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.
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.
For what seemed like the first time in months the Sunday morning session of the Jersey Canoe Club took place in some bright February sunshine, although the temperature was modified by the strong north easterly wind. 11 of us paddled out from St Brelade’s heading towards Corbiere, the granite cliffs looking particularly stunning.
Although Corbiere was our destination, as we approached the south west corner it was clear that with the amount of water moving, due to the Spring tides, and the westerly swell, that we might need to cut our journey short. We didn’t really want an unplanned journey to Sark.
Close to the causeway, at Corbiere, a plaque commemorates the attempts of Peter Edwin Larbalestier, an assistant keeper of the lighthouse, who was drowned on 28 May 1946, while trying to rescue a visitor cut off by the incoming tide, who also lost her life. Many years ago I was landing on the slipway at Corbiere, after a Club session on a Thursday evening. I noticed the plaque and said to one of the people who was with us, “that’s funny you have the same name as the lighthouse keeper who drowned” his reply was “that’s not surprising he was my uncle and I am named after him”.
In the Corbiere Phare Restaurant there is a photograph of Peter Edwin Larbalestier, in his lighthouse keepers uniform. The likeness to Peter Larbalestier is really quite amazing. Sadly Peter from the Canoe Club passed away a few years ago but every time we look at the photograph of his uncle we are reminded of the good times we had with Peter kayaking.
The paddle back to St Brelade’s against the wind and tide was a bit challenging in places but that was largely irrelevant as we enjoyed our first sunny Sunday morning paddle of 2018.
For what seems like the first time in months we were able to have our midweek kayaking day trip off the south west corner of the Island. There have been numerous strong wind warnings this year, issued by Jersey Met, most of them appearing to involve some south westerly involvement. The consequence of this is that day trips, along the south coast have been few and far between recently. Fortunately today’s forecast allowed us the paddle from Belcroute to Corbiere and return.
It was just a few hardy members of the Jersey Canoe Club who congregated at Belcroute on Tuesday morning. Many of the regular attendees of the mid week day trip were off Island or unavailable this week. The aim was to use the last of the ebb as it flowed west, towards Corbiere, with the added assistance of the light north easterly wind. Amazingly as the tide turned and the east flowing stream started the wind also went around to the south west. It’s not often that you get both wind and tide with in both directions on a day trip. We were certainly getting our monies worth from environmental factors.
From Belcroute it was an easy run south to Noirmont Point, clearly identified by its black and white, early 19th century military tower. Although it wasn’t easily visible today because of the low cloud/fog. We used the last couple of hours of the tidal flow to assist our run towards Corbiere. This section of coast has to be one of my favourite lengths of the islands coastline, it is where I gained my original kayaking experience, starting in 1969.
It is normally a blaze of colour, the blue sea, red granite and green vegetation complementing each other but today the overwhelming colour was grey.
It was just a delight to be on the water without having to battle wind and waves, which have been our constant companions for the last few months. Corbiere was our turning point, the iconic lighthouse was first lit on the 24th April 1874 and over the years has been the scene of a number of dramatic rescues.
Lunch was on the small beach below the Highlands Hotel, before we took advantage of the easterly flowing tide and south westerly wind to assist our return. Overall we paddled just over 11 miles each, assisting Jersey Canoe Club’s entry into the British Canoeing Winter Challenge. Taking the Clubs combined mileage since the 1st December to just over 2,000 miles, a significant total considering the weather and the fact that because of geography we are limited to paddling on the sea.
I have written more information on the route between Belcroute and Corbiere elsewhere on the SeaPaddler site, so take a look for further ideas on places to paddle.
Since the early 1980’s the Jersey Canoe Club Boxing Day paddle has always been arranged for Ouaisne. This is because we always used to announce the venue for the weekly Canoe Club sessions on BBC Local Radio, but on Boxing Day there was no appropriate programme, so the venue had to be decided well in advance. After some deliberation it was decided that Ouaisne was probably the best location on the Island, where it was to possible in virtually every wind direction.
Despite technical advances, initially a telephone messaging service before moving on to WhatsApp, we have have remained loyal to Ouaisne and the Smugglers Pub over the years.
Unfortunately this year the wind was particularly strong form the south west but we had the option, thanks to WhatsApp, of moving a few hundred metres to the east and benefiting from the shelter to be found in Belcroute.
A couple of years ago I wrote a more comprehensive post about the history of the coast in this area. It is stretch of coast,which isn’t the most dramatic to be found around Jersey but it is one which never fails to impress. I particularly like the stretches of wooded coast, something which isn’t that common in Jersey.
Despite the poor weather and a venue we had used quite a bit recently, 14 members of the Jersey Canoe Club still turned out relatively early on Boxing Day morning for a couple of hours on the water, a perfect way to burn off some of the Christmas excess.
