My alarm went off at 7am on Sunday. At any other time of year, getting up would have been a challenge. Thanks to the long days that the Dutch latitude (52 degrees) bestows us, it was palatable. In what's becoming a weekend routine, I strapped my lunch and dry clothes on the back of my bike and swung a sizable duffle bag of kayak gear over my shoulder. It always takes a bit of extra effort to get the bike moving when it's loaded down this way. But thanks to the lack of topographic variability, the 12 minute bike ride to the kayak club is easy once you're rolling. Some aspects of Dutch life just need reframing to see the bright side.
Today we have a guest post from Peter Jones, a fellow reader and kayaking tour guide in Maine, who explains what longer (multi-day) paddling trips offer over shorter day trips. I completely agree, and wish there were more multi-day paddling trip opportunities here in Belgium! Enjoy! - Nena
Hi, I’m Peter Jones, and when I recently came across Nena’s blog, it immediately struck me what a cool picture she paints of the variety of kayaking locations she’s paddled - not just here in the US but on the rivers and coastline of Europe too. After reading her account of kayak trips in New England, I thought it would be a nice addition to her post of Mount Desert Island (MDI) to have something on her blog about kayak camping in an area just south of MDI – the island archipelago off Stonington and Deer Isle, which is where you can find me guiding overnight kayaking trips through the summer.
Most of the islands in the region - and there are more than fifty of them - are small, uninhabited and within a day’s paddle of Stonington - remnants of mountain peaks from before the last Ice Age and before the oceans rose to where they are today. The real treat is that ~20 islands on the Maine Island Trail have low-impact overnight camping sites. If you’re kayak-camping on one of the small islands around Deer Isle, then for one or two nights the island ‘belongs’ to you. Kayakers and other small-boaters may show up during the day for a snack or a lunch break, but it’s been my experience that the majority of small boaters using the Maine Island Trail abide by this honors system and limit their visit to a short one once they see that someone has pitched a tent.
My guess is that the vast majority of kayakers on the water at any one time are paddling for a few hours – a day at most. But some lucky paddlers are out for longer - sometimes much longer - than that. We all have competing demands on our time - work, family, other fun activities, and to commit to a multi-day paddle is just that, a real commitment. Anyone who ventures out on a multi-day trip needs to do some significant gear planning first. Everything from the right boat, the right paddling gear, and the right camping gear for a night or more under the stars has to be borrowed / rented / purchased. And to be blunt, this often requires a significant financial investment above and beyond what’s needed for a day trip. Then there’s trip planning (and here begins the fun part), with questions to answer such as: what’s my route?... where do I camp overnight?…who do I paddle with?... guided tour or self-guided?... what are the tide/current conditions? And above all, do I have the right training to handle the conditions which may change over the course of a couple of days or more? Other questions - what food do I take, how do I pack it all into my kayak, etc. are fairly easy to deal with. These are the hurdles to get over, and anyone embarking on an overnight trip who plans to come home safely will have done the legwork and to figure them all out.
I’ve found over and over that on a half-day or a full-day trip, clients are often so busy with the doing-of-it, that time simply whizzes by for them. After some practice with the boats at the put-in, the morning seems to barely have begun before it’s time for lunch. A discussion of the afternoon’s route is followed rapidly by an hour or so of paddling, and then it is time to think about heading home. How can that be? Time literally flies when you’re having fun. Einstein was right - time is relative.
In this world there are two times.
The upside of embarking on an overnight kayak-camping trip can be huge. At the very least, it’s a fun time where you’ll get a good work-out for a couple of days, hone your camping skills, enjoy the outdoors, and get to know some like-minded people who enjoy paddling. At best, it can truly be a life-changing experience, particularly when you think about the interpersonal dynamics that can develop between paddling buddies - parent-son/daughter, spouses, partners, friends, siblings, etc. On a multi-day trip, regardless of weather and sea conditions, you’ll probably experience a certain ‘discomfort level’, hopefully minor, that can be both physical and psychological. And when things work out, which is usually the case, getting over this barrier with friends/family might just be one of the coolest things you’ll ever do in the great outdoors.
On an overnight trip, you may connect with with the your minimalist side. You help your kayaking buddy carry his/her kayak over that slippery bank of seaweed to find that perfect spot of sand above the high tide mark at the end of the day. You both eye the small clearing beyond the beach where you will pitch your tent on the island before the sun goes down. You’ve paddled hard all day. You’ve faultlessly navigated your way to the spot you’ve been talking about all afternoon. Now, if you can just get out of those damp kayaking duds, put on some comfortable camping clothes, pitch your tent, and open up that bottle of Malbec while your gourmet specialty dish bubbles away on that amazing little WhisperLight stove… then you might suddenly get it. You don’t have to be anywhere right now except here. Tonight and tomorrow seem to stretch endlessly before you, and you find that, yes, you really are living in the moment. I’ve come to believe that kayak-camping can take you into a whole new dimension of experiencing the outdoors, largely because of a shift in your perception of time, which can translate to a much deeper level of experience.
On a multi-day trip, in the late afternoon during that ‘arsenic-hour’ of the day, you’re unwinding and getting ready for a long, delicious evening of relaxed dining (camp-style of course), of watching the sun go down, of anticipating the ascent of the moon and stars before you drift off to sleep to the sound of the waves lapping on the beach. Yes, time really has slowed down. The day has seemed sooo…. long. And tomorrow you can wake up in your tent to the sounds of the waves on the beach… and do it all over again. So if you’ve never overnighted on a kayak trip, and you get the chance to do it, take it, you’ll be amazed how that thing called ‘time,’ which we all live by, has a way of bending when you’re really living in the moment.
