These are a few more aerial photos that I have taken recently whilst flying to various destinations. I am never certain why people request an aisle seat when the best entertainment is often looking out of the window. What I have noticed though is that more and more you are requested to lower the window blinds when in flight. At least on British Airways you are told to have them open on take off and landing.
I booked a window seat on a flight towards the end of last year. I settled into my seat and prepared for some great views, camera at the ready. To my amazement a passenger in the row behind reached over my seat and closed the window blind next to where I was sitting. I expressed my disquiet, opened the window blind and thankfully enjoyed some great views. Sadly accompanied by some grumbling from behind. Below are a few more aerial photos taken, mainly during in the last 12 months.
A reasonably early start was greeted by some low cloud and mist. The plan was to visit the Phare de Kereon, a classic lighthouse. There was a good window of opportunity because the tides were very small neaps, no 7 knot currents today. The lighthouse looks across the Passage du Fromveur, which separates the Molene archipelago from Ouessant.
We headed north through the small harbour and anchorage. Avoiding one of the potential hazards of kayaking in this area, the ferries. Several operate daily between the islands and the mainland. Our first destination was the Ile de Balanec, the plan was stop here for lunch so we didn’t explore the coast too intimately.
From there we ferry glided across to Ile de Bannec, although it did keep disappearing in the deteriorating visibility. To the west we could see another group of sea kayakers. It was clear that their objective was the same as ours. The Phare de Kereon. The next island was Ile de Bannec. No landing is permitted on this island, apart from accredited ornithologists. So it was another island we paddled past.
Ahead we could just make out the outline of the Phare de Kereon. Although it was close by there was no sign of Ouessant. Automated in 2004, the last lighthouse in France to loose its lighthouse keepers. The lighthouse was built between 1907 and 1916, an amazing feat in such demanding waters. As we approached the lighthouse the other kayakers were present. Amazingly on an overcast Sunday in August there were 25 paddlers around the base of the lighthouse.
As the tide started to flow we realized it was time to retreat to the calmer waters inside the reef. As we turned away the visibility improved and we became aware of just how close we were to Ouessant. We returned to Ile de Balanec and because we were outside the bird nesting season, 1st April to 15th July, we were able to land.
Walking around the island it was hard not to think of the harsh life of the inhabitants lived in this remote outpost. The last families left in 1947. From 1954 to 1959 the island was once again inhabited. It was used as a centre for young people with challenging behaviour. It was closed in 1959 following allegations of mis-treatment of the young people.
In the afternoon sunshine we returned to Molene. Ensuring that we circumnavigated the island. Landing back at the campsite we went in search of a celebratory beer. It was then that we encountered another group of paddlers. This area of Brittany really is a mecca for sea kayakers. A truly memorable location, especially on neap tides.
I have been sea kayaking in Brittany on a regular basis for over 40 years, exploring the rivers, canals and coasts of this wonderful region of France. An area, which has always eluded my explorations are the islands to the west of the peninsula. It was with some excitement, therefore, when Agnes, a long standing French member of the Jersey Canoe Club arranged a paddling trip to Molene over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
As the weekend approached it was clear that the weather was going to co-operate, which was perfect when combined with the small neap tide. This meant that the normally swift tidal streams would be greatly reduced in strength, resulting in a much more relaxing experience.
Sadly personal issues resulted in me being unable to join the early arrivals in France for the opportunity to paddle Sept Iles and Ile de Brehat. So the first time I pushed my kayak into the water was as we left Porsmoguer, towards the western extremity of the Breton Peninsula.
Our route initially took us south towards Beniguet, a low lying island with some beautiful beaches before turning north west. Lunch was on the west facing beach on Ile de Litiri, a beautiful spot for a picnic so it was inevitable that we would be sharing the beach with other boats. The island is privately owned so it isn’t possible to wander around above the high water mark.
In common with so many other islands in this archipelago access is limited at times. This is an important breeding area for birds, so be aware of where landing is restricted. Heading west we passed our first group of sea kayakers, there were about 15 in this group. It was the first of a number of groups that we encountered over the next three days.
We did land on Ile de Trielen, part of the Reserve Naturelle Iroise, to explore the abandoned settlement. There is a beach on the northern side of the island, which gives easy access to the footpaths. There were numerous small birds flitting around in the vegetation, Wheatear’s seemed particularly common.
From here it was an easy paddle to Molene, an island with approximately 200 inhabitants. Landing is on a narrow slipway to the south of the harbour. The campsite is to the left of the slip and it was clear that a number of kayakers were already on the Island. Surprisingly two of the first people we met were Veronique Olivier and Guy Lecointre. They had written the book “Sea Kayaking Guide 60 Brittany Paddles.” Essential reading for anybody paddling in Brittany. I had last met them at the Spanish Sea Kayak Symposium, just over 2 years ago. At times the world of sea kayaking seems really quite small.
Once the tents were up it was time to head off is search of a bar and a restaurant. To toast the success of the days paddle and to plan for the following days. Agnes was a perfect guide and highly recommended if you are visiting Brittany. Why not check out her courses and guided tours.
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!
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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.