Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

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...