Little surprises in the lagoon

Today’s paddle became rather special, for a number of reasons.

I started in the afternoon after a morning’s hard work at the internet café. Their coffee is appallingly good, but paddling need to be done.

First thing, I encountered the first paddler ever in the lagoon, except of course Marco who always complains that nobody else paddles in Venice. Apparently he’s wrong. Somebody has been rummaging in the old shed to find grandpa’s old kayak and paddle. Nice guy, though, and he enjoyed his paddle just as much as I did.

Paddler in the lagoon

The plan was to paddle to Torcello, and on the way I got entangled in a maze of little channels in the lagoon, from where I got my first close view of Torcello.

Torcello seen from the lagoon

Lo and behold, there was another paddler! The lagoon was positively swarming with paddlers today. Another grandpa boat, obviously, but he had good fun too. Its not what you have, its what you do with it that matters.

Another paddler in the lagoon

Finally I arrived at Torcello, unfortunately too late to enter and see the church inside. That’ll be another time.

Torcello close up

The island of Torcello also has it’s little pretty corners.

Detail from Torcello

Passing Burano on my way back, it once again surprised me with its multitude of colours. Every house is different, every corner turned is a new experience.

Burano always surprises

Yet another little display of vivid colour at Burano. This corner is near the main square of the village.

More Burano colours

On my way back, as I’m starting to hurry not to be caught by darkness, I paddled into the most astonishing sunset. The low sun over the placid waters in the lagoon was spectacular.

Lagoon sunset

Another sunset shot, taken on the east coast of the island of Sant’Erasmo.

More lagoon sunset

I managed to get back to the Lido just after sunset so I didn’t have to cross the busy entrance of the lagoon in darkness.

Most embarrassingly, when I returned to the bridge in front of the camping, I slipped on the steps and fell in the water, just in front of a local fisherman. He helped me up and asked politely if it was the first time I fell in the water that day 🙂

The new Skim Distance

Skim Distance on a cloudy day

I had the new Skim Distance out for a short paddle today. The colours of the boat are beautiful, but the weather was a bit dark and cloudy. That’ll be better in Sicily and Sardinia 🙂

Each time I try the Distance, I’m surprised how manoeuvrable it is, in spite of its considerable length.

Escape Kayak Centre, Göteborg

Kalle, Peter and Johan at Escape Kayak CentreAfter the Stockenträffen in Orust, Sweden, Wendy and I went to Göteborg with Sara and Johan from Escape Kayak Centre. Wendy has agreed to do her Newfoundland presentation at Escape on Tuesday evening, so we had two whole days there.

Dubside who had been touring southern Sweden with Escape in the weeks up to the Stockenträffen, was still there for a few rolling classes.

Wendy and I stayed at the centre, sleeping upstairs on the floor, but while accomodation might have been a bit primitive, the kayaks and gear at our disposal were absolutely top class. Escape has a small fleet of Rockpool kayaks, and some NDK and Valley kayaks too, and if you need a paddle, there are both Werner and Superior Kayaks carbon paddles.

Escape is located in Frölunda just south of Göteborg, in a small leisure harbour. In front of Frölunda is a 5-6 km wide archipelago of small rock islands and skerries until it opens up to the sea. There is an amazing variation of paddling opportunities. It is the perfect area for daytrips or weekend outings.

Wendy fighting the windOn Monday we borrowed a couple of Rockpool boats for a short outing between the skerries. Wendy picked an Alaw Bach and I an Alaw. It was a very windy day, and the forecast warned of rain, so we didn’t plan for anything extensive. On our way out we had a force 5 headwind, Wendy almost got hit by a little ferry and it started to rain. We had expected a bit of easy paddling back with a good following wind, but as the rain stopped so did the wind. It was, non the less, a very nice day and a good little paddle.

We did some shopping for Tuesday’s trip, and then we all went to a local restaurant, with Sara, Johan, Dubside and the two Escape regulars Peter and Kalle.

