The low cloud, mist and drizzle, which has been a constant since Wednesday morning continued over the weekend. Despite the gloom we did manage 2 north coast paddles.
On Saturday we headed west from Bonne Nuit along to Sorel and on the Sunday we headed east from Greve de Lecq towards Sorel. We are hoping for a bit of sunshine over the next week or so (although its not looking that likely) but in spite of the weather we had a couple of good sea kayaking trips on the two days before Christmas.
The forecast for Wednesday was for southerly gales building during the course of the day, with the main impact being felt from about 15.00 onwards. Wednesday is the day when we try to go on day trips so we didn’t want to give up to easily. An option appeared to meet at Rozel, head west, use the tide, tuck in under the cliffs, eat our sandwiches and make a hasty retreat to the east before the full force of the gale struck.
What was a real surprise was the stunning November sunshine we enjoyed all day, it was only on the drive home, as the wind speed significantly increased that the cloud banks started to move in from the west.
Lunch was at Bonne Nuit, somewhere we hadn’t expected to reach when we set out from Rozel. Possibly the most interesting incident during the day was an encounter with a grey seal, close to Bouley Bay. The toggles on my Nordkapp are carved from reindeer antlers I collected on a trip to Svalbard in 1983. Clearly they attracted the attention of the seal, which was attempting to lick the toggles, sadly it was the rear toggle it was interested in. Meaning that it was difficult to see, let alone photograph. Still a memorable encounter.
It was a distinct change today to paddle a short kayak, rather than the normal sea kayak. We launched from Bonne Nuit, one of the small bays on the north coast of Jersey. Bonne Nuit is one of those bays which gives easy access to relatively deep water.
We paddled out of the small harbour which was built in 1872, to provide shelter for the local fishing fleet as well as providing a place for the export of stone from Mont Mado quarry which is located on the hillside above, whilst trying to avoid the fishing lines of the people above.
One of the more unusual aspects of today’s paddle was the size of the tide, there was only 3.4 metres of difference between high and low water. In a weeks time the height difference will have increased to 10.1 metres. This meant that there was very little water moving so instead of searching for tide races we looked for rock gardens and swell.
Paddling short kayaks has a positive impact on our skill levels. Their manoeuvrability and lack of directional stability forces you to concentrate on improving your kayak handling and in particular the ability to paddle in a straight line. This can only be beneficial when transferred to the more usual sea kayaks that we paddle.
Attracting canoeing and kayaking Club’s to paddle in Jersey has always proved a challenge. The concept of flying to a weekend’s paddling has been difficult to promote, although over the years Tower Hamlets Canoe Club have become annual visitors. This year at the Spanish Sea Kayak Symposium we fell into conversation with Jim Krawiecki and suggested that a group from Manchester flew south to warmer waters and experienced some of the paddling which Jersey has to offer.
After a quick paddle along the south coast yesterday using equipment courtesy of Absolute Adventures, today’ s focus switched to the north coast of the island. Meeting at St Catherine’s, were the Jersey Canoe Club has its premises, the plan was to head west on the ebbing Spring Tide before returning back to St Catherine’s as the tide started to flood. Along the way we hoped to be able to introduce the Manchester Canoe Club members to the delights of some of the Jersey tide races.
Remaining the tidal flow during the morning, we paddled from point to point, which meant that we were a significant distance offshore. The advantage was that our speed over the ground rarely dropped below 6 knots. St Catherine’s, La Coupe, Tour de Rozel and Belle Hougue, one point after another, passed quickly.
Lunch was on the beach at Bonne Nuit. The last of the ebb tide was still flowing west when we started our return paddle so we stayed close to the shore initially, passing things that we missed whilst heading in the opposite direction.
Our final play of the day was in the moving water at Tour de Rozel before we jumped on the tide and hitched a free ride back to St Catherine’s. Sprinting off La Coupe we managed to reach 8.3 knots over the ground, not a bad speed on what was supposed to be a relaxing days paddle, introducing some of the members of Manchester Canoe Club to the variety of sea kayaking that Jersey has to offer.
Belle Hougue is possibly the most dramatic headland on Jersey and offers superb sea kayaking for the discerning paddler. The tide race, which forms on the ebb is probably my favourite on the whole island.
It is the tallest headland in Jersey and a considerable race develops here on both the flood and the ebb. If there is any swell running then the waves can break heavily over the offshore reefs. The area around Les Sambues is probably the most interesting for those in search of white water excitement. Fast moving water pours around the rocks when they are uncovered and stationary surfing waves form when they are submerged.
