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!

Jersey Kayak Guide

The updated version of my Jersey Kayak Guide is now available on the site.  Hopefully  both visiting and local kayakers will find some of the information useful.  Starting at Corbiere, the guide takes you around the island in anti clockwise direction, which just happens to be the best place to start and the preferred direction of travel if you are hoping to paddle around Jersey.
As well as information about key places to visit there is guidance on tides and areas where challenging tidal races can develop at certain stages in the tidal sequence.

Jersey Kayak Guide
At certain stages of the tide quite challenging conditions can develop off Noirmont so always plan accordingly.

Over the coming months the aim is to add further paddling guides to certain areas, which will hopefully contain useful information for people visiting areas for the first.  A guide to Belize has already been produced, and others are in the pipeline.
If they are useful please let me know.

Weather Forecast Issues

When we are considering potential kayaking trips we always keep at least one eye on the weather forecast, wondering whether we are going to get that window in the weather to allow us to do that paddle we have been thinking about for quite some time.
We are fortunate in that we are able to access a variety of forecasts, how often have you heard people say “I didn’t like that forecast so I will look for a better one”, normally they are joking but looking at the forecast for the next 48 hours in Jersey there might be some truth in that statement.
Looking at the variety of forecasts available it seems like we can expect almost anything to hit the Island.  I have taken screen shots of a number of forecasts, which were published around 09.00 this morning.

Weather Forecast
Weather Online is giving SW Force 7 with gusts to 56 mph. Not ideal for any water based activity.
Weather forecast
Magic Seaweed is similar, forecasting winds up to 57 mph and just to make matters more interesting a wave height of 5.9 metres around lunch time.
Metcheck is a little less windy but the interesting thing is that the mean wind speed is above the gusts, not the other way around, as you would expect. 39 mph but gust 31 mph. This is 20 mph less than Magic Seaweed.
Weather forecast.
I normally find XC weather pretty accurate and the forecast for Friday is 45 mph. Pretty blowy but not as windy as some of the other forecasts.
Weather forecast
Windfinder is giving 39 gusting 47 but in contrast to the other forecasts this is in knots as opposed to mph. So this forecast is giving winds of up to 54 mph.
Weather Forecast
Weather.com is predicting winds of between 25 and 35 mph from the SSW. These are pretty much the most conservative wind speeds of any of the forecasts so far.
Wunderground is giving a maximum wind speed of 27 mph. Blowy but not disastrous.
Weather forecast
Meteox is giving SW Force 8, which translates into wind gusts of 40 mph.
Weather Forecast
The Jersey Met forecast, which I normally use is showing Force 4 from the south. Nothing to really worry about.

So we have a complete range of forecasts, with one we would still be able to run a kayaking session for relatively inexperienced paddlers whereas with some others we would be tying down the garden furniture and heading out to sea would be the last thing on our mind.
This shows the need to check forecasts on a regular basis as well as maintaining a close eye on conditions whilst on the water.
It will be interesting to see what eventually arrives on Friday morning.

 

Nordkapp Meet Update

As mentioned previously, the Jersey Canoe Club is running a Nordkapp sea kayaking weekend in August.  Starting the evening of Friday 24th August, followed by 3 days of paddles in the waters around Jersey.
There will be paddles at a variety of levels with hopefully the opportunity to visit some of the offshore reefs which surround Jersey, including the Ecrehous and the Paternosters.  Over the course of the weekend the tides increase in size, on the Monday evening we have a spring tide of 10.63 metres, meaning that a number of the tide races which develop around Jersey will be working, offering great entertainment for kayakers of all levels.
The weekend is free to members of the Jersey Canoe Club or £25 for non members of the Club.  This is the cost of 12 months overseas membership of the Club and it ensures that everybody has insurance cover over the weekend.  All in all an absolute bargain.
The Saturday evening talk is by the legendary Sam Cook, who was on the original sea kayaking expedition to Nordkapp in 1975.  This was a truly ground breaking expedition for British sea kayakers and was a route that was largely followed by a group of paddlers from the Jersey Canoe Club in 1986.
This is not going to be a huge event, we will be really pleased if we get 30 people on the water in a variety of different Nordkapps.  As well as people from Jersey we have had enquiries from the UK, Switzerland, France and Guernsey.

This picture was taken in 1979, just to the south of Gorey, when it seemed that you could have almost any colour of Nordkapp HM, as long as it was orange.  I think that the one red one is being held by Franco Ferrero from Pesda Press.

Nordkapp
The summer of 1986 and a young Mr and Mrs Mansell just about to go around Nordkapp in their Nordkapp HM’s.  This was on the Jersey Canoe Club trip of that summer.
If you would like, more information on what is going to be a relaxed but enjoyable weekend of kayaking, in all varieties of Nordkapp sea kayaks, please complete the form below.

