Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Saturday, December 20, 2008


An American sea kayaking guide travelling from southern Chile taking a BCU course in Baja California Sur with a Dutch BCU coach from the Netherlands...

As many of you might know already, Ginni Callahan migrates South every Winter to guide sea kayaking trips and organize (BCU) courses and guide training in the Parque Marino Nacional Bahia de Loreto for her company Sea Kayak Baja Mexico.
The new BCU courses Foundation Safety & Rescue Training, Navigation & Tidal Planning Training and the 4* Sea Leader Training ran for the first time in Mexico.

We had excellent conditions, even surf, for the 4* training.
For the FSRT, that requires various craft, Ginni arranged a double sea kayak, a single sea kayak with no bulkheads, a WW-kayak, an open canoe and an inflatable sit-on-top. I was greatly impressed with the selection. And naturally there were proper British design glass-fibre sea kayaks from Ginni's fleet. He!, I am biased!

The one thing we did NOT have was a lecture room with overhead and digital projector, as the syllabus states for the proper venue for the Navigation & Tidal Planning Training. The only thing projected 'overhead' was the Sun and stunning surroundings.
I am here for a few more weeks. Next week I join Ginni for a guided Christmas trip. I took loads and loads of pictures all during my stay. But because of 'Baja Midnight', which generally is around 7 PM, and very limited electricity at camp, I have a major 'backblog'. And this is just not the environment to voluntarily work behind the computer during daytime.

I wish everybody a great Christmas time!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Coolest Hike

We cannot go up any further. A waterfall blocks passage that Ginni has taken many times before, preventing us to go up even higher. Ginni, David and I have gone this far on one of the most amazing and rewarding hikes I have ever done. Hiking into la Sierra de Giganta near Loreto in Baja Mexico Sur. Up a narrow creek-bed canyon, big boulder strewn, rock clambering, jumping rocks, wiggling my body between the spaces left by jammed car-size boulders, up a body-tight tunnel, wading chest-high holding our day packs over our heads, reflective pools, waterfalls, palm trees, scenting flowers, toads doing 'their jumping thing' and every now and then saying their hello's to us. Butterflies in all colors and sizes. Dragonflies, hovering and the ones caught in the many sticky webs of the various spiders. Passing-by a Tarantula. Mostly hiking in the cool shade of the steep canyon walls. Vistas of the Sea of Cortez to the east.
A few weeks ago it had rained a lot here in the aftermath of a coastal hurricane. The result is a desert that is green and even more alive.

I cliff jump into a pool and cool off, followed by sunbathing on the flat garage size boulder next to the pool. Another cliff jump, another sunbathe. When the canyon wall casts it's shadow over me it is time to get going again. Reversing the way we came, down the tunnel, wading chest-high. Down the geological jungle. When the canyon wall widens we are continuously in the sun again, getting hot, desert-hot. Behind me, the coolest hike I ever did; a paradise, an oasis that waters the soul.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Islands in the sun

I am back in Bahia de Tortugas from a week of Magic Pacific Baja paddling with Ginni Callahan to Isla Cedros and Isla Natividad.

The information we had of this area was one, not so detailed, nautical chart and one general information page in a pilot. Depending on local knowledge, all we got was that there was ´curriente´. I could write pages and pages on this wonderful explorative trip. But I am typing this in the local Internet café so I keep it short. Meeting great people along the way, Ginni´s Spanish made all the difference. Sunny days, beautiful beaches, ocean wildlife, great aroyo hikes and good food.

I still have no good feeling for the Pacific swell. 11+ second swell sets from both the south and the north give some (for me) hair raising adrenaline-rich landings and launchings on dump-surf beaches. Lost my good old Lendal cap in one of those. Standing safe on the beach I am thinking ´is this all that I have been anxious about?´, noting special, until that big set arrives... Not that familiar and predictable North Sea wind-generated surf. After a few days we had worked-out the tides and our circumnavigation around Isla Natividad was completely done with a favourable current, or was it us just lucky by coincidence?

I cannot upload pictures yet, to be followed.

