Perth

Following the pattern of kayaking in cities, on Friday evening it was the turn of one of Scotland’s newest city, Perth.  A quick search produced a number of options but we were really successful in that we selected Outdoor Explore, a relatively small company based in eastern Scotland.
We met the owner Piotr at The Willowgate, just downstream from Perth on the River Tay.  Whilst we were waiting for Piotr, an osprey flew past, which we took as a positive sign.  As soon as Piotr arrived we unloaded kayaks, added the final items of kit and in what seemed like a few minutes were ready to launch.
The plan was launch and head upstream towards Perth in the hope that we would see some of the beavers, that have come to call this stretch of water home.  Sadly we didn’t see the beavers although we saw plenty of evidence of their activity.  We did see plenty of other things though, which would attract the attention of kayak tourists.
Piotr was so much more than a coach, he was a passionate leader, his enthusiasm and knowledge about the river and its surroundings was infectious.  Our journey through Perth was so much more than a paddle.  We did manage to push the current and we were able to get through the arches of the oldest bridge to span the river, the return journey was so much easier!
The biggest surprise of the trip was that we were on the water for over two and a half hours, we only really noticed how long we had been out when it went dark!  We didn’t paddle that far but what we saw and heard was fascinating and all within the boundaries of  what is know as “The Fair City”, thanks to Sir Walter Scott and the publication of his book “The Fair Maid of Perth in 1828.

Perth
Nicky testing the kayaks before leaving Willowgate Activity Centre
Perth
Approaching the bridge which carries the M90 across the River Tay. Just upstream from where we launched.
Tree
This tree clearly shows the impact of Beaver’s, although we didn’t see any just being in their territory gave us a thrill.
Piotr
Piotr, our knowledgeable guide, clearly getting animated about a topic which he was passionate about. He was full of information about the area around Perth and his willingness to share he knowledge was one of the real highlights of the evening.
Nicky in Perth
Nicky with part of the Perth skyline behind. Light was starting to fade fast at this point.
Perth Bridge
Just upstream of the Perth Bridge, which was completed in 1771 and is still in use today. Designed by John Smeaton, sea kayakers may be more familiar with one of his earlier designs, the Eddystone Lighthouse.
Perth activities
The light was fast disappearing as we returned to the Willowgate Activity Centre.

Ecrehous Pictures

As many of you are aware the Ecrehous is one of my favourite, if not my favourite, sea kayaking destination.  Visits to this delightful reef have been covered many times in the life of this blog.  To gain a flavour of this small archipelago, approximately 6 nautical miles to the north east of Jersey have a look at some of these posts:
Ecrehous Today.
Ecrehous Sunshine.
Ecrehous – First of the Year.
Sunday morning at the Ecrehous.
To mention just a few.
Over the years there have been a number of articles published about the reef, but as far as I am aware only two books in English.  The most recent is “Les Ecrehous” by Warwick Rodwell, which was published in 1996 and must be the considered as the definitive study of a small land mass.  The information contained within the pages is amazing.
An earlier book was written by P. J. Ouless, “The Ecrehous” and published in 1884.  This book contains five plates, which depict the reef in the second half of the 19th century.  I thought that it would be interesting to take some modern photographs from roughly the same position to see how the reef has changed over the last 150 years.
So we headed out to get some modern Ecrehous pictures, trying to decide exactly where the earlier pictures were taken wasn’t always easy and clearly we must have had different size lenses!  It was certainly an interesting exercise and encouraged us to look at the Ecrehous through new eyes.

Ecrehous Pictures
In this picture the Rocking Stone and Flag pole are clearly visible, whilst behind is Maitre-Ile.
Ecrehous Pictures
I didn’t quite go far back enough to get the full sweep of the picture by Ouless. The Rocking Stone is visible, and still rocks! Clearly there has been some modern building development.
Ecrehous Pictures
Fisherman’s huts on Marmotiere with the flag pole. Behind is Maitre-Ile.
Ecrehous Pictures
This picture has changed somewhat and it was difficult to decide on the exact location for the photograph. The hut behind Alex was built in 1893, 9 years after the publication of the book by Ouless.
Ecrehous Pictures
A distant view on Maitre-Ile, looking north. Marmouttiere and Blianqu’Ile are visible behind.
Ecrehous Pictures
This was a rather difficult picture to take. I don’t really lioke landing here because of the possible disturbance to the birds. It gives a flavour though of how the hut has been improved whilst the priory remains in ruins.  Either the hut has increased in height or the hill behind has shrunk!
Ecrehous Pictures
A ruined hut plus the ruins of St mary’s Priory on Maitre-Ile.
Ecrehous pictures
Looking south towards Marmouttiere. the rock surrounded by water is La Petite Brecque.
Ecrehous pictures
Looking south, very little is different in this picture apart from the fact that La Petite Brecque has acquired a hut.  The first hut was built on that isolated rock in 1962.

