Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Weather Bound

Because of a high wind warning and flash floods in New York my flight to JFK got canceled. The flight already had an hour delayed arrival. After boarding the plane and waiting in it for more than an hour we had to leave the aircraft; deplane.

Lots of flights got canceled and lots of people are stranded. I am now booked on an extra flight early tomorrow morning. At least my connecting flight to Amsterdam is still valid. The only thing is that I now cannot spend a day in New York city, something that I was looking forward to.

I never before had the luxury to be offered a 'bed' right at the airport. Logistically probably the most conveniant solution. That and the rocking chair and the power outlet.

Earlier today...
I am not sure if I understand Starbucks anymore, if ever I understood them. The only coffee joint that was open. Apart from a 'Latte' there is no recognizable other coffees on the menu. I asked for a Cappucino and got the question: "What flavor?". Huhhh? I replied: "Regular". Not really sure if the cashier understood me I added: "Medium size". A minute later I got a 'Frappucino', not what I ordered. But they still do Cappucino, but I probably have to 'SPELL IT OUT: A HOT CAPPUCINO". I got my Cappucino instead and it actually tasted like Cappucino. A regular hot coffee might be even harder to get.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Happy Hands

Today I saw a remarkable example and result of using a metaphore. Dubside is running rolling classes at the Ocean Gathering Symposium.

I first met Dubside in 2004 at the Delmarva Retreat, a Greenland symposium where I first got truly immersed in Greenland kayaking skills. That was a humbling experience then. I met Dubside again on a few other occasions but never had the opportunity since then to see him coach.

One of the students wanted some tips to improve her off-side roll. After some observation Dubside asked her if she knew about Micky Mouses' Happy Hands. She came-up on her off-side with the same open hand position as she went over; with the paddle between her thumbs and index fingers; perfect. Even better than on her 'on-side'. Impressive observation and use of metaphores; Happy Hands!

Just before lunch, Dubside had the group race to the beach. I think I could keep up with him with my euro paddle: faster, faster, faster; for a short while... And only with most extreme exertion. Humbling experience again... I consolidated on all my Greenland rolls I ever could do before.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Rocky Landing at Little Tybee

Tybee Island has lots of sandy beaches, offshore sandbars, current, tide-rips, waves and surf. The Savannah River has a big shipping lane, buoyage and a very long stone breakwater (at low tide). However rocky landings and rescues near rocks, that is in the British Canoeing Moderate Water Sea Kayak Leader syllabus, requires sometimes some improvising.

The same probably goes for dealing with 10+ second ocean swells in some other parts of the world. Or areas with lots of rocks but no tides. Or areas in the UK that have only sandy beaches? What is the definition of 'Moderate Water' ?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rough Water Discovery

I am at the Tybee Island Ocean Gathering Symposium. Today we went out for some rough water discovery.

Tybee Island is blessed with numerous offshore sandbars, of which the 'triangle' is the most famous and treacherous. But with the right conditions it is an amazing rough water playground.

On the northeasterly tip of the island, just 100 metres from the sheltered put-in at Tybee Creek, waves create confusing seas. On the flood this is a safe playground because whatever happens a paddler drifts into an eddy behind the point.

But on the ebb everything drifts into more and bigger waves. Last year I had someone out of the kayak standing knee deep on the sandbar (without the washed-away kayak) but unable to walk to the beach because of the fierce rip current around the point. That created some interesting group management challenges.

An offshore sandbar off Little Tybee Island allowed for safe playing conditions on the ebb. Again anything would drift out of the surf zone into calmer water; today. Challenging conditions, low consequences. With Dolphins around us in the surf and on our way back.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Tri-State Sea States

This is my second year at the Autumn Gales Symposium. It is run out of the scenic town of Stonington in Connecticut. It is less than two miles to Fishers Island that is in New York state and about two miles towards Napatree Point that is in Rhode Island.

