Ecrehous sunshine

For the last few months we seem to have been subjected to one North Atlantic storm after another. The jet stream has been powering one low depression after another, creating unsettled weather. Days of being able to potter along the coast, exploring nooks and crannies have been few and far between. It is been a matter of trying to squeeze a few miles in, whilst trying to avoid the strongest winds, as they funnel around headlands.
On Monday of this week a slight glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon, light winds for Friday.  That slight glimmer eventually turned into a window of opportunity so this morning saw us loading the kayaks for a quick Ecrehous visit, in late winter sunshine from St Catherines.
With low water at around 13.30 the plan was to cross towards the end of the ebb, a quick break on the reef and complete the return crossing at the start of the flood. It was good plan and it almost worked. The 5.5 nautical miles on the way passed quickly and easily. We saw one fishing boat but apart from that we had the ocean to ourselves. There weren’t even that many birds to distract us, the only one of interest was a great crested grebe.
As the tide was sill running north there was some slight disturbance as we approached the Ecrehous but once the reef it was calm and sunny, the perfection combination for experiencing the channels and islets.  A quick lunch break and the inevitable photo opportunities and just over 30 minutes later saw us heading back to the kayaks for the return crossing to Jersey.
Unfortunately our paddling speed wasn’t quite what we anticipated and so we were more exposed to the influence of the tidal streams, than was ideal.  What would normally take about 1 hour 30 mins took an extra hour and in contrast to the 5.5 miles going out we covered 8.5 nautical miles on the way back.
It wasn’t a serious issue but clearly demonstrates the impact that tidal streams can have on sea kayakers.  In fact it was a bit of of blessing in disguise, as the extra miles that we covered meant that the Jersey Canoe Club went back to the top of British Canoeing’s Winter Challenge, although probably not for long!
Although slightly harder than anticipated it was well worth the extra effort for some Ecrehous sunshine.

Ecrehous
The Ecrehous are just visible but the position of the French coast is clearly identifiable with the line of cumulus clouds.
Ecrehous
Paddling into the reef. We were aiming to land just to the right of the small houses.  I was paddling the Jersey Canoe Club double with Claire.  Although she had visited the reef before this was the first time she had paddled there.
Ecrehous
The kayak on the beach in front of Marmotiere. We normally land on the French side but because this was just a quick visit we stayed on the Jersey side.
Ecrehous
Looking north west from close to the bench. I don’t know why but every time I visit the reef I take a picture from virtually the same location. It is a view I never get fed up with.
Ecrehous
Looking towards the French coast. It was clear that the tide had already turned and was running south. It was time to leave.
Ecrehous
The shingle bank is such a dynamic feature. It is always changing in size and steepness.

Some more old kayaking pictures

Here is another selection of old pictures, illustrating some of the places that we have been paddling over the years.  It feels like it is time to pay a visit to some of these places again, its been nearly 40 years since I paddled some of these trips.

Old pictures
This is paddling around the Great Orme in North Wales in November 1979. We couldn’t afford specialist sea kayaks so used general purpose kayaks with home made skegs that we used to slip over the stern, when we weren’t paddling the same kayaks on white water.
Eastbourne kayaking
I started work as a teacher in September 1980 and before my first salary check arrived I had ordered my first Nordkapp HM. I collected it from Nottingham at October half term and this is kayak being launched for the first time off the beach in Eastbourne.
Bardsey
The first summer holidays of teaching so it was time to go paddling. This is approaching Bardsey, in perfect conditions. The string across the hatch cover was there for a very special reason. My Nordkapp was one of the first to be built with the new hatch covers but the mixture proved to be unstable and the rims started to collapse. After this trip it was back to Nottingham for new hatches to be fitted by Valley before we headed off for a 4 week kayaking trip in Denmark.
Menai Straits
A rather blurred picture from the Menai Straits in October 1986. I was on my Level 5 Coach assessment at Plas Y Brenin. We camped at the south west entrance to the Straits and I still remember the look of horror on the face of the group when the shipping forecast for the Irish Sea was SW Force 12.
Porth Daffarch
Paddling out of Porth Daffarch at the 1993 Angelsey Symposium. The paddlers are Andy Stamp and Graham Wardle.
Rathlin Island
The bay at the western end of Rathlin Island, of Northern Ireland It was a Coach Assessment in 1996. We were looking forward to a night of traditional Irish music in the bar, but it turned out to be a karaoke evening with Japanese divers, rather disappointing.
Arduaine Children
The Scottish Sea Kayak Symposiums used to be great family affairs. The five children on the right are my two girls, Howard Jeffs two daughters and Gordon Brown’s oldest daughter. As you can see we used appropriately sized kit!
Cricceth Castle
The BCU Sea Touring Committee used to run Symposiums every autumn. Initially at Calshot and later on in North Wales. This is some paddlers from the 1998 event off Cricceth Castle.

