Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Monday, October 31, 2016

Fishers Island

Today I joined a trip counter clockwise around Fishers Island with Josko, Mel, Harry, Gavin, Archee and Eila. Tides were perfect to have slack (and lunch) off Race Point and all paddling with the current.

On the last stretch from Fishers Island back to Stonington I chose to paddle to the Latimer Light again; a bit of a work-out now against the current for completing the 'circle' of my stay here in this wonderful place.

In the evening the door bell rang frequently for it was Halloween. First time for me to experience this typical US tradition and being able to see all on main street just out of the 1st floor window from the accomodation we are staying in. When I answered the door, one girl was already dragging her feet from carrying her bin-bag with sweets. With one sweet a day, they could well last until next years' Halloween.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

When PANIC sets in

That's how I explained what Keirron just announced to the gathered attendance of the last day of the Autumn Gales Symposium to one of the potential participants of our class. And also what could happen when Keirron explains the day in more detail with his careful chosen words, and you lost your chance to bail out of the class without losing face.

Incident Management is about preventing and dealing with incidents. Keirron wants to take it a step further today; when all has gone utterly out of control and you still have to deal with the mess. And he is an 'inclusive' coach, so ALL are in the water out of our kayaks in no time, including all the coaches.

For me the 'panic' started when I thought I lost my sponge within a minute of launching... In general, all what is not attached to the kayak or person will get lost. I saw quite a few pumps and paddles floating about today. Loose decklines create a hazard. My VHF antenna got stuck underneath the very loose rear deck line. Rope skegs are a hazard. My VHF antenna got stuck underneath the rope of the rope skeg. Anything that sticks out of a PFD is a hazard.

Finally Keirron let an incident go so much out of control in outgoing current (safely), that actually the group decided on adding a fan/husky tow. Why I still don't know, but at least it added to the statistics that a fan/husky tow is not working in 99,997% of towing scenarios. And that a contact tow many times is a more effective option than hassling with any long towline.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Long Island Sounds

I am in Connecticut (first time) for the Autumn Gales Symposium out of the pittoresque 'sleeping' village of Stonington. Acclimatizing today litterally is getting used to the colder weather, just about the same temperatures as normal in the Netherlands this time of year.

I used the afternoon to paddle out to the Latimer Light; two miles out. During the crossing in force 3-4 winds I became aware of some vulnerability for I was not carrying a spare paddle on this solo trip. So I decided not to continue to Fishers Island, another mile out.

Comparing the map with my environment I was helped with the sounds I heared. The Horn off the Middle Ground breakwater and the Bell at the Latimer Light; Long Island sounds.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Everytime I am in the USA I encounter things that I have not seen before. From the sea kayaking perspective, for instance, I learned standing on my back deck in 2003 and the balance brace (and Greenland rolling) in 2004. And I incorporated lots of new stuff into my coaching.

This time around Liz showed me two new 'tricks' she learned from Cheri Perry [video] ; the easiest ways to get onto the back deck from the water. Forget the scramble/cowboy re-entries... It combines nicely with other 'back-deck' acrobatics like the 'around-the-world' that at first seems quite challenging, but just need some perseverance. It does not have an official name, other than Cheri learned it when she was in Norway. Marsha referred to it as something sounding like the 'the diddely doodely back flip thing".

In below video Liz shows how it looks like.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Myrtle Island

My last day at the symposium we paddled to Little Tybee island and through a complex maze of channels around Myrtle Island. We saw dolphins and some gentle surf. I had some great runs surfing backwards. Thank you Tom for guiding us through the beautiful salt-water reed-sided sloughs. A wonderful warm and sunny Georgia October day.

Thank you Marsha and Ronnie of Sea Kayak Georgia for inviting me over again and running the symposium despite all the uncertainties after Hurricane Matthew, and for using Marsha's personal Romany; a coaches' dream sea kayak. Thank you Marc and Regan for taking all that good care of us.

And yes, those new 'tricks' I mentioned earlier... Upcoming...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Rough Water & Surf

Two days of "Rough Water & Surf" brought us off off Little Tybee Island to play with surf over offshore sand bars. Wave refractions allowed for surfing both ways over the sandbar, sometimes hitting the clapotis/zipper for a splash. And careful to not run into the dolphins that we frequently saw.

Back at the beach I tried-again two new alternative re-entries, that Liz showed me yesterday; nailed it!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Tybee Time

It is great to be back at Sea Kayak Georgia for their annual sea kayak symposium. My first visits were in 2003 and 2004.

Tybee Island offers a great variety of paddling opportunities as you can see from the below map. The famous 'triangle' is a sand bar out of Tybee Creek that has surf, races and confused seas all around it. A very dynamic area for tides and waves in (for me) High Summer temperatures.

Evertytime I am here I learn new great stuff. More to follow...

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Stacking it again

A beautiful sunny day generally means I favor paddling out to the Skerries. Lucklily I did not do that today and went along for 'stacking it' again. For one, it's grey seal pupping season. Steve told me that the Skerries is full of them now; not to be disturbed. The other reason that today was the best South Stack race I ever paddled. Maybe even my best tide-race surfing ever.

With all the South Stack magic, I almost forgot that we had more than an hour great surfing at Penrhyn Mawr before heading on to North Stack. I had to do two precautionary capsises of which one I swam aferwards and had to do a re-entry. So exhausted I was that I could not hold my breath anymore after the first failed attempt to roll.

All of the beaches were taken by the seal pups. The only undisturbing lunch spot we could find was a rock ledge beyond North Stack in the shade. Out of the sun it was chilly.

After lunch, North Stack was very dissapointing for surfing. We continued directly to South Stack to find the most wonderful running race. Sunshine made it all less scary. Wave after wave. Sometimes broaching, bracing and sometimes just continueing the surf after broaching when pivoting on the foam pile and down again, go, go, go... Magic!

Steve and Ed just kept on going when I thought it would be enough. I imagine when the locals do not want to stop or had enough, it must be very special. There is no eddy at the race, so it is full-on all the time. The eddy is 10 minutes paddling to South Stack and 10 minutes back up again to drop into the race again. With Ed, Steve, Zoe, Tavi, Gerard & Lianne. Hope to be back again in November.

Saturday, October 01, 2016


I checked if the "Saturday Club" would be paddling today. They're all out paddling allright but working... Ed texted me that it would be 'Stacking'. Porth Dafarch was full of sea kayakers (and cars) as when it would be at a symposium. School groups, Coasteering, 4* Training, and us two. The weather is a bit grey and drizzly but the sea water is still comfortably warm.

By the time we made it to South Stack the tide had already turned. North Stack was rushing, but too fast to catch waves. It does not help when it is blowing force 4 WITH the current. So we dropped down to South Stack. I was a bit intimidated by the sight of it. I saw surf-like breaking waves with 'tubes' and spray blowing off the tops like on a good beach surf day, but this is South Stack. Memories of many years ago of being trashed there gets me a bit more cautious today and I aim for the side of the race and go from there. South Stack was even worse with the wind. Forever on the pivot point on the wave hitting a wall of wind and only once dropping down for a long surf. Too much hard work on the arms and shoulders (and feet); exhausting... Once off the front waves, never making it back where the real action is.

Back in the eddy at South Stack for a short rest and one more go. Not before we are hit by a heavy squall; hurting in the face. Glad it is not hail. And the fog horn at South Stack going off. Again, the headwind killing any easy surfing.

Back at Porth Dafarch more and more groups return and more and more 'Saturday Club' members gather at the Paddler's Return for a pint and food. We were the only ones being hit by the squall. Stacking allright today, but more that the wind was stacking against us.