Round Jersey

As mentioned in an earlier post we were due to paddle around Jersey, with Samuel, to raise money in memory of his dad, who sadly passed away last year.  Well yesterday was the day, on which the round Jersey paddle was planned, but the weather decided not to co-operate fully. After days of virtually calm winds, there was the possibility of a force 4, but we were happy to give it a go.
Just after 08.00 we left St Catherine’s and headed along the north coast.  With wide and tide with us we made pretty rapid progress, averaging well over 4 knots, Samuel was in the double with Jim, whilst John and myself were in singles.  Sections of the coast, which we often spent hours exploring, slipped past quickly.  The north west corner, is a particularly spectacular section of coast but no time to appreciate today as ahead lay the broad sweep of St Ouen’s Bay, which we knew would have potential crosswinds.  The west coast wasn’t as challenging as we anticipated but as soon as we rounded Corbiere onto the south coast the headwinds kicked in.
The automatic wind broadcast from St Helier Pierheads was a pretty constant 11 knots, gusting 19 knots, although it did reach a rather inconvenient 21 knots of headwind on several occasions.  It was a matter of simply putting our heads down, and covering the 8 nautical miles, with the least amount of discomfort possible.
As we headed onto the east coast St Catherine’s Breakwater came back into view so we knew whatever happened we were going to complete the circumnavigation.  What had started as a vague plan for Samuel, at Christmas, had developed into reality.  The 29 nautical miles were much harder than we anticipated due to the level if the wind but we were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd as we reached the breakwater and Samuel had his moment in the spotlight when he was interviewed by the local television station.
Samuel set out to raise £2,250 and even before we started the paddle he had more than exceed his total, which is great news.  To find out more about Samuel’s project take a look at his Just Giving page to see how much he has currently raised.
It was a great day and as experienced sea kayakers John, Jim and myself were just amazed at the amount of effort Samuel put in on the day we paddled round Jersey.

Round Jersey
Passing Egypt, on the north coast of Jersey, not the north coast of Africa. The Canoe Club runs the a small cottage at the base of the cliffs here, a great place to stay.
Round Jersey
Wolf’s Caves between Bonne Nuit and Sorel. Making good progress along the north coast with the following wind. In a couple of places we touched 7 knots.
Round Jersey
Rounding Grosnez, the north west corner of Jersey. Spectacular cliffs but unfortunately the end of the following wind, as we headed down the west coast, it was on our side. Somewhat frustrating
Round Jersey
The south west corner of the island is marked by the lighthouse at Corbiere. It also marked the change from a following wind to a head wind. The next 8 miles were not easy.
Round Jersey
Lunch was on the beach at Portelet, we had paddled nearly 19 nautical miles so were confident that we would complete the remaining 10 miles.

Fund Raising

I managed to get out the other day for a couple of hours with a young man named Samuel.  This was interesting from a couple of perspectives.  Firstly this was the first time that I had been in a closed cockpit kayak since my accident three months ago and secondly it was a chance to get on the water before Samuel’s fund raising paddle in a weeks time.

Samuel spoke to us at Christmas about undertaking a project in memory of his dad who sadly passed away last year. Whilst his dad was ill he set him self the challenge of paddling around Jersey, when he got better.  Unfortunately he never managed to complete his challenge and so Samuel has stepped forward to carry the challenge on.

He set himself a realistic fund raising target, which he has already achieved with the pledges that have come in so far but I am certain that when he completes the paddle next week, weather permitting his fund raising total will increase significantly.

At the moment the forecast for next week, although I know it is some time away, is pretty reasonable so we are prettyy optimistic that we will complete the paddle as arranged.  If not there are plenty more opportunities before the end of the summer.

There is no doubt in my mind that he will achieve, what is a very worthwhile project, if you would like to support Samuel he has set up a  Just Giving page.  He might up end up with a few blisters and some numbness in his legs but he will complete the 30 nautical miles, and I estimate in about 7 hours 30 minutes.

Hopefully next week I will be writing about an enjoyable and successful circumnavigation of Jersey.

