Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Double Trouble

Yesterday I could join John from Plas Menai Watersports Centre in a Triton double sea kayak. My first experience in a double. Did we get into trouble? Read all about it in Justine's Journal.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Inspired Aspirant

I am just back (again) in Anglesey. Last weekend I was at Glenmore Lodge, up in Scotland attending the bi-annual BCU Coach Level 5 Confererence. Lots of Level 5 coaches and some aspirants, like me, made their way into the Scottish mountains. Some news on the BCU UKCC (United Kingdom Coaching Certificate), that will supersede the BCU Coaching certificates; I won't be bothering you with that! A lecture on 'Feedback' had me sitting at the tip of my chair. I was at the bounderies of my knowledge of the English language. I understood the words, the sentences and even the speaker's Mancunian accent. But there was an underlying layer of satire and comedy that recquired close attention; very funy indeed. Other lectures and workshops that I attended included 'Interference Effects' and 'Skills Acquisition'. Monday would be sea kayaking, but with forecasts of force elevens that was changed to a morning session on forward paddling. Being coached by the British National Team sprint racing coach is not an everyday opportunity!
I had a very long drive back via Oban, to pick-up Nico, my business partner. Maybe we can do some paddling over the weekend.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


20061104127L.JPGToday I went on a Skerries trip with Justine and her friend Clare Jones. It is Clare's first trip to the Skerries, a fact that somewhat surprises me. Clare is co-author of the book "Unforgettable things to do before you die". For sea kayakers a trip to the Skerries would surely belong in such a book. Leaving from Cemlyn we first play a bit in the Furlough tide race. It is the end of the ebb and we have a 'gentle' ferry glide towards the Skerries, more on transits than on compass. The sea is much rougher then to be expected from the force 3 winds. There is a good swell running. I feel quite special to be on Anglesey waters this time of year. Over Victoria Bank and near Coal Rock the sea steepens a bit, but on this state of the tide, the sea feels quite 'lazy'. Upon approaching the Skerries we choose to go clockwise. For me, because I never went this way around the island before. The small bay, were we can land, is filled with 20-plus seals. Justine hands out various types of delicious cream pie, a pre-birthday gift to her from Clare. Returning to Cemlyn Bay takes us past West Mouse, surfing the following sea. A setting sun lights up the sky in blues, greens, yellows and reds. In Britain, the fifth of November is associated with Guy Faulkes, or bonfire night. This year, conveniently held on the Saturday evening of the 4th. We watched the fireworks display in Felinheli, but that was definitively not as enlightening as our Skerries paddle with the bon fire in the sky.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Afternoon Paddle

After three days in the 'office' checking e-mail, doing VAT bookkeeping and selecting pictures to go on my website it was nice to be on the water again. I am staying at the Sea Kayaking UK centre on Anglesey, in-between my travels in the UK. For those who are curious if I am always on 'holiday', I should tell that I am currently working towards further BCU coaching 'development' and that means doing some stuff and courses in alternative disciplines; still learning... Reports on that will follow later. Barry and Chris invited Phil and me to go on an afternoon paddle, joined also by Tara. We started from Soldiers' Point to play in North Stack tide-race. There was hardly any wind but still some swell remaining.

North Stack was great fun. Next could be South Stack tide-race, but we were very careful not to make any overhasty decisions. We paddled the tail end of North Stack tide-race towards South Stack in big clapotis like waves. Tide-race waves from different direction ran into each other, sometimes creating a 'zipper' effect. I am aiming for them and get hit by the biggest of them, partly surfing backwards. Paddling close-in to South Stack we could see that it was not too rough and we played at the edge of the race. No pictures of this, because one of the closure-clips of my waterproof camera housing has broken and the camera would not survive a swim. Anyway, South Stack has a tricky race. When it is safe enough, it gives long and very fast rides! Today it is very good. My last run was the best. Not that I not wanted another go, but crashing down a wave into the 'big hole' in front of me (for a split-second I thought of looping), I went over and had to roll-up again. My cap dangling on it's leash and one half of my spare paddle hanging loose from it's holdings. Time to stop. We had lunch in a rather dodgy swell ridden spot. Tara had the most spectacular landing when a big set came in. We shared our food and drink as no one had really prepared for a full lunch stop. Leaving was potentially even more tricky because now the water level had fallen, exposing even more rocks. But by timing our take-off we made it out more easily than I expected. A great paddling afternoon. In fact the first trip for my new Explorer in Anglesey. Tweety is enjoying quite a big tour around the country, and so am I.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Falls of Lora

