Some more memories of Jersey sea kayaking

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.

Jersey Kayaking
The start of the 1979 Canoe Club Middle Distance race from Gorey to St Helier. It is clear that it was important to have an orange Nordkapp HM and wear a Ricard sun hat.
Jersey Kayaking
John Hurley at the 1982 white water championships. Close to St Helier ,the white water was revealed when the tide dropped. The water was from the power station and so it was really warm. An ideal place to paddle on a cold winters day. Sadly it has since disappeared under the reclamation site.
Jersey kayaking
In the 1980’s Jersey competed in the Home International Surfing competitions. In 1986 we entered a team in the slalom event for the first time. This was training at St Ouen’s in almost perfect conditions. Sadly the week of the event was accompanied by no surf and pretty strong easterly winds.
Jersey Kayaking
In the early 1990’s the BCU introduced the idea of a National Canoeing Day. In September 1992 we managed to get 120 people to turn up to St Catherine’s to form a raft.
Jersey Kayaking
The 1990’s also saw the development of Sea Kayak Symposiums. This is 1996 and Gordon Brown is demonstrating a number of Greenland rolls and skills. We were fortunate to have John Heath at the event who gave a running commentary to Gordon’s performance.
Jersey Kayaking
Some people expressed an interest in folding kayaks. This is a naked Feathercraft Khatsilano.
Jersey Kayaking
We also developed a tidal slalom course in front of the Club House at St Catherine’s. I think this is Scottish paddler Donald Thomson taking part in the closing event of the 1996 Symposium. All competitors had to use a VCP Skerray.
Jersey Kayaking
The 1998 Symposium. This is a bird watching paddle, I ended up paddling Bill Oddie around in double Spud whilst he pointed at feathered things of interest. There must have been at least 50 people in the group, which created quite a spectacle.
Jersey Kayaking
An innovation at the 1998 Symposium was the making of kayaks over the weeken with people able to assist. Howard Jeffs produced a fibre glass BAT and Duncan Winning built the “Jersey Junior” being paddled here by my daughter Lisa.

Inuit Hunter

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.

Inuit hunter
A hunter paddling among the ice on the southern side of Ilulissat Icefjord

Lighthouses of Brittany Part 2.

Following on from the post a couple of days ago here are a few photographs of Brittany lighthouses.  There are endless opportunities for viewing them from your sea kayak, and here are a few more.  They are mainly from the north coast of Brittany.  I might be biased but I think the lighthouses on the north coast generally look more dramatic than those to the south.
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.
Situated in the Baie de Morlaix, Ile Noire lighthouse was built in 1845, with the keepers house added in 1879.  Paddling in this area is always enjoyable with numerous islands to explore.
La Croix.  Built in 1867 it is situated just to the south west of Ile de Brehat.  In common with some many lighthouses in this area the Germans blew the top of the light as they retreated.  It is always a welcome sight when paddling around Brehat.
Cap Frehel is the largest headland on the north Brittany coast and on clear nights I can see this light from near my house on Jersey.  It is open to visitors a certain times of the year.  The headland is spectacular when viewed from below in a sea kayak or whilst walking along the cliffs.
Sept Iles lighthouse is situated on Ile aux Moines,  part of a delightful archipelago to the north of Tregastel.  This was one of the last lighthouses in France to be manned by keepers.
The Port Navalo light marks to entrance to the Gulf du Morbihan.  This is one of the finest sea kayaking areas anywhere, a mixture of fast tidal streams and world class historic sites.  The lighthouse was built in 1892.

Octopus Pool

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.

Octopus Pool
Jacob is really enthusiastic about coasteering and is really confident for a 6 year old, when moving across the rocks.
Octhopus pool
This stone always fascinates me as the letters have been carved with such care. It says the following ASL HFM 1839
Octopus Pool
It is always a challenge to dive to the bottom to get some sand or seaweed. Most young people fail as they don’t know how to dive. In this day and age it is almost impossible for young people to learn to dive, due to health and safety concerns diving is banned in virtually every swimming pool.
Octopus Pool
At low tide the Rhino was quite a reasonable jump today, about 10 metres in height.
Octopus Pool
Its always great to be able to return to Greve de Lecq through the cave which runs underneath the headland.

