Site Updates

Those of you who read my previous post will know that I damaged my Achilles heal, last week, whilst kayaking on Gozo.  So here are a few ideas about possible site updates.
The following few days was a time of new experiences for me. I had never been put in plaster before, I had never been put in one of those lorries where the cab extends vertically alongside and aircraft, so unscathed you can be wheel chaired onto the plane. I had never traveled through an airport on one of those beeping trucks and I have never had to undergo a course of daily injections last nearly six weeks.
Having arrived back in Jersey I have had time to reflect on the experiences of the last few days. Firstly the medical attention that I have received both in Gozo and Jersey has been excellent. On both islands I was seen promptly by medical staff, including orthopaedic consultants.
Secondly whilst traveling, everything was smooth and timely at Malta, Gatwick and Jersey Airports plus on the British Airways flights. Care and attention from staff in all locations was great and fully appreciated.
I have started to develop a greater understanding of the challenges facing people living with a physical disability. I had to wait in a toilet in Malta as it was too difficult to open the door whilst on crutches. Many thanks to the anonymous Good Samaritan who came to my assistance.
In terms of missed opportunities I am disappointed that I won’t be able attend the French Sea Kayak Symposium, which starts on the 21st April. In addition I won’t be able to assist at the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium, starting on the 25th May. Although it is far enough away that I will hopefully be able to travel to Scotland for the weekend and experience some of what is sure to be a superb event. I have been involved with the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium since the early 1990’s and it would be disappointing not to be able to attend the last one. Even if it is the role of honorary coffee drinker as opposed to active paddler.
In 1983, on my way to a sea kayaking trip in Svalbard, I flew over a spectacular archipelago, which I promised myself to visit one day. After 35 years of waiting this summer was the year I was going to finally get to paddle in the Lofoten’s. Sadly a destination that will have to wait for another year.
All disappointing but it is important to maintain some perspective, it is only an injury, I will get better and other opportunities will come my way.  So facing several months of inactivity it is an opportunity for some new challenges.
I will be able to make sure the Jersey Canoe Club mega SUP racing in conjunction with Absolute Adventures is organised and runs smoothly, although no active participation for me this year.
Later on in the year I will have time to complete my Greenland Paddle.  At the moment I can’t put any weight on my leg and I haven’t learnt “woodwork for sitting down” so that will have to wait until my leg strengthens as the summer progresses.  It should be complete for the autumn so that I can then work on my Greenland rolling.
One of the things that I have planned are a number of site updates, including completing a number of the Sea Kayaking Guides, which I have started including the one on Jersey.  So plenty to do but the main aim for the next few weeks is to keep my plaster dry!

Site updates
Mega SUP racing at St Brelade’s with the Jersey Canoe Club and Absolute Adventures.
Site updates
The view from the Gaelic College at the 2007 Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium.
Site Updates
Paddling into towards Loch Coruisk on one of those perfect Scottish days.
Site Updates
One of the many French Lighthouses, which are close to the base of the French Sea Kayak Symposium.
Site Updates
An on going project, my evolving Greenland paddle.

