Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Family Tree

In front of my parent's house, it is the last of the original trees standing in the street. Planted in 1958, when the house was built, it has seen me and my brother grow up; seen many plays of marbles and heard, and felt, the trembling happy ending Chinese celebration crackers on the New Year, hanging off it. It has weathered many, many storms. Listing a bit since I can remember, standing fierce. It has seen many new arrivals and final departures.
A tree, how does it cope with loss? The tree will grow new leaves in Spring. Seeing new families, either living in the houses in the street below or nesting up on it's branches. On this shortest day of the year no birds are singing to the new day. Now I look out of the window to see the tree covered in air hoar and a pigeon making itself comfortable on one of it's branches and singing. The other day a magpie was picking for food below; if anything, the tree knew.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Moving Metaphors

These are very moving times.
In a light-hearted move, but totally unplanned, my internet domain names are moving to another domain registrar. The building they were in, had demolition orders. And nobody was left there to answer my calls. From the silent green pastures in the eastern part of the Netherlands to the bustling 24/7 Amsterdam scene.

My websites are moving across the Atlantic to somewhere in Houston Texas. There it has more than 300 times more space and the roads can deal with more than 100 times the monthly traffic. I made sure that everything was wrapped-up and packed-up before the movers arrived and that I could close the doors behind me. And that nothing is left behind. There are four home domains to be moved. Two new ones popped-up out of nowhere. Not all the moving vehicles arrive at the same time nor will they arrive at the new addresses at the same time.

My e-mails are currently forwarded until all the dust of moving has settled. A hectic time. Messages are 'returned to sender' until all post offices and mail exchanges are aware of the new physical location of my mail boxes.

My phone will get disconnected shortly, awaiting to be transferred to the new shiny small mobile home with the big bright window. It will serve as my new mobile communications centre.

Dad moved as well. Some strange circumstance had him wake-up in hospital last Thursday. He wants to return home A.S.A.P. Like I said earlier, moving times...

Christmas time is getting nearer. Hope that all the moving dust settles and that there can be family time at home. In all this hectic, there is still no Christmas tree set-up. But that is not critical yet. Tomorrow is early enough. The family tree usually lasts well into January until after the arrival of three Kings. For some reason they have been on the move every year for about 2007 years.

Dunno when this posting can be read (again). Moving on...

Moving stranger, does it really matter
As long as you're not afraid to feel.
Touch me, hold me, how my open arms ache
Try to fall for me.
 Moving liquid, yes, you are just as water.
You flow around all that comes in your way.
Don't think it over, it always takes you over,
And sets your spirit dancing.
(Moving - Kate Bush)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mini Multi Mega PDA Gadget

When it comes to actual buying new technology items, I think I belong to the (impossible?) category of "the late majority / early adaptors". Having an IT background by education (pre-PC era) I have always been very skeptical at what is technically possible in relation to what is really working and "needed". I only started on mobile phones when they started to give them away for free (Postbank). Off course, I keep a keen eye out on new technological developments, but when it comes to actual buying, I put in a "delay".
In 2003, while in the US, I was "shocked" to see a kayak guide talking for hours on her mobile phone with her boy friend (while setting up camp) and me wondering how that would run up her phone bill (and keep him off work...). Then she told me that she had an "unlimited plan". Apparently there are only so many minutes in a month...

This year I thought it would be the time to buy car navigation. I have to drive more and more for business to "random" places. Saving time and high fuel prices would by now "pay" for the cost of car navigation.

Before I knew it I was lost in the "maze" of function packed Personal Digital Assistants (PDA's) and talk-time plans. The phones are generally "for free", but off-course there is no such thing as a free lunch. Offsetting the price of stand-alone car navigation to the monthly payments of talk-time plans. Dazzling...200712130000L.GIF

And there you have it... Last week I bought the HTC P3300 mini-multi-mega PDA smart-phone gadget. It has built-in GPS, TomTom Navigation, WiFi, FM Radio, MP3 player, 2 mega pixel camera, voice recording/recognition, touch screen and Windows Mobile 6.0 with Mobile Office. And before I forget, one can make phone calls with it. The plan it comes with allows for unlimited internet access (while in the Netherlands).

The HTC P3300 is not of the very latest technology (it came to the market a year ago), but I am happy that it works, and even better than I had hoped for.

There is off course that BIG question of: "Do I actually NEED all of this gadgettery". Is there not a better (smarter) life without it? Having spent days on fiddling, tweaking and updating and correcting my Outlook contacts to synchronize with the PDA, I could have been in the outdoors instead.

I also set-up mobile news feeds of my favorite blogs.

Thinking of my old-time favorite science fiction TV-series Star-Trek, I haven't yet found the type-II phaser button or a transporter function... Energize !

Or on a more personal note: would I today wish for a Tricorder?

