Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

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!!!!