Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

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!