Walking on the Sea Bed

Friday was a big tide, in fact a very big tide.  The tidal range of 11.8 metres resulted in a significant movement of water.  As it approached low tide we were able to go walking on the sea bed.
We met at La Rocque Harbour, the south east corner of the Island.  Unfortunately the blue skies and sunshine from the west coast were replaced by an approaching fog.  It was rolling in from the sea and obscuring all the physical features.
Icho Tower was about 1.5 miles away, the benefits of GPS ensuring that we had this information, but at times we could see less than a hundred metres.  Heading so far offshore in the fog requires confidence in your navigation abilities.  So for the first time in nearly 60 years of living in Jersey, when walking I had to walk on a compass bearing to ensure that we found our planned destination, Icho Tower.

Walking on the sea bed
Our departure point. La Rocque Harbour, with the fog starting to roll in from the sea.
Walking on the sea bed
Leaving La Rocque, at this moment our feet were still relatively dry! We were already walking on a compass bearing by this time.
Walking on the sea bed
As we headed across the beach there were a number of water filled gullies. They became increasingly deep, so the optimism of dry feet from wearing wellington boots, was changed into flooded boots and wet socks.

Icho Tower appeared out of the mist, when we were less than 100 metres away, according to the GPS.  The tower was built in 1811, part of the coastal defenses designed to protect the Island from possible French invasion.  It is easily seen whilst driving along the coastal road at Le Hocq but visiting on foot is restricted to the larger spring tides.  We decided to have lunch in the hope that the water retreated from the deeper gullies before we headed east towards Seymour Tower.

Walking on the sea bed
Icho Tower gradually appeared from the mist. We were within a 100 metres before we could see anything for definite.
Walking on the sea bed
As we had lunch on the rocks at Icho Tower the fog was gradually thinning and visibility improving.
Walking on the sea bed
As we walked between Icho Tower and Seymour Tower the visibility improved and the sun came out.
Walking on the sea bed
Approaching Seymour Tower after the sun finally came out.

Seymour Tower is unique among the defensive towers, which are found around the coast of Jersey, in that it is square.  It was built in 1782, a direct consequence of the 1781 invasion, which resulted in the Battle of Jersey.  Today it is a unique place to stay overnight, with bookings available through Jersey Heritage.  It lies at the heart of the RAMSAR site, situated off the south east corner of Jersey.

Walking on the sea bed
Sitting on the platform in front of Seymour Tower, the views to the south were amazing. Such a privilege to live on such a special Island.
Walking on the sea bed
Looking back towards Jersey from the steps on Seymour Tower, the coast is just visible through the hazy conditions. At this point we were only about half way towards the low tide mark. The sea really does retreat over the horizon.
Walking on the sea bed
This screen shot from the ViewRanger App shows our route. Friday’s route is shown in red whilst the black route is our walk on the last large spring tide.

The screen shot above, really does indicate that we were walking on the sea bed.  As the tide drops, particularly on the larger spring tides, a unique coastal environment is exposed.  A great place to explore but somewhere, which needs accurate planning to avoid being cut off by the tide.

Early paddling adverts

Whilst browsing through some of my rather large collection of canoeing and kayaking magazines I looked at some of the old adverts.  They show how the sport has changed over the last 60 years.  Prices were certainly considerably lower than today.

Early Paddling Adverts
Single and double folding canoes (kayaks). All for the remarkable price of £23. 10. 0. This advert appeared in The Canoe Camper Spring 1960 issue. This was the magazine of the Canoe Camping Club.
Early Paddling Adverts
This is the earliest mention of a specialist sea kayaking craft, I have found. The Sea Rapier at the time was the fastest kayak to be paddled across the English Channel. This advert appeared in Canoeing in Britain in October 1962. At the time this was the in house magazine of British Canoeing.
Early paddling adverts
Tyne Canoes were a respected name in the paddling world in the 1950’s and 60’s. This advert appeared in the Winter 1965-5 issue of The Canoe Camper. This was obviously a time when it was seen as more sensible to send a young girl afloat with a dog as opposed to a life jacket.  A great early paddling advert.
Early paddling adverts
This March 1966 advert, for the Solent Canoe Centre, from Canoeing in Britain, is one of the earliest to mention fibre glass in touring canoes and kayaks.
Early paddling adverts
This advert, for the K.W.7 is particularly relevant to me as my first kayak was a K.W.7, which I received for Christmas 1969. The start of my paddling career. I used mine for playing on the sea as opposed to taking part in International Slaloms. Canoeing in Britain June 1966.
Early paddling adverts
One of the major sea kayaking manufacturers of the last 50 years. In 1970 you could buy a partly finished Soar Valley Special. I remember my friend John buying one of these kits and we spent many a happy hour completing it in his garden in St Helier. This was in the December 1970 issue of Canoeing Magazine.
Early paddling adverts
An interesting advert, which would not be acceptable today. Another major producer of sea kayaks over the last 50 years. This advert was in the February 1971 issue of Canoeing. A magazine that in its later issues appeared to enjoy publishing pictures of topless paddlers.
Early paddling adverts
Visiting North Wales in the early 1980’s one of the pleasures was to visit the Jim Hargreaves canoeing shop. Located in the garage in Capel Curig, you could nearly always find something to buy. From Ceufad Spring 1981 issue.

