Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The proliferation of the Facebook like button that is popping-up on just about every website got me annoyed to a point where I was becoming angry.

Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry...

How about a Dislike button? While I cannot write 'viral' code to have that inserted on every website on the internet, I was just angry enough to make something for my own blog and to learn from it and from you :-)

So if at any time you get annoyed by my posts or my website. You can click your annoyances away with my Dislike button.

You don’t need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows

(Subterranean Homesick Blues - Bob Dylan)

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Yesterday I went on a Peddelpraat club trip from Zuidbout to Sophiahaven, crossing the Oosterschelde. It was a gorgeous day with highlights of seeing two porpoises and a 'sleeping' squid (Zeekat / Sepiida). Apparently this time of year these squid are in the Oosterschelde to mate. This one did not look alive, until it got startled by Jan and shot off into the deep leaving an ink cloud behind. My first glimpse of these 'owners' of the white skeleton shells that wash upon our seashores.

Chatting to Roland, I learned a bit about sea kayaking in Belgium, or should I say the lack of. In Belgium one cannot legally paddle on the sea above force 3 Beaufort. That might be a reason that more and more Belgian paddlers show up at Dutch sea kayaking events and trips. And the Zeeland tidal estuaries are close enough for great sea kayaking.

Another interesting bit is that in Belgium, sea kayaks need to be registered with a name and have a certificate of registry plate riveted on the deck. Reminds me of a discussion about French regulations were a sea kayak has to have rigid floatation in the form of fixed foam in the bow and the stern; float bags not accepted. If European rules are to be 'harmonized' to the strictest rules of member states, where could I go to paddle on the sea?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Germany to Australia

Yesterday, Sandy Robson started on her multi-leg, multi-year, kayaking trip from Germany to Australia. Retracing as much as possible the route that Oskar Speck started on 14 May 1932.

I think it is quite an interesting coincidence to have two kayaking expeditions being 'launched' in these past two weeks that have high relevance to the 2nd World War; see also my previous post on the "Engelandvaarders".

Oskar Speck's enormous achievement never made any headlines in his time. He completed his 50.000 km (!) trip while his country was starting the war with the rest of the world and Oskar spent the rest of the war in Australian internment as an enemy foreigner.

Above is not hiding a rude word, although that could well be the case while I tried to make an RSS-feed out of Sandy's website expedition update page. To my knowledge, Sandy does not (yet) offer an 'automated' blog-feed on her Expedition website. Using the internet services Open Dapper and Yahoo Pipes I set out to make something out of it and the above piece of Regex code made it work. Not for the fainthearted! I could have pulled all my hair out (if I had any left) to produce myself this magic bit of code that I needed for it to work, to no avail. Luckily I found it on the Internet and thus make Sandy's progress available on my Expedition blog roll. Click on the post title (day) to directly jump to Sandy's Expedition website from the blog roll.

It's a long way there, it's a long way to where I'm going...
(Little River Band)

Monday, May 09, 2011


On UK Rivers Guidebook Sea Kayak Forum my attention was drawn by a Dutch word on this English language forum: "Engelandvaarders".

A team of three British paddlers is preparing to cross the North Sea from the Netherlands in August this year. Their website is very thorough on explaining the history of the Engelandvaarders and in particular of the achievement of Henri Peteri and his brother Willem, for the English speaking community.

It triggered memories of many years past. In August 1996 I attended the Peddelpraat Sea Kayak instruction week in Zeeland. It was my second year sea kayaking. Peddelpraat has a long standing tradition for inviting inspirational sea kayak coaches over. This year Nigel Foster was present. One of the evening lectures was by Henri Peteri, an Engelandvaarder.

Henri's lecture had us glued to our seats and listen in awe. What I vividly remember is his account of the loss of half their equipment on a capsize directly on launching. They had two compasses, one survived, two watches, one survived, three torches, one survived.

Nigel Foster wrote about this encounter in the August 1996 issue of Sea Kayaker Magazine. A Dutch translation appeared in the Peddelpraat club magazine #145 of November 1996.

As far as I know only three Dutch paddlers have crossed the North Sea after the war. Hans M-H. and Rick D. crossed the North Sea from Westkapelle to Harwich in 1989 in single kayaks. In August 1999 Hans crossed again, now in a double with Gerard G.

Again the Peddelpraat sea instruction week proved a rare coincidence for me to learn about it, as Hans had just returned from the crossing by ferry. After dropping off Gerard in Zeeland he decided to stop-by the Peddelpraat campsite. He had me puzzled when he told that he had not paddled on the sea for a year before the crossing, quickly adding that on the conditions he had been planning it to do, it would be the same as 'just' a long flat water paddle. He had waited for a stable high pressure system that produced weak easterly winds, and August was the most reliable month to plan this. Hans wrote about this crossing in the 1999/2 NKB Mededelingen.

Henri Peteri passed away in 2007. On the website of Alec, Ed and Harry, I saw this picture of a beautiful monument that was erected in 2009 at the spot where Henri and Willem Peteri came ashore. In memory of the Engelandvaarders.

In memory of the thirty-two young Dutchmen
who tried to escape to England by kayak
during World War II to join the Allied Forces.
Eight of them reached the English coast.

The last living survivor dedicated this memorial
to his brothers in arms who were less fortunate.
He reached England - and freedom -
on this beach on 21 September 1941.

Source: Wikipedia

Saturday, May 07, 2011

My 99 Pence Worth...

Justine Curgenven has started to sell her films as on-line (high quality) digital downloads at CackleTV at D-I-Y (download it yourself) prices. From the complete This is the Sea series through the individual episodes of those DVD's and more... Some of these films have not been seen before!

In February 2004, Justine interviewed me on camera about Around the Netherlands by Sea Kayak by Nico Middelkoop and me. While there was hardly any (spectacular) film footage of our trip to combine it with, I had no expectations that this interview would ever make it into any of Justine's This is the Sea DVD's.

How big was my surprise today, that Justine had indeed edited the interview and combined it with the best of the available footage of our trip and more... into a complete, excellently edited, entertaining short film that can be downloaded from here !

Some of you might remember some spectacular sea kayak surf footage in the introduction to the first This is the Sea. This was filmed in Callantsoog in the Netherlands by long-time paddling buddy Nico Pennings. This day is also prominently featured by Justine in the same film.

While I am at this 'not seen before' thing, below picture is of Justine 'imprisoned' on Egmont Key off Tampa Bay in Florida, February 2004. We now know what happened when This is the Sea got released into the sea kayak community.

Interestingly, hearing myself again for the first time after all these years, I noticed that my views on sea kayaking have not changed, at least not my 99 Pence worth of it.

if you're worth more than 99 Pence
those who have a lot and those who have not
remain Francs, Marks, Pesetas or Cents

Lines from "The Root of all Evil" by The Beautiful South