A star fall, a phone call,
It joins all,

(The Police)

Thursday, December 06, 2007



In the Netherlands, 5 December marks the anniversary of Sinterklaas. His annual arrival in the Netherlands by steam ship from Spain is covered live on television. His "birthday" is anticipated by all children already a month in advance by putting shoes under the chimney for Sinterklaas and his many helpers to put sweets and small presents in. There is daily televised news coverage of Sint's preparations of getting all the presents to the children in-time; a major feat! The BIG DAY for presents is 5 December. The presents sometimes are in surprise packages and can contain 'sharply formulated' personal rhymes. It is engrained in the Dutch culture. It brings back memories of a care-free childhood and wonderful page-long personalized rhymes from Dad.

For many the tradition perpetuates when there are children, and grandparents for who you will always be a 'child'. Our family celebration of Sinterklaas lasted through me and my brothers' twenties.

This year I celebrated Sinterklaas on the island of Texel together with Karien, Jannie, Leo and Wim. Because in this case there was a game and 'chance' element, it was never clear that the present one unpacked would be the present that one would take home. We had a wonderful Sinterklaas evening.

I was amazed by the detailed knowledge that Sinterklaas has about sea kayaking. One 'glitch' might have been the 'tow line' that he gave me. It could have been a 'mistake' of a junior assistant Piet. Or Sint is reminding me that there is more in life than only sea kayaking... It indeed has large clips, it is strong and it has a shock absorber. But in any case, I now finally have an excellent tow-rope for my car. Thank you Sinterklaas!

Pepernoten, Pepernoten, Pepernoten, Pepernoten
Pepernoten, Pepernoten, Pepernoten, Pepernoten
Pepernoten, Pepernoten, Pepernoten, Pepernoten
Taai, taai, taai, taai, taai, taai
Pepernoten, Pepernoten, Pepernoten, Pepernoten

De beste vrienden van ons allemaal
Voor altijd en eeuwig, altijd en eeuwig, altijd en eeuwig
Altijd en eeuwig, altijd en eeuwig, altijd en eeuwig
Gul en royaal

Sinterklaas, wie kent hem niet - Henk Westbroek & Henk Temmink

Sunday, November 25, 2007

End of a continued tradition

Every year in November the Sea Kayak Touring committee of the national Peddelpraat club organises their meeting to plan next years activity calendar.

Activities include day trips, overnight trips, surf kayaking sessions, week-long trips in Scotland and our annual sea kayak instruction week in August. For the last seven years now I have been chairman of this very enthusiastic and 'self-regulating bunch' of trip leaders.

As far as anybody on the committee can remember, the meeting has always been held on a November Saturday in the "Ds. J.L. de Wagemaker" elementary school in Landsmeer where Lex and his wife Mady are teachers. Afterwards we were welcome at their place to have lunch and socialize.

This year has been our last meeting there. After more than 15 years (some say 20 years), a tradition ends. The school will no longer be available for our annual meeting. A very big thank you to Mady and Lex for all those years of hospitality!

But the tradition also continues. Next years' meeting is already planned but no location yet. We WILL remember (and miss) those nice lunches.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Holyhead to Great Orme's Head

Over the weekend I went paddling with Barry and Justine. There was a south-westerly storm all over, so on Saturday we decided to paddle along Penmon and around Puffin Island. We had expected encounters with inquisitive seals off Puffin Island and an unexpected encounter with a group of swimmers 100 meters off-shore from Penmon. They were training for open water swimming races. We are now on 'British Winter Time' and when we arrived back at Penmon at 17:30 it was pitch dark.

Sunday's forecast was still for gale force winds. I asked about how it is to paddle at Great Orme's Head. This name I remember because of the Admiralty Chart of Anglesey: "Holyhead to Great Orme's Head". Off Little Orme ran a little tidal race. Lots of rocks, channels and caves to play with on this coast. Justine supplied us with a massive delicious sandwich, way too much energy for the paddling we are doing, I said. On the way back from Great Orme's Head the wind picked up and we had a bumpy ride back. Against a stiff headwind, and from the cold, we burned off lots of the energy that our lunch had given us. Barry had our attention (and cheers) when he paddled under an overhang and a sudden wave had his stern almost hit the overhang. Winter has arrived, chilly, snow on the Snowdonia mountains.

I did some experiments with filming. Seeing the results, I have to remember for a next time to film longer shots. I do count while filming, but apparently when it gets rougher I count more quickly. Probably the same issue as with people you tell they should count to ten before wet exiting and that come out of their kayak within two seconds...

Click on the above picture to start the movie.

P.S. Justine wrote in her blog entry of the weekend about me checking-out Penrhyn Mawr. This is what I saw from the cliffs above and that I based my judgement upon...

Monday, November 19, 2007


To Jen Kleck for achieving the highest coaching award of the British Canoe Union. She is in fact the first female Level 5 Sea Kayak Coach in the USA and there are only four of them in the whole world (Trys Burke, Claire Knifton & Fiona Whitehead are the others). Overall there are only about 20 Level 5 Sea Kayak Coaches in the world, mainly from the UK. The work and time involved on the road to Level 5 is not to be underestimated. It was clear that Jen was very focussed and her determination resulted yesterday in passing her two-day assessment. Visit her blog for all the details of her road to L5. Well done!