Read more about this trip on Ginni´s Blog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Above picture of a lone Puffin was taken at Carmel Head in Anglesey at the end of September. Rather late for a Puffin to still be here. It's colorful outer part of it's beak almost shed. It's mates long migrated north to spend the winter at sea in the North Atlantic. Is it ill? Is it missing the genetically imprinted instinct to head north? Or does it just want to be there? Do birds have a choice or only act on instinct? Why is it not taking to it's wings?

I am typing this flying across the North Atlantic, heading west, then south. Taking jet-powered man-made wings of an airplane. Flying over the Winter habitat of the Atlantic Puffin. I am 'migrating' too. For the first time ever I will be spending some Winter months in a sunny and warm environment. Not to flee the cold Dutch Winter. Leaving friends and family behind for more than just a few weeks, emotional good bye's. No forwarding address, maybe some sporadic mobile phone coverage, and for sure, the internet access life line.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Iceberg Territory

We returned from two days of supervised coach practice on the West Coast of Scotland. The second day we where at the Falls of Lora tidal feature. This time I did not swim. Well, this time around I was coaching and although I did not 'capsize', there were some 'wobbly' moments, from the coaching perspective. A dynamic environment of flows, counter flows, whirlpools, boils and waves, rushing sounds, rapid moving scenery. Different learning styles, past experiences and comfort levels. Tense and smiling faces. Sunny, with some liquid spells.

Dreaming of one time being a certified BCU level 5 sea kayak coach? I enjoy and value the journey more so. Yesterday we, the trainees, wrote down our 'action plan'. Not a detailed road-map, maybe some hints towards signposts we want to be watching for. For sometimes we worry if we are heading in the 'right' direction. What is the 'right' direction anyway? Maybe it is 'just' the way forward.

One of the ways to describe the 'goal of coaching' that got me thinking was:
"To join someone on their map and, by providing experiences that challenge their perception of the territory, our students might redraw their map."

What if I would invert this description to: "Gaining experiences that challenges my perception of the territory, possibly redrawing my own map."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Transferring rolling skills

Last evening some of us at the course had a go at rolling a bagged-out single canoe with knee straps in the Lodge's swimming pool. Watching Dave rolling, I noticed a strong resemblance of his roll to the Greenland storm roll. Naturally I wanted to give it a go and was surprised (maybe not so) that after two tries I could roll this 'massive' canoe. There where more takers for having a go and within a short time both Biscuit (forgot his real name, but he made sure at the course introduction that his nickname sticks) and Callum nailed it also for their first time.

Click on the picture of Dave and Bisquit, mentally preparing, to see a short video of Dave rolling an open boat.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Coaching Life

I am in Scotland at Glenmore Lodge for my second attendance of a BCU Level 5 training course. It has already been almost three years ago that I did my first one, then at Tollymore in Northern Ireland. Because of the new UKCC scheme I feared then that the course would soon stop running. It was the best (coaching) course that I ever attended. I learned lots and learned even more from applying and experimenting with the things I learned then. After taking the course one has a maximum of three years to prepare for an assessment. Three years have passed quickly. Lots of 'interference' of personal and business nature and I felt there was more to learn. Thus my second attendance now in Scotland. Today, within an hour, I already recognized that this course will not be a 'repeat' from the first one. Some of it is new and other stuff I feel I can much better relate to from personal coaching experience than ever before. I am still on a journey. A journey that won't follow the shortest route to become a BCU Level 5 sea kayak coach. It is not the destination that counts for me, but the long and winding road that takes me there.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stacks on the flood

This could well have been my last day in Anglesey in this year. Many times I have started at Soldier's Point to run the ebb towards North Stack race and along South Stack ending at Port Dafarch. Phil decided on a Stacks run, but not in the usual way. Now paddling against the flood, tucking into eddies, we paddle along the Hogarth Cliffs. The whole scenery has a different feel to it because of the lower water levels at this stage of the tide. At South Stack we can play in a gentle tide-race. My pictures of it look a bit unfamiliar. Kayaks surfing 'the wrong way'. Surfing South Stack race on the flood.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