Jersey Canoe Club

The Jersey Canoe Club was formed towards the end of 1974, when a group of us got together.  We had been paddling for a number of years, sometimes together and at other times in our small geographic groups.  Most of us were too young to drive to be able to meet up regularly!
On August Bank Holiday 1974 we arranged a trip to the Ecrehous, a stunning beautiful reef of rocks between Jersey and France, which 44 years on is still my favourite one day paddle.  For the first few years the Club was homeless, meeting at Highland’s College every Sunday morning before heading off to paddle a section of Jersey’s varied coastline.  Thursday evenings during the summer months was always from St Helier Harbour, meeting at the Old Lifeboat Slip before heading off around Elizabeth Castle or the Dog’s Nest.
In the early 1980’s we found our first premises, a building behind the La Folie Inn, which we shared with a couple of other watersports clubs.  It sounded a good idea but didn’t really work out, largely because no one Club seemed to have the overall responsibility for the building.  So after a few years it fell into disuse.
Over the next few years there were a number of possible projects, at one point we had architects plans drawn up for a specific Club house at a potential site close to the water in St Helier.  Unfortunately the Club was unable to negotiate a long enough lease on the land, so that project never moved forward.
In 1991 the Jersey Canoe Club was fortunate to be offered the original lifeboat station at St Catherine’s, an opportunity which was eagerly taken up. The building was, in many ways, in the perfect location. Sheltered from the prevailing winds and because of the slipway there is relatively easy access to the water at all stages of the tide.
In the last 27 years the Club house as been used in a number of different ways. The first Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium was based there in 1992 and then every 2 years up until 2010. During those 10 events many people who are internationally known in the kayaking world used the building. People such as Derek Hutchinson, Frank Goodman, Chris Hare, Scott Cunningham, John Heath, Gordon Brown, Howard Jeffs and Duncan Winning, to name just a few.
The building has also seen numerous training and coaching weekends right up to the highest level. In the early 1990’s I was able to run a modular Level 5 Coach course, over 5 weekends and coaches who came to assist in the course included Franco Ferrero ( a Jersey boy), Graham Wardle, Kevin Danforth, Dave Collins and Dennis Ball. In addition there were numerous other training courses at all levels. Plus every Christmas Day morning hardy members of the Club with family and friends meet for the swim at 11.00, followed by mince pies and mulled wine.
This year marks the 28th year that the Club will be holding its training sessions at St Catherine’s on a Tuesday night. During that time hundreds, possibly even several thousand people have been able to enjoy sea kayaking, using the Club House as a focus for the activities. To mark this continued use it was decided to refurbish the upstairs in the expectation of encouraging even greater use by the members of the Jersey Canoe Club.
It was decided to run the Sunday morning session from St Catherine’s, not an area of the Island that we use that frequently for Sunday morning paddles in the winter.  It is 2018, so we should have known that there was going to be a gale forecast, it might just be me but this winter seems incredibly windy.  With the forecast, St Catherine’s was actually quite a sensible choice.  In addition it would be a perfect opportunity to show the Club members the improvements upstairs.
The transformation of the Club House is a result of the hard work of Janet Taylor and her efforts were really appreciated by those people who turned up, either for the paddling or for the cake and coffee afterwards.
Today was a paddle of contrasts, at times sunny and flat calm whilst at other times we were battered by hail.  All this against the historical backdrop of Jersey’s east coast.  16 members braved the conditions and we all completed 7 miles towards the British Canoeing Winter Challenge.  At the present the Jersey Canoe Club lies in second place but we have struggled to get the miles in this year because it has been so consistently windy.

