Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Back

With 2014 coming to a close, time to look back, but not turning back. A year in 41 pictures, still looking for one that makes it a magic number.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pipe Dreams ?


From the fantasies experienced when smoking an opium pipe.


pipe dream (plural pipe dreams)

(idiomatic) A plan, desire, or idea that will not likely work; a near impossibility.

I think that his plan to have map cases available for this Christmas is a pipe dream.

Pipe nightmare !

A "near impossibility" nevertheless leaves room for possibility...

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Tock Tock, Who's Dare

I heard the sound of Woodpeckers before, but never from a few feet away, and definitely not from out of the tree in front of the house.

I have a 'love-hate' relationship with that tree. It is the last standing old tree in the streets around. Not a popular place to park any car under because of it's popularity with birds; and a real 'nightmare' with pigeons. Maybe that started off the more bird-friendly 'clay-pigeon' shooting sport.

Woodpecker had me look up and smile. Go peck away any time.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Retirement Age

After 15 years and 266088 km my Opel Astra went into retirement today.

It is not the only thing I own(ed) that is still fully functional, albeit aching, well beyond generally accepted retirement age, for instance:
  • My Kokatat GoreTEX Whirlpool Bib of 2004 shows some signs of 'incontinence' at the zipper; now into it's golden age.
  • My TecTour anorak of 2008 (old model) is a bit more 'breathable'; a gray shadow of it's former mango self.
  • My MsFit PFD is reasonably OK, except for a thread-bare hydration pack.
This year is their retirement as well, finally.

Earlier this year, my laptop got stolen only days before XP retired; that was unfortunate, both for me ánd the thief. My old Explorer is spending it's retirement on Anglesey. My new Explorer is only intermediately retired until I have fitted the Kari-Tek roof-rack on my new car, awaiting a fitting kit.

I am not sure if my new car will again last 15 years with me. Nowadays in the Netherlands car sales (and usage) is extremely tax-driven, not so driven by common sense.

I won't drag too long about it, but when Maserati joyfully announces a hybrid version that can drive a whopping 20 miles on battery-power (and thus saving more than 50% on the car price and annual taxes) something must have gone awry with the promotion of so-called eco-friendly cars.

When those 'plug-in' gas guzzlers are edging to be nett less expensive for corporate use than true fuel efficient petrol cars that you have to look for at car dealers with a microscope. Blinded by the Emperor's new clothes.

eCall, park-assist and sen-sored tire pressure. I have none of this. Just in time though. Hopefully for the next 15 years, but I doubt it. Hand operated rear-windows: just barely. Airconditiong: yes, unfortunately: too late ordering, or more specific: 'hurried ordering' because of... yes: 2015 tax reasons...

What car did I buy? A car that is probably considered by car afficianados to be even more boring than an Opel Astra...

Car sales is not the only part of the economy that has logic reversed like in Pirates of the Caribbean "At World's End". Down is up. Left is Right. Red is Green. Wrong is 'Right'.

1+1 is 0; at least something is still (partially) logical.

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet
[Taxman, the Beatles]

If you retire too late, I'll tax by date
If you get too old, I'll tax the mold

Monday, October 20, 2014

Waiting for a train

Because of time and schedule constraints I could not drive to Cornwall and instead had to fly in via Bristol. It had already been a tight schedule but at least I made it to Bristol Temple Meads train station on time. Only to find my train to be delayed by 26 minutes. The platform by then crowded with people for a next (last) train in that direction. Like herrings in a can... At Truro the delay had run-up to 45 minutes, making me miss my last train on the Falmouth branch line to Penmere. Fair to say that Great Western Railways kindly provided for a taxi-bus to drop the stranded passengers off along the line's stations. But Jeff Allen picked me up from Truro and at midnight I could call it a day.

On my return trip a week later (today) I opted for the connection that needed no other transfers and a reserved table seat. So at 09:26 I am waiting at the (non-staffed) Penmere Platform for a train... that is canceled... Fortunately I could sit at (unreserved) table seats on both connecting trains and I am now 30 minutes away from Bristol Temple Meads. Then only a bus ride away from the airport.

The British and the Dutch rail system appear to have more than one thing in common. Privatized and delays. And maybe they also use the same statistics for measuring service, in that a canceled train does not count as delayed. Also it seems there are a lot of jobs with British Rail. All those gated stations and platforms with service personnel at those stations, gates and platforms to help people with valid tickets and non-opening gates. And many conductors on the trains, at least on the ones that run, calling out for tickets of newly boarded passengers only.

