Engelandvaarders Museum

I had heard about Engelandvaarders, a number of years ago.  Mainly men but some women who escaped from the German occupied Netherlands to Britain.  Many took the dangerous overland routes but a smaller number risked their lives crossing the North Sea in a variety of small craft.  Earlier this year I heard that an Engelandvaarders Museum had been opened in 2015, so whilst on a visit to my daughter in Amsterdam it was planned that we should go to Noordwijk, to visit the museum.
The section that most interested me, the most, was the story of those men who attempted to paddle across the North Sea in canoes. As far as is known 38 men attempted the journey to the English coast in folding canoes (kayaks).  Unfortunately only 8 people made it to the English coast, and of these only 3 survived the Second World War.
The stories of some of the escapees are remarkable, Rudi van Daalen Wetters and Jaap vanHamel, were at sea for 5 days and nights before they were picked up by an Australian ship.  When rescued they were unable to stand.  On the 20th June 1941, Robbie Cohen and Koen de Longh left the beach in Katwijk and 50 hours later landed on the beach in England.  Both amazing feats of survival.  Sadly many of the others were not successful.
In 2011 Dutch marines Chiel van Bakel and Ben Stoel and English paddlers Alec Greenwell, Ed Cooper, Harry Franks and Olly Hicks recreated the crossing completed by the brothers, Han and Willem Peteri on the 19th September 1941, although I would assume that their navigation equipment was slightly more sophisticated than a school atlas and a watch.  The Peteri brothers took two days to cross from Katwijk to Sizewell in Suffolk.
As paddlers we are possibly in a reasonable position to understand the fears and concerns of those young men as they slipped quietly away from the Dutch coast, under the cover of darkness. Their future far from certain but prepared to chance their lives on the hostile waters of the North Sea, rather than remain in their occupied homeland.
If you are in the area then I would recommend a visit to this small but fascinating museum.

The entrance to the museum, an old German bunker just behind the beach in Noordwijk.
Inside the bunker a couple of the walls have been converted into a screen.
There are a number of highly informative display boards telling the stories of many of the people who attempted to escape by canoe.
The photographs of the individuals concerned are a poignant reminder of those dark days in Europe. Brothers Han and Wim Peteri landed in Sizewell, Suffolk, after two days navigating with a school atlas and a watch.
One of the canoes which was used by some Engelandvaarders who escaped to England.
In this frail craft, such as this one, people headed out to sea without many of the things which we take for granted, such as a weather forecast!

A Brittany weekend: Canoeing in Dinan

A Brittany weekend: Canoeing in Dinan
The forecast for the weekend was pretty dreadful, we were questioning whether the ferry would be able to sail for St Malo, and even more importantly would we be able to get home on the Sunday.  As it was the ferry did sail on the Friday and the sea state was calm enough that most people were able to enjoy a beer or wine on the crossing.
The aim for the weekend was to enjoy a couple of days of canoeing on the inland waterways of Northern Brittany, with a few people having the opportunity to take their 2 Star, mainly as a pre-requisite for their Level 1 coach course in May.  Amazingly two of the people had their 5 Star (Sea) but not their 2 Star.  In Jersey there is no inland water, suitable for paddling, so it is very difficult to get the appropriate experience, you either have to travel off island or we have to start encouraging people to paddle canoes on the sea, something which sits uneasily with me, due to the size of the tides, exposure to swell and changeable weather.
We had arranged to rent canoes from the Canoe Club in Dinan, there were 16 of us and luckily they had 8 canoes in their spacious facilities.  We headed downstream, fully aware that the forecast on French TV was for winds possibly reaching 100 kmh during the afternoon.  Clearly we needed to exercise a degree of caution.
Shelter was found inside a small inlet where it was possible to work on a few skills and also by coincidence to receive a phone call from the ferry company informing us that the sailing on Sunday had been brought forward to hopefully avoid the rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, particularly the increasing wind strength.  We would get home but it meant that there would be no paddling on Sunday.
Lunch was taken further downstream before we had to fight our way back to Dinan.  It was a pleasant contrast to the sea kayaking that we normally experience in Jersey and most of the group felt that we shouldn’t leave it too long before returning to France to hone our single blade paddling skills.
 Louis and Lisa getting ready to head downstream from Dinan.  At this point the wind wasn’t too bad.
 We found shelter in a small inlet where we were able to practice a few skills such as rescues, as well as receive a phone call from Condor (the ferry company) that our ferry was leaving earlier on the Sunday due to the strong winds which were forecast.  The main consequence, apart from getting home, was that there would be no paddling on the Sunday.
 Tracey having a go at gunwhale bobbing.  Clearly the days that she spent canoeing down the Yukon has had a significant impact on her skill level.  She looked really competent.
 Once off the water there were a couple of choices, head to the local bar to watch a Six Nations rugby game on the television or head to Decathlon in search of kit.
 Sunday dawned sunny and still, a walk around the walls of St Malo was the option in the time that we had with the forecast of a rapidly increasing wind.
 Once on the ferry we headed out past Cezembre, a small island off the coast of St Malo, which is an interesting place to visit by kayak.
 Le Grand Jardin light marks the entrance channel into St Malo, for us as we headed out to sea it marked the start of a decline in the weather, with an increasing wind and a deteriorating sea state, but at least due to our early departure we made it home.