A Very Big Tide


Another weekend with light winds meant a possible visit to the Ecrehous by sea kayak but as it was one of the highest tides of the year an overnight stay was favourite. In the channel between Jersey and the reef the tidal streams reach speeds of over 5 knots, unfortunately not in the direction we wanted to head.
It was important to take advantage of the short tidal window for the crossing and to be prepared for the change in direction of the tidal flow. The speed at which it picked up was surprising so the last couple of miles into the reef were slightly more challenging than anticipated. After a mile of ferry gliding across overfalls in the dark we were pleased to touch dry land, although as it was high water there wasn’t much of it left.
We had the reef to ourselves that night which was unusual as there are normally a number of other residents. A couple of beers later and a warm meal and we were set up for the night.

Nicky heading towards on the Saturday afternoon. Some barely visible white dots just in front of the kayak are all that could be seen of the main reef. Little did we realize that it would be dark by the time we arrived. The north going tide was running particularly fast and due to the size of the tide there were virtually no rocks uncovered which it was possible to shelter behind.The Sunday morning high tide left very little room for the kayaks but the high pressure depressed the level it reached. We did tie the kayaks to the building just in case a swell developed overnight.
A couple of hours later the sun had burnt off the cloud and the falling tide had exposed the shingle bank. At high water the tide runs with considerable speed from left to right, creating some interesting standing waves.
The tide runs with surprising speed remarkably close to the rocks. This would not be a good place to slip on the rocks and fall into the water. It would be far too powerful to swim against.
A small pod of Bottle Nosed Dolphins headed south through the sound but unfortunately an erratic and inconsiderate French power boat driver attempted to run over them and they disappeared without a trace.
A small group of Turnstones, there was an interesting variety of birds present including some wintering Brent Geese and Red Breasted Mergansers. Possibly the most unusual species were two crows which arrived from France and headed towards Jersey, they were the first ones I had seen after over 30 years of paddling to the reef.
A small section of the huts on the western side of the island. They are well maintained by their owners and the early spring sunshine portrayed them in their best light.
This was our comfortable base for the night and it even came with its own washing line.
We decided to launch on the French side of the reef, the carry on the western side of the reef was several hundred metres longer, not that appealing a prospect with loaded sea kayaks.

Nicky paddling past Marmotier. Although we had the reef to ourselves overnight there were a number of visitors on the Sunday morning, mainly from the ports on the Normandy coast.
Pete and Alex in amongst to rocks to the south west of the reef on our way back to Jersey. By crossing at low water as opposed to high tide it is possible to reduce the distance on open water by over a mile. The low water slack is much easier to use for the crossing, it took 2 hours 40 minutes going out on the Saturday evening and only 1 hour 10 minutes heading back on the Sunday and it was far more relaxing.