Sark – an island not completely loved

I have loved Sark since my first visit in the early 1970’s. I first paddled up to Sark from Jersey in 1979 and have since returned on numerous occasions, often camping for several nights. A quick look through my log books has revealed that I have visited the island every month of the year apart from December. I even paddled north from Jersey for an overnight visit, in the 1980’s, when the schools were closed due to heavy snow. Whatever the weather and time of the year Sark has always occupied a special place in my heart.
This week we had booked a day trip to Sark with Jersey Seafaris, on one of their ribs. What a great way to visit, with a thoroughly professional company. Heading out from St Catherine’s we turned to the north west, with the crossing taking about 40 minutes. There was still the remnants of Sunday’s swell, which slowed us down in places but otherwise it was a perfect crossing. As soon as we moved away from the coast it was amazing the number of Shearwaters, mainly Balearic with a few Manx, we saw. Somehow as a sea kayaker I have always had a degree of empathy with Shearwaters, which are one of my favourite birds.
Arrival in Sark was at Creux Harbour, the older of the two harbours on the east coast. With the main arm being constructed in the 1860’s. landing was easy and we were soon on our way up the hill to hire bikes for the day. Avenue Cycle Hire, was visited and within minutes we were on our way.

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Arrival at Creux Harbour.
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A sign close to the harbour celebrating Sark’s unique achievement.  It is an accolade that was bestowed on the island in 2011.
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Looking north from Port au Moulin, close to the spectacular Window in the Rock. A hole which, was blasted through the rock by the Seigneur in the 1850’s to provide spectacular views along the coast.  It shows just how great the sea kayaking is in this area.

After visiting quite a few of the main points around the Island I started to develop some uncomfortable feelings.  Perhaps I was looking at the past through rose coloured spectacles but Sark just didn’t seem quite the same.  There appeared to be quite a few empty houses, some of shops on the main street were closed, as were some of the hotels.  In certain areas, for example towards the Pilchers Monument the land appeared uncared for.

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Lunch was at Hathaways Cafe just as the sun came out and the temperature soared.

After lunch we crossed to Little Sark for a swim close to the remains of the Silver Mines, the history of which is described in an earlier post.  The warm afternoon sun did provide an excuse to jump into the crystal clear water.

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Lisa jumping into one of the gully’s close to the Silver Mines.

All too soon it was time to head back to the harbour and the RIB journey back to Jersey, but not before having the opportunity to admire the coastal scenery and learn a bit more about the history of this fascinating Island.

Brecqhou
Looking along the west coast of Sark. Brecqhou is clearly visible.
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Memorial stone to those Islanders deported by the German occupying forces in the Second World War.

Sark really is one of my favourite places in the world and I will continue to visit it at every opportunity, sadly this time I came away with the feeling that it is a community, which isn’t thriving as successfully in the past.

Greve de Lecq – what a difference a week makes

After the near perfect conditions for exploring the coast to the east of Greve de Lecq last weekend, this Sunday was a complete contrast. Magicseaweed and Jersey Met had been predicting the arrival of a swell and they weren’t wrong. The one positive note was that the beach was reasonably protected, although there was still some dumping surf on the beach. It was what was going on outside the bay that created the talking points.
The Paternosters are approximately 2.5 nautical miles to the north but waves could be clearly seen breaking on the reef, whilst along the coast the swell could be seen breaking some way up the cliffs. This was clearly not going to be a day for exploring the caves along this stretch of coast. What made the swell even more impressive was its wave period, somewhere in the region of 15 seconds.

Swell
Leaving the beach was all about timing and the assistance of a couple of other paddlers. The important thing was to make sure that you weren’t the last person to leave the beach!

Once afloat there was very little opportunity to approach the cliffs and cave, which make this such a great stretch of coast to paddle.  A week earlier we had been able to go pretty much where we liked on a flat calm Sunday morning.

Swell
In places the swell was breaking some way up the cliffs. It was clearly somewhere that you didn’t want to be caught out.
Swell
There was not going to be any paddling through the arch on Ile Agois today. What a contrast to 7 days earlier.

We paddled as far as Sorel lighthouse but in most places we needed to keep several hundred metres out from the shore, there were just a couple of places where it was thought possible to approach a bit closer.

Swell
John making it out through the waves off Sorel.
Swell
Heading back to Greve, we kept well offshore. A couple of large sets of waves did pass by on their way to the cliffs. Jim from Manchester Canoe Club, clearly enjoying himself despite the rain just starting.

