How far have I paddled?

Over the years I have come in for some ridicule as I have kept a kayaking log book. My first entry was in January 1979 and since that date I have made a record of every time that I have been in a canoe or a kayak.  Sometimes it might just be a brief note whilst at other times it might be a comprehensive record of where we parked the car, what the launch was like, any wildlife seen etc.  Due to the fact that I have kept the log book going for so long it has now become almost impossible to stop  The great thing is it is a record of how far I have paddled.
Early in 2012 I was wondering to myself as to whether I paddled the equivalent of the circumference of the earth at the equator?  First of all how far is it around the equator.  Plenty of places will give you the distance in kilometres and statute miles, it was only after a bit of searching that I found the answer in nautical miles, it is 21639nm.  My log book records have always been in nautical miles so this was an important figure to find.
I then sat down with the log books and over a couple of hours completed a table. There were 5 columns, standing for year, sea kayak, sit on top, canoe/general purpose and total.  I passed the magical distance on the 19th May 2012 whilst on a trip out to the Paternosters.
So if you don’t already keep a log book think about starting keeping a record of your paddling experiences, in a few years time it will make interesting reading.  I don’t have a log book from 1969 to 1979 sadly, as there could be some interesting reading about a number of sea kayaking adventures, including being pulled of the water by Tito’s police in the former Yugoslavia, as we naively thought it was alright to paddle on the sea in communist countries.

The oldest picture I have scanned in. The first trip to the Ecrehous, August Bank Holiday Sunday 1974. Is it really 40 years since I first paddled out to the Ecrehous. Possibly the best one day paddle anywhere. This was probably the first ever organized paddle by the Jersey Canoe Club, which we had just formed. This was 5 years before I started keeping a log book but it was a pretty memorable day.
How far
A few months after I started keeping a log book. An evening surf session in May 1979 at St Brelade’s. We were so proud of our KW7’s. So versatile, one day we would be rock hopping the next heading out to an offshore reef.
How far
One advantage of keeping a log book is that you are able to track your memorable paddles. This is dawn on the morning of my 150th paddle to the Ecrehous, we are packing away before returning to Jersey.
How far
The day that I passed the equivalent of the circumnavigation of the earth. Getting ready to leave the Paternosters.

I wrote this article a couple of years ago and since then my mileage has continued to increase and in the last 12 months, at an even faster pace. In October I passed the 26,000 nautical mile mark recorded in my log book.

How far
Passing the 26,000 nautical mile mark, whilst kayaking around Stomboli, Italy. A truly memorable day on the water.

Les Dirouilles

A couple of weeks off the water with a rather persistent cough and cold had been somewhat frustrating.  I had missed the kayaking opportunities and the possibility of contributing to the Jersey Canoe Club’s total towards the British Canoeing Winter Challenge.  All that came to an end today as we managed to visit Les Dirouilles.  Possibly the least visited of all the reefs, which are located in Jersey waters.
It was a reasonably late start for a winter paddle but at 11.30, we paddled around the end of St Catherine’s Breakwater and into the tidal stream, which was going to significantly assist our journey north.  Most of the time our speed over the ground was just over 5 knots.  Our destination kept disappearing from sight as the forecast fog drifted in from the west.  This was a day of limited colours, the sea and sky changing between silver and grey.  The only splashes of colour, in an otherwise muted landscape were the kayaks.
Even the birds appeared to be avoiding display of colour, there were a few Herring Gulls and Shags sitting on the rocks.  The real pleasure was to see 7, very trusting, Purple Sandpipers as we had our lunch.  No real surprise here as the swell washed reef appears to be a perfect habitat for such species.  This is partly why the area has been designated a Ramsar area.
A great paddle to Les Dirouilles, which we managed to squeeze in just before Christmas, especially after the storms of the last few weeks.

Les Dirouilles
Approaching the reef from the south. It wasn’t obvious at first where we were going to land.
Les Dirouilles
Looking towards Les Ecrehous. I have looked the opposite way nearly 200 times but this is only the second time I have landed here and looked east.
Les Dirouilles
The north coast of Jersey was shrouded in cloud for most of the day and at times disappeared almost completely.
Dirouilles
There were 9 of us from the Jersey Canoe Club who visited the reef today. A pretty good turnout for a Wednesday 5 days before Christmas.
Dirouilles
A rather unusual cloud formation over the north coast of Jersey. A quick glance would suggest cumulo-nimbus but we thought not.
Dirouilles
The six miles back to Jersey passed in just less than an hour as the flooding tide carried us towards St Catherine’s. At times it was almost like paddling on mercury.