Jen Kleck runs Aqua Adventures Kayak Center in San Diego and hosts the annual Southwest Kayak Symposium in March.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Site Safety Ends Here...

I found this sign posted near the Sea Kayaking UK factory. This and even more signs are hung around an enclosure for road maintenance equipment for the nearby road works. I am in Anglesey to collect new NDK sea kayaks and could not resist taking this picture for my blog. Imagine wanting to go sea kayaking and having to read signs for all the possible safety issues. I, therefore, especially like the "Site Safety Starts Here".

Friday, November 02, 2007

Web Life | Gone Paddling

On the Tuesday evening ferry I overheard a mobile phone conversation of a school girl to one of her friends. Her teacher had returned her school project with the remark that she should check it for typing errors. It would have been adequate if not for the large number of typing errors in it. If she made an effort to correct the errors she could re-submit it with no consequences. What she said next struck me in a way that this conversation made it onto my web log. She said that she did not know what she did wrong because she surely used the spelling checker...

At home I drop into a TV-programme about youths "addicting" to texting, MSN Messaging, on-line gaming and internet in general. YouTube enabled cameras... And parents that have given up to understand what their children are up to. Some teachers are spelling doom, while others say that nothing has changed, only the medium. Anyway, more and more people live their lives on the web and through their mobile phones. Some rarely leave their house anymore...

I am thinking about my blog and what it is different from pre-internet days (that era really existed!). Possibly only the "information overload" increased. There is just way too much out there.

I write this after two days of "web cleanup". Web storage used to come at a premium price. Over the years I used a patch-work of free hosting providers to store my pictures that my logbook pages are linking to. Now it is very cheap (or even free) to get 1024 Mb storage accounts. Unplanned, I reorganized and got rid of the patch-work. I hope I corrected more link errors than I created in that process. By now my website links to a whopping 3500 (!) pictures after 14 years of paddling. More overload?

Why I am typing this anyway? Should my blog not just state (if anything): "Gone Paddling!" ?

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...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday Morning Work-out

This morning I joined Barry and Justine for a play in Penrhyn Mawr. We had a late start but with this big spring tide we could still play for more than two hours. I got lots of long rides catching multiple waves in succession. There was hardly any wind so I could do a lot of experimenting with edged stern rudders to manoeuvre and keep onto the best waves. Another work-out exercise paddle.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Another Exercise Paddle

Today there was a trip planned to the Skerries out of Cemlyn. Unfortunately the wind was more like a strong 5, than the forecasted 3 to 4. Phil called the Skerries 'off' and instead we played at Harry Furlough's race off Cemlyn. It is one of the biggest spring tides of the year and the race is rougher than I have experienced here before. And it is not even wind against tide. Unfortunately the waves are difficult to catch. The current and the headwinds are too strong for easy surfing. While standing on shore to make pictures I had a good view of 'treadmill paddling'. After lunch some of us decided to paddle all the way back to Holyhead harbour, around Carmel Head. The decision to paddle out into the favourable current resulted in a change of plans to paddle all the way back to Porth Diana in Trearddur Bay. I was already a little tired from al the playing and now it felt that I was involved in a sprint-race. By the time my boat touched the beach at Porth Diana I felt really tired; but also, that this was another exercise paddle.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Exercise Paddle

I am (again) in Anglesey to pick up kayaks. Nigel Dennis had arranged for a coast guard rescue exercise involving multiple groups of kayakers 'in distress' and the lifeboats from Trearddur Bay and Holyhead (a total of four lifeboats). Rowland had an 'incident' at Trearddur Bay, requiring the large Holyhead Lifeboat. My 'buddy' paddler was in serious trouble. Together with Ryan I had towed him (and his flooded kayak) for a while. When at Penrhyn Mawr all of our 'Wave Catcher' group went for a play and I did not notice that I had lost my buddy... He was last seen at 6:15... Now 'dummy' was drifting with the tide through PM and off to South Stack and maybe even beyond. Not only we 'lost' dummy, but Phil and Tom were drifting out to sea as well. Fortunately the lifeboats found all of them and even dummy was saved! Our next challenge was getting back upstream of PM. By now the tide was so strong that many alternatives were sought and found to get past the chicken run. For me this involved choosing 'micro-eddies', turbo paddling and lots of previous experience here. Ryan, a river paddler, but never before in PM, had no problems whatsoever to get upstream. In darkness we made it back to Porth Dafarch.

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'.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Homeless Bound

Part 1
I hugged goodbye to Shawna and Leon. Tonight I am heading 'home'. But what is home when I feel homeless, emotionally that is? Home is where the heart is... Home sweet home... Wherever I lay my head that's my home... Home is friends, close friends, even if they are far away. On the Orcas Island ferry dock my mind drifts across the ocean to a very dear friend. How deep can friendships go? The strongest sense of understanding that not everything has to be understood or can be explained? Knowing that I might never know, acceptance. Wish upon a falling star, only dreaming. The logic of illogic. Futile reasoning. The mind, galaxies of thoughts, at light speed, too fast, slow down! Travelling, bound for home, somewhere out there, sometime.
Part 2
There I stand with my still empty trolley at Schiphol airport, waiting... The conveyer belt at the baggage claim comes to a stand-still. All my travelling possessions, including my outdoors home (tent) did not make the final Heathrow leg.
Part 3
Back 'home'. Just got a call from the airport. My baggage has arrived. I am glad it did. It contains some Pacific Northwest sea kayak collector items... Memories of home everywhere. It will be delivered at my doorstep tomorrow.

Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home, where my thought's escaping,
Home, where my music's playing,
Home, where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

- Paul Simon -

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Girls Kick Ass!

I made it to Body Boat Blade! Leon picked me up at 01:20 from the Orcas ferry terminal. In the afternoon Kathy, Leon, Shawna, Terry, Wendy and me went to Cascade lake for Greenland rolling practice. Leon, Shawna and Kathy will be demonstrating Greenland rolling (alternative style) during the upcoming West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium.
Leon does all of his Greenland rolling with a Euro blade, which for most of it, is much more difficult than with a Greenland paddle. Shawna and Kathy will be giving a demonstration of Greenland-style rolling a double sea kayak.
I tried to keep up with the experts and learn some. For the first time I could do consistent forward finishing throwing-stick rolls and even managed forward finishing hand-rolls. And Leon taught me the deep sculling roll. This is fun and I am amazed how easy it actually is once I find out what the starting position under water is. It is all about body movement. We practiced for more than four hours. I felt sick and dizzy after about two hours, but Shawna and Kathy kept on going. The double had with marker pen written on the side: "Girls Kick Ass!". Inspirational 'brick-solid' double rolling... Be sure to watch them roll at the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Stuck in the middle

Maybe I should have taken the train, maybe it would not have made any difference. Northbound I5 had major delays. There are mayor road works. Roadside billboards advertised: "It's your nickel, watch it work!". I had lots of time to look at the road works, and think about how to interpret the roadside billboards. But the waiting was not to be over.

My next scheduled connecting bus, I thought, would be delayed as well. When calling the Airporter Shuttle company about any delays I got no correction on the pick-up location that I wanted confirmation of. But when this bus was overdue, and I called again, the operator said that the bus nowadays stops at a different location in Mt. Vernon. When I made my reservation I had noted down my current location. The whole week I was looking for an example of a Dutch saying that makes no sense in the English language. But maybe I found one just now. In a Dutch saying the shuttle bus reservationists have "sent me into the forest"; you figure!

At this point the operator informed me that the next bus would be directed to visit my current waiting spot. And I would get my fare refunded. Great!, three hours waiting for getting a whopping 10 dollars refunded. When it works it is surely a good shuttle bus connection. But only double or even triple check the boarding location.

I could have taken Amtrak train to by-pass the roadwork's, but then I would also have ended up at the same (wrong) bus boarding location. I would have found out the wrong location one bus earlier. That is hindsight.

By this time I will miss any normal time ferry to Orcas. Fortunately it is Friday and there is a extra midnight ferry. From the bus driver I learned that it is Labor Day weekend. Possibly today was the worst Friday for travelling the I5 anyway. I hope to be making it to Orcas tonight and crash somewhere in Eastsound.

Slow Boat Farm Life

© Photo by Ginni Callahan
After the wonderful and exciting symposium I stayed on for a couple of days to help Ginni and David with clean-up. Maybe it was the good food, maybe it was being in the company of some very good friends. Or maybe it was the prospect of being able to finish a big garden project that made it difficult for me to leave. Or just all of it.

Prepping a new garden area for next year (I could well be eating from it during next year's LoCo Roundup) took working in 'deep shit' (manure) and handling even more hay. Funny thing is that I never had any sore muscles of the physical demanding garden work, but I did get sore muscles after the kayak games and Greenland rolling competition (see earlier post). With temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius it finally feels like high Summer. Not the best temperatures to be doing physical work. The saying "make hay while the sun shines" could well be turned-around into "Do not spread hay while the sun shines". And using all the daylight hours, means long days.

I stopped wearing a watch while here. Sue also stayed around for planting trees and she made some great cooked lunches and dinners. Kylie (one of the Skamokawa kayak guides) invited us all for an afternoon swim at an undisclosed location. A beautiful waterfall and terraced ponds for swimming and sunbathing. Another hot afternoon we just crossed the road and took a refreshing swim in the slough.

Now I am sitting in front of the Greyhound bus station in Kelso (thank you David for the ride!). Waiting for the 11:25 Greyhound bus to Mt. Vernon that (hopefully) links up with a shuttle bus to Anacortes and the ferry to Orcas Island in the San Juan's. A few days with Shawna and Leon before returning to the Netherlands. Different time and place; more Pacific timeless memories!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Funny side up!