Jersey Canoe Club
The front of the Club house. I am always amused that even after 20+ years the States still paint “Keep Clear for Lifeboat” outside the door.
Jersey Canoe Club
The view from outside the Club house, illustrating how the breakwater can provide shelter from the winds.
Jersey Canoe Club
Taken in September 1992. The Jersey Canoe Club had an open day to coincide with British Canoe Union’s National Canoeing Day. I think that there were 110 paddlers in the raft.
Jersey Canoe Club
Taken at the First Jersey Sea Kayaking Symposium. The person in white is Dave Collins. He used to be Performance Director at U.K. Athletics and is currently Professor at University of Central Lancashire. We tried to attract a wide range of speakers to the Symposiums, not just sea kayak coaches. Kevin Danforth is standing in white.
Jersey Canoe Club
At the 1996 Symposium we held a slalom outside the Club house, in sea kayaks. This is Donald Thomson, a well known Scottish paddler.

A few pictures from this mornings paddle.

Jersey Canoe Club
Launching at St Catherine’s. The Jersey Canoe Club premises is the closest, obvious white building. Seconds later we were in the middle of quite an intense hail storm.
Archirondel Tower was built in 1792, to help protect the Island from the French. At the time it was on a small rocky islet offshore, which was joined to the shore when the southern arm, of the now abandoned St Catherine’s Breakwater, was constructed.
Jersey Canoe Club
Yet another squall threatens to engulf Pete as we paddled from Anne Port towards Gorey.
Jersey Canoe CLub
As the next squall approached from the west we sheltered behind these rocks. The east coast of Jersey should be visible but it disappeared in a cloud of hail.
Jersey Canoe Club
From whichever direction you look Mont Orgueil is a really spectacular castle. I think that the view from offshore is always the best.
Jersey Canoe Club
Head north Mont Orgueil as the next squall approaches from the north west.

St Peter’s Valley Cycle Route

Jersey has some great cycle routes but not that many which are exclusively dedicated to two wheels. There is the classic St Helier to Corbiere cycle path whilst from St Helier heading east the coverage is very patchy.  In the last few months there is a new kid on the block, in the form of  St Peter’s Valley Cycle Path.
Completed at a cost of approximately £1.77 million it is clear that there would be a degree of disquiet from certain sections of the Island community.  The usual statements that the money could be better spent elsewhere with very little consideration given to the benefits, to both residents and visitors, provided by such a facility.
It has taken some time for all the pieces to be joined together but we have now is an excellent facility for locals and visitors alike. Providing a fast and safe way from from the south coast to the north west parishes.
You leave the cycle path along the front from St Helier to St Aubins just before Beaumont, if you are heading west. There is a small car park (actually known as Le Perquage car park) and a pelican crossing, which gives access to the start of the cycle route.
The first section follows the long established Perquage path, which can be rather damp at times.  At Sandybrook there is a couple of hundred metres along the road before reaching the new cycle path as it comes down St Peter’s Valley, close to Tesson Mill.  This is one of the few remaining mills on the island and there has probably been a mill at this site since the 11th century.  the present building was built in 1831 and it was purchased by the Jersey National Trust in 1996.  Although part of the building has been converted into residential properties some of the main industrial elements have been retained and are open to the public in summer on Monday and Tuesday 10.00-4.00.
The red tarmac route starts to wind its way through the valley, following the route of the stream, which in the summer is barely noticeable but can become quite a torrent during the winter months.  Pretty quickly you arrive at the only working mill which is left on the island, Le Moulin de Quetivel, also owned by the National Trust for Jersey.  The mill was briefly brought back into use during the German occupation, after which it fell into disrepair, it was restored in 1976 and now is open to visitors during the summer months.
Ahead lies the Vic in the Valley pub where refreshments and and drinks are available, a small link route takes you from the main cycle track to the pub.
The path continues its way up the valley, with a number of interesting footpaths leading off to the west.  A potential activity for exercising your legs in a different way to cycling.  Eventually the path comes to a stop at the main St Peter’s Valley road.  It is necessary to cross the road and drop down a small road to the left before reaching one of the most interesting sections of the whole route.
It is largely an elevated section with lovely views across the small reservoir, on which there are normally a number of interesting birds.
The cycle route comes to an end but a little bit of searching will lead to a small isolated valley, which will allow you to continue cycling towards St Mary’s Church.  From here there are numerous options where to go next.  Following one of the excellent numbered cycle routes from Visit Jersey, or designing your own journey along the numerous small lanes, which are found in the area.
During my ride through the February sunshine I was amazed at the variety of birds I encountered en route.  The Brent Geese, were grazing on Goose Green Marsh and as I cycled up the valley I saw a grey heron, buzzard, marsh harrier, little grebe and little egret, whilst heard a water rail calling close the northern reservoir.  These were just a few of the many species I saw in just a few miles.
The St Peter’s Valley cycle route is a valuable asset to the cycling portfolio in Jersey, a lovely surface to ride on, taking you through some of the finest scenery in Jersey’s heartland.

