Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Baja a Go

I just booked my flights to Baja! A magic place for scenery and wildlife!

Since 2008 I am organizing trips for Dutch paddlers out of Loreto using the logistics of Ginni Callahan's Sea Kayak Baja Mexico. From 9 until 20 Februari 2016 we will paddle from Mulege to Loreto including Isla Carmen.

This is the first year we have an international team and there are now only two spaces left on this trip. The maximum group size, including the two guides, is only 7-8 people.

This is an exposed coastal trip in the Sea of Cortez, and your paddling ability should be of BCU 3* Sea level or equivalent with sea kayak camping experience. More information is on the Sea Kayak Baja Mexico website, and/or contact me (or SKBM).

If you want to join us, please reserve your spot directly at Sea Kayak Baja Mexico.

In the latest Ocean Paddler Magazine (#48), Ginni Callahan writes about her Sea of Cortez trip last year with Justine Curgenven.

A selection of slideshows of my previous Baja trips:

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Sweet as

Inevitably I have to return home some day. Barry, Justine & Tara went surfing at Rhosneigr while I packed-up my stuff and loaded kayaks for the return journey. And drove-by Rhosneigr for these pictures.

Thank you Nigel (Sea Kayaking UK) for letting me borrow my old and trusted Explorer. Mike (Rockpool Kayaks) for making my Taran16 seat moveable. Barry, Justine & Tara for great company and paddling. Fred and Walter for joining me on the 'fluke' decision to just come over for a long weekend to go paddling in Anglesey. It was more than just good.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Skerries Ferry

From Cemlyn to Carmel Head and ferry to the Skerries for a lunch in the sun with Barry, Justine & Tara.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Happy Paddlers Waving

A great day at Penrhyn Mawr, North & South Stack races with Justine, Tara, Gary & Steve.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Black Hole

This evening I paddled with Justine and Stuart on the Swellies wave. Sharing it with quite a few playboaters.

I was totally oblivious to the holding power of the stopper forming behind it, only until I saw Stuart sideways in the stopper, partly engulfed in his sea kayak. On the pictures it still looks 'benign' for the light was too low to keep making pictures.

We stopped when it got too dark to see the black hole in the front and the other padders. It is difficult (for me) to stay on the wave with a 'long boat'. But I get better at it for it was an extra big spring tide; 10.4 meter (one of the biggest ever) today and I felt more comfortable then ever before here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bardsey Ferry

I have been to Bardsey only three times before and that was allways with others leading the way. I have only a black-and-white copy of a chart and no detailed information on the currents in the sound. We start out of Aberdaron.

We first paddle all the way up the eddy along the south coast of the Llyn Peninsula. Races are visible in and across the sound. We cross to Bardsey at 240 degrees. First we are 'unexpectedly' going southwest, only to be explained by the eddy current initially bouncing wide off the southwest corner of the Llyn. The visible 'race' off the southwest corner just being the strong eddy hitting and merging with the main ebb flow. But soon thereafter we are swept southeastwards.

As soon as we are near the northeast corner of Bardsey I am surfing standing waves; against a current; a tide-race in the eddy off Bardsey. Going wider to get into the main flow again.

Off the southeast corner a nice small but rough race gets us into the landing spot on Bardsey. A tour boat drops off and picks up visitors. After a nice walk to the lighthouse we start on our return journey.

It is still ebbing, but for exactly how long we do not know (in the Sound). With a steady 45 degrees on the compass at some point it looks like we will definitively drop too low; transits are moving. The spring-tide ebb aparently is quite strong still. Maybe 45 degrees was a bit over-ambitious.

But as soon as we are nearing the southeast corner of the Llyn an eddy current sweeps us north-west again, s-curving us precisely to the corner. 30 degrees (Fred's choice) would definitively have been the safer 'bet', but I am quite chuffed how chance-perfect these Bardsey ferries today turned out to be.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Wave Train Timetables

Wave trains at Penrhyn Mawr, Anglesey, 2015
With an early start at the Holyhead Marina we paddled around the breakwater to North Stack. Not much going on there with no swell. Heading out wide to drop down to South Stack where the waves were steep enough for a while to get long rides.

