Homeward bound

Cold day on the motorwayI’m on my way north now. I left Palermo Sunday evening with the ferry to Naples, from where I went by motorbike to Rome. The crossing was eventless, the ferry mostly empty. The ferry arrived in Naples early, around 6:30, and I was on the motorway before seven, as the sun rose over the Appenines. It was quite pretty, but also very cold. I had to stop every half hour to warm my hands with some coffee in the Autogrills along the way.

I’m staying with some very dear friends whom I haven’t seen for several years now. Now is the time to make up for that error of omission.

It is also the time to change tires on the motorcycle, which means that I will stay here in Rome at least until Friday morning.

Leaving Sardinia

I’m in Palermo now.

FertiliaI spent a couple of days in Fertilia, first to make up my mind, then to figure out what to do with all the gear I had there. The first night I slept in the open near the harbour where I had the kayak in sight. At that point I hadn’t decided to stop yet.

Monday morning I made my decision to stop and started thinking about all the practical matters of it.

The largest problem was the kayak. I had to be doubly sure about it because it isn’t really mine. It is on loan from Skim Kayaks in Sweden. It was sitting on a ramp in the little harbour of Fertilia and nobody complained about it. I made sure to go there regularly and be seen, so the people of the harbour had a chance to complain and so they could see it wasn’t just abandoned there.

Francesco MuntoniI first tried to contact Costantino Lifrieri which we had met at Capo Falcone a few days earlier, but he was abroad. I then found the numbers for Francesco Muntoni, owner of Cardedu Kayaks which organises excursions on the east coast of Sardinia. Francesco came to to Fertilia the same evening to pick up the kayak. We loaded it on his car and had a pleasant evening over a pizza and a glass of wine.

Should anybody want to paddle for some days in Sardinia, contact Francesco at cardedukayak@tiscali.it. He knows his coastline to the last underwater rock, and he has kayaks and equipment for groups up to ten persons, all you need to bring is your beach clothes.

Alghero city walls towards the seaSince the ferry from Cagliari to Palermo only departs weekly, on Fridays, I had plenty of time. I therefore stayed one more day in Fertilia, packed and organised my gear without hurry, walked the 6 km to Alghero where I had a nice time. Alghero is a very nice little place, a Catalan city transplanted in Sardinia. Until about 100 years ago people still spoke a Catalan dialect, and the street signs are still bilingual.

Wednesday I had everything ready for departure. It is amazing how much you can fit into a kayak. All packed up I had three big IKEA bags with camping gear, paddling gear, normal clothes, photo equipment and other electronics and all the loose stuff.

Train from Alghero to SassariI took a taxi from Fertilia to Alghero station, which was a very small place. So was the train. Fortunately, so was the ticket price too 🙂 The baby train took me to Sassari, from where I had to take another train to Cagliari. That train look more like a real train.

I had expected to have the train almost for myself. Just how many people are supposed to travel from one end of Sardinia to the other on a Wednesday afternoon? Quite a few, I discovered. I had forgot about the dead.

Thursday November 1st is the day of the dead. It is a holiday in Italy and most people will visit their family tombs. With Thursday off, everybody would then “fare il ponte”, meaning they would take Friday off too and have a nice long holiday. So, I traveled just before a four day weekend and of course the train was absolutely stuffed. Good thing I got on board early with all my stuff so I didn’t have to do my four hours in train with three full IKEA bags on my lap.

Nuraghe seen from train at MarcomerI did have a nice ride, though. I chatted with an elderly lady who got off at San Gavino, and with a woman from San Domenico who got off a bit earlier. I also saw several Nuraghe along the way, especially around Marcomer where there are over 200 of them according to one person on the train.

My phone died on the train. Costantino called me on the train, and the battery just went dead in the middle of our conversation. It did present me with a small problem. I was supposed to call Francesco Ravasio of Cagliari on my arrival. He would pick me up at the station, so I could get my motorcycle which was parked at his home. Without my phone I couldn’t contact him and he couldn’t contact me. We’d never met before and didn’t know how to recognise each other.

On the station of Cagliari I stopped in the bar, had a beer with Tony and Tonino who had helped carry all my gear, and asked if I could recharge my phone there for a moment. “Eh beh, ma, sorry, but we cannot, no”. I went on the search for another place to nourish my phone. The station is rather small, but after a while I found the station chapel open, and there was an outlet just besides the altar, so I sat down in the chapel, charged my phone and wrote a bit in my diary. When the priest came to ready for mass at 8, I had a chat with him but left before mass to meet Francesco.

Francesco came in his small BMW Smart. It is a very small car, my three IKEA bags hardly entered, and we had to drive with the rear door open because my Avatak paddles were too long to fit in. When we arrived at his home he just parked it across on half a parking space.

Francesco RavasioI had a very pleasant two days in Cagliari. I stayed in a hotel, my phone ran out of money and wouldn’t accept new payments and the hotels wifi-service was abysmal. I did, however, have a splendid time with Francesco. I had all my gear at his place, we had dinner together both evenings, once in the very good Trattoria del Porto, and we went paddling together at Poetto and Capo Sant’Elio. Wendy and I had passed there on the very first day of our trip, but in rougher weather. This day was completely calm and we could paddle right under the sandstone cliffs.

Francesco Ravasio’s stripbuild P&H Sirius replicaFrancesco has been paddling for over 20 years, as one of the very first sea kayakers in Sardinia. He also has a knack for working wood, and he has made an exact replica of his P&H Sirius, strip built. It is quite a marvel, and it paddles very well 🙂 I was a bit amazed that he would let me paddle it, but he was glad to see it used, he insisted.

My ferry departed on Friday evening. I packed up all my gear on the motorbike, except the paddles which Francesco drove to the harbour for me. We were just in time. I got my ticket less than an hour before departure (one of the advantages of driving a motorcycle – there’s always room for one more on the ferry), and embarked less than half an hour before.

The ferry crossing was utterly boring and eventless.

Just another day in the lagoon

Today I went paddling in the lagoon with my Venetian friend Marco and his friend Damien from Padova. We didn’t have any particular plans, just paddle and have fun.

Here’s Damien in his rusty old kayak

Damien

And here’s Marco in the Current Design Solstice that Wendy is going to paddle around Sardinia (Marco has a weakness for playing with lagoon mud 🙂

Marco

Here Marco is having a lot of fun throwing mud at Damiens kayak

Its some thick yucky stuff and Damien isn’t amused but cannot retaliate because Marco is paddling a borrowed kayak. Dirty tricks in the lagoon, literally.

I just got stuck in the sticky stuff

The tide in the lagoon was exceptionally low today

Marco and Damian had a romantic moment in front of Burano

Then some lagoon pirates came along, playing loud music

Marco chased them off with his paddle, but the mood was ruined anyway

At the end, just at the entrance to the lagoon, we met this really cool guy

in an incredible good looking boat

Any good day in the lagoon will end with a sunset and so did this

Camping San Nicolò

I’m still stuck in Venice waiting for documents and credit cards so I can continue my journey. Naturally, it’s a downer being stuck somewhere when you expected to be somewhere else, but there are worse places to be stuck than on the Lido of Venice.

Camping San Nicolò, bar and reception with banana palmI’m staying at the Camping San Nicolò at the northern end of the Lido. While it is formally only a one star camping, it is still one of the very best camping sites I have ever stayed in.

The owner, Paolo, and his assistants Tatiana and Natasha are all smiles and helpfulness, and the site itself is more like a garden than a camping. There are pomegranates, bananas, grapes and a plethora of other plants I can’t recognise.

Camping San Nicolò, pomegranate and bananaThe sanity facilities are basic, but always clean. There’s a fridge free to use, a large tent to sit in, a little bar for a coffe or a drink. They rent out bikes for a few euros so it’s easy to get around on the Lido.

Often the little things make a large difference. It is such a luxury taking a shower without having to worry that the time will run out just has you have shampoo in your hair. When living in a tent, having a fridge in the camping is huge. It means you can buy milk and cheese.

Having stayed there for over a week I haven’t got one bad thing to say about the place. It might have just one star in the public books but it has five stars in my book.

Camping San Nicolò Camping San Nicolò Camping San Nicolò, my tent and tarp

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.

