Channel Islands Sea Kayaking

A few pictures of sea kayaking around the Channel Islands, mostly from about 30 years ago or slightly older.  The difference in shape of the images is because the earlier ones were taken with a Kodak Instamatic camera (remember those?) before I had a job which paid enough money to be able to buy a 35mm camera.
In all the time that we spent paddling around the Channel Islands in the 1970’s and 80’s I don’t think we ever bumped into any other sea kayakers, it really did feel like an era of exploration.

Channel Islands
This is returning to Jersey (visible behind the paddlers) from Sark in June 1979. Note the old style of Henderson screw hatches.
Channel Islands
Another image from the Sark paddle in 1979, in those days the only sea kayak which we considered having was a Nordkapp HM. If you could afford it you had Lendal Nordkapp paddles with wooden blades, if not you just used your standard Wild Water paddles.
Channel Islands
Heading north from Jersey, the island is Sark, which was our original destination but we changed part of the way across and decided to go to Guernsey instead. The paddler is Derek Hairon who now runs Jersey Kayak Adventures.
Channel Islands
Arrival at Bordeaux in Guernsey on our day trip from Jersey. What had planned to be a gentle paddle turned into a 40 nautical mile day trip. In the distance can be seen Herm (left), Jethou (right) and Sark just visible between the two. On the return journey we stopped off at Herm to phone through to our parents to let them know that we were going to be late home and the telephone box still had buttons A and B to press.
Channel Islands
The summer of 1982, I was getting married and so distant holidays were out of the question but we had a great two weeks paddling around the Channel Islands. This is Port au Moulin on the west coast of Sark in August 1982.
Channel Islands
Havre Gosselin, on the west coast of Sark This was on an Advanced Sea Assessment in May 1983. The Nordkapp HM still dominated the kayaks in use in the Channel Islands. This photograph was used on the front cover of Canoeist Magazine.
Channel Islands
Leaving Creux Harbour, Sark in December 1983. We left Greve de Lecq, on the north coast of Jersey, in the dark and crossed the 12 nautical miles to Sark. The idea was to purchase duty free drink for Christmas and we had a significant number of orders. Unfortunately the shops were shut so that part of the paddle failed. We did managed to find a toasted cheese sandwich before returning to Jersey and landing back at Greve in the dark.
Channel Islands
In the 1980’s I was busy running lots of training and assessment courses for the BCU Senior Instructor Award. This was December 1983 on the south coast of Guernsey. The paddler in blue is Ron Moore, a superb coach and legendary speaker who was based in Plymouth, who is sadly no longer with us.
Channel Islands
Another BCU training course in October 1984. This is at Havelet, just south of St Peter Port. Plastic kayaks had made an appearance, although Brian Aplin is still paddling what looks like a fibre glass KW7. It was Brian who I accompanied on his swim a couple of months ago, from Lihou to the Hanois.
Channel Islands
The Minquiers in September 1985. We visited this reef to the south of Jersey as a day trip whilst training for the Canoe Club paddle we were planning for the following summer when we kayaked from Tromso to Honnigsvag, around Nordkapp.
Channel Islands
In the 1980’s I ran a canoeing (kayaking) school in Jersey but we used to do lots of trips away. This is crossing from Guernsey to Herm in perfect conditions in July 1989.
Channel Islands
1989 saw the arrival of the Aleut II, designed a built by Howard Jeffs. I still have this kayak. It opened up a number of possibilities. Pete Scott and myself attempted to paddle around the Channel Islands but it also meant that some people could undertake paddles that they might not have done on their own. This is two of the younger Club members heading down the east coast of Sark in June 1990.
Channel Islands
I think this was still a Senior Instructor course, we hadn’t quite become Level 3 coaches. This is launching down the steep slipway in Saints Bay Guernsey in October 1990. I was amazed that we survived all these courses because nobody had heard of risk assessments etc. What I do remember was that there was always a huge element of fun.

