Whilst continue to look through my old slide collection I came across a number of photographs, which help to illustrate what informative and entertaining events the Jersey Sea Kayak Symposiums have been over the years. In addition they have attracted a number of paddlers who are well known throughout the sea kayaking world.
The next Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium will be held in May 2019, it should have been May 2018 but the organisers of the Scottish Symposium asked if they could use the slot and we readily agreed.
The 2019 Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium will be the 13th time that the event has been held over a period of 27 years and it all came about after Bill Small and Pete Scott had attended the Anglesey Symposium in 1991 and decided that Jersey Canoe Club could do something similar.
The 1st December marks the start of British Canoeing Winter Challenge. It last 3 months and the aim is to encourage members of canoe and kayak clubs to get out on the water during the darker, colder days of winter.
Last year Jersey Canoe Club came top, in terms of miles covered, just about fending off a determined challenge by Portsmouth Canoe Club. In the 3 months the members of the Jersey club paddled a total of 4,108 miles, with 4 members paddling over the 300 miles. The highest individual total was 520 miles, which is quite amazing considering that there is no inland water in Jersey, so they were all completed on the sea.
Today’s forecast was less than perfect for the first day of the Challenge as 5 slightly enthusiastic kayakers headed out from Belcroute. The initial mile was fast and easy as the northerly force 5 sped us on our way towards Noirmont point, which was the gateway to more sheltered waters, under the cliffs of Portelet. Some large black clouds gave a suggestion of rain or sleet but surprisingly we stayed dry. At times even feeling the warmth of the low angled winter sun.
Nicky pulled out in St Brelade’s whilst the rest of us carried onto Corbiere, with its freshly painted lighthouse. The tide had started to rise quite quickly meaning we had missed the opportunity to land in some of the small bays, so we headed back to Beauport for lunch. Without doubt one of the most beautiful bays on the Island, but on the 1st December we had the beach to ourselves.
After lunch we headed east across St Brelade’s Bay as the clouds built in size. For most of the paddle we were reasonably protected from the wind but from Noirmont to Belcroute there was no respite. The wind was blowing at about 30 knots straight into our faces, which resulted in some demanding paddling conditions. When we landed our total mileage for the day was 60 miles, which despite the weather was a pretty reasonable start towards British Canoeings Winter Challenge .
It is probably true to say that we wouldn’t have normally gone for such a long paddle in the prevailing conditions but the fact that we did stay out there and put the miles in is evidence of the success of the Winter Challenge, which is to get more paddlers out on the water during the cold, dark days of December, January and February.
A strong, cold northerly wind meant that it was cold as we changed in the car park close to the German Tower at Corbiere. This was our selected venue for our Wednesday coasteering as we knew that once we dropped down the cliffs we would be sheltered from the strongest wind.
Our initial plan was to swim and scramble out to the Jument Rock, the obvious rock, which is painted white as a navigation mark. To get there involved a couple of short swims, with the opportunity to play in some of the narrow constrictions, which were funneling the swell.
I must have paddled past the white rock, almost a thousand times in the last 48 years that I have kayaked in the area but today was the first time that I have climbed to the top of this unique landmark. This was quickly followed by another first as we swam into some narrow caves, which I had never explored prior to today.
Despite the strong northerly wind and low temperatures our Wednesday coasteering session was thoroughly enjoyable. What was particularly memorable was the fact that we were able to visit a couple of locations that I hadn’t been to before. I have lived within a couple of miles of Jument rock for over 40 years and for the last 15 years have lived within a mile of the rock but had never found a reason or the time to go there, before today .
Sometimes we travel thousands of miles in search of adventure, often costing hundreds, if not thousands of pounds. The reality is that there might be plenty of adventure and places to discover much closer to home. Many years ago we coined the phrase “adventure in your own backyard”, to describe the sea kayaking trips we were undertaking in the Channel Islands. In the last 18 months we have explored Jersey’s coast by kayak or swimming, several times each week, realizing that within a few miles of where we live there are so many special places.
It appears that we have merged into a Friday coasteering group. Heading out each to explore another section of the Jersey coastline at sea level. As with kayaking, living on an island has its advantages as it is almost always possible to find somewhere appropriate, whatever the weather.
This week it was a return visit to the cliffs just to the west of Portelet Bay. This section is always best to do just a couple of hours either side of high water. The tide has just started to drop as we hit the beach, which was perfect. In the middle of the bay is Ile au Guerdain, with its 18th Century fortifications. Often referred to as Janvrin’s Tomb.