Historic Canoes and Kayaks

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to visit an exhibition on historic canoes and kayaks in the southern Brittany town of Douarenenez.  This delightful Breton town was the centre of the French sardine industry in the 19th Century, and at one time it was the home port to over 1,000 sardine boats.  Although fishing still takes place on boats based in the port, the town itself is possibly now better known because of its maritime museum, “Le Port-Musee”.
The exhibition was called “Canoes and Kayaks la decouverte d’un nouveau monde”.  There were over 150 exhibits, ranging from an early 19th Century painting to a modern sea kayak. It was essentially a history of paddling in France from the late 19th Century pioneers up to the present day including recreational and competitive developments.
The museum would have been well worth a visit even if there were no canoes and kayaks. as  there is a  wide range of traditional craft from a wide variety of European countries plus the added interest of a number of larger craft which are moored on the river.  These include “Northdown” which is a traditional Thames barge and the “Saint Denys”, a tug built on the Clyde, which spent most of her working life based in Falmouth.
What was there of interest though, specifically for the paddler, in the Canoe and Kayak exhibition?  One of the most modern items was one of the Catchiky’s which was paddled around Brittany in 1980 by Loik Bourdon and Franco Ferrero amongst others.  Franco, from Pesda Press, was clearly making an appearance as an honorary Frenchman!  This kayak certainly showed its age and the use it had been put to over  25 years.  It is a model of kayak which is still in production and there was a new example of the type, from the manufacturer Plasmor.
There were a number of short films shown at various times and for me the most interesting was probably Christian Gabard’s film of the 1959 white water racing world championships.  An interesting item shown in the film was an inflatable spray deck.  Does anyone know whether they caught on?  In the days before we became obsessed with risk assessments, it was interesting to see that some of the competitors didn’t wear helmets and others chose not to use buoyancy aids.
There were also a number of paintings and photographs which depict the historical origins of both canoeing and kayaking.  Possibly the largest oil painting was by C. Giraud.  Painted in 1857, it shows the Prince Napoleon taking part in a seal hunt off the west coast of Greenland.  The use of kayaks for hunting is a theme which occured in a number of other exhibits.  There was also a selection of framed posters from the last one hundred years.  One in particular raised a slight smile although I am certain that the Hutchinson mentioned on the poster is not the same one who for many years was practically a household name in sea kayaking.
It is always inspiring to see the standard of journeys which were undertaken in the past.  For example, Gustaf Nordin, a Swedish canoeist who paddled from Stockholm to Paris in 1905 and Captain Lancrenon who published a book, “Trois Milles lieues a la pagaie,de la Seine a la Volga” in 1898, were both commemorated either through photographs or items of equipment.  Lancrenan’s beautiful kayak, the Vagabonde III, was built in 1891 and broke down into two sections for easier transportation.  It was exhibited alongside the Bic sit-on-top.  115 years of progress!
The more recent trends were not ignored.  There was the inevitable Sit-on-top, plus white water play boats, racing kayaks, a slalom canoe from the Atlanta Olympics and winged paddles.  I must admit though that I have never really looked upon a sit-on-top kayak as a museum piece.
There were a number of older exhibits, including a 19th Century Greenland kayak which is normally housed in a museum in Nantes, as well as a most beautiful birch bark canoe.  The Greenland kayak was collected when the ship “La Recherche”, visited the area in 1835-6.  It appears to have come from the Frederikshaab region, prior to being presented to the Nantes museum.  In fact there were a number of historic canoes and kayak, which were like works of art as opposed to practical watercraft.
It was a fascinating exhibition and I wonder when such a collection of historic canoeing and kayaking artifacts will be on show again?

Historic canoes and kayaks
Loik Bourdon’s kayak in which he circumnavigated Brittany
Historic canoes and kayaks
The inevitable sit on top, although designs have become far more advanced since the time of the exhibition and far more popular.
Historic canoes and kayaks
A couple of superb canoes. Absolute things of beauty.
Historic canoes and kayaks
“Emeraude” a mid 19th century kayak.
Historic canoes and kayaks
Photograph of the Swedish paddler, Gustaf Nordin, who traveled from Stockholm to Paris by kayak in the early 20th Century.
Historic canoes and kayaks
Surely this doesn’t refer to the famous sea kayaker, Derek Hutchinson!
Historic canoes and kayaks
One of several kayaks from the 20th Century which were in the exhibition.
Historic canoes and kayaks
Inuit kayak from the 1830’s. Usually shown in the Nantes Museum.
Historic canoes and kayaks
A selection of paddles – new and old.
Historic canoes and kayaks
Drawing of 19th Century paddling.
Historic canoes and kayaks
One of many posters depicting the development of the sport.
Historic canoes and kayaks
C. Giraud 1857 oil painting of the Prince Napoleon hunting seals.
Historic canoe and kayaks
Drawing depicting the hunting of seals.
Historic Canoe and Kayaks
Captain Lancrenan’s kayak built in 1891 which broke down into two sections.

French Sea Kayak Symposium

The French Sea Kayak Symposium is being held, in April 2018, on the north Brittany coast. close to Paimpol and Ile de Brehat, which is a superb kayaking area.  It follows the format, which many Symposium’s use, 3 days of workshops and an extended paddling programme for a further 4 days.
There are a number of experienced coaches from 6 European countries, who will be helping to deliver the sessions.  If you have only attended Symposiums in the UK, many may be unfamiliar names, but all are experienced and passionate about various aspects of sea kayaking.
Why not consider the French Sea Kayak Symposium in your paddling plans for 2018, you are guaranteed a friendly Breton welcome and some of the finest sea kayaking available anywhere.  There is further information on the kayaking opportunities around Ile de Brehat here.

There are a number of options available, which are inclusive of camping:
• Pack 1 – Symposium and paddling week: 250 €
• Pack 2 – Symposium: 130 €
• Pack 3 – Paddling Week: 120 €
• Pack 4 – Symposium + EPP Level 3: 330 €

EPP is the Euro Paddle Pass Level 3 ( which is equivalent to the British Canoeing 3 Star Award).

Bookings for the Symposium can be made here.