Channel Islands Nostalgia

Following on from some previous nostalgic postings, this one describes a paddle that Peter Scott and myself undertook in August 1989. The catalyst for the idea was the arrival of a sea worthy two man sea kayak on the market, the Aleut, designed by Howard Jeffs.  The aim was a non stop circumnavigation of the Channel Islands, a distance of approximately 125 nautical miles.
Just before dawn on an August Saturday we launched from Corbiere, the south west corner of Jersey.  Heading along the south coast of the island until we were able to head out towards Les Ecrehous.  We passed in between France and this delightful reef before picking up an energetic, north flowing tide, towards  Alderney. The 30 nautical miles were covered in just under 5 hours.
From the Alderney Race we passed to the north of Alderney before heading west towards the Casquets.  There was a huge volume of water heading south, creating boils and overfalls, which added some spice to the paddle.  Navigating only with a Silva compass as we passed the Casquets we were ahead of schedule and starting to feel slightly optimistic, after 9 hours on the water, that we would complete the circumnavigation.
Unfortunately visibility wasn’t that great, and this was pre-GPS, so it wasn’t until we arrived off the northern tip of Herm that we realized we were east of our intended track.  We had to cross the Little Russel and head back to the northern tip of Guernsey before starting down the west coast of the second largest island in the Channel Islands.
As we head south, after over 14 hours of sitting in the kayak and becoming mentally and physically tired we realized that the time lost heading south from the Casquests meant that we had missed the tidal window to cross from the Hanois back to Corbiere.
Reluctantly we headed to shore, after having covered approximately 90 nautical miles.  As we climbed out of the cockpits we discovered that our legs had decided not to work and had to crawl part of the way up the beach.  Fortunately we had landed in front of a local pub so were able to revive our spirits as we called home to check in.  The first contact for nearly 15 hours, this was pre-mobile phone as well as pre-GPS.
As we recovered from the exertion of the day trip we were able to look at the route in an analytical fashion and learn from our mistakes, the plan was to return the following year and complete what we started but weather windows and time off didn’t coincide so it is an unfinished project, for Pete and myself at least.
Channel Islands

Channel Islands
John Richardson and Ian Hamon finally became the first paddlers to complete the non stop circumnavigation of the Channel Islands in June 2000. This was taken on their arrival back at La Pulente. To this day there are the only sea kayakers to have completed the unsupported journey around the islands.

Interesting tidal flows – Tidal Diamonds

Tidal diamonds are invaluable sources of information in relation to the speed and direction of tidal streams.  They are essential when working out bearings to follow on a crossing, by drawing tidal vectors.  Whilst away on a paddling trip earlier this year I came across, what must be an almost unique tidal diamond?  It is Tidal Diamond C on Admiralty Chart 808, East Guernsey, Herm and Sark.

49°27.5 N
2°31.4 W
Hours
Dir
Rate (kn)
  Sp           Np
-6
-5
-4
-3
-2
-1
HW
+1
+2
+3
+4
+5
+6
213
213
213
213
033
033
033
033
033
033
213
213
213
5.1            2.2
4.1            1.8
2.7            1.2
1.2            0.5
1.2            0.5
3.9            1.7
5.2                  2.2
 4.9            2.1
 3.3            1.4
 1.5            0.5
 1.3            0.5
 4.0            1.7
 5.2            2.2

The first observation is that the streams only flow in two directions, exactly opposite each other.  The tide is flowing approximately SSW and then it changes abruptly and goes NNE.  An exact 180° change.
Something else to note is that maximum rate occurs at high and low water, with slack water, if it can be called that, occurring at mid tide.  Many a sea kayaker and other water users have been caught unawares because they assume that maximum rate must occur at mid tide and have set out to cross the Little Russel on what they thought was high water slack.
The advice is to always double check your data and to keep your eyes open for interesting and possibly unique items of information as shown by this tidal diamond.

Tidal Diamond
The location of the diamond is in line with the two towers on the photograph and to the right of Brehon Tower, which is in the middle of the channel between Guernsey and Herm, the Little Russel.


Herm again

The plan had been to paddle across to Herm for an evening at the beer festival but the prospect of a north easterly F6 blowing against one of the largest tides of the year required a strategic re-think.  Get the ferry from St Peter Port.  This was a decision that was completely justified when we saw the size some of the areas of overfalls.
The beer festival was great event with some interesting music from local band Buffalo Huddlestone, I had not really come across Guernsey rap music before!  The following morning allowed us time to explore this delightful Island before heading to Guernsey on the ferry.  The only downside was that this time we didn’t get to paddle across but conditions on the Wednesday were just a bit too entertaining.

Herm Again
This is probably the most iconic view on Herm, Shell Beach but although I have been numerous times over the years I can’t actually remember seeing the beach at high water on a spring tide. It came as a bit of a surprise.
Herm
Many of the visitors to the island will follow the coastal path with the result that you miss out on some pretty good scenery and the opportunity to interact with some of the locals.

