After five years of adventures, my inflatable kayak will have to be retired.

Boyfriend was paddling her with another friend when he noticed that one of her side panels was getting a little soft. They pulled over to the side of the canal and attempted to re-inflate the tube, but to no avail; we knew the leak was a big one because the pressure dropped as soon as we stopped pumping.

When we got Sunny home it became clear that the seam along the top of the tube was splitting internally: the grey fabric layer on the inside of the boat had separated from the rubber layer lining the tube. The grey fabric was intact, but the air was whistling out between the weave. (much as in this video.) I attempted laproscopic surgery to place an internal patch via a nearby incision, but once I cut the boat open it became clear that the interior layer had split away from the fabricky layer over a much larger area:

As sorry as I am that Sunny has reached the end, I have to admit that my sadness is mitigated by the lovely people at Innova and Gumotex who informed me that Sunny was under warranty because of a fabric defect. As such, they are sending me a replacement boat!

But still, I will really miss Sunny. She could fill a lonely afternoon with adventures or make some room for a friend. She’s rescued soccer balls for small boys – and for frat boys. She’s transported crates of beer and she’s conveyed my guitar. She had just enough cargo space to accommodate both Boyfriend and our camping gear – and she still fit neatly onto the back of my bicycle!

kayak on a bicycle

Sunny has been all over the Netherlands, on lakes and rivers and still canals. She has made me adamant about the beauty of the natural places in Holland.

Paddling Sunny through the canals in town, I discovered a completely different city.


oude meelfabriek, leiden

Sunny has portaged through the shopping street in Katwijk and she’s been to the beach at Wassenaar. She’s squeezed under bridges and cleared 20 cm (I only got stuck once). She’s been through the oldest waaiersluis in Holland:


And she’s been past more windmills than you can shake a paddle at.

She’s been on the IJsselmeer and she’s been to the Keukenhof and she’s been to Kinderdijk.

In Belgium she even went over a few rapids without getting swamped! And she picked up this little barnacle near a campground in the Ardennen:

With an enthusiastic friend along, Sunny would develop a gurgling wave spreading in a V from her bow. But she was at her best at a gentler pace and I loved to listen to the dip and drip of the water from the paddle.

Sunny has been oogled by cows and goats and dogs and kittens…

… ignored by a robotic lawnmower…

… and chased several times by one particularly territorial swan. (I was too busy paddling to take a photo.) But mostly the Dutch wildlife abides the stranger with the funny boat.

Sunny was a fantastic boat and I will miss her.

Sunny’s inflatable seats will live on as comfy festival chairs. And perhaps I can reuse some of the straps and cushions… when the new boat arrives!


Delicious, delicious Indonesian eggplant! Everytime I go for rijstafel I secretly hope that these melt-in-your-mouth chunks wallowing in a sweet-tangy-chili sauce will appear in one of the little dishes.

Of course, I won’t always live five minutes away from Toko Mini and Surakarta, so I’ve been working up my own version. Other recipes didn’t really do it justice: many, including this one, exclude tamarind paste and others, including this one, call for deep-frying the eggplant. This nice blogger finally gave up on the internet and phoned her mother, but her recipe includes some dried shrimp (trassi) and I’d prefer to keep things strictly vegetarian.

Spicy eggplant is delicious as part of a rijstafel or as a side dish with fried rice and satay. This recipe makes a nice side for 3 or 4 people.

1 medium-large eggplant
1 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp ketjap manis (or 2 tbsp regular soy sauce + 1 tbsp brown sugar)
3 tbsp water
1 tsp lemon or lime juice
4 shallots
1 tbsp sambal oelek
1 tomato (1/4 of a 400 g can of chopped tomatoes will do)
1 tbsp oil for frying

Chop the eggplant in 2 cm chunks. I marinate the eggplant with the tamarind, ketjap manis, water, lemon juice and sambal oelek, but I’m not sure that this step is absolutely essential (the salt in the sambal oelek and the ketjap manis will draw the bitterness out of the eggplant).

