Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Race

It was to be my return date to get to the Hull ferry, so I was not so sure if I would have enough time to enter the Swellies-Extreme Sea Kayak Slalom Time Trial on one of the biggest tides of the year.

Getting offered an unmarked Rockpool racing kayak by John Willacy to race in made me change my mind. Having not a clue of what I am getting myself into, and not used to a rudder, I was glad that this kayak also had a skeg. My first impression of this 'unnamed' kayak was of it's very dynamic active seating position. Seated in this kayak I wanted just to do one thing, go fast! More stable than I expected, I had no problems with getting back against the tide under the Menai Bridge pillars. So it's speed and forgiveness in rough water and on strong eddy-lines feel OK; no unwelcome surprises so far!

Now to the race. The starting time was carefully chosen for the strongest downstream current and that was it that got me nervous. Not the strength of the tide, but my ferry departure time... Tide and ferries wait for no one!

With one minute starting intervals, I was number 12 in line, Aled's next in line. Shooting through the bridge I was hit by an extremely strong gust of wind (spray flying) and immediately had difficulty getting around the first buoy. Not trying out and using the rudder proved to be a big mistake on rounding the buoys in this force 7, gusting 8/9?, wind. This is NOT a slalom kayak! Aled (with rudder) soon overtook me, but I felt good that I could keep up with him on the crossing to the Swellies island. I got the hang of it but my mind (and kayak) drifted just too much (or was it badly judging the strength of the current) that I missed the far Britannia Bridge pillar; probably disqualifying me from the race...

Anyway, I tried to go around it from downstream, no way in this current. Then to the finish line and without break heading back to the put-in. This proved to be the fun part, using the Anglesey side eddy line, breaking out into the main flow and racing towards the eddy behind the Swellies island. Hugging the Island, breaking into the flow again to ferry glide back to the Anglesey side, from there the big eddy brought me back to Menai Bridge. With a big 'leap' against the tidal drop between the left pillars I made it back. What a rewarding work-out.

Next started the other 'race': getting to my ferry in time. With half an hour to spare I made it.

Other albums:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Surfin' T-Bay

Starting another 'intermediate rough water handling' session on Monday, I found myself with four participants at Trearddur Bay. There was excellent surf and for the first hour we had the whole bay (and the biggest waves) for ourselves. George took great pictures with a good camera with telephoto lens.

See also Picasa for the surfing pictures of the 6th Storm Gathering.

Today, finishing four days of BCU 4* sea leader trainings and assessments with Kate, I am packed-up and ready to head home. A big thank you to Justine for letting me borrow her New Zealand Explorer sea kayak. Wales, Sweden, Switzerland and Sicily have new BCU 4* sea kayak leaders.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

6th UK Storm Gathering

The Storm Gathering has a signature start with force 6 to 7 winds from the south. Our group (as many others) went to Trearddur Bay to look for suitable conditions for an 'intermediate rough water handling' session.

When others asked how my day was it could be best described as a 'fluffy foam pile day'. A participant remarked that it was a good day to clean out the cobwebs.

I will try to upload more pictures to my Picasa album as the event progresses.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Back Home

I settled-in at the Anglesey Outdoors centre. Formerly this was the Anglesey Sea & Surf Centre (ASSC) from where I first experienced tide-races at the sea kayak symposium in May 2000. Things have changed since then, but many things are still very familiar.

With Justine, just returned from Japan, and Barry I set out to what must be my 'home waters' by now; Penrhyn Mawr. With the remaining swell and wind it was quite big. The quartering wind from the stern made it difficult for me to catch straight rides at first.

Today I found another relaxing way to enjoy PM. Maneuvering myself to brace into the biggest breakers side-on and spin the kayak in the foam pile to start a run. And the odd 'catapult' into a surf from a wave braking over my stern. I watched Justine roll and Barry doing a perfect pirouette. I had to roll twice; once to prevent running into Barry. The other time I was caught out in the middle race. Happy to be rolling, despite the 'heavy' (tired) arms.

