26,000 nautical miles and counting

I first started logging my canoeing and kayaking trips in January 1979, when I was starting to work towards a number of British Canoe Union Awards.  Sea Proficiency followed by Inland and Canoe Proficiency before moving onto Senior Instructor and Advanced Sea.  A logbook was a pre-requisite for most assessments, as is some form of documentary evidence today.
I found that once I started documenting my paddling experiences it became more and more difficult to stop.  It has eventually developed into a series of notebooks documenting my paddling adventures of the last 38 years.  It is a record of not just my paddling but includes details of where we parked the car when visiting new areas, any unusual weather, birds and animals seen etc.
One thing that I have recorded is the distance covered and have watched it gradually increase over the years.  The initial thought was “had I paddled around the distance of going round the earth at the equator”?  According to Google the circumference of the earth at the equator is approximately 21,640 nautical miles.
A pleasant morning was spent, several years ago, sorting through my logbooks and compiling an annual total.  I discovered that I had passed the circumnavigation distance a couple of years earlier but have carried on keeping a record of my paddling journeys.
Kayaking around Stromboli was a memorable paddle, not only from the scenery but because I also went past 26,000 nautical miles in my logbook. The location was in the channel between the main island and the small stack of Strombolicchio to the north east.  After watching the GPS tick over to record the distance we paused for a few moments reflected on 26,000 nautical miles and carried on paddling to our landing, close to the harbour.  We had a volcano to walk up!

26,000 miles
It was along this stretch of the Stromboli coastline that I passed 26,000 nautical miles.  Taken from our walk up the volcano.

Short kayaks from Bonne Nuit

It was a distinct change today to paddle a short kayak, rather than the normal sea kayak. We launched from Bonne Nuit, one of the small bays on the north coast of Jersey.  Bonne Nuit is one of those bays which gives easy access to relatively deep water.
We paddled out of the small harbour which was built in 1872, to provide shelter for the local fishing fleet as well as providing a place for the export of stone from Mont Mado quarry which is located on the hillside above, whilst trying to avoid the fishing lines of the people above.
One of the more unusual aspects of today’s paddle was the size of the tide, there was only 3.4 metres of difference between high and low water. In a weeks time the height difference will have increased to 10.1 metres.  This meant that there was very little water moving so instead of searching for tide races we looked for rock gardens and swell.
Paddling short kayaks has a positive impact on our skill levels. Their manoeuvrability and lack of directional stability forces you to concentrate on improving your kayak handling and in particular the ability to paddle in a straight line. This can only be beneficial when transferred to the more usual sea kayaks that we paddle.

Bonne Nuit
Generally the swell was quite manageable which meant that there was plenty of time for woking on skills as opposed to trying to stay upright.
Bonne Nuit
There were plenty of gullies waiting to be explored some with entertaining flows. This section of coast changes significantly depending upon the state of the tide.
Bonne Nuit
Even more opportunity to work on skills.
Bonne Nuit
The blow hole near Wolf’s Caves was working quite nicely this morning.

Greve de Lecq – what a difference a week makes

After the near perfect conditions for exploring the coast to the east of Greve de Lecq last weekend, this Sunday was a complete contrast. Magicseaweed and Jersey Met had been predicting the arrival of a swell and they weren’t wrong. The one positive note was that the beach was reasonably protected, although there was still some dumping surf on the beach. It was what was going on outside the bay that created the talking points.
The Paternosters are approximately 2.5 nautical miles to the north but waves could be clearly seen breaking on the reef, whilst along the coast the swell could be seen breaking some way up the cliffs. This was clearly not going to be a day for exploring the caves along this stretch of coast. What made the swell even more impressive was its wave period, somewhere in the region of 15 seconds.

Swell
Leaving the beach was all about timing and the assistance of a couple of other paddlers. The important thing was to make sure that you weren’t the last person to leave the beach!

Once afloat there was very little opportunity to approach the cliffs and cave, which make this such a great stretch of coast to paddle.  A week earlier we had been able to go pretty much where we liked on a flat calm Sunday morning.

Swell
In places the swell was breaking some way up the cliffs. It was clearly somewhere that you didn’t want to be caught out.
Swell
There was not going to be any paddling through the arch on Ile Agois today. What a contrast to 7 days earlier.

We paddled as far as Sorel lighthouse but in most places we needed to keep several hundred metres out from the shore, there were just a couple of places where it was thought possible to approach a bit closer.

Swell
John making it out through the waves off Sorel.
Swell
Heading back to Greve, we kept well offshore. A couple of large sets of waves did pass by on their way to the cliffs. Jim from Manchester Canoe Club, clearly enjoying himself despite the rain just starting.

The landing back at Greve de Lecq was as difficult as anticipated.  The dropping tide meant that we had a bit more shelter than anticipated.  There had been 21 kayakers on the water with Jersey Canoe Club and only one person swam on landing.  We thought that was a pretty good success rate.