Long Island Sound fans out over reefs between Fishers' and Napatree creating tidal races on the ebb and the flood. Ideal topography and distances for the Autumn Gales', that runs for the nineth year. One day we crossed over to Beavertail out of Narragansett.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Skerries Questionmarks

The tide was perfect for a paddle out to the Skerries at max ebb. Yvonne planned the trip yesterday but we were aware and both questioning if the weather (wind) would suit the plan. With the last few days of strong westerly and northwesterly winds, yesterday force 6 to 8, 'on paper' this trip today would be questionable to say the least.

We went to Cemlyn to look at the sea and discuss the options. The sea was very white and rough at the obvious locations of the various tidal races out there and around the Skerries. Furloughs race was unplayable in a way that we considered it unsafe. There looked to be 'pathways' towards the Skerries that would be 'possible', but why the risk? The wind was still a solid force 5/6 against max ebb. Questions...

Lots of alternative plans came to mind. In the end we decided to paddle against the flow towards Cameas Bay and have lunch there. After lunch the tide would have eased a bit and would probably change some perspective? Paddling back towards Cemlyn the wind had dropped to 4 and the sea had quietened down to a point where I asked Yvonne on the spot to take us to the Skerries.

At dead slack we arrived at the Skerries. A short break there and then surfing back to Cemlyn Bay via West Mouse.

Decisions: when question marks become exclamation marks.

Monday, October 02, 2017


With the forecast for today and possible paddling tomorrow Yvonne and I did a wide hike up and around Holyhead mountain 'visiting' the paddling highlights from high ground in high winds.

At North Stack we could peek down at Parliament House cave. We saw three addult seals and a seal pup on the beach. Two addult seals in the water between the all white rock gardens. The seal pup was dangerously braving the surf line on the gravel beach. Washed up with every wave and again and again making it's way towards the waters' edge... What are you doing?

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Double Bill

With a strong wind forecast the plan was to paddle out of Trearddur Bay towards Rhoscolyn Head. It soon became clear that we would not go much further. Heading into the beach at the Caravan Park beyond Ravenspoint we decided for Plan-B.

Overlooking the sea, we discussed and evaluated safety issues. What did we expect it to look like before heading out? What are the conditions actually? Learning opportunities. Happy to paddle in these conditions? Comfortable to perform a rescue? Heading out wide for 'big sea' paddling conditions back into T-Bay.

After lunch Mirco wanted to try-out back surfing. The surf did not look too impressing at first but back-surfing was incredible today.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Looking for a lunch spot

The Saturday club has gathered for a paddle out of Porth Dafarch. There is a nice swell. There is not much happening at Penrhyn Mawr yet, so we continue towards Abrahams' Bossom for lunch. But all beaches are taken by pupping grey seals. We paddle back to Porth Ruffydd.

Along the way we meet a Norwegian Paddling group with Gry. She was on the Antarctica trip with Justine in February this year.

The rest of the afternoon was spent playing at Penrhyn Mawr. Lumpy but not intimidating.

With Ed, Paul, Rich, Geth, Yvonne, Axel, Petr, Steve, James and Gry.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Quantum Paddle

A big contrast to the stormy weather in Isle of Man just yesterday. A beautiful sunny day paddling to the Skerries from Cemlyn. Keirron, Marc and I decided to continue to Porth Dafarch for a nice workout.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Calf of Man

A nice day around the Calf of Man, a small island off the southern tip of Isle of Man. Wind, tide, waves and cliffs make for a variation of fun paddling conditions; a great playground. I am here for the Isle of Man sea kayak symjposium by Adventurous Experiences.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Loreto Islands Challenge

Earlier this year I was in Antarctica. It is not often that one comes along unique 'organized expeditions' in very remote areas and with itineraries that require above average paddling ability and experience.

End of October, Ginni Callahan of Sea Kayak Baja Mexico is guiding a 20-day paddling challenge that combines all the islands of the Loreto National Marine Park, including the remote islands of Montserrat and Santa Catalina.

The remote islands of the Loreto National Marine Park are unique, scientifically significant, absolutely beautiful, and require special permits to visit. Very few people ever get to go, and no other kayak outfitter has ever brought a group to the most remote island, Santa Catalina. Ginni has been there before and is now organizing it for a group of skilled paddlers.

Because of the remoteness and the paddling distances for the crossings, the required paddling ability is BCU 4* Sea or equivalent or better.