The British rail users remain kind and polite under all of this and show patience in queus. The train conductor on the Penmere branch line gracefully accepting my written-down reservation number, despite regulations, for I only could collect my on-line booked ticket at a Truro ticket machine.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Last days of Summer

Last week I was at Sea Kayaking Cornwall's annual Sea Kayak Symposium course week. Unfortunately I could not attend the symposium weekend itself. Monday onwards I ran the BCU 4* training over 4 days + 1 day for the Coastal Navigation & Tidal Planning module. Monday it was raining so a good day to get the CN&TP done. The forecast for the rest of the week was 'horrible'. Strong and gale force winds and more notably: long wave period swell out of a deep low from the west. Cornwall is famous for it's surf on many of it's beaches, but where to go with up to 2.9 meter significant wave height with 13-17 second wave periods for a 4*?
My group was very focused. At our 9 AM meetings they had already discussed among them the paddling possibilities with the forecast for the day. Strong south-easterly winds. North coast today. Rock hopping and skill training out of Portreath. A beautiful sunny summer-like day. The last day of Summer?
Wednesday we went to Carbis Bay. The long period swells to arrive around noon. Heading out to the east side of St. Ives bay, the surf gradually increased in height and frequency of waves. Extremely clean long running waves in sets, unknown in the Netherlands where I come from. I had my longest surf EVER. The only drawback with this kind of surf (and long runs) is that everybody is scattered all over the place and counting is quite impossible not being able to see over the top of the swell. Time to get out and for lunch on this (surely) last day of Summer.
Thursday the (strong) wind was southwest enough to use Falmouth Bay and check-out close-by Swanpool first. The long swell did not wrap around to Swanpool, so a great 4* environment to use for leadership and incidents. The first three scenario's I did not even have to stage. Reality was better than the best scenario I could plan. Leaving a (dumpy) surf beach uncontrolled inevitably creates mayhem with a backwashed paddler hitting the ready-to-launch kayaks side-on. The first rocky outcrop had a paddler out of the kayak onto the rocks. A throw-tow rescue. A third participant by now thought this was a 'free-for-all' incident hour and decided to capsize waiting to be rescued. Did I mention that in-view Falmouth coastguard wanted to be notified when we would start our rescue exercises? I did not even have time to prepare them... The sun only visible through a gray sky. Brown leaves floating in the sea. Autumn has arrived.
Grey skies of
Friday we went to Swanpool again. Now with a south-southwesterly force 5 Beaufort wind we could check the 'outer limits' of the Swanpool area and the remit boundaries of the 4* environment. Rain was fore-casted for the Friday afternoon, but we were off the water before that.
Do check out Sea Kayaking Cornwall for their activities and their annual sea kayaking Symposium in October. Cornwall has a spectacular coastline, also famous for it's surf. The water temperatures (in October) are still very warm, so wet activities are not uncomfortable. A good place to spend any time of a long Cornish Summer.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


My last day in Anglesey on this visit and my first day in my brand new Explorer. Justine and I had a morning paddle out of Porth Dafarch into a lumpy sea.
Penrhyn Mawr was intimidating rough. For me it is the biggest I have ever seen from my kayak or it has been a long time since I have seen it this plucky. Swell running into the race at an angle against the current. Feisty was the word that Justine used. Justine went into the thick of it to catch some waves. I was happy to paddle at the rough enough edges and not surf. My built-in 'safety valves' on the setting: a bit too intimidated to play. Someday I will find the 'override switch'...
We continued towards and around South Stack and towards Parliaments House Cave. Justine got hit by a nice zipper-wave reflected off South Stack. Very chunky water. Returning under South Stack bridge against the full flood was a work-out. With some luck I got two surges that helped a lot. Justine had to try a different channel. We could already mentally prepare for what was waiting at Penrhyn Mawr's Chicken Run.
Many years ago I 'blew myself up' at the Chicken Run only to see Dale make it through seemingly effortless. I than had to pull my kayak over the islet to the other side... The 'secret' was reading the water in combination with brute force. Today helped extra by the completely smooth unscratched hull of my new kayak. So it was spared dragging and scratching.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Anglesey on a day

Anglesey Sunset, Anglesey, Wales, 2014
Yesterday I paddled around Anglesey in one day. Leaving Cable Bay at 04:45 and arriving back at 19:55.

With a perfect weather forecast of variable 1-3 Beaufort winds, smooth seas, 15 degrees temperature and springtide I thought (on Saturday morning): why not!

On my first visit to Anglesey in 2000, I paddled around the island with a paddling friend in 4 days. Nigel Dennis' comment was: "Some people paddle it in one day you know?" So it was allways in the back of my head to give it a go someday. Yesterday was that day.

