I have dreamed. I have prepared. I have trained hard. I have crossed the Southern part of the North Sea by sea kayak on the 30th and 31st of July 2015; man powered and alone, no support or pilot vessel, no support whatsoever. I have paddled during day and night. I’ve been exhausted, excited and happy, all at the same time.
This is my story.
I have had this dream to cross the North Sea for years, and finally the weather conditions were perfect; so I planned, made calculations to counter the tide and prepared myself mentally.
On Thursday 30th of July I said my goodbyes to my family. Right before starting I sent a message to both the Belgian and British Coast Guard to inform them of my plans and estimated route. At 21:30 hours sharp I sat in my sea kayak and paddled to open sea. I waved to my family one last time when passing the pier. I was lucky, after sunset I still had some light due to a full moon; the downside was the current, a full moon means spring tide! Up until I reached the Trapegeer buoy I had the tidal stream in my favour, after that point (fully calculated in advance) I had to paddle 6 hours against a strong tide. At 04:48 hours I arrived at the DY1 buoy; it was slack at that point, but the tidal current should change direction soon. I had radio contact one last time with Marc, the friendly radio operator from the Belgian Coast Guard (Ostend Radio) to give him my current position and state. He was in close contact with Sylvie (my wife and support team) to keep her informed. After that point I was on my own until I was in range of the British Coast Guard. I paddled on, with the current in my favour this time, to the Ruytingen SW and Ruytingen NW buoys. In the meantime the sun was rising which made the crossing of the international fairway a bit easier. According to the Coast Guard almost 500 sea ships are passing through that lane every single day; I had to keep watch in order to stay as far away from those big ships as possible. I doubted that they would even spot me!
I paddled as hard as I could, having a strong tidal current on the my side. I managed to get over the shipping lane, along the buoys Sandettie WSW to the South Falls without troubles. I only spotted 4 big sea ships but I passed them at a distance, and after that I changed my course and diverged from my planned route to a secondary planned route in order to counter the very strong tidal current that was pushing very hard from my right. Eventually I arrived at the East Goodwin light ship, where I established radio contact with the Dover Coast Guard; they we’re already fully aware of my intentions and also in touch with my wife, informing her of my position and state. The crew on the radio were very friendly towards both me and my wife.
The East Goodwin ship is an unmanned lightship that brings the very treacherous Goodwin sand banks to the attention of ships; dangerous for almost every other vessel but ideal conditions for a seasoned kayaker. With almost no wind at all there were waves between 0.5 and 1 metres in height! In that area I saw numerous seals, wonderful!! The sand banks were the last piece of the crossing; after that I headed towards Ramsgate harbour. The tidal current was now pushing on my left side so I had to compensate heavily in order to reach the harbour. I reached the slipway of Ramsgate harbour at 15:06 hours (Belgian time). I was so far ahead on my estimated arrival time that my welcome party had not arrived yet; luckily I was prepared for that, I had dry clothes and plenty of food and drinks with me. After a few hours my lovely wife and kids arrived, it was a happy reunion!! We took the ferry back to the mainland together.
I wish to thank my wife Sylvie for her constant support in chasing my biggest dream, the North Sea crossing, as well as in all my other so called foolish plans regarding sea kayaking! I want to say thanks to Marc, the radio operator from the Belgian Coast Guard – Ostend Radio for keeping an eye out for me up to the DY1 buoy, and to the friendly crew from the Dover Coast Guard! To those people; your help is very much appreciated both by myself and my wife!
We hope that this crossing will put Belgian sea kayaking on the map, and a big thanks to my other Northseakayak-members for their continuous support!
The full crossing was correctly registered by GPS.
• Total distance: 106,7 km
• Total time: 17 hours 36 minutes
• Average speed: 6.1 km/h
• Maximum registered speed: 13.5 km/h
• Craft: P&H Scorpio LV (Polyethylene)
• Paddle: Vertical Element Explorer Aircore Pro Full Carbon
• Full safety gear including two VHF radios, a Personal Locator Beacon, flares, etc.
You can watch the video below: