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The North Sea Crossing 2018

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

After my previous record back in 2015, I had no idea that I would go for a second attempt, but the past year the sea began to call again.

I waited together with a Spanish team last year (2017) on perfect weather, with no success.  It was only this summer, after waiting a few months, that I saw an opportunity.

I had also contact with Eddie and Jens, a German team that had the ambition to attempt to cross the North Sea. We shared information and knowledge.  We agreed to stay in contact and start together if possible.  They would make the same trajectory as I did in 2015.

So, we got together during the night in Nieuwpoort harbour on Wednesday 1st of August 2018. Both the German team and I had made practically the same navigational planning and we wished each other success.  I must say that it was an honour to depart together with them.  I said goodbye to my wife and children.  My wife Sylvie is my support team and keeps keep contact with Oostende Radio on the Belgian side, and Dover Coast Guard on the UK side.  Both services were informed properly about our intentions.

At 01 o’clock (local time), I started from the slipway at Nieuwpoort harbour, Belgium. I had some light from the full moon.  I started at a pace I could keep up for hours without stopping or resting.  When I left the safety of the harbour, all stress was away, I felt alive!  Although it was too dark to see a thing, I knew my way around.  This first part was a home run in my backyard so to speak.  I chose to leave at this hour because of the tidal stream.  I wanted the stream against me during the first six hours.  I rather have it along the Belgian coast where it less powerful (but not to be mistaken) than on the UK side, where it is almost double the speed.  I passed the Trapegeer buoy when the stream was still building up against me.  Between here and the next buoy, the DY1, is a real battle.  A battle against the tide, a battle against a shortage of sleep, and I must be alert for other ships who couldn’t see me.  During the night I had only a force 2 headwind.  I was relentlessly pushed back by the tidal stream and the wind during the very short breaks.  One of the things I enjoyed most was sunrise.  I took a very short break at that moment, so I could see the sun coming up.

When I finally arrived at the DY1 buoy it was almost slack water. Taking it easy now is not an option, since I need this advantage badly to reach the final section in time (also tidal stream related).  From the DY1 buoy, I hopped to the SE Ruytingen buoy and finally the NW Ruytingen buoy, where the international shipping lane starts.  I was there a bit too soon.  I set course to the WSW Sandettie buoy.  I saw that my speed was decreasing very much due to the stream that was still heading SW.  Soon I took the decision to deviate the planned route and head towards the Sandettie lightship.  The downside was that I crossed this part of the shipping lane at a sloping angle instead of as straight as possible.  I had no other choice, because my speed was almost gone too, which makes a straight crossing of the shipping lane in this case even more dangerous.  So, to the lightship it was!  Except for one sailing vessel, I did not pass any professional shipping on this section.  My speed increased and so I could take all the benefit I needed to go on.

When reaching the Sandettie lightship I was excited. I always had an interest in ships, beacons, buoys, and now this one was ticked off on my list.  The second thing I was excited about was that I could now see the white cliffs of Dover in the distance. The next buoy, SW Sandettie, was close and so was the second part of the shipping lane.  I was able to cross it straighter.  During the crossing of the shipping lane, I only saw two merchant ships, that was all.  Leaving the shipping lane behind it set course to the Goodwin lightship.  Also, not on my initial plan, but since I deviated I had to adapt.  There was very little tidal stream during this part, I could reach it without compensating a lot.  It was slack water, but a bit choppy due to the area I’m in, the Goodwin Sands.  I took a last break and I made a call with the VHF to the Dover Coast Guard to state my position and status.  In turn, they informed my wife (aka, the support team).

I knew from the previous time that the last section should be worse now due to the wind. The wind was increasing to force 3-4 from the side (WSW) and the current would soon pick up in the northerly direction.  So, I started heading to the harbour of Ramsgate, which I could not see at this point.  The waves were there all the time from this point on, due to the current pushing over the Goodwin Sands and the wind.  It decreases the much-needed speed to aim for the harbour.  The more I closed in on land, the harder the tidal stream was pushing from the port side.  With a lot of persistence, I reached Ramsgate harbour, finally!!  My wife and two children were there, waving and yelling.  I was relieved, happy, excited, exhausted and had a feeling that I could take on the whole world while being so tired that I could capsize in the blink of an eye, all at the same time.  Just to be correct, after greeting my family, I paddled on to the slipway.  It was only there that I switched off my GPS.  I had paddled 107 kilometres and spent 17hours and 48minutes doing so.  After taking a shower and eating a hot meal, we went back home by ferry.

