Nordkapp Meet Update

As mentioned previously, the Jersey Canoe Club is running a Nordkapp sea kayaking weekend in August.  Starting the evening of Friday 24th August, followed by 3 days of paddles in the waters around Jersey.
There will be paddles at a variety of levels with hopefully the opportunity to visit some of the offshore reefs which surround Jersey, including the Ecrehous and the Paternosters.  Over the course of the weekend the tides increase in size, on the Monday evening we have a spring tide of 10.63 metres, meaning that a number of the tide races which develop around Jersey will be working, offering great entertainment for kayakers of all levels.
The weekend is free to members of the Jersey Canoe Club or £25 for non members of the Club.  This is the cost of 12 months overseas membership of the Club and it ensures that everybody has insurance cover over the weekend.  All in all an absolute bargain.
The Saturday evening talk is by the legendary Sam Cook, who was on the original sea kayaking expedition to Nordkapp in 1975.  This was a truly ground breaking expedition for British sea kayakers and was a route that was largely followed by a group of paddlers from the Jersey Canoe Club in 1986.
This is not going to be a huge event, we will be really pleased if we get 30 people on the water in a variety of different Nordkapps.  As well as people from Jersey we have had enquiries from the UK, Switzerland, France and Guernsey.

This picture was taken in 1979, just to the south of Gorey, when it seemed that you could have almost any colour of Nordkapp HM, as long as it was orange.  I think that the one red one is being held by Franco Ferrero from Pesda Press.

Nordkapp
The summer of 1986 and a young Mr and Mrs Mansell just about to go around Nordkapp in their Nordkapp HM’s.  This was on the Jersey Canoe Club trip of that summer.
If you would like, more information on what is going to be a relaxed but enjoyable weekend of kayaking, in all varieties of Nordkapp sea kayaks, please complete the form below.

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First coasteering session

If there was any evidence needed that this winter the weather has been far more unsettled than last year it might be, that today was my first coasteering session of the year.  Yet last winter we were out virtually every Friday coasteering.  Jumping, swimming and scrambling our way around the coast.
I am almost embarrassed to admit but I am not certain that I have left from Fliquet before on any form of activity, although I have passed the area hundreds, if not thousands of times before.  It was clear that I was going to exploring some new territory and I wasn’t disappointed.  An enjoyable day and an encouraging start to coasteering in 2018.

Friday coasteering
Preparing in the car park at Fliquet. The Jersey Tower behind is one of the earliest on the Island and was built before 1787.
Friday coasteering
Heading north along the short section of the east coast before we turned west.
Friday coasteering
One of the fascinating aspects of coasteering is discovering some unique features. Coming across this wall we stood there thinking who built this wall and why? Today there was no obvious reason why anybody would have committed so much time and energy to build a wall here.
Friday coasteering
After the rather large and unexplained large wall we came across this small and unexplained feature. It appears that somebody has concreted a step on this section of the coast. We did appreciate it as it enabled us to cross this gap with relative ease.
Friday coasteering
The rock type on the north east corner of the island is Rozel Conglomerate. It is a very weak rock and will readily break when too much pressure is applied with either your foot or hand. It was a really enjoyable morning but give me granite any day for coasteering.
Friday coasteering
We could have swam this section but there had been quite a few long swims already so we thought some short scrambling would be a bit more entertaining.
Friday coasteering
The end is in sight. Rozel beckons.

Welcome home

Going away on a kayaking trip is always enjoyable but there is always something satisfying about coming home. Perhaps it is because most times I return home it is on an aircraft, so it is a very direct transition from holiday to home.
Landing on Tuesday evening I had received my first invite to go paddling before we had arrived at the gate, the welcome vibration of a WhatsApp on the phone.  In complete contrast to the weather before I had been away and whilst I was away, the forecast for Wednesday was pretty good.  No “beast from the east” this week.
Wednesday morning dawned with light winds and cloudless skies, we were leaving from St Catherine’s, the home of the Jersey Canoe Club, and heading south towards Seymour Tower.  This isn’t a section of coast, which screams of dramatic scenery.  It is rather more gentle, with a fascinating historical background and then a unique coastal environment, which is exposed as the tide drops, particularly off the south east corner.
We headed towards Seymour Tower, which was built in 1782 in response to the invasion of Jersey by French troops in January 1781.  It is now a unique place to spend an evening, with a qualified guide from Jersey Heritage.  Lunch was a rather hurried affair as the tidal range was 9.5 metres.  Not a particularly large spring tide but we were in the third hour after high water so the water was dropping at nearly 4cm a minute.  Resulting in a potentially long walk!
Returning to St Catherine’s we meandered through the reefs towards Karame Beacon before returning north to our starting point.   It was one of those days which hints of summer, light winds, blue skies and water of a surprising clarity.
A perfect return to my Island home.