The only issue this time of year is daylight hours. I paddled in the pitch black until halfway across Trearddur Bay. Despite GPS I had a difficult time around Rhoscolyn for all the black rocks popping up late in front of me preventing a proper cruising speed. And being stalked by a breathing seal or dolphin? Using the eddies all the way up to South Stack for the tide was still ebbing; LW Holyhead at 07:15; HW at 13:30.

Beyond South Stack the tide turned. I lost 15 minutes at the Skerries for a pee & leg stretch break. Although the break was planned, I lost precious current, that was even audible... At Middle Mouse I saw a Dolphin twice, wow! I did not use my planned stop at Point Lynas to take full use of the conveyer belt tide towards Puffin Island.

Halfway across Red Wharf Bay I did not seem to make good progress anymore. To take good care of myself for the remainder I needed to land at Penmon, where I was greeted by Phil and his clients, cookies and tea. From the start I did not have to wear a cag. By now my shirt was soaked and I was getting cold. Time for a dry shirt and cag. For me it felt I already nailed it. The rest was just making the miles. After the break I was a half hour behind my original schedule. That proved vital in the time to get around for it was now ebbing north, out of this end of the Menai Strait.

At Beaumaris boats where lying at different angles from their mooring buoys and soon therafter bows lined against the current, my direction, yes! Now catching the full ebb towards Abermenai Point; home run. At Menai Bridge I rearranged my maps to be sure not to forget it once it would get dark. I was now looking at at least one-hour-and-a-half later arrival than planned, aiming for 20:30. Instant soup at Abermenai Point and headlamp check and off for the last stretch. I made it back by 19:55, in the dark, for my first one-day circumnavigation of Anglesey.

This was pure for personal achievement. It is also the last trip with my 'Tweety' Explorer sea kayak. I am getting a new Explorer in my familiar colors Yellow-over-White; "Tweety II". It's first trip was Falls of Lora, it's last trip with me around it's home island Anglesey for a fitting 'farewell'.

If I would paddle it again I sure would better my personal 'record', for there is enough room to tweak it and make even better use of the current, not to have to work so hard towards and after Puffin Island. With a standard (none-racing) sea kayak (Explorer) and a bigger tide, I could better my time by 60 to 90 minutes, without 'racing'. For this was a gentle and rewarding (long) day paddle.

Worst things on the trip? The boat carry to and (worse) from the beach to my car, sore feet, and a not-working (cold) shower at the B&B. All gear now rinsed and ready for paddling tomorrow, Tuesday.

04:45Cable Bay04:45
06:45Penrhyn Mawr (arrive)06:45
06:45Penrhyn Mawr (leave)06:50
07:15South Stack07:20
07:30North Stack07:35
08:45Skerries (arrive)08:50
09:00Skerries (leave)09:00
09:45Middle Mouse09:55
10:30Point Lynas (arrive)10:45
11:00Point Lynas (leave)10:45
13:00Puffin Island (arrive)13:00
13:00Puffin Island (leave)13:25
16:00Abermenai Pt. (arrive)17:10
16:00Abermenai Pt. (leave)17:30
17:00Llandwyn Island18:15
19:00Cable Bay19:55

Total Time15:10
Total Distance66,7nm
Total Distance123,5km
Average Speed4,9kn
Maximum Speed8,0kn
Tides LW 07:15 1,1 - HW 13:30 5,44,3m

Nutrition: 2 slices of toast with thick bacon for breakfast; 6 slices of bread with peanut butter & jelly; 2 bananas; 6 mini blueberry muffins; 5 bounties; 2 chocolate biscuits from Phil, half a liter of yogurt; 1 big cup of soup; 2 liters of water.

For humbling record times for the circumnavigation see John Willacy's Anglesey Circumnavigation page.

P.S. Last week I had some wonderful paddling days with Rowland Woollven, Bonnie and Andrea. The pictures and postings of that follow later.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Today I joined Rowland, Andrea and Bonnie for a beautiful trip out of Trearddur Bay.
The sea state is quite lively. Penrhyn Mawr is clearly visible from T-Bay as a big white line on the horizon, from 3 miles away...
We turn left towards the white arch and enjoy 'dynamic water near rocks', sunshine, blue sky, white clouds, waves and white stuff. Anglesey at it's best.
This is the third day with Rowland and the second day with Andrea and Bonnie for which this is their first time over in Anglesey. Yesterday we paddled the North Coast from Bull Bay to the brickworks (pictures).

