2021 First Canoe Paddle

Yes! It finally happened. Our first canoe paddle of 2021. You can read about our other first yearly season paddles here, here, and here.

Getting Cedar ready for the water

We had kicked around a lot of ideas this Spring as to where our launch point would be. As always, do we go someplace new or just dump the boat in a known location? Our old winter torn bodies determined that we chose an old favorite location in the small town of Hillegom.

This time of the year the flower fields near Hillegom are always a nice quiet paddle and the air is filled with the floral sense. Just the right combination of canal paddling to ease the muscles back into shape.

With COVID still sky high here we took the precautions needed to stay away from other people.

After unloading the canoe at the launch site I guessed that seeing a large rat would be the highlight of the trip. A bit concerning seeing a rat hanging out at the launch site but he wasn’t thin as I am sure the nearby school was providing a good amount of food for his COVID kilos.

Once on the water we headed towards the North and right into the wind. Our arm paddle muscles barked from the lack of winter use. We didn’t get far into our excursion when we were stopped by a barrier placed in our path. For some reason this canoe path was closed and won’t be opened until 15 April.

Blocked canoe route in Hillegom.

We turned around and headed South. The rat was happily sitting by the launch sight and I think I heard him laugh as we paddled in the opposite direction.

We slowly got into our paddle rhythm and started noticing the changes from our last paddle here last Spring. Although we were a bit disappointed that the fields were not in full bloom. I had to remind myself that it is still about three weeks before the normal mid April tulip bloom. But, even then it might be less than in years past as we saw a number of fields sitting empty of any bulbs.

Heading towards De Zilk minutes before our swan encounter.

As we were enjoying the sites I noticed a pair of swans up in front of us and warned the back of the boat. This time of the year can be tricky when coming upon swans as they are very territorial in the mating and nesting season. Not the first time we have had to give clearance to the large birds as we paddle. Suddenly, one of the large birds starting running across the water with wings flapping right for me! What to do? There was a small sense of concern from the back of the boat, but not the level of concern I was feeling as my heart jumped into my throat and I lifted my paddle out of the water getting ready for a large white water fowl to place itself in my lap! At the last possible minute it hit the water to the left hand side of the boat not more than a five feet from me!

Now a level of appropriate concern came from the stern of the boat.

“Paddle hard! Paddle fast!”

As I put all my power into the paddle I peeked back at the Hubby who now was paddling hard as the swan was with almost no effort was swimming not more than 3 feet off the bow of the boat.


“Hell, that bird is keeping up with us!” I replied

Once the swan figured we were out of his terriorty we slowed.

“Wow, that was a first for me!” I said. In all my years of paddling, I had never actually been almost attacked by a swan. I have always respected them and gave them distance when I saw them as I had heard stories from other paddlers. Now I had a story to share too!

We continued down the canal and towards De Zilk fighting wind gusts that always blow off the sea in this canal. When we reached De Zilk and saw that the fields there were also not much to see we turned and headed back towards the launch.

The swans were waiting…

This time he tried a different tactic. Look like he was going to be friendly. swim up to the boat and them make yourself small like a floating ice burg (she won’t notice a thing until it is too late!).

We already had a plan. Paddle as fast as we could past the pair of swans.

As we paddled the back of the boat once again was shadowed by the swan for a few hundred yards.

My heart rate was elevated from the entire encounter.

As we eased our way back to the launch site we laughed about the situation. A short quiet paddle. Sure!

Pulling up to the launch pad we reflected on our first paddle of the 2021 season. We are grateful for the experience and that we are still able to enjoy some adventures even those that are unexpected.

Finally safe back at the launch site.

© The Cedar Journal, 2021, all rights reserved.