Tuesday we left earlier for a daytrip. Wendy took the NSK Greenlander Pro again, so I got to try the Rockpool Alaw Bach again. It is such a wonderful little boat, a fiberglass invitation to play and have fun:-)

Paddling with sheepThe day was completely opposite the previous. Bright sunshine and little wind, so we had quite an easy paddle. We saw Eider ducks, Canada geese and herons. On our first break on a little beach we were greeted by a couple of sheep, and later we even paddled with sheep. How many can say they have done that? The man on the barge insisted that the sheep didn’t get sea sick 🙂

Our plan was to have lunch on the Greater Fox Island (Stora Rävholmen) where the skerries meet the sea, but we missed the bay we had been told was the best place for the stop. We did find a very nice place for our lunch anyway, carrying the kayaks up on the rocks.

Apparently, all the local paddles will head for Greater Fox Island on the first weekend of September for an informal weekend camping and paddling. Nobody organises it, people just show up.

Pretty little beach in the skerries off Göteborg.On our way back we found such a nice little beach we just had to stop for a bite of chocolate 🙂

We came back just as Dubside was on his way out for his rolling class. We had a quick dinner and started getting everything ready for Wendy’s presentation. Escape didn’t have a projector, and as they couldn’t find one to rent cheaply, Johan just bought an expensive one 🙂

I had never seen Wendy’s presentation of her Newfoundland journey before, and I was pleasantly surprised. Wendy is clearly a very talented, skilled and experienced presenter. Her presentation was clear, well organised, interesting and varied, and the audience of some twenty local paddlers clearly enjoyed it immensely, and the questions and answers session afterwards took much longer than the presentation. That is always a good sign 🙂

Wendy was just a shadow of herself :-)Wednesday morning we got up, packed our stuff and got a ride to the station so we could get back to Copenhagen. Unfortunately, my cappuccino consumption during the days in Stocken and at Escape had been way too low, so I just had to get a double cappuccino to go at the station, and hadn’t it been for Wendy, who threw her massive duffelbag in the automatic doors of the train, the train would have left un schedule without me and our cappuccinos. We did get quite the reprimand from the probably otherwise nice uniformed ladies on the train, but we were on board and so were our cappuccinos.

I must remember to bring my cappuccino gear with me to Sardinia and Sicily 🙂

More photos from our stay at Escape Kayak Centre.

Mondays paddle on Google Earth.
Tuesdays paddle on Google Earth.

Paddling home

Today I paddled home from the beach park. Almost as usual, somebody had taken my kayak for use in a beginners course at Kajakhotellet, so I had to settle for something else. First I laid my greedy eyes on a Skim Distance which I haven’t tried yet, but then someone pretending to be a buying customer showed up, and I had to give it back. I don’t know why we free riders must always suffer this discrimination in front of paying clients. It not fair.

The Skim Dex was in use too, and so was the Nigel Foster Legend, and the NDK Romany, and the NDK Explorer had the skeg in disorder, and being a free rider I didn’t fix it, so in the end I had to settle for a Nigel Foster Silhouette, which I have tried before. Life is hard sometimes.

Nigel Foster SilhouetteIt is a good kayak, though, but it doesn’t fit me very well. It has a very low foredeck which forces me to sit with my legs too stretched for my taste, and the two huge pieces of ham I call my thighs has to be stuffed under the thigh braces. The cramped position gave me an uneasy feeling, and though the boat has good primary stability and very good secondary stability, I didn’t quite feel good in it. I feel I have more lateral control when I sit in a position with my knees a bit raised.

Its a pity with Nigel Fosters designs. I have tried both the Legend and the Silhouette, and both are good boats, but neither fit me. In the Legend I feel like I’m sitting in a deep hole, because it has a rather high cockpit rim. I don’t like it when my ribs touches the cockpit sides when I edge or roll. The Silhouette is much lower around the cockpit, but the foredeck is too low for me and my legs.

