Following on from some previous nostalgic postings, this one describes a paddle that Peter Scott and myself undertook in August 1989.
The catalyst for the idea was the arrival of a sea worthy two man sea kayak on the market, the Aleut, designed by Howard Jeffs. The aim was a non stop circumnavigation of the Channel Islands, a distance of approximately 125 nautical miles.
Just before dawn on an August Saturday we launched from Corbiere, the south west corner of Jersey. Heading along the south coast of the island until we were able to head out towards Les Ecrehous. We passed in between France and this delightful reef before picking up an energetic, north flowing tide, towards Alderney. The 30 nautical miles were covered in just under 5 hours.
From the Alderney Race we passed to the north of Alderney before heading west towards the Casquets. There was a huge volume of water heading south, creating boils and overfalls, which added some spice to the paddle. Navigating only with a Silva compass as we passed the Casquets we were ahead of schedule and starting to feel slightly optimistic, after 9 hours on the water, that we would complete the circumnavigation.
Unfortunately visibility wasn’t that great, and this was pre-GPS, so it wasn’t until we arrived off the northern tip of Herm that we realized we were east of our intended track. We had to cross the Little Russel and head back to the northern tip of Guernsey before starting down the west coast of the second largest island in the Channel Islands.
As we head south, after over 14 hours of sitting in the kayak and becoming mentally and physically tired we realized that the time lost heading south from the Casquests meant that we had missed the tidal window to cross from the Hanois back to Corbiere.
Reluctantly we headed to shore, after having covered approximately 90 nautical miles. As we climbed out of the cockpits we discovered that our legs had decided not to work and had to crawl part of the way up the beach. Fortunately we had landed in front of a local pub so were able to revive our spirits as we called home to check in. The first contact for nearly 15 hours, this was pre-mobile phone as well as pre-GPS.
As we recovered from the exertion of the day trip we were able to look at the route in an analytical fashion and learn from our mistakes, the plan was to return the following year and complete what we started but weather windows and time off didn’t coincide so it is an unfinished project, for Pete and myself at least.
John Richardson and Ian Hamon finally became the first paddlers to complete the non stop circumnavigation of the Channel Islands in June 2000. This was taken on their arrival back at La Pulente. To this day there are the only sea kayakers to have completed the unsupported journey around the islands.