Yesterday we played at the Grey Dogs tidal race off Scarba. It was the first day on the water for my new Explorer sea kayak. It left the factory the same day as Justine's new Tiger-skin Romany sea kayak. So I might name my 'dull' yellow-on-white Explorer Tweety...20061005015L
Today all the photo and video camera's are out, except mine :-(( for the Falls of Lora near Oban. It is the biggest spring tide of the year. It soon becomes clear who are the experts on this 'river-like' tidal phenomenon. Nick Cunliffe, Aled Williams and Mike ? are not intimidated by the extreme strong currents, eddies and whirlpools and impress with long surfs on the front wave and excellent active boat control; river paddling in sea kayaks. Nick manages an almost complete pop-out. My adrenaline runs high. Shaking knees after my first runs. I swam three times, rolled some more. But I managed some seconds surfing the front wave. And turned 360 degrees at a 45 degree angle stern-down in a whirlpool; an introduction to vertical bracing...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Surfing at Trearddur Bay

20060928063L.JPGAll wanted to have another go at Penrhyn Mawr, but the conditions were far too rough! Upon observing the race from shore and making risk assessments it was decided: "no go!". Returning to Trearddur Bay we found a good four-foot surf running on the beach. Geoff Allen and Simon Osborne decided to go vertical again. This time using the sand... My two digital camera's are giving me problems, so I am lucky to have some shots worth showing.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

All out at Penrhyn Mawr

Today was a cracking day at Penrhyn Mawr. Spring tide with a good swell running. Geoff Allen and Johann Wagner climbed on the rocks for spectacular picture sequences of sea kayaks making vertical manoeuvres. Pictures courtesey of Johan Wagner of Escape Kayak Center.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Greenland in the Netherlands

On the weekend of the annual Veluwe Rally, Tom Steenbergen and Dick van Zanten organized the second Greenland kayak gathering in the Netherlands. Freya Hoffmeister arrived with two skin-on-frames and her carbon fiber Qaanaaq rolling kayak. I got to do lots of Greenland rolling practice and managed the spine roll for the first time. I got dizzy from all the rolling. On Saturday Freya gave rolling instruction sessions and did a rolling demo together with Peter Renkema. Peter, new to Greenland rolling, managed to perform in sync, many of the rolls that Freya did.

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.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Recovered Puffins

My digital camera was giving me trouble on the last day of my Mull trip. The camera started with the 'format memory card' menu. But I just was not prepared to do that after the many, many bright sunshine 10x optical zoomed very close-up shots of Lunga Puffins of a few days earlier. Never trust technology, especially when one has become used to relying on it... Never trust computers...

Back home I searched the internet for tools that might recover the Puffins that fell to this acute 'digital bird flu'. Maybe too many puffins packed together on the memory card, I suppose... Anyway, I want to share with you how my Puffins recovered.

The freeware program 'PC Inspector Smart Recovery' allows you to read any (corrupted) media that can be attached to a computer. Even deleted images, as so far they are not overwritten already, can be restored. A small drawback is that the images are named and numbered in the physical order at which they are stored on the memory card. The internal JPG EXIF data still contains all the original date and time information, but individually renaming the files is a lot of work. But here another program came to help.

The program 'Sophisticated Rename' can rename files from the information stored in the JPG EXIF data. This is also a very handy tool to restore file date/time for all those people that use XP's 'easy' option of 'importing images to folder'. Unfortunately, this option renames all images and updates date/time and that does this on the physical order of the images on the memory card.

An advice from me: do NOT use the XP 'import' option! Instead, open the memory card with Explorer and copy and paste the images to a relevant named folder on your computer. In this way file date/time are not updated. And off course never edit, or even rotate, your original images, work on a copy instead. Otherwise image quality might be lost forever.

After I recovered my Puffins, I received three CD's full of pictures of another Mull trip member. Finding my way through the huge number of pictures it felt as if someone had dropped four boxes of unmarked slides. Try to re-order those! But now I had the tool to make life easier...

