26,000 nautical miles and counting

I first started logging my canoeing and kayaking trips in January 1979, when I was starting to work towards a number of British Canoe Union Awards.  Sea Proficiency followed by Inland and Canoe Proficiency before moving onto Senior Instructor and Advanced Sea.  A logbook was a pre-requisite for most assessments, as is some form of documentary evidence today.
I found that once I started documenting my paddling experiences it became more and more difficult to stop.  It has eventually developed into a series of notebooks documenting my paddling adventures of the last 38 years.  It is a record of not just my paddling but includes details of where we parked the car when visiting new areas, any unusual weather, birds and animals seen etc.
One thing that I have recorded is the distance covered and have watched it gradually increase over the years.  The initial thought was “had I paddled around the distance of going round the earth at the equator”?  According to Google the circumference of the earth at the equator is approximately 21,640 nautical miles.
A pleasant morning was spent, several years ago, sorting through my logbooks and compiling an annual total.  I discovered that I had passed the circumnavigation distance a couple of years earlier but have carried on keeping a record of my paddling journeys.
Kayaking around Stromboli was a memorable paddle, not only from the scenery but because I also went past 26,000 nautical miles in my logbook. The location was in the channel between the main island and the small stack of Strombolicchio to the north east.  After watching the GPS tick over to record the distance we paused for a few moments reflected on 26,000 nautical miles and carried on paddling to our landing, close to the harbour.  We had a volcano to walk up!

26,000 miles
It was along this stretch of the Stromboli coastline that I passed 26,000 nautical miles.  Taken from our walk up the volcano.

Short kayaks from Bonne Nuit

It was a distinct change today to paddle a short kayak, rather than the normal sea kayak. We launched from Bonne Nuit, one of the small bays on the north coast of Jersey.  Bonne Nuit is one of those bays which gives easy access to relatively deep water.
We paddled out of the small harbour which was built in 1872, to provide shelter for the local fishing fleet as well as providing a place for the export of stone from Mont Mado quarry which is located on the hillside above, whilst trying to avoid the fishing lines of the people above.
One of the more unusual aspects of today’s paddle was the size of the tide, there was only 3.4 metres of difference between high and low water. In a weeks time the height difference will have increased to 10.1 metres.  This meant that there was very little water moving so instead of searching for tide races we looked for rock gardens and swell.
Paddling short kayaks has a positive impact on our skill levels. Their manoeuvrability and lack of directional stability forces you to concentrate on improving your kayak handling and in particular the ability to paddle in a straight line. This can only be beneficial when transferred to the more usual sea kayaks that we paddle.

Bonne Nuit
Generally the swell was quite manageable which meant that there was plenty of time for woking on skills as opposed to trying to stay upright.
Bonne Nuit
There were plenty of gullies waiting to be explored some with entertaining flows. This section of coast changes significantly depending upon the state of the tide.
Bonne Nuit
Even more opportunity to work on skills.
Bonne Nuit
The blow hole near Wolf’s Caves was working quite nicely this morning.

Greve de Lecq – what a difference a week makes

After the near perfect conditions for exploring the coast to the east of Greve de Lecq last weekend, this Sunday was a complete contrast. Magicseaweed and Jersey Met had been predicting the arrival of a swell and they weren’t wrong. The one positive note was that the beach was reasonably protected, although there was still some dumping surf on the beach. It was what was going on outside the bay that created the talking points.
The Paternosters are approximately 2.5 nautical miles to the north but waves could be clearly seen breaking on the reef, whilst along the coast the swell could be seen breaking some way up the cliffs. This was clearly not going to be a day for exploring the caves along this stretch of coast. What made the swell even more impressive was its wave period, somewhere in the region of 15 seconds.

Swell
Leaving the beach was all about timing and the assistance of a couple of other paddlers. The important thing was to make sure that you weren’t the last person to leave the beach!

Once afloat there was very little opportunity to approach the cliffs and cave, which make this such a great stretch of coast to paddle.  A week earlier we had been able to go pretty much where we liked on a flat calm Sunday morning.

Swell
In places the swell was breaking some way up the cliffs. It was clearly somewhere that you didn’t want to be caught out.
Swell
There was not going to be any paddling through the arch on Ile Agois today. What a contrast to 7 days earlier.

We paddled as far as Sorel lighthouse but in most places we needed to keep several hundred metres out from the shore, there were just a couple of places where it was thought possible to approach a bit closer.