In to the deep end

Today I joined Barry and Justine on a paddle around Holy Island. I had never before paddled around it. Barry had planned it anti-clockwise, that is different from the general way of paddling around it. It required paddling against the flood (using eddies) to Silver Bay. And I was wondering if the water level, with this high spring tide, was low enough to get us under through Four Mile Bridge, but we did! Just at the moment when I was committed, thoughts came to my mind about what would happen if I got swept broadside... That was the bit of adrenaline rush for the day. We arrived at Stanley Embankment very early for a long and sunny afternoon break. Barry hopped in a play-boat for his first time surfing the Stanley stopper wave. The more I paddle with Barry, the more I find out that we have a lot in common. Meeting him in Penrhyn Mawr some years ago and today at Stanley... The tide was pouring out of the gap with a group of play boaters providing some skillful entertainment. A few runs at North and South Stack tide-races and by 19:00 we where back at Porth Dafarch.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tide races in Anglesey

I just finished a week guiding in Anglesey for a group of the Uitgeest kayak club. The week before I was at the NKB Vlieland week (read about it on Hans' blog) and had only a few hours at home re-packing before taking the ferry across to the UK. The wind was weak or moderate all week and with a big September spring tide gave us lots of opportunities to paddle the Anglesey tidal races 'at will'. There are many ways to describe a 'perfect week in Anglesey'. Hitting Penrhyn Mawr during a big spring tide on max flow is maybe less than perfect (just intimidating). Just getting to the lunch spot, to get a breather, proved to be a challenge of it's own. But after a while the tide dropped just enough to a very playful end. And, like it 'always' does, the sun shines on the Skerries!

The Wedge

I noticed some leakage in the rear compartment of my kayak. Turning my kayak around showed the reason why. I remember 'gently' being set on a rock ledge while ferry gliding earlier today. Glass fiber sea kayaks and rocks... Handling this in the way that I learned on my First Aid course: not pulling out anything that is sticking in or out. Covering it (with duct tape) and take it to 'hospital' for further treatment. The wedged rock splinter actually prevented most leakage, plugging the hole.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lower Columbia River Kayak Roundup

It has been a very busy and enjoyable week. This year's Lower Columbia River Kayak Round-up has come to an end. Good paddling, good company and good food. Thanks Ginni, thanks Dave! A long day of hard work and Slow Boat Farm resembles (again) more of a farm than a kayak round-up. Preparations for next year's roundup have already started!

Follow the (link on the) sign for a Lo Co Roundup slide show.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

BCU Entanglements

I just finished a two day BCU Coach update course at Ginni Callahan's Slow Boat Farm on Puget Island in Washington State. Yesterday, we learned about all the changes in the new BCU coaching awards and performance (star) awards. Phil Hadley from Britain had us quickly very enthusiastic: whatever level we are at now, we now all WANT to attend the new BCU Level-1 course! The afternoon was spent mostly on the water discussing the remits for the new 3 and 4 star sea awards.200808171628245311_AS.JPG
Today it was all about the new Foundation Safety & Rescue Training. It is a revamped Canoe Safety Test. And yes, it is now a training and not a test. There were some hairy rescue stories involving buoyancy aids, that had my heightened attention... Too many ropes and lanyards on my buoyancy aid to get entangled with.

What am I doing all across the ocean for a BCU update course? Tomorrow starts the Lower Columbia River Kayak Roundup. The second year running it is now an official BCU endorsed event. I am "updated" now. The more I know from the new BCU schemes, the more I can say that it is the way forward, despite all my 'entanglements'.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Thunder and lightning and other hazards

I am writing this on the day that a thundery weather system is following the Dutch coastline and over our base camp in Anna Paulowna. The sea kayak safety test is cancelled for now, in fact all on-water kayak activities are canceled. Maybe some clearing in the afternoon gets us back on 'schedule'.

Yesterday I joined the Sea Proficiency Extra group on their trip to find some surf on the Noorderhaaks sand spit. Surf we did not find, but we did find something that needed reporting. We lunched next to a full container that on examining the label proved to possibly contain a very toxic and dangerous substance: "Hydrofluoric Acid / Sulphuric Acid"; it's contents and container to be "disposed of as hazardous waste". We reported the finding with the GPS location to the coast guard and later learned that the Coast Guard vessel "Zeearend" had dispatched it's RIB to pick-up the container and delivering it to the Den Helder fire department and thanking us for reporting it. All the time we did not know for sure what the contents actually where, it could well just have been just water. But the unfaded label and May 2008 packaging date (and 1825 days shelve life) was too alarming to ignore.

