Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Monday, May 09, 2011


On UK Rivers Guidebook Sea Kayak Forum my attention was drawn by a Dutch word on this English language forum: "Engelandvaarders".

A team of three British paddlers is preparing to cross the North Sea from the Netherlands in August this year. Their website is very thorough on explaining the history of the Engelandvaarders and in particular of the achievement of Henri Peteri and his brother Willem, for the English speaking community.

It triggered memories of many years past. In August 1996 I attended the Peddelpraat Sea Kayak instruction week in Zeeland. It was my second year sea kayaking. Peddelpraat has a long standing tradition for inviting inspirational sea kayak coaches over. This year Nigel Foster was present. One of the evening lectures was by Henri Peteri, an Engelandvaarder.

Henri's lecture had us glued to our seats and listen in awe. What I vividly remember is his account of the loss of half their equipment on a capsize directly on launching. They had two compasses, one survived, two watches, one survived, three torches, one survived.

Nigel Foster wrote about this encounter in the August 1996 issue of Sea Kayaker Magazine. A Dutch translation appeared in the Peddelpraat club magazine #145 of November 1996.

As far as I know only three Dutch paddlers have crossed the North Sea after the war. Hans M-H. and Rick D. crossed the North Sea from Westkapelle to Harwich in 1989 in single kayaks. In August 1999 Hans crossed again, now in a double with Gerard G.

Again the Peddelpraat sea instruction week proved a rare coincidence for me to learn about it, as Hans had just returned from the crossing by ferry. After dropping off Gerard in Zeeland he decided to stop-by the Peddelpraat campsite. He had me puzzled when he told that he had not paddled on the sea for a year before the crossing, quickly adding that on the conditions he had been planning it to do, it would be the same as 'just' a long flat water paddle. He had waited for a stable high pressure system that produced weak easterly winds, and August was the most reliable month to plan this. Hans wrote about this crossing in the 1999/2 NKB Mededelingen.

Henri Peteri passed away in 2007. On the website of Alec, Ed and Harry, I saw this picture of a beautiful monument that was erected in 2009 at the spot where Henri and Willem Peteri came ashore. In memory of the Engelandvaarders.

In memory of the thirty-two young Dutchmen
who tried to escape to England by kayak
during World War II to join the Allied Forces.
Eight of them reached the English coast.

The last living survivor dedicated this memorial
to his brothers in arms who were less fortunate.
He reached England - and freedom -
on this beach on 21 September 1941.

Source: Wikipedia

1 comment:

Bill Forster said...

You might like to read my account of the flight of 47 Engelandvaarders aboard a Dutch lifeboat, ZEEMANSHOOP, on the 14 May 1940, the day the Netherlands surrendered, and their rescue by HMS VENOMOUS the following day.


I am an aging out of condition seas kayaker but even when I was 50 years younger I would have never attempted this journey by kayak.

My father served on HMS VENOMOUS and this incident is described in a book I have published about this V & W Class destroyer.

Bill Forster