Wave trains at South Stack, Anglesey, 2015

Sunny warm lunch in Abraham's Bossom. Arriving very early for Penrhyn Mawr, I climbed out onto one of the exposed so-called 'fangs'. And looked for a 'switch' to turn Penrhyn Mawr 'on'.

Climbing out on the Fangs, Penrhyn Mawr, Anglesey, 2015 (Photo: FK)

All the time in front of us there was a group of dolphins. But however close I drifted they allways had their distance. Roger (of Coastal Spirit) made a stunning picture.

More and more paddlers started to arrive waiting for the wave train to arrive. Penrhyn Mawr was very nice today. Great rides. Not very rough but good rides with lots of opportunities for manouevering on the waves.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

In Transit

I arrived in Anglesey with incredible beautiful weather. Fred and Walter came over for a long weekend. Not a difficult decision to go to the Skerries when also the tide is perfect for it. Halfway between Victoria Bank and Coal Rock a group of 10+ dolphins crossed our transit.
It was quiet on the Skerries. The Terns (and Puffins) that loudly occupied it when I was here last in May left and also the bird wardens. The seals are still there quietly enjoying a nap, like I am.

I found my trusted old Tweety Explorer in enclosed confinement. Protected from itself and/or from others? Thank you Nigel and Sea Kayaking UK for having me use my most trusted sea kayak. Enjoying to be out there again.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Both Hands Free

Went with Barry & Justine for an afternoon paddle on the Menai Strait. Best workouts are against the flow, made a little bit easier today for me for the fact that I was in my Taran16. And with both hands free it is also easy to take on new challenges.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Down the Yahoo! drain Pipes

It came to my attention that Yahoo! ends its Pipes service by 30 September. What the ... is Yahoo! Pipes, you are rightfully to ask.

I started using the free Yahoo! Pipes service some years ago to merge RSS feeds from various news agency websites to filter out kayak related news articles while not be bothered with a volcanoe. The graphical interface of Yahoo Pipes! made that very easy to do. The result was again a RSS feed that could be integrated on my blog, for instance. The feed was even 'pumped' to a KayakNewsFeed Twitter account to 'archive' the messages. For RSS is only triggered for new messages and old messages drop down the list and eventually out of it and are 'lost forever'. Little effort, big results.

Some interesting websites did not offer RSS feeds, though. Yahoo! Pipes made it also possible (directly or indirectly) to create a RSS feed out of any web page that has structured repetitive blocks of content. Converting the 'repetitive block mess' into a RSS format with 'Reg-ex coding' was not so easy though. Big fuzzy efforts (^.{0,99})( \| )(.{0,99}$), even bigger results.

A RSS feed provides only a snippet of each item. To read the whole article one is directed to the originating website. Everybody's happy? Surely the news provider wants some credit for supplying the news, by visiting their website. By offering RSS they have a way of telling the world 'read more? visit me!). For commercial use there would sure be loads of small print...

There are alternatives to Yahoo! Pipes. However that will mean hosting the alternative one selves and more hardcore coding... I am not so keen on that.

Moreover, there are other developments that work against RSS altogether. More and more websites use proprietary ways of offering news that cannot be 'scraped'. Those sites want you to visit them in the first place for advertising, logging and profiling. I.e. the developments regarding supplying news on Facebook based on profiled interests, tracking, friends' activities and related advertising. How 'independent' news would that be?

The other worrying example I found out recently is that the Dutch Watersports Counsel (WSV) is offering a news web page that looks like it is created from plain RSS, but in fact the news text snippets are a collection of images created with a kind of proprietary Adobe Flash. How to filter (OCR) the word 'kayak' out of image text? End of story for RSS?

I think the inventors of XML and RSS should be awarded an IT 'Nobel Prize'; even posthumously. My first job after College was writing software in COBOL to extract lines from bank balance and transaction statements from SWIFT 'wire transfers' off a computer reel tape. That was pre-XML and very hard-core coding indeed. XML (and RSS) would have made that a piece of cake. Yahoo! Pipes indeed rewired the web using RSS. Now some wires will be cut and lights start to go out.