Stockenträffen

Wendy and I are just back from the annual Stockenträffen in Sweden. We went there on Thursday afternoon with Freya Hoffmeister in her huge van. The weather forecast had promised force 5-6 winds and regular showers, but fortunately we only got the former.

Freya’s (S)ExplorerWe had arranged for kayaks from Escape Kayak Centre in Gothenborg, but as they only arrived there late friday we borrowed some of Freya’s boats. She has way too many anyway 🙂 It really was very kind of her, and much appreciated. Wendy got to paddle Freya’s unique Rockpool Underground prototype, and I borrowed Freya’s famous black NDK (S)Explorer, which she had used around Iceland this summer.

The little town of Stocken sits in the middle of an extended archipelago of small and large rock islands. We did a short paddle of a couple of hours to Gullholmen and back, but we stayed in the more sheltered waters as the Rockpool Underground is really a rolling boat and way too tippy to take to open sea in strong winds.

Erik Sjöstedt from SwedenLater friday afternoon when Sara and Johan from Escape Kayak Centre arrived with Dubside, we helped unload all the boats. Escape is one of the very few Rockpool dealers in this world, and they had several Alaws, a couple of Menai 18s and a single Alaw Bach on their trailer.

Saturday we didn’t go paddling. We chatted with people in the camping, and met several interesting persons, like Erik Sjöstedt from Sweden, who brought us some very nice T-shirts from his little online shop. We also took a nice long walk on the rocks around the camping, but almost got blown away by the quite strong winds.

Freya “Lost in Iceland”The symposium dinner was on Saturday evening. After the dinner we enjoyed Freya’s presention on hers and Greg Stamers circumnavigation of Iceland last month. Freya sported a very nice “Lost in Iceland” shirt, quite in line with the rather eventful start of their journey. After the presentation Wendy and I had a very nice little talk with Göran Pehrson from Skim Kayaks.

Sunday we went paddling again. Wendy paddled a NDK Greenlander Pro we borrowed from Escape, and I paddled one of the Skim Distances Göran Pehrson had with him to the symposium. Water front caféWe kept to the more quiet waters between the many little islands as the winds were still rather strong, but we had a very nice day on the water. On a beach we found the weirdest little café in a solitary house on the coast of Härmanö. We were astonished, but later we discovered that all the local boaters knew it well and came there often by boat.

Sunday evening we left together with Sara, Johan and Dubside, heading for Escape Kayak Centre just south of Göteborg, where we would stay the next few days.

More photos from Stockenträffen ’07 on Flickr.

Friday’s paddle on Google Earth
Sunday’s paddle on Google Earth

Venice for paddlers

Paddling in Venice

Tomorrow I’m off for Venice for a week’s paddling. I’ve never paddled in Venice before, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll be going with my friend Jes. Marco from Venice will pick us up at the airport, and he has kindly agreed to lend us two of his kayaks for the week. Marco will attend the 10 Elba Mare Maratona in the weekend, after which he will join us in Venice for the rest of our stay there.

Kayaking in the canals of VeniceWe’ll be paddling in the Adriatic Sea, in the lagoon of Venice and in the city itself. I’ll post pictures and details as soon as I’m back.

The weather forecast for Venice is wonderful. Sunny, clear sky, 25-30° C during the day, 20° C in the night, and moderate winds, 4-6 m/s. Some forecasts indicate the possibility of occasional thunderstorms, so I’ll bring my jacket and my Tilley hat.

I’m organising a trip to Venice in september, in collaboration with Kajakhotellet.dk in Denmark and the sea kayaking coach Marco Ballarin in Venice. We’ll be staying in a camping, Marco will organise rental of kayaks and other gear, and Kajakhotellet will take care of booking and payment and provide additional coaches.

Kayaking in VeniceThe trip is planned for September 10-15, and participation is open to all. The price has not been set yet, that is in part what this week in Venice is about, but it will include camping, kayak and other gear, coaches and guides fluent in English, Italian and Danish, and a welcome dinner. The price does not include air fare to and from Venice, as we do not know where the participants will come from. It will be possible to extend the stay in Venice by appointment with the camping and Marco.

If you’re interested in coming to Venice to paddle in September, then drop me a note at rene@seindal.dk, and I will make sure you receive updates by email when we have a price, a more detailed programme and booking information.

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.