Saturday, December 19, 2009

Icebreakers - winter paddling in the Biesbosch

Winter paddling in the Biesbosch National Park. Temperature at 11.00 AM: minus 10 degrees Celsius... The first issue was how to get on the water - the takeoff points mostly used to paddle in the Biesbosch were blocked by ice. Finally we found a good spot to start next to the river in Geertruidenberg. The next challenge was to find a way through open water in the Biesbosch. We expected the small creeks to be impassable, but (despite the tidal hub in the Biesbosch) also some wide stretches of water were already covered by a layer of ice. Anyway, we managed to make a nice trip around the Biesbosch - after exploring some creeks leading to the centre of the nature reservate, we paddled the "outer ring". A total distance of 30 km through one the few remaining fresh water tidal-areas in Europe. We enjoyed the abolute quietness, no other humans around, just two paddlers enjoying in silence the amazing landscape and wildlife. Enormous numbers of birds are resting and foraging in this wetland - caution (keep distance!) is needed to prevent disturbance.

Some notes about "paddling minus ten":
- clothing: a drysuit with a good fleece isolation layer under it is great - not to say a must!
- warm hands: a combination of simple nylon paddle mitts/poggies (without lining!) and a pair of neoprene gloves keeps the hands warm;
- frozen wet neoprene gets stiff - normally the neoprene sprayskirt is my favourite, but for winter paddling a sturdy PVC-sprayskirt is better - once frozen refitting a neoprene sprayskirt gets very awkward;
- deck mounted towing lines, split paddles (and any other spare gear) on the deck: forget it - it's useless when covered with a centimetre of ice...


Tony said...

Ah yes, winter paddling - I love it. I find neoprene mittens better for keeping hands warm and when I stop to eat I put them under my PFD to keep them warm.

Tony :-)

Unknown said...

Peddelen in de winter is prachtig. Ijs, sneeuw, sneller stromend water in de rivier. Ijs op de boot, sneeuw achter de brilleglazen. Echt werken.

Neopreen moffen en handschoenen. Als de moffen nat zijn bevriezen ze en zijn ze meteen winddicht. Tijdens pauzes blijven mijn handen warm met droge fleece-handschoenen. Ik zoek nog een oplossing om het bevriezen van de skeg te voorkomen?

Hans Heupink said...

Hello Tony, Hi Ad!
Welcome to the winter-club! About Neoprene mittens: everyone has his personal preferences. What I don't like with Neoprene is that it's not very windproof in itself. In my neoprene gloves I get very cold fingers when they are exposed to even the lightest breeze. But I am sure: heavy duty Neoprene Mitts that are thick enough will do a good job - Anyway, mitts that withstand the Newfoundland-winter must be of good quality!