The lighthouse is on the northern tip of Ile de Brehat. Anybody visiting this area should aim to circumnavigate the island.
French Symposium
Another classic French lighthouse. La Croix is to the south west of Ile de Brehat.
French Symposium
On the western side of Ile de Brehat is a restored tidal mill, which it is possible to paddle up to, towards high water.
French Symposium
To the south of Paimpol is L’Ost Pic.

Cote de Granit Rose

This post was one of the first that I wrote when setting up the original blog in 2010.  At that time we were managing to go sea kayaking in Brittany on a regular basis. In fact most months during the year we would travel to northern France and generally go paddling.  In recent years our kayaking interests have been in different geographical areas,  2108 sees a welcome return to this area though with a Sea Kayak Symposium being held near Paimpol in April next year.  As soon as booking details are known I will post them here.

This section of the Brittany coast has to be one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in France, if not in northern Europe. It is well known from the tourist brochures and guide books and each year attracts significant numbers of visiting yachtsmen.
My favourite departure point is from Coz Pors at Tregastel, the paddling in either direction is memorable but last Saturday we decided to head east towards Ile Tome, an island of approximately 35 hectares whose spine runs north south. Situated off Perros Guirec, it has been uninhabited since the Second World War and the last few years have seen an active programme aimed to rid the island of rats to allow sea birds to breed, and so far it appears to have been successful.

Granit Rose
One of the distinctive features of this stretch of coastline are some spectacular coastal residences.
Granit Rose
First of all though it was important to pay a visit to the small harbour at Ploumanach, it is reckoned by many to be the finest anchorage on the north coast of Brittany. As the tide was high we were able to paddle over the sill, which keeps the water in at low tide, and approach the tidal mills, a feature of this area.
Granit Rose
Another feature of this area are lighthouses, of which a number were visible during the course of the paddle. One of my favourites is the Phare de Men Ruz, just to the east of Ploumanach. For those who are really interested in lighthouses it is possible to buy a re-usable shopping bag from Geant supermarkets complete with a photograph of the distinctive light.
Granit Rose
There are some significant tidal streams in the area and access to Ile Tome was only possible by ferry gliding across the ebbing tide. The waves were not too big and some strategically placed navigation marks allowed us to use transits to maintain our course. We wanted a lunch stop not to be swept west along the coast away from our intended destination.
Granit Rose
Lunch spot on the east coast of Ile Tome.
Granit Rose
Offshore Sept Iles were clearly visible but they were not for us today, our interest lay back along the coast at Tregastel in the shape of an ice cold beer.

Lighthouses of Brittany Part 2.

Following on from the post a couple of days ago here are a few photographs of Brittany lighthouses.  There are endless opportunities for viewing them from your sea kayak, and here are a few more.  They are mainly from the north coast of Brittany.  I might be biased but I think the lighthouses on the north coast generally look more dramatic than those to the south.
Sadly they are now all unmanned but when we started to visit these offshore buildings a number were still manned and it was always a pleasure to take out the daily papers and some fresh milk.  These small gestures often resulted in the offer of a hot drink and on a few occasions a guided tour of the lighthouse.  Sadly these days are long gone.
Situated in the Baie de Morlaix, Ile Noire lighthouse was built in 1845, with the keepers house added in 1879.  Paddling in this area is always enjoyable with numerous islands to explore.
La Croix.  Built in 1867 it is situated just to the south west of Ile de Brehat.  In common with some many lighthouses in this area the Germans blew the top of the light as they retreated.  It is always a welcome sight when paddling around Brehat.
Cap Frehel is the largest headland on the north Brittany coast and on clear nights I can see this light from near my house on Jersey.  It is open to visitors a certain times of the year.  The headland is spectacular when viewed from below in a sea kayak or whilst walking along the cliffs.
Sept Iles lighthouse is situated on Ile aux Moines,  part of a delightful archipelago to the north of Tregastel.  This was one of the last lighthouses in France to be manned by keepers.
The Port Navalo light marks to entrance to the Gulf du Morbihan.  This is one of the finest sea kayaking areas anywhere, a mixture of fast tidal streams and world class historic sites.  The lighthouse was built in 1892.

