Some more memories of Jersey sea kayaking

Another couple of hours scanning some old slides has revived some great memories of sea kayaking in Jersey.  It is clear that over the years the Jersey Canoe Club has been involved in a variety of entertaining events both in local waters and further afield.

Jersey Kayaking
The start of the 1979 Canoe Club Middle Distance race from Gorey to St Helier. It is clear that it was important to have an orange Nordkapp HM and wear a Ricard sun hat.
Jersey Kayaking
John Hurley at the 1982 white water championships. Close to St Helier ,the white water was revealed when the tide dropped. The water was from the power station and so it was really warm. An ideal place to paddle on a cold winters day. Sadly it has since disappeared under the reclamation site.
Jersey kayaking
In the 1980’s Jersey competed in the Home International Surfing competitions. In 1986 we entered a team in the slalom event for the first time. This was training at St Ouen’s in almost perfect conditions. Sadly the week of the event was accompanied by no surf and pretty strong easterly winds.
Jersey Kayaking
In the early 1990’s the BCU introduced the idea of a National Canoeing Day. In September 1992 we managed to get 120 people to turn up to St Catherine’s to form a raft.
Jersey Kayaking
The 1990’s also saw the development of Sea Kayak Symposiums. This is 1996 and Gordon Brown is demonstrating a number of Greenland rolls and skills. We were fortunate to have John Heath at the event who gave a running commentary to Gordon’s performance.
Jersey Kayaking
Some people expressed an interest in folding kayaks. This is a naked Feathercraft Khatsilano.
Jersey Kayaking
We also developed a tidal slalom course in front of the Club House at St Catherine’s. I think this is Scottish paddler Donald Thomson taking part in the closing event of the 1996 Symposium. All competitors had to use a VCP Skerray.
Jersey Kayaking
The 1998 Symposium. This is a bird watching paddle, I ended up paddling Bill Oddie around in double Spud whilst he pointed at feathered things of interest. There must have been at least 50 people in the group, which created quite a spectacle.
Jersey Kayaking
An innovation at the 1998 Symposium was the making of kayaks over the weeken with people able to assist. Howard Jeffs produced a fibre glass BAT and Duncan Winning built the “Jersey Junior” being paddled here by my daughter Lisa.

Grosnez Coasteering

The cliffs of Grosnez mark the north west corner of Jersey, and it is an area rarely considered as a coasteering destination. Fully exposed to the westerly swell and with virtually no escape routes, this is not an area for the inexperienced. Today’s light winds and decaying swell drew us north in search of some watery entertainment.
We decided to travel west from Plemont to Grosnez, it meant that when we climbed up the cliffs we arrived at the cars, as opposed to having a 20 minute walk along the cliff path whilst wet.
This is a great section of the Jersey coastline for sea kayaking but today our progress was much slower but probably much more intimate as we scrambled along this remote section of the Islands coast.

Grosnez
Just to the west of Plemont there is some entertaining scrambling. Coasteering is not all about big jumps and long swims.
Grosnez
There were a number of sections where scrambling along semi submerged reefs allowed us to make relatively fast progress.
Grosnez
Inside La Cotte a La Chevre, one of the the most important Neanderthal sites on the island.
Grosnez
Descending from La Cotte a la Chevre, in preparation for our next swim.
Grosnez
Scrambling along the rocks to the west of Le Vyi. We were beginning to feel the impact of the westerly swell hitting the cliffs when we were in the water.
Grosnez
The further west we moved the more the jumps appeared. This was apleasant, small jump into one of the small gullies to the easy of Grosnez.
Grosnez
Underneath Grosnez lighthouse. I would imagine that there are very few days in a year when peiople stand here. It is not an easy location to reach.
Grosnez
The exit point just to the south of Grosnez. There are some really big cliffs around here.

 

Another Wednesday on the Ecrehous

I paddled out to the Ecrehous this morning, it was my 7th visit of the year so far but interestingly the 5th time I have been on a Wednesday. I have only visited once at a weekend and that was way back in January.
It would be interesting to conduct a scientific study and hopefully come up with some fascinating conclusions which indicate a correlation between the passage of areas of high pressure over the Channel Islands shipping area on the third day of the week. In reality though I think that the reason for the popularity of the Wednesday visits is due to the fact that a number of people in the Jersey Canoe Club had retired or are working significantly reduced working weeks. We have put Wednesday aside as our day of choice for day trips, hoping to go out somewhere every week.
Looking at the weather forecasts as soon as there is an indication that the winds might be reasonably light on the Wednesday our thoughts turn to offshore paddles.  This week was no different, a quick WhatsApp on Tuesday and this morning saw 8 0f us paddling away from St Catherine’s towards the Ecrehous.
I have visited the reef numerous times over the years, the last time was just a few weeks ago but always jump at the chance to go again.  It was a relatively smooth crossing and a great lunch spot but it was the return crossing which was particularly memorable.  The encounter with the pod of bottle nosed dolphins was as good as I have ever seen, they remained with us for probably 20 minutes, at times approaching within a metre before suddenly changing course and diving.
What a great way to spend a Wednesday in November.

Ecrehous
Paddling in through the outer reef of the Ecrehous. It was a quick 5 nautical mile crossing.
Ecrehous
Arriving at the Ecrehous. There was only one other boat visiting the reef on this Wednesday in November.
Ecrehous
The classic view north from near the bench on the Ecrehous.
Ecrehous
Preparing to leave the Ecrehous for Jersey. The French coast is visible behind.
Portugese Man of War
On the return to Jersey we saw 3 Portugese Man of War. In 48 years of kayaking in the Channel Islands I had only ever seen one other.

Channel Islands Sea Kayaking

A few pictures of sea kayaking around the Channel Islands, mostly from about 30 years ago or slightly older.  The difference in shape of the images is because the earlier ones were taken with a Kodak Instamatic camera (remember those?) before I had a job which paid enough money to be able to buy a 35mm camera.
In all the time that we spent paddling around the Channel Islands in the 1970’s and 80’s I don’t think we ever bumped into any other sea kayakers, it really did feel like an era of exploration.

Channel Islands
This is returning to Jersey (visible behind the paddlers) from Sark in June 1979. Note the old style of Henderson screw hatches.
Channel Islands
Another image from the Sark paddle in 1979, in those days the only sea kayak which we considered having was a Nordkapp HM. If you could afford it you had Lendal Nordkapp paddles with wooden blades, if not you just used your standard Wild Water paddles.
Channel Islands
Heading north from Jersey, the island is Sark, which was our original destination but we changed part of the way across and decided to go to Guernsey instead. The paddler is Derek Hairon who now runs Jersey Kayak Adventures.
Channel Islands
Arrival at Bordeaux in Guernsey on our day trip from Jersey. What had planned to be a gentle paddle turned into a 40 nautical mile day trip. In the distance can be seen Herm (left), Jethou (right) and Sark just visible between the two. On the return journey we stopped off at Herm to phone through to our parents to let them know that we were going to be late home and the telephone box still had buttons A and B to press.
Channel Islands
The summer of 1982, I was getting married and so distant holidays were out of the question but we had a great two weeks paddling around the Channel Islands. This is Port au Moulin on the west coast of Sark in August 1982.
Channel Islands
Havre Gosselin, on the west coast of Sark This was on an Advanced Sea Assessment in May 1983. The Nordkapp HM still dominated the kayaks in use in the Channel Islands. This photograph was used on the front cover of Canoeist Magazine.
Channel Islands
Leaving Creux Harbour, Sark in December 1983. We left Greve de Lecq, on the north coast of Jersey, in the dark and crossed the 12 nautical miles to Sark. The idea was to purchase duty free drink for Christmas and we had a significant number of orders. Unfortunately the shops were shut so that part of the paddle failed. We did managed to find a toasted cheese sandwich before returning to Jersey and landing back at Greve in the dark.
Channel Islands
In the 1980’s I was busy running lots of training and assessment courses for the BCU Senior Instructor Award. This was December 1983 on the south coast of Guernsey. The paddler in blue is Ron Moore, a superb coach and legendary speaker who was based in Plymouth, who is sadly no longer with us.
Channel Islands
Another BCU training course in October 1984. This is at Havelet, just south of St Peter Port. Plastic kayaks had made an appearance, although Brian Aplin is still paddling what looks like a fibre glass KW7. It was Brian who I accompanied on his swim a couple of months ago, from Lihou to the Hanois.
Channel Islands
The Minquiers in September 1985. We visited this reef to the south of Jersey as a day trip whilst training for the Canoe Club paddle we were planning for the following summer when we kayaked from Tromso to Honnigsvag, around Nordkapp.
Channel Islands
In the 1980’s I ran a canoeing (kayaking) school in Jersey but we used to do lots of trips away. This is crossing from Guernsey to Herm in perfect conditions in July 1989.
Channel Islands
1989 saw the arrival of the Aleut II, designed a built by Howard Jeffs. I still have this kayak. It opened up a number of possibilities. Pete Scott and myself attempted to paddle around the Channel Islands but it also meant that some people could undertake paddles that they might not have done on their own. This is two of the younger Club members heading down the east coast of Sark in June 1990.
Channel Islands
I think this was still a Senior Instructor course, we hadn’t quite become Level 3 coaches. This is launching down the steep slipway in Saints Bay Guernsey in October 1990. I was amazed that we survived all these courses because nobody had heard of risk assessments etc. What I do remember was that there was always a huge element of fun.