Herm

Herm
The common occupies the northern part of the Island. Sir Percival Perry, who was chairman of the Ford Motor Company, was tenant of Herm prior to the Second World War. He converted part of the common into a golf course.
Herm
The recently restored harbour crane is now on display in front of the White House Hotel. It was dismantled in 1997 and shipped to Guernsey where it was stored until recently. Built in approximately 1850 it was used to load Herm granite onto ships. The rock was used in the construction of Blackfriars Bridge in London as well as the East and West India Dock Walls. When time allows I should go through my slide collection to find pictures of the crane in use in the 1970’s and 80’s.
Herm
The south west of Herm, I have spent many a happy hour paddling these waters.
Herm
The Herm shopping parade built in the early 1960’s by a group of Italian workmen. It always surprises me that when I visit I can find something to buy.
Jethou
Looking south along the west coast of Herm. A ferry is alongside the small jetty, which is almost submerged because of the height of the tide. Behind lies Jethou, which was once the home of Compton MacKenzie, best known for his book “Whiskey Galore”. To the left lies La Grande Fauconniere and to the right Crevichon.
Crevichon
The small island of Crevichon, which lies just to the north of Jethou, is passed quite close by when heading from Herm back towards Guernsey. As can be seen from the profile there has been a history of quarrying on the island with the granite being used in the building of Castle Cornet in St Peter Port and possibly the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Brehon Tower
Sitting in the middle of the Little Russel and surrounding by some truly amazing tidal streams, is Brehon Tower. Completed in 1856 the tower was no longer needed by the First World although it was used by the German’s in the Second World War. Today it is the home of a small tern colony. behind and to the right of the tower are the chimney’s at St Sampson, which are an ideal navigation mark.

Around Guernsey

Over the last 7 or 8 years we have visited Lihou, off the west coast of Guernsey on a regular basis, normally at least twice a year.  Amazingly every time I appear to have visited this delightful corner of the Baliwick of Guernsey the wind has being blowing particularly hard.  It has not been uncommon to have force 6-8 with a big swell.
It was somewhat surprising then when looking at the forecast about 7 days in advance, there appeared to be a weather window developing over the western English Channel.  As high pressure settled in the swell and wind died off and it looked like we were in for a perfect weekend.
My plan of paddling around Guernsey from Lihou seemed to be working and the tidal flows were such that lunch on Herm also seemed like a distinct possibility.  Plans were hatched, departure times agreed and expectations raised.
In the morning we launched from Lihou and headed south towards Pleinmont headland and then the south coast of Guernsey.  It had been a few years since I had paddled the south coast in its entirety and what a great stretch of coast it is.  Beautiful cliffs, intriguing passages through the rocks, limited landings and very little other boat traffic. It was also possible to paddle across to Herm, one of the most peaceful of the Channel Islands, for lunch and liquid refreshment at the Mermaid Tavern before returning to Guernsey to complete the circumnavigation of the island.
A memorable day out.

As elsewhere in the Channel Islands there is plenty of evidence of the German Occupation during the Second World War.  L’Angle Tower is an iconic feature overlooking the south coast was built as a direction-finding tower.
Further shots of the south coast.
The Pea Stacks are always an interesting place to explore.  The last time I was here we were swimming in slightly rougher conditions.  Renoir visited Guernsey and painted these rocks.
St Martin’s Point, the most south easterly point of Guernsey.  It marked the start of the 4 mile crossing to Jethou.
Approaching Jethou, with Herm behind.  We could almost smell the food at the Mermaid Tavern.  Crossing between the two islands there were 20 plus puffins bobbing around on the water.
On a day as sunny as this it was inevitable that the harbour at Herm would be a hive of activity.  Numerous ferries and private boats completing the short crossing between here and Guernsey.
Fed and watered we started the crossing to Guernsey.  It was only a neap tide but the current was flowing north, reaching 4 knots in places.  Sea kayaking in the Little Russel is always entertaining.
Ice cream stop on the north coast of Guernsey.
Heading down the west coast of Guernsey.  A flag is hoisted on this rock, off Cobo, every year and left in place until the following May
We arrived back at Lihou, 25 nautical miles completed, satisfied with one of the more memorable paddles for a few years.  It was Pimm’s on the terrace followed by a stunning sunset.