Friday, April 28, 2006

Beatrix, Asterix and Obelix

The day before Koninginnedag is Birthday honours day: this year 3524 people were honoured by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix. One of the most surprizing decorations is Albert Uderzo as "Ridder in de Orde van de Nederlandse leeuw"; one of the highest honours. Only 19 people became "Ridder" (= Knight) in this Order. One of the considerations with this decoration is "the importance of Asterix for the propagation of Latin language and culture"...
Uderzo is undoubtly a great artist. But it's a Frenchman! What has he done with the Netherlands? There is no album of "Asterix in Holland". There is one album "Asterix in Belgium". But Belgium and the Netherlands became seperated in 1830. Dutch and Belgians are different. Belgium has its own Royal Family and its own Royal decorations. I think Beatrix wants Uderzo to make a Dutch album in the last years she reigns this country.
With her name it is strange indeed that Uderzo didn't came earlier to this idea. And historical there are may reasons for it. The Limes cuts the Netherlands in two, we had the Friezen and the Batavieren, Woerden had its Castellum: enough stuff for a good album.

Right now I feel like Obelix in the picture above. I have canceled tomorrows seakayaktour in the Voordelta. The weatherforecast says 5 Bft, gales up to 7 Bft, a chance of showers of hail and thunderstorms in the afternoon. I don't like to disappoint enthousiast people, but with these expectations, water and air temperature both around 10 degrees Celsius, it's not responsible to go out at sea with a group of almost 20 kayakers. I do like a challenge once in a while, but not tomorrow with a group under my responsability! Like Obelix says: "you live near the sea but you are not allowed to have the pleasure of it.... " it's Sh**.
The stupid thing is: it's just an expectation. Maybe wind slacks and conditions are good tomorrow... There is a saying in Dutch "Thuisblijvers hebben altijd ongelijk" -> those who stay at home are always wrong. Mostly that's my device. But that's mostly, not now.
I have no doubts with my decision. Yet it still feels bad.

I am going to drink a Guiness and watch the so called "Sea Kayaking Porn": This is the sea - the great video Justine Curgenvan made.

PS: next week I have no internet-connection. It will take a few days before I can add new posts in this blog.

Escaping Koninginnedag...

Prinses Máxima der Nederlanden,
picture of the Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst

The Dutch love their Royal family. Especially since Princess Máxima married Prince of Orange Willem Alexander and introduced Argentinian latin temperament. Many Dutch enjoy "Koninginnedag". Some Dutch however want to escape it. Perhaps that's the reason why there are so many entries for the seakayak tour in the Voordelta tomorrow.

This is what 20 seakayakers miss:

This is what they might get instead:

Just like the Queen, I do hope the weathergod has a good temper. The forecast is uncertain, some weathersites predict NW 5 Bft with gales up to 7 Bft in the afternoon. This evening I will listen to the Marine forecast and definitely decide what to do. For the participants: please have a look at this evening!

1. I have repaired and added some links in last posts. Thanks to Jochen and René for their comments on missing links;
2. Lately René has added a new English article to de zeekajaksite;
3. Axel was a few days in the Netherlands and has updated his blog with reports of his trips in the US and Mexico. He just left for the Anglesey Sea Symposium...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Kayak customizing - toggles and ropes

In the post about the prepatory meeting for Spiekeroog with the check of the kayaks of the participants I mentioned my own Pintail also needed some modifications to become real seaworthy. It's a minor thing, but an important thing: the toggle-thing!

First a word about "what's a toggle for?" Toggles are useful for transporting an (unloaded) kayak by two persons, but that's not what they are really meant for. Toggles should, above all, give safe grip to your kayak in a capsize situation. As a kayak can spin viciously in moving water the rope on the toggle (1) should be long enough to allow the kayak to spin around without squeezing your hand between the kayak deck or hull and the toggle and (2) the toggle should be fastened to your boat in a way that makes it impossible to put the hand into an open loop (-> risking trapping the fingers in an ever tightening thumbscrew situation).
Every designer, builder and supplier of seakayaks knows this since years. And yet...