Rain and thunder have drifted away a bit, let's see what the afternoon brings us. It appears that the years of August heat waves with flat seas are gone. For the last few years it has been rainy and windy. Wind that is excellent for sea proficiency paddling, when only there would not be thunder and lightning.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Bitch of a Tide-Race

Summer has not really arrived in most of Europe. Karien and I spent a week in St. Davids in Pembrokeshire. With the daily strong wind warnings we were limited in our paddling options. We had an early morning start being on the water at 07:00 in Whitesands Bay, heading for the famous Bitches tide-race.

The last time when I was here in May 2000 when the race was running, it was neaps, now it is just coming off springs... Raging whirly messy white water with a green front wave that I could not see the bottom of. Probably even less fast and rough as in "This is the Sea two". Very frustrating.

Then it was lack of understanding, skill and experience that prevented from real play. Now it was the anxiety that prevented me from trying to get to the front wave on this grey early morning. It should have been less frightening than Falls of Lora, but there the pro's showed what was possible. Karien had to roll twice in the rough.

Afternoon sunshine with coffee and panini's in Whitesands Bay. I did not swim today, so I have to get back to the Bitches again then.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Half around & across Ameland

This weekend I joined a NKB trip around the island of Ameland. Sido and Jannie have organized this trip for a few years now and the last three years they did not manage to paddle all around it because of weather and sea conditions. For me it was in 2003 that I last visited the island. With a Sunday forecast for increasing winds to force 6 to 7 from the south-west with thunderstorms we decided to cut the trip in half by walking 3 km across the island to the ferry terminal. From there it seemed OK to paddle the 6 nautical miles back to Holwerd. During the 1.5 hour crossing the wind steadily increased. When back safe on shore at Holwerd it was a full force 6. Sido will try again next year. For the most enjoyable trip around Ameland it makes sense to take a good running trolley, just in case...

Click on the above image for a full slide show.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Under Pressure

Sometimes it feels that I am on a crusade. Although most of my gear is in waterproof containers or bags, I just hate paddling a kayak that leaks. Worst are the poly-ethylene kayaks; very few of those actually are and remain dry, so it is not impossible! Glass-fiber sea kayaks with round rubber hatch-covers and glass-fiber bulkheads should NOT leak, PERIOD! And IF they leak (poor quality control or by damage or wear) they can be (again) made bone-dry. I found the round rubber hatch-covers the only ones I can truly trust on every pressure or vacuum.

I used to borrow pressure hatches, but this week I made my own. Tubeless car-tire valves bonded to the hatch-covers with SikaFlex.

Having been in and around bone-dry kayaks for a while now, I have now found another issue that needs sorting. The pressure build-up can be so great because of temperature differences (i.e. warm air / cold water or hot sun / car rooftop), that this can produce cracks in the gel-coat or 'awaken' any other weak-spot, a new leak. Any kayak has a zillion 'weak-spots', it is just a matter of time before the stronger weakness shows up. I drill 1 mm holes high in the center of each bulkhead, and tape them shut when I need another pressure test. Yep!, if my cockpit is full of water for a long time, my hatches will take in water drop-by-drop. Yep!, I swim a lot, but generally only for a very short time...

Oh, forgot to tell... How to find the leak with the pressure hatch-covers? Just as finding a gas leak, brushing suspected areas with washing-up liquid. And when you find the leak? Just read Ocean Paddler Magazine for expert advice on how to work glass-fiber repairs.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Busy as a bee

The front garden has wild flowering Poppy's. Yesterday I repaired my kayak in front of it and was putting a foam seat in another. My kayak had some damage from rock-hopping that needed attention. The whole day I heard that buzzing sound of the bees collecting nectar from the Poppy flowers. What's the latest buzz? Hmmm..., can't tell yet!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Powered by Lendal

That sounds as a promotional pitch! In some ways it is. Johnson Outdoors integrated Lendal just over a year ago. Transferring production from Scotland to the United States was not without troubles, as some (many?) of you that ordered Lendal paddles may have experienced. At the Anglesey symposium I learned from them that all back-orders would have been dealt with (finally) by the end of May and that they have now a much increased production capacity. I ordered my new paddles just a week ago. Yesterday, they arrived; that is fast!