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Beautiful Day

After the rough day yesterday, the contrast could not be more dramatic. Blue skies, sunshine, almost no wind and very warm. Rock-hopping to Abraham's Bossom and returning in time to play a developing Penrhyn Mawr. Not big, but very easy to surf. A beautiful day on the water with Barry & Justine.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Back Up

Back in Anglesey since May. I am visiting Justine & Barry. Tide is perfect for the Skerries, so why not? One meter swell with a northerly force 4 Beaufort. Seems reasonable. There is surf in Cemlyn Bay, never seen that here before. Furlough's race is very messy.

It is a weak neap tide and it is hard to catch waves. Also I feel a bit rusty in these kind of conditions, been months that is, especially because the sea is so unfamiliar confused. Never seen Furlough's this way. At one time, more by chance than effort, I do get into a gentle surf that brings me quite a bit to the front of the race. On autopilot I start back-paddling when a steepening breaking wave just lunges me forward and down at an angle. My low brace boat angle is too gentle and I am swepped over the other side, upside down. Almost immediately I am almost upright again, just by water pressure alone, but I cannot find the blade pressure to low brace up again completely. Over I go for the second time. I had enough time to think strategy.

On previous occasions I found that if I capsize in rough water I tend to lock myself into the cockpit with firm knees to not flush out of the cockpit. At the same time that would make my roll more difficult. So once upside down ease-up and focus on 'right-side' knee pressure only. In this case my left knee. Back up again in an instant. OK, my rough water roll really works. But a bit shaken I am.

Did I chew off a bit too much for my first Anglesey day since May and a very rough one too? At least I did not 'wet my pants' this time, dry-suit helps ;-) Only lost my threading BBB cap and the left part of my very well 'surf-proof' secured spare paddle flopping in it's final bungee. Secured we continue to the Skerries. Victoria Bank and Coal Rock races are lumpy but easy.

Just before noon we arrive at the Skerries for lunch. I am hungry and a bit tired and 'tense' in the arms...

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Life goes on

I just returned from coaching at our annual Peddelpraat sea kayaking week. It was a delight to work with aspirant coaches Fred and Arjan.

We had wind, waves, surf and even a proper tidal race. It seems tidal races are popping up everywhere now in the Netherlands. That is that our eyes are trained more and more to spot these infrequent opportunities of standing waves over sand bars; wind against spring-tide ebb.

During the week I learned from Martin that Nigel Laybourne had passed away in June. When Peddelpraat organized their first sea insruction week (in the late seventees) they brought over Nigel to show the way. Martin gave a slide-show (yes, 'analog' slides!) of "Sea Kayaking 1.0".

My first "Peddelpraat Sea Camp", as a very novice and shy paddler, was in 1994, with Nigel Laybourne. I remember him as an extremely patient coach. In 2000 I had the pleasure to paddle with him (again) at the Anglesey Symposium.

Last week someone used the phrase "Life goes on" in an unrelated context. That had me thinking... Ending-up as the title of this post.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A line in the sand, light on the horizon

Today was a great day on the sea with Peddelpraat. Whatever we paddle we are allways in sight of Huisduinen lighthouse, that's the plan. And generally aiming 'for somewhere' on Noorderhaaks sand-spit and visiting the southeastern tip of the island Texel. Exact route dependent more on the wind than the tide.

The wind is a solid northerly 4 Beaufort. With 18 participants we split up in two pods; one with Onno. Ron is also here today. Ron and Onno have been paddling mates since teenage and both were leaders of my first ever open water paddling trips, and I enjoyed many early-years 'epic' paddling trips with them. This is their home waters and they are still younger than me.

The crossing to Noorderhaaks is a 'northerly-ish' ferry glide. The springtide ebb is very fierce today and the southwestern tip of Noorderhaaks and the surf west of it becomes closer and closer... We land on the most southwesterly part of Noorderhaaks.

Our next leg is paddling close inshore to the southeastern tip, avoiding the strength of the current. However, we have to re-think as a seal floats by next to the beach at about 3 knots... A small over-fall is forming... My kayak for a play... A nice open-ended channel between sand bars offers us a shallow route avoiding this tidal corner.

The rest is pretty much straightforward. Having lunch, stopping on Texel and crossing back to Huisduinen. I set up my sail. With a 4-5 Beaufort wind I am cruising at 4-5 knots without paddling, maintaining exactly the groups downwind paddling speed.

A varied day with wind, tide, current, waves, shipping, sunshine, seals, sand, sand, more sand, a beacon lighthouse, good friends, white clouds, clearing blue skies, a fresh wind and 360° of open horizon.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Baja Pictures

7 people with a total of 11 camera's on an 10-day sea kayaking trip in Baja Mexico from Loreto to La Paz resulted in 4000 pictures. When someones says a picture is worth a 1000 words does this mean I have to describe the experience in 4 million words? Skipping the 'crap' I am still left with 469 pictures. Killing many darlings and I end-up with 155 pictures. Maybe in a few months I could cut back to less than 100? And I could summarize the experience with one word anyway. Amazing!
While February/March has a high chance of seeing whales from the kayak in this area, there is no guarantee. But we were fortunate to see quite a few and a Finn whale VERY CLOSE. Amazing!
What looks like guaranteed this time of year, apart from seeing dolphins, is touching Grey whale mother and calves in Magdalena Bay area at Adolfo Lopez Mateos on the west coast. Reading and hearing about it I was a bit apprehensive about it. Would we be harassing the whales? Anyway when the Grey whale mothers with their calves are literally off the panga (motorboat) dock and they swim towards the pangas for a baby shower and human touch, one can hardly say they are disturbed. And with their size a panga is hardly a match for any corrective slaps. Greys are HUGE! Their skin feels like a very thick wet shammy leather. Amazing!
Only just recently I saw in a documentary how Grey whales feed (in Alaska). They scoop-up ocean floor sediment to filter out amphipods, shrimp-like animals that live in the sediment. Amazing!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Journey's End

This morning, the last day of February, the final issue of Sea Kayaker Magazine arrived on my doorstep. My subscription started in 1998. Vividly remembering missing the August 1997 issue from the newsstand that was also sold-out as back-issue... No more issues to be missed, up until from now on.

As a reader, I learned lots about sea kayak safety and awareness. I got my copy of 'Sea Kayaker Deep Trouble' from my role-model sea kayak instructor. He passed his copy on to me with the remark: 'stupid people doing stupid things'. I learned lots from it, did a few embarrassingly stupid things myself, learned from it and shared it so others could learn from it.

My 1999 Southeast Alaska adventure was inspired by reading articles about paddling the inside passage of this state that I became to love while backpacking the Pacific Northwest & Alaska. Never touching my back-pack again ever since I started using my 'float-pack'.

As a writer, I felt very privileged to have two (technical) articles published in SK. A third article, my journey in the Faeroes, went through various edits with Christopher Cunningham but never made it in print. It just did not make the mark. I learned lots about writing in that process, thank you Chris! It is not easy to be published in a quality magazine. With the ending of Sea Kayaker Magazine I think that quality is lost.

Christopher writes in the final issue that reader surveys showed less interest in longer outings and more interest in day trips. Maybe 'sea kayaking' has become so popular that the relative interest has shifted towards 'recreational day trips'. Sea kayak touring is a mere niche compared to SOT, kayak fishing, SUP, kayak fitness, etc.

With the internet there is too much competing 'content'. Quality is rarely the norm anymore, just the speed to 'blurb' it out. It takes me about one hour to write a post for my blog. Not that I pretend quality, I just cannot find the motivation to post anything 'lasting only a day' on Facebook or tweet my moods. Too much time wasted on computers anyway.

I found myself reading Sea Kayaker Magazine only when I am away from my computer, which is less and less. The luxury of relaxed reading without interference of 'nagging' e-mails on the ferry to and from Britain on my way to Anglesey... It won't be too long before we can access free internet from the remotenest of places and never be without. I just returned from a wonderful trip in Baja with Ginni Callahan and found out that phone and internet access are creeping down the coast from Loreto...

Three boxes of paper copies remain. Thank you Sea Kayaker for the journey!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Time Stood Still

Looking at the hands of time on the "Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó" in Loreto in Baja California Sur, time must have stood still since I was here last time in March 2011. The picture was taken at 5:30 PM... Or did I arrive before touching-down?

I am here (again) with a Dutch group of paddlers for a trip with Ginni Callahan of Sea Kayak Baja Mexico. Thursday we start our sea kayaking trip to La Paz.

Baja & Loreto are magic places.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Weed & Reed

Wieden, Netherlands, 2014
Today was the first day in my kayak after my eye laser treatment, paddling with Saskia, Paul & Marc. A new experience paddling without glasses.

A little gray and windy day. The area is a nature reserve and it's environment meticulously 'preserved' by the annual cutting of the reed fields. Apart from expensive thatched roofs for the rich (high labour cost), reeds are less and less used. Without cutting the reeds, the environment would change, probably to forests.

A great area to paddle through this time of year. Not only because of the reed cutting and open views, but also because it is not crowded with other recreational water users and tour boats that congest the channels in Summer. Nearby Giethoorn is particularly popular for visitors.