NewsCURRENT will be reduced to a mere trickle by 1 October and the KayakNewsFeed will stop flowing altogether.

From all of these signs saying sorry but we're closed
All the way down the telegraph road
- Mark Knopfler -

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pretty in Pink

Yesterday I enjoyed a nice afternoon with Tatiana, paddling the spectacular coastline from Porth Dafarch to North Stack. The georgeous sunny weather and a lively turquoise sea was a great opportunity for promoting pink kayaks. This one is a SKUK RomanySurf RM from Phil Clegg's fleet.
After more than two great weeks in Anglesey I have finally time and opportunity to (start) updating my blog. So more to follow in reverse order.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

She Just Does It

It is possibly a tricky thing for me to write, as a male, about female achievements, because we might have a totally different perspective.

We are very likely to remember EXACTLY when Freya Hoffmeister hit the kayaking scene in our part of the world and kayaking discipline.

Determined female paddles showed that they are just as capable to achieve long and committing expeditions. Possibly they generally less bragg (and write) about it. They just do it their way. While most of the 'high-profile' 'firsts-fastest-longest' had already been paddled, men could easily argue that it had been done (or written about) before; by men... On other occasions women were (at the time) even written out of history; i.e. female air force test pilots in WWII.

Freya Hoffmeister will complete her 3-year long epic circumnavigation of South America, that she started on August 30, 2011 in Buenos Aires on May 1st 2015. How fitting: on Labor Day. I am not sure if Freya now has set a 'standard' that CAN be achieved by others. Focus and determination is universal and that is inspirational!

Below is the (Google Translated) Press Release:

Hereby I have the pleasure to invite you to the ceremony on May 1 for Freya Hoffmeister, the best expedition kayaker in the world, coming to Puerto Madero finishing the first circumnavigation of South America. Freya paddled from Buenos Aires on August 30, 2011 and after 26,832 kilometers traveled back to the city where she was starting from with a new world record under her belt, being the first person to perform this feat. Freya, 50, will be escorted by dozens of kayakers, and she will be received with full military honors of the Argentine Navy at the Fragata Sarmiento, both by local authorities and members of European diplomats and media Argentines and international

All paddlers are very much welcome to be part of the arrival ceremony on the water. You will be paddling a short distance on sheltered waters inside Puerto Madero. The start will be from the new jetties at -34.62043, -58.36295. The kayakers will wait for Freya at the port entrance at -34.59508, -58.36479 while she is paddling in from her current arrival spot , and escort her to the Fregata Sarmiento at -34.60893, -58.36571.

Please contact Javier Perez to sign up on a list for the paddling escort and for possible access to the ceremony on the Fregata.

Every non-paddler is surely welcome to watch the event from any spot on the harbor!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Blowing Dust Off

When Life gets in the way of kayaking... It has been about two months ago that I have been in a kayak. Saturday's club trip was cancelled, but Fred and I decided to go paddling today. With the wind (and my paddling shape) forecast, Grevelingen lake was a good choice.

This 'lake' has been dammed-off from the sea in the sixties but still is properly (even more) saline and has occasional seal presence. The feeling of paddling against a 5 Beaufort headwind told me that I am not as nearly in shape as I was in September 2014... Great surf rides on the way back to get the hang of surfing waves, for Anglesey is closing in for at the end of this month.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Kayaking the Aleutians

My copy of Justine Curgenven's DVD "Kayaking the Aleutians" with Sarah Outen arrived this afternoon. Between all the 'digging through work' I just had to make time to see it almost immediately. I choose the 'Director's Cut' to view first.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Winter Surf