Gothenburg

Gothenburg is somewhere I hadn’t really considered visiting but when there were cheap flights available back to London on British Airways, it seemed like to good an opportunity to miss.  Whilst in the Swedish city it was a great opportunity to get in some kayaking so I booked a two hour rental with Point65, before we left Jersey.
It was just our luck that on the morning concerned there was virtually total cloud cover, for what seemed like the first time in weeks. It didn’t detract from the paddling but meant that the photographs weren’t quite as dramatic as we hoped for.
The Point65 centre was on the water front, easily reached on foot, from the Central Railway station area through the Nordstan shopping centre and an elevated walk way.
If in doubt look for the largest sailing ship you have probably ever seen, the Barken Viking, which is slightly upstream from the Opera House, and should see the racks of kayaks.
We were quickly changed and ready to go. The staff were friendly and in contrast to so many rental locations, we were offered spray decks, without having to ask. On the dockside we were also offered a choice of kayaks, shorter and more stable, longer and with a rudder or even a sea kayak without a rudder. Without hesitation we settled for the latter.
Soon we were turning west from the marina into the main harbour, looking for the entrance to the canal network. On the way we passed a number of ships, including a submarine, which were clearly part of the maritime museum. We were looking for the entrance to the Gota Canal
Paddling through the centre of a large city is always enjoyable, offering a totally different perspective on an urban area, whilst proving to be an item of interest to the pedestrians on the bridges or canal side walks. The distinctive thing about the canal in Gothenburg was just how low most of the bridges were, it set me wandering if the waterway was still navigable. It was quite a surprise therefore to have a tourist boat, the Paddan tour boats, appear around a corner. A knowledge of the rules of the road is vital when kayaking in such restricted waters.
Possibly the most unusual aspect of our paddle around the city was the need to press a button to change the traffic lights. Construction of a new bridge was underway and there was a button, which it was necessary to press to obtain the green light to proceed. This was certainly a novel experience for me.
We entered the main harbour and although it was literally a couple of hundred metres back we decided to return the way we had come. The canal route was probably six or seven times longer and certainly more interesting. Once you have seen one large car ferry in the distance you have seen them all, as far as I am concerned.
Sadly we didn’t get to press the traffic light button this time, one of the tourist boats was heading in the same direction as us and the lights had already been changed, so we just tucked in behind.
On the return journey we did see “John Scotts Brewery” though. Probably my main paddling partner in the 1980’s and early 90’s was Peter Scott, whose dad is John Scott. We felt it only appropriate to go and have a pint in honour of Pete’s dad in his namesakes pub!  A great way to celebrate a lovely mornings paddle.

Gothenburg
Nicky paddling in front of the Barken Viking, built in 1906 it is supposed to be the largest sailing ship built in Scandinavia. Today she is moored close to the centre of Gothenburg and seeing life as a hotel.
Gothenburg
Nicky paddling past the destroyer Smaland, which is now part of the maritime museum in Gothenburg.
Gothenburg
Nicky at the canal junction close to Gothenburg Central Station.
Gothenburg
At one place along the canal there was working going on and all boat traffic was controlled by traffic lights. Nicky is just pressing the button to get the lights to change in our favour.
Feskekorka
Paddling past the Gothenburg indoor fish market, which opened in 1874. Just past here we turned around and re-traced our journey.
Gothenburg
There is always something special about paddling through the centre of a large city. Totally different perspectives on the urban landscape.
Gothenburg
Looking back towards the Point65 store on the waterfront in Gothenburg. It was just our luck that the sun came out as we landed at the end of the trip.

Ecrehous x 2

This summer  as everybody is aware has been perfect for kayaking and we have been fortunate enough to get in a number of paddles to the Ecrehous.  The Monday one that I described here, is possibly the most memorable visit that I have ever had to this delightful reef, which lies nearly 6 nautical miles to the north east of Jersey.  Some people expressed surprise at as us going to the Ecrehous again (3 times in 10 days)  but with light winds and blue skies it is virtually impossible to beat as a sea kayaking destination.
The Ecrehous is a precious eco-system, which needs protecting, it is part of a RAMSAR site but generally people seem to totally respect the uniqueness of the area although at weekends it can appear rather crowded, with boat owners heading to the reef from both Jersey and France in significant numbers. During the week visitor numbers are greatly reduced and for complete isolation try a mid-week visit in January.
It is one of those special places, which deserves to be explored throughout the year so I am more than happy to visit the Ecrehous again and again.  It doesn’t matter how often you go there is nearly always something new to be discovered and whatever the weather you are never disappointed.