Cycling – the small details matter

It was another day cycling various routes around the Island, mainly on routes 1 and 3, with a few other lanes thrown in as well. Often when we are out and about we focus on the big picture, looking at the dramatic seascapes or photographing towering cumulus clouds whilst missing out on some of the small features. Bikes are the perfect vehicles to allow us to view these smaller features, which are often missed whilst driving.
We headed into St Helier and whilst cycling around the harbour my eye was caught by a riot of colour at the base of a wall.  It was a plaque to commemorate those Islanders who served in Burma from 1941 to 1945, and had been unveiled the day before.  Amazingly as we stood and considered the information that it contained we were joined by two other people, one of whom was the son of the first named person on the plaque.

Cycling
Close to South Pier this plaque carrying the names of 42 Islanders who served in the Forgotten Army in Burma was unveiled yesterday.

After a stop in Gorey for coffee and cake we decided to head back west on the Cycle Route 3.  This is one of a number of cycle routes, which cross the the Island, further information about the routes is available from Visit Jersey.  Cycle Route 3 is one of the hardest options as it goes straight across the Island, up and down numerous valleys.  Just over 14 miles in length with nearly 2,000 feet of ascent.

Cycling
The route follows a number of very quiet lanes, which in places are almost traffic free.

As you follow the route you come across some features, which are almost unique to Jersey.  Many of these would be missed if driving or they are in places where it would be difficult to stop and examine them in greater detail.  We came upon this Parish Boundary Stone at a road junction.

Cycling
This Parish Boundary stone was laid in 1881. St John to the west and Trinity to the east. Not only have we crossed parish boundaries the design of the road names varies from each parish.

This toad made me stop and look in Waterworks Valley.  It has been developed by Michelle Caine and Alcindo Pinto, working with the National Trust for Jersey.  I had been away from the Island when the project was launched therefore it came as a complete surprise, and I thought I knew may way around the Island pretty well.

Cycling
A willow toad in Waterworks Valley. A project arranged with the National Trust for Jersey.

The final surprise was a rather old everyday object.  A Victorian Post Box!  Post Box No. 45 was made between 1861 and 1871 and still has a collection at 09.00 Monday to Friday, although I do wonder how many letters are posted here each day.

Cycling
A 19th Century Post Box set into a wall in St Mary. There are only 4 examples of this type of Post Box left in Jersey.

These are just a sample of the interesting features that can be encountered when cycling around Jersey.  We are already planning a different route for next week.

Greve de Lecq: always enjoyable

By default I found myself arranging the Jersey Canoe Club Sunday morning session. Considering tide and weather I chose Greve de Lecq, a delightful beach on the north west corner of the Island. In actual fact it would have been possible to go almost anywhere but I hadn’t been from Greve for some time, a fact which helped to influence my decision.
You are spoilt for choice at Greve de Lecq, heading east and west there are sections of cliff, interspersed with numerous caves whilst to the north are the Paternoster’s, one of the reefs which are located around Jersey.  Today there were some large clouds around with the possibility of thunderstorms so we selected the coastal option, heading east.

Greve de Lecq
On the beach at Greve de Lecq. Substantial clouds.offering the prospect of lightning are visible to the north.  We were deciding whether to head east or west.

The great thing about this section of coast is that almost immediately there are numerous caves waiting to be explored and today the lack of any significant swell meant that we could wander almost anywhere.

Greve de Lecq
This is one of the longest caves that I am aware of anywhere on the Island. At this point I was probably only a third of the way in.

Besides the caves there are numerous narrow channels waiting to be explored.  Just over a mile to the east of Greve de Lecq is Ile Agois, one of the most dramatic physical features on the Island.  Separated from the headland by a narrow channel the surrounding cliffs produce an almost totally isolated stack.  Excavations in the 1950’s and 70’s of the summit area uncovered a significant amount of iron age pottery, plus the remnants of some small huts.  It might also have provided sanctuary for a small community of monks.  It is likely at that time the stack was joined to the headland, otherwise it would have been a very challenging place to survive.

Greve de Lecq
Looking north from inside Ile Agois. The remains of the small settlement are to the right of the highest point.
Derek Hutchinson
The back cover of “The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking” by Derek Hutchinson. Published in 1994, although the photograph was taken in 1989. It shows Derek on the outside of the obvious arch, which cuts through Ile Agois.