The future? Digital camera's with build-in GPS and electronic compass pinpointing every image, linking that to Google Earth... Never trust computers...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Surfing A Wake

Very favourable wind conditions made it possible for Ray Goodwin to guide our annual trip for the Peddelpraat club around the Isle of Mull in just eight days. A highlight on the west side of the Isle of Mull is always the 'intimate' close encounters with the Puffins. But it was the east side of Mull, on our last day, that had a most memorable experience for us. After rounding Duart Point, we came across a pod of four dolphins that was feeding in the bay. After observing them for half an hour we decided to continue. I lingered a little longer and the distance between me and the group became larger. To close the gap I started sprinting... Within seconds the dolphins are cruising off my bow. The spouts, not in sync, sound like quick successive launching of fireworks display shells. Whenever I sprint, they are half a metre off my bow. My kayak is even picked up by a dolphin generated wave; surfing the wake of a dolphin... What a magnificent display, what an experience! When I catch up with the group, others enjoy the same. The dolphins are playing and follow us into the bay were we want to camp. It is far from over yet. More play: jumps, bellies up, bumping in to each other; they play with each other and use our kayaks as 'playing field' markers. We share our camping spot with four paddlers from a Scottish sea kayak club. Many photo's are taken, even film. In the distance we see a flock of sea gulls squeaking in an agitated state. Four Minke whales are feeding in the middle of the Firth of Lorn. Wow! Unbelievable! What a magnificent display of Nature.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Jersey Sea Kayaking Symposium

20060603100L.JPGSmall towns that have names that can be pronounced both in English and in French. Street names that are definitively French spelling. Crossing over by fast ferry from St. Malo.

Brittany to Britain, my first visit to Jersey and the Channel Islands.

Jersey, and the other Channel Islands offer a great variety of sea kayaking opportunities. Some highlights of my visit? Paddling tidal-races off Tour de Rozel and Belle Hougue. Day trips to the Paternosters rocks and to Les Écrehou islands. Barbeques and evening meals in the gorgeous settings of Corbière and Grève de Lecq. Cliff jumping at Plemont Pt. An overnight trip to the Island of Sark. And topping it off with a one-day circumnavigation of Jersey, enjoying, and photographing, all the high lights again. Thank you Kevin and all at the Jersey Canoe Club.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Puffin Island Seals

It is a very grey and rainy day. A difficult call for going out to paddle. It is the second day for a Dutch group of paddlers. Yesterday was fine, a trip from Porth Dafarch to Rhoscolyn. What to do? It is neaps, so no real fun to be had in the Menai Strait, and no high winds to have some 'safe' excitement there. So far I was only 'grounded' at Anglesey with winds of 8 Beaufort (35 knots) or more. Stay inside and watch sea kayaking video's? No, let's go to Puffin Island! Changing into paddling clothes in the rain, launching in the rain. A very grey dull wet paddling day? Not quite! We are welcomed by very inquisitive seals off Puffin Island. They nibble at our toggles and give us lots of opportunity to make close-up photo's. On the south side of the Islands lots of guillemots, razorbills and yes, Puffins. More Puffins than I have seen there before; they are back! During lunch there is a glimpse of the sun, but soon the grey low cloud cover takes over again. It stops raining. A most memorable beautiful Anglesey grey seal paddling day.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Anglesey Sea Kayaking Symposium

From my first experience with tidal races and overfalls during my 2000 May visit, this year marks my seventh Anglesey symposium. Still I am amazed at the variety of conditions I am experiencing here. I can even consider these now to be my 'home waters', from the number of times I have paddled here above anywhere else. Have these waters changed over the years? Or is it my expanded knowledge of where to paddle when and seek out the variety by experience and improved sea kayak handling skills? Recognizing the anxiety on the faces of the 'first-timers'. I must have looked the same then, in 2000; the New York slanged voice of Bill still echoing: "When in doubt, paddle even harder!".