The landing back at Greve de Lecq was as difficult as anticipated.  The dropping tide meant that we had a bit more shelter than anticipated.  There had been 21 kayakers on the water with Jersey Canoe Club and only one person swam on landing.  We thought that was a pretty good success rate.

Autumn kayaking on Herm

Herm, is a delightful island, which lies several miles to the east of Guernsey across an interesting section of water, the Little Russel.  Today is almost perfect conditions we were able to explore, not just the coast of Herm but the fascinating reefs to the north.  A memorable paddle for the beginning of October.  There were very strong tidal streams flowing in the Little Russel, which tested the groups navigational awareness and our moving water skills.
Thankfully there was virtually no wind so we just had to focus on the moving water as we crossed to what is an absolute delightful destination at any time of the year.
 Jim just off La Rosiere Steps on Herm.  Once we arrived here we knew that we were out of the strongest tidal flow and we could relax to a certain extent.
 Lunch spot on the north east corner of Herm.
 Laurie off Shell Beach.  The Humps are visible to the north.  It is hard to believe that it is the fist weekend in October with conditions like this.
Approaching Godin. This small island is the largest  of the Humps, a fascinating area to explore to the north of Herm.
There are plenty of distinctive navigation beacons around Guernsey and Tautenay is no exception.  It provided a convenient resting place whilst crossing the Little Russel, back to Bordeaux.

Sark Silver Mines and sea kayaking

Sark, the smallest state in the Commonwealth and one of the last societies, which retained some aspects of feudalism, is a stunning destination for the sea kayaker.  There are numerous sites of historical interest with the south west coast of Little Sark showing evidence of 19th century ill-fated silver mines.  Cornish miners came to the island, virtually doubling Sark’s population, in this area.  Four deep shafts were sunk at Port Gorey and one extended 100 metres out under the sea.  It was said in violent storms the miners could hear boulders on the seabed rolling about above their heads.
There are a number of myths surrounding the mines including the story that a ship with £12,000 worth of sliver ore was wrecked off the north east coast of Guernsey.  There is no evidence of this actually occurring.  What is clear though that by the time the mines closed in 1847, having only opened in 1833, numerous people including the Seigneur of Sark had lost considerable sums of money.
The evidence of the industrial past is clearly visible as you paddle along the south west coast of the island and on days with little or no swell Port Gorey is a great place to stop for a swim as well experiencing the industrial archaeology of a short lived mining enterprise.
Chris paddling south close to the mines.
Looking west from near the silver mines.  Guernsey is the island in the distance.
The first ruins that you come across when visiting the silver mines on foot.
The water off Sark always appears to have superb clarity.
Port Gorey on a particularly calm August morning.
The silver mines viewed from offshore
A late afternoon paddle around the Island with members of Tower Hamlets Canoe Club, including passing the area of the silver mines.  No time to stop and explore though that afternoon.
The entrance to the Port Gorey smelter
Looking up the inside of the smelter.

A Paternoster Sunday

The Paternoster’s are a wild reef nearly 3 miles off the north coast of Jersey which is always an interesting place to visit.  Sunday morning’s forecast couldn’t have been more co-operative with a light southerly breeze to blow us out and then dropping off, with the sun coming out.
It was a slightly longer Sunday morning paddle for the Jersey Canoe Club than usual and it did involve taking sandwiches but it was well worth the effort.  It is strange that we were only out for 5 hours in total but after a visit to the Paternoster’s you always feel as if you have had a break from the island.
 The Paternosters are just visible, with Sark on the horizon beyond
 Nicky and Kate leaving the north coast.  Sorel lighthouse is just visible on the headland behind the kayaks.
 Just approaching Great Rock from the north, landing would probably have been impossible an hour earlier due to the swell but the ebbing tide had produced some relatively sheltered areas in the reef.
 Looking south west from the summit of Great Rock.  Grosnez is the obvious headland behind.  There is a great jump into the sea from just near here but with the temperatures that we were experiencing it was sensible to remain dry.
 The view north.  Sark is visible on the horizon.  We had great memories of a delightful paddle back from Sark earlier in the summer.
Paul crossing one of the tidal flows, which contribute to making paddling at the Paternoster’s so entertaining.  We were going to use some of the flow from this current to head towards Plemont headland before following the coast back to Greve de Lecq.