In fact they are now too small. I was used to hiking with a 20+ kilo back pack all day in these boots. But that was then this is now. These worn soles are on their last hike. During lunch alongside the river Vecht, I spot a swimming Ringed Snake (Natrix Natrix). Not much birdlife other than gathering Geese.

My first ever kayaking trip was 25 km distance on canals. I did not think much of that distance because I thought paddling would be easier than hiking... I could hardly lift my paddle at the end of that first trip. Now I feel that my hiking stamina has lost some of it's edge.

A beautiful Autumn "spirit enhancing" hiking day it was!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Solo Crossing

Today I did my first ever solo 'crossing'. Yes, I have paddled on my own a few occasions, but only on inland waterways and the occasional 'on my own' bits during trips with groups or friends.
But this time it was solo from start to finish.

I had a delivery in Den Helder before I would have taken the ferry to Texel to visit Karien. I met Sjaak and Niekkie at the small sandy patch at Land's End restaurant where they had just returned from a day trip to Noorderhaaks. The weather was gorgeous. Quickly I decided to paddle across instead of taking the ferry. Niekie gave me her laminated map. I only carried a hand held compass. I would have only an hour of favourable tide with me towards Oudeschild.

By the time I was on the water at 16:30 it was full slack. I decided to cross to Texel first and with the increasing outgoing tide work my way up to Oudeschild, paddling close inshore. I had to wait for the ferry and a bit of an 'uneasy feeling' took over, despite the fact that it would only be a crossing of a mile and a half. I took a Twix bar and off I went.

Halfway into the crossing my 'anxiety' was back to normal and I was in my familiar paddling rhythm; cruising. Yes, this IS my first solo crossing. By the time I had made it to the Texel side, the ferry was leaving it's berth and forcing me again to wait and allowing me to make this picture. Tide had just turned.

At 18:15 Karien welcomed me at Oudeschild. Today my map case served a special function by transporting my notebook computer, under my legs in the cockpit.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Dancing in the Dark

Barry wanted to surf the standing wave at the Swellies in the Menai Strait on Sunday. At about 18:00 Barry and I looked at a flat calm slack. Justine arrived a little later and we played with ferry gliding the slowly increasing current. After a while it was completely dark and paddling was by feel. The flickering light of the Swellies cardinal marker (high and dry because of the low water springs) was the only mark to aim for. The standing wave never really kicked-off (we left it at 20:30), but the whirlpools provided some excitement; dancing in the dark...
Today is back to work and I booked the Wednesday evening ferry back to the Netherlands. I have to apologize to Brent. Today I learned from Joanne (Sea Kayaking UK) that Sunday night he waited in the pub for me, to celebrate passing his BCU 5* assessment. Congratulations Brent (and Ryan)!

This next picture was taken upon Barry's specific request to show (the world?) that he can finish his order of chips. For Barry this is apparently a noteworthy achievement that requires picture-proof. See you all next time around...