The factory fitted toggles on the Valley Pintail:

Fingers can get trapped easily:

After customizing. The elastic shock cord prevents the toggle from hanging in the water:

The kayak now can spin freely around its axis and the single rope prevents trapped fingers:

There is some more rope work on the Pintail:

Someone at Valley had good ideas about positioning the cleats. But why didn't Valley fit any ropes or shock cords? It I think it was that dramatic shortage of rope in Britain last year ;-) The situation in Woerden wasn't any better today. This morning I couldn't find the black rope and shock cords I got with the Pintail... So now the Pintail has a white toggle line on the bow and a red on the stern... And I will fix the other rope-work another day. I want to outfit it just like the red Svalbard:

Few hours later I found 6 meter of black rope and shock cords in a wardrobe?!

More about kayak outfitting:
1. spring is "international kayak customizing time": see the blogs of Derrick and René.
2. René has written a first impression of a interesting new seakayak: the Vestvika.
3. Derrick wrote last year an interesting footpump in a rotomoulded kayak.

Eating fish

picture from RVU-educatieve omroep

He kisses a codfish, seduces a young Dover sole, walks at the bottom of the sea and discovers the use of a pair of scissors to get a fish in pieces.
Klootwijk aan Zee is a new series on Dutch television about fishing, eating, and stories.

Wouter Klootwijk is reporter, writes book for children and publishes in the NRC-Handelsblad. I like his style, especially the culinary reviews he wrote under his nom de plume Ben de Cocq (De Boer & Cocq). So I am curious about his performance at television. The concept of the program isn't original (it reminds me of National Geographic series like "Atlantic Britain" with Adam Nicolson) but it sounds very promising.

I missed the first broadcast yesterday. I was to busy mailing for the kayak thing. But there is a repetition: tomorrow at 12.00, ned 3. I am going to set the video right now (before I forget to do it).

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sightings of cetaceans

In june 2004 within 2 weeks 2 giant sea-mammals, a humpback whale (nl: bultrug) and a sperm whale, stranded on the isle of Vlieland. I find a dead whale on the beach an impressive but also very sad sight. Fortunately such a stranding giant is rather seldom. However: strandings of cetaceans are more regular then I thought. Only in 2006 already 143 cetaceans were found dead on the Dutch coastline, most 3 or 4 ft. porpoises (nl: bruinvissen) and some delphins.

Lately the number of ceteceans in the Dutch part of the Northsea seems to be increasing. And though they are very fascinating animals (it's always nice to see them) it's not clear if we should only be happy about this. Climate change, alteration of sea currents and temperature and sea level rising and can have a dramatic impact on live in the coastal zone of the north sea (... this sounds like work, better stop preaching now... ;-) .
At last meeting of the NKB sea kayak coaches Leo van der Vaart made a call to report sightings of ceteceans to Kees Stamhuyzen of the Dutch Seabird Group (NZG). Kees has established the NZG-Marine Mammal database to document and record live-sightings of Marine Mammals in and around the Netherlands to be availaible for consultation by anyone interested in studies of marine mammals. Data of strandings are not logged, do contact Naturalis in Leiden for any records. For live-strandings of marine mammals, get in touch with Dolfinarium Harderwijk.

The picture above this post makes me shiver. The dead Humpback whale stranded in 2004 on the Army base of Vlieland. Off course I understand it's necessary to remove the dead corps, and you have to use big gear to do so. OK, it's rational, it's good. But somehow the feeling is bad, it doesn't fit, an image of a tank dragging the whale. Respect, dignity? Finally the whale got a good last restplace: it's skeleton is exposed in Ecomare, the center for Wadden and North Sea on Texel.

When you came up to here, reading this post about dead whales: you must have a look at the pictures of Douglas Wilcox of the Solway stranded fin whale. It's also a sad sight, but these pictures of a seakayaker carefully approaching the dead whale, show respect for the dead corps, dignity.
And as you have found Scottish Sea Kayaking Photo Gallery, have a look at the other trip reports. Scotland is sea kayakers dream! Douglas makes very good pictures. I was surprised to read he uses the same digital camera as I do: the Sony DSC-U60. I totaly agree with Douglas' enthousiast opinion about the pros of this camera for making seakayaking pictures.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Countdown for Spiekeroog: 4 weeks to go...