I am sponsored by Lendal since Around the Netherlands by Sea Kayak. There are many good paddle brands and (blade) designs on the market. The versatile Lendal Paddlok/Varilok system allows me, as a coach, to let people experiment with different paddle lengths, feather, blade design and blade size. And for me, makes life easier when traveling on airplanes. Before you buy any paddle you should try it out in real conditions and/or attend a forward paddling class. Not 'just ask' advice, experience advice and adjust for personal paddling style and preferences.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Time on my hand

This morning my new Casio Sea-Pathfinder SPW-1000 arrived. My previous (four years old) SPF-40 died earlier this month when the time-set button broke. It had been functioning erratic for some time. I could have bought a new SPF-40 for a bargain price on the internet (and have some spare parts and batteries for it), but I chose to go for the solar-power and radio-controlled time that some of the latest Casio watches offer. The most-used function on my (old) watch is something as simple as the five separate alarm settings (that's one reason why the time-set button was frequently used). In Europe I have to set an alarm not to miss the scheduled VHF weather forecasts. The barometric pressure graph was the original reason to go for a fancy watch that does more than time alone. New is this model's depth gauge. This depth gauge function is of very limited use as the manual states that is not to be used for scuba diving. I still swim a lot and now I can check how deep I have sunk on those occasions.

And while I’m away, dust out the demons inside,
And it won’t be long, before you and me run,
To the place in our hearts, where we hide.

And I guess that’s why they call it the blues.
Time on my hands, could be time spent with you.

From: I guess that's why they call it the blues - Elton John

Sunday, June 08, 2008

An inconvenient reality

Coming back from Jersey, I was shocked to see that the gasoline prices have soared to EUR 1,65 per liter; that is equivalent to USD 10,00 per US gallon! In Jersey it was not that obvious because there they enjoy very low taxes on about everything. Only very recently Jersey has introduced sales tax, a 'shocking' 3% (compared to the 19% and next year 20% in the Netherlands). Then how to cut the high cost of gasoline?

I do not know how long I will be focused on this, but I decided to be much more aware of when I want to drive where, to cut down on excess car kilometers. Driving to the local marine supplies shop just to find out that what I need might be out of stock? A telephone call helps and internet shops even more...

In the Netherlands, and probably around the whole world, there is talk of inflation. With economies so reliant on transporting goods it is just a matter of time that the high energy cost inevitable will increase end-product prices, fueling a spiralling inflation. But anyway, I have my tubes of SikaFlex within 24 hours of ordering delivered to my doorstep. My car is collecting leaves.

Hummers are out, Tata cars are in? Not only because Tata cars would be cheaper, but they must weigh a ton less than the average turbo gas/diesel guzzler, and just because of that could be twice as fuel efficient. That would be cutting down on fuel consumption! Cars and traveling is the most expensive part of sea kayaking.

Cost more? Use/spend less! Now I think I heard economists warn for a recession on that scenario... Instead we should consume more and spend more... I will try to paddle more and spend even more time on the water...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jersey Surf

Today I went surfing together with Martin at St. Ouen's Bay, the big bay on the west coast of Jersey. Before the surf was up we paddled to Corbière Lighthouse at the south end of the bay. Back at the beach, lots of competition by board surfers. We found a quiet spot, with possibly the worst surf of the bay. But even here I had good long rides and the occasional thrashing. By four 'o-clock the beach was all but gone and ending against the promenade. A beautiful sunny day to end my stay in Jersey.
In 2010 there will be the 10th Jersey sea kayaking symposium. Thank you Kevin, Len and all of the Jersey Canoe Club for this great event. What's end of May 2009 then? The Jersey symposium alternates with the Scottish sea kayak symposium on Skye in Scotland.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jersey Cliff Jumping

Monday was an interesting symposium day. I joined the half-day trip with Len and JR from L'Etacq. There was an unplanned rescue and some towing involved. Thus again for me a rescue day. The unexpected 'escape-route' ended at the beautiful Plemont cove, in the sun with a delicious ice-cream.
The afternoon was spent with Kevin paddling into caves and that special Jersey treat: cliff jumping. Two years ago I only dared to do a low jump into the Octopus pool. This year I dared to jump off the Rhino, the big one, at today's tide, a 10 meter high jump. The 'air-time' took longer than I thought it would; lots of adrenaline... I did not jump as elegantly as JR and Kevin can. The picture is of JR jumping off Rhino. Tuesday we went to the Écréhous, a groups of islands and rocks, six miles to the north-east of Jersey in good weather and smooth seas.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Rolling on...

