For our first destination, I present you: the Bay of Islands, in the northern tip of New Zealand (-35 deg N)...
Sooooo I never mentioned it ahead of time, but Henk and I just spent a month in New Zealand!! Get ready - for those of us who have (gradually and begrudgingly) become accustomed to Dutch scenery, it may take a bit of adjusting to the crazy beautiful, varying, dramatic scenery of New Zealand. We went paddling three times, so I'm planning to share three posts with you, and I'll sneak in some of my favorite non-kayaking photos at the end of each post.
For our first destination, I present you: the Bay of Islands, in the northern tip of New Zealand (-35 deg N)...
I finally did it! I went sea kayaking in the Netherlands. For the last ~3 years I've been enjoying the vast network of inland rivers and canals that the Netherlands and Belgium have to offer. But without my own boat and a group of skilled paddlers nearby, sea kayaking has been just out of reach.
It felt particularly meaningful when I realized this was also the first time I'd been kayaking on either the Oosterschelde or the Westerschelde. The last sentence of my personal statement for Fulbright - the research grant that brought me to Europe in the first place - was "Enabled by my fluent Dutch, I also look forward to hearing the perspectives of local sea kayakers intimately familiar with the Dutch waterways, while riding the tides of the Oosterschelde and Westerschelde." Though it came 3 years late, it went exactly how I'd hoped. Even better, because if you'd dropped me in a group of Dutch kayakers (with their Dutch accents) 3 years ago, I wouldn't have understood anything!
On top of all that, this ended up being my longest kayaking trip ever (just barely)...
I start a new job tomorrow! So I've committed myself to finishing this blog post, since new jobs have a way of taking over. The past five weeks have been a whirlwind between jobs. I went to the US for almost two weeks, moved into my new apartment in Rotterdam (more on that later!), and spent a week adventuring in Mallorca! A good friend of mine, Inma, moved to Mallorca a couple months ago. With her apartment in Palma as a convenient home base, I hopped on buses every morning to explore different sides of the island... Read on to hear about this kayaking oasis!
Are you longing for warm, sunny beaches and bright, colorful scenery? Then the Canary Islands are the place to be in January/February, when most of Europe is enveloped in darkness and drizzle. While the availability and quality of rental kayaks are limited (at least on La Gomera and Tenerife), the perfect weather and gorgeous views make sit-on-top kayaks bearable. Read on for more colorful shots!
After starting out the weekend with a fantastic cabrewing tour of Lauwersmeer, it was rise-and-shine at 6am on Sunday for a truly Dutch adventure: WADLOPEN. Wad = mudflat, lopen = walking (in Dutch. In Flemish it means running, which would have been ridiculous). While I've done my fair share of mudflat walking as part of my job in California and the Netherlands, I've never attempted it in a recreational way. We put on our rainbow basketball shoes and trudged 16km across bare mudflat to get to Schiermonnikoog, the easternmost Frisian Island in the Netherlands.
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.
Les Calanques is a 20-km stretch of coast between Marseille and Cassis on the Mediterranean coast of France. The coastline features steep white limestone cliffs interspersed by narrow inlets backed by secluded cobble beaches (only accessible by boat). In July, Emily, Alice, and I went for an afternoon kayaking trip to check out the calanques of Port Miou, Port-Pin, En-Vau, and L'Oule. Click to read more!
It's always been one of my dreams to ride along on a fishing boat and see fish being caught first hand. I just never expected this dream to manifest itself during one of my sea kayaking trips. This weekend it was accidentally realized when we found ourselves on a big fishing boat (sea kayaks on top), plowing through the waves of the English Channel towards Les Iles Chausey - a beautiful archipelago (52 islands at high tide, 365 at low tide) about an hour boat ride from Granville in Normandy.
Monday morning we “slept in” and made a dinner-breakfast of spaghetti with tomato sauce, supplemented with mushrooms and chard – yum! Sara and I packed up our tents and left camp earlier than the rest of the crew. Everyone else was headed back to Anacortes later that morning, but we were headed to Orcas Island to continue the second half of our San Juan Islands trip. Even after multiple calls to the Southwest Airlines baggage counter (at 3 different airports), there was no indication that Sara’s two checked bags would be delivered, so we headed into Friday Harbor to replace some of the lost items. A 45-minute shopping spree later, Sara was the proud owner of some new chacos, underoos, paddling gloves, and other items. We made the usual stops for water, ice, and coffee before boarding the inter-island ferry.
Another (attempted) early start! At 6:50am (only 20 minutes late) we departed the campsite, made a quick-ish coffee stop in Friday Harbor, and continued to our second San Juan Island kayaking destination: Haro Strait. This strait runs along the west side of San Juan Island and is known as the best location for orca whale sightings. The main public put-in site is at Smallpox Bay in San Juan County Park, which is apparently where a number of Native Americans plunged into the icy cold water to rid themselves of smallpox and instead died of pneumonia...
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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