Ecrehous x 2
Leaving the outer reef, somewhat early as we were concerned about the increasing wind.
Ecrehous x 2
There were a few waves around, creating some interesting conditions. We were expecting it to be flat calm.
Ecrehous x 2
The sea conditions don’t accurately illustrate the force of the wind. Thankfully as we could have expected it to be rougher.
Ecrehous x 2
On the second Wednesday conditions were pretty much perfect for kayaking around the Ecrehous. Some great views look out from the main reef.
Ecrehous x 2
Playing on the shingle bank. The water was really clear and our arrival coincided with the optimum flow.
Ecrehous x 2
It looks like there has been a successful breeding season for Terns on the Ecrehous. There were numerous individuals flying overhead or perched on convenient poles
Ecrehous x 2
On the second Wednesday we had a few hours on the reef, which allowed us to walk north and explore some areas we rarely have chance to see.

Return from Sark

An evening in Sark is always memorable, we had a superb meal on the terrace at Stock’s Hotel and spent some time taking advantage of the Dark Sky Island status.  Staring of the night sky was very productive, shooting stars, satellites and aircraft passing overhead against the backdrop of countless stars.  We couldn’t spend too long looking at the night sky though, as our return from Sark the following morning, back to Jersey required quite an early start.
The morning dawned with perfect conditions for kayaking and just after 8.00 we were heading down to Dixcart Bay to pack the kayaks and get on the water.  Although a weekend visit to Sark is enjoyable, 3 days is much better.  A day to paddle up, a day to paddle around the island and a day to return from Sark.  The coastal waters are some of the most dramatic to be encountered anywhere.
This weekend we were only going to be able to explore a short section of the south east coast before we had to turn south and catch the tide back to Jersey.  The accepted wisdom has always been to paddle to Sark on spring tides, whilst this weekend they were neap tides.  In reality both crossings seemed to pass remarkably easily.  The 12 nautical mile return from Sark was paddled in 2 hours 50 minutes, which is a pretty respectable time, perhaps we need to rethink, which tides we select for paddling on when we visit our nearest inhabited neighbour.

Return from Sark
A welcoming sign on arrival in Sark. We spent some time the evening before gazing at sky and amazed by the sheer quantity of stars visible.
Return from Sark
Heading down the path from the campsite. An early morning start on the Sunday.
Return from Sark
Looking across Dixcart Bay and realizing we had perfect conditions for the return crossing to Jersey.
Return from Sark
We were lucky to have about 30 minutes to explore some of the many caves, which punctuate this section of coast.
Return from Sark
Paddling along the south east coast of Sark before we turned south towards Jersey.
Return from Sark
Jersey was a vague line on the horizon, 12 nautical miles away but conditions were perfect for the crossing.
Return from Sark
Arriving in Jersey. We made lanfall near Les Landes, and followed the coast south to L’Etacq.
Return from Sark
Landing back in Jersey, what was amazing was the clarity of the water. It was possible to sea the sea bed when several hundred metres offshore. Conditions were more like the Mediterranean than the English Channel.

Sark in July

In the middle of last week the weather forecast was certainly indicating that a kayaking visit to Sark in July, was a definite possibility.  In fact, the forecast only improved as time went on, so on Saturday morning at 11.00 we were busy packing our kayaks at L’Etacq in preparation for the 12 nautical mile crossing.
The tide had just started to flow in a northerly direction and we used this flow to speed our departure from Jersey.  Crossings of this length are all about preparation.  Tidal vectors drawn in advance, key locations and times identified, followed by constant monitoring whilst on the water.
There was plenty of other boat traffic around, Channel 82, which is the reporting channel for Jersey Coastguard, was continually in use as local and visiting boat owners were taking advantage of the superb weather.  Although we were crossing a shipping lane we only encountered one large vessel, we did have to adjust our bearing to avoid a potential near miss with the ship.  This slight adjustment to our course, did cost us some time but we were really pleased with the 3 hours that the crossing took.
Sark is a truly superb sea kayaking destination, and a circumnavigation is a superb way to spend a day but this visit didn’t have enough time to explore the Island.  So it was a matter of sorting the equipment out on the beach, heading to the campsite before making the most of water Sark has to offer.  A meal had been booked at Stocks Hotel, and as usual we were not disappointed.
A great day but an early start was required the next morning to catch the flood tide home.