Gorey Castle
Heading south past Mont Orgueil or Gorey Castle. It is one of the finest castles to be found anywhere, occupying a dominant position on the east coast of the Island.
Seymour Tower
Less than an hour before we had paddled across these rocks. The tide drops with amazing speed in the third hour of a 35 feet high tide. I wrote about walking in this area in an earlier post.
Karame Beacon
We headed south towards Karame, easily recognized by its top mark. On the large spring tides a fast group is able to walk out to this navigation mark.
Reef paddling
Heading north through the reefs in conditions which have been incredibly rare this year. Sunshine, no wind and surprisingly good water clarity.
Heading north
Gorey Castle is visible directly in front of the kayakers whilst in the distance the long this line of St Catherine’s breakwater, our final destination, is discernable.

Ecrehous sunshine

For the last few months we seem to have been subjected to one North Atlantic storm after another. The jet stream has been powering one low depression after another, creating unsettled weather. Days of being able to potter along the coast, exploring nooks and crannies have been few and far between. It is been a matter of trying to squeeze a few miles in, whilst trying to avoid the strongest winds, as they funnel around headlands.
On Monday of this week a slight glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon, light winds for Friday.  That slight glimmer eventually turned into a window of opportunity so this morning saw us loading the kayaks for a quick Ecrehous visit, in late winter sunshine from St Catherines.
With low water at around 13.30 the plan was to cross towards the end of the ebb, a quick break on the reef and complete the return crossing at the start of the flood. It was good plan and it almost worked. The 5.5 nautical miles on the way passed quickly and easily. We saw one fishing boat but apart from that we had the ocean to ourselves. There weren’t even that many birds to distract us, the only one of interest was a great crested grebe.
As the tide was sill running north there was some slight disturbance as we approached the Ecrehous but once the reef it was calm and sunny, the perfection combination for experiencing the channels and islets.  A quick lunch break and the inevitable photo opportunities and just over 30 minutes later saw us heading back to the kayaks for the return crossing to Jersey.
Unfortunately our paddling speed wasn’t quite what we anticipated and so we were more exposed to the influence of the tidal streams, than was ideal.  What would normally take about 1 hour 30 mins took an extra hour and in contrast to the 5.5 miles going out we covered 8.5 nautical miles on the way back.
It wasn’t a serious issue but clearly demonstrates the impact that tidal streams can have on sea kayakers.  In fact it was a bit of of blessing in disguise, as the extra miles that we covered meant that the Jersey Canoe Club went back to the top of British Canoeing’s Winter Challenge, although probably not for long!
Although slightly harder than anticipated it was well worth the extra effort for some Ecrehous sunshine.

Ecrehous
The Ecrehous are just visible but the position of the French coast is clearly identifiable with the line of cumulus clouds.
Ecrehous
Paddling into the reef. We were aiming to land just to the right of the small houses.  I was paddling the Jersey Canoe Club double with Claire.  Although she had visited the reef before this was the first time she had paddled there.
Ecrehous
The kayak on the beach in front of Marmotiere. We normally land on the French side but because this was just a quick visit we stayed on the Jersey side.
Ecrehous
Looking north west from close to the bench. I don’t know why but every time I visit the reef I take a picture from virtually the same location. It is a view I never get fed up with.
Ecrehous
Looking towards the French coast. It was clear that the tide had already turned and was running south. It was time to leave.
Ecrehous
The shingle bank is such a dynamic feature. It is always changing in size and steepness.