Dice the shallots finely and fry until golden in a hot wok or large frying pan. Dice the tomato and add the tomato and eggplant mixture to the wok. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is soft (5 min). You can add more sambal or sugar here if you want.

Future experiments with this dish will probably involve adding garlic and lime leaves, since they seem to show up in a lot of other recipes.

Tamarind paste and sambal oelek can be purchased at your neighbourhood Dutch Toko. I like Pantainorasingh brand tamarind and Koningsvogel brand sambal oelek.

I am on vacation with Boyfriend in het buitenland. We speak English together at home, because I am lazy and because I am much more charming in English, but Boyfriend’s Dutch is fluent and mine is competent. I hadn’t really anticipated what a perk it would be to share a common language which, outside the Netherlands, Belgium and South Africa, is essentially our own personal secret lexicon. Want to point out a really ugly tattoo? Make fun of all the hipsters wearing Toronto Blue Jays hats? Argue about something? Decide what to do to avoid the drunk lady on the bus? Dan praten we Nederlands!

Dutch people on vacation abroad are known chiefly for driving their camping trailer to France/Spain/Germany/Belgium/Luxembourg/Italy and bringing their own cheese and little breads with them (the cuisines of France/Spain/Germany/Belgium/Luxembourg/Italy being of an inferior nature, of course). But Boyfriend pointed out to me that Dutch people on vacation also love to carry on stealth conversations about their surroundings and the other tourists or locals in the vicinity. Gah! I have turned into a Dutch tourist!

Of course, this can backfire sometimes, especially in Canada, which is full of ethnic and linguistic chameleons: while queuing to buy coffees at the mega-mall we overheard a woman arguing with her teenage daughter in Dutch. “Jullie zijn Nederlanders!” I said, surprised. Cover blown, the poor lady blushed. So watch out, Dutch people! I’m eavesdropping!

This is Stad van de Zon, near Alkmaar.

Evidently I wasn’t the only child who spent hours carefully bulldozing the terrain into perfect little squares…. Too bad there wasn’t any space left over for a Braun Llama Dome!


Went for a paddle around Leiden before the Holland-Germany soccer game. The oranjekleuren were all hung out over the canal. During the World Cup I could follow the score from my boat by listening for the celebratory yelling as I paddled past bars.

kajakken leiden

kajakken in leiden

Since this is actually a kayak blog, I thought I should stop posting about the neighbourhood cats and get on with actually writing about kayaking.

Voorburg to Delft – map

Passing through the old Poort of Delft

We packed Sunny onto her shopping trolley and took the train to the Huygens house in Voorburg. The house was built by Constantijn Huygens as a summer retreat from his regular domicile in den Haag and it was subsequently inhabited by his son, Christiaan. Christiaan is pretty famous as a scientist and he did a lot of work on clocks, simple harmonic motion and lenses. Constantijn, his father, was a writer and an artist and he seems to have made piles of money managing the assets of the House of Orange.

The house is surrounded by a kind of moat, which reflects a lovely soft light up into the house.
light in Huygens' house

The moat is no longer connected directly to de Vliet (the Leiden-Delft canal) and our efforts to paddle across it were thwarted by an officious medewerker. Instead we had the pleasure of waving goodbye to two sweet old people on the dock by the canal.
het huis van huygens (voorbrug)

The trip between Voorburg and Delft was fairly dull. Delft, however, is a gorgeous town to see from a kayak! Bridges become picture frames.
bridges are picture frames

The canals are fairly narrow and there are lots of low bridges, which means that there is not a lot of boat traffic. There is a long bridge under the Voldersgracht which has a chain in the ceiling so that kayakers can pull themselves through without paddling.

There are a few spots where doors open right next to the canal.

This would be a great spot to get in and out of the canal, but this family of swans has taken it over. The cygnets were sweet and peeping, but the parents were nasty and hissing and there was a lot of poop and feathers around. I imagine that the swans are out there with a spray can at night, tagging the bench and the trash bin.
baby swans

More info about kayaking in (and around) Delft can be found at