St Peter's Valley
The initial part of the route from the sea front to the St Peter’s Valley cycle route follows the Le Perquage Path. To my left was Goose Green Marsh.
St Peter's Valley
The start of the new cycle route is close to Tesson Mill. A dramatic property, which provides a link to Jersey’s industrial past.
St Peter's Valley
It is just a lovely surface to ride on, along one of the prettiest valley’s on the island.
St Peter's Valley
The last working mill in Jersey. There is an Open Milling Day once a year, when flour is produced for sale in the small shop.
St Peter's Valley
Approaching the sharp turn in the valley, which is also where the Vic in the Valley is located.
St Peter's Valley
As the cycle route heads north in places in runs along an elevated track. Perfect for riding on.  This is close to the dam for the small reservoir.
St Peter's Valley
The small reservoir always holds a variety of waterbirds. There were tufted duck and a little grebe on the water, whilst I heard a water rail calling as I cycled past.
St Peter's Valley
The final climb from St Peter’s Valley to St Mary’s follows this secluded valley.  The cycle route has finished but it is still possible to find virtually traffic free routes.

Ecrehous Buildings

Sometimes when we are kayaking we focus on the big picture and miss out on some of the smaller and at times more interesting items.The Ecrehous, as many of you will be aware, is probably my favourite, all time sea kayaking day trip. Arriving at the reef, time is normally spent wandering around and admiring at the stunning seascapes whilst sitting on one of the finest benches in the world. On some recent visits I have spent time looking at smaller features including inscriptions on some of the Ecrehous buildings. What has been revealed is fascinating history of a unique environment.

Ecrehous buildings
An aerial view of the islet of Marmotiere. There are 20 huts plus a number of smaller out buildings squeezed onto this small rock. La Petite Brecque is the other small islet with a hut built on. The shingle bank (La Taille) has a superb standing wave for surfing at high water on springs.
Ecrehous building
Looking towards the Impot Hut, which is painted white. It was probably built in about 1880. The initials “TBP” on the nearest hut refer to Thomas Blampied who probably restored the hut in the 1880’s or 90’s. This is one of the earliest huts to be built on the reef.
Ecrehous building
I had missed these letters on many previous visits to the reef. The letters refer to Josue Blampied, who was the son of Thomas Blampied who built the hut.
Ecrehous building
It is clear when this hut was built, at the time it was the largest building on the Ecrehous. In between St Martin and Jersey it appears some letters have been scratched out. It should read “St Martin. R.R.L. Jersey” The letters stand for Reginald Raoul Lempriere, who built the hut.

Sometimes we are so concerned with the big picture that we miss the detail so next time that you are out kayaking adjust the scale of your view and you never know what will be revealed.

February Sunshine

For what seemed like the first time in months the Sunday morning session of the Jersey Canoe Club took place in some bright February sunshine, although the temperature was modified by the strong north easterly wind.  11 of us paddled out from St Brelade’s heading towards Corbiere, the granite cliffs looking particularly stunning.
Although Corbiere was our destination, as we approached the south west corner it was clear that with the amount of water moving, due to the Spring tides, and the westerly swell, that we might need to cut our journey short.  We didn’t really want an unplanned journey to Sark.
Close to the causeway, at Corbiere, a plaque commemorates the attempts of Peter Edwin Larbalestier, an assistant keeper of the lighthouse, who was drowned on 28 May 1946, while trying to rescue a visitor cut off by the incoming tide, who also lost her life.  Many years ago I was landing on the slipway at Corbiere, after a Club session on a Thursday evening.  I noticed the plaque and said to one of the people who was with us, “that’s funny you have the same name as the lighthouse keeper who drowned” his reply was “that’s not surprising he was my uncle and I am named after him”.
In the Corbiere Phare Restaurant there is a photograph of Peter Edwin Larbalestier, in his lighthouse keepers uniform.  The likeness to Peter Larbalestier is really quite amazing.  Sadly Peter from the Canoe Club passed away a few years ago but every time we look at the photograph of his uncle we are reminded of the good times we had with Peter kayaking.
The paddle back to St Brelade’s against the wind and tide was a bit challenging in places but that was largely irrelevant as we enjoyed our first sunny Sunday morning paddle of 2018.