Fund raising
Paddling past Mont Orgueil Castle, which towers above Gorey. This is one of the most iconic images of Jersey.
Fund raising
Arriving back at St Catherine’s Breakwater, 4 nautical miles covered. The extra 26 miles on the day will hopefully be as straightforward.

Les Landes

Whenever there is a period of north easterly winds my mind immediately starts to think about sea kayaking along the cliffs of the north west corner of Jersey, particularly those around Les Landes.  Direct exposure to the North Atlantic swell means that at certain times of the year the paddling opportunities in this area are somewhat restricted, but when the swell drops, head to the north west for some of the best kayaking in Jersey.

Although Sunday morning is the usual paddling time for the Jersey Canoe Club, it seemed like too good an oppportunity to miss so we put on an extra session on Saturday morning.  We had anticipated being sheltered from the easterly wind but in reality it appeared to be following the contours of the land, resulting in almost no respite.  I suppose these things are sent to try us.

Our morning paddle actually proved to be quite entertaining.  A slight wind blown chop kept us on our toes but the lack of swell meant we were able to paddle wherever we liked.  Caves I probably hadn’t paddled into for 5 or 6 years revealed their secrets whilst we were surrounded by history.

The most recent is the evidence of 20th century German occupation, with guns at the base of the cliffs and bunkers above.  Grosnez Castle, a ruined 14th century castle, which was occupied by the French in 1373 and 1381 was visible above our most northerly point.  Whilst the oldest features were at the base of Le Pinacle, early Neolithic finds dating back to 4800BC as well as Roman from 200AD.

What is there not like about a Saturday morning with some great paddling set against a varied historical backdrop, followed by a lovely lunch at Jersey Pearl.  I can’t wait for the next lull in the North Atlantic swell.

Stinky Bay
Getting ready to leave Stinky Bay.

Les Lands

Underneath Grosnez there is this delightful circular inlet, which is normally a boiling cauldron. Today we were able to relax and enjoy the rock architecture.

La Nethe Falaise
A huge expanse of rock close to Grosnez. La Nethe Falaise, is the aptly named Black Cliff in Jersey French.
Les Landes
After the days of blue skies earlier in the week it was slightly disappointing that we had grey skies but the scenery more than made up for it.
L'Etacq
Looking back towards the cliffs at Les Landes. The tide was dropping quickly so it was important to return before the carry became impossible.

 

Staff Training

Although it was over 40 years ago I remember the excitement on opening a letter, within which, was the offer of employment at a centre in South Wales.  I was never sure whether it was my kayaking or mountaineering experience, which secured my employment.  I could barely contain my excitement as I headed west from London, along the A40 towards my life as an outdoor instructor.  At staff training on the first day I still didn’t discover, which of my activities was the most important as I received a crash course in archery and spent the next few weeks introducing school groups to the finer points of shooting with a bow and arrow.
Not once did I get on the water or walk up a mountain, I just spent hour after hour on the archery field.  My introduction into the world of an outdoor pursuits instructor wasn’t as exciting as I thought, so instead of returning to South Wales to further my career in the summer, I went to Chamonix climbing.
I did return to working in the outdoor world for a couple of superb years, in North Wales.  Great days on the mountains or water followed by personal time with a group of highly motivated fellow instructors.  Days off were spent on the crags at Tremadoc, unless it was raining and then we went paddling.  Those two years working in a centre were the equivalent of the present day gap year.
This week I was fortunate enough to spend time with some young people who are just starting out on the journey to becoming outdoor instructors, looking to achieve qualifications in a number of areas so that they are able to work with groups in Jersey’s superb marine environment.
They all work for Absolute Adventures, who are one of the largest providers of adventurous activities to both locals and tourists.  It was their first day trip in sea kayaks and the NE wind increasing force 6 ensured that in places the water conditions would be quite entertaining.
The first stop was La Cotte de St Brelade, one of the most important historical sites on the island, before heading towards Pt Le Fret, one of the most under rated headlands in Jersey.
We did manage to reach Portelet but ever wary of the increasing wind speed we decided to return back around Pt Le Fret, into the relative shelter of Ouasine Bay for lunch before looking at some skills in the shelter of the reefs.
It felt a real privilege to be on the water with three young people as they embark on their journey towards becoming full time outdoor pursuits instructors.  Hopefully the staff training they received will prove to be more useful in the long run than my few hours of archery instruction.  I haven’t picked up a bow since 1977!