Anyway, this was about my paddle home from the beach. The beach park is on the eastern side of the island of Amager, and I live at Islands Brygge on the western side, so I have to paddle some 5-6 km north along the Øresund coast, enter the harbour and paddle another 5-6 km south inside the harbour before I’m home. Well, almost home. I still have a 500m walk from the water.

The first part in the lagoon of the beach park and behind the island of Prøvestenen was quite nice and quiet. It was a bit cloudy, and bit windy, but nothing extreme. There weren’t too many people at the beach, since there was little sun.

I saw a funny wading bird with a long red beak, at the beach. I’ve never seen that kind before, so I’ll have to look it up. I also saw two ducks of a new type, maybe pintails because they has a little loose feather on the back of their heads. I’ll have to look them up too. Of course, they might just have been the few punk ducks that didn’t fit in the with the rest 🙂 Later I saw a flying Grey Heron. They’re very graceful in flight, though less so when they take a shit and almost hits you, as it happened the other day when I walked the dog.

Up at the wind farm at Lynetten, at the entrance to Magretheholm leisure harbour, there are usually a bit of waves. Today they were few and small, but the swells did give a bit of speed. Too bad I didn’t feel at ease in the boat. It did take a bit of the fun away.

The trip shown on Google EarthWhen I do this trip, I usually stop halfway to drink and each some chocolate. So I did today, only to discover two tugboats steaming towards me with something that resembled a piece of an offshore oil platform. I had to leave my chocolate on the spraydeck and paddle like a maniac to the other side of the harbour, where the big cruise ships are moored, to get out of the way.

Actually, I think I had the right of way because they approached on my left, but it didn’t quite seem like the occasion to insist.

Instead I had the pleasure of eating my now slightly salty chocolate just in front of the statue of The Little Mermaid, so all the tourists got a bright red kayak in the background of their holiday shots.

The rest of the trip was utterly eventless, like I’ve done it many times now.

The trolley I use for the final 500m home is this: Eckla Sea Kayak Cart

Saltholm, Flakfortet and the Wind Turbines

Saltholm with the Øresund Bridge in the backgroundToday’s paddle took me a bit around the strait of Øresund. I started at the shop,, and first I just planned to do on of the usual tours in the vicinity, but the sea was so calm and the sun was shining from a clear sky, so I changed plans and paddled to Saltholm, an islands about 6km east of the beach park, at Barakkebro, the only allowed approach on Saltholm at this time of year. Most of the island is a nature reserve for birds and seals, and all access to that area is restricted in the breeding season.

The leisure harbour at FlakfortetI then paddled north to Flakfortet, where I have never been before. I spent some time exploring the small island which is now a leisure harbour, and it was fairly crowded due the good weather.

Flakfortet is an artificial island made just before the first world war, as a part of the defences of Copenhagen. It is shaped like a horse shoe with an inner moat, so it can be circumnavigated both on the outside and on the inside. It was almost lost to looting and nature when the military left in the 60s, but survived when it was turned into a leisure harbour. Now there are a restaurant and a kiosk there, and it is a popular stop for leisure boaters.

The wind farm at MiddelgrundenFrom there I went back towards Copenhagen, to the wind farm at Middelgrunden. I zig-zagged down the line of wind turbines, listening to their different sounds. The sea was so calm you could see the reflection of the wind turbines in the water. It was actually quite fun to paddle in the middle of a modern power plant.

From the southernmost wind turbine I crossed back down to the entrance of the beach park and the shop, seeing nothing more exciting than an empty beer can floating in the water.

There are more photos from the trip on Flickr.

All in all, my little trip lasted three and a half hour and I paddled 24km. Below are the trip as rendered on Google Earth and the double circumnavigation of the huge island of Flakfortet 🙂

The trip shown on Google Earth The double circumnavigation of Flakfortet

One of the disadvantages of keeping one’s kayak at a shop is that it can be mistaken for a rental kayak. I have a bright yellow Valley Nordkapp PE, and most of the rental stuff at Kajakhotellet are Valley PE boats: Avocets, Aquanauts and some Nordkapps. As I was helping in the shop before my trip, a group mistook my boat for a rental kayak, and I let them do it. People come to the beach and rent kayaks to have a good time, not to have someone make them feel miserable because they took the wrong boat when there was so little left on the racks. I even helped them in the water.

