When we are considering potential kayaking trips we always keep at least one eye on the weather forecast, wondering whether we are going to get that window in the weather to allow us to do that paddle we have been thinking about for quite some time.
We are fortunate in that we are able to access a variety of forecasts, how often have you heard people say “I didn’t like that forecast so I will look for a better one”, normally they are joking but looking at the forecast for the next 48 hours in Jersey there might be some truth in that statement.
Looking at the variety of forecasts available it seems like we can expect almost anything to hit the Island. I have taken screen shots of a number of forecasts, which were published around 09.00 this morning.
So we have a complete range of forecasts, with one we would still be able to run a kayaking session for relatively inexperienced paddlers whereas with some others we would be tying down the garden furniture and heading out to sea would be the last thing on our mind.
This shows the need to check forecasts on a regular basis as well as maintaining a close eye on conditions whilst on the water.
It will be interesting to see what eventually arrives on Friday morning.
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.
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.
On the beach, close to St Helier is West Park Pool or the Victoria Marine Lake, which was originally opened in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It is one of the largest Marine Lakes in the UK and up until the 1980’s it was the focus for a lot of activity in this area of St Helier. In 1989 I had the concession for kayaks on the pool and used probably the first type of sit on tops to be brought into the Island.
It gradually fell into disrepair, but following a programme of fund raising and support from the Parish of St Helier the pool was officially re-opened to the public on the 18th July 2014. During the summer months there is the opportunity to rent sit on tops, stand up paddleboards or just to enjoy swimming in the pool. It is unlikely though, that there will be many days in the summer, when the water will be as smooth as it was when this photograph was taken.
Sadly the project hasn’t proved to be as successful as hoped because of the problem of sea lettuce growing within St Aubin’s Bay during the summer months. It drifts onto he edge of the water resulting in a very unpleasant green mess on the beach. Far from ideal and certainly discouraging people from going down to the beach for a relaxing afternoon with the opportunity to take part in some watersports.
A rather bleak day but this interesting feature towers above the ramparts at Fort Regent. It is thought that the first signal station was built here, in 1708, to warn the Islanders of a possible invasion. Eventually there were 10 built around the Island and it was possible to communicate with the other islands via the one at Grosnez. In the past information was indicated about commercial ferries, naval ships etc. After a huge storm in 1859 Admiral Fitzroy introduced a number of coastal stations which sent their weather data to London and in 1861 he introduced the storm cone. A triangle to be hoisted when winds of Force 8 and above are predicted. In Jersey the ball was introduced in about 1971 and it is hoisted when of Force 6 are expected. The apex of the cone indicates the wind direction, so here it is pointing up so strong winds from the north are indicated. Although I can state at the time it was blowing from the south west.
There are other flags which are raised at certain times, for example the T Flag.
As far as I am aware it is the only signal station left in operation and as a kayaker it is always interesting to look up when heading through town as it gives a very quick indication of possible conditions out at sea.
Although Sunday morning is a regular time for kayaking the forecast for this Sunday was less than favourable. Force 6 from the north accompanied by continuous rain was enough to put an end to any thoughts about paddling. A meal out on Saturday evening resulted in the opportunity to help out with a co-ordinated count of the Brent Geese in Jersey. These are always interesting and have been taking place for so long, that it has been possible to build a reasonably accurate picture of the status of the birds.
In just two locations yesterday (this was written in November 2014) there were 1340 Brent Geese present, which is really healthy total, it will be interesting to see the total figures when they are available.
18th December 2005 1280 ( this was the highest monthly count since 1989)
19th February 2006 1131
21st November 2007 1528
13th January 2008 1267
19th December 2009 1243
16th January 2010 1566
20th February 2011 1547
Can’t find the data for 2012, if I can put my hands on it later I will update the blog
12th December 2013 1375
23rd November 2014 1795
22nd February 2015 1635
16th January 2016 1590
West Park Pool is the colloquial name for the Victoria Marine Lake, located on the sands at West Park. Constructed in 1897, it was officially opened on the 9th June that year, with the most of the great and the good of Jersey on the beach that day. At the time it was probably the largest such pool in the British Isles.
Over the next 100 years the lake was used by thousands of visitors and residents for a variety of watersports. In the late 1980’s I had a personal interest in the pool as I had the concession from Jersey Tourism to operate in the pool and rented out what were probably the first sit on top kayaks to be seen in Jersey.
From the 1990’s onwards the condition of the pool started to deteriorate, very little, if any, maintenance was undertaken and eventually the gates were left open so that instead of water being retained within the walls the water drained out in sync with the falling tide.
What we were left with was a crumbling Victorian wall on the beach. Fortunately a group of locals, less that two years ago, had the vision to restore the Jubilee Marine Lake. Finance was secured and restoration undertaken.
Today, quietly and without any public announcement it opened for activities to begin. There is an official opening at the end of next week but it is good to see it up and running and will hopefully provide a valuable resource for the residents of St Helier and those who live further afield.
The pool with Elizabeth Castle behind
Looking west across the pool towards Noirmont.
Sit on tops, stand up paddleboards and pedalos all for rental
The plan is to have sailing on the pool in the not too distant future.
Saturday dawned windy yet again with the promise of substantial showers around in the afternoon so I decided to head out towards Seymour Tower, off the south east corner of the Island. Due to the large tidal range (almost 12 metres on the larger tides) a virtually unique coastal environment is exposed twice a day, particularly on Spring Tides. For several hours, each day, the opportunity of walking around on the sea bed presents itself and I took full advantage of the opportunity yesterday. Amazingly I was the only person who seemed to want to experience the delights of this corner of the Island on blustery Saturday in January.