Grosnez Coasteering

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.

Just to the west of Plemont there is some entertaining scrambling. Coasteering is not all about big jumps and long swims.
There were a number of sections where scrambling along semi submerged reefs allowed us to make relatively fast progress.
Inside La Cotte a La Chevre, one of the the most important Neanderthal sites on the island.
Descending from La Cotte a la Chevre, in preparation for our next swim.
Scrambling along the rocks to the west of Le Vyi. We were beginning to feel the impact of the westerly swell hitting the cliffs when we were in the water.
The further west we moved the more the jumps appeared. This was apleasant, small jump into one of the small gullies to the easy of Grosnez.
Underneath Grosnez lighthouse. I would imagine that there are very few days in a year when peiople stand here. It is not an easy location to reach.
The exit point just to the south of Grosnez. There are some really big cliffs around here.


Lighthouses of Brittany

There is something special about Breton lighthouses , particularly when viewed from a sea kayak.  This is a selection of some that I have seen over the years.  Not all of the photographs are of the best quality as some were scanned from slides.  That said Breton lighthouses are amongst the most unique maritime buildings encountered anywhere and it is always a treat to visit them by sea kayak.
Le Heaux de Brehat.  To the west of Ile de Brehat on the north coast of Brittany it was built in 1840, although the top was blown off by the Germans in August 1944.  Located on an offshore reef, the sea kayak is an ideal way to access this light.  It is close to the end of the Sillon de Talbert
Ile Louet is situated in the Baie e Morlaix, near Roscoff on the north coast of Brittany.
25 nautical miles west of Corbiere is the Roches Douvres.  The light was finished being rebuilt in 1954 after it had been destroyed by the Germans 10 years before.  We raised the Jersey flag but the following morning it was a serious crossing of 25 miles in dense fog.  I have to admit that we felt pretty isolated the night we spent on the reef.
L’Ost Pic is located just to the south of Paimpol.  Built in the 1890’s I have to admit that the last time I landed there I ended up swimming.
Phare du Paon is situated on the north coast of Ile de Brehat, this is ome of the finest sea kayaking you could find anywhere.  It was originally built in 1860 but like so many lighthouses along this coast it was blown up by the Germans in1944.  It was rebuilt in 1949.
Another lighthouse blown up by the Germans, this light, Le Grand Jardin, marks the approaches to St Malo.  It was rebuilt in 1949.

Another Wednesday on the Ecrehous

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.

Paddling in through the outer reef of the Ecrehous. It was a quick 5 nautical mile crossing.
Arriving at the Ecrehous. There was only one other boat visiting the reef on this Wednesday in November.
The classic view north from near the bench on the Ecrehous.
Preparing to leave the Ecrehous for Jersey. The French coast is visible behind.
Portugese Man of War
On the return to Jersey we saw 3 Portugese Man of War. In 48 years of kayaking in the Channel Islands I had only ever seen one other.

Read the Water

Read the Water

“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,.

Kayak Models

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.

Kayak Models
The advertising board in the arrivals hall at Jersey Airport. 7 years after our modeling assignment the photos are still being used to promote the Island.

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.

Two new and recently polished kayaks waiting on the beach

The dawn light had a particularly special quality.

Circumnavigation of Gozo

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.

Approaching the harbour at Mgarr, always busy with ferry traffic care is needed when crossing the entrance.
We paddled into the deep inlet, partly in the hope of a coffee, sadly the cafe didn’t open for another 90 minutes.
The cliffs in between Mgarr Ix-Xini and Xleni are the most spectacular in the area, rising vertically up to 130 metres. They are important nesting sites for some of the Shearwaters, which breed in the area.
We rafted up just off the north coast to grab a quick bite to eat. We didn’t really have enough time to paddle inshore and land.
Not quite as dramatic as the Azure Window was, Wied Il-Mielah is still a pretty spectacular arch.
Just to east of the north coast salt pans there are some rather unusual rock formations. We felt we were on the home stretch paddling along here.

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.