Les Ecrehous in February

The Ecrehous are a great place to visit at any time of the year but its always special to get a visit in during the winter months, when the reef is much quieter than during the summer.  A mid week visit, to Les Ecrehous in February, is a great time to go if you are hoping for some piece and quiet.
The paddle out from St Catherine’s was relatively straightforward, the benefit of having drawn vectors to allow for the tidal streams always makes the crossing easier, with the GPS just used for back up and fine adjustments to the bearing.  The 5 nautical miles took just over the hour, and soon we were drifting through the reef, as the first of the ebb tide started to run.

Les Ecrehous in February
Arriving at the Ecrehous is always a great experience. Chris just in front of Marmotier, before we paddled around the reef to land on the French side.

If possible we like to land on the French side of the reef as it is an easier carry, the only disadvantage is that your phone can suddenly switch to a French provider resulting in unexpected roaming charges.  Always a good idea to switch your phone to flight mode before leaving the beach, in Jersey.  That’s not a phrase that you have to use that frequently when briefing your kayaking group.
We always like to eat our lunch on the bench, I think that is mainly because of tradition. The photograph below shows the view to the north of the bench, which also helps to explain why its such a great picnic spot.

Les Ecrehous in February
Looking north from the bench, where we had lunch.

Another tradition is that when visiting the reef its important to go for a walk along the shingle bank, which is illustrated in this post.  All too soon it was time to pack the kayaks and think about heading south west, back to Jersey.  I always find it a bit more complicated heading back towards Jersey due to the tides.  The last you thing you want to happen is to have to punch tide in the last mile or so.  I am always surprised how often it happens though and the last mile or so is a real challenge.

Les Ecrehous in February
Leaving the reef. I was in a double with Janet. I have to admit that I have really started to enjoy paddling in a double. I know many paddlers steer clear of them but they bring a whole new perspective and skills set to your paddling.

We headed past Maitre Ile, to get a bit further south before starting out on the crossing back to Jersey.  The largest island in the reef the island has a rich historical past, with the ruins of a priory.  In 1309 the monk and the servant were responsible for lighting the navigation beacon.  Interestingly over 700 years later there is no light on the reef.

Les Ecrehous in February
Chris paddling past the largest island in the reef Maitre Ile, landing there was not an option because of the nesting cormorants.

So it was an ideal day to visit Les Ecrehous in February, perfect sea conditions and unseasonably warmth meant that we were able to wear our shorts for the whole of the day.  An unusually early hint of summer without the crowds.  We are looking forward to plenty more visits as the weather settles down.

Les Ecrehous in February
Jim returning from the Ecrehous. The blues of the sea and sky merging into one colourful backdrop.

Ecrehous Pictures

As many of you are aware the Ecrehous is one of my favourite, if not my favourite, sea kayaking destination.  Visits to this delightful reef have been covered many times in the life of this blog.  To gain a flavour of this small archipelago, approximately 6 nautical miles to the north east of Jersey have a look at some of these posts:
Ecrehous Today.
Ecrehous Sunshine.
Ecrehous – First of the Year.
Sunday morning at the Ecrehous.
To mention just a few.
Over the years there have been a number of articles published about the reef, but as far as I am aware only two books in English.  The most recent is “Les Ecrehous” by Warwick Rodwell, which was published in 1996 and must be the considered as the definitive study of a small land mass.  The information contained within the pages is amazing.
An earlier book was written by P. J. Ouless, “The Ecrehous” and published in 1884.  This book contains five plates, which depict the reef in the second half of the 19th century.  I thought that it would be interesting to take some modern photographs from roughly the same position to see how the reef has changed over the last 150 years.
So we headed out to get some modern Ecrehous pictures, trying to decide exactly where the earlier pictures were taken wasn’t always easy and clearly we must have had different size lenses!  It was certainly an interesting exercise and encouraged us to look at the Ecrehous through new eyes.