I am in Jersey for the ninth Jersey sea kayaking symposium. Saturday and Sunday I have been doing rescue and rolling sessions. The water is still quite cold and with my dry-suit I was happy to volunteer as a swimmer. I had an interesting experience when doing a solo scramble re-entry. The lanyard that retains my camera to my buoyancy-aid got entangled around my hand pump that was fastened on my back-deck. I could not move anywhere than lie face down on the back-deck. It took me a few minutes to untangle. So that was the last thing that ever 'lived' on my back-deck. And I need to review all those lanyards that attach equipment to my PFD. I now moved the hand-pump to the front-deck. The only issue I have now is that I cannot store the hand-pump myself after use. The weather is a bit unsettled. Temperatures are really nice, but the weather forecast for tomorrow is quite unique. I have never before heard of the combination "Cyclonic Variable 5-7"

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sea of Flames revisited

I received an e-mail from Tue Olesen from Denmark announcing their circumnavigation of the Faroe Islands. Something familiar in their naming of their expedition blog... Last year a Dutch group paddled there and within 15 minutes of starting their trip and right out of Torshavn they found themselves already in-deep in a raging 'wild fire', that set the standard for their experience of the Faroe Islands. Paddling one of the most challenging and committing tidal coastlines in Europe, have a great trip you guys!

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Maiden Voyage

Saturday Karien held her Birthday party. Her real birthday date and her age remain secret but this was one of those special birthdays. Sunday turned out to be a beautiful day. We went for a paddle to Noorderhaaks sand spit for coffee. Karien tried out her own design of wind shelter made from an old tent. Getting the shelter up in the strong wind was a guarantee to make us yell at each other, about do's and don'ts. Huddled behind the shelter we caught the warming sunshine. When the rising tide cornered us in it was time to leave. A playful ride through an area with refracted waves, I heard a few Jihaa's! from Karien. The tide carried us back to Oudeschild. Life can be so simple, life can be so complicated. Life's just life! Cherishing the beautiful days together with friends. Taking nothing but memories, leaving nothing but friendships.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Angle at Sea again

Never before I have been so busy in Anglesey than this year. I am back home after a bit more than two weeks in Anglesey.
The week that Nico and I ran for the NKB (Dutch Canoe Union) was full of challenges for us as well as for the participants. This year, the weather was not too cooperative, but we managed to paddle every day. A rough day at the Stacks that had everything in it on assessing paddling conditions, tidal planning, group control and incident management. All that I had learned over the years and especially in the committing Anglesey tidal environment came together on that day. Thank you Garreth for keeping an extra eye out on that day. A day later we enjoyed a beautiful crossing to the Skerries. For all who don't know it already: the sun ALLWAYS shines on the Skerries; at least when I am on it. A great day to finish the week with.
The 25th edition of the Anglesey Sea Kayak Symposium had the biggest attendance ever, that is, the attendance was capped at 120 participants. In the weekend Fiona, James and I ran moving water skills sessions. The Monday started with thick fog and considerable swell. Heading from Porth Dafarch towards Trearddur Bay was quite interesting at times. Just making out headlands until at one time I saw the headland move... Navigating more on swell height than on compass and after a zigzag course, we made it to the leeward side off Porth Diana. Not knowing to turn either left or right along the cliffs to find the small bay, I was considering just long enough to see the fog lift a bit and see the whole string of mooring buoys in Porth Diana. Lucky shot! On the way back from lunch, the sun burned the fog away and the swell dropped considerably and we enjoyed great rock-hopping back to Porth Dafarch.
In the week after the symposium there where lots of BCU courses to choose from. The biggest draw was the new BCU 4*. Effectively it is designed to bridge the gap between the old 4* and the unchanged 5*. The new 4* involves leadership in moderate conditions. Where the old 4* was 'just' a skills award, the new 4* is a leadership award. The new 3* is now what the old 4* was. Thus BCU 'messed about' with the numbering system and many people will for some time be confused about the star awards. But I think it is a change for the better, albeit a bit disappointing for all those aspiring to 5* for which it must feel that they have an extra hurdle to take.
It is interesting to observe that the changes that the Dutch Sea Kayaking committee made on their sea proficiency (leadership) awards in the last five years tie-in quite well with the changes the BCU have been making. There is no coordination between BCU and NKB on any level, but it must be that 'common sense' on sea kayaking is largely 'universal'.
Anglesey, the playground where (it) all come(s) together.