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Friends from a previous life

While in San Diego I received an e-mail from a former colleague from my time working in IT. I did not have contact with any of them for about three years now. So reading the invitation triggered a massive flash back. I could only reply that chances would be very small that I could attend, being only in the Netherlands for just one week. But Harry was determined to get the most of us back together again for a meet, greet and dinner. So there I was yesterday in Amsterdam, amazed at the massive turnout. Scattered over employers all over Netherlands, but mostly still within the ING company. For ING, the 'Westland/Utrecht Hypotheekbank' company is effectively not existing anymore, only it's commercial 'product labels' remain. We should keep it quiet for ING then that the WU spirit still is very much alive! Small is beautiful!. Inquiring about every ones' children is the only clue to our physical aging... Thank you Harry for organizing and see you all next time!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Delta 1474

Into the blue sky out to the Pacific Ocean. Steeply banking into a full turn. The whole coastline between Point Loma and Mission Bay sweeps by: OB (Ocean Beach) Pier, the breakwater. La Jolla out of sight a little more North. I can even pinpoint the location of Aqua Adventures Kayak Centre. And the dock where the Auwana is moored; the wooden sailing yacht from Port Townsend, that was home during my stay in San Diego. Eddy, the cat, is now probably sleeping and purring above the reservation computer shelve. Natcho's old Mercedes diesel running on 'grease': just drive by any restaurant kitchen. Fantasizing about business models to even get paid for fuel consumption. The evening meals at the Ocean Beach main drag. My first glimpse of a 'flow rider' and it's big 'liability waiver billboard'. We never rode the historic wooden roller coaster. But is Life itself not the best roller coaster ride of all? Ups and downs, exhilarating rides, sharp turns. I have to get my feet back on the ground. First in Atlanta and finally in Amsterdam. Sea World, San Diego zoo, none of it all. Good times with friends, old and new. Thank you all.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Triak Sailing

Today Jen showed me the ropes on Triak kayak sailing. Yesterday I could talk with Jen, TR (owner) and Charlton (designer) over beer and dinner about the design. Triaks are made in San Diego; see So it was fitting that I should try this out myself while at Aqua Adventures. This is my first go at sailing whatsoever, so it is OK to me that it is not very windy. I am amazed how easy it is to handle this craft and adjusting sail and spinnaker for the wind. Feeling the wind with my hands on ropes instead of feeling the water with my hands on a paddle. The same familiar proximity to the water. With an amber sunset we return to the Mission Bay Marina, past the 'patrolling' seal, under the bridge, and past the barking sea lions on the dock.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Dharma Bums

Clouds drift away to reveal the full moon, dimming out Orion for the day. In a moon-grey lit Puerto Don Juan howling and barking breaks the silence. At night I dozed at slapping sounds on the water. Fish, but what kind? But these sounds now are unmistakably to be identified: a pack of coyote is singing to the moon on the west side of the bay. I had seen evidence of these elusive creatures the day before: tracks running along the lined-up kayaks detouring to every cockpit and back. In the low light I see that the tide is out and I can determine that the two cut-open plastic water jugs, holding the rest of yesterday's clam-dig, have fallen over and are now a foot apart. I rest a bit more and while the sunrise paints the mountains red, the student's camp awakes to a sharing the hearing of the coyote between those that heard it and those that slept through all of it. Good morning! The salt water filled clam jugs drained. A few clams are spread out on the sand. I put them back into the jug. But one of the escapees has proven immense will of survival and has dug itself almost completely in the sand. I move my hand towards it but decide to pull out before. I cannot take this one. Last I pick-up the blue cap of one of the jugs and put it back onto it. Not that this is necessary, the ex-water jugs already partly cut open beneath the top, but to keep the blue cap from escaping. Now I find out why the jugs had fallen over and away. Bite marks pierced the top of the jug and scratched the cap. Coyotes have adapted to the extremely harsh Sonoran desert climate and learned to open water jugs. I wonder if Coyotes know more about the full moon than humans do.