This is another of those rare opportunities for skilled paddlers to join such a special trip. And Baja gives you an extra month of Summer.

For more information : Loreto Islands Challenge

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Birds

We (Justine, Mirco an I) were not the only ones that thought the Skerries would be a nice trip today. Paddling from Cemlyn would be using the very last of the ebb and hence today an early 10:00 AM start. Three seperate groups went out at about the same time. We were the last to go, but we arrived first. This late in the tide we decided to almost aim at the Skerries, today the shortest and fastest route.

At the Skerries the Terns are full-on nesting. Even staying on the designated path we got attacked by the angry birds. Justine held her dry bag over her head. Seems like a good idea. However her dry bag now has a pecking rash.

Upon leaving we met an inquisitive seal and had a small race to play in. With the building flood via West Mouse cruising back to Cemlyn. A beautiful day!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Magnificent Craft

Today it crossed my mind how magnificent sea kayaks can perform in conditions. With some swell remaining and a bit of wind, Penrhyn Mawr could only be very rough today. A beautiful sunny blue sky day reduces the 'fear factor' a lot. The sea kayak was not the limiting factor. My kayak can handle it, I am trying to more and more.

Justine and I continued to Parliaments' House Cave for lunch. There we met a group of four friends out for a rough days paddle. I think it is time for Justine to bring out a new film. Her "This is the Sea" films had a big influence on how paddlers view tidal races and what is possible with a sea kayak. But now the 'men with beards' are back ;-)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Anglesey Sunset

My 'group tent' got shredded on Sunday night. Effectively the UV detoriation killed it after 6 seasons of 'base-camp' use. The windward side, buffeted by wind, was still holding on, but the whole front door flap was ripping all over the place. Kind of 'open plan' camping.

For the last two days I have been staying with Petr from Czech. He kindly offered me a place to sleep. A few years ago Petr built his own carbon/kevlar racing sea kayak in Prague. Put it in the water there and paddled all the way to Nordkapp and partly back; a 5000 km trip...

After dinner we drove the scenic coastal road back and took a small detour twards South Stack for this nice sunset picture.

Now it is packing-up and driving back to the Netherlands via Hull ferry. Hope to be back soon!

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Big Rush

The last day of the group in Anglesey. We did not have a proper play in Penrhyn Mawr earlier in the week because of the tidal times. Leaving the campground at 8 AM to be on the water at 9 AM for the last half of the flood to get the most out of it. Hardly any wind and no swell; might be too flat and easy?

I should have known better because of earlier experiences. Too eager to have them have a good time at Penrhyn Mawr...

Penrhyn Mawr mid-flood at spring tide is very, very hard work. Ear deafening water rushing, boiling, swirling. Knife sharp eddylines. Burning-up our final reserves of this weeks energy very quickly. Getting to the gully to have a break was a real challenge.

The last hour of the flood gave us some nice and gentle waves to finish a great week in Anglesey.

Never again a 'big rush' to get to Penrhyn Mawr at mid-tide Springs.

Penrhyn Mawr 'Chicken Run' at mid-tide Springs

Thursday, May 11, 2017

In Running Order

Today we paddled from Moelfre to Camaes bay visiting the historic brickworks ruins at Porth Wen.

For the 18! years now that I have visited this place I spun this wheel. All is still in 'running order' although a bit rusty and squeaky at times.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Figuring out (eight) Bardsey

Bardsey is a beautiful island off the south end of the Llynn Peninsula. The only drawback being the relative long drive from Holyhead (almost two hours) and a little more complicated (=interesting) tides.

With the weather forecast of light winds and a last day of full sunshine in the forecast it was too good of an opportunity to miss. The tide was not so perfect and I did not have the information with me for the exact timings of the ebb and flood in Bardsey Sound. How 'right' are some 'random' internet pages on Bardsey Sound?

The crossing to Bardsey was on a perfectly straight line on an increasing ebb tide; at least that part I had right. A nice long lunch and hike on Bardsey. Nagging at me when exactly the flood would start and/or when eddies would kick in... Around the top end of the Island and crossing back over to the mainland. Still ebbing, nice, but for how long?