Sunday, April 20, 2008



It has been quiet on my blog for a while now. While there would have been lots and lots to write about, this IS a sea kayaking blog. Writing is one thing, but sharing ramblings that are of too personal nature is another.

I am now in full preparation for this season's kayaking. Next Saturday the NKB sea kayak week in Anglesey starts, followed by the Anglesey Sea Kayak Symposium.

I have been paddling... Above picture was taken at the scenic town of Marken, during the traditional "season start" trip of the Peddelpraat club to Volendam and Marken on March 15 with more than 40 paddlers; a record!

Spring, sound of a new born life
I think I’m moving on cause it’s time

(From: Seasons by Earth & Fire)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Head Winds

Last Saturday, a club trip was planned to the "Razende Bol" (translates as Raging knoll/bulb) off Den Helder. Unfortunately the wind was blowing a strong force 6. Therefore an alternative trip was found by Thierry on the nearby Amstelmeer lake. Not less windy, but a challenge nevertheless for everyone, without the risks that any sea trip would pose in these conditions. Some of us almost got more than we bargained for... Some had difficulty in keeping their kayaks pointing into the wind. I had to do a course tow for a higher volume kayak that was running 'bow-high'. Later, on the canal, some experimented with their tow-line, that, in these conditions, showed them some 'flaws'. Firstly getting ones tow-line ready only after maneuvering to make the link, sweeps the whole in-line tow down-wind with danger of entangling the whole tow, not to speak about the distance lost in the process. Secondly, one tow-line bag was trailing in the water, effectively creating a drogue that had the first tower overtake the front tower... Lastly I made the 'mistake' of hooking-up when I thought it would be only 10 minutes left to make it to the cars... Towing is very hard work against a force 6 headwind! I had a work-out. And yes, we made it to the "Razende Bol" after all, just look carefully at the pictures...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

To the Spheres

Photo by De Keukenhof.

By Fred as a colleague, it is possible that you are enthusiastic kajakvaarder is in a kayak without ever be proven wrong. By the last kanobeurs bought, used, Meridian ("a fast boat", I heard Fred say) than I was Sunday, April 17 in Sassenheim for my first real kayak trip. 20 km should not be too difficult, I thought.

Sunday, April 17, 1994
I am still awkward in the kayak and my peddeltechniek is zero comma zero. I have therefore already difficult enough for the meevarende canadees to track. After about an hour sail is the first break. I did not have to ask, but it seems to me extremely well. Then we wind against the Haarlemmertrekvaart. The cramped vaarhouding translates into 'dormant legs'. Fortunately, we run into a ditch and there is a break. Again at the right time. We are halfway through and from now on we will have wind in the back. Unfortunately I have trained vaarders advantage of more wind than I do. So should I not quite doorpeddelen too far back to hit. I snak to a break that just will not come. Part of the group goes through 'big water', but I take the ditch binnendoor wisely. After 5 hours peddelen comes my car back into sight. After disembarking step I even miss (dormant legs), so I get my first kayak adventure, in addition to blisters, still wet feet left. So now, but soon a lot of practice, so that the fast boat also quickly propelling.

P.S. Of the balls I have seen little, but sometimes kayaks and paddles that came out from the crowd.

Confused ?