Saturday afternoon was set aside for an all fun kayak games session for all. Lots of races, never found out who actually won those. 200708254461L.JPGNoodle jostling with Leon while standing up in the sea kayak. Leon intimidated me by standing on the back deck. Then a proposterous propulsion kayak relay race with a limited supply of object to use for paddling. Until those ran out no hands where allowed for propulsion. From a Canadian paddle, that took our team into an early lead, to buckets and even more exotic objects. Our team would have won if not for Shawna (her team hopelessly behind) sabotaging us by preventing our team boats back to the dock. In the end it was Ginni (how appropriate) to be the final paddler for the winning team.

Finally there was a Greenland rolling competition were judge Henry Romer spoke out all the rolls in Greenlandic (with translation). Competing were Leon, Ginni, Kylie, Mark and me. During a rolling class that afternoon Kylie learned straightjacket rolls (in a RomanyLV). She only just barely missed her straightjacket roll during the 'competition'. Kylie started rolling just a few month ago (!) and was missing all the 'easy' forward finishing rolls that would have make her finish first. Leon came in first, although judge Henry had thoughts about him doing all the Greenland rolls with a Euro blade (quite impressive!). There is some hope for me. I missed some of the rolls that I had done before, but had not practiced them for a while. Leon, Ginni and Kylie finished off with a successful brick roll.

The evening dinner was at the Stockhouse farm with a lecture by Brian Schultz about paddling a traditional Greenland skin-on-frame kayak along the swell and surf ridden Oregon coast. Ever tried to hitch hike with a kayak? Brian showed how to flag down a car. What a great day this was!
© Noodle jostling photo by Ginni Callahan

Saturday, August 25, 2007

1st Lower Columbia River Kayak Roundup

Where to start? Ginni and David, with the help of a lot of volunteers and the Skamokawa kayak guides made it happen! The very first ever annual Lower Columbia River Kayak Roundup was highly successful.

A whole range of BCU trainings and assessments in the week before and a whole variety of skills classes in the weekend. Excellent close-by paddling venues. Lots of highlights.

On the coaching side I was impressed with the rescue scenario's of the Skamokawa kayak guides. They actually enjoy doing rescues and have many ways of getting and talking people back in their kayaks. Something that must have come from experience. I actually learned some new stuff from the guides during their BCU Canoe Safety Test.

As for wildlife: a beaver swam right under my kayak, a bald eagle, a swimming snake...

On a BCU 4* sea training I was (again) impressed with the effect of Pacific Swell on (otherwise) benign 4* paddling conditions. On neaps, paddling near Jetty A in the Columbia River entrance (near Ilwaco) can already be potentially hazardous. Definitively a real tide-race running there on the ebb, but now with irregular high swell running into it; not a 4* star environment.

Next day I had my adrenaline rush from scouting a possible landing spot. Waikiki Beach had no surf whatsoever. But off Point Disappointment lighthouse (west side of Jetty A) had (on paper) promising conditions. That's what I thought. But when I scouted the beach landing a huge set came in and I felt the wind drop and I had to paddle hard back out to sea without being 'trashed'. Punching over the steep, still green, waves I was glad to feel the wind again. After three waves I was clear and I felt my hart beat in my throat. Definitively no landing zone within 4* remit.

Both 4* days my judgment on conditions was seriously tested. How to get consistent (and safe) 4* surf conditions in an area that is 5% of the time even beyond 5* remit? Paddlers on these coasts definitively have an extra 'hurdle' to take.
© Photo by David Noel

Monday, August 20, 2007

Going LoCo

Jason (aka Kiwi) picked me up from SEA-TAC airport on Thursday evening and we drove to Puget Island on the Lower Columbia River on Friday. Ginni and partner David soon put us both to work (after we volunteered) and I quickly found myself schlepping hay bales. In fact, the first hay bales I ever handled in my life. More hay bales (and Matt's kayak) arrived on Sunday afternoon from the Skamokawa county fair.200708174355L.JPG
200708194363L.JPGWe are all at Ginni's Slow Boat Farm for the BCU Week and the first Lower Columbia River Kayak Roundup next weekend. The good thing about all the hard physical work is that I am quickly recovering from my jet-lag; I sleep well.

Sunday afternoon we had a wonderful paddle through the sloughs and to the Columbia River. The food is excellent, fresh from the garden, prepared by Ginni and David.

This afternoon Ginni unwrapped a brand new NDK Explorer sea kayak for me to use during my stay. As already said in an earlier post, Ginni has a fine fleet of British style sea kayaks (various brands and models) for her upcoming Baja season.

Check out the Sea Kayak Baja Mexico website for some amazing expeditions and surf skills workshops this Winter in Baja.
© Hay bale photo's by Ginni Callahan

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Romany Classic

Yesterday I was called by Rob. He had a question about the seat positioning in a friend's NDK Romany. He got me really interested when he mentioned the number on the label that is laminated in the cockpit. It had a two-digit production number below 100. For privacy reasons I won't mention the actual number. Moreover he mentioned that the original owner hardly ever paddled it and it had spend it's years stored at the kayak club.

Earlier this week I saw a TV programme with Jay Leno about opening a garage door for the first time in 40+ years uncovering a classic Deusenberg car. The Romany is classic amongst classic sea kayaks. Although not forty years old (the Romany was designed in 1993).

When Rob sent a picture of the seat positioning and construction he also sent a picture of the actual cockpit label.
There, on that small piece of paper laminated inside the cockpit, are three familiar names: Nigel Dennis (Nigel Dennis Sea Kayaks), Aled Williams (TideRace Sea Kayaks) and Mike Webb (Rockpool Kayaks). They might have gone separate ways, but all three of them still live/work near/on Anglesey and all three still involved in making the finest of sea kayaks. What a history!

The oldest Romany I have ever seen was an early production prototype that still had a high back deck. The circumstances that I got to see that kayak on the water made me shiver (not from the cold!). It got hammered and holed in one of the infamous "Smash and Bash" classes during the Anglesey Sea Kayak Symposium a few years ago. And yes, it is still around!

There is more lore about the early years, but I have to verify that before I put that on the blog.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fighting SPAM

Today I checked the statistics of my SPAM-filter. Since November 2006 the daily flood of SPAM e-mails increased alarmingly. It is always a bit tricky to mention or even recommend a certain brand of SPAM-filter. What works now could well not work in a few months or so.
First some numbers. In the last seven months I received a whopping 11.752 SPAM e-mails. My anti-SPAM programme automatically filtered 11.212 of them, a score of 95%. 540 SPAM e-mails were not recognized outright and had to be blocked manually. Thus, on the average, I receive about 56 SPAM e-mails every day, of which I manually have to block three. More importantly only 19 e-mails were incorrectly labelled as SPAM. I remember most of them being 'legitimate' newsletters of larger well-known corporations. Interestingly an e-mail by Lendal got blocked initially. Anyway I am quite impressed with the client-based anti-SPAM programme that I use. And it appears that the programme gets more and more intelligent at it, because there is less and less need for manual blocking lately.

The one thing that annoys me though is that the SPAM still enters my computer before it can be dealt with. The reason for this is that I host my own domain names and that my provider is in fact myself and I do not have a server-based SPAM-filter. But, as the world's most famous Dutch soccer player Johan Cruijff one-liner goes: "Each disadvantage has it's advantage". I do not have to log onto any server to actually delete the SPAM and check/unblock any incorrectly labeled SPAM e-mails.

Now I can pull the rabbit out of the hat. I uses SPAMfighterPro. It is freeware if you don't care for a SPAMfighterPro promotional line under each of the e-mails you sent. Having used it that way for a few months, I decided that this software, for now, is "bang for the buck". And I have not been disappointed yet.

Part of my problem of receiving so much SPAM is that I have at least three domain e-mail accounts that start with info@. It is rather easy to blindly send something to any info@ address of gathered domain names. My personal e-mail account receives the most SPAM though. I could change my info@ accounts to something less obvious. But the way SPAMfighterPro works now I see no need for that yet.

It goes too far to describe here how SPAMfighterPro works. If you are interested then go to their website

Most of the day was spent checking my gear and packing for my trip to Washington State for Ginni Callahan's Lower Columbia River Kayak Roundup. I packed my dry-suit AND my dry-bib and jacket AND short neoprene AND shorts. Maybe it is Summer out there, maybe not.

Ginni spread the word that I would be arriving at SEA-TAC late this Thursday evening and Kiwi (I had to ask for his 'real' first name) is so kind to pick me up and put me up for the night AND take me to Puget Island on the Lower Columbia River AND maybe go for a paddle.

In the time it took to write this entry I received 19 more SPAM e-mails.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Just for the Record

Many's the time I've been thinking of changing my ways
But when it gets right down to it it's the same drunken haze
I'm serving a sentence to write life sentences
It's only when I am out of it I make sense of this

Just for the record I'm gonna put it down
Just for the record I'm gonna change my life around

Lines from "Just for the Record" by Derek William Dick (Fish)

Wengers need not apply
In USA Paddler Magazine of July/August 2007 Keirron Tastagh's and Jeff Norville's attempted to break the record of paddling a double sea kayak around Vancouver Island gets high profile attention: "Wengers need not apply". By now we know they broke the record, but learning from this article Keirron only just lost the bet with Nigel Dennis to do it within two weeks.

New Sophistication
In the same issue Justine Curgenven's DVD This is the Sea 3 is independently reviewed. Some statements: "This is the best industry film on kayaking I've ever seen - no matter what type of kayak. No joke". and "Of course, Curgenven isn't just some sea kayak chic who decided to start making films. Her media savvy comes from years of practice as a television journalist in the United Kingdom. These two passions - journalism and sea kayaking - combine for one incredible film".

Paddler Magazine
I receive Paddler Magazine as part of my ACA (American Canoe Association) membership and I must admit that over the last few issues the variety and quality of articles has noticeably improved a lot. It used to be lots of 'gung ho' white water and rafting stuff, but the last issues have very good balance on all kayak and canoe disciplines and good writing.

Sea Kayak Baja Mexico
This Winter, Ginni Callahan will run her first season of Baja trips and courses as her own independent company. Ever wanted to paddle in Baja but was deterred by the prospect of having to paddle ruddered plastic double sea kayaks? Come along then with Ginni in familiar British style glass fibre skegged single sea kayaks. Sea of Cortez or Pacific coast, Ginni has many years of Baja guiding experience.

Cover art by by Mark Wilkinson for Marillion's "Clutching at Straws" album.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ett Friare Liv / I ♥ Sweden

Back home after two weeks of exploring on the west coast of Sweden together with Karien. Summer never really arrived. But beautiful days nevertheless. In the Skagerak there is hardly any tide and there is negligible tidal current. To me it looked it was always high water Springs. The water never moving more than one meter up and down the beach; a tidal range of half a meter or so. I never could receive any weather forecast, not that I tried very hard. We looked to the skies and to each other and decided where to go. On one afternoon, crossing to the Koster Islands, we found ourselves battling against a force 6 to 7 Beaufort wind in overcast skies. The day before, campsite rumours had it that this day would be the beginning of a beautiful sunny week... Sweden is a beautiful sea kayaking destination with no 'stress' involving tidal planning and lots of sheltered Islands. Souvenirs of Sweden, the inevitable moose icons, a boat carved out of thick bark that I found lying on the road and lots of Summer holiday memories.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


I am now in the Library of the bustling Summer holiday town of Strömstadt. After Helsingborg we visited Johan and Sara (and their two month old daughter Eld) of Escape Kajak Center near Göteborg. I have met Johan for the first time at my first visit to Anglesey in 2000 and have seen him on every Anglesey symposium ever since and more. Johan Wagner made the stunning pictures of a looping Simon Osborne in Penrhyn Mawr, one of which got published in the excellent new Sea Kayaking handbook by Gordon Brown. Dubside will be over in August and Johan has organised a Greenland rolling tour. If you are "nearby" be sure to check out this great opportunity to learn from the MASTER!

Next we headed to Göteborg city center to buy the nautical charts. Here we found out that all the shops have discount sales going (Rea) and we ended up visiting a number of outdoor shops; real bargains, but unfortunately not allways the right size.

Karien is feeling a little better, but she is not yet totally recovered. So we decided for another night in a youth hostel. This time it was the hostel at Stora Höga. Less luxurious than the one in Laröd, but the atmosphere enjoyable and unique. When you ever stay at this hostel be sure to order breakfast and enjoy the "procedures" involved with it (and boil the supplied eggs!). When the sun shines it is very warm.

Yesterday we visited the Orust Kajak Center at Stocken. From 24-26 August they host their annual Stockenträffen. This year with (among others) Nigel Foster, Freya Hoffmeister AND Dubside! Karien has been to Orust before; unfortunately both of us have obligations at the time of the symposium. Now the owner made us aware of excellent booklets on paddling areas on the west coast. These booklets are also available as PDF files with the added benefit of GPS coordinates that can be downloaded directly to your GPS. The booklets are very profesionally made with wind compasses showing the wind shelter for the possible campsites, and information on English language VHF weather forecasts; higly recommended.

More "Rea" along the way at an outlet store at Håby. Here they did have brand name thermals (the ones I use for kayaking all the time) at bargain prices AND in the right sizes. Now back to the Bofors campsite on the island of Tjärno. Maybe we do a day trip tomorrow and later we hope to paddle to the nearby Koster islands.

We are warned by various people that it is a very busy time of year in this area with Norwegian powerboaters. The Norwegian holiday ends this weekend, so we hope that it is not too busy out there. The town Strömstadt is very very busy indeed. And we do need SUN!!!!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Traveling North

At the moment I am in the public library of the small Swedish town of Laröd, just north of Helsingborg. Karien is down with the flu. We stay at the beautiful youth hostel that is on walking distance from the library. The hostel is warm and cosy, the ideal place for us to recover. By mentioning 'us' it implies that I was ill for a day with a sore upper jaw. It felt like a sore tooth, and I had a sleepless night with tooth ache. I would have visited a dentist today, but the pain went and flu-like fever replaced it. Today I feel much better and hope Karien is sweating the flu out today. We took two days to travel from Texel via Denmark to Sweden. The camping in Denmark was unbelievable luxurious. More details at a later post. Someone else wants to use the computer.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Anglesey Summer Time