After a short swim around the rocks in the middle of the bay we were soon onto the coasteering. A stretch of coast with a variety of jumps, caves, scrambles and swims. A perfect place to spend a couple of hours on a overcast November Friday morning. What surprises me about this coasteering route is that I have never seen anybody else in the area whilst we have been there or even heard people talk about it as a possibility for coasteering.
The forecast for Wednesday was for southerly gales building during the course of the day, with the main impact being felt from about 15.00 onwards. Wednesday is the day when we try to go on day trips so we didn’t want to give up to easily. An option appeared to meet at Rozel, head west, use the tide, tuck in under the cliffs, eat our sandwiches and make a hasty retreat to the east before the full force of the gale struck.
What was a real surprise was the stunning November sunshine we enjoyed all day, it was only on the drive home, as the wind speed significantly increased that the cloud banks started to move in from the west.
Lunch was at Bonne Nuit, somewhere we hadn’t expected to reach when we set out from Rozel. Possibly the most interesting incident during the day was an encounter with a grey seal, close to Bouley Bay. The toggles on my Nordkapp are carved from reindeer antlers I collected on a trip to Svalbard in 1983. Clearly they attracted the attention of the seal, which was attempting to lick the toggles, sadly it was the rear toggle it was interested in. Meaning that it was difficult to see, let alone photograph. Still a memorable encounter.
Another couple of hours scanning some old slides has revived some great memories of sea kayaking in Jersey. It is clear that over the years the Jersey Canoe Club has been involved in a variety of entertaining events both in local waters and further afield.
The cliffs of Grosnez mark the north west corner of Jersey, and it is an area rarely considered as a coasteering destination. Fully exposed to the westerly swell and with virtually no escape routes, this is not an area for the inexperienced. Today’s light winds and decaying swell drew us north in search of some watery entertainment.
We decided to travel west from Plemont to Grosnez, it meant that when we climbed up the cliffs we arrived at the cars, as opposed to having a 20 minute walk along the cliff path whilst wet.
This is a great section of the Jersey coastline for sea kayaking but today our progress was much slower but probably much more intimate as we scrambled along this remote section of the Islands coast.
I paddled out to the Ecrehous this morning, it was my 7th visit of the year so far but interestingly the 5th time I have been on a Wednesday. I have only visited once at a weekend and that was way back in January.
It would be interesting to conduct a scientific study and hopefully come up with some fascinating conclusions which indicate a correlation between the passage of areas of high pressure over the Channel Islands shipping area on the third day of the week. In reality though I think that the reason for the popularity of the Wednesday visits is due to the fact that a number of people in the Jersey Canoe Club had retired or are working significantly reduced working weeks. We have put Wednesday aside as our day of choice for day trips, hoping to go out somewhere every week.
Looking at the weather forecasts as soon as there is an indication that the winds might be reasonably light on the Wednesday our thoughts turn to offshore paddles. This week was no different, a quick WhatsApp on Tuesday and this morning saw 8 0f us paddling away from St Catherine’s towards the Ecrehous.
I have visited the reef numerous times over the years, the last time was just a few weeks ago but always jump at the chance to go again. It was a relatively smooth crossing and a great lunch spot but it was the return crossing which was particularly memorable. The encounter with the pod of bottle nosed dolphins was as good as I have ever seen, they remained with us for probably 20 minutes, at times approaching within a metre before suddenly changing course and diving.
What a great way to spend a Wednesday in November.
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.
It has been a while since I have posted some aerial photos taken from commercial flights so here are a few from the last few years. They show some potentially great kayaking destinations from above. With views like these it is hard to understand why anybody would book an aisle seat!
Passing over Calshot when heading south towards Jersey. The site of the BCU Sea Touring Committee Symposiums in the early 1990’s.
Greenland West Coast. The island on the right is Uummannaq and the larger Salliaruseq to the left. The cliffs and the larger islands are over 1,000 metres high. This post documents the day we paddled between the two islands. This was taken whilst flying from Heathrow to Seattle, some years ago.
Final approach into Stockholm. It looked like a kayaking paradise. Little did we realize the frustration which was to follow after we landed
Take off from Jersey on a beautiful summers day. The aircraft is banking north over St Ouen’s Bay.
Sunrise over the Thames estuary. The south coast of Essex is clearly visible, just minutes after leaving Heathrow.
A few hours later the Essex coast had been replaced by the Turkish coast to the west of Istanbul.
Approaching Heathrow. The rectangular shaped water directly in front of the engine is the location of Tower Hamlets Canoe Club, an area we have visited regularly over the years as members of the Jersey Canoe Club paddling with kayakers from London.