In close at Belle Hougue there are numerous passages to be explored and at the western edge of the headland is Belle Hougue cave. Access is difficult from the land and when it was first known to have been entered, in 1914, it contained stalagmites and stalactites. Inside there have also been discovered the antlers, teeth and bones of a small species of deer which is unknown anywhere else. Belle Hougue is a dramatic and awe inspiring location which demands respect in certain wind and tidal conditions. It is also often the first place that the effect of the swell can be felt when you are paddling west along the north coast.
Belle Hougue is one of those headlands which I never tire of paddling around. The water is often entertaining even on the calmest summer days.
The last few months seem to have been mainly occupied with courses so it was a real pleasure on one of the last weekends of December, to just get out on the water for a paddle. The wind, which had been such a significant feature of the last few weeks had died down to a southerly force 4 so Bonne Nuit on the north of the island was the chosen venue.
Initially we headed east, hoping to find some interesting water off Belle Hougue, but we were a bit late to have any real fun so we carried on to small bay underneath the Club’s cottage at Egypt. A small part of the island with a rich history. After a paddling a bit further into Bouley Bay it was time to head back west, past Bonne Nuit and along towards Wolfs’s Caves.
Steff, Janet and Jim underneath the Canoe Club cottage at Egypt. An area where the members of the Canoe Club have spent many happy weekends.
Returning west. The main headland is Belle Hougue, the tallest headland in Jersey. In the distance is Ronez, the site of a large quarry, where chough’s bred in Jersey for the first time in 100 years this summer.
Rachel and Dean paddling around Belle Hougue. It was one of those December days when the light seemed particularly flat.
Close to Wolf’s Caves there was a pretty spectacular blow hole, Angus was the first to paddle in close but John caught the larger swells.
My last photo of the day. There was no cleaning the lens after the soaking it received from this amount of spray.
I can never understand people who actually select a non window seat when flying because, without doubt, the best onboard entertainment is found from looking out of the window. Frequently the flights pass over some of the more classic paddling destinations, so the advice would be to always keep your camera at the ready. You are unlikely to be disappointed. These are a few aerial photos that I have taken in the last few years.
An early morning departure from Heathrow gave superb views of London. The Isle of Dogs is clearly visible and the more eagle eyed will be able to find the location of Shadwell Basin, where we were paddling last weekend.
Lihou is a small island off the west coast of Guernsey, where we have passed many a happy weekend. This was taken in the aftermath of a February storm, hence the swell breaking on the north and west coasts. We are there this weekend but the forecast is for much calmer conditions.
Brecqhou, off the west coast of Sark. The narrow channel is the Gouliot Passage, where the tidal streams can reach 7 knots on springs. A very entertaining location.
Just after take off from Ilulissat in Greenland and before the plane turns to the west and the south. These waters had been much more ice choked when we had paddled south a couple of days earlier.
Approaching the Isle of Wight. The entrance to the River Medina at Cowes is clearly visible. Calshot is largely obscured by the bank of cloud. This picture was taken when heading south towards Jersey
Heading north from Jersey you have a different perspective from the Isle of Wight. We are just to the east of the island looking down Southampton Water. Portsmouth Harbour is visible in the middle of the picture, whilst Langstone Harbour is to the right.
Alderney is the most northerly of the Channel Islands and the closest to France. The harbour at Braye is clearly visible, whilst the small island is Burhou, a fascinating bird colony. Between Alderney and Burhou is the Swinge, with tidal streams of 7 knots, whilst on the other side of the island is the famous Alderney Race, where speeds can reach 8-9 knots in places.
Bonne Nuit bay on the north coast of Jersey, a popular place for the start of kayaking trips. In the middle of the bay Cheval Rock is clearly visible.
Departing from Jersey in a westerly direction, the cliffs at L’Etacq are exposed to the Atlantic swell.
Flying out of Milos in Greece, after what would have been another great weeks sea kayaking. We are looking across to the summit of Mount Profitis Elias 748 metres (2,454 feet) high. On one particularly windy day we did walk to the summit, from which we were able to see some of the finest sea kayaking destinations anywhere.
It seems as if we have launched from Bonne Nuit fairly regularly over the last couple on months, which is not a problem as it is always enjoyable. On reflection we have headed west every time, again not an issue as there is plenty of entertaining paddling along that stretch of coast. Today though as is the tradition on Remembrance Day we headed east to land in front of the Jersey Canoe Club cottage at Egypt.
Although we were there to observe two minutes silence we still experienced a surprisingly varied paddle and only covered a total distance of 4 nautical miles.
Bonne Nuit was the venue for today’s sea kayaking with Jersey Canoe Club. When leaving from Bonne Nuit, it is always an issue which way to head, to the east lies Belle Hougue, with its entertaining tide race whilst the coast to the west has a number of interesting physical features. Today felt like a day for geography so we headed west in the bright October sunshine.