Giethoorn is an adorable and quaint town way up north in the Netherlands - almost in Friesland. As you can see in the photo above, it's a dense network of channels, footbridges (180!), and thatch-roofed houses that can often only be reached by boat or on foot. The locals (about 3000 of them) travel over their personal bridges and on punters (boats you push along with a stick, like in Venice). I'd visited this town a few times before (it's a 15 minute bike ride from HJ's parents' house) but never floated along its canals. Until now!
I recently went through the exercise of contacting a bunch of kayak rental places in Belgium (and nearby) to see if they rent kayaks in winter. Here's what I found, in case you're also having a wintery kayak craving. If I've missed any rental shops, I would love to hear from you! You can contact me here.
I received a funny range of answers when I contacted the various shops, spanning from "of course we do!" to "of course we don't!". I understand both of these responses, as a renter unfamiliar with cold weather paddling can be quite a safety hazard, but kayaking is awesome so we should still do it in the winter.
I've mapped all the rental shops that I could find below, with symbols representing whether or not they provide rentals in the winter! Click on an icon to see the name, address, and website of the shop.
Green = Open for rentals in winter
Yellow = Limited winter rentals (group size minimum or limited days)
Red = No winter rentals (most closed November - March)
White = Unknown (contacted, no response yet)
Disclaimer: This summary is based on email conversations that I had with various kayak rental companies in early December, 2015. Please contact a company or check their website to confirm the details if you are planning to rent. Also, if you're planning to paddle in winter, make sure you're dressed for immersion and always wearing a PFD. Paddle safe!
Update (May 2016): I've now added all the kayak rental shops I can find in Belgium. There are still quite a few to be added in the Netherlands. If you know of a good kayak rental shap that is not shown here, please send me their website!
Map of kayak rentals in Belgium and the Netherlands
Click the icons for more information.
Utrecht is a big city located in the middle of the Netherlands. It's rich in culture - apparently second only to Amsterdam - and a central point for transportation. With a student population of 30,000, it's definitely a lively college town. As we paddled through the city, we saw many bikes dangling perilously over the canal, held only in place by their locks...
Alwin (fellow member of the Windhappers kayak club) and I spent Thursday afternoon kayaking around the city of Leiden. I haven't been to Leiden before, so I'm happy I got to visit before my departure from the Netherlands in a week. It's similar to Delft in size and ambiance - a small city surrounded and divided by canals, with many old buildings lining its narrow streets.
Nestled in the southwest corner of Delft lies Abtswoudse Bos. It's part of the Lage Abtwoudsche polder, which is on average 10 feet below sea level (it's surrounded by dikes). Contrary to it's name, which means something like "Foresty forest," Abtswoudse Bos is considered "land art," with grids of trees interspersed by well-manicured lawns. A massive Moeder Aarde (Mother Earth) is sculpted into the landscape - her body and limbs made out of elongated hills. She is easily identified in the air photos (see the Google Map at the bottom of this post). On Saturday, eight U.S. Fulbrighters in the Netherlands convened in Delft for a successful kayaking outing on an incredibly windy day.
The Biesbosch is a national park in the Netherlands, located about 30 minutes (drive) southeast of Rotterdam. On Sunday, Henk Jan and I hopped in the Beast (his 400k mile Volvo) and drove down to the Biesbosch for a day of kayaking. The Biesbosch is best explored by boat, since it consists of endless channels that weave around low-lying islands. The Biesbosch has a long history of inhabitants and water management. I'll tell you about that at the end of this post. We spent about 5 hours paddling through the channels, ending up with a solid 11-mile paddle for Henk Jan's first time in a kayak...
Water nerd alert! No kayaking in this post.
One year after the deadly floods of 1953, which killed over 1,800 people, the Dutch began construction on the Delta Works - the largest flood protection system ever constructed. The "Delta Works" generally refers to 13 storm surge barriers (stormvloedkeringen) and dams (dammen) constructed between 1954 and 1997.
In a previous post, I described the Maeslantkering, which was the final barrier completed. Yesterday, Henk Jan and I went on a roadtrip through the provinces of South Holland and Zeeland to visit 3 more structures: Haringvlietsluizen, Brouwersdam, and the Oosterscheldekering. Read on...
[I wrote this post back in January 2015, but I keep it updated each time I learn something new! I will add sailing terms soon!]
While I consider myself a fairly fluent Dutch (/Flemish) speaker, I was surprised at my limited kayaking vocabulary when I first joined the Windhappers kayaking club last September. It's hard to convince someone that you're a competent paddler when they ask you if you know how to do a boogslag (sweep stroke) and you return a blank stare. In the same vein, many of the otherwise-fluent English speakers did not recognize the English terms that I offered up in an effort to reach a mutual understanding.
So, to shrink this gap in communication for myself and anyone else in the same boot, I put together this list of common kayaking and canoeing terms. A big thanks to Tim, Leon, Sytse, Eric, and Jan of the Windhappers for helping me translate the more challenging words. It's a work in progress. Please contact me if you find an error or have suggested additions. Click Read More to see the list of terms!
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.
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