Jersey Canoe Club

The Jersey Canoe Club was formed towards the end of 1974, when a group of us got together.  We had been paddling for a number of years, sometimes together and at other times in our small geographic groups.  Most of us were too young to drive to be able to meet up regularly!
On August Bank Holiday 1974 we arranged a trip to the Ecrehous, a stunning beautiful reef of rocks between Jersey and France, which 44 years on is still my favourite one day paddle.  For the first few years the Club was homeless, meeting at Highland’s College every Sunday morning before heading off to paddle a section of Jersey’s varied coastline.  Thursday evenings during the summer months was always from St Helier Harbour, meeting at the Old Lifeboat Slip before heading off around Elizabeth Castle or the Dog’s Nest.
In the early 1980’s we found our first premises, a building behind the La Folie Inn, which we shared with a couple of other watersports clubs.  It sounded a good idea but didn’t really work out, largely because no one Club seemed to have the overall responsibility for the building.  So after a few years it fell into disuse.
Over the next few years there were a number of possible projects, at one point we had architects plans drawn up for a specific Club house at a potential site close to the water in St Helier.  Unfortunately the Club was unable to negotiate a long enough lease on the land, so that project never moved forward.
In 1991 the Jersey Canoe Club was fortunate to be offered the original lifeboat station at St Catherine’s, an opportunity which was eagerly taken up. The building was, in many ways, in the perfect location. Sheltered from the prevailing winds and because of the slipway there is relatively easy access to the water at all stages of the tide.
In the last 27 years the Club house as been used in a number of different ways. The first Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium was based there in 1992 and then every 2 years up until 2010. During those 10 events many people who are internationally known in the kayaking world used the building. People such as Derek Hutchinson, Frank Goodman, Chris Hare, Scott Cunningham, John Heath, Gordon Brown, Howard Jeffs and Duncan Winning, to name just a few.
The building has also seen numerous training and coaching weekends right up to the highest level. In the early 1990’s I was able to run a modular Level 5 Coach course, over 5 weekends and coaches who came to assist in the course included Franco Ferrero ( a Jersey boy), Graham Wardle, Kevin Danforth, Dave Collins and Dennis Ball. In addition there were numerous other training courses at all levels. Plus every Christmas Day morning hardy members of the Club with family and friends meet for the swim at 11.00, followed by mince pies and mulled wine.
This year marks the 28th year that the Club will be holding its training sessions at St Catherine’s on a Tuesday night. During that time hundreds, possibly even several thousand people have been able to enjoy sea kayaking, using the Club House as a focus for the activities. To mark this continued use it was decided to refurbish the upstairs in the expectation of encouraging even greater use by the members of the Jersey Canoe Club.
It was decided to run the Sunday morning session from St Catherine’s, not an area of the Island that we use that frequently for Sunday morning paddles in the winter.  It is 2018, so we should have known that there was going to be a gale forecast, it might just be me but this winter seems incredibly windy.  With the forecast, St Catherine’s was actually quite a sensible choice.  In addition it would be a perfect opportunity to show the Club members the improvements upstairs.
The transformation of the Club House is a result of the hard work of Janet Taylor and her efforts were really appreciated by those people who turned up, either for the paddling or for the cake and coffee afterwards.
Today was a paddle of contrasts, at times sunny and flat calm whilst at other times we were battered by hail.  All this against the historical backdrop of Jersey’s east coast.  16 members braved the conditions and we all completed 7 miles towards the British Canoeing Winter Challenge.  At the present the Jersey Canoe Club lies in second place but we have struggled to get the miles in this year because it has been so consistently windy.

Jersey Canoe Club
The front of the Club house. I am always amused that even after 20+ years the States still paint “Keep Clear for Lifeboat” outside the door.
Jersey Canoe Club
The view from outside the Club house, illustrating how the breakwater can provide shelter from the winds.
Jersey Canoe Club
Taken in September 1992. The Jersey Canoe Club had an open day to coincide with British Canoe Union’s National Canoeing Day. I think that there were 110 paddlers in the raft.
Jersey Canoe Club
Taken at the First Jersey Sea Kayaking Symposium. The person in white is Dave Collins. He used to be Performance Director at U.K. Athletics and is currently Professor at University of Central Lancashire. We tried to attract a wide range of speakers to the Symposiums, not just sea kayak coaches. Kevin Danforth is standing in white.
Jersey Canoe Club
At the 1996 Symposium we held a slalom outside the Club house, in sea kayaks. This is Donald Thomson, a well known Scottish paddler.

A few pictures from this mornings paddle.

Jersey Canoe Club
Launching at St Catherine’s. The Jersey Canoe Club premises is the closest, obvious white building. Seconds later we were in the middle of quite an intense hail storm.
Archirondel Tower was built in 1792, to help protect the Island from the French. At the time it was on a small rocky islet offshore, which was joined to the shore when the southern arm, of the now abandoned St Catherine’s Breakwater, was constructed.
Jersey Canoe Club
Yet another squall threatens to engulf Pete as we paddled from Anne Port towards Gorey.
Jersey Canoe CLub
As the next squall approached from the west we sheltered behind these rocks. The east coast of Jersey should be visible but it disappeared in a cloud of hail.
Jersey Canoe Club
From whichever direction you look Mont Orgueil is a really spectacular castle. I think that the view from offshore is always the best.
Jersey Canoe Club
Head north Mont Orgueil as the next squall approaches from the north west.

St Peter’s Valley Cycle Route

Jersey has some great cycle routes but not that many which are exclusively dedicated to two wheels. There is the classic St Helier to Corbiere cycle path whilst from St Helier heading east the coverage is very patchy.  In the last few months there is a new kid on the block, in the form of  St Peter’s Valley Cycle Path.
Completed at a cost of approximately £1.77 million it is clear that there would be a degree of disquiet from certain sections of the Island community.  The usual statements that the money could be better spent elsewhere with very little consideration given to the benefits, to both residents and visitors, provided by such a facility.
It has taken some time for all the pieces to be joined together but we have now is an excellent facility for locals and visitors alike. Providing a fast and safe way from from the south coast to the north west parishes.
You leave the cycle path along the front from St Helier to St Aubins just before Beaumont, if you are heading west. There is a small car park (actually known as Le Perquage car park) and a pelican crossing, which gives access to the start of the cycle route.
The first section follows the long established Perquage path, which can be rather damp at times.  At Sandybrook there is a couple of hundred metres along the road before reaching the new cycle path as it comes down St Peter’s Valley, close to Tesson Mill.  This is one of the few remaining mills on the island and there has probably been a mill at this site since the 11th century.  the present building was built in 1831 and it was purchased by the Jersey National Trust in 1996.  Although part of the building has been converted into residential properties some of the main industrial elements have been retained and are open to the public in summer on Monday and Tuesday 10.00-4.00.
The red tarmac route starts to wind its way through the valley, following the route of the stream, which in the summer is barely noticeable but can become quite a torrent during the winter months.  Pretty quickly you arrive at the only working mill which is left on the island, Le Moulin de Quetivel, also owned by the National Trust for Jersey.  The mill was briefly brought back into use during the German occupation, after which it fell into disrepair, it was restored in 1976 and now is open to visitors during the summer months.
Ahead lies the Vic in the Valley pub where refreshments and and drinks are available, a small link route takes you from the main cycle track to the pub.
The path continues its way up the valley, with a number of interesting footpaths leading off to the west.  A potential activity for exercising your legs in a different way to cycling.  Eventually the path comes to a stop at the main St Peter’s Valley road.  It is necessary to cross the road and drop down a small road to the left before reaching one of the most interesting sections of the whole route.
It is largely an elevated section with lovely views across the small reservoir, on which there are normally a number of interesting birds.
The cycle route comes to an end but a little bit of searching will lead to a small isolated valley, which will allow you to continue cycling towards St Mary’s Church.  From here there are numerous options where to go next.  Following one of the excellent numbered cycle routes from Visit Jersey, or designing your own journey along the numerous small lanes, which are found in the area.
During my ride through the February sunshine I was amazed at the variety of birds I encountered en route.  The Brent Geese, were grazing on Goose Green Marsh and as I cycled up the valley I saw a grey heron, buzzard, marsh harrier, little grebe and little egret, whilst heard a water rail calling close the northern reservoir.  These were just a few of the many species I saw in just a few miles.
The St Peter’s Valley cycle route is a valuable asset to the cycling portfolio in Jersey, a lovely surface to ride on, taking you through some of the finest scenery in Jersey’s heartland.

St Peter's Valley
The initial part of the route from the sea front to the St Peter’s Valley cycle route follows the Le Perquage Path. To my left was Goose Green Marsh.
St Peter's Valley
The start of the new cycle route is close to Tesson Mill. A dramatic property, which provides a link to Jersey’s industrial past.
St Peter's Valley
It is just a lovely surface to ride on, along one of the prettiest valley’s on the island.
St Peter's Valley
The last working mill in Jersey. There is an Open Milling Day once a year, when flour is produced for sale in the small shop.
St Peter's Valley
Approaching the sharp turn in the valley, which is also where the Vic in the Valley is located.
St Peter's Valley
As the cycle route heads north in places in runs along an elevated track. Perfect for riding on.  This is close to the dam for the small reservoir.
St Peter's Valley
The small reservoir always holds a variety of waterbirds. There were tufted duck and a little grebe on the water, whilst I heard a water rail calling as I cycled past.
St Peter's Valley
The final climb from St Peter’s Valley to St Mary’s follows this secluded valley.  The cycle route has finished but it is still possible to find virtually traffic free routes.

Ecrehous Buildings

Sometimes when we are kayaking we focus on the big picture and miss out on some of the smaller and at times more interesting items.The Ecrehous, as many of you will be aware, is probably my favourite, all time sea kayaking day trip. Arriving at the reef, time is normally spent wandering around and admiring at the stunning seascapes whilst sitting on one of the finest benches in the world. On some recent visits I have spent time looking at smaller features including inscriptions on some of the Ecrehous buildings. What has been revealed is fascinating history of a unique environment.

Ecrehous buildings
An aerial view of the islet of Marmotiere. There are 20 huts plus a number of smaller out buildings squeezed onto this small rock. La Petite Brecque is the other small islet with a hut built on. The shingle bank (La Taille) has a superb standing wave for surfing at high water on springs.
Ecrehous building
Looking towards the Impot Hut, which is painted white. It was probably built in about 1880. The initials “TBP” on the nearest hut refer to Thomas Blampied who probably restored the hut in the 1880’s or 90’s. This is one of the earliest huts to be built on the reef.
Ecrehous building
I had missed these letters on many previous visits to the reef. The letters refer to Josue Blampied, who was the son of Thomas Blampied who built the hut.
Ecrehous building
It is clear when this hut was built, at the time it was the largest building on the Ecrehous. In between St Martin and Jersey it appears some letters have been scratched out. It should read “St Martin. R.R.L. Jersey” The letters stand for Reginald Raoul Lempriere, who built the hut.

Sometimes we are so concerned with the big picture that we miss the detail so next time that you are out kayaking adjust the scale of your view and you never know what will be revealed.

February Sunshine

For what seemed like the first time in months the Sunday morning session of the Jersey Canoe Club took place in some bright February sunshine, although the temperature was modified by the strong north easterly wind.  11 of us paddled out from St Brelade’s heading towards Corbiere, the granite cliffs looking particularly stunning.
Although Corbiere was our destination, as we approached the south west corner it was clear that with the amount of water moving, due to the Spring tides, and the westerly swell, that we might need to cut our journey short.  We didn’t really want an unplanned journey to Sark.
Close to the causeway, at Corbiere, a plaque commemorates the attempts of Peter Edwin Larbalestier, an assistant keeper of the lighthouse, who was drowned on 28 May 1946, while trying to rescue a visitor cut off by the incoming tide, who also lost her life.  Many years ago I was landing on the slipway at Corbiere, after a Club session on a Thursday evening.  I noticed the plaque and said to one of the people who was with us, “that’s funny you have the same name as the lighthouse keeper who drowned” his reply was “that’s not surprising he was my uncle and I am named after him”.
In the Corbiere Phare Restaurant there is a photograph of Peter Edwin Larbalestier, in his lighthouse keepers uniform.  The likeness to Peter Larbalestier is really quite amazing.  Sadly Peter from the Canoe Club passed away a few years ago but every time we look at the photograph of his uncle we are reminded of the good times we had with Peter kayaking.
The paddle back to St Brelade’s against the wind and tide was a bit challenging in places but that was largely irrelevant as we enjoyed our first sunny Sunday morning paddle of 2018.