The crossing back turned out super safe but has room for improvement. At least our route today shows a nice figure of eight on the GPS track. Adding some more information about how and where the eddies and countercurrents affected us both in direction and speed. A strong tide-race in an eddy in a smooth sea state is allways interesting to encounter and think about.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Scenic route to the Skerries

A sunny day is a great day to paddle to the Skerries. After a short play in the race at Cemlyn we took the scenic route to the Skerries.

The cardinal buoys at Victoria Bank and Coal Rock are great for positional fixes on this classic navigation to the Skerries out of Cemlyn. We did not need to 'hit' them but they offer great photo opportunities and a bit of an extra challenge to get to them on a chosen compass course. No distant clouds today to do an easy transit on. The GPS track shows a nice curved route 'hitting' both of them and the Skerries.

Another great day. The sun allways shines on the Skerries.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Keel Stripping

The catch phrase of this week is probably 'Keel Strip'. We have repeatedly discussed the advantages and disadvantages of a keel strip. Frank does not have one. Luut and Bart did it the KeelEasy way. I have a diolene/gelcoat keel strip. Paddling through rock gardens inevitable gets one some scratches, however well we try to judge and time our runs through it.

Today we paddled from Porth Dafarch to Rhoscolyn. The wind was quite strong and chilly from the northeast. We kept close to the shore and paddled through every gully and over every pour-over we could find; hence the occasional scratch and shouting 'keel strip'!

We are getting into the habbit of having two lunch breaks a day. The first long break was out of the wind in the sun at Rhoscolyn Bay. Second lunch was at Porth Diana on our way back.

The next two days promise to be sunny with little wind, and the tide is right...

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Stacks Vista

A beautiful sunny first day of our Peddelpraat Anglesey week with Bart, Frank and Luut. Gentle races at North Stack, South Stack, Penrhyn Mawr and South Stack again (on the flood).

The photo is of our rocky landing lunch spot with South Stack vista.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Retrasos Argentinos

Arriving early at the Ushuaia airport to deal with my excess luggage I learn that my 16:10 flight to Buenos Aires AEP is delayed. It now leaves 15:15; an hour EARLIER !

Moreover a big confusion over if I need to collect my checked luggage at AEP for the planned bus ride to the other airport EZE. My flight now is directly to EZE. No need to change airports and luggage checked through to Amsterdam.

Finally I start digging up my credit card for the excess luggage charges. Only to be handed over my boarding pass and she wishes me a good flight...

Now I am left with 825 pesos, about 50 euros, not needing any of it as it looks. After final checking in at Buenos Aires I will be looking for a nice dinner. So far I think Argentinia deals very nicely with 'delays'.


I am packed-up and ready to leave Ushuaia. I stayed at the Aonikenk Hostel. A short uphill hike from the town centre, overlooking the harbour and marina. Good basic accomodation with excellent internet.

The month at sea is only slowly leaving my 'system'. This morning I tried to have the kitchen tap water run by tapping my left foot on the floor. The sink water on-board was foot-operated...

Yesterday I tried to 'organize' the various posts that Justine published on her blog, Facebook and the Spirits' blog and link to them on my Facebook. Glitches in the on-board satellite e-mail system made for sketchy publishing. Justine superbly wrote about our Antarctic adventure.

I continued on further weeding-out the 6600+ pictures I currently have on my computer; Donna's and Jay's still to come... I came across this zoomed picture that Justine took of me taking a picture of a Crabeater seal; as if it saying Hi!

At the start we took wide berths of all seals. Paddling through ever denser iceflows we inevitable passed closer-by. The Crabeater seals in particular are not disturbed whatsoever by our presence; only rarely looking up, do some scratching and lying their heads back on the ice, eyes closed. Never taking to the water.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Back in Ushuaia

We are back in Ushuaia after a month and 16 paddling days on the Antarctic Peninsula. The return voyage, crossing of Drakes Passage on the Spirit of Sydney, was very rough with two passing force 10+ storms (60 knots and 10 meter seas).

The picture is of our overnight camping at Booth Island. More stories and pictures to follow at some time.