Swell
John making it out through the waves off Sorel.
Swell
Heading back to Greve, we kept well offshore. A couple of large sets of waves did pass by on their way to the cliffs. Jim from Manchester Canoe Club, clearly enjoying himself despite the rain just starting.

The landing back at Greve de Lecq was as difficult as anticipated.  The dropping tide meant that we had a bit more shelter than anticipated.  There had been 21 kayakers on the water with Jersey Canoe Club and only one person swam on landing.  We thought that was a pretty good success rate.

Jersey’s North Coast with Manchester CC.

Attracting canoeing and kayaking Club’s to paddle in Jersey has always proved a challenge. The concept of flying to a weekend’s paddling has been difficult to promote, although over the years Tower Hamlets Canoe Club have become annual visitors. This year at the Spanish Sea Kayak Symposium we fell into conversation with Jim Krawiecki and suggested that a group from Manchester flew south to warmer waters and experienced some of the paddling which Jersey has to offer.
After a quick paddle along the south coast yesterday using equipment courtesy of Absolute Adventures, today’ s focus switched to the north coast of the island. Meeting at St Catherine’s, were the Jersey Canoe Club has its premises, the plan was to head west on the ebbing Spring Tide before returning back to St Catherine’s as the tide started to flood. Along the way we hoped to be able to introduce the Manchester Canoe Club members to the delights of some of the Jersey tide races.
Remaining the tidal flow during the morning, we paddled from point to point, which meant that we were a significant distance offshore. The advantage was that our speed over the ground rarely dropped below 6 knots.  St Catherine’s, La Coupe, Tour de Rozel and Belle Hougue, one point after another, passed quickly.

Jersey
Paddling around the end of St Catherine’s Breakwater, some tide was still running north, contributing to our 7 knots over the ground.
Jersey
Passing White Rock on the ebb. On the return the tidal race would be running and the water would be slightly more entertaining!
Belle Hougue
There was still some movement off Belle Hougue, our final headland before lunch at Bonne Nuit. Sark is just visible behind the paddler.

Lunch was on the beach at Bonne Nuit.  The last of the ebb tide was still flowing west when we started our return paddle so we stayed close to the shore initially, passing things that we missed whilst heading in the opposite direction.

Jersey
Remains of the ship SS Ribbledale, which was wrecked on the 27th December 1926, whilst en route from London to Jersey.  This is visible just to the east of the beach at Bouley Bay at low water on Spring Tides.
Jersey
As the tide drops some isolated beaches appear around the coast of Jersey.

Our final play of the day was in the moving water at Tour de Rozel before we jumped on the tide and hitched a free ride back to St Catherine’s.  Sprinting off La Coupe we managed to reach 8.3 knots over the ground, not a bad speed on what was supposed to be a relaxing days paddle,  introducing some of the members of Manchester Canoe Club to the variety of sea kayaking that Jersey has to offer.

Greve de Lecq: always enjoyable

By default I found myself arranging the Jersey Canoe Club Sunday morning session. Considering tide and weather I chose Greve de Lecq, a delightful beach on the north west corner of the Island. In actual fact it would have been possible to go almost anywhere but I hadn’t been from Greve for some time, a fact which helped to influence my decision.
You are spoilt for choice at Greve de Lecq, heading east and west there are sections of cliff, interspersed with numerous caves whilst to the north are the Paternoster’s, one of the reefs which are located around Jersey.  Today there were some large clouds around with the possibility of thunderstorms so we selected the coastal option, heading east.

Greve de Lecq
On the beach at Greve de Lecq. Substantial clouds.offering the prospect of lightning are visible to the north.  We were deciding whether to head east or west.

The great thing about this section of coast is that almost immediately there are numerous caves waiting to be explored and today the lack of any significant swell meant that we could wander almost anywhere.

Greve de Lecq
This is one of the longest caves that I am aware of anywhere on the Island. At this point I was probably only a third of the way in.

Besides the caves there are numerous narrow channels waiting to be explored.  Just over a mile to the east of Greve de Lecq is Ile Agois, one of the most dramatic physical features on the Island.  Separated from the headland by a narrow channel the surrounding cliffs produce an almost totally isolated stack.  Excavations in the 1950’s and 70’s of the summit area uncovered a significant amount of iron age pottery, plus the remnants of some small huts.  It might also have provided sanctuary for a small community of monks.  It is likely at that time the stack was joined to the headland, otherwise it would have been a very challenging place to survive.