February Sunshine
Looking east along St Brelade’s Bay. An hour after high water.
St Brelade's Church
Looking towards St Brelade’s Church, which must be it the best position of any of the island’s parish churches. There is evidence that parts of the church were here before 1035. To the left of the main church is the Fisherman’s Chapel.
Beauport
Approaching Beauport, once inside the bay we gained some shelter from the strong north easterly wind. Contrast this with the views of Beauport earlier in the week
February Sunshine
Once past the Grosse Tete you become more exposed to any westerly swell. There was a few feet of swell today plus plenty of water movement due to the 11 metre tide.
February Sunshine
Corbiere lighthouse in sight. The lighthouse must been the most photographed site on the Island.
February sunshine
Rachel close to the point where we turned back. Due to the size of the tide there was a large amount of water running past the point and when combined with the swell it was creating conditions, which were possibly a bit too entertaining for the Canoe Club Sunday morning session.
February Sunshine
Returning to St Brelade’s Bay, it was a rather windy as we paddled through the gap but it marked the end of an enjoyable couple of hours in the February sunshine.

Some more aerial photographs

It has been said that the best in-flight entertainment system is the window seat. I can never understand the person who selects the aisle seat when there is the option of observing the world passing by.
Below is a selection of some aerial photographs of potentially interesting sea kayaking destinations seen out of the aircraft window over the last couple of years.  Whenever I get in an aircraft it always stimulates ideas of where else to go paddling.  The to do list, regarding kayaking destinations, continues to grow.

Aerial photographs
Final approach in Barcelona. Didn’t manage to get any sea kayaking in although some of the coast looked pretty interesting from a paddling perspective.  Particularly to the north, which is the venue for the Spanish Sea Kayak Symposium.
Aerial photographs
Climbing out from Malta. Gozo on the left and Comino in the middle are clearly visible. There is some great kayaking to be had in the Maltese archipelago.
Aerial photographs
Newhaven, Sussex. A few minutes after take off from Gatwick. It has been a few years since I paddled this stretch of the English coast.
Aerial photographs
Superb meanders on the River Seine.
Aerial photographs
Flying into clouds like these, over Dijon in France means that you are in for a bumpy ride. We were at 32,000 feet and some of the clouds were towering above us.
Aerial photographs
Final approach into Malta, with views of the Grand Harbour. A great sunset and you know that the kayaking is likely to be superb in the morning.
Aerial photographs
Poole Harbour in Dorset. Heading home after a weekend paddling in Swanage, which is just off the picture to the left. Always good to see where you have been.
Aerial photographs
Approaching Jersey on a blustery September day. The Ecrehous below, a great paddle.
Aerial photographs
Heading home from kayaking on the west coast of Greenland we had superb views of the east coast.

Nautical History and the T Flag

Fort Regent overlooking the town of St Helier is a 19th century military base, which was converted into a leisure and entertainment centre in the 1970’s.  It occupies a unique place in the nautical history of not just Jersey but the in the UK because it still has a working visual Signal Station.
The first signal station probably dates back to 1708 and was used to warn Islanders of the threat of invasion.  Over the years a number of signals have been flown from the mast above St Helier, including such useful information as the fact that the mail had arrived in the Island etc.
Sadly financial cuts and changes in technology meant that in December 2004 the Fort Regent Signal Station, which was the last manned station in the British Isles closed down.
Fortunately in January 2007 it proved possible to hoist flags again, in a limited fashion including the T-flag, which signifies high tides over 38 feet (11.6 metres) and the strong wind and gale warnings.  It was also possible to re-introduce hoisting a few other flags when appropriate such as Trafalgar Day.
Today’s high tides and strong winds meant that this morning the Signal Station was flying the flag and the ball and cone indicating potentially difficult conditions for those at sea and for people living along the coast.  Driving into St Helier you very quickly get into the habit of looking up towards to Fort, treasuring our own slice of nautical history, and seeing if any flags are flying.
Signal Station
Visual warnings from the Fort Regent Signal station today. Strong winds from the north and T Flag
 The signal station above Fort Regent at approximately 12.00 today.  The T Flag is flying on the left hand side whilst the cone and ball indicates strong winds from the north.
Nautical history and the T Flag
When this flag is flying it signals that the tide is above 38 feet.

