As many of you aware any visit to the Ecrehous is special and even more so if you manage to squeeze a visit in during January. At this time of the year you are virtually guaranteed to have the reef to yourself, in complete contrast to weekends in the summer, when there is virtual stream of boats heading to the Ecrehous from both Jersey and France.
Late on Thursday the forecast showed virtually no wind on the Friday morning before it started to pick up around midday from the south. In addition it was a neap tide, with low water at 09.15, perfect for a quick crossing from St Catherine’s.
An early morning start saw us heading towards Les Ecrehous , in flat calm, with the promise of some sunshine. The sun still hadn’t risen, when we left. The journey out was pretty simple, our crossing coincided with the low water slack. The other advantage of crossing at low water is that the rocks stretch out towards Jersey so you actually feel that you have finished the crossing sooner.
As we expected we were the only people on the reef, we landed on the French side of the reef, the shingle bank is steeper on the eastern side and so it is a easier carry, today though we hardly had to move the kayaks as we weren’t planning to stay that long. We had a bite to eat on what is probably the finest bench to be found almost anywhere, with superb views in every direction.
Within 30 minutes of landing we were preparing to launch. The tide had already turned and the forecast from Jersey Met was for a southerly force 3-4 by midday. We paddled up the eastern side of the reef as we want to pass to the north before catching some of the southerly tide back towards Jersey.
What was amazing was the complete change in the weather, we had been comfortable sitting on the bench admiring the distant views but within 30 minutes the sky had turned dark, Jersey’s coast was becoming less discernible and the wind was starting to freshen. We weren’t surprised though as this was exactly what the Met Office in Jersey had forecast.
It was a fairly straightforward paddle back to St Catherine’s but as we landed the calm and blue skies of our departure were a distant memory.
It was a quick change and a retreat to the warmth of the cafe in order to savour the events of the morning. A January visit to the Ecrehous always feels a privilege.
After a brief respite from the gales yesterday, it was business as usual this morning at Ouaisne. The only difference to pretty much every other day of the year so far was that the gale was out of the east as opposed to the west. As we left the beach little did we realize what adventures were about to unfold with a couple of sit on tops.
Linked to the wind going easterly was the related drop in temperature, both real and wind chill. The apparent air temperature was probably close to zero, pretty rare for Jersey, so dry suits were the order of the day.
The large, powerful swell which had been running the day before had raised a few doubts in my mind about the sea state so I spent some time walking over Pt Le Fret, before heading to Ouaisne, so that I could scout the proposed route. It was clear that there was plenty of wind about but under the cliffs we would be reasonably sheltered.
So it was a hardy group of 12 paddlers from the Jersey Canoe Club, who left the beach, at Ouaisne, keeping close to the shore before reaching La Cotte de St Brelade. An important archaeological site, but today our focus was more on maintaining direction in the wind, as opposed to contemplating the activities of the mammoth hunters who used to live in this area.
Pt Le Fret was much calmer than we anticipated although there was some headwind as we turned into Portelet, one of the least visited bays on the south coast, although visitor numbers have probably increased in the last few years with the opening of the Pizza Restaurant.
Our turning point for the day was in the small bay just to the west of Noirmont but as we entered the bay there appeared to be a splash of colour on the rocks, which isn’t normally there. As we approached it was clear that there were two sit on tops on the rocks, it actually turned out to be parts of three different craft. We decided that it would be best to tow them back to Portelet, so Jim and myself landed and got them down to the waters edge, but it was clear that they had suffered a real battering in the recent storms.
John managed to tow one around to Portelet but as soon as I put the tow on the second one it started to sink, it became obvious why a quick release tow line is important. There was no way that we could get it around to Portelet. The one thing that we took away from today is that sit on tops probably need some form of internal buoyancy. If they develop a large hole they will float semi submerged, at best. Perhaps not quite as safe as many people consider.
The return to Ouaisne was somewhat exciting as the wind appeared to be a bit more easterly that north easterly, resulting in the loss of some shelter but what was clear was that it had increased in strength. Looking at the statistics on Jersey Met, when we were relaxing over a pint once back at the beach, the wind had been touching 40 knots.
All in all a rather entertaining Sunday morning paddle and all that remained to do was to contact the Coastguard to inform them of the whereabouts of the sit on tops.
As virtually everybody who is reading this post is aware, the Nordkapp, is recognised as one of the finest sea kayaks ever designed. Originally it was designed, by Frank Goodman, for the 1975 expedition to the most northerly point in Norway. This was a real watershed in sea kayak expeditions, if my memory serves me correctly the expedition was serialised in the Sunday Telegraph magazine.
The Nordkapp was used on other significant kayaking trips, such as the 1977 Cape Horn expedition and Paul Caffyn’s circumnavigation of the islands of New Zealand. It wasn’t just used on trips to distant shores, in 1978 they were used by 3 members of the Jersey Canoe Club on the first circumnavigation of Ireland.
I first paddled a Nordkapp in 1977, only briefly, returning to paddle one on a far more regular basis in 1979 before finally taking the plunge and buying my own kayak in 1980, once I had a “proper job” with a regular income. I bought my second Nordkapp HM in 1985, and it is still the kayak, which I paddle on a regular basis.