Lighthouses of Brittany

There is something special about Breton lighthouses , particularly when viewed from a sea kayak.  This is a selection of some that I have seen over the years.  Not all of the photographs are of the best quality as some were scanned from slides.  That said Breton lighthouses are amongst the most unique maritime buildings encountered anywhere and it is always a treat to visit them by sea kayak.
Le Heaux de Brehat.  To the west of Ile de Brehat on the north coast of Brittany it was built in 1840, although the top was blown off by the Germans in August 1944.  Located on an offshore reef, the sea kayak is an ideal way to access this light.  It is close to the end of the Sillon de Talbert
Ile Louet is situated in the Baie e Morlaix, near Roscoff on the north coast of Brittany.
25 nautical miles west of Corbiere is the Roches Douvres.  The light was finished being rebuilt in 1954 after it had been destroyed by the Germans 10 years before.  We raised the Jersey flag but the following morning it was a serious crossing of 25 miles in dense fog.  I have to admit that we felt pretty isolated the night we spent on the reef.
L’Ost Pic is located just to the south of Paimpol.  Built in the 1890’s I have to admit that the last time I landed there I ended up swimming.
Phare du Paon is situated on the north coast of Ile de Brehat, this is ome of the finest sea kayaking you could find anywhere.  It was originally built in 1860 but like so many lighthouses along this coast it was blown up by the Germans in1944.  It was rebuilt in 1949.
Another lighthouse blown up by the Germans, this light, Le Grand Jardin, marks the approaches to St Malo.  It was rebuilt in 1949.

A few more scanned slides

These are the last of the old photographs that I have been able to scan in for a while.  Some good memories of paddling in Jersey and further afield.
Derek Hairon on the Roche du Diable in southern Brittany, Easter 1983.  This was a time when canoes were not seen that frequently on white water in Europe.
Playing at Le Mourier Valley.  We used to build little dams to hold back the water and then release it so that it was possible to shoot down the concrete steps.  It was best to do it whilst it was still raining.  It has been quite a few years since we did this last, should be time for a return visit.
Self rescues off Greve de Lecq.  This was experimenting on a Senior Instructor Training course in about 1982.
Nicky off the southern tip of the Quiberon Peninsula in 1984.  We were crossing to Houat, a delightful island, for lunch.
Arriving in Carteret on the Normandy coast.  The 14th July 1989, we had gone over for the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.
On the Rance in France, in the early 1990’s.  It was one of those days when kayaking on the sea would have involved paddling from one sheltered location to the next, but in Brittany there are plenty of sheltered estuaries to head to.
Canoeing in the forests of northern Maine.  Great family holidays in the early 1990’s.
The girls may have enjoyed this part of the holiday more.  On the statue of Andre the seal in Rockport.  Andre just a great children’s book and film.  The tape version was played for hours on car journeys.

Ile de Brehat

It never fails to amaze me just what a superb sea kayaking destination Ile de Brehat is.  Just off the north coast of Brittany, close to the old Icelandic fishing port of Paimpol, Brehat is a real gem and has all the ingredients for a classic paddle.  Most guide books talk about the mild micro-climate, no doubt the result of the Gulf Stream but this Saturday took us all by surprise.  After what seemed like months of rain and wind we stood with baited breath looking down from the road as the archipelago stretched out before us.  Not a breath of wind stirred the surface but today the tidal co-efficient was 100 so there was plenty of water moving in this corner of Cote d’Armor.
Pointe L’Arcouest, the departure point for the vedettes to the island has a large car park but today it was largely empty, most people we knew were heading for the Alps for skiing holidays.  Alain Bouhee, a French paddler, as usual was already there and his kayak packed.  Christian Scalbert arrived shortly afterwards and then it was the usual race to get packed and head off.
For the first time in months waterproof jackets were left off as the sun beat down on our backs as we ferry glided across the main current.  Brehat is surrounded by a myriad of channels and small islets which create a complex navigational scenario.  Fail to concentrate on the chart and before you know it locating your position requires compass bearings.  It would be true to say that every time we paddle around the island we follow a slightly different path.  The joy of selecting your own route is one of the real pleasures of sea kayaking.
Phare du Paon marks the north east corner of the island, one of two lighthouses on the island, reflecting the level of hazard to shipping.  We decided to cross the main channel, to the west of the island and lunch on a reef close to Ile Morgat, we shared our beach with a wide cross section of birds.
As the tide started to flood we hitched a free ride back towards L’Arcouest via another lighthouse, La Croix.  With just a little bit of effort speeds in excess of 7 knots were easily attainable and so we were soon back at the departure point but as it was only just after low water there was a considerable carry up the beach.
Every paddle around Ile de Brehat is different but whatever the conditions it is always enjoyable.