One of the advantages of paddling from a kayak shop is that when someone mistakes you private kayak for rental gear, you can borrow some really great stuff instead. They have Valley, NDK, Skim Kayaks, Nigel Foster Design, Wilderness and much more. I grabbed a Skim Dex (with a keyhole cockpit) from the racks and had a great time.

Skim Dex

The Skim Dex is mostly a playboat. It is really responsive and very manoeuvrable, but it’s tracking is lousy unless you deploy the skeg. Then it tracks OK. If you forget the skeg, you’ll waste a lot of effort trying to go straight, especially if there’s a bit of waves. This is very different from my Nordkapp, which tracks reasonably well even without the skeg, but then, the Nordkapp is not quite as lively as the Dex.

The Skim boats have some really neat little details. The bulkhead behind the seat is slanted a bit so it is easier to empty the boat of water and it gives a little more room in the day hatch. It has two strong straps on the sides for paddle float rescues with handles for easy detachment of the paddle. Just behind the cockpit is has a recessed metal axel which can be used to locking the kayak to something, and with the rope clutch on the side it gives a central point of drag when towing, and a quick release mechanism for the rope.

Miraculously, I did not forget my sunscreen this time, so The Pink Paddler did not return, except for an odd shaped patch on my back. Apparently, my arms are too short.

I have very fair skin and must always be careful when exposing myself to the sun, but if I want to go kayaking I will expose myself to a lot of sun, so I try to get some sun, especially on my torso. The project is, so to say, to get rid of The Pale Paddler without inviting in The Pink Paddler 🙂

Thursday’s paddle

Every Thursday my local kayak shop has a come-along paddle, just for a few hours after work. It is free for all, but yesterday we were only five, two coaches, two aspirant coaches and a girl that helps in the shop.

We took one of the common trips, to the local lighthouse and back, which ended at 7 km. Quite eventless, really, no wind and no waves, but a nice social occasion. The only thing that happened was that a group had set up an ad-hoc race track just in front of the exit from the beach park, so we immediately ended up in the middle of a bunch of sailing boats, and we had to creep along the coast towards the airport to get out on open water.

I did get to try two kayaks I haven’t paddled before: the Nigel Foster Silhouette and the Skim Dex.

The Silhouette was a bit small for me. It has a very low foredeck and I could hardly squeeze my thighs under the thigh braces. It was a really tight fit for somebody my size. It left me sitting in a position with more stretched legs than I’m used to, and initially I felt I had less control over edging and turning than I wanted. After a while and a bit of paddling I got used to the boat and became more relaxed.

It is a fast kayak. With my “normal” paddling style it did at least a few extra kilometres per hour than I do in my Valley Nordkapp, which is normally considered a reasonably fast boat.

The Silhouette is very responsive, which I believe is what Nigel Foster intended. It edges well, very well once I got used to the cramped leg space, and it responds immediately to even a small edge. It tracks OK with the skeg deployed. I would have loved it if it had had a little more room for my legs and thighs, but the conclusion is that it is not a kayak for anybody of my size.

At the lighthouse I swapped kayak with one of the others, and I got over in a Skim Dex. Its the first time I try one of the Skim boats, and it immediately felt very nice, but that might have been because I had too little room for my legs in the Silhouette.

The Skim Dex is a brilliant kayak. It is the shorter of the Skim models, and it is very manoeuvrable. It has absolutely no rocker, but put on edge it turns on a dime. It too tracks well enough with the skeg down, but neither of these boats are for expeditions. They are for playing and day trips.

Saltholm, Seals and Sea Lanes

A few weeks ago we got our Reed Paddle Suits, and we had to try them immediately. The weather was nice and calm – there wasn’t a wind blowing and wave height were to be measured in centimeters – so we decided to skip over the island of Saltholm a few kilometres off the coast of Amager.