South West Corner

For what seems like the first time in months we were able to have our midweek kayaking day trip off the south west corner of the Island. There have been numerous strong wind warnings this year, issued by Jersey Met, most of them appearing to involve some south westerly involvement. The consequence of this is that day trips, along the south coast have been few and far between recently.  Fortunately today’s forecast allowed us the paddle from Belcroute to Corbiere and return.

Weather forecast
Wind warning number 101 of the year, issued at 02.47 on the 31st January, an indication of just how unsettled the beginning of 2018 has been.

It was just a few hardy members of the Jersey Canoe Club who congregated at Belcroute on Tuesday morning. Many of the regular attendees of the mid week day trip were off Island or unavailable this week. The aim was to use the last of the ebb as it flowed west, towards Corbiere, with the added assistance of the light north easterly wind. Amazingly as the tide turned and the east flowing stream started the wind also went around to the south west. It’s not often that you get both wind and tide with in both directions on a day trip. We were certainly getting our monies worth from environmental factors.
From Belcroute it was an easy run south to Noirmont Point, clearly identified by its black and white, early 19th century military tower.  Although it wasn’t easily visible today because of the low cloud/fog.  We used the last couple of hours of the tidal flow  to assist our run towards Corbiere.  This section of coast has to be one of my favourite lengths of the islands coastline, it is where I gained my original kayaking experience, starting in 1969.
It is normally a blaze of colour, the blue sea, red granite and green vegetation complementing each other but today the overwhelming colour was grey.
It was just a delight to be on the water without having to battle wind and waves, which have been our constant companions for the last few months.  Corbiere was our turning point, the iconic lighthouse was first lit on the 24th April 1874 and over the years has been the scene of a number of dramatic rescues.
Lunch was on the small beach below the Highlands Hotel, before we took advantage of the easterly flowing tide and south westerly wind to assist our return.  Overall we paddled just over 11 miles each, assisting Jersey Canoe Club’s entry into the British Canoeing Winter Challenge.  Taking the Clubs combined mileage  since the 1st December to just over 2,000 miles, a significant total considering the weather and the fact that because of geography we are limited to paddling on the sea.
I have written more information on the route between Belcroute and Corbiere elsewhere on the SeaPaddler site, so take a look for further ideas on places to paddle.

Belcroute to Corbiere
Launching from a rather foggy Belcroute. St Aubin’s Fort, the islands outdoor centre, is barely visible.
Belcroute to Noirmont.
Approaching Noirmont from the north. At this point we had the tide helping us reach 5 knots. The tower was built between 1810 and 1814, to help protect the Island in case of invasion by the French.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Approaching Pt La Moye from the east. Potato fields, covered in plastic, to encourage early season growth are just visible on the slopes.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Approaching Corbiere, the lighthouse is virtually invisible.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Even when relatively close the lighthouse was barely visible.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Nicky heading past Beauport, one of the most attractive bays on the Island but today it looked rather grey.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Adam heading past Pt Le Fret, one of the most dramatic headlands on the island, which is normally exposed to swell.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Nicky heading towards Pt Le Fret.