Greve de Lecq
Looking north from inside Ile Agois. The remains of the small settlement are to the right of the highest point.
Derek Hutchinson
The back cover of “The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking” by Derek Hutchinson. Published in 1994, although the photograph was taken in 1989. It shows Derek on the outside of the obvious arch, which cuts through Ile Agois.

I have fond memories of paddling in this area in the 1980’s with Derek Hutchinson, who at the time was probably the best known sea kayaker in the world with his televised expeditions as well as his crossing of the North Sea by kayak in 1976, when on a 31 hour paddle they were out of sight of land for 30 hours.
To the east of Ile Agois is another significant coastal feature, Devil’s Hole.  The scene of a shipwreck in 1851, when the French cutter, Josephine, ran aground.  One of the crew was drowned whilst the other 4 were rescued by Nicolas Arthur, the owner of The Priory Inn at the top of cliffs, plus a friend.  The figurehead from the ship was washed into the bottom of Devil’s Hole, from where it was rescued, before being carved into the shape of the Devil, before being put on display, hence its name.

Greve de Lecq
Not the view of Devil’s Hole that most visitors get.

Before returning to Greve de Lecq we explored the narrow channels towards Sorel, coming across the rather strange breathing rock.  A couple of hours on a Sunday morning is a great time to explore the Islands coastline with the Jersey Canoe Club and today didn’t disappoint.

 

Sunny Sunday Kayaking

Sunny Sunday Kayaking
A group of 29 sea kayakers is an impressive sight as they prepare for departure even more so when 6 of them are in the brand new orange Tiderace Vortex kayaks, which have just been unwrapped in the car park at Ouaisne.
This was the annual visit of Tower Hamlets Canoe Club to Jersey and the plan for Sunday’s kayaking was to head east from Ouaisne, have lunch on Elizabeth Castle before taking advantage of the increasing north easterly wind to aid our progress back.  As it was the wind and tide slowed us down earlier than we anticipated with the result that it was sandwiches on St Aubin’s Fort.
That really didn’t matter as we had a really entertaining paddle along a lovely section of the Jersey coastline in conditions, which were quite interesting at times.  As we paddled back into the bay you could feel the warmth of the sun on your face for the first time this year, it really did feel like spring had finally arrived. 
 Its Christmas, in March!  Unwrapping the six new kayaks ready for our friends from Tower Hamlets Canoe Club to use.
 With 29 paddlers in the group, a clear pre-trip briefing is pretty essential.
 Angus just off Noirmont
 Matt paddling in front St Aubin’s.  Less than 72 hours earlier we had gone in the opposite direction on our night paddle.
 Janet enter St Aubin’s Harbour.  This was a pretty big tide so the water level was dropping at about 90 cm every 20 minutes, so we didn’t hang around.  Within minutes it was dry.
 
 Lunch at St Aubin’s Fort.  Thanks Matt for this photo.
 Approaching Noirmont, wind and tide with us.  It was a pretty quick run back to Ouaisne, although a bit choppy off the point.
Nicky passing through one of the narrow channels off Noirmont.

St Aubin’s – Night paddle

St Aubin’s – Night paddle
Thursday evenings during the winter months are the regular pool sessions, apart from one week in March when it is the local Swimmarathon.  A huge community fund raising event so we normally have a week without midweek paddling but last nights forecast raised the possibility of a night paddle out from Belcroute Bay.
Belcroute is a perfect place for a night paddle, sheltered from the prevailing wind and swell and out of the strongest tidal streams, but with plenty to explore including St Aubin’s Harbour a few hundred metres to the north.  There are also plenty of navigation markers in the vicinity if you wish to improve the accuracy of your bearings and timings.
We met at Belcroute at just before 7.00 pm and it was clear that the major issue was how we were going to launch.  The 11.8 metre tide meant that the sea was pretty close to the wall and there was the occasional larger swell.  In a plastic sea kayak launching down the slip was a distinct possibility, particularly with assistance.  Launching with a fibre glass kayak was an entirely different proposition, the best option for preserving kit appeared to be to throw the kayak into the sea, jump in after it, hopefully timing your entry into the water so that the retreating swell sucked you away from the slip and then perform a self rescue, all in the dark.  Although there was some initial reluctance regarding the assessment of the situation everybody managed to perform the task without any major drama.
Once afloat we had a delightful paddle around St Aubin’s Fort, built during the English Civil War and extended in the 18th and 20th Century it now serves as an outdoor centre for the Education Department.  From there we headed across to St Aubin’s Harbour, which thrived as Jersey fishermen returned from the fishing grounds off eastern Canada. The splendid merchants houses along the waterfront known as Cod houses.  A paddle around the harbour is always pleasant, particularly during the hours of darkness.
The return to Belcroute was simple and the landing at Belcroute was easier than anticipated as the tide had dropped slightly but it was still entertaining, having to time your arrival in the steep pebble beach with one of the smaller sets of waves, not always easy to achieve when you can’t see what is coming.  A delightful way to spend a couple of hours on a mid-week evening in March.