Sark in July
Leaving L’Etacq a couple of hours before high water, we received quite a push from the north flowing tide. Sark was about 12 nautical miles to the north.
Sark in July
In the middle of the crossing. The nearest land was about 6 miles away.
Sark in July
We had to adjust attract our track as we were on a potential collision course with a coastal freighter. I always assume that they haven’t seen us, so paddle accordingly.
Sark in July
Approaching Sark, it is always satisfying to arrive off the dramatic east coast of the Island.
Sark in July
Although there were plenty of boats at anchor in the bay there was plenty of room on the beach for our kayaks. Dixcart Bay is such a stunning location.
Sark in July
Unloading the kayaks on the beach. Despite the beach being really busy we were not concerned about leaving the equipment on the beach. It always feels really safe.
Sark in July
The Pomme de Chiens campsite is at the head of Dixcart Valley so it was relatively easy walking up to the field. Tents up and its time go and experience the best of what Sark has to offer, including a great meal at Stocks Hotel.

Ecrehous today

The Ecrehous are always special but the Ecrehous today was somewhere truly memorable.  A paddle which I am sure will remain etched on the memory of those who went, for many years.
Although it was a Monday morning and people have work commitments we still had 5 people from the Jersey Canoe Club meet at St Catherine’s for an 09.30 departure to the Ecrehous.  The ability to arrange group paddles at short notice has to be one of the major benefits of WhatsApp groups.  This was was to be my first visit to the Ecrehous since February 2018.
What started off as a relatively cloudy morning with the hint of fog gradually transformed into just a perfect day with light winds and wall to wall sunshine.  Enough of the rambling lets allow the pictures to describe the Ecrehous today.

Ecrehous today
Conditions were perfect for the paddle out, flat calm and very little tidal flow as we were neaps. The only thing missing was the sunshine.
Ecrehous today
Pete passing in front of Marmotier. There is a great bench to sit on but it is presently off limits due to nesting Common Terns and it looks like it has been a really successful breeding season.
Ecrehous today
Getting ready to depart and whilst we had been on the reef the cloud had dispersed and the scene was transformed.
Ecrehous today
Passing in front of Marmotier again. What a contrast to a couple of hours earlier.
Ecrehous today
Kate paddling through the reef in perfect conditions, the houses behind are the most northern ones on the reef.
Ecrehous today
The clarity of the water was truly exceptional as we headed through the channels and in several places were accompanied by 3 very inquisitive grey seals.
Ecrehous today
Pete just to the east of me experiencing the reef on a particularly fine day.
Ecrehous today
Kate paddling past one of the smaller rocks. Because we were on neap tides we had plenty of time to explore the reef before we had to head back to Jersey.
Ecrehous today
This just sums up the quality of the Ecrehous today!

Copenhagen Kayaking

I have written in previous posts how much I enjoy the opportunity to paddle around a city.  Gaining a totally different perspective to that gained by those visitors who restrict themselves to dry land activities.  Recently we had the opportunity to paddle around Copenhagen.
I must admit that I was slightly apprehensive as it was the first time that I had been in a closed cockpit kayak since I ruptured my achilles at the beginning of April.  Fortunately we were in a double kayak, which meant that it had a relatively large cockpit and if started to feel rather tired I had Nicky as an extra engine.
We booked our tour with Kayak Republic, who are conveniently located in the centre of Copenhagen.  We we were quite a large and diverse group who headed away from the dock side at the kayak rental store.  It was also clear that there was a broad spectrum of ability, but most soon slipped confidently in a paddling rhythm.
It wasn’t a particularly long paddle but it did add an extra dimension to our visit to Copenhagen, which was to actually see Paul Simon, in concert, on his farewell tour but that’s another story.