It has been a bit quiet on my blog. Just too active in the outdoors to also find time for the computer blog. What to think about this high brace?
Karien is from the island of Texel, so I would call this a Texel high support stroke (high brace). Phil countered with a head stand. He might not yet be as 'flexible' as Freya, but I bet he is working on that as well. I wonder how tight Reed gear would look on him (LOL).
Karien and I enjoyed a wonderful week in Anglesey. While parts of the UK had to endure major flash floods creating mayhem in many towns, Anglesey had beautiful weather. We played in a sunny North Stack race on Monday.
A film crew seemed to have come just for us. Great waves to surf on; big smiles. But when TideRace Aled arrived, it dawned upon us that the crew (with Olly Saunders) was shooting Aled Williams.
We surfed for a long time at North Stack before spending most of the rest of the afternoon sun bathing at Parliament's House cave.
Wednesday we headed for Penrhyn Mawr. It was full springs, and we got delayed a bit. That resulted us entering PM at max flood. The swell against tide conditions created a much too rough to handle middle and outer race. Instead we headed for the inner shoots (locally known as the 'chicken run'). It felt like running a raging river. Never before I have seen PM run this fast. Karien was a little 'intimidated' at first; the situation not helped by an Army helicopter hovering above, throwing red smoke flares on the cliff and winching a man onto the cliff. The ear deafening sound of the rotors superimposed on the sounds of fast flowing water made clear communication impossible. After ten minutes or so, Karien's apprehensive look was replaced by a joyous smile. I was perfectly happy with the conditions 'safety-wise' in the inner races. The middle and outer races were totally unsafe with continuous thrashing waves; sure bet for loops, pop-outs and inevitable rescue nightmares. Only in the very last hour of the flood we dared to venture out into the middle and outer races enjoying a wild and bumpy ride but not much surfing. As I said on many occasions before, PM is never the same, always something different.
Thursday we joined Phil and Roger on a trip to the Skerries. Naturally the sun always shines on the Skerries! On the way back Phil showed us the most beautiful cave system on Anglesey, paddling in a 50 feet 'through-cave'.

I told in an earlier blog entry about Noel Webb arriving in Anglesey. On Thursday Marcus Demuth arrived back from his Ireland circumnavigation. What a coincidence. This year I counted at least 10 expeditions using Sea Kayaking UK sea kayaks. From the Expedition 'work horse' Explorers to GreenlanderPro's and four (!) Triton double expeditions. I could not get the details of some of those sponsored expeditions from Nigel Dennis before I left, so if you know of more I am quite keen to add them to my NDK Sponsored Expeditions page.

Saturday was 'play time' at Penrhyn Mawr. Getting towards neaps it resembled nothing that we had encountered on Wednesday. Swell gone, racing gently.

The week passed too quickly. On our way back to Hull we took on Roger's invitation to visit him and had an unexpected full 'Sunday Roast' lunch with his wife at their place in the Welsh hills overlooking a vast valley.

Thank you Nigel and Tara for having us stay at your place and thanks for letting Karien use the Romany. Karien and I had a great time! Barry, will paddle with you next time around. Phil, thanks for letting us join you and showing us Anglesey's secret caves. We just missed the Fun Fair; bumper cars for next year?

Lots more Anglesey Summer Time pictures to be added to my Logbook at a later date.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Noel Webb arrives on Anglesey

Yesterday evening, a salt crusted wet black dressed guy comes up the stairways with Nigel Dennis, directly heading for the shower (and after that, 'raiding' the kitchen for food). It is Noel Web, that is circumnavigating mainland UK. Weeks of bad weather prevented any good progress. Last week he was still stormbound in Pembrokeshire. Now taking advantage of favourable weather (Summer finally?), he yesterday paddled from the tip of the LLynn Peninsula (about 65 km south) to Holyhead. Beautiful sunny weather, blue skies with bright white cumulus clouds. Yes, for the last few days it seems that Summer has finally arrived. This morning already Noel continues on his expedition. He is eager, and tip-top fit, to get some mileage in. For information on Noel Webb's challenge, visit his expedition website at:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Iceland Circle

Freya Hoffmeister and Greg Stamer have done it! What to say about their impressive achievement other than repeating Freya's e-mail?
"Just finished paddling around Iceland with Greg! 33 days, 25 paddling days, 8 weather days, 1.620 km, 65 km average, 10.000 pictures, 100 lighthouses, 100 headlands, 10.000.000 birds, huge cliffs, black desert sand, plenty of water and overall a great time! Some educative experiences on the edge, but no serious incidents, thank goodness. Toughest part of the trip? Waiting more than one day for appropriate paddling weather... :-))"

Monday, July 09, 2007

Lilly the Pink

200707091420LYesterday evening family van Halm took me to a charity fund-raising cabaret evening of Jersey's Progressive School of Music. Watching all the performances was a 'mixed blessing'. But for a good cause, my ears can handle lots. And it was good entertainment indeed. Some had chosen very difficult songs to sing while not (yet) having the voice to support the songs; very daring. At our table the phrase 'Dutch Courage' fell. And some already sound as professional singers. In my ears is still the amazing voice of the woman that sang a Dolly Parton song, wow! During the break there was a buffet with a charity raffle. I could not resist buying raffle tickets and told to Len about the first time that I won something during a raffle. I was joking that today I would probably win the 'babysitter voucher'. And Len said that the one 'fitting' prize for me was the donated Jersey Kayak Adventures voucher. Well, what do you think I have won? Of course, I won the 'two hours of cleaning or three hours of babysitting' voucher (with a bottle of wine). And what a beautiful gift wrapper. Oh yeah, the evening opened and closed with the Lilly the Pink song...