I have fond memories of paddling in this area in the 1980’s with Derek Hutchinson, who at the time was probably the best known sea kayaker in the world with his televised expeditions as well as his crossing of the North Sea by kayak in 1976, when on a 31 hour paddle they were out of sight of land for 30 hours.
To the east of Ile Agois is another significant coastal feature, Devil’s Hole.  The scene of a shipwreck in 1851, when the French cutter, Josephine, ran aground.  One of the crew was drowned whilst the other 4 were rescued by Nicolas Arthur, the owner of The Priory Inn at the top of cliffs, plus a friend.  The figurehead from the ship was washed into the bottom of Devil’s Hole, from where it was rescued, before being carved into the shape of the Devil, before being put on display, hence its name.

Greve de Lecq
Not the view of Devil’s Hole that most visitors get.

Before returning to Greve de Lecq we explored the narrow channels towards Sorel, coming across the rather strange breathing rock.  A couple of hours on a Sunday morning is a great time to explore the Islands coastline with the Jersey Canoe Club and today didn’t disappoint.

 

West coast cycling route

It has been a couple of weeks since I had been out on the bike and I was keen to get a few miles in the legs.  A quick circuit of some of the western parishes, with lunch thrown in for good measure seemed like a good idea.  It is interesting just how many good cycling routes on Jersey, particularly if you know where to look.  We started along the Railway Walk, surprised how many people were out walking.  It appears that the Island is managing to attract a reasonable number of active visitors during the autumn months .   The Railway Walk is such a great resource for visitors and locals alike.
The cycle route turns north at Les Quennevais and skirts around the Airport, where there was still some activity after yesterday’s Battle of Britain Air Display.  From there we cycled through St Peter’s and down the narrow lanes into St Peter’s Valley so that we could ride on the recently opened cycle track.

Cycle route
Nicky on the St Peter’s Valley cycle route. A great new facility.
Cycle route
The cycle route is slighty raised in places and runs along a wooden board walk.

The track has come in for some criticism from some people in the media but it is a valuable addition to the islands network of cycle routes.  Hopefully there will be many more developments to come.
One of the great things about cycling in Jersey are the number of narrow, virtually traffic free roads, which are available to be explored including the Green Lanes.  Around the Island there are about 50 miles of roads where the maximum speed limit is 15 mph and priority is given to cyclists and walkers.  They were designated from 1994 onwards, and are perfect for cycling along.

La Dimerie
A very pleasant route along a road, La Dimerie, from St Peter’s Valley up to St Mary’s.
Cows
In a couple of places we passed small herds of Jersey cows. I might be biased but I think they are prettiest cows out there.

Once we had cycled up La Dimerie we had regained the higher land of St Mary and passed through the village with its lovely parish church.

St Mary's Church
En route we passed one of the 12 Parish churches on the island, St Mary’s.

Our destination was a little know feature alongside one of the roads in the parish of St Ouen.  There aren’t that many places on the island where it is possible to see whale bones.

Whale bone
Towards Plemont we passed this road side arch. Jutting above the right hand side of the arch can be seen the ends of a whale rib. The whale was supposedly washed ashore in 1726 at Le Pulec (Stinky Bay).
Whale ribs
Looking at the whale ribs from the side.  They are clearly starting to show their age.

After the excitement of whale ribs we were in need of some food and chose the delights of Plemont Cafe, with its extensive views of the other Channel Islands.  Features were particularly clear as we were under the influence of Polar Maritime air.
From here it was a particularly easy run along the west coast of the Island, passing the St Ouen Millenium Stone on the way.   25 miles of varied cycling, mostly on designated cycle routes or virtually traffic free lanes.

Millenium Stone
Each parish has a Millenium Stone, The one for St Ouen is at the top of L’Etacq, overlooking St Ouen’s Bay
St Ouen's
From above L’Etacq the whole of St Ouen’s Bay lay before us. The northerly wind was going to help blow us home.

Coasteering – A Practical Guide

Coasteering Book Cover

Coasteering is the perfect activity to to accompany a days sea kayaking, or as an alternative challenge if you fancy something different when visiting the coast.
Over the years coasteering has received a significant amount of bad press, largely with the “popular media” referring to it as “tombstoning”.  With the appropriate training and equipment it is actually a very safe activity and has given tens of thousands of people many hours of pleasure.
Although many people consider it a relatively recent development, in Jersey, in small groups of friends, we were exploring the coastline in the 1970’s.  My research has uncovered evidence of people exploring the coastline of Great Britain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Many of these people had backgrounds in mountaineering.
Today, the people who are coasteering are as likely to have come from surfing and kayaking as they are from rock climbing.  Wet suits and buoyancy aids are the equipment of choice as opposed to ropes and boots.
Despite the adverse publicity coasteering is becoming more popular year after year.  Certain areas of the UK, such as Pembrokeshire and Cornwall have been seen as the main centres of coasteering activity but the popularity has spread.  Now there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people enjoying the activity from the Channel Islands in the south to the Hebrides in the north, with regions such as Dorset in between.
In the past many people have relied upon commercial providers to run guided trips but more and more families and friends are discovering the pleasure of undertaking journeys along the base of cliffs, combining the skills of swimming and rock scrambling.
I have written this book in an attempt to provide people with basic information necessary to safely undertake this exciting activity.  It covers topics such as:
1. Equipment
2. Techniques
3. Leadership
4. Sea state and weather
The book is available for the Kindle from Amazon, and hopefully it will be useful resource for those people want to up coasteering.