Over the last few years a few people in Jersey have to appreciate the finer points of he Nordkapp and have spent time and money lovingly restoring them. Looking at the care which had gone into restoring these fine kayaks it was thought to be a pity that was an opportunity to see them on the water together. Hence the idea of a Nordkapp meet, here in Jersey, was born.
Many of you might remember the Nordkapp owners meets of the early 1980’s, arranged by Frank Goodman, and run from Nigel Dennis’s centre of Anglesey. These were to evolve into the well known Anglesey Sea Kayak Symposium.
The Jersey Canoe Club has decided, therefore, to run a Nordkapp paddling weekend at the end of August this year, to encourage paddlers to bring out their much prized kayaks. We will welcome all variations of the classic kayak, the HM, Jubilee, LV, plastic or Forti to the Island and are hoping to encourage visitors to the island as well as local paddlers to get out on the water.
It is a very simple concept, a few paddles at a variety of levels each day and some evening entertainment, including a talk from some of the most experienced Nordkapp paddlers from over the years. This is not a commercial event, but it has received very generous funding from the Jersey Canoe Club, so the cost is very simple. Free to all JCC members and a cost of £25 to non members. This covers 12 months as an overseas member of the Canoe Club and ensures that every participant is covered by the Clubs insurance. The £25 would also allow you to return to Jersey and participate in Club sessions in the following year as well as having access to Club equipment.
If you are are interested in attending the event please send me an e mail, so that I can contact you over the coming weeks with more information. It would be really helpful to know what type of Nordkapp you have, or whether you are hoping to rent or borrow one, if we manage to get hold of some spare kayaks.
The final paddle of 2017, for the Jersey Canoe Club, was from Bouley Bay. Once again the possible venues had been severely restricted due to the very unsettled weather. As it happened our time on the water coincided with a slight reduction in the wind speed, but this was due to luck rather than judgement.
In contrast to most Club paddles we decided to paddle in the small kayaks, as opposed to the normal sea kayaks. Heading west, initially, we reached the small Canoe Club cottage at Egypt and the headland at Belle Hougue. As soon as we arrived at the headland we started to feel the impact of the rather large swell, which was arriving from the west.
Returning back to Bouley Bay, we made a slight detour to try and see the remains of the ship, Ribbledale, which was wrecked on the rocks, just after Christmas 1926. Due to the swell it wasn’t possible to approach that close to the remains.
It was another grey day, the 12th in a row, if my memory serves me correctly. Although it was a very entertaining final paddle for 2017 lets hope that 2018 brings an improvement in the weather.
The forecast for the next few days is anything but favourable so we took advantage of today’s brief respite from the storms to get a paddle in, from Bouley Bay. Towards the north east of the island it is relatively sheltered from the strongest of the wind.
The most positive aspect of paddling at Bouley Bay, though is the gradient of the beach. Being relatively steep it means that the carry to the waters edge is always pretty short, this was certainly the case today as we only had a 4.7 metre tidal range. Although large compared to most places, for Jersey it was a small neap tide.
The plan was to head east towards Rozel, hopefully for coffee and cake at The Hungry Man before returning along the coast. A fairly easy 6 mile round trip, particularly when we added a slight detour towards Belle Hougue.
As with so many places, kayaking in Jersey is set against a backdrop of historical and geographical features. The small pier, at Bouley Bay, was built by the States of Jersey in 1829, as a small harbour for the oyster fishermen, who mainly worked off the east coast of the Island. The lack of flat land nearby prevented the development of a significant harbour in the area, although it was considered at times.
Heading east, if the tide was lower we would be able to see the remains of the Ribbledale, a cargo ship, which ran aground on the 27th December 1926, whilst en route to Jersey from London. Today we just paddled over her remains whilst heading towards L’Etacquerel Fort. Constructed in the 19th century to help defend the bay, it is now available for hire from Jersey Heritage, it is ideal for visiting groups.
From here we were carried on the tide towards Tour de Rozel, or White Rock. The location of many happy hours paddling by members of the Jersey Canoe Club, but today we didn’t hang around, we had more important things on our mind, coffee and cake at The Hungry Man, in Rozel. Fortunately for us it was open.
The return journey was slightly longer as we wanted to get an extra couple of miles towards the British Canoeing Winter Challenge. A very plasant 3 hours out from Bouley Bay, made all the more worthwhile when the weather forecast was updated this evening and is now showing winds stronger than shown on the forecast above. certainly a case of “seizing the day”.
Since the early 1980’s the Jersey Canoe Club Boxing Day paddle has always been arranged for Ouaisne. This is because we always used to announce the venue for the weekly Canoe Club sessions on BBC Local Radio, but on Boxing Day there was no appropriate programme, so the venue had to be decided well in advance. After some deliberation it was decided that Ouaisne was probably the best location on the Island, where it was to possible in virtually every wind direction.
Despite technical advances, initially a telephone messaging service before moving on to WhatsApp, we have have remained loyal to Ouaisne and the Smugglers Pub over the years.