Today was a preparatory meeting with the Dutch participants of the 4-star course at Spiekeroog (Germany) in May. Because I hate to spent a whole sunday indoors, and to offer more than just a day of gathering and talking, I invited the group to start in the morning with a little kayak tour around Woerden. This also offered a good occasion to check the gear. Just in time: there are four weeks left to adapt the kayaks to NKB and SAU standards. I should be ashamed myself: as a coach I am supposed to give a good example, but I haven't customized my new Pintail yet. I think I will do it this week: next the saturday is the first launch of the Pintail in salt water.

It was a odd sight: 10 complete outfitted seakayaks in the small ditches and canals around Woerden. It's overdone, but we had fun with it ;-)
Maarten surprised us with a beautiful self-made greenland-kayak. He won't use it at Spiekeroog; it doesn't meet modern safety standards. But there sure is a lot of interest for a greenland style rolling class with Freya!

Blogger upload tool refuses to add more pictures. To see more kayakers and cows: click here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I Love Sweden: Skim Kayaks in the Netherlands

Här kommer Pippi Långstrump,
tjolahopp tjolahej tjolahoppsan-sa
Här kommer Pippi Långstrump,
ja, här kommer faktisk jag.
The Pippi-song, Astrid Lindgren 1949

I love Sweden. Though I have never been there. But imagination can do a lot. Over the years always something with Swedish design or lifestyle fascinated me. My addiction started in the early 70's with the TV-series of Pippi, Annika and Tommy. Some highlights after Pippi were: Abba, Saab 96, Ikea, Smorebrod, Midsommerdagen, Anna, Allemansrätten, Mrs. Brundtland, the Swedish social security-model. Last year I had the pleasure to lecture a Swedish delegation from the region of Örebro about Dutch water management ->very nice people! Back to seakayaking: Swedish coast must be great, and Sweden offers some interesting seakayak-designs

I suppose I have pleased some regular visitors of this blog: since there is a link to my blog on 15% of the visitors of this blog is from Sweden. is the website and blog of Erik Sjöstedt and Pia Fransson: it looks very good, it's a pity I can't read Swedish...

And now to the motive for this post. Today I received an email from Peter Grobbee. Peter wrote that he will be the Dutch distributer for Skim Kayaks. Skim is new on the Dutch market and produces two seakayaks: the Distance and the Dex. The Distance is "a long-range kayak for those who aren't discouraged by a little blizzard. The boat's length and profile give it a sufficient loading capacity in combination with seaworthiness and reliable tracking in hard wind and rough seas (=orig. Skim-text)". The Dex is "a playful and nimble kayak for day and weekend trips where high seas and surfs are more than welcome. A boat for those who appreciate contact in leans, edges and manoeuvres. Low volume. Low profile. Tight cockpit (= orig. Skim-text)."

Both kayaks offer an interesting deck and hull design and detail-solutions like an integrated towing system on the deck, intern secured hatches, "glow in the dark"- deck lines, special rescue straps for a paddle float rescue (but I don't favour the paddle float rescues with a fixed paddle...). And they look good: Swedish design (with one little exception: the racing stripes: why? Starsky and Hutch?)!
I am happy with Peter's invitation to test the kayaks: I am especially curious about the Dex. It should be a very playful kayak! Have a look for yourself on Zeekajaks Nederland.
Picture of the Skim-detail used with kind permission of Peter Grobbee.

PS: Reading this post I realize that Gro Harlem Brundtland was prime Minister of Norway, not Sweden. However: a great scandinavian lady we should honour for introducing the broad political concept of sustainable development! (she could have been Swedish...)

We got very dirty with Easter..

.. but we also had a lot of fun! The Easter Weekend we had a family reunion in the Eifel (Germany). Early in the morning, when the rest of the family was still waking up, Janine and I made went out to make short MTB-trips. Rain, mud...