My first kayak trip, now exactly 14 years ago, was through canals in the area of the Netherlands where the flower bulb fields are and the Keukenhof Spring garden fair is held. The Dutch title of my first ever kayak article was "Naar de Bollen" that translates to "To the (flower) Bulbs" and also references a traditional 1930's song by Louis Davids. I would not dare to put the lyrics of that song through the Google translator... But I could not resist trying it out on my first kayak trip report. I am a teenager now (in kayaking terms). A teenager for the second time in my life. Springtime!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Smiles for Moldova

Big adventures do not have to start in far away places. In fact the best ones start from ones own front door. Jörgen van der Pol will start on his Moldovan adventure in a few weeks time. Starting on 5 April from Paterswolde in Groningen (Netherlands) he will paddle more than 4.000 km to the Republic of Moldova to draw attention to the work of Dr. Rob van Oort, a pioneer and expert in the field of Maxillofacial Prosthetics, who is setting-up a special treatment dental surgery in Moldova. Go to his expedition website at or visit his blog at

Monday, February 18, 2008

CanoeXpo 2008

Last weekend I visited the CanoeXpo Canoe and Kayak show in Coventry. I did not know what to expect. A few years ago I visited the Outdoors Show at the NEC in Birmingham. That was a huge show, where unfortunately only the big guys in the industry could afford a stand, thus only a handful kayak companies were represented there. How different the CanoeXpo is!
Organized for the first time (by Brookbank Canoe and Kayaks) I am really looking forward on how the paddling magazines will review this show and what the feedback is from the participants and visitors.

For starters it was a BIG 'kayak and canoe only' show; the biggest I have visited. A whole range of manufacturers and companies that have something to do with canoeing and kayaking were represented. From the very 'big guys' to the 'small-is-beautiful' outfitters and guiding companies. I have seen almost every brand of sea kayak that is available on the UK market. There was a strong USA presence with representatives that came over from the USA.

Another 'first' was the way the sales where 'coordinated'. Copied from Canoecopia, there was a central check-out. Again, I hope to read reviews from visitors what they think about that approach. The best thing of this first CanoeXpo, and that in my opinion outweighs anything else that can be said about it, is that anyone in the 'industry' (profit or non-profit) could afford being there and thus should be there next year! This is THE kayak & canoe show to visit! I hope the organizers get good feedback on this one. If you visited, let the organizers hear your comments and ideas! This can even be done on-line on the CanoeXpo website.

In another post I will write down some of my personal highlights of the show.

Thank you Mike Webb of Rockpool Kayaks for being their guest and Ann and Jeff Turner from Kari-Tek for arranging a place for me to stay. I had a great weekend.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Navigation and Direction

My new navigational direction finding gadget has 'put me to the test' in ways I did not foresee. It's build-in GPS receiver homes-in on it's programmed destination, no question about that. That part is working flawlessly! But how blindly should I follow it's directions? What if I programmed the wrong destination?

Straying away from the advised route won't confuse it. It will try to have me turn around again and again to go back onto the planned route. Only until another route is shorter it will change it's advice accordingly. But the destination is 'sacred' to it's advised route. When is it best to give-up on a destination?

But sometimes one just knows by gut feeling that an advised route is not the best one. At what point should I override? When to (mis-)trust 'gut-feeling'?

Other times road-signs clearly state to take the turn, while the navigator boldly advises differently. Then the road signs disappear and through narrow country lanes and residential areas one is guided on the main road again. When to (mis-)trust posted signs?

I am confused, I am at a loss...

In navigational terms one is considered 'lost' when one does not know where one is. Well I know exactly where I am, but I am not sure where I am going. A cliché is that it is not the destination that is important, but the road that takes you there. Unsure about my destination with a maze of roads at my disposal. On a roundabout one can go in any direction, once one is chosen. Staying on the roundabout I am going nowhere, going dizzy.
A short-cut being described by a friend as the longest distance between two points. Another very good friend described to me how the parents followed signs to a town named 'Umleitung'. How I hate one-way roads; roads of no return.

Red lights, green lights, yellows. Most lights are green now, lucky me. Should I run the odd yellow? Or should I wait for the one light that just turned red on me? Gut feeling tells me that I should wait for just that red to turn green again. The other lights, I know, will be alternating red/yellow/green frequently. This light might only turn green once in a very long time. It could be THE road, where the concept of destination becomes irrelevant.

There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook, there's a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven
Ooh, it makes me wonder

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on
Ooh, it makes me wonder

Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven