Ecrehous – First of the year

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.

Ecrehous
The kayak is packed and ready for the crossing to the Ecrehous. There was clearly the possibility of some sunshine.
Ecrehous
Perfect conditions for the crossing, there was almost no tidal movement.
Ecrehous
We landed on the French side but we had to hardly move the kayaks because we were only having a short stay.
Ecrehous
Looking across the reef back towards Jersey. In the summer, there would be numerous yachts and other boats at anchor in this area.
Ecrehous
I am never bored by this view, looking north west, on low water neaps.
Ecrehous
We return to Jersey via the north of the reef, as the tidal streams had started to flow we wanted to hitch a bit of a free ride.
Paddling around the Petit Rousse. As we turned to the left (or south) our speed over the ground increased to 6 knots.
Ecrehous
As we headed the south the cloud cover increased and there were some mist and fog patches hanging around the Jersey coast. Just as Jersey Met forecast, the wind started to increase from the south.

 

Sunday Morning Kayaking-Ouaisne

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.

Ouaisne
Looking back towards La Cotte.  Ouasine is just around the obvious headland. It was clear that paddling along this section of coast we would be protected from the gale force north easterly winds.
Pt Le Fret
This channel off Pt Le Fret can be a real challenge when there is a swell running. Today the entrance looked a bit choppy but it was clear that the exit would be into relatively sheltered water.
Portelet
Sheltering from the wind just to the east of Pt Le Fret, we were about to battle the strong headwinds into Portelet.
Noirmont
The rest of the group waiting whilst we attempted to sort out the remains of the Sit on Tops.
Ouaisne
One of the wrecked sit on top on the rocks close to Noirmont. This was the one I tried to tow but it sank. I was relieved that I had a quick release tow line.
Sit on top
Jim stuffing the second sit on top with foam that we discovered on the beach. Possible from a boat that sank in the area in November. This was the one, which was successfully towed back to Portelet

Nordkapp Kayaking Meet

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.

Plastic Nordkapp
John Crosby playing in his plastic Nordkapp, in the rocks just to the west of Bonne Nuit
Nordkapp
Alan in his Nordkapp Jubillee and Chris in his Nordkapp HS, in the run at Tour de Rozel.
Nordkapp
Paddling from St Brelade on the day that I received my new Nordkapp LV.
Nordkapp
Two classic Nordkapp HM’s on the beach at St Brelade. This will likely be one of the beaches we will leave from in August on the Nordkapp paddling weekend.

2017 – A final paddle

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.

Final paddle
Rachel paddling along the outside of Bouley Bay pier with Fort Leicester behind.  Fort Leicester is available for hire as a residential property from Jersey Heritage.
Close to Egypt. The small cottage, Wolf’s Lair, is just visible above. A popular venue for members of the Jersey Canoe Club.
Final paddle
There was some rather choppy water in close to the rocks near to Belle Hougue.
Final Paddle
Angus caught just inside the break. Timing was crucial when passing through some of the gaps.
Final Paddle
Dave surfing one of the waves as it wraps around Les Sambues rock. On other days a great tide race develops over this reef.
Final Paddle
Angus appearing to paddle uphill as the swell sucked back.
Final Paddle
Part of the remains of SS Ribbledale, a ship which was wrecked in the bay on the 27th December 1926. The spray shooting out of the top of the boiler was spectacular at times.

Bouley Bay

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.

Bouley Bay
With a weather forecast like this it was obvious that today was the day to get on the water, if we wanted a reasonable paddle.

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”.

Bouley Bay
Just to the east of Bouley Bay is L’Etacquerel Fort. Built in 1836 to help protect the bay it is now available for rent as basic residential accommodation from Jersey Heritage. Not easy to access by kayak, it is still a great place to stay.
Bouley Bay
It is always worth looking backwards, occasionally. This was the view as we left Bouley Bay this morning.
Rozel
The Hungry Man at Rozel is a Jersey institution. Hot Chocolate and fruit cake were the order of the day.
Bouley BAy
One of the most significant tidal races in Jersey develops off this headland at the start of the flood tide. We had missed the fastest moving water and so were able to work away around the headland back into Bouley Bay.
Bouley Bay
Paddling around White Rock against the last of the main flood tide. In the distance can be seen Belle Hougue, which was the furthest point we reached today, before heading back to Bouley Bay.

Boxing Day Paddle

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.