20060411758L.JPGYesterday, Mountain Classroom became tide-pool classroom when Jen talked about gravitational forces of earth, moon and sun. Notebooks of the paper era get filled with colour pencilled drawings of tide pool creatures. Brittle Stars, Sunflower starfish, Anemones, flatworms, a homeless Hermit crab, a Stingray and many more creatures making their living from the tides. Mid afternoon: high water springs. Gurgling and splashing noises, an immediate uproar in camp. Squid are moving into shallow water near the rocks and propel to the surface releasing jets of water. Colour changing red, yellow, grey, black, greenish, white. Black ink murks the water. Weaving into the rocks to beach themselves onto the sandy patches. The colour changes fade to grey. Staring into human like eyes. The squid are dying suicidal? Rescue the squid! Releasing some of the squid into deeper water has even more horrific consequences. Determined to beach themselves again, the squid propel themselves against rocks, tearing apart their skins and becoming less and less directional in their approach, but not less determined. They all find their way upon the tiny rock enclosed sand patches to die; a dozen in all. One swims away into deeper water... Nobody in camp knows at this time what this is all about. Why did the squid commit suicide? The beaching at a full moon high water springs cannot be just coincidence. A little later the teachers learn from the students of what has occurred in our little bay in the Sea of Cortez. I wonder if Squid know more about the full moon than humans do.
Returning to Bahia de Los Angeles two days later and getting back on board the Proctor Academy Mountain Classroom school bus. The solar powered inverter died and the students' i-pods die of exhaustion shortly after. I borrow Lucy's copy of a classic novel; their English reading on this trip. I heard about this American writer, but that is just about that. My appetite for reading was effectively 'killed' during my high school days by force-fed reading of indigestibles. At least it felt that way then. Yeah!, The Pearl indeed was that first (but only) gem. I became an artist of binary poetry instead. Some obscure Scottish poet had me once marvel at the power of the human language, interpretation and imagery: "Sheeted within the walkman wear the halo of distortion, aural contraceptive aborting pregnant conversation". How still fitting for the I pods, though NOT these bright kids! Later he wrote: "Read some Kerouac and that put me on the tracks to burn a little brighter now". I am on the road with the Dharma Bums.
I wonder what I really know about the moon and the tides...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Southwest Sea Kayak Symposium

From March 31 to April 2, Aqua Adventures Kayak Center hosted the annual Southwest Sea Kayaks Symposium at San Diego's Campland. On Friday I teamed-up with Fiona for an all-day incident management course out of Mission Bay. We had breaking tow-lines and capsizes. And Fiona even managed a 'Cleopatra's needle', but that took some 'sabotaging'.


Fiona gave an evening lecture about her 2004 circumnavigation of Great Britain and Ireland. I slowly realized an 'embarrassing moment' was upcoming... Argg... that picture of me with a banana; is it still in there? Yep! it is... On Saturday I almost had an another 'embarrassing moment' when a family of five showed up for my class that, when I asked: "Are there any questions?", replied: "What do we need?" With the instant help of Marc checking out kayaks and gear, I had this class running smoothly for the rest of the session. It was a 'foundation strokes' class and I should have known that the most basic thing to kayaking is kayak, paddle and PFD! On the Sunday I had the honour to work with Doug van Doren on a rolling session. His 'roll-o-man' gets full marks for getting the body movement for rolling clearly across; a perfect coaching tool. Latest developments on kayaks and camping equipment? Eleven dollar 'no-name-pull-out-instant-dome-tents' for the coaches to sleep in. And a solar-powered Nalgene night-light water bottle. Fiona got rewarded for pinning the wooden Pygmy kayak the other day, joining the Aqua Adventures 'rocking the tide-pool' club and received her own 'members only' t-shirt!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

An early morning paddle

Today I have been paddling with Fiona, Jen, John, Ken, Matt and Nigel, from Mission Bay, where Aqua Adventures have their kayaking centre, to San Diego Bay. We are on the water by 7 AM. Rock Gardening along the way, Matt hit a cliff face with the bow of his Romany Elite and later got washed sideways on a big set that rolled in. But no damages, yet... The challenge of paddling along the coast dodging the occasional big sets over shallow reefs. Off Point Loma is a reef break.
We spent hours surfing perfect long ride waves, in the sun. Fiona is apparently practicing for Friday's incident management course by pinning John's wooden Pygmy kayak mid-ships. I heard the sound of impact from a fifty meters away. It takes a few moments before the two kayaks are separated and Fiona skillfully applies Denzo tape onto the hole. This is the first time ever I have seen Denzo tape used. We surf for another hour until we are all tired. We have seen dolphins and jumping chasing sea lions. Jen had said that this was an early morning paddle. Because of all the good time spent on surfing this turned into a day paddle in the morning.