Peter is the owner of Driftwood Kayak
He is an occasional guest-blogger for Naked Kayaker.
Sadly, my time in the Netherlands is coming to a close, but only exciting adventures lie ahead. In September, I'm moving to Antwerp (Belgium) to work at Flanders Hydraulics and continue my coastal engineering world tour. During June, July, and August I'll be wandering around Europe with a medley of friends.
Stay tuned this summer for a resurgence in posts! I hope to post casually every few days with anecdotes, photos, and of course, kayak posts. I recently purchased a tablet, so I'll be posting updates from the road. The posts won't be as detailed as usual, so expect more of a stream-of-consciousness.
Subscribe to get weekly email updates during our trip!
Or contact me and I can add your email address to the list.
I'm hoping to paddle at least once in each country:
Norway - the Western Fjords and the Lofoten Islands with Bailey
Belgium - near Antwerp with Emilia
Portugal - the Algarve with Henk Jan, Emily, and Brian
Spain - North Coast and Barcelona with Emily and Brian
Ireland - Maybe a quick dip in Dublin with Emily
France - Provence and Les Calanques in Marseille with Emily and Alice
Switzerland - Maybe another paddling trip on a mountain lake with Henk Jan, Emily, and Sara
Italy - Cinque Terre, Sardinia, and Corsica with Emily
If you happen to know of good sea kayak rental companies in (or near) any of these regions, please let me know. It's hard to find quality sea kayaks for rent.
A lot has gone into organizing this trip, including:
It's a sad day for Big Purple. She's been winterized, thanks to a giant waterproof painter sheet and my step brother, Antoine, to help wrap. Big Purple is now a 16.5' black burrito and will gaze longingly at the pond next to our house in Boston, for the next year:
We've had some epic times together recently, but now it's time for me to do a year of terrestrial wandering in the Netherlands! I was going to say "drier wandering" but then reminded myself of the weather forecast. It's even hard to say "terrestrial" when most of the country is below sea level. Hey, maybe it won't be that different.
Flight departs for Iceland this evening, where my mom and stepdad will stay for the week. We'll go look at some puffins for a few hours before I get on my flight to Amsterdam!
I reviewed my first blog post, in which I set some tangible paddling goals. I met the first two by the end of 2010 (paddle 100 miles and paddle on each of the Finger Lakes). The 3rd goal was postponed indefinitely (paddling the 40-mile length of Cayuga Lake in a day). The 4th goal (kayak in lots of places) is ongoing and a bit undefined, so let's call that a success: check!
In commemoration, here are some updated goals for the rest of 2014:
1. A couple months ago Alice and I set a goal to paddle together 15 times before I left for Europe. It's pretty ambitious since Alice is leaving for a month on Friday. So far we've done 7 in 2014 (Berkeley, Red Rock, Estero Americano, Out-the-Gate, Whiskeytown Lake, Lewiston Lake, Sea Glass Beach). We have some upcoming paddles but we'll definitely be cutting it close!
2. Paddle 100 miles before leaving on my roadtrip (described below). This will be easy since I'm already at 85...
3. Paddle in 10 new places in 2014, including at least once in the Netherlands.
4. Get involved in sea kayaking in the Netherlands.
Starting July 19th, I'm embarking on a 23-day road trip up the west coast to the San Juan Islands and then east through the Great Lakes to Boston. I won't put too many details here, but stay tuned for much more blogging later this summer! Here's a list of the places I'm hoping to paddle:
I haven't been a very good blogger lately... or kayaker for that matter. That's what school and working at the kayak shop do to you. At least I can be optimistic that when I graduate and have a 9-5 job I'll have more time to paddle!
Now that I'm back in Ithaca, Ben and I made it out on Monday morning for a solid paddle around the south end of Cayuga. A little under 9 miles. The weather was very eerie, with the sun shining through dark clouds that continuously passed over our heads. The strange lighting made it feel like the world was about to end. But we paddled through the random drizzles anyways...
No pictures... I was lazy. No map because I'd just be reposting one of the previous maps. Sorry, lame post! This weekend I'll be helping Rob teach the COE Fall All Staff Training sea kayaking seminar, so that should be fun.
I found out today that my master's project will have to do with developing a method to calculate stream flow in the inlet channels to Cayuga lake. Right now they have various ways of estimating the flow based on flow measurements upstream, but they want a way to do it more accurately right in the inlet. My adviser even suggested that I might get to take a small boat (i.e. kayak) back and forth across the channel to measure the flow. I'll post more info when I find out more about it!
Having done little else besides kayaking over the past few weeks, I have decided that it is time to start keeping track of the facts (dates/location/distance/etc.) and exciting discoveries/adventures I encounter along the way. Let me introduce you to: www.nakedkayaker.com!
A few of my goals:
This is a blog about exploring the outdoors (mostly by kayak), traveling, trip planning, and coastal engineering. It currently focuses on kayaking in the Netherlands and Belgium, but previous posts cover Upstate New York, California, and much more. See the Complete List of Blog Posts for a history of the site. Looking for something specific? Search the site here.
In addition to the blog, check out the Water Nerd section, where I write about coastal engineering and hydrology.
Email updates on new blog posts, about once per month.
Click the "Read More" link at the bottom of each summary for more photos, to see an interactive map of the route, and to read about the adventure.
Maps in each blog post: Click the icons to learn more about the launch site (amenities) and destinations. Click the square in the bottom-left corner to see an aerial photo behind the route.