From 0 to canoe in less than 24 hours.

Zaaandam. Zandaam? The place names are so unfamiliar so are very hard to remember, but Philip has written his address and the canoe is waiting for us.

Daydreaming about canoes, eating cakes called canoes, canoes canoes canoes. Would love to have a canoe.

“If you’re going to fetch the canoe, let me know and I will be there” Colin says as we part ways, after a rock band playing on the roof of a truck that they are flaming the bonnet to heat the burgers on (!?) have finished.

The sun is rising, and fate has dealt it’s hand, we’ve been offered a second chance on a fine looking canoe from the Dutch equivalent of ebay. This gives the occasion more urgency.

I cycle eagerly to the station, Colin meets me with energy and drive for bringing home this floating dream. We board the free ferry across The IJ, knowing that upon our return we’ll be seeing this stretch of water again, one way or the other.

The sun bakes, the bag is full of essentials, water, digestive biscuits, two cans of Heineken, music and enthusiasm.

We get an app based taxi, which picks us up promptly as we finish our drinks, with it’s leather seats, cool driver, and air-conditioning; we glide smoothly over gentle highways through flat wide expanses of lush green land, people cycle and walk dogs and it’s as if we can see to the end of this flat earth with all of it’s inhabitants in layers, as pathways lay parallel and trace waterways.

We arrive at our destination, an unfamiliar sort of suburbia, and Philip comes out to great us, he’s a whiting gentleman a bit older than us, and shakes our hand enthusiastically with a smile, then prompts us to follow him to the garage. He pops the door, and there she is.

The canoe sits proudly on the floor, a beautiful yellow colour, a fittingly snazzy 80s logo, and smart blue decal stripes that chase down the body. We’ll take it! I mean “So, any problems with her?” Ground we have covered before on e-mail but just before handing over the cash always feels like a mild amount of Q&A is required, we quickly get to discover that he is selling it because he is moving house.

“So is the *memory blank space* and the motorbike for sale?” “Yes, they are, but the motorbike isn’t starting at the moment”

A nice BMW Tourer it was. Ah damn, well that’s Plan C, for getting the Canoe back to Amsterdam out of the window and probably the third most practical anyway, but while we’re out shopping for transport, it was always worth considering.

We start running out of questions, and need to now work out how exactly we are going to get this thing back to home. Maybe one more to buy us some thinking time…
“Oh, and you didn’t steal this canoe did you? It said on the internet we should ask” says Colin, to a man who’s garage is so well organised that everything has it’s right place, there is room to walk around all of the items stored, without hindrance, and you’d probably notice a single screw if it fell out of place onto the oft brushed concrete flooring, as you would a single stray hair on his recently sculpted haircut too. This guy is the most unlikely criminal, or I guess could be a criminal mastermind, anyway… probably the former.

Everyone laughs a bit awkwardly, and it’s a “no, no I didn’t”

So back to Plan A,”Think we can get a van to take back this thing?” We try a few options but I think there was only ever one real plan, and Philip agrees, “You couldpaddle it back”

Done, fine, yes, great, we were kinda hoping he’d say that, and now it’s not just a crazy idea, it’s also been suggested by a canoe owner, ex-canoe owner. Let’s go!

So we carry the canoe to the canal which is a 4 minute walk, it’s heavy like a 5 meter hollow tree trunk, which is kind of what it is, it’s a welcome relief to put it down, and we’re glad we’re not going to have to carry it far. We hope.

I pop into the canoe and colin coaches from the dock, good advice and a few paddles set me off, and it glides through the water with ease, whooohooo! “Wow watch out for the ducks!” A family of ducks scramble into the water in front, and voluntarily start a sort of slow motion high speed water based police duck chase.

I hit the brakes and cruise behind them, and the ducklings seem to enjoy the glory and safety, as they pull off into the distance, I float and take in the waving high bank grasses, buzzing dragonflies chasing each other, sunlight catching the water and the swirling dust as it serenely floats down above the glistening river’s surface, wow.

It doesn’t last too long as we get to a crossing where the water stops and we need to carry the canoe, we paddle our way through and over a few of these hurdles, stopping for small breaks, but not too long so that the paddling arms and legs don’t get lazy.

Under the no go zone

Getting to the Dam

Colin finds me with an Uber, chatting to the water specialist.

Colin heads back, all alone. Guys in the boat, dancing, give me a lift. Hairy.

Lost in the ship yard – feel small like the ducklings earlier

Things get gray, gets a bit choppy

Can I rest here, where am I?

Can hear techno – but maybe just a mirage?

Skirt around, hitch a ride.

*slightly traumatic bit here, so let’s just continue*

Get a lift with the nicest crew, to a place near home.

Dropped off, open the bag, never take digestives into the water, it’s not a good combo.

Blood streams from my shin, it’s just a little graze but the water makes it look like a shark attack. I’ll go with that.

I arrive back and am pretty exhausted, it’s been 8 hours. Not sure I have the energy to even lift the canoe out, so I get out and lay against the shore, and sit with my foot keeping it at bay, waiting for the energy to come back, a 2nd (or 15th) wind. The sun continues to beat down.

5 minutes and I’ll lift the canoe out…

“Yes!” shouts Colin.

He’s back! Colin had been home to charge his phone, then came to check that the eagle had landed, or the salmon had surfaced, or something! We whip the canoe out, head home, have a fruit salad, some water and a rest, then walk to the get the ferry to pick up the bike.

The bike is there, and we have come full circle, it’s only been a day, but what an adventure. As a team, we’ve gone through highs and lows, new ducks and dead pigeons, and from 0 to canoe.


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