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.

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.

Sea bed ramblings

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.

Sea bed ramblings
Looking towards Seymour Tower, my aim was to try and reach a navigation mark, Karame, which is beyond the obvious tower. As I headed out across the exposed foreshore I was the only person in the area.
Sea bed ramblings
The rescue beacon. In the past people have lost their lives when they have been cut off by the rapidly rising tide. Between Christmas and New Year two German tourists were fortunate to be able to climb the tower when they underestimated the speed at which the tide rises. The inshore lifeboat collected them from the tower which prevented them having to speed a cold and dark night 6 hours perched above the swirling waters.
Seymour Tower
Viewed up close the superb construction of the tower is clearly visible. The concrete additions are as a result of the German occupation. It is possible to hire the tower from Jersey Heritage, a very unique place to spend a night.
sea bed ramblings
A quick lunch stop coincided with almost the only sunshine of the day. The tower casting its shadow over the sandbank.
Gorey Castle
Looking north towards Gorey, with the magnificent Mont Orgueil Castle towering above the harbour. The shiny slopes to the left of the castle are some of the earliest fields to be planted with Jersey Royal potatoes.
Seymour Tower
Seymour Tower seen from the south. Painted white as a navigation mark.
Karame
I had been hoping to get as far as Karame, it was going to be touch and go but as I stood here the atmospheric pressure was 987mb. As many of you know, tidal heights are based on mean atmospheric pressure of 1013mb and as a general rule a change of one millibar results in a change of one centimetre in sea level. 26mb lower than average pressure meant that the tide was 26 cm higher than predicted.
sea bed ramblings
Heading towards Little Seymour, my final navigation mark before heading back to the shore. The clouds were obviously building to the south and west, it was time to up the pace.
La Rocque Harbour
Looking towards La Rocque Harbour, the end of the pier clearly visible, being painted white. It was at La Rocque that Baron de Rullecourt landed on the 6th January 1781, an invasion which resulted in the Battle of Jersey being fought in the Royal Square in Jersey, followed by a rapid expansion of the building of coastal fortifications. Many of the towers survive today, part of the distinctive coastal architecture.
Black Skies
The predicted heavy showers approaching from the south west. A significant increase in walking speed could not prevent major soaking as the downpour hit. A very wet end to a thoroughly enjoyable 3 hours, and the only people I saw were on the slip at the beginning and end. There is still isolation in Jersey, waiting for those who seek it out.