I have always had a soft spot for the islands to the north of Jersey, in particular Herm and Sark. Over the last 40 years I have paddled to both on numerous occasions always enjoying their coastline as well as the atmosphere on shore.
Sadly they appear to have become islands of contrast. Sark appears to have deteriorated over the last few years with numerous shops closing and in places the island appearing uncared for. Herm on the other hand appears to have gone from strength to strength and would now be my Island of choice.
Every year there is an excuse to visit Herm in both June and September, the Herm Beer Festival. What could be better, stunning sea kayaking and the choice of 50 real ales. Last year we paddled from Jersey to the June event, but this year that wasn’t an option due to the fact that I was in plaster, following a ruptured Achilles’ tendon in Gozo.
For the September Festival we decided to take to car to Guernsey and paddle from there. The alternative plan was if it was too rough to paddle across the Little Russell we could always get the ferry. We were determined to get to Herm!
The first issue was the cost of the ferry. I think that I am pretty tolerant but £330 for a car and 3 passengers from Jersey to Guernsey is pretty excessive. It’s only about 25 nautical miles, the crossing is about an hour. It’s always the problem when you are a captive market. We booked several weeks in advance but had to just bite the bullet and pay up.
We reached Guernsey and headed towards Bordeaux, our departure point. We had to stick to a schedule as it was the largest tide of the year so the tidal streams in the Little Russell were going to be running at a considerable speed. Selecting the appropriate tidal window was essential.
The crossing passed reasonably easily and we were soon putting the tents up before heading back to the bright lights of the Mermaid Tavern. The Herm Beer Festival is such a delightful event and we were fortunate enough to spend 3 evenings there as well as spending some of the days enjoying kayaking in the superb coastal waters of the surrounding islands.
All too soon it was time to head back to Jersey, but already thinking that next year we would be heading north once again to experience the charms of Herm.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Herm has to be one of my favourite Channel Islands and it holds many attractions for the sea kayaker. Just a couple of miles off the east coast of Guernsey but separated by significant tidal flows it is always an entertaining paddle. These are just a selection of the photographs taken on my three visits so far this year.
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