Contact

Ecrehous sunshine

For the last few months we seem to have been subjected to one North Atlantic storm after another. The jet stream has been powering one low depression after another, creating unsettled weather. Days of being able to potter along the coast, exploring nooks and crannies have been few and far between. It is been a matter of trying to squeeze a few miles in, whilst trying to avoid the strongest winds, as they funnel around headlands.
On Monday of this week a slight glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon, light winds for Friday.  That slight glimmer eventually turned into a window of opportunity so this morning saw us loading the kayaks for a quick Ecrehous visit, in late winter sunshine from St Catherines.
With low water at around 13.30 the plan was to cross towards the end of the ebb, a quick break on the reef and complete the return crossing at the start of the flood. It was good plan and it almost worked. The 5.5 nautical miles on the way passed quickly and easily. We saw one fishing boat but apart from that we had the ocean to ourselves. There weren’t even that many birds to distract us, the only one of interest was a great crested grebe.
As the tide was sill running north there was some slight disturbance as we approached the Ecrehous but once the reef it was calm and sunny, the perfection combination for experiencing the channels and islets.  A quick lunch break and the inevitable photo opportunities and just over 30 minutes later saw us heading back to the kayaks for the return crossing to Jersey.
Unfortunately our paddling speed wasn’t quite what we anticipated and so we were more exposed to the influence of the tidal streams, than was ideal.  What would normally take about 1 hour 30 mins took an extra hour and in contrast to the 5.5 miles going out we covered 8.5 nautical miles on the way back.
It wasn’t a serious issue but clearly demonstrates the impact that tidal streams can have on sea kayakers.  In fact it was a bit of of blessing in disguise, as the extra miles that we covered meant that the Jersey Canoe Club went back to the top of British Canoeing’s Winter Challenge, although probably not for long!
Although slightly harder than anticipated it was well worth the extra effort for some Ecrehous sunshine.

Ecrehous
The Ecrehous are just visible but the position of the French coast is clearly identifiable with the line of cumulus clouds.
Ecrehous
Paddling into the reef. We were aiming to land just to the right of the small houses.  I was paddling the Jersey Canoe Club double with Claire.  Although she had visited the reef before this was the first time she had paddled there.
Ecrehous
The kayak on the beach in front of Marmotiere. We normally land on the French side but because this was just a quick visit we stayed on the Jersey side.
Ecrehous
Looking north west from close to the bench. I don’t know why but every time I visit the reef I take a picture from virtually the same location. It is a view I never get fed up with.
Ecrehous
Looking towards the French coast. It was clear that the tide had already turned and was running south. It was time to leave.
Ecrehous
The shingle bank is such a dynamic feature. It is always changing in size and steepness.

Some more aerial photographs

It has been said that the best in-flight entertainment system is the window seat. I can never understand the person who selects the aisle seat when there is the option of observing the world passing by.
Below is a selection of some aerial photographs of potentially interesting sea kayaking destinations seen out of the aircraft window over the last couple of years.  Whenever I get in an aircraft it always stimulates ideas of where else to go paddling.  The to do list, regarding kayaking destinations, continues to grow.

Aerial photographs
Final approach in Barcelona. Didn’t manage to get any sea kayaking in although some of the coast looked pretty interesting from a paddling perspective.  Particularly to the north, which is the venue for the Spanish Sea Kayak Symposium.
Aerial photographs
Climbing out from Malta. Gozo on the left and Comino in the middle are clearly visible. There is some great kayaking to be had in the Maltese archipelago.
Aerial photographs
Newhaven, Sussex. A few minutes after take off from Gatwick. It has been a few years since I paddled this stretch of the English coast.
Aerial photographs
Superb meanders on the River Seine.
Aerial photographs
Flying into clouds like these, over Dijon in France means that you are in for a bumpy ride. We were at 32,000 feet and some of the clouds were towering above us.
Aerial photographs
Final approach into Malta, with views of the Grand Harbour. A great sunset and you know that the kayaking is likely to be superb in the morning.
Aerial photographs
Poole Harbour in Dorset. Heading home after a weekend paddling in Swanage, which is just off the picture to the left. Always good to see where you have been.
Aerial photographs
Approaching Jersey on a blustery September day. The Ecrehous below, a great paddle.
Aerial photographs
Heading home from kayaking on the west coast of Greenland we had superb views of the east coast.

Nautical History and the T Flag

Fort Regent overlooking the town of St Helier is a 19th century military base, which was converted into a leisure and entertainment centre in the 1970’s.  It occupies a unique place in the nautical history of not just Jersey but the in the UK because it still has a working visual Signal Station.
The first signal station probably dates back to 1708 and was used to warn Islanders of the threat of invasion.  Over the years a number of signals have been flown from the mast above St Helier, including such useful information as the fact that the mail had arrived in the Island etc.
Sadly financial cuts and changes in technology meant that in December 2004 the Fort Regent Signal Station, which was the last manned station in the British Isles closed down.
Fortunately in January 2007 it proved possible to hoist flags again, in a limited fashion including the T-flag, which signifies high tides over 38 feet (11.6 metres) and the strong wind and gale warnings.  It was also possible to re-introduce hoisting a few other flags when appropriate such as Trafalgar Day.
Today’s high tides and strong winds meant that this morning the Signal Station was flying the flag and the ball and cone indicating potentially difficult conditions for those at sea and for people living along the coast.  Driving into St Helier you very quickly get into the habit of looking up towards to Fort, treasuring our own slice of nautical history, and seeing if any flags are flying.
Signal Station
Visual warnings from the Fort Regent Signal station today. Strong winds from the north and T Flag
 The signal station above Fort Regent at approximately 12.00 today.  The T Flag is flying on the left hand side whilst the cone and ball indicates strong winds from the north.
Nautical history and the T Flag
When this flag is flying it signals that the tide is above 38 feet.