Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Floating like Bibendum

Monsieur Bibendum, the Michelin Man, has been the chief symbol of the French tire company since he was created in 1898. Legend has it that the designer, Mr. O'Galop, was inspired by the sight of a pile of rubber tires. In his earliest incarnations, Monsieur Bibendum had many more thinner roles, as Michelin made bicycle tires at the beginning of the 20th-century; but as the company moved into the production of car tires, his shape changed accordingly. Always depicted as an active, friendly figure, Monsieur Bibendum has achieved lasting success, being both highly memorable and evocative of the product he represents.
In 2000, the Michelin logo was chosen 'Logo of the Century' by an international jury.

This evening I had my first paddle in the new Palm Drysuit. The conditions were perfect for testing: it was just freezing, a thin layer of ice on the kayak, water temperature about 2 or 3 degrees Celsius. After a 10 km paddling with speedy Guus, I did some rolling, re-entry and tried floating in the water. The dry part (paddling) at this temperature was comfortable. The wet part was a totally new experience: with the air trapped in the drysuit, I felt like Bibendum floating on the water. A big sensation, almost absurd, to lie so relaxed in cold water: totally dry and not freezing!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

New gear!

This morning I was in a shopping mood. Sometimes it just just feels good to buy yourself something nice. Is it typically Dutch to feel a little bit guilty about this? We are all human. In Dutch there is a saying: "... als je jezelf niet kietelt, doet niemand het!" I should better not try to translate it.
My shopping action was only partially spontaneous. I bought two peaces of gear. This post is about the British part I bought. That was the deliberate decision. The American bit was spontaneous. That is a nice subject for another post.

So now I bought myself a drysuit. I have been doubting about this for a long time. Dry suits are not common in the Dutch seakayaking scene. In all the years I have been kayaking I only once met a Dutch seakayaker wearing a dry suit : Lenze Middelberg (I am not sure if Lenze agrees, but after all those years in Svendborg I tend to call him more Danish than Dutch seakayaker?). Neoprene long johns, chillcheater underlayers and a good paddle jacket work, but there are good reasons for a drysuit: comfort and safety.
Because of this I knew few paddlers I could ask for advice. I asked Lenze, Leon and Shawna (I met them in Anglesey 2003, preparing for their Icelandic Adventure) and they all favored the Kokatat gear. But that is very pricy stuff, not sold in the Netherlands, and I don't like to order clothing by mail order. Above that: I might use my gear rather intensively, but that is nothing compared to what those pro's do! Somewhat simpler should do for me. With this in mind, I did my "research" on internet. The UKseakayakguidbook and the German Spierentonne-forum were good resources. Finally I found the Palm Sidewinder Torrent Dry Suit to come very close to my specs, and (very important) it was sold in a Dutch shop. Douglas Wilcox has written an extensive review of the Palm drysuit.

This morning I went to Arend Bloem: the biggest Dutch kayak retailer and probably the only one having a few drysuits in stock. Arend was surprised by my visit. He told me he normally sells about 5 drysuits in a whole year. But this week he already sold 3. Regarding this numbers Arend offers a surprising wide collection of drysuits: some Hiko-drysuits and the complete Palm collection. Palm size L was the perfect fit for me. After trying and comparing the different Palm-drysuits, I changed my mind. I choose the Sidewinder Classic in stead of the Torrent. The main reason for this is the zipper: the Torrent has a zipper on the back, the Basic over the shoulder. With the zipper over the shoulder I can open and close it all by myself. I can't manage this with the zipper on my back. To be independent is important to me! The reason why I previously set my mind on the Torrent were the sew-on booties of this drysuit. But (as Douglas) I have mixed feelings about this: pro is comfort, con is the vulnerability. And with a combination of chillcheater socks, neoprene socks and booties I never had cold feet. (I am wondering if I shoud wear the (very tight fitting) chillcheatersocks over or under the drysuit. I wonder if the latex seals make a good seal over the socks. I will try it!).
The decision was made easier by the fact that Arend sold the last Palm Sidewinder Torrent in my size one day before. And by coincidence we found out he sold it to Hanny Kreuk, a friend of mine! Hanny and I didn't know from our mutual plans about drysuits. Now I am neither the first nor the only Dutch seakayakcoach in drysuit... I must be looking for another way to boost my reputation!

I can hardly wait to jump into the water: I want to try out my new gear! Alas: no time this weekend. I must wait till Tuesday: my paddling-evening. I will tell you how cold the water feels!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Axel and Nico launching SeaKayak.nl and Zeekajak.nl

pictures by Gert Grobben, used by kind permission of Seakayak.nl

Axel Schoevers and Nico Middelkoop are not only two highly certified sea kayak instructors holding Dutch (NKB), English (BCU) and American (ACA) coaching qualifications. They are also nice guys! It's always a pleasure to meet them on the water, or to talk kayak (and more) with them. I have learned a lot from both. Axel for example, has lead me some years ago to the tidal waters around Anglesey, my first seakayak experience outside the Netherlands. Nico was a serious and dedicated coach for the practical part of my own training for NKB-sea instructor.

In 2003 Axel and Nico paddled around the Netherlands: 1241 km in 28 days! Such an expedition sure is a big test for partnership. Axel and Nico proved to be able to work very good together. Not only on the expedition, but also on business level: they do the Dutch retail for Nigel Dennis Kayaks. And now they have joined their forces in sea kayak instruction and guiding. Axel and Nico recently started two Dutch firms: Zeekajak.nl and Seakayak.nl. This is a very welcome addition to the Dutch sea kayaking scene. I do wish Axel and Nico lots of success in their professional co-operation!

