Another couple of hours scanning some old slides has revived some great memories of sea kayaking in Jersey. It is clear that over the years the Jersey Canoe Club has been involved in a variety of entertaining events both in local waters and further afield.
In 1993 we paddled over 300 miles along the west coast of Greenland, from Sisimiut to Ilulissat. After several weeks paddling we called in at Qasigiannguit, in the south east corner of Disko Bay. Formerly known as Christianshab, the town was established in 1734, making it the second oldest town in Greenland.
It is situated in the heart of a rich archaeological region so not surprisingly there is an interesting museum. At the museum there was a traditional kayak and in conversation with the curator we asked if there were still any people hunting in the traditional fashion. He replied that possibly there were still traditional hunters around Thule, in the far north, but certainly not in the area that we were paddling in.
It came as a complete surprise, therefore to encounter this Greenland hunter two days later in the ice, on the southern side of Ilulissat icefjord. He was paddling up into the ice and then drifting back on the melt water current occasionally shooting a seal. This is a scene from 1993 which I doubt exists today, certainly in visits to the area since 2008 there have been no similar encounters.
Sadly they are now all unmanned but when we started to visit these offshore buildings a number were still manned and it was always a pleasure to take out the daily papers and some fresh milk. These small gestures often resulted in the offer of a hot drink and on a few occasions a guided tour of the lighthouse. Sadly these days are long gone.
The evening of Saturday 18th November is the annual dinner of the Jersey Club Club at the Prince of Wales, Greve de Lecq. A number of us decided to stay the night and so to take full advantage of the area we decided that an afternoon’s coasteering out to the Octopus Pool was in order.
The Octopus Pool is one of those places where generations of young people have gained experience of exploring the coast line of Jersey, jumping into rock pools and scrambling through caves. Over the last few years it has become increasingly popular with commercial groups. During the summer months it has probably reached full capacity on some days but on a Saturday in November we were fairly certain of having the place to ourselves.
Greve de Lecq is a popular venue with the Jersey Canoe Club because of the quality of the sea kayaking which is easily accessible but today the focus was on rock scrambling and swimming as opposed to paddling.
A great afternoon’s sport setting us up for a good annual dinner.
The cliffs of Grosnez mark the north west corner of Jersey, and it is an area rarely considered as a coasteering destination. Fully exposed to the westerly swell and with virtually no escape routes, this is not an area for the inexperienced. Today’s light winds and decaying swell drew us north in search of some watery entertainment.
We decided to travel west from Plemont to Grosnez, it meant that when we climbed up the cliffs we arrived at the cars, as opposed to having a 20 minute walk along the cliff path whilst wet.
This is a great section of the Jersey coastline for sea kayaking but today our progress was much slower but probably much more intimate as we scrambled along this remote section of the Islands coast.
I paddled out to the Ecrehous this morning, it was my 7th visit of the year so far but interestingly the 5th time I have been on a Wednesday. I have only visited once at a weekend and that was way back in January.
It would be interesting to conduct a scientific study and hopefully come up with some fascinating conclusions which indicate a correlation between the passage of areas of high pressure over the Channel Islands shipping area on the third day of the week. In reality though I think that the reason for the popularity of the Wednesday visits is due to the fact that a number of people in the Jersey Canoe Club had retired or are working significantly reduced working weeks. We have put Wednesday aside as our day of choice for day trips, hoping to go out somewhere every week.
Looking at the weather forecasts as soon as there is an indication that the winds might be reasonably light on the Wednesday our thoughts turn to offshore paddles. This week was no different, a quick WhatsApp on Tuesday and this morning saw 8 0f us paddling away from St Catherine’s towards the Ecrehous.
I have visited the reef numerous times over the years, the last time was just a few weeks ago but always jump at the chance to go again. It was a relatively smooth crossing and a great lunch spot but it was the return crossing which was particularly memorable. The encounter with the pod of bottle nosed dolphins was as good as I have ever seen, they remained with us for probably 20 minutes, at times approaching within a metre before suddenly changing course and diving.
What a great way to spend a Wednesday in November.