By the time we were back at Port Dafarch I was exhausted. Enjoying a hot chocolate at Trearddur Bay, a great day at home again.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Skerries in the Sun

I arrived a week early for the Storm Gathering.

Friday I paddled to the Skerries from Cemlyn with Trys, Jim and the Norwegians Jann and Sigurd. The forecast was for some sunny spells, but the whole day was overcast with some fog patches and the Skerries not allways visible. Jann planned to ferry-glide back via Carmel Head. Visibility deteriorated such that we could not judge from any distance how big the tide-races between the Skerries and Carmel Head were. Dropping down to Church Bay was the safer option in this weather and this spring tide.

The next day already I joined on another Skerries trip from Cemlyn. Now it was with Barry who had Michael, Morten and Chris from Denmark. Now it was a sunny day and the Danes had (also) planned to ferry-glide back to Carmel Head. This time in perfect visibility and a little later in the tide than yesterday. We made it back to Cemlyn just before dark.

I have become used to that the sun allways shines on the Skerries, but why did it not yesterday? The only explanation is that yesterday we did not actually land on the Skerries.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Apples and Oranges

With the news of the passing away of Steve Jobs I stand still with what Apple has meant to me personally. While I am not exactly an Apple fan, on the contrary, Apple sure made a major impact at one time in my life.

In 1984, using-up the better part of ten thousand Dutch guilders (then a big sum of money), set aside by an Uncle's will specifically for study purposes, I bought an Apple //e, my first computer. The (too) 'proprietary' style of Apple hardware and software soon had me add a Zilog Z80 card and in came CP/M, the predecessor of MD-DOS and DR Pascal MT+. Cruising me through college and into an IT-career; my previous life.

Up to this day I have not owned any other Apple products. With my IT-background I am very aware of the many innovations that have become synonymous with Apple. The global impact, commercial successes and marketing strategies of Apple under the visionary Steve Jobs. Making Apple more than just a product. I am 'craving' for an iPhone, if not for...

Long time ago my //e moved to my nephews for it's games, but years later I found my carefully put-away original 5¼" Apple software disks again, in memory of...

Steve sure put some orange in life.

Said the apple to the orange:
"Oh I wanted you to come
Close to me and kiss me to the core
Then you might know me like no other orange
Has ever done before"
(Small Fruit Song - Al Stewart)

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Practical Navigator

Once I came across "The New American Practical Navigator", a very comprehensive resource (book) originally written by Nathanial Bowditch in 1802.

With the aging of the internet and the new age of mobile apps it is oftentimes a patchwork of on-line resources that are in various stages of maturity, usefulness and oftentimes outright impractical.

Marine GeoGarage is a true gem for the marine (sea kayak) trip planner. It seamlessly (literally) combines official nautical charts with Google Earth. Currently the nautical charts for USA (NOAA), New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina and the Netherlands are available for free. Other area's, for instance UK (HO), Canada and Australia, require a paid subscription.

The most amazing thing (for me) is the seamless scaling to ever more detailed charts of an area. Moving a slider changes the transparency to identify features between the nautical chart and Google Earth view. To top it all is the possibility to create GPS way-points and routes on-the-fly and export those directly or indirectly to a GPS.

A great on-line navigation tool that is highly practical.

It's a good day
for going to sea
Hanno the Navigator said to me.
(Al Stewart)

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Flat Calm

Today Jan had organized a surf session for Peddelpraat. The absolutely flat-calm sea state was not a reason to cancel the session and eight participants showed-up for a paddle from Katwijk to Noordwijk and back.

Along the coast we frequently encountered stand-up paddle boarders. Passing a family group, they told us it was their first day on a SUP. Starting from Noordwijk they had almost reached Katwijk.

A beautiful relaxing Summers day on the sea for all; sit-in's, sit-on's, stand-up's and the odd stand-in.