Historic Canoes and Kayaks

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to visit an exhibition on historic canoes and kayaks in the southern Brittany town of Douarenenez.  This delightful Breton town was the centre of the French sardine industry in the 19th Century, and at one time it was the home port to over 1,000 sardine boats.  Although fishing still takes place on boats based in the port, the town itself is possibly now better known because of its maritime museum, “Le Port-Musee”.
The exhibition was called “Canoes and Kayaks la decouverte d’un nouveau monde”.  There were over 150 exhibits, ranging from an early 19th Century painting to a modern sea kayak. It was essentially a history of paddling in France from the late 19th Century pioneers up to the present day including recreational and competitive developments.
The museum would have been well worth a visit even if there were no canoes and kayaks. as  there is a  wide range of traditional craft from a wide variety of European countries plus the added interest of a number of larger craft which are moored on the river.  These include “Northdown” which is a traditional Thames barge and the “Saint Denys”, a tug built on the Clyde, which spent most of her working life based in Falmouth.
What was there of interest though, specifically for the paddler, in the Canoe and Kayak exhibition?  One of the most modern items was one of the Catchiky’s which was paddled around Brittany in 1980 by Loik Bourdon and Franco Ferrero amongst others.  Franco, from Pesda Press, was clearly making an appearance as an honorary Frenchman!  This kayak certainly showed its age and the use it had been put to over  25 years.  It is a model of kayak which is still in production and there was a new example of the type, from the manufacturer Plasmor.
There were a number of short films shown at various times and for me the most interesting was probably Christian Gabard’s film of the 1959 white water racing world championships.  An interesting item shown in the film was an inflatable spray deck.  Does anyone know whether they caught on?  In the days before we became obsessed with risk assessments, it was interesting to see that some of the competitors didn’t wear helmets and others chose not to use buoyancy aids.
There were also a number of paintings and photographs which depict the historical origins of both canoeing and kayaking.  Possibly the largest oil painting was by C. Giraud.  Painted in 1857, it shows the Prince Napoleon taking part in a seal hunt off the west coast of Greenland.  The use of kayaks for hunting is a theme which occured in a number of other exhibits.  There was also a selection of framed posters from the last one hundred years.  One in particular raised a slight smile although I am certain that the Hutchinson mentioned on the poster is not the same one who for many years was practically a household name in sea kayaking.
It is always inspiring to see the standard of journeys which were undertaken in the past.  For example, Gustaf Nordin, a Swedish canoeist who paddled from Stockholm to Paris in 1905 and Captain Lancrenon who published a book, “Trois Milles lieues a la pagaie,de la Seine a la Volga” in 1898, were both commemorated either through photographs or items of equipment.  Lancrenan’s beautiful kayak, the Vagabonde III, was built in 1891 and broke down into two sections for easier transportation.  It was exhibited alongside the Bic sit-on-top.  115 years of progress!
The more recent trends were not ignored.  There was the inevitable Sit-on-top, plus white water play boats, racing kayaks, a slalom canoe from the Atlanta Olympics and winged paddles.  I must admit though that I have never really looked upon a sit-on-top kayak as a museum piece.
There were a number of older exhibits, including a 19th Century Greenland kayak which is normally housed in a museum in Nantes, as well as a most beautiful birch bark canoe.  The Greenland kayak was collected when the ship “La Recherche”, visited the area in 1835-6.  It appears to have come from the Frederikshaab region, prior to being presented to the Nantes museum.  In fact there were a number of historic canoes and kayak, which were like works of art as opposed to practical watercraft.
It was a fascinating exhibition and I wonder when such a collection of historic canoeing and kayaking artifacts will be on show again?

Historic canoes and kayaks
Loik Bourdon’s kayak in which he circumnavigated Brittany
Historic canoes and kayaks
The inevitable sit on top, although designs have become far more advanced since the time of the exhibition and far more popular.
Historic canoes and kayaks
A couple of superb canoes. Absolute things of beauty.
Historic canoes and kayaks
“Emeraude” a mid 19th century kayak.
Historic canoes and kayaks
Photograph of the Swedish paddler, Gustaf Nordin, who traveled from Stockholm to Paris by kayak in the early 20th Century.
Historic canoes and kayaks
Surely this doesn’t refer to the famous sea kayaker, Derek Hutchinson!
Historic canoes and kayaks
One of several kayaks from the 20th Century which were in the exhibition.
Historic canoes and kayaks
Inuit kayak from the 1830’s. Usually shown in the Nantes Museum.
Historic canoes and kayaks
A selection of paddles – new and old.
Historic canoes and kayaks
Drawing of 19th Century paddling.
Historic canoes and kayaks
One of many posters depicting the development of the sport.
Historic canoes and kayaks
C. Giraud 1857 oil painting of the Prince Napoleon hunting seals.
Historic canoe and kayaks
Drawing depicting the hunting of seals.
Historic Canoe and Kayaks
Captain Lancrenan’s kayak built in 1891 which broke down into two sections.