Staff training
Heading through the gap just off Pt Le Fret. We were sheltered from the strongest winds.
Staff training
Heading towards Portelet with Noirmont behind. When the tide is higher this section of coast is great for coasteering.
Staff training
Although we had planned to have lunch in Portelet it was clear that the wind was increasing significantly so we headed back around Pt Le Fret to find shelter. Just after lunch the wind was a steady force 6.
Staff Training
Paddling across St Brelade’s Bay in an increasing wind. Water conditions were more reminiscent of the Caribbean than the British Isles, as we headed back at the end of staff training.

Bell Boats

The Bell Boat is a pretty unique paddling craft, which was designed by former Olympic racing coach David Train.  Designed as a crew boat, to encourage co-operation, the Jersey Canoe Club decided to use them as a bit of training before the September Dragon Boat Racing.
Nine metres long, with two separate hulls they can take up to 12 young people and a helm, as none of us fall in the category of young we settled on 8 adults plus myself as helm.  First introduced in 1992 we were using the Mk 3 version which has been in production since 2012.  We borrowed them from the Air Training Corps, who had purchased them with the help of a grant from the One Foundation.
It is possible to become a qualified Bell Boat Helm with a course through British Canoeing, which was a course I really enjoyed doing a couple of years ago.
Despite the relatively strong north easterly wind we were soon heading towards Beauport, mostly in rhythm with each other, direction controlled by myself as the helm.  A nine metre craft doesn’t respond immediately to the subtle changes in the helms oar.  It requires some significant planning to ensure the bell boat maintains its course, as well as some appropriately timed group co-ordination.
We followed a circular route around some of the offshore reefs before returning back to St Brelade’s.  It was a great evening and no doubt that when we have the next session in a couple of weeks time there will be enough members present to ensure that both of the bell boats can be launched resulting into some friendly racing across the bay.

Bell Boat
Paddling along the cliffs just to the west of Beauport.
Bell Boat
Peter Hargreaves on the rear left hand side. The Grosse Tete is the large rock behind, which we eventually circumnavigated.
Bell Boat
Looking towards the bow of the Bell Boat.

 

On the water

The opportunity to get back on the water presented itself much earlier than expected as my ruptured achilles appears to be mending quicker than anticipated.  My first excursion at sea, over the weekend, was on a sit on top as I worked out that I would be able to keep my foot straighter than in a closed cockpit boat.  In addition, if necessary it would be pretty easy to place my foot into the cooling water.
St Brelade’s was the chosen departure point and it had been some time since I had paddled there last.  The hardest part of the whole trip was probably carrying the kayak down to the waters edge as I was so apprehensive about walking and carrying on the sand, multi-tasking was a pretty new experience.  Once afloat though life became much easier and despite having relatively low aspirations we did manage to paddle all the way to Corbiere.
I have only been off the water for 3 months, which doesn’t seem too long, but flicking through my paddling log books I realized that it has been the longest time that I haven’t been paddling, since I started my log books in January 1979.
This was the first place I went kayaking, in 1969, and I still appreciate that it is a special section of coast.  In the warm June sunshine, the red granite cliffs, fringed with vegetation and the blue seas combined to produce a coastline, more reminiscent of the Mediterranean than the British Isles.  Just a great day to relaunch my kayaking career.

On the Water
Nicky and Ruth heading towards the cliffs at Beauport.
On the Water
Heading west towards Corbiere. Offshore are the Les Kaines, one of the islands small reefs.
On the Water
Just to the east of Pt La Moye. One of the most impressive things about today was the clarity of the water.
On the Water
One happy paddler and his friend!
On the Water
Looking towards Beauport, one of Jersey’s most beautiful bays. Today the only boat at anchor was an old style French sailing boat.

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.