The websites for Zeekajak.nl and SeaKayak.nl are still under construction, but already worth a visit. The Dutch version now offers the most information. For Dutch seakayakers interesting is the scheme Axel made of the NKB sea kayak qualifications with a comparison to the BCU system. Zeekajak.nl offers from the start a complete (and world wide) program of trips and courses. They even offer a trip in Alaska... I wish a year had 500 days (it would still not be enough!).
Still in the air is Axel's personal website. Here you can find lot's of information about seakayaking in general (often in Dutch), trip reports (recent posts mostly in English) and great pictures -> even some pictures with me (Anglesey 2003)!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Body language: hand-, arm- and paddle-signals

Back cover of the Single: Body Language - Queen, EMI Records, 1982

Every morning I have a 5 minute walk from the railway station in Den Haag to my work at the "Provinciehuis" (the house of the the provincial administration). Just in front of the Provinciehuis is the busiest traffic junction of Den Haag. It's regulated by traffic lights, and it is always too long a wait before the lights turn green for the pedestrians.
This morning all the traffic lights were switched off. In the middle of the rush hour the police was using the junction as a training site for regulating the traffic manually. While three policemen were doing this, about twenty other policemen and -women were watching the scene from the side. Most of them were waiting on their turn, and a few were making notes of how their colleagues were doing the job. I wasn't to rushed for my work today, so I joined the watchers for a while. The interaction between the policemen and the car-drivers was fascinating. With a simple whistle and an impressive variation of hand signals the policemen succeeded in directing the continuous flow of cars, bikes and pedestrians very effectively. Although most drivers were hardly familiar with the hand signs of the policemen: they mostly did what they were supposed to do. As I was having a better look, I noticed that it was not just the hand or arm signal that made it work: it was the complete body language of the policeman that did the job. Not the performance of the signals in itself, but the body language made the difference between an experienced and a novice policemen.

After work (?!) I had a thought about the hand-, arm- and paddle signals kayakers can use when they are paddling in a group. As in busy traffic, in the surf zone, or elsewhere in windy conditions on the water, you often have problems to make yourself understood. Sometimes the distances are simply too big to hear another. Though seakayakers should be familiar with the basic whistle and arm signals, most of them are not. And if you think they are: each organization (BCU, NKB, SAU, DKV, KNRM etcetera) is using its own standards. Misinterpretation is likely. So it's wise to agree on some standards before you start paddling with your group. And when you have to use a signal: don't forget your body language!

"Body Language": it reminds me of the music of the early eighties. My first association is with an album of Olivia Newton John. But that's wrong. Her album is called Physical, the song "Body Talk". Not quit the best song of Olivia (is she still making records?). The second association is the song "Body Language" from the album "Hot Space" of Queen. That's also not a highlight. As a matter of fact, much music of the early eighties is spoiled by a overproduced artificial disco sound. Artists with great songs in the late seventies made bad songs in the early eighties. So did Queen. Let us forget this musical mistake of a great rock band, but let us enjoy the wonderful cover it was packed with!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Playing SIGNI and AILA-A

At the clubhouse of the Alphense Kanovereniging de Kromme Aar, Reinout showed us his collection of miniature buoys: all kinds of lateral and cardinal marks, exact copies of the types on the Dutch nautical maps, hand made by Reinout himself. Very instructive!

It has been a hard day's work

It's been a hard day's night
And I've been working like a dog
It's been a hard day's night
I should be sleeping like a log
Lennon/MacCarthy 1964

Sometimes live is hard. Yesterday I spent the day debating scenario's for the future of Zuid-Holland with scientists and representatives of business, social parties and NGO's. That's called work. Location was the pier of Scheveningen. The pier of Scheveningen is some kind of a cross-over between an oil-drilling platfrom and a highway-restaurant. I like neither drilling platforms nor highway-restaurants. And to make it even worse: they are playing music of the Carpenters on the toilet!

But the site is great: in the middle of the surf zone! We were gathering in a meetingroom with a perfect view on the waves. As the day passed, wind was increasing and the rollers and breakers became better and better. The debate was good. I missed my kayak.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A drizzling day around Tiengemeten

Klik hier voor een Nederlandstalig verslag

This is supposed to be a kayaking blog, so after stories on conferences, building sites and biking it is just about time to do a post on the real thing again. Though the weather is not too inviting lately, doing a kayaking tour with friends is a nice way of spending your day. Regarding the number of interests for the tour I planned today, I was not the only person thinking so.

Nico, Jan, Guus, Kaat, David, Gerrit, Reinier and Dick joined on the tour around the island Tiengemeten. Tiengemeten is an island of 1000 hectares in the Haringvliet estuary. Land use of the island was -until five years ago- mainly agricultural, but now the farmers are gone and it's changing in an unique nature reserve. But as it was drizzling all day, we could hardly see anything of the natural beauty. Sometimes sight was less than 100 metres. Nevertheless we enjoyed being outdoors. As David did some sculling and rolling exercises in the cold water (2 degrees Celsius) at the end of our tour, I also couldn't resist a roll. Very refreshing indeed! We really appreciated the warm and cozy canteen of the Yacht Club Hitsertse Kade.

More pictures? click here!
On the site of the Alphense Kanovereniging you can read Reinier's report of the trip (in Dutch).

22 km, watertemp. 2 'C, luchttemp. 5 'C, wind (later) 3 Bft. NW Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Wintertime in the Green Heart of Holland

Woerden, Singel naar de Westdam

Too much ice for kayaking, too bad ice for skating: so this morning I took my racebike for a ride. That sure is the best way to get very cold feet! I biked along the site where the new wild water kayaking track is being built. After two hours and 6o km biking in foggy and frosty weather, I really looked forward to a nice warm cup of tea!

Woerden, Emmakade, de Volharding
Zoetermeer, Dutch Water Dreams, bij de Plas van Poot