Sea Kayaking Memories

Whilst looking through thousands of slides last week, as I was trying to sort out a talk for a 60th birthday celebration, I came across a number of slides which brought back some great sea kayaking memories of  the last 30 plus years.
Also makes me think about how sea kayaking images have been lost as we have all made the switch to digital.  In an earlier post I looked at a few photographs of sea kayaking in the early days of the Jersey Canoe Club.

Sea kayaking memories
Holyhead Harbour at dawn towards the end of August 1980. We are leaving for Ireland. All was going well until 2 kayaks the same colour as ours were washed ashore under South Stack, resulting in a search being launched. We were located by a helicopter, followed quickly by a lifeboat. It took the edge of our trip so we returned to Holyhead.
Sea kayaking memories
Crossing to Bardsey in July 1981. The hatches on my new Nordkapp were held in place by string. My kayak was one of the first to be fitted with the new hatches, unfortunately the compound was unstable resulting in the rims collapsing inwards. Valley were great and replaced the hatches without question.
sea kayaking memories
A welcome beer in Carteret, France. There were significant restrictions placed on kayakers who wished to paddle to France but in April 1984 we were given permission to cross from Jersey to France, by the French authorities, and here we are celebrating our passage to our nearest neighbour.
Sea kayking memories
Surfing at St Ouen’s in 1985. KW7’s were the craft of the day. I was given my first KW7 for Christmas in 1969. Still a great general purpose kayak.
Sea kayaking memories
Pete on a rocky beach in northern Norway, in August 1986. We only had 2 days in 4 weeks when we were unable to paddle because of the weather. We were heading towards Nordkapp.
Sea kayaking memories
Beachy Head Lighthouse in 1986. Probably the most dramatic headland on the south coast. We were called over by a fisherman who gave us a lobster for free.
Sea kayaking memories
Cap Frehel is one of the largest headlands in northern Brittany. We paddled the length of the north Brittany coast back to St Malo, over 5 days, before jumping on the ferry back to Jersey.
Sea kayaking memories
Its not everywhere that Osprey’s nest on navigation marks. Penobscot Bay, Maine 1995.
Sea kayaking memories
An arch on Gola, off the north west coast of Ireland in 1996. Exploring the uninhabited islands was a great way to spend a couple of weeks.

Cote de Granit Rose

This post was one of the first that I wrote when setting up the original blog in 2010.  At that time we were managing to go sea kayaking in Brittany on a regular basis. In fact most months during the year we would travel to northern France and generally go paddling.  In recent years our kayaking interests have been in different geographical areas,  2108 sees a welcome return to this area though with a Sea Kayak Symposium being held near Paimpol in April next year.  As soon as booking details are known I will post them here.

This section of the Brittany coast has to be one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in France, if not in northern Europe. It is well known from the tourist brochures and guide books and each year attracts significant numbers of visiting yachtsmen.
My favourite departure point is from Coz Pors at Tregastel, the paddling in either direction is memorable but last Saturday we decided to head east towards Ile Tome, an island of approximately 35 hectares whose spine runs north south. Situated off Perros Guirec, it has been uninhabited since the Second World War and the last few years have seen an active programme aimed to rid the island of rats to allow sea birds to breed, and so far it appears to have been successful.

Granit Rose
One of the distinctive features of this stretch of coastline are some spectacular coastal residences.
Granit Rose
First of all though it was important to pay a visit to the small harbour at Ploumanach, it is reckoned by many to be the finest anchorage on the north coast of Brittany. As the tide was high we were able to paddle over the sill, which keeps the water in at low tide, and approach the tidal mills, a feature of this area.
Granit Rose
Another feature of this area are lighthouses, of which a number were visible during the course of the paddle. One of my favourites is the Phare de Men Ruz, just to the east of Ploumanach. For those who are really interested in lighthouses it is possible to buy a re-usable shopping bag from Geant supermarkets complete with a photograph of the distinctive light.
Granit Rose
There are some significant tidal streams in the area and access to Ile Tome was only possible by ferry gliding across the ebbing tide. The waves were not too big and some strategically placed navigation marks allowed us to use transits to maintain our course. We wanted a lunch stop not to be swept west along the coast away from our intended destination.
Granit Rose
Lunch spot on the east coast of Ile Tome.
Granit Rose
Offshore Sept Iles were clearly visible but they were not for us today, our interest lay back along the coast at Tregastel in the shape of an ice cold beer.