My first time in 2015 was perfect, the weather was perfect, the sea was flat. This time the weather was good…  only good, not perfect. No kayaker talks about force 3 or 4 unless you’re on a mission like this one.  I could adapt, as I’m usually doing.  But the constant headwind in the first half and the portside wind on the last section took their toll.  I have no regrets, but I made it more difficult by crossing during these conditions.  Make no mistake, the sea is boss, you’re not.  Even with a lot of training and preparation, it’s the sea that will decide whether you’re ready for it, or not.

I wish to thank my family from all my heart for their continuously and unconditional support on all that I do or undertake! Were it not for them, I would not have done this.  Thank you, thank you!

Special thanks to the people from Ostend Radio (MRCC Oostende-Belgian Coast Guard) and Dover Coast Guard (UK) for virtually watching over me during the crossing, again!

The specifications:

Sea kayak: P&H Cetus MV (Expedition Kevlar/Carbon)

Paddles: VE Explorer (medium blades + spare paddle)

Full safety gear including VHF radio, PLB, pyrotechnical flare, ODEO flare, mobile phone, first aid kit, repair kit, paddle-float, pump…

The video report of this crossing:

 

Paddle safe and take care of each other on the water!

Dimitri Vandepoele

The Recap #2

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

In the Recap series we share our best cut scenes, experiences and other footage. If we can share the vibe with others and make other people longing to go out with a sea kayak on the water, than our mission has succeeded! 🙂 If you are not a sea kayaker already, maybe now is the time? There’s a wide range of things you can do with this craft, and some training. Most important of all, it’s all about the smiles and the companionship! Enjoy!

 

The Locks

Monday, January 8th, 2018

We must be a bit resourceful over here. It is not because we don’t have tidal races over here along the Belgian coast that we cannot train on breaking in and out of one.  Somewhere in the back of Nieuwpoort harbor there is a complex with different locks called the Ganzepoot (goose foot, because it looks like one when seen from the air).  In the periods with heavy rain there is too much water in the five adjacent canals and in the river Yser.  The locks are then opened a few hours before low tide, until a few hours after.  The amount of water that comes like an unstoppable force trough the locks is phenomenal.  It also makes a perfect practicing area for us, sea kayakers.  The different canals and locks have their own characteristics.  We always start our training on the slower flowing water, and then build up until we go on the Yser lock.  The Yser lock releases the most amount of water, at the highest speed.  We train on breaking in, and back out, of fast moving water.  You need a good angle of approach, some speed and a good lean-brace position.

The Trip

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

When we got a first email from Will and Beverly, from the North Skye Kayak Club in Scotland, we never imagined that we would have that much in common. They asked if they could join us on our training sessions along the Belgian coast to see how we are doing things, and also to meet the NORTHSEAKAYAK-team. We think that Scotland has sent out their most friendliest inhabitants, there was immediately a good connection between us! Upon their arrival in Belgium we chose to do a variety of training sessions in the four days of their stay. On the first day, we did an offshore trip to the marine farm in front of Nieuwpoort. We combined that with some rescue exercises along the way. The second and third day we did a typical “harbour-training” in Nieuwpoort. It’s a perfect venue to teach/learn a variety of skills. We did balance exercises, trained on self-rescue and assisted rescue techniques. With all the palisades, docks, mooring stations and boats it also makes a good spot to train on boat-control . We use them to paddle around in order to train the different steering strokes while being in a safe environment. We saved the best for last, the fourth and last day we had perfect surfing conditions. The swell was good, and the waves steep but not too high. We gave an explanation on the behaviour of the waves, the wave sets and how to paddle trough the surf and back. Being on a wave, gaining speed and rushing back to the beach is one of the most exciting things you can do with a sea kayak. We think that those smiles we got during the visit of our Scottish friends will stay on for a longer period of time. We hope to visit them in the future, on the beautiful Isle of Skye!!

Anglesey Stacks trip with P&H dealer Manu Redureau

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

On Sunday 27 August P&H dealer Manu Redureau, of Bekayak, Brest, France, joined me for a blast around the Stacks.  This trip also gave Manu the opportunity to try out the Delphin MKII Corelite X in rough water conditions.

Our journey took us from Porth Dafarch to North Stack and back – similar to the route shown below from the ‘Welsh Sea Kayaking: Fifty Great Sea Kayak Voyages’ book.  We enjoyed surf and rough water at Penrhyn Mawr, followed by some small surf at South Stack before lunch on the rocks in Gogarth Bay – the seal pupping season from August to November precluded us from using the beaches.  After lunch we returned to Porth Dafarch by closely following the coastline and exploring lots of channels, arches, caves and rock gardens.  The journey was both fun and a great work out.  Thanks for a great day out Manu!