“Read the Water” is a small booklet written by respected South Wales sea kayak coach, Nige Robinson. In full colour this is a useful addition to the library of an paddler who pursues their hobby on the sea.
The focus of the book is in helping sea kayakers acquire that almost indefinable quality described as a seamanship. There are chapters covering such diverse topics such “Fundamentals”, “Observing the water”, “Change”, “Wind and weather”, “Surf”, and “Moving Water”.
The book has a pretty unique approach to instruction, not so much telling you what you need to know but prompting you to question what you see. Encouraging you to try and make sense of what you are seeing and if possible to predict any possible changes. Experienced paddlers are always assessing their environment, the interaction between the water, air and land and deciding what is an appropriate course of action.
What do these clouds mean, what is the consequence of tidal change on the water, interpreting colour to decide what the sea bed and sea shore consist of. Once you have interpreted the data it is possible to make an informed judgement, as to whether the trip can continue or whether it should be amended or even abandoned.
In addition it encourages paddlers to use all their senses. How often have you heard experienced paddlers say “The tide is against us here”. They have developed a feel for what the water is doing and are able to come to a conclusion without being reliant on visual information.
This is a book to dip into on a regular basis, as opposed to just sitting down and reading it in one go. Look at a few of the photographs, interpret what they are showing and then head out on to the water to put it into practice. It is certainly a novel approach for a book but it is well worth pursuing. A worthwhile investment.
The book is available by mail order for £10.99 from Nige at Sea Kayak Guides,.
This was an article which I first wrote over 7 years ago, referring to the only time that I have ever worked as a kayak model. At the time we had no idea of how the photographs were going to be used, or where, but amazingly they still keep appearing. The most surprising place that I have seen the photographs used is inside the local bus timetable.
The pictures appear regularly on local tourist websites but quite possibly the most public place is inside the arrivals hall at Jersey Airport. Above one of the luggage belts there is a picture of us paddling, which has proudly greeted arriving tourists for a number of years. I would like to think that it might have inspired a few visitors to pick up a paddle and head out to enjoy Jersey’s coastal waters.
This was our first, and probably last modeling assignment. Jersey Tourism were looking for some new images to publicize the island and sea kayaks, in front of some of the islands more iconic buildings, was seen as possible way forward.
So dawn on a Saturday morning, in 2010, saw Nicky, Katie and myself on the water at Archirondel posing for the cameras. We have seen a few of the results and they look great but we will have to wait to see which ones might be used in any marketing publicity. Its great though to see that Jersey is looking to attract more visiting kayakers to our beautiful island, or perhaps provide inspiration for visiting tourists to get out on the water.
I think that it is true to say though that I don’t have a future career as a professional model. This has proved true over time as I have never asked to star as a kayak model since.
It had always been an ambition of mine to paddle around Gozo in a day but on every previous visit to the Island the weather had been too unsettled or I had been with paddlers who might have found it a bit too much of a challenge.
It was a surprise therefore after the winds of the last 5 or 6 days a narrow window of opportunity seemed to open up and so at 07.30 Thursday morning we found ourselves at Dahlet Qorrot, unloading kayaks and sorting kit for an 08.00 departure.
We were heading around Gozo in a clock wise direction so just after 08.00 we were heading for the easterly point before turning onto the south coast. As we paddled along we disturbed a short eared owl, which hopefully didn’t hang around on the Islands much longer as it would be at high risk of being shot! Just past the harbour at Mgarr, we came across a couple of hunters, who had decoys floating offshore, as they sat with guns at the ready. That probably goes someway to explaining why we saw virtually no sea birds all day.
We pulled back into Dahlet Qorrot at about 15.15, we hadn’t raced around but we certainly hadn’t just dawdled along. Apart from the extra time to go into Mgarr Ix-Xini we didn’t really stop and we certainly didn’t get out of the kayaks. Chris did have an appointment at 15.30 though so we were on a bit of a schedule.
I have heard lots of distances given for the circumnavigation of Gozo and most of the them also include the phrase “It is about”. It was good to be able to measure the distance on the GPS and confirm that our route was exactly 20 nautical miles. Spectacular scenery and good company combined to produce a memorable day out. I just hope that I don’t have to wait another 5 years before I repeat it.