MIT – Part 2

After a wet night and voracious insects we woke to a beautiful morning and a high tide, meaning we could launch without the problems we faced landing the previous day.  It was a real shock how far the tide went out.
We headed south from the bay before rounding Indian Point and heading into Sheepscot Bay, were we began to feel the swells rolling in from the south east.  There were a couple of areas, where boomers required attention with our route finding.  As we paddled north though the swells subsided and soon we were inside the shelter of Five Islands.
It was here that we really began to appreciate one of the pleasures of sea kayaking in Maine, stopping off for a lobster lunch and a glass of Allagash Blond before carrying onto the evenings campsite.  We stopped of at Five Island Lobster Co. and ate a delightful lunch on the outdoor terrace.
The afternoon paddle to Whittum Island, where we aimed to camp for the night, easily passed by, fueled by lobster and soon we were putting up the tent on our island home.  It was a great place to sit and watch the tides swirl as the Sheepscot River went through its daily cycle.  The most obvious other residents were the ospreys, so we maintained our distance from the area around their nest.
The following morning was another incredibly early start, those fishing boats really are noisy!  We ferry glided across the ebb tide before passing through Townsend Gut, a sheltered passage, which avoids paddling around some of the larger headlands.  Heading east we had to be aware of the significant boat traffic which was operating in the area of Boothbay Harbor.  A couple of headlands, including Pemaquid Point, demand respect, particularly if the sea is anything but flat calm.
What was particularly interesting about the mornings paddle was that there was virtually nowhere to stop.  We eventually paddled all the way to Bar Island, where we were going to spend the night, 16 nautical miles and very few places to land.  In contrast to virtually everywhere else I have  paddled it is not possible to just land wherever you want.  Parts of this coast was kayaking through some very exclusive suburbs.  Lunch and rest stops require planning in advance.
Bar Island was a lovely place to stay, with a couple of wooden tent platforms, we spent the afternoon and evening exploring our island home.  The following morning some stewards form the MITA turned up and it was great to have the opportunity to discuss the Trail, with them and they very kindly took our rubbish away.

Sagadahoc Bay
It was so much easier to launch in the morning when the tide was in at Sagadahoc Bay. Planning is essential.
Five Islands Harbor
A convenient place to stop for a lobster roll and an Allagash blond.
Osprey
One of the Ospreys that we shared Whittum with.
Hendrick's Head Lighthouse
Hendrick’s Head Lighthouse, catching the late evening sun.
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse was constructed in 1835 and automated in 1934.
Bar Island.
Part of the coast of Bar Island. Looks like glacial deposits.

Bar Island
Tent platform on Bar Island. A comfortable place to spend the night.

