The 1st December marks the start of British Canoeing Winter Challenge. It last 3 months and the aim is to encourage members of canoe and kayak clubs to get out on the water during the darker, colder days of winter.
Last year Jersey Canoe Club came top, in terms of miles covered, just about fending off a determined challenge by Portsmouth Canoe Club. In the 3 months the members of the Jersey club paddled a total of 4,108 miles, with 4 members paddling over the 300 miles. The highest individual total was 520 miles, which is quite amazing considering that there is no inland water in Jersey, so they were all completed on the sea.
Today’s forecast was less than perfect for the first day of the Challenge as 5 slightly enthusiastic kayakers headed out from Belcroute. The initial mile was fast and easy as the northerly force 5 sped us on our way towards Noirmont point, which was the gateway to more sheltered waters, under the cliffs of Portelet. Some large black clouds gave a suggestion of rain or sleet but surprisingly we stayed dry. At times even feeling the warmth of the low angled winter sun.
Nicky pulled out in St Brelade’s whilst the rest of us carried onto Corbiere, with its freshly painted lighthouse. The tide had started to rise quite quickly meaning we had missed the opportunity to land in some of the small bays, so we headed back to Beauport for lunch. Without doubt one of the most beautiful bays on the Island, but on the 1st December we had the beach to ourselves.
After lunch we headed east across St Brelade’s Bay as the clouds built in size. For most of the paddle we were reasonably protected from the wind but from Noirmont to Belcroute there was no respite. The wind was blowing at about 30 knots straight into our faces, which resulted in some demanding paddling conditions. When we landed our total mileage for the day was 60 miles, which despite the weather was a pretty reasonable start towards British Canoeings Winter Challenge .
It is probably true to say that we wouldn’t have normally gone for such a long paddle in the prevailing conditions but the fact that we did stay out there and put the miles in is evidence of the success of the Winter Challenge, which is to get more paddlers out on the water during the cold, dark days of December, January and February.
Thursday evenings during the winter months are the regular pool sessions, apart from one week in March when it is the local Swimmarathon. A huge community fund raising event so we normally have a week without midweek paddling but last nights forecast raised the possibility of a night paddle out from Belcroute Bay. Belcroute is a perfect place for a night paddle, sheltered from the prevailing wind and swell and out of the strongest tidal streams, but with plenty to explore including St Aubin’sHarbour a few hundred metres to the north. There are also plenty of navigation markers in the vicinity if you wish to improve the accuracy of your bearings and timings. We met at Belcroute at just before 7.00 pm and it was clear that the major issue was how we were going to launch. The 11.8 metre tide meant that the sea was pretty close to the wall and there was the occasional larger swell. In a plastic sea kayak launching down the slip was a distinct possibility, particularly with assistance. Launching with a fibre glass kayak was an entirely different proposition, the best option for preserving kit appeared to be to throw the kayak into the sea, jump in after it, hopefully timing your entry into the water so that the retreating swell sucked you away from the slip and then perform a self rescue, all in the dark. Although there was some initial reluctance regarding the assessment of the situation everybody managed to perform the task without any major drama. Once afloat we had a delightful paddle around St Aubin’s Fort, built during the English Civil War and extended in the 18th and 20th Century it now serves as an outdoor centre for the Education Department. From there we headed across to St Aubin’s Harbour, which thrived as Jersey fishermen returned from the fishing grounds off eastern Canada. The splendid merchants houses along the waterfront known as Cod houses. A paddle around the harbour is always pleasant, particularly during the hours of darkness. The return to Belcroute was simple and the landing at Belcroute was easier than anticipated as the tide had dropped slightly but it was still entertaining, having to time your arrival in the steep pebble beach with one of the smaller sets of waves, not always easy to achieve when you can’t see what is coming. A delightful way to spend a couple of hours on a mid-week evening in March.
Listening to Derek’s briefing whilst contemplating the upcoming swim.
Plastic kayaks could be launched down the slip although timing was pretty important.
Ruth swimming for it with Alex ready to help.
St Brelade’s Parish hall, in a previous life it was part of the railway station.
Heading back to the entrance.
On the outside of the harbour, passing the Royal Channel Islands Yacht Club, as we head back towards Belcroute.
It was another Sunday morning with strong westerly winds forecast so the options for our weekly paddle were limited. It was another visit to Belcroute, which is sheltered from the strong winds from the west. The winds on the day didn’t appear to be quite as strong as forecast so we were able to head across St Aubin’s Bay towards Elizabeth Castle, using the wind for quite an entertaining outgoing ride.
One advantage of living on an island is that whatever the wind direction it is always possible to find somewhere to paddle and as result of this the Jersey Canoe Club has managed to get on the water, on a Sunday morning pretty much every week since the mid-1970’s, although some weeks when it is blowing hard and the rain is falling numbers might be limited, at other times when the sun is out and winds are light we have seen over 40 kayakers on the water at times..
Jason preparing to launch at Belcroute, sheltered from the strong westerly wind which was blowing at the time.
Looking back up the beach at Belcroute. With winds like those forecast for this morning the kayaking options were limited. The Jersey Canoe Club were not the only group paddling from there today. The faster group of regular Jersey kayaker’s who paddle Taran’s had also chosen this location to leave from.
Pete just before Noirmont. The relatively calm seas don’t indicate the true wind speed as we were sheltered by Noirmont headland.
Crossing St Aubin’s Bay. The further we moved away from Noirmont the greater the impact of the wind. Due to the limited fetch sea conditions weren’t too rough.
Elizabeth Castle lies ahead. One of the finest military fortifications of Jersey.
You don’t see too many of these navigation marks around, an Isolated Danger Mark, just to the south of West Park Pool.