Geth Roberts, www.seakayakingwales.com

Penrhyn Mawr

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South Stack

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Wen Zawn and Cathedral Arch

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A smaller Gogarth Bay arch

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Below Elen’s Castle

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Abraham’s Bosom

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The Sea Wanderers III

Monday, March 13th, 2017

I have a question. Why do you go paddling?  I asked myself that very same question years ago.  Years ago my answer was because of the sports, the adventure, the close contact with nature…  Now my answer has slightly changed.  I kept telling myself that I’m addicted to sea kayaking, that I needed the workout and the companionship of my teammates.  That is maybe not the whole truth.  Those reasons are merely a cover up for what is maybe the real reason.  I’m addicted to the sea…  Do you think that a fisherman sails the seas his whole life just to catch fish…?  It’s that attraction I think….  That counts for us also.  We are sea wanderers!  We love to be in the salt water, for so called rescue drills!  Yeah right!  While sea kayaking we spend perhaps more time in the water than in our craft.  And the smiles, that’s an extra!

Pollution (Plastic Soup – Marine Litter)

Monday, February 27th, 2017

As a sea kayaker I’m often confronted with pollution. On my many trips I encounter a variety of marine litter. The things I recover the most are balloons, Styrofoam, fishing nets, toys (especially during the summer months), plastic bags, tin cans and bigger things. I’m hoping to convince others to take the initiative of collecting garbage, and to put it where it belongs; in the bin! I know I’m not alone, I’m certainly not the only one doing this on a regular base, but there’s much work to be done. We also have to change our mind set and way of life. We have to stop using that amount of plastic in our daily lives. I made this video with the footage of years filming and photographing, in order to shove it under the noses of those who are thinking that there is nothing wrong! We have to take care of our playground, it’s full of life and beauty. The only thing that is missing sometimes is the will to act! So don’t think, but DO!

 

Wetwork 5

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

This is the fifth “Wetwork” video that we have made so far. We want to take you with us on open water, surf sessions and other stuff that can make you wet! It’s good to share the vibe, and we hope you enjoy it. Nothing world-shaking but honest footage from our spring and summer sessions. See you on the water!

 

 

What Does Brexit Mean for the Kayaking Industry?

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

The British public have spoken, and they’ve elected to leave the European Union.

The full effects of Brexit are yet to be seen, and this resultant uncertainty in the UK’s political climate has led to a significant fall in the value of the Pound in relation to both the Dollar and the Euro.

For non-UK manufacturers, this means their products have become much more expensive when imported to the UK market, whereas our products (proudly made in the UK since 1971) have remained at the same price to our UK customers, and are now even better value to those in the US, EU and further afield.

However, this won’t last; although we manufacture all of our products in the UK, many of the raw materials and much of the packaging are oil-based, and as oil is traded in Dollars, the cost of these is sure to rise in the next few months once our pre-agreed contract pricing comes to an end.

If you’re asking yourself, ‘Is now the right time to buy a kayak?’, the answer is a resounding yes, as no one can predict by how much prices of the raw materials that go in to a kayak will rise, but as the margins we make on them is minimal, these price rises are sure to affect the consumer.

There has never been a better time to buy a British Canoe or Kayak, check out the P&H Sea Kayaks range now.

P&H Consistency, Flat Earth Sails and Much Deserved Respect

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

About two weeks ago I came to another difficult point in my life where I had to sell another one of my precious P&H kayaks. I’ve done this about 3 times now over the past 5 years and it never gets any easier with the only bright side being the thought it was not only going to a good home but also knowing that 6-12 months from now I will own yet another fine watercraft from P&H with new colors, a new seat and whatever other awesome thing they have come out with. I started kayaking in a Venture Skye 17, an older version of the current Easky 17 from P&H’s little brother Venture Kayaks. I did things with that kayak at the time that, looking back, I wonder how I made it but it started my future of sea kayaking. I have since owned 3 Cetus LV’s a Capella 163 and what looks to be a 4th in the works as selling the last was only to fund the next.

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So in my sad Cetusless world I find myself taking out the Capella 163, which I coincidentally enough just thew one of the new P&H distributed Flat Earth Sails and it has created a whole new level of fun to the kayak. Rigging took more time looking at the deck making the commitment to drill a hole than to do the rest. The sail and all hardware looked really high quality and I was sailing that day. It has really been a blast and has added to the speed of the Capella. I was worried about a sail on a skeg boat but it works fantastically. After doing a full day sea kayak lesson in the Capella (2011) today I was just blown away at how versatile it had become but more so how incredibly sound all of my P&H family boats have been over the years and the craftsmanship of every single one of them. I have taken these kayaks all over the place and put them to the test and never have a I felt the “this boat can’t handle this” syndrome.

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So for now I get to go through the process of dreaming up options for the next Cetus LV and wonder if a sail with meet that as well……

 


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