Your 5 Best Paddles

One thing which we often talk about when out sea kayaking is what are the 5 best paddles that you have ever done.  I think that every time I consider, which are my favourites I come up with slightly different ones although there are often a couple of the old favourites.
So when you are having lunch on a rock somewhere, sitting around the camp fire on a remote island or just having a pint in your favourite pub why not give it some thought and see what you come up with.  What’s great about this is that there are no rules, apart from the fact that the paddles have to be on the tidal waters and ideally suitable as a day trip.
Here are my favourite 5 for today:

Best Paddle
Selecting a paddle from my local waters is always difficult but the Ecrehous always have to be in there. I first paddled out there in August 1974 and have been going back ever since. The landscape is always changing as the height of the tide varies. A warm summers day is a favourite but its also memorable being out there in the middle of the winter when you have the reef to yourself.
Best Paddles
A late evening paddle down to the Statue of Liberty, returning to Manhattan as darkness sets in is superb. To see the city skyline at night from the water is one of the worlds greatest views. That said paddling through many of the worlds cities is a memorable experience.
Best paddles
If there is one destination that all sea kayakers should aspire to visit it is Greenland. The combination of mountainous scenery, ice bergs and wildlife combine to create somewhere really special. On this day in northern Disko Bay all three came together in superb weather.
Best paddles
This small island is Er Lannic in Morbihan, southern Brittany. Where else is it possible to paddle in tidal streams which reach nearly 10 knots whilst less than a hundred metres away it is possible to explore semi submerged stone circles, several thousand years old? This is the perfect destination for the kayaking historian.
Best paddles
The west coast of Scotland is justifiably popular with sea kayakers and the paddle at from Elgol into the heart of the Cuillin Mountains has to be one of the finest one day paddles that there is. This was a beautiful day a few years ago. The best option is if it is possible to combine it with a trip around the neighbouring island of Soay. On this particular day it felt more like being on the Mediterranean than off the west coast of Scotland.

So that’s my five for today but I think that I have already got it wrong.  What about Polyaegos and Milos, Sark, Ile de Brehat or even the south west corner of Jersey.  This can lead to endless hours of discussion amongst sea kayakers about “what are your 5 best paddles”?

Palo’s Wedding

Palo’s Wedding is a classic film by Knud Rasmussen, who was born in Iulissat, on the west coast of Greenland, on 7th June 1879, the son of a Danish missionary.  He was the first European to dog sledge the whole length of the North West Passage, one of the numerous expeditions that he undertook between 1902 and 1933.  A number of geographical features are named after him, including the Knud Rasmussen Glacier in the far north west of Greenland and the Knud Rasmussen Range of mountains on the west coast of Greenland.
In addition he was honoured by the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Danish Geographical Society and the American Geographical Society as a consequence of his explorations in the Arctic.
Whilst making the film Rasmussen developed food poisoning, supposedly from eating kiviaq, which developed into pneumonia and he sadly died on the 21st December 1933 at the age of 54.
There are some short sections of the film available online but if possible it is well worth obtaining a full copy of the DVD.  Palo’s Wedding makes for an interesting winters evening viewing for a kayak club.

Palo's Wedding
Two memorials to Knud Rasmussen. The o abovene in front of his place of birth and the one below looking north over the ice filled Disko Bay.

Palo's Wedding

Palo's Wedding
The house in Ilulissat where Knud Rasmussen was born in 1879. His father was a Danish missionary living in the town.
Palo's Wedding
An umiak in front of the museum.
Palo's Wedding
Kamp Absalonsen, he was the vice-president of Qaannat Kattuffiat and chief Greenland kayaking competition judge, sitting in the earth house at the museum at Ilulissat. His love for all things Greenlandic is inspirational.
Palo's Wedding
The DVD “Palo’s Wedding” is a fitting memorial to one of the finest Arctic explorer’s of all time.
Of the Inuit he said:
“Their culture is a witness in itself to the strength and endurance and wild beauty of human life.”

Some more nostalgia

In 1975 Colin Mortlock led a six man expedition along the arctic coast of Norway, covering over 500 miles from Bodo to Nortdkapp and slightly beyond.  Many people see this as the first modern style sea kayaking expedition, with similarities to the mountaineering developments which were taking place in the Himalaya’s.  There were significant developments in terms of equipment, not least the Nordkapp sea kayak designed by Frank Goodman but I also believe that the Wild Water 5 pocket buoyancy aid which was standard equipment for sea kayakers for years had its origin in this expedition.  It was seen as such a ground breaking trip that it was serialized in the Sunday Telegraph magazine.
I was fortunate that 11 years later in 1986 I was able to follow part of their route, from Tromso as far as Honnigsvag, a small town just past Nordkapp.  In contrast to the unsettled weather experienced by Colin Mortlock and his fellow paddlers, we were really fortunate.  For 26 days out of 28 we had light winds, higher than average temperatures and long hours of sunshine.  Evenings were frequently spent sitting around in t-shirts although we were quite a way north of the Arctic Circle.
As we passed under the cliffs of Nordkapp (307 metres or 1,007 feet) in flat calm conditions it was hard not to think of the sailors who had traveled these waters as part of the Arctic Convoys which were heading too and from the northern ports in the former Soviet Union during the Second World War.This was a memorable trip with other members of the Jersey Canoe Club, we were fortunate with the weather, which we took full advantage of.
Next summer we are returning to northern Norway to paddle in the Lofotens, a stunning sea kayaking destination, which I have only ever seen before from an aircraft whilst heading further north.  It promises to be a good summer.