We stayed at Einruhr. That's a small place at the Obersee; one of the Barrier Lakes of the Rur. It sounds like a perfect spot for watersports, but as the Obersee is a reservoir for drinking water, any recreational use of the lake is prohibited: the Germans are very straight with regulations. Even swimming isn't allowed. But for hiking and biking it's a perfect spot. Especially because the former Military Camp Vogelsang is since January 2006 no longer a restricted area! Now you can bike on trails that where over 60 years the playing ground for military vehicles. It's a strange idea in such a romantic landscape...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

KNRM - lifeboat-report April 2006

This morning the postman delivered "De reddingboot": the quarter-year report of the KNRM (the Dutch equivalent of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution). It's a fascinating magazine with stories of brave man risking their lives while rescuing sailors under live-threatening conditions.
I always love to read about seakayakers anywhere/anytime, but there is one big exception: please no stories about seakayakers in "de Reddingboot"!
Today's edition containes two reports of operations where seakayakers were involved ;-(

It will be next week when I finish the item I intended to write about these rescue-operations. Now it's bedtime and tomorrow we are going to Germany for a family happening in the Eiffel. No sea, no kayaking, but forest, hills, trails, hiking and mountainbiking (and some social activities with relatives). It could be worse...

Monday, April 10, 2006


Not writing in my native language brings me some extra work, and extra fun. Foreign words can be very fascinating. "Miscellaneous", for example, is a wonderful combination of characters. It's so different from our Dutch language. It's a pleasure to look at. Spoken it's somewhat disappointing; the simple sound doesn't match the beauty of the written word.
Today a short post about various (miscellaneous) items.

1. René wrote an interesting addition to my item about the aspects of sitting high or low in a kayak. You can find his comment here. Btw: René has also started blogging in English.

2. The Dutch have a tradition of the "Voorjaarsschoonmaak" (= "spring-cleaning-time"). In real world I seldom join this tradition. But I noticed I made a mess in the virtual world: it was time to clean up the kayak bookmarks in my Browser. I am combining this action with reorganizationon of the previous Dutch Kajakwoerden blog . I am transforming it in a link-list with my favorite kayak weblinks. You can access it by the first weblink on the right side of this blog.

3. Last week I bought a VHF-handheld radio at last. I found that, as a kayak coach, I should be a able to use the Radio legally, so I did the examination for the users-licence and got the appropriate permissions and registrations to use it with a seakayak. It's not difficult to do this, but it takes a lot of procedural steps, time and money. The whole procedure with Dutch administration takes at least 3 months. For the Dutch kayakers I made a description of the current procedures (in Dutch) here.

4. In preparation for the Seakayak course at Spiekeroog, Govert and I visited Urs (a German Sea kayak coach) in Germany yesterday. Now it's definitive: Govert and I will coach the complete group of German and Dutch kayakers in their "Zeevaardigheid/ Seebefähigung" (= BCU 4 star)-training. Experienced members of the Salwasserunion will assist us. I am looking forward to this Dutch-German co-operation! And with the fishing-skills of Govert nobody needs to be hungry!

Friday, April 07, 2006

To sit or not to sit - part 2

I'm just a kid and life is a nightmare
I'm just a kid, I know that its not fair
Nobody cares, cause
I'm alone and the world is
Having more fun than me
Lyrics, Simple Plan: I am just a kid - 2002

I started writing this post post yesterday evening. I wanted to write a follow up on the earlier post "to sit or not to sit" about my experiments with the seating position in the Svalbard kayak. But that was before my son Jelle returned from is his first danceparty at school. He had been looking forward to that party, but he was also very nervous about it. The first time dancing with a girl: that's heavy stuff for a 11 year old boy. I hoped he would have a great time, but alas: he came back quit disappointed. He didn't dare to dance. Such a pity! After Jelle went to bed I wasn't in the mood for continuing this post. And as a matter of fact I am still not. We had a family day today and Jelle got a lot of distraction. Today he went to bed happy again. But to me it's getting clear that a new period appears: "adolescence" with the worries of a teenage kid...