Ecrehous Pictures
In this picture the Rocking Stone and Flag pole are clearly visible, whilst behind is Maitre-Ile.
Ecrehous Pictures
I didn’t quite go far back enough to get the full sweep of the picture by Ouless. The Rocking Stone is visible, and still rocks! Clearly there has been some modern building development.
Ecrehous Pictures
Fisherman’s huts on Marmotiere with the flag pole. Behind is Maitre-Ile.
Ecrehous Pictures
This picture has changed somewhat and it was difficult to decide on the exact location for the photograph. The hut behind Alex was built in 1893, 9 years after the publication of the book by Ouless.
Ecrehous Pictures
A distant view on Maitre-Ile, looking north. Marmouttiere and Blianqu’Ile are visible behind.
Ecrehous Pictures
This was a rather difficult picture to take. I don’t really lioke landing here because of the possible disturbance to the birds. It gives a flavour though of how the hut has been improved whilst the priory remains in ruins.  Either the hut has increased in height or the hill behind has shrunk!
Ecrehous Pictures
A ruined hut plus the ruins of St mary’s Priory on Maitre-Ile.
Ecrehous pictures
Looking south towards Marmouttiere. the rock surrounded by water is La Petite Brecque.
Ecrehous pictures
Looking south, very little is different in this picture apart from the fact that La Petite Brecque has acquired a hut.  The first hut was built on that isolated rock in 1962.

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.

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!

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.

Ecrehous Buildings

Sometimes when we are kayaking we focus on the big picture and miss out on some of the smaller and at times more interesting items.The Ecrehous, as many of you will be aware, is probably my favourite, all time sea kayaking day trip. Arriving at the reef, time is normally spent wandering around and admiring at the stunning seascapes whilst sitting on one of the finest benches in the world. On some recent visits I have spent time looking at smaller features including inscriptions on some of the Ecrehous buildings. What has been revealed is fascinating history of a unique environment.

Ecrehous buildings
An aerial view of the islet of Marmotiere. There are 20 huts plus a number of smaller out buildings squeezed onto this small rock. La Petite Brecque is the other small islet with a hut built on. The shingle bank (La Taille) has a superb standing wave for surfing at high water on springs.
Ecrehous building
Looking towards the Impot Hut, which is painted white. It was probably built in about 1880. The initials “TBP” on the nearest hut refer to Thomas Blampied who probably restored the hut in the 1880’s or 90’s. This is one of the earliest huts to be built on the reef.
Ecrehous building
I had missed these letters on many previous visits to the reef. The letters refer to Josue Blampied, who was the son of Thomas Blampied who built the hut.
Ecrehous building
It is clear when this hut was built, at the time it was the largest building on the Ecrehous. In between St Martin and Jersey it appears some letters have been scratched out. It should read “St Martin. R.R.L. Jersey” The letters stand for Reginald Raoul Lempriere, who built the hut.

Sometimes we are so concerned with the big picture that we miss the detail so next time that you are out kayaking adjust the scale of your view and you never know what will be revealed.

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.

Ecrehous – First of the year

As many of you aware any visit to the Ecrehous is special and even more so if you manage to squeeze a visit in during January. At this time of the year you are virtually guaranteed to have the reef to yourself, in complete contrast to weekends in the summer, when there is virtual stream of boats heading to the Ecrehous from both Jersey and France.
Late on Thursday the forecast showed virtually no wind on the Friday morning before it started to pick up around midday from the south. In addition it was a neap tide, with low water at 09.15, perfect for a quick crossing from St Catherine’s.
An early morning start saw us heading towards Les Ecrehous , in flat calm, with the promise of some sunshine.  The sun still hadn’t risen, when we left.  The journey out was pretty simple, our crossing coincided with the low water slack.   The other advantage of crossing at low water is that the rocks stretch out towards Jersey so you actually feel that you have finished the crossing sooner.
As we expected we were the only people on the reef, we landed on the French side of the reef, the shingle bank is steeper on the eastern side and so it is a easier carry, today though we hardly had to move the kayaks as we weren’t planning to stay that long.  We had a bite to eat on what is probably the finest bench to be found almost anywhere, with superb views in every direction.
Within 30 minutes of landing we were preparing to launch.  The tide had already turned and the forecast from Jersey Met was for a southerly force 3-4 by midday.  We paddled up the eastern side of the reef as we want to pass to the north before catching some of the southerly tide back towards Jersey.
What was amazing was the complete change in the weather, we had been comfortable sitting on the bench admiring the distant views but within 30 minutes the sky had turned dark, Jersey’s coast was becoming less discernible and the wind was starting to freshen.  We weren’t surprised though as this was exactly what the Met Office in Jersey had forecast.
It was a fairly straightforward paddle back to St Catherine’s but as we landed the calm and blue skies of our departure were a distant memory.
It was a quick change and a retreat to the warmth of the cafe in order to savour the events of the morning.  A January visit to the Ecrehous always feels a privilege.