Nordkapp
Crossing to the Lyngen Peninsula, the tip of which is at 70 degrees north. This was a spectacular area and we were blessed with superb weather. One morning it was so hot we went swimming.
Nordkapp
The island of Fugloy towards midnight. I always said that one day I would return to paddle to this spectacular island. 26 years on it is an ambition which is still waiting to be achieved.
Nordkapp
Paddling into Lyngen Fjord.  At the time this was probably the most spectacular are I had ever been kayaking.
Nordkapp
Most of the time we were blessed with settled warm weather. In 4 weeks we only lost two days paddling to poor weather, and they were consecutive days, when we were close to Oksfjord.
Nordkapp
We woke one morning to particularly settled weather and seized our opportunity to paddle around the most northerly point of Europe. Nicky and myself approaching Nordkapp, in our Nordkapps.

Gozo’s South Coast

I have paddled along Gozo’s south coast numerous times over the last five years but the beginning of November was the first time that I had the opportunity to walk along a significant portion of the cliffs and it is interesting to compare the experiences.
We took the bus to the harbour at Mġarr with the intention of walking to Xlendi.  We had a number of guide books , which all recommended a slightly different route. Route finding turned out to be easier than anticipated as it was largely a matter of flowing the red dots and occasional arrows.
The scenery was superb, as we expected, with great views across to Comino and Malta.  In one place we were able to look north across the Island and in the distance could see the coast of Sicily.  I think that this is my 9th visit to Gozo but today was the first time that I had seen their Italian neighbour, to the north.  As walked towards the west the small island of Filfla came into view away to the south.  We also had clear views of the section of the north west coast of Malta we had paddled last week.
What did shock us though, was the sheer scale of the hunting which was being practiced in the area.  As we walked along we realised that most of the background bird noise was coming from caged birds, which we were being used to attract wild birds so they could be shot.  Goldfinches, Greenfinch, Linnets, Chaffinches and a number of other species were caged in their hundreds.
We didn’t want to get too close, or attract attention, as there were quite a few men sitting in the small hunting hides, complete with rifles.  Along one section of the coast there were numerous nets, which were clearly used for hunting as well.  I think that for most people the scale and impact of the hunting would have a serious impact on their enjoyment of the day.
Kayaking along this section of coast you have no idea what is going on above but walking does allow access to some of the more interesting historical features.  The walk from the harbour to Xlendi was nearly 9 miles and took significantly longer to walk than it does to paddle.
For navigation we used the ViewRanger App, which is amazingly accurate and well worth getting if you have an appropriate phone.

Gozo South Coast
To the west of the harbour is the small bay of Ix-Xatt I-Ahmar. On the westren side of the bay there is superb diving with a deliberately sunk ferry boat. Above is Fort Chambray
Gozo South Coast
Paddling into Ix-Xatt I-Ahmar on a warm calm day. Time for a swim.  Fort Chambray is clearly visible above.
Gozo South Coast
A beautifully sheltered bay. It was used by Turkish raiders to load captured Gozitans onto their galleys. Today it is a much more peaceful location and is where the film “By the Sea” starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt was shot.
Gozo South Coast
We had a brief stop here on our paddle around Gozo at the beginning of November this year.
Gozo South Coast
Walking along the spectacular south coast cliffs. The views are truly spectacular but the number of hunters operating in the area did give some cause for concern.
Gozo South Coast
This is a serious section of coast with nowhere to land until you arrive at Xlendi. As regards the body you are likely to end up with a stiff neck from continually looking upwards to take in the scale of the physical landscape.
Gozo South Coast
Looking into the sheltered bay at Xlendi and the end of our walk and time for a relaxing pint. Behind the village is the abandoned flour mill which was excavated into the hillside during the Cold War, so that flour could be produced if there was a nuclear conflict.
Gozo South Coast
Paddling back into the bay of Xlendi after a delightful paddle round to the west coast of Gozo.