Boxing Day
Heading south from Belcroute, before heading offshore to pick up the southerly wind to surf towards St Aubin’s Fort.
Boxing Day
The hardy members of the Jersey Canoe Club who paddled on Boxing Day. The Fort is used as an outdoor centre by Jersey Youth Service. There have been additions to the Fort for nearly 500 years, the most recent by the German’s during the Second World War. Thanks to Kate Amy for this picture.
Boxing Day
Paddling around St Aubin’s Harbour is always a pleasure. Work on the South Pier began in 1754 and the North Pier was added in 1816. Initially it was a really busy harbour but when St Helier Harbour was built the shipping traffic drifted away. Today it is the preserve of leisure craft and at high water a beautiful location.
Boxing Day
Paddling along the shore south of the harbour gives you an idea of how impressive many of the buildings are.

Grey North Coast Days

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.

North Coast
One of the largest industrial sites on the Island, the true scale can only really be appreciated from the sea.
North Coast
The old jetty for loading the rock onto ships, which no longer visit. The fascinating thing in this area is that Choughs have started to breed in this area in the last couple of years. The successful culmination of captive breeding programme co-ordinated by Jersey Zoo.
North Coast
The top of the television transmitter was drifting in and out the cloud. At the base of the cliffs near the transmitter are Wolf’s Caves which are always worth exploring.
North Coast
Circumnavigating Le Cheval Guillaume in the middle of Bonne Nuit Bay. Tradition states that people used to row around this rock in the hope of having some good fortune in the coming year.  Time will tell whether our circumnavigation will bring us good fortune in 2018, I would like to think that it will.
North Coast
The restorative work that has been carried out on the cliff face over the last year is clearly seen here. The cliff has crumbled during a storm on March 2016, placing some of the buildings above at risk of ending up on the rocks below
North Coast
The following day dawned just as grey but this morning we were heading out from Greve de Lecq. These channels between the reefs lead to a rather isolated beach, a great location for a summer picnic.
North Coast
Looking into Devil’s Hole, one of the most significant physical features along this section of coast. The low swell entering the cave created some interesting conditions for those paddlers who ventured furthest in.
North Coast
The swell was focusing on the headlands, some of which required a bit of extra care, when paddling around.
North Coast
Heading back along the north coast to Greve de Lecq and welcome Christmas Eve pint at the Moulin de Lecq. Janet and Jim were experiencing the waves in the Club double.

 

Friday Coasteering

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.

Beauport
The first thing that we saw on the beach at Beauport was some debris from a 62 foot private boat which struck a navigation buoy in St Aubin’s Bay in November.
Beauport
The large cliff along the west coast of Beauport. There are a couple of very large jumps off this cliff but they were for another day.
Beauport
This photograph was taken a few years ago. It shows Chris jumping off the small nose of rock protruding from the middle of the cliff in the photograph above. The jump was about 25 metres high that particular day, which is why people don’t jump it that frequently.
Coasteering
What is great about this section of coast is that there is plenty of rock scrambling followed by some limited distance swims. A great combination for a Friday in December when the sea temperature is just below 10 degrees.
Coasteering
Jim crossing one of the gully’s to the west of Beauport. There was some movement because of the swell. Timing was pretty important.

How far have I paddled?

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.

The oldest picture I have scanned in. The first trip to the Ecrehous, August Bank Holiday Sunday 1974. Is it really 40 years since I first paddled out to the Ecrehous. Possibly the best one day paddle anywhere. This was probably the first ever organized paddle by the Jersey Canoe Club, which we had just formed. This was 5 years before I started keeping a log book but it was a pretty memorable day.
How far
A few months after I started keeping a log book. An evening surf session in May 1979 at St Brelade’s. We were so proud of our KW7’s. So versatile, one day we would be rock hopping the next heading out to an offshore reef.
How far
One advantage of keeping a log book is that you are able to track your memorable paddles. This is dawn on the morning of my 150th paddle to the Ecrehous, we are packing away before returning to Jersey.
How far
The day that I passed the equivalent of the circumnavigation of the earth. Getting ready to leave the Paternosters.

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.

How far
Passing the 26,000 nautical mile mark, whilst kayaking around Stomboli, Italy. A truly memorable day on the water.

Les Dirouilles

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.

Les Dirouilles
Approaching the reef from the south. It wasn’t obvious at first where we were going to land.
Les Dirouilles
Looking towards Les Ecrehous. I have looked the opposite way nearly 200 times but this is only the second time I have landed here and looked east.
Les Dirouilles
The north coast of Jersey was shrouded in cloud for most of the day and at times disappeared almost completely.
Dirouilles
There were 9 of us from the Jersey Canoe Club who visited the reef today. A pretty good turnout for a Wednesday 5 days before Christmas.
Dirouilles
A rather unusual cloud formation over the north coast of Jersey. A quick glance would suggest cumulo-nimbus but we thought not.
Dirouilles
The six miles back to Jersey passed in just less than an hour as the flooding tide carried us towards St Catherine’s. At times it was almost like paddling on mercury.