Copenhagen
We were quickly passing the distinctive architecture of Copenhagen.
Nyhaven
Passing the entrance to Nyhaven, which was dug out by Swedish prisoners of war between 170 and 1673. Famous Danish author Hans Christian Anderson lived in the street for about 18 years. It is now a popular area with both tourists and locals.
Copenhagen Opera House
Opened in 2005 the Opera House is one of the most expensive ever built. It is now used as a venue on the Red Bull Cliff diving tour. It is a big jump!
Ship
On our tour of the canal network we passed close to a wide range of ships.
Copenhagen
In places we came across a number of older buildings which have been refurbished, including this housing complex.
Copenhagen
Looking back to Kayak Republic. An ideal starting point for a memorable paddle around Copenhagen

Pierres de Lecq

Located to the north of Greve de Lecq, the Pierres de Lecq are better know by their other name the Paternosters.  Small boats frequently pass by although people rarely land.  I first visited the reef in 1979 and on every subsequent visit we have had the reef to ourselves.
Visits tend to take place on spring tides, in Jersey high water on springs is always in the morning and the evening, meaning that low water is around lunch time.  Visits have to take place around low water, otherwise there won’t be anywhere to land.  A consequence of going on springs is that the tidal streams will be flowing much faster so an understanding of tidal flows is necessary.
We headed east towards Sorel point as we were going to allow the tide to sweep us back to the west for what we hoped would be our arrival at the Paternoster’s.  This wind and wave swept reef is formed from gneiss, a type of rock absent from the main land mass of Jersey.  At high water there is virtually nowhere to land so it is best to arrive at mid tide on the ebb, which just happens to mean that you will be the crossing towards maximum rate.  This always adds to the entertainment.
The Pierres de Lecq have become known as the Paternosters due to a legend linked to the settlement of Sark by some families from the parish of St Ouen in Jersey, in the 16th century.  One of the boats was wrecked en route to Sark, with the women and children drowning.  At times it is said that their cries can still be heard in the wind and so it became a tradition for fishermen passing by to say a Lords Prayer.  On the day of our visit the only sound was the call of oystercatchers and herring gulls.
Although only a few miles from Jersey  the reefs have truly remote and wild feel.  All too soon though it was time to head back to the mainland.  We used the flooding tide to carry us towards Plemont headland, the speed over the ground rarely dropped below 7 knots before returning along the coast back to Greve de Lecq.
Overall we only paddled about 9 nautical miles but what quality, any visit to the Paternosters or the Pierres de Lecq makes you feel that you have visited somewhere special.

Pierre de Lecq
Approaching the Paternosters from the south east. The tide was running from east to west at close to 3 knots.
Pierres de Lecq
Once we had landed it became apparent how quickly the tide was dropping, stranding my kayak well above the water.
Paternosters
Looking across the reef as the tide drops. To the north the closest land is Sark.
Pierres de Lecq
Probably 20 years ago we paddled out here one November morning and we managed to climb all the way around the Great Rock, just above water level. We named the route “Howards Way” after the television programme of time but also because well known sea kayaker, Howard Jeffs, was with us on that day.
Paternosters
Preparing to leave. We we about to jump on the liquid conveyor belt that is the consequence of spring tides in Jersey.
Paternosters
Crossing the last of the tidal flow into Plemont headland, before heading back to Greve de Lecq.

SUP Module

Over nearly 40 years I have run hundreds of British Canoe courses across all levels, in both coaching and personal performance but one of my favourites is the SUP Module.  This Discipline Specific Module was introduced several years ago in response to the significant increase in the number of people taking up Stand Up Paddleboarding.
Over the last couple of years I have run quite a few of the courses, attracting paddlers from both on and off Jersey.  What is interesting, is that as each course follows another, the level of the participants has steadily increased.  As a result last weeks course was just a pleasure to run.  With all the paddlers showing competency on the boards.
Conditions couldn’t have been better for the SUP Module.  I remember completing my training course in Nottingham, wearing a dry suit and being absolutely frozen, trying to avoid going into the water too many times.  This week it was warm, clear seas and light winds with every opportunity was taken to get into the water to cool off.
In the past it has been all to easy to be critical of British Canoeing courses but I think in this instance they have just about got it right.  That day with the staff from Absolute Adventures, we had a really positive experience.

Tico
Tico might be the first dog to complete the SUP module. He has previously found fame in national papers as a surfing dog.
Beauport
Heading across Beauport Bay in perfect conditions. It was an ideal day for paddling a few hundred metres, stop off to practice a few skills and then carry on with the journey.
SUP Module
We even had the opportunity to paddle through some narrow channels, which are normally too rough to consider going through, when working with groups.
SUP Module
No course in Jersey would be complete without the opportunity to leap off the cliffs. Jumping off rocks is in the DNA of people who live in Jersey.
SUP Module
Heading back in we were able to join together in one long raft, which we managed to hold together for at least 400 metres.
SUP Module
It was inevitable that we were going to finish the days with a few games.