A big thank you to our Captain "Zeek" and Santi for crewing the incredible Spirit of Sydney and navigating her and us safely to Antarctica and back and all the support they gave to our kayaking logistics and the many nice meals they cooked for us.

Justine led the group 'Expedition Style' and no one was complaining that we sometimes had our first stop and lunch only at 3 PM. There are not too many landing spots on this continent that is crushed by heavy glaciation. Ice, ice, ice, everywhere. Thank you Gry, Donna, Jay, Lonan and David for the great company on board and on the water.

Justine is possibly planning another trip to Antarctica in 2019. Very highly recommended!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Floating Rock

This post was intended to be automatically posted on the Spirit of Sydney blog by ships' satellite e-mail system, but never made it there.

It has been a week since we left Ushuaia. The crossing to Antarctica was 'uneventful' (as for sea state) for we experienced what is called "Drakes' Pond". A relative smooth passage brought us to the Melchior Islands. Along the way we saw hourglass Dolphins and breaching Humpback whales and Albatros. And first glimpses of all white coastlines, ice bergs and chinstrap penguins.

All the coastline is heavily glaciated; crushed by ice. There is only a few meters rocky 'beach' in front of vertical and sometimes overhanging ice cliffs. But those beaches would dissapear on high tide and would not be safe for landing for frequent cracking sounds and spectacular ice falls. Only the smaller islets have some opportunities for landings and safe lunch spots. But those sometimes are taken by fur seals. Very agile animals on land that sometimes rest on the patches of snow 20 meters up and far away from the water.

The floating ice looks all white and snow until one bumps into a foot size 'cube'. Hard, heavy and sharp as granite; floating rocks.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Breaking Waves

Look! Breaking waves ahead where the birds are circling! David calls out from his vantage point sitting high on the rear deck. Moments later we recognize the dorsal fins of a group of dolphins. The word Dolphins is called out frequently and more and more gather on the deck to view the spectacle of a group of hourglass dolphins riding the bow wave and following astern. The water is very clear to see the typical stripes on their bodies.

I was pleased that today I was early for my watch. For the last few day I 'enjoyed' a 'comatose' sleep whenever I lied down. Very possibly the side effect of taking the Stugeron motion sickness tablets. Not a moment I felt any 'queesyness' that I experienced a few times before in the past. The captain recommends to keep taking the pills every 12 hours, just in case.

The ocean turns from almost oily flat overnight to a bigger swell making movement below deck difficult again. I have bumped my head numerous times now creating a sore spot in one place, and 'bang' again, ouch!

After my shift I helped Justine prepare a potato based oven roast. Cutting the veggies and cleaning the dishes I realize I am quite lucky with seasickness this time. I actually enjoy doing this, despite the repeated head bumps and #39;bracing for support'.

Justine reckons another twenty minutes to go in the oven. Another nice meal breaking the surface.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Ready to Sail

Everything organized in the tiniest of spaces I have to sleep in. Overnight snow on the mountains. Ready to sail.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Touching down at Ushuaia at 12:30. Taxi to the hostel. Settling in. Hiking down to the harbour and seeing the Spirit of Sydney moored at the dock. With 14 degrees it still feels comfortably warm. Having a great dinner out with David, Jay, Donna, Gry and Lonan. Justine to arrive tomorrow and first meeting on board tomorrow afternoon for a beer on the captains' invitation.

OK, through-posting my Blog to Facebook is still working and I am enjoying a record number of comments and likes; Wow! very motivational, thanks! Now trying not to overdo it on posts.


For the first time on my travels I had to pay for excess bagage and still had only space on my body for one cotton T-shirt.

Arriving in Buenos Aires at 4 AM with 25° Celcius. All the other summer clothing I packed and paid for will be more appropriate after I arrive in Ushuaia later today.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


I am packed and ready for traveling to Ushuaia to join a sea kayaking team led by Justine Curgenven on the Antarctic Peninsula for the whole of February. We will travel to and from the Peninsula on the sailing yacht Spirit of Sydney.

At the moment I have no way of keeping you updated while I am there. Best option at the moment is probably to follow Justine Curgenven and CackleTV on Facebook and some infrequent but very good reading on the Spirit of Sydney blog.