Saltholm is so close by, but since it is so flat (highest point is 3m above sea level) and it is a few kilometres distant, you can’t really see from the beach. And yet, it is just over there.

The trip over there was almost eventless. No wind, no waves so we just paddled and chatted along. At the edge of the sea lane we halted. Some fairly large commercial freighters pass there, and they’re far faster then us, so its important not to overestimate the distance and believe you can pass in front of them. Often you cannot.

Ship passing in the sea lane

In a kayak you’ll normally paddle 5-10 km/h, the equivalent of 3-6 knots, but the ships out there can often do 20-30 knots. They’re a lot faster than you’d expect, and the speed seems even less when they’re heading directly towards you.

We waited for the ship we could see up north at the wind turbines at Middelgrunden. When it was in front of us we moved forward and passed a few hundred meters behind it, where we caught a little ride on the swells it made. They must have been about 1.5m.

The waters around Saltholm are very shallow. There are less then 2m water in a wide area all around the island, and once we had entered that area there were no other traffic than a few speedboats. Since there are many huge boulders just under the surface most boats keeps a modest speed.

We paddled to a low bridge straight east of Amager Beach Park, called “lusebro”, the Lice Bridge 🙂 We had to drag the boats in the last 15-20m because the water became too shallow for paddling. The bridge was stoney and rough but we found a platform to sit on, and we took out our storm kitchen to make hot coffee and chocolate, which we enjoyed with biscuits and chocolate.

Our kayaks at Saltholm

Saltholm really is flat. You could see Malmoe in Sweden straight across the island and the only visible feature are some low hills with trees. There are a few houses over there, and a real boat bridge named Barakkebro further north. It is the only place on the island where larger boats can legally approach.

In the sping and summer Saltholm is mostly closed to visitors. It is a breeding ground for a lot of sea birds, one of the major breeding grounds in the Øresund area, and it is illegal to land on the island from first in April to mid June, so the birds won’t be disturbed. In that period only Barrakkebro and the northernmost part of the island can be approached.

Strange stones in the water

On our way back we noticed at lot of stones in the water, but strangely they moved around. Some changed shape, some grew and others diminished. Many smaller stones would appear, only to disappear after a while and reappear elsewhere.

As we came close we discovered that they weren’t stones, but boulders with seals on top. They were sun bathing until we disturbed them. The smaller movable stones were seal heads keeping a keen eye on all our movements. We gathered and stopped paddling, and the seals came a bit closer to inspect us, and more joined them. At last we had 8-10 seals around us, but they always kept a safe distance. They watched us and we watched them.

The seals by the kayakIt was a fantastic surprise to meet so many seals there. I had read that there were seals at Saltholm, but I expected them to be on the other side, away from the coast, where they would be more secluded.

After a while we had to say goodbye to the seals. We were drifting and got too close to the sea lane again with the risk of unpleasant close encounters with huger boats.

The sea lane is, where we passed it, marked with large coloured buoys. They must be some 3m in diameter and some 5-6m in height. Closest to Amager they are green, in the middle orange and white and towards Saltholm red. Southbound traffic moves in the rightward lane, closest to Amanger, between the green and white/orange buoys, while northbound traffic moves on the Saltholm side, between the red and white/orange buoys.

The buoys are so big they can be seen on the satelite images of Google Maps. Here are the red, the white/orange and the green buoy which we passed on our return across the sea lane

Saltholm is close and it is not hard to getthere, but we have to respect that it is not our island and that it is a natural reserve. You can read about the rules for visiting Saltholm at the site of Skov- og naturstyrelsen (Danish). In brief, you can go there most of the year, except April-June, and you have to maintain a safe distance from the southern end of the island, the areas called Koklapperne and Svaneklapperne.

I brought a GPS unit. Here is our trip as rendered on Google Earth.

The trip shown on Google Earth