Thank you Ophelia! Yes, I am thanking a rare Atlantic storm that is now blasting Irish coastline with waves and wind. Why? This storm brought weather that is rare to the The Netherlands, clear blue sky, mildly warm temps. This was maybe our last day before winter to experience a close to perfect canoe paddle.
The fact was we had pulled our cedar canoe home from the harbor where she sat most of the summer two weeks ago was considered. We had just wrapped her in a cocoon of blue tarps, weighted down so that the brutal Dutch winter winds did not blow her cover around our crowded neighborhood. She sat on a new stand built in our small back garden just above my kayak that also silently waits for the next outing.
We had heard for about a week that the weather was going to be usually nice for a couple of days with Ophelia pumping warm air and blue skies into The Netherlands.
So we started frantically planning on unwrapping our treasured canoe and taking her out for one last time. That was if the weather held.
On Sunday morning the wind was light and the air felt like fall as we unpacked her from her winter blue cocoon. There was a bit of worry that the winds would pick up on the open water as the warmth from the ocean filtered inland.
We picked a spot close by after reading a review on kanoroutes.nl. A short drive from our house brought us to the Haarlemmermeer ringvaart. A canal that circles the Haarlemmermeer polder. This canal also leads into The Kaag lake which we paddled this summer. We were looking forward to exploring a new part of the lake.
One of the challenges to kayak or canoeing here in The Netherlands is finding a canoe/kayak safe place to enter the water. There are plenty of private and public harbors that cater to a motorized boating community but very few have areas that have safe and easy access to the water for canoes and kayak.
We found this one on the ringvaart to only have a marginal cement barrier. The barrier was barely wide enough for your feet and slick as heck with mud, but close enough to the water to enter with a canoe. Thus – it wasn’t the prettiest of entries as my husband slipped and I tried to maintain my footing while holding the canoe as we dipped her into the water.
From there we loaded our gear and headed towards our planned route.
As we paddled along we glided with ease along the waterway lined with small vacation and farm houses. The smell of the local dairy farms brought to mind my days growing up in Minnesota only to look around to see the windmills in the distance.
This late in the season this paddle also was a reminder of how far we had come as team, now paddling without struggling. The light warm breeze of the morning adding to the enjoyment as we silently glided through the water.
Along a non motorized canal leading into the lake we had a large older sail boat pass us. The sails contrasting starkly against the bright blue cloudless sky. We were able to keep up with the sail boat and then as we came to to bend in the canal the sail lost the wind. Suddenly we felt noble in our paddle power, passing the boat, pulling out in front to the lead the armada of two into the lake.
We paddled for two hours and almost 6 km in the fantastic fall weather. As we returned home we cleaned cedar and placed her back in her cocoon for the winter. We know that just as Ophelia leaves and heads back into the ocean we will once again return to normal Dutch fall weather.