Today went kayaking in the surf at Cemaes Bay with Roger (from Coastal Spirit), Barry & Justine. Offshore wind force 6 and 'bloody cold'. I am not used to paddling in rough conditions with pogies on. So I used them intermittendly to warm the other hand and surfed without them. The velcro on the pogies was strong enough to not sweep them off my paddle. For the rest I was comfortable in 3 bottom layers and 4 top layers under my dry-suit and a fleece-lined Kokatat Balaclava under my helmet. Hearing was seriously impaired as the wind sounded like a force ten through the holes in my helmet.
On my way out the first time, I only stopped paddling when I was out of the surf zone completely. Only to find the rest much further back in the surf zone. Heading back in again was in a controlled fashion as surely any surf-ride here would end up in a loop. Turning in the wind was off-course extremely difficult and most rides ended in a 'refreshing' bongo slide. The surf subsided and around 14:00 we went back ashore.
Is it coincidence that my more recent encounters with rough water start with the roughest of the day and subsiding thereafter? Thus no gentle 'breaking-in' and build-up for confidence building.
Tomorrow I am traveling back to the Netherlands to be back again in Anglesey end of April.
If you not already have noticed the buzz on Justine's great new film "Kayaking the Aleutians", be sure to check out the trailer and pre-order at CackleTV (or Zeekajak.NL) before the 14 february release date.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Lively Day

R&R after wipe-out at Penrhyn Mawr and continued towards South Stack & North stack and back. With Justine, Laura & Mirco. A lively Day.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Saturday Club

Today I joined the 'Saturday Club' for a paddle out of Rhoscolyn. I arrived in North Wales yesterday in grey rainy weather. Today it is extremely nice weather; blue skies, max. force 4 Beaufort winds and not too cold. No pogies needed!! Unbelievable nice Winter paddling conditions.
With a group of 14 we set out to Rhosolyn Beacon. There was big swell but it was hard to catch the waves. Justine managed a pop-out though. I am in my old trusty Tweety Explorer again that I could use from SKUK for during my stay.
After lunch we headed rock-hopping towards Cymyran beach where there was nice surf to play in.
I tried to remember names... Barry, Justine, Aby, Ed, Gwyn, Jimsky, Mirco, and with a little help: Marc, Laura, Claire, Kirsty, Rich and Paul.
Upon return to Rhoscoly Beach my car would not open with my remote key. Cursing modern key technology first... At least the car door still has a keyhole. Flat battery; I had left my lights on. Jump starting no-go. Push starting no-go. Anyway, this emergency was quickly sorted by the AA and I could join the club again for dinner at the White Eagle. Not before I had to race as fast as I could across Holy Island to recharge my car battery within the shortest possible half hour as advised by the guy from the AA.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Functional Crossings

Fred is a Mechanics lecturer at Delft Technical University. He is also an avid sea kayaker. Fred invited me as a guest to a "Functionals Workshop" for his students. One of the two examples he used was the mathematical approach of crossing a river with current. The other was a mechanics example of a string connected between two points. Both examples heavily relied on integration and differentiation and culminating into the same 'functionals' theory.

Integration and differentiation went way over my head when I was in school, losing most of my hair in the process. My maths only got partially 'repaired' as part of my IT studies in College. My one year in Econometrics there was a real nightmare though, fortunately not mandatory and it did not stand in the way of my IT-carreer. Integration, differentiation and Pythagoras, forever lost on me I thought, until today.

So in short, I was already glad that I could barely follow the 'magic' involved in transposing one formula into another. Lots of aha moments of remembering that I actually have been tought the basics all those years ago. Stored in dark crevasses of my mind. The river crossing 'metaphor' helped. As for the string I could only think of 'resonating bridges'. Highly complex things made 'calculable' by... maths...

So the shortest time to cross a river with current (not minding where you end up) is in a straight line [correction] on a straight course perpendicular to the river (omega is zero). Easy, but formally mathematically explained, not so, but very much simplified and useful.

Friday a recap and the shortest time for a crossing with variations in current but ending up at a specific point. Forget about the tidal vectors in the sea kayak navigation books. This will be 'hardcore' maths. Simplified 'formulated' math problems will find it's way off the paper and into the real world, be it in vectors or a real crossing.

I am looking forward to my next crossing to the Skerries with Fred in May. There might actually be a fourth way of doing this crossing. I am learning.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

New for 2015

Combine your garden sea kayak storage with this exquisite piece of Art. Positioning this Designer garden furniture at the waters' edge allows for care free launching. An add-on pully system can be used to haul the kayak out of the water into it's bay. Batteries and kayak not included. For safety reasons, when not in use, one should keep an eye out for playing children that could take this for a slide. Shipping options and shipping cost are to be confirmed.

Happy New Year!