Friday morning coasteering has become a regular event for those members of the Jersey Canoe Club, who are free. Today it would have been so easy to stay at home, drink coffee and eat cake, with the mist and fog coming and going, interspersed with some heavy rain.
By 9.30 I had run out of excuses so it was time to head to Beauport, one Jersey’s prettiest bays. It was interesting to see how high the sand was, a reflection of the calmer seas of the last week or so. The most obvious item in the bay though was part of a large private boat, which was washed up on the pebbles. There had been a failed salvage operation this week as the authorities attempted to raise the wreck of a 62 foot private boat, that sank last month after hitting a navigational mark.
On what was a day largely without colour we headed along the west side of Beauport, a mixture of swimming and scrambling along the rocks. We passed underneath the cliffs, which mark some of the highest jumps on the Island before reaching a section of narrow gullies. The westerly swell was channeled through the narrow sections creating some entertaining conditions, requiring timing when entering and exiting the water.
The sea temperature was slightly below 10 degrees, and with the rather inclement weather, we limited the coasteering session to 90 minutes. Climbing up the cliffs and heading off to find a local hostelry with a warm fire.
A pleasant way to spend the last Friday morning before Christmas.
My book “Coasteering: A Practical Guide” is still available from Amazon, for Kindle.
It has been a weekend of kayaking contrasts, Saturday was very windy and sunny so we spent the morning paddling off the east coast. Heading south from St Catherine’s to Gorey where we stopped for coffee and cake. This is a section of the coast that we paddle most weeks during the summer months as it is the location for the Jersey Canoe Club Tuesday evening training sessions. In contrast we rarely paddle along this section of coast during the winter but it is a couple of miles steeped in history.
For over 40 years the Canoe Club has paddled every Sunday morning at a variety of locations around the Island. For the last 10 or 15 years the focus has been on using sea kayaks, hardly surprising as Jersey is a superb sea kayaking destination. Today was a throw back to the 1970’s and 80’s as we used smaller play boats, as we headed out from St Brelade’s. It was good to get out in the small kayaks as it gave us chance to hone our skills. So it really was a weekend of kayaking contrasts.
It is amazing how a sunny morning with light winds will encourage you to get out on the stand up paddleboards. That is just what happened on Friday morning. It was hard to believe that less than 48 hours ago the Island was being battered by a significant storm.
Heading out on the early morning spring tide.
With the high spring tide we were able to enter one of the small caves in St Brelade’s Bay. One of the great things about paddle sports is the opportunity to do new things. I first paddled in St Brelade’s in 1969 and up until today I had never paddled into this cave.
Laurie entering Beauport
Beauport is possibly my favourite bay on the Island and today it looked particularly special when viewed from the stack in the middle of the bay.
Heading through the gap, back into St Brelade’s and time to refresh some skills such as rescues and towing.
Today was one of the first Sunday mornings this year which didn’t have strong winds forecast so the Jersey Canoe Club Sunday morning session headed west from St Brelade’s along one of the most pleasant stretches of Jersey’s coastline.
We changed in perfect spring sunshine but by the time we launched the clouds had gathered. we were paddling along the stretch of coast which is close to the hotel where the Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium is going to held in May.
Part of the group under Corbiere Lighthouse. I know that I am biased by I reckon it is the most beautiful lighthouse in the world.
As we headed east the sun did manage to break through. This section of coast is perfect for coasteering in the summer months, fingers crossed for warmer weather.
Cliffs just to the west of Beauport. Always a pleasure to paddle past these granite faces.
Although this is the closest stretch of coast to where I live, it seems to have been quite some time since I last spent a day exploring this area of Jersey so it was a real pleasure to be on the water on Saturday. Heading out from St Brelade’s Bay we headed along the base of the south west cliffs towards Corbiere, before popping into St Ouen’s Bay for some lunch on the offshore reefs.
This is a section of the Jersey coast, which I have paddled hundreds of times but there is always something to discover whatever the season.
Paddling into a feature which we known as Junkyard Gully. At the rear of the inlet there is a large blow hole into which was thrown a lot of scrap metal and cars in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Laurie passing to the south of Corbiere Lighthouse, a significant landmark, which dominates the south west corner of the island. There was a bit of swell around and some tidal movement but it was a relatively calm day.
Heading south past Corbiere after stopping for lunch in the reefs to the west of La Pulente. A bit chilly but it is October.
Louis looking as if he is having a good time.
Louis and Rachel playing in the small race which was developing to the west of Corbiere.
Along this section of coast there are some many great jumping spots. This flat topped rock, known as “Table Top”, is at Gorselands. Laurie is in mid air whilst Simone is considering his options.
Just before Beauport we were able to take a short cut through the reef at the Grosse Tete. This is known as Conger Gully, mainly because of the stories we tell younger people whilst we are out coasteering along this section of coast.