Listening to Derek’s briefing whilst contemplating the upcoming swim.
Plastic kayaks could be launched down the slip although timing was pretty important.
Ruth swimming for it with Alex ready to help.
St Brelade’s Parish hall, in a previous life it was part of the railway station.
Heading back to the entrance.
 
On the outside of the harbour, passing the Royal Channel Islands Yacht Club, as we head back towards Belcroute.

East Coast Kayaking

East Coast Kayaking
Today was the first day this year that I have been out kayaking off the east coast of the Island.  It was just a gentle paddle around the area to the south of St Catherine’s, the base of Jersey Canoe Club.  The breakwater is the most visible reminder of a grand project by the British Admiralty in the middle of the 19th century.  It was due to join up with the southern arm, which was due to be built out, from the coast, close to Archirondel.
On the way south we passed the small cottage, L’Hopital, which was built as a hospital to meet the needs of the hundreds of workers who were employed on the construction of the breakwater.  It has had a chequered history including being a tea room and as a private residence.  Today it is a self catering property, helping to meet the needs of the tourist industry.  It must be one of the best places to stay on the Island, if you are a sea kayaker.
Continuing south the next obvious building also has a role to play in the tourist industry.  Archirondel Tower.  Built in 1792 as part of the Islands coastal defences against the French military it has recently been refurbished for basic accommodation for up to 10 people.
The small headland between Anne Port and Archirondel is interesting from a geological perspective, providing evidence of some volcanic activity in the distant past.  The columnar rhyolites are easily visible from the sea but are missed by the thousands of people who drive along the road above.
Once past the rocks of the Jersey Volcanic Group we crossed Anne Port, a small bay, which must have seen more attempts at preventing coastal erosion than anywhere else on the Island.  The authorities have used rock armour, cliff pinning, netting, beach replenishment, gabions and a sea wall to help prevent erosion, all is needed is a groyne and there would be pretty much every type of coastal protection.

 L’Hopital is in a superb position, just above the shoreline.
 The white building is the base of St Catherine’s Sailing Club.  Originally it was the carpenters sheds whilst the Breakwater was under construction.
 Looking into Anne Port.  Some of the coastal defenses are visible at the rear of the beach.
 Paddling past the columnar rhyolites at La Crete Point.  There is a much better view from a kayak than from the road.
Arriving back at Archirondel.  The end of a rather pleasant way to spend a March afternoon.

St Brelade’s Bay on Mother’s Day

St Brelade’s Bay on Mother’s Day
Today was one of the first Sunday mornings this year which didn’t have strong winds forecast so the Jersey Canoe Club Sunday morning session headed west from St Brelade’s along one of the most pleasant stretches of Jersey’s coastline.
 We changed in perfect spring sunshine but by the time we launched the clouds had gathered.  we were paddling along the stretch of coast which is close to the hotel where the Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium is going to held in May.
 Part of the group under Corbiere Lighthouse.  I know that I am biased by I reckon it is the most beautiful lighthouse in the world.
 As we headed east the sun did manage to break through.  This section of coast is perfect for coasteering in the summer months, fingers crossed for warmer weather.
 Cliffs just to the west of Beauport.  Always a pleasure to paddle past these granite faces.
Time to head in for the Mother’s Day beer!

First Paddle of the Year

First Paddle of the Year
Today was one of those days when it would have been so easy to stay in bed or to go to the gym, but it was well worth making the effort to head out in to the rain.  With strong winds from the south blowing the north coast was the only really viable option.  Bouley Bay to Rozel and back.  A good run out for my first paddle of the year.
 Kate inside Rozel Harbour.   Just about to head back.
 Kate trying to get a bit of help from the following wind.
 The north side of the harbour wall provided some shelter from the strong offshore wind.
 Relaxing paddle back, not rushing as the thought of getting changed in the rain wasn’t too appealing

 

 At times the rain was so heavy that it obscured the finer details of Bouley Bay.
 Water was running down the road with some considerable force and then amazingly after we had tied the kayaks on the cars the rain stopped and we were able to get changed in the dry!

 

 Water pouring down the steps and onto the beach had discoloured the sea.