Sea kayaking in Jersey – welcome back

For various reasons over the last few months I just haven’t had the time to update the content on the site, partly because I have been fortunate enough to be out kayaking, several times each week.  Things are changing and hopefully I will be able to add content on a more regular basis.  In addition I have moved the content from the blog into a new format, which should give more flexibility with the updates.
It has certainly been a busy few months with sea kayaking in Jersey’s waters taking place on a regular basis. I have also been fortunate enough to visit some amazing paddling destinations which I am planning to write about over the next few weeks and months.
Greenland has featured again in our paddling adventures but so have some new areas such as Spain and Mauritius, both of which offered kayaking of a surprisingly high standard, with delightfully warm weather and water.
One of the biggest changes is that retirement has arrived which allows for significantly more time to explore Jersey’s local waters.  It wasn’t until I finished work that I realized just how good the weather is during the week, enabling visits to our favourite reef, the Ecrehous to take place on the quieter days during the week.  My finishing work has coincided with a number of other people coming to the end of their careers, which has meant that there is always somebody to go paddling or coasteering with.
Over the coming months there will be updates with useful information for those who wish to kayak in the Channel Islands, with suggestions of great paddling destinations further afield.

Greenland kayaking
Kayaking in northern Disko Bay, Greenland
Mauritius
Kayaking off the north coast of Mauritius.
Jersey kayaking
La Cotte Island in St Brelades Bay, Jersey

Other photographs of our more recent kayaking trips can be seen here.

Stand up Paddleboard Coaching

Stand up Paddleboard Coaching
British Canoeing have developed a discipline support module for those coaches who want to be involved with Stand up Paddleboarding and, in my opinion, it is one of the most sensible developments of the last few years.  Allowing existing paddle sport coaches who have experience of SUP, to train so that they can deliver SUP sessions in sheltered waters to groups who are keen to receive some coaching in this rapidly expanding discipline. 
Last weekend Tower Hamlets Canoe Club paid a visit to the Island and took advantage of the opportunity to take part in course.  St Brelade’s Bay was the venue but because of the pleasant conditions we were able to include a short trip around to Beauport, taking the opportunity to swap boards and paddles, ensuring that everybody was able to try a variety of equipment.
So if you are involved in paddlesport coaching and are looking for some professional development and the opportunity to expand your coaching remit then look at getting on one of the British Canoeing SUP courses which are running over the next few months.

 Sitting in the middle of Beauport, discussing some aspect of SUP coaching.  A rather enjoyable way to spend a Saturday

Exploring the possibilities on a SUP

Heading out from St Brelade’s

It wouldn’t be a course in Jersey unless there was a bit of cliff jumping.

Towing practice.  (Thanks to Shep from THCC for the botton 3 photos)

Sunny Sunday Kayaking

Sunny Sunday Kayaking
A group of 29 sea kayakers is an impressive sight as they prepare for departure even more so when 6 of them are in the brand new orange Tiderace Vortex kayaks, which have just been unwrapped in the car park at Ouaisne.
This was the annual visit of Tower Hamlets Canoe Club to Jersey and the plan for Sunday’s kayaking was to head east from Ouaisne, have lunch on Elizabeth Castle before taking advantage of the increasing north easterly wind to aid our progress back.  As it was the wind and tide slowed us down earlier than we anticipated with the result that it was sandwiches on St Aubin’s Fort.
That really didn’t matter as we had a really entertaining paddle along a lovely section of the Jersey coastline in conditions, which were quite interesting at times.  As we paddled back into the bay you could feel the warmth of the sun on your face for the first time this year, it really did feel like spring had finally arrived. 
 Its Christmas, in March!  Unwrapping the six new kayaks ready for our friends from Tower Hamlets Canoe Club to use.
 With 29 paddlers in the group, a clear pre-trip briefing is pretty essential.
 Angus just off Noirmont
 Matt paddling in front St Aubin’s.  Less than 72 hours earlier we had gone in the opposite direction on our night paddle.
 Janet enter St Aubin’s Harbour.  This was a pretty big tide so the water level was dropping at about 90 cm every 20 minutes, so we didn’t hang around.  Within minutes it was dry.
 
 Lunch at St Aubin’s Fort.  Thanks Matt for this photo.
 Approaching Noirmont, wind and tide with us.  It was a pretty quick run back to Ouaisne, although a bit choppy off the point.
Nicky passing through one of the narrow channels off Noirmont.