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.