 

Atmospheric Pressure

It is not that often that we, as sea kayakers, are aware of the impact of atmospheric pressure but it was clearly demonstrated one October day, a few years ago, at St Brelade’s.  At high water, in the morning, the atmospheric pressure was 993 mb, effectively 20 mb below the level at which tidal heights are calculated.  This meant that the tide was much higher than expected and when coupled with the swell which developed over night it created some problems for those boat owners who left their craft on the beach.
The predicted tidal heights for Saturday, Sunday and Monday were much higher than the morning in question but they passed without incident whilst these boat owners were caught out by this mornings tide, with not inconsiderable financial costs  as boats and engines were damaged.
Remember as a general rule for every 1 mb below 1013 mb the tide will rise 1 cm higher than predicted and for every 1 cm above 1013 mb the height of the tide will be depressed.  We were affected on our paddle to the Ecrehous in March this year when due to high pressure the tide did not rise as far as we expected.
So the moral of the story is not to just look at the tidal height but take into account the pressure.

Atmospheric pressure
Some of the small boats which were damaged on the beach at St Brelade.

How far can you see?

How far can you see whilst sitting in your kayak?  Knowing how far away you can see an object whilst paddling is a useful technique and a valuable aid to navigation.  As a simple rule the higher up you are the further you can see.  Standing on top of the Empire State Building, with good visibility it is amazing how far away the horizon is.  Also the taller the object you are looking at the further away that it can be seen.
As paddlers it is not that easy to raise our eye level, our eyes are generally just less than 1 metre above sea level.  At times in rough weather or when there is a swell running it is possible to take advantage of the extra elevation that results from being on top of the swell to increase how far we can actually see.    Due to the movement up and down of the kayak, on the water, the distance off an object which is obtained should be seen as an approximation.
Clearly a further problem is caused by the rise and fall of the tide, which may well be significant in certain areas.  For example on a chart a lighthouse’s charted height is given above MHWS.  In certain areas of the world with a large tidal range the height above water of the light may vary by more than 10 metres, considerably affecting the distance away that the light may be seen from.  If you want to be really accurate it is necessary to add the estimated height that the tide is below MHWS to the height of the land or the light before referring to the table.
An example of the effect of this from a trip to the Ecrehous, on a large spring tide, is as follows:
Maitre Ile at the Ecrehous has a height of 8 metres at MHWS, which in Jersey is 11.1 metres, but the tide on Saturday was 11.8 metres, it was bigger than a mean spring.  This meant that at high water the maximum height of Maitre Ile was not 8 metres but 7.3 metres.
When the eye of the observer is 1 metre above water level an object 8 metres high is visible from 7.8 nm away but when the height of the object drops to 7 metres  it is not visible until you are within 7.4 nm.  When we left La Rocque, Maitre Ile was 8.3 nm away.  This meant that even in excellent visibility we would have not been able to see our destination when we left.
On a spring tide when the water level may drop by as much as 11 metres the highest point on Maitre Ile is now 19 metres above the water level.  This means that the island is now visible from 10.9 miles away for a paddler whose eye is 1 metre above the water.
The lesson is that objects will be visible from much further away when you approach them at low water, particularly in an area with a large tidal range, such as the Channel Islands.

Visibility
Approaching Maitre Ile, early on a Saturday morning. We had been paddling for some time before our destination came into view. The following table gives an approximate relationship between the distance from which an object is visible and its height above sea level. It is assumed that the height of the paddlers eyes above water is 1 metre.

The table below shows the distance at which, an item becomes visible depending upon its height above water.  This is based upon the observers eye being 1 metre above the level of the water.

Clearly there are number of variables which impact upon the accuracy of the above table such as sea state, the exact height of the paddlers eye above sea level and the height of the tide but it is a useful tool in helping the sea paddler to locate their position.  For example 12 nautical miles to the south of my nearest beach is the superb reef of the Minquiers.  The tallest rock on the northern edge is only 3 metres high, which according to the table means that they only become visible when they are 5.5 nautical miles away.  Therefore there is no point in even starting to look for the reef until you have paddled for over 6 nautical miles or have been underway for over an hour and a half.
Using this technique as a way of assisting navigation is particularly satisfying but it is a method which is gradually slipping into obscurity.  Today the vast majority of us simply turn to the switch on the GPS to receive far more accurate information about our position than we could ever obtain by using the above method.  That said there is a degree of satisfaction from being able to navigate using the more traditional methods and you never know if the batteries are going to run out!

Visibility
The photo is of La Conchiere Beacon. At MHWS it is 2 metres high and so is visible from 4.9 nautical miles away from an observer whose eye is 1 metre above sea level. Clearly an object this narrow would be more difficult to sea that something more substantial, such as a reef but of similar height.