 

 

Achilles Rehab

5th April 2018 is etched in my memory as the day that I ruptured my Achilles’ tendon, whilst kayaking in Gozo. It has been a difficult and at times frustrating 3 months but today I felt I made a significant step forward on the road to recovery. For the first time I went to the gym.
Although I wouldn’t place myself in the category of a gym fanatic I must admit that when the opportunity arises I do enjoy spending an hour or so in the gym, listening to some music and working up a sweat on some of the cardio- vascular machines.
My machine of choice has always been the Concept 2 rowing machine, for a couple of reasons. Firstly it seems to be the most suitable machine for maintaining my kayaking fitness and secondly it seems to give you an all round work out , without any significant impact on the body.
I started off gently on the bike and then the cross trainer, all seemed to be going well. So I thought I would try the rowing machine, managed one pull before having to get off, it might be some time until I get back on the Concept 2. The long road back to fitness might be slow and bumpy.
The gym I go to, the D-W Gym, must have one of the best views of any. Looking across St Brelade’s Bay to Pt Le Fret, the scene of some great sea kayaking in the past and hopefully in the future, once my leg has recovered.
The next waymark on my route a degree of normality will be when I manage to get in a kayak, that day may still be some time off, but you never know.

Gym
The view from the bike in the gym. There can’t be many gyms, which have such a stunning view.
Gym
Looking out from the gym. Pt Le Fret is the headland in the distance, where there is some superb paddling.
Winston Churchill Park
Looking across St Brelade’s Bay from the Winston Churchill Memorial Park, it was not an easy walk through the trees, I had to stop and rest 3 times.

Weather Forecast Issues

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.

Weather Forecast
Weather Online is giving SW Force 7 with gusts to 56 mph. Not ideal for any water based activity.
Weather forecast
Magic Seaweed is similar, forecasting winds up to 57 mph and just to make matters more interesting a wave height of 5.9 metres around lunch time.
Metcheck is a little less windy but the interesting thing is that the mean wind speed is above the gusts, not the other way around, as you would expect. 39 mph but gust 31 mph. This is 20 mph less than Magic Seaweed.
Weather forecast.
I normally find XC weather pretty accurate and the forecast for Friday is 45 mph. Pretty blowy but not as windy as some of the other forecasts.
Weather forecast
Windfinder is giving 39 gusting 47 but in contrast to the other forecasts this is in knots as opposed to mph. So this forecast is giving winds of up to 54 mph.
Weather Forecast
Weather.com is predicting winds of between 25 and 35 mph from the SSW. These are pretty much the most conservative wind speeds of any of the forecasts so far.
Wunderground is giving a maximum wind speed of 27 mph. Blowy but not disastrous.
Weather forecast
Meteox is giving SW Force 8, which translates into wind gusts of 40 mph.
Weather Forecast
The Jersey Met forecast, which I normally use is showing Force 4 from the south. Nothing to really worry about.

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.

 

Nautical History and the T Flag

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.
Signal Station
Visual warnings from the Fort Regent Signal station today. Strong winds from the north and T Flag
 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.
Nautical history and the T Flag
When this flag is flying it signals that the tide is above 38 feet.

West Park Pool

West Park Pool
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.

Fort Regent Signal Station

Fort Regent
The Fort Regent Signal Station with the north cone and ball flying. Strong winds from the north are forecast.

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.

A good day for Brent Geese

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.

For the latest news check out the Jersey Birds website.

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

Brent Geese
St Aubin’s Fort, Belcroute and the fields just inland drew a blank. Not a goose in sight.
Brent Geese
Looking back towards La Haule, it was clear that there was a pretty good turn out.
Brent Geese
Not the best picture but the weather was awful and I was using my phone.

Le Catel de Lecq

Le Catel de Lecq is an iron age hill which dominates the headland to the east of Greve de Lecq, possibly the finest beach for sea kayaking on the north coast of Jersey.  I must have paddled past it hundreds of times, in addition to passing by numerous times on the landward side.  It wasn’t until this week though that I made the effort to climb to the summit.
It was well worth visiting it as it is one of the best preserved defensive earthworks on the Island.  In recent months the defenses have been improved with the introduction of a number of very inquisitive Manx four horned sheep, so if visiting ensure that the gate is firmly closed.

Catel de Lecq
The fort seen from close to the road, minus the sheep
Catel de Lecq
Just a few of the many sheep which were grazing on the slopes and in the surrounding fields.
Le Catel de Lecq
Nicky on the way up.
Le Catel de Lecq
Looking east from the summit. Directly below the fort are a number of the more interesting caves to be found on the Island
Le Catel de Lecq
Looking down on Greve de Lecq and the coast running west towards Plemont.
Le Catel de Lecq
Nicky on the summit ridge, it was narrower than we imagined.
Le Catel de Lecq
Approaching Greve de Lecq from the Paternosters. Le Catel de Lecq is the distinctive hill above the kayakers. How many people passing by realize that it is man made?

West Park Pool

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.