Ecrehous
The kayak is packed and ready for the crossing to the Ecrehous. There was clearly the possibility of some sunshine.
Ecrehous
Perfect conditions for the crossing, there was almost no tidal movement.
Ecrehous
We landed on the French side but we had to hardly move the kayaks because we were only having a short stay.
Ecrehous
Looking across the reef back towards Jersey. In the summer, there would be numerous yachts and other boats at anchor in this area.
Ecrehous
I am never bored by this view, looking north west, on low water neaps.
Ecrehous
We return to Jersey via the north of the reef, as the tidal streams had started to flow we wanted to hitch a bit of a free ride.
Paddling around the Petit Rousse. As we turned to the left (or south) our speed over the ground increased to 6 knots.
Ecrehous
As we headed the south the cloud cover increased and there were some mist and fog patches hanging around the Jersey coast. Just as Jersey Met forecast, the wind started to increase from the south.

 

How far have I paddled?

Over the years I have come in for some ridicule as I have kept a kayaking log book. My first entry was in January 1979 and since that date I have made a record of every time that I have been in a canoe or a kayak.  Sometimes it might just be a brief note whilst at other times it might be a comprehensive record of where we parked the car, what the launch was like, any wildlife seen etc.  Due to the fact that I have kept the log book going for so long it has now become almost impossible to stop  The great thing is it is a record of how far I have paddled.
Early in 2012 I was wondering to myself as to whether I paddled the equivalent of the circumference of the earth at the equator?  First of all how far is it around the equator.  Plenty of places will give you the distance in kilometres and statute miles, it was only after a bit of searching that I found the answer in nautical miles, it is 21639nm.  My log book records have always been in nautical miles so this was an important figure to find.
I then sat down with the log books and over a couple of hours completed a table. There were 5 columns, standing for year, sea kayak, sit on top, canoe/general purpose and total.  I passed the magical distance on the 19th May 2012 whilst on a trip out to the Paternosters.
So if you don’t already keep a log book think about starting keeping a record of your paddling experiences, in a few years time it will make interesting reading.  I don’t have a log book from 1969 to 1979 sadly, as there could be some interesting reading about a number of sea kayaking adventures, including being pulled of the water by Tito’s police in the former Yugoslavia, as we naively thought it was alright to paddle on the sea in communist countries.

The oldest picture I have scanned in. The first trip to the Ecrehous, August Bank Holiday Sunday 1974. Is it really 40 years since I first paddled out to the Ecrehous. Possibly the best one day paddle anywhere. This was probably the first ever organized paddle by the Jersey Canoe Club, which we had just formed. This was 5 years before I started keeping a log book but it was a pretty memorable day.
How far
A few months after I started keeping a log book. An evening surf session in May 1979 at St Brelade’s. We were so proud of our KW7’s. So versatile, one day we would be rock hopping the next heading out to an offshore reef.
How far
One advantage of keeping a log book is that you are able to track your memorable paddles. This is dawn on the morning of my 150th paddle to the Ecrehous, we are packing away before returning to Jersey.
How far
The day that I passed the equivalent of the circumnavigation of the earth. Getting ready to leave the Paternosters.

I wrote this article a couple of years ago and since then my mileage has continued to increase and in the last 12 months, at an even faster pace. In October I passed the 26,000 nautical mile mark recorded in my log book.

How far
Passing the 26,000 nautical mile mark, whilst kayaking around Stomboli, Italy. A truly memorable day on the water.