Ile de Brehat
Around the island there are numerous navigation beacons, which make it an ideal venue for practicing sea kayak navigation.
Ile de Brehat
Looking into La Chambre, a popular anchorage for visiting craft, during the summer months the view from here would have been significantly different with numerous boats.
Ile de Brehat
Rachel off Men Joliguet, one of the larger cardinal marks off the south coast of the island. A working knowledge of buoyage is essential when paddling in this area as there are so many other water users, most of which don’t possess the flexibility of sea kayaks.
Ile de Brehat
Looking south from Ile ar Morbic at dawn. The reefs and channels create a complex but superb kayaking environment.
Ile de Brehat
The northern point of Ile de Brehat is marked by the Phare du Paon. In common with so many lighthouses along this stretch of coast it was blown up in August 1944 and the present one was built in 1952.
Ile de Brehat
La Croix is one of my favourite lights. It mark the eastern side of the channel which runs up the estuary of the Trieux, towards Lezardrieux.

Baie de Morlaix Continued

From the lighthouse at Ile Louet continue heading west, paddling in front of the popular summer holiday resort of Carantec. It is likely that in the distance the distinctive spires of the churches of St-Pol-de-Leon will be visible. The single spire of the Chapelle Notre Dame de Kreisker has dominated this skyline for nearly 600 years. There is a need for a degree of urgency in our paddling if we wish to be able to cross the Passe aux Moutons, which links Ile Callot to Carantec at low water. Being able to cross this neck of land allows access to the waters of the Penze River and the lovely beaches of the west side of Ile Callot. The size of the tide will dictate how far away from the coast it is necessary to paddle. If possible follow the contours of the coast and select a beach towards the northern tip of the island for a well deserved lunch break.

Morlaix Continued
Passing close to Ile Louet. This picture illustrates that sea kayaking in Brittany isn’t always in bright sunshine. A rare cloud covered day.
Morlaix continued
Looking across the Baie de Morlaix to the west. The numerous navigation marks and shell fish farms are visible.

To the north the ferry terminal of Roscoff can be easily identified, particularly if there is a ship on its berth. The more attractive face of Roscoff is not visible from here located as it is opposite Ile de Batz. The superb waters of this area will have to wait for another day. Rounding the northern tip of Ile Callot we can start our journey back towards Terenez. Two distinctive navigational marks indicate the start of the crossing of the bay. Head for Le Cerf and then Ile Ricard. It is likely that there will still be some outwards movement of the tide so move from reef to reef as opposed to steering a course down the middle of one of the main channels. These channels are narrow and at times very busy with craft which have far less freedom than the average sea kayak so please paddle with the movements of other boats very much in mind.

Morlaix continued
Heading out across the Baie on a bitterly cold February morning.
Threading your way through the reefs remember the regulations of the bird reserve. From the 1st March to the 31st August it is prohibited to approach within 80 metres of the high water mark. The main islets covered are Ile Verte, Ile Ricard, Ar Beg Lemm and Ile aux Dames. There are numerous smaller islets which are also vulnerable to disturbance. A large scale chart is a real bonus when paddling in this area because of the numerous navigational marks. In fact kayaking can be quite a cerebral activity when paddling in this area.
This is just a flavour of the area, there is plenty of exploration waiting for the sea kayaker. Head into the Morlaix River on a rising tide and explore the small estuary of the Dorduff or follow the buoyed channel all the way to Morlaix with its very distinctive railway bridge. This would be an ideal paddle when weather conditions restrict activities on the outer coast. To the west of Ile Callot the Penze River, starting wide it narrows significantly and provides a pleasant paddle on a rising tide.
Many kayakers who visit Brittany head for the justifiably popular areas such as Morbihan and Brehat missing out the pleasures of this region. It is ideal for those British visitors who are using the cross channel ferry from Roscoff. Pay it a visit, at any time of the year and I am certain that you won’t be disappointed.
Brest is the Standard Port for this area and the tidal differences are as follows:Roscoff +00.55 Pen Lann +01.00 As a general guide the in-going tidal streams commence at -04.50 Brest and the out going at +01.05 Brest. The maximum rates are stated to be around 2 knots but I know that one day when heading towards Morlaix we were brought to an abrupt halt off Locquenole by the out going tide. It was impossible to make any progress and I am certain that when I am paddling with full power that I am able to move at a speed greater than 2 knots. The moral is to be vigilant for local anomalies. Due to the large number of rocks within the bay the sea kayaker is generally able to make progress by using the eddies which develop. There is comprehensive tidal information on the SHOM Chart 7095 Baie de Morlaix.

Useful Waypoints:
Ile Louet N 48° 40’22 W 03° 53’19
Morlaix N 48° 35’28 W 03° 50’29
Roscoff N 48° 43’54 W 03° 58’59 <
Terenez N 48° 40’34 W 03° 41’04

Morlaix continued
Primel Tregastel marks the eastern side of the Baie de Morlaix and provides some superb kayaking.