February Sunshine
Looking east along St Brelade’s Bay. An hour after high water.
St Brelade's Church
Looking towards St Brelade’s Church, which must be it the best position of any of the island’s parish churches. There is evidence that parts of the church were here before 1035. To the left of the main church is the Fisherman’s Chapel.
Beauport
Approaching Beauport, once inside the bay we gained some shelter from the strong north easterly wind. Contrast this with the views of Beauport earlier in the week
February Sunshine
Once past the Grosse Tete you become more exposed to any westerly swell. There was a few feet of swell today plus plenty of water movement due to the 11 metre tide.
February Sunshine
Corbiere lighthouse in sight. The lighthouse must been the most photographed site on the Island.
February sunshine
Rachel close to the point where we turned back. Due to the size of the tide there was a large amount of water running past the point and when combined with the swell it was creating conditions, which were possibly a bit too entertaining for the Canoe Club Sunday morning session.
February Sunshine
Returning to St Brelade’s Bay, it was a rather windy as we paddled through the gap but it marked the end of an enjoyable couple of hours in the February sunshine.

Some more aerial photographs

It has been said that the best in-flight entertainment system is the window seat. I can never understand the person who selects the aisle seat when there is the option of observing the world passing by.
Below is a selection of some aerial photographs of potentially interesting sea kayaking destinations seen out of the aircraft window over the last couple of years.  Whenever I get in an aircraft it always stimulates ideas of where else to go paddling.  The to do list, regarding kayaking destinations, continues to grow.

Aerial photographs
Final approach in Barcelona. Didn’t manage to get any sea kayaking in although some of the coast looked pretty interesting from a paddling perspective.  Particularly to the north, which is the venue for the Spanish Sea Kayak Symposium.
Aerial photographs
Climbing out from Malta. Gozo on the left and Comino in the middle are clearly visible. There is some great kayaking to be had in the Maltese archipelago.
Aerial photographs
Newhaven, Sussex. A few minutes after take off from Gatwick. It has been a few years since I paddled this stretch of the English coast.
Aerial photographs
Superb meanders on the River Seine.
Aerial photographs
Flying into clouds like these, over Dijon in France means that you are in for a bumpy ride. We were at 32,000 feet and some of the clouds were towering above us.
Aerial photographs
Final approach into Malta, with views of the Grand Harbour. A great sunset and you know that the kayaking is likely to be superb in the morning.
Aerial photographs
Poole Harbour in Dorset. Heading home after a weekend paddling in Swanage, which is just off the picture to the left. Always good to see where you have been.
Aerial photographs
Approaching Jersey on a blustery September day. The Ecrehous below, a great paddle.
Aerial photographs
Heading home from kayaking on the west coast of Greenland we had superb views of the east coast.

Nautical History and the T Flag

Fort Regent overlooking the town of St Helier is a 19th century military base, which was converted into a leisure and entertainment centre in the 1970’s.  It occupies a unique place in the nautical history of not just Jersey but the in the UK because it still has a working visual Signal Station.
The first signal station probably dates back to 1708 and was used to warn Islanders of the threat of invasion.  Over the years a number of signals have been flown from the mast above St Helier, including such useful information as the fact that the mail had arrived in the Island etc.
Sadly financial cuts and changes in technology meant that in December 2004 the Fort Regent Signal Station, which was the last manned station in the British Isles closed down.
Fortunately in January 2007 it proved possible to hoist flags again, in a limited fashion including the T-flag, which signifies high tides over 38 feet (11.6 metres) and the strong wind and gale warnings.  It was also possible to re-introduce hoisting a few other flags when appropriate such as Trafalgar Day.
Today’s high tides and strong winds meant that this morning the Signal Station was flying the flag and the ball and cone indicating potentially difficult conditions for those at sea and for people living along the coast.  Driving into St Helier you very quickly get into the habit of looking up towards to Fort, treasuring our own slice of nautical history, and seeing if any flags are flying.
Signal Station
Visual warnings from the Fort Regent Signal station today. Strong winds from the north and T Flag
 The signal station above Fort Regent at approximately 12.00 today.  The T Flag is flying on the left hand side whilst the cone and ball indicates strong winds from the north.
Nautical history and the T Flag
When this flag is flying it signals that the tide is above 38 feet.