A few words to kayaking though. Some time ago I had a little discussion with Wenley about sitting high or low in a sea kayak. Wenley was thinking about replacing a kayak seat because he found it to high. I mentioned that I prefer a somewhat higher seating position. Wenley challenged me to say something about the mechanics of a high kayak seat.
From a mechanical point of view I admit it's simple: a lower seat brings the center of gravity down, which results in more stability and which should also be an advantage in bracing and rolling. That's one reason why many people replace their fiberglass seat for a lower foam seat. In the early 80's this was the way I was learned to paddle a flat water racingkayak (K1). Pupils that made the step from a training-kayak to a racing-kayak first paddled the very tipsy K1 without a seat with a simple pillow on the bottom of the hull.
But the "ergonomics" is another (and far more complicated) aspect of the sitting position in your kayak. Bringing the seat height higher can make it easier to have good contact with your knees and thighs to the deck of your kayak. It can also make it easier to lean backwards on the deck. With my Svalbard I was surprised by the difference only 2 extra cm's of height make. The better boat-contact and greater freedom of movement made rolling and bracing more relaxed. I also got the impression that the higher seating position invites to a more aggressive and effective high-angle forward stroke. Of course this is very personal and depends strongly on the design of your kayak and your corpus dimensions. But I think it's worth an experiment: lower is not always better ;-)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

A Sunday morning paddle

Newcomers can ask difficult questions. After yesterdays' pool session Suus asked me what the joy of kayaking is for me. I was struck dumb: that's what I am writing about in this blog... I can't give one simple answer to this. Kayaking has so many different aspects. But how do you tell someone who hasn't got the slightest clue of what seakayaking is about? I was just about to take my chance and tell Suus all about it, show her my kayaking pictures, Justines' videos, my kayaking library, and... ;-) But as Janine saw that glance coming up in my eyes, she took action and saved her sister.

So what is the joy of kayaking? Sometimes it's a social thing: having fun with friends on the water, in a pool, at sea or at shallow waters. Today however it was a private thing. This morning I got up early, Woerden was still asleep. I left the Pintail on the roof of my car after yesterdays' pool session. I drove 15 minutes to a little place called Noorden at the Nieuwkoopse Plassen, unloaded the kayak and paddled ahead. First in the lee of the bushes and last years reed. The water was like a mirror until the rain started dripping. The drips on the kayak and the water created an intimate atmosphere. I was alone with the waterbirds. After a few miles I entered another world, the wideness of the Noordeinder Plas. Wind was increasing, gales force 5 and 6 made the water lively. I forgot about the world around me, now it was the kayak and me, and I coursed different directions to test the behavior of the Pintail on windy conditions, paddled to lee shore to find some short steep waves. The Pintail is a playful boat but tracks surprisingly well under these conditions. When I got ready with playing I paddled back to Noorden. Packed the kayak on the car. And had a cup of tea with appletart in the café De Klinker. Here I met the first people: I had been paddling two hours without seeing any other boat on the water. I love being alone, once in a while!

Give me a hand...

Saturday evening was the last kayak-poolsession of this season. On this occasion Kayakclub de Kromme Aar hired all the pools of the sportscenter including the recreational pool (with a magnificent water-slide and a whirlpool!) and friends and family were invited. So we had a great paddle fest. Coincidentally Suus and her daughter Lieve were visiting us, so with our two kids we were six. For Suus and Lieve it was the first introduction to kayaking. Lieve (1o years old) had no restraints at all, but Suus (age ... ;-) first thoughts were: "how do I get in and how do I ever get out of this tight fitting thing- help!" Yet after some short balance acts, edging and leaning exercises, Suus soon was hanging upside down and practicing the hip-flip. The first time she was pulling powerful on my hands. I was surprised how soon she found out that when shoulders and face leave the water last, the hick flick does the work for you. As a matter of fact I even think that physically she didn't need to pull or touch my hands at all for recovery, but mentally: that's another thing...Rolling is a mental thing: "het zit allemaal tussen de oren!"

PS: A Kayak Rolling Primer from Rob Highnell is back on the web!