Unfortunately this year the wind was particularly strong form the south west but we had the option, thanks to WhatsApp, of moving a few hundred metres to the east and benefiting from the shelter to be found in Belcroute.
A couple of years ago I wrote a more comprehensive post about the history of the coast in this area. It is stretch of coast,which isn’t the most dramatic to be found around Jersey but it is one which never fails to impress. I particularly like the stretches of wooded coast, something which isn’t that common in Jersey.
Despite the poor weather and a venue we had used quite a bit recently, 14 members of the Jersey Canoe Club still turned out relatively early on Boxing Day morning for a couple of hours on the water, a perfect way to burn off some of the Christmas excess.
The low cloud, mist and drizzle, which has been a constant since Wednesday morning continued over the weekend. Despite the gloom we did manage 2 north coast paddles.
On Saturday we headed west from Bonne Nuit along to Sorel and on the Sunday we headed east from Greve de Lecq towards Sorel. We are hoping for a bit of sunshine over the next week or so (although its not looking that likely) but in spite of the weather we had a couple of good sea kayaking trips on the two days before Christmas.
Friday morning coasteering has become a regular event for those members of the Jersey Canoe Club, who are free. Today it would have been so easy to stay at home, drink coffee and eat cake, with the mist and fog coming and going, interspersed with some heavy rain.
By 9.30 I had run out of excuses so it was time to head to Beauport, one Jersey’s prettiest bays. It was interesting to see how high the sand was, a reflection of the calmer seas of the last week or so. The most obvious item in the bay though was part of a large private boat, which was washed up on the pebbles. There had been a failed salvage operation this week as the authorities attempted to raise the wreck of a 62 foot private boat, that sank last month after hitting a navigational mark.
On what was a day largely without colour we headed along the west side of Beauport, a mixture of swimming and scrambling along the rocks. We passed underneath the cliffs, which mark some of the highest jumps on the Island before reaching a section of narrow gullies. The westerly swell was channeled through the narrow sections creating some entertaining conditions, requiring timing when entering and exiting the water.
The sea temperature was slightly below 10 degrees, and with the rather inclement weather, we limited the coasteering session to 90 minutes. Climbing up the cliffs and heading off to find a local hostelry with a warm fire.
A pleasant way to spend the last Friday morning before Christmas.
My book “Coasteering: A Practical Guide” is still available from Amazon, for Kindle.
Over the years I have come in for some ridicule as I have kept a kayaking log book. My first entry was in January 1979 and since that date I have made a record of every time that I have been in a canoe or a kayak. Sometimes it might just be a brief note whilst at other times it might be a comprehensive record of where we parked the car, what the launch was like, any wildlife seen etc. Due to the fact that I have kept the log book going for so long it has now become almost impossible to stop The great thing is it is a record of how far I have paddled.
Early in 2012 I was wondering to myself as to whether I paddled the equivalent of the circumference of the earth at the equator? First of all how far is it around the equator. Plenty of places will give you the distance in kilometres and statute miles, it was only after a bit of searching that I found the answer in nautical miles, it is 21639nm. My log book records have always been in nautical miles so this was an important figure to find.
I then sat down with the log books and over a couple of hours completed a table. There were 5 columns, standing for year, sea kayak, sit on top, canoe/general purpose and total. I passed the magical distance on the 19th May 2012 whilst on a trip out to the Paternosters.
So if you don’t already keep a log book think about starting keeping a record of your paddling experiences, in a few years time it will make interesting reading. I don’t have a log book from 1969 to 1979 sadly, as there could be some interesting reading about a number of sea kayaking adventures, including being pulled of the water by Tito’s police in the former Yugoslavia, as we naively thought it was alright to paddle on the sea in communist countries.
I wrote this article a couple of years ago and since then my mileage has continued to increase and in the last 12 months, at an even faster pace. In October I passed the 26,000 nautical mile mark recorded in my log book.
A couple of weeks off the water with a rather persistent cough and cold had been somewhat frustrating. I had missed the kayaking opportunities and the possibility of contributing to the Jersey Canoe Club’s total towards the British Canoeing Winter Challenge. All that came to an end today as we managed to visit Les Dirouilles. Possibly the least visited of all the reefs, which are located in Jersey waters.
It was a reasonably late start for a winter paddle but at 11.30, we paddled around the end of St Catherine’s Breakwater and into the tidal stream, which was going to significantly assist our journey north. Most of the time our speed over the ground was just over 5 knots. Our destination kept disappearing from sight as the forecast fog drifted in from the west. This was a day of limited colours, the sea and sky changing between silver and grey. The only splashes of colour, in an otherwise muted landscape were the kayaks.
Even the birds appeared to be avoiding display of colour, there were a few Herring Gulls and Shags sitting on the rocks. The real pleasure was to see 7, very trusting, Purple Sandpipers as we had our lunch. No real surprise here as the swell washed reef appears to be a perfect habitat for such species. This is partly why the area has been designated a Ramsar area.
A great paddle to Les Dirouilles, which we managed to squeeze in just before Christmas, especially after the storms of the last few weeks.