Maine Island Trail

I first visited Maine in the summer of 1994, on a canoeing trip to the West Branch of the Penobscot.  Our girls were 5 and 7, so it seemed to be a great way to get in some multi-day paddling trips.  I did manage to get a day in sea kayaking and recognized the possibilities of paddling in the area.  Over the years I heard about the Maine Island Trail but it wasn’t until 2016 that the opportunity arose to paddle a section of the Trail.
The support provided by the Maine Island Trail Association, is crucial to making the most out of your journey along the coast of Maine.  We rented sea kayaks from Portland Paddle, who were really friendly and helpful.
With the position of Portland on the Maine coast, we planned to head north east towards Penobscot Bay, before returning back to Portland, hopefully by a slightly different route.  We did delay our departure for a day because of the intensity of the thunderstorms, which were forecast.  A delay which proved to be a sensible decision from both a meteorological perspective as well as allowing us time to visit LL Bean, in Freeport.  Always a treat.
Leaving Portland we headed east through the islands, which shelter the waters of Casco Bay, having lunch on a delightful beach at the southern tip of Jewell Island before heading north to a lovely campsite on Bangs. To make the most of your journey and to support continued access to the Maine coast it is important to join the Maine Island Trail Association.
The Maine Island Trail extends for 375 miles from the border with New Hampshire all the way to Canada and the Association maintains over 200 sites, which are available for day use or camping.  Membership of the MITA provides you with an annual printed guide to the trail as well as an App, which some people find more useful.  It is an essential $45 if you are going to be kayaking in the area.
Bangs was just an ideal place to spend our first night, not too far to paddle but far enough to produce a feeling of isolation.  We were clearly on our way!  For us one of the strange things was watching the sunset over the mainland US, living on the west coast of Jersey our sunsets are always over the sea.
We woke early the next morning to the sound of the local fishing boats heading out, I am surprised that engine silencers haven’t reached the United States.  There was no need for an alarm clock, whilst we were away!  We had left by 07.40, passing just to the north of Eagle Island State Park, which was the summer home of Arctic explorer Robert Peary, on another visit I am sure we will stop to visit the museum.
Ball Head and Small Point seemed to have the potential to have challenging conditions but we paddled around in flat calm water before stopping for lunch.  Ahead we knew that there was a potential hazard in the form of the entrance to the Kennebec River, and we weren’t disappointed.  There was a significant tide race down the sides of the islands but coming from Jersey we are used to moving water and managed to comfortably hold our ferry glide just upstream of the waves before reaching the sheltered waters on the eastern side of the river mouth.
We were aiming for the Sagadahoc Bay Campground but we knew that the tide was dropping rapidly and eventually we grounded about 0.5 miles short of our target.  Abandoning the the kayaks we carried the tents and clothing up to the campground whilst waiting for the moon to perform her magic.
As the tide started to return I floated the kayaks up the channels, unfortunately as the sea started to flow in the the rain the started to fall and the insects started to bite.  I have to admit it was a pretty miserable couple of hours moving the kayaks up the bay and once I reached the shore it was a matter of retreating to the tent and not re-appearing to the following morning.
An interesting 19 nautical miles covered with a slight sting in the tail at the end of the day, but the forecast was for the rain to clear overnight so we went to sleep with a degree of optimism.

Maine Island Trail
Beach at the southern end of Jewell, where we stopped for lunch on day one.
Maine Island Trail
First nights campsite. Bangs Island
Maine Island Trail
Sunset over the land. An unusual perspective for somebody who lives on the west coast of Jersey
Maine Island Trail
Just passing to the north of Eagle Island State Park. Robert Peary’s summer residence.
Maine Island Trail
Typical scenery along the coast of Maine.
Maine Island Trail
Sagadahoc Bay, the sea has disappeared, leaving the kayaks high and dry.

Edie

Edie

I know that this isn’t a film review website but after watching the recently released “Edie” this afternoon I feel that I must put some thoughts down.
It follows the journey of Edith Moore, after the death of her husband, who she has looked after for 30 years, but what was in effect a claustrophobic marriage.  When her daughter wants to put her in a Care Home, she heads north to Lochinver, following a dream that was ignited by a post card from her father many years earlier.
As somebody in her 80’s climbing Suilven, an iconic mountain rising to a height of 731 metres, was clearly going to be a major challenge.  She was assisted in her endeavours by Jonny, who just happens to work in the local outdoor shop.  He was in a prime position, therefore, to be able to sell her a significant amount of high quality outdoor equipment.
Jonny was also in an ideal position to provide appropriate training for the proposed ascent of the mountain.  The relationship between Edie and Jonny is the corner stone of the film and is what helps make the film more enjoyable than might be expected.
One of the most emotional points in the film is when they are rowing and Edie reflects on her wasted life.  So many years spent in unhappiness, which can never be regained.  I enjoyed the performances by both Shelia Hancock and Kevin Guthrie.
The background to the film is the superb landscape of north west Scotland, although this is a film set in the mountains there are glimpses of a coastline far below, which many of us are familiar with, and if we aren’t, it is an inspiration to head north to discover the superb coastal and mountain scenery.
A showing of Edie may not be that easy to find.  At our local cinema it was only shown Monday to Thursday at 3.00 in the afternoon.  So if you had a normal job watching it is virtually impossible, that may well explain why there were only 5 people at the showing we went to.  It deserves to be seen by a wider audience though.
At times the film seems cliched and the end was never really in doubt but it is a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend 102 minutes of your time.