Some more aerial photographs

It has been a while since I have posted some aerial photos taken from commercial flights so here are a few from the last few years. They show some potentially great kayaking destinations from above. With views like these it is hard to understand why anybody would book an aisle seat!

 Passing over Calshot when heading south towards Jersey.  The site of the BCU Sea Touring Committee Symposiums in the early 1990’s.
 Greenland West Coast.  The island on the right is Uummannaq and the larger Salliaruseq to the left.  The cliffs and the larger islands are over 1,000 metres high.  This post documents the day we paddled between the two islands.  This was taken whilst flying from Heathrow to Seattle, some years ago.
 Final approach into Stockholm.  It looked like a kayaking paradise.  Little did we realize the frustration which was to follow after we landed
 Take off from Jersey on a beautiful summers day.  The aircraft is banking north over St Ouen’s Bay.
 Sunrise over the Thames estuary.  The south coast of Essex is clearly visible, just minutes after leaving Heathrow.
 A few hours later the Essex coast had been replaced by the Turkish coast to the west of Istanbul.
Approaching Heathrow.  The rectangular shaped water directly in front of the engine is the location of Tower Hamlets Canoe Club, an area we have visited regularly over the years as members of the Jersey Canoe Club paddling with kayakers from London.

South coast kayak coaching

It was a reasonable turn out for the Jersey Canoe Club, Sunday morning session today. 17 kayakers of a variety of differing abilities gathered on the beach at St Brelade’s.  It was an early start, the changing of the clocks ensured that everybody was there promptly.  The plan was simple, head towards Corbiere and see what develops  We didn’t realize that it was going to offer an excellent opportunity for some kayak coaching.  The wind was possibly going to touch force 5 from the north west, which would blow us back, helped by the last of the flood tide.
Just before Pt La Moye the group gathered in a sheltered bay, whilst a couple of paddlers headed out to assess the conditions.  There was clearly some movement off the point, which is the most significant headland between St Brelade’s Bay and Corbiere. Normally it is a magnet for shore based fishermen but today the rocks stood empty. Perfect, we could play in the waters off the point, without fear of becoming entangled in fishing lines.
The tidal stream in shore had already turn west in close creating some entertaining wind against tide conditions. One of the pleasures of paddling with a group from the Jersey Canoe Club is the cross section of paddlers, today four of the group were Advanced Sea Kayak Leaders (5 Star in old money), whilst for 3 of the group it was possibly their first time on the sea in a closed cockpit kayak. The other 10 paddlers were mainly 3 to 4 Star level.
Leading such a diverse group of paddlers can present its own challenges but Alex and Rachel, the designated leaders for the day engaged the whole group in a constructive and educational manner.  Initially the group were taken into run off the point to practice turning and running with winds and waves.  Then followed a couple of exercises around a rock with a few small breaking waves to introduce an element of spice.  First of all simply paddling around the rock in reverse, how often do we practice reverse paddling in anything other than flat calm?
The second exercise involved working in pairs.  It involved paddling around the rock again but one of the paddlers had their eyes shut whilst the other had to offer clear guidance on which paddle strokes to use and on which side of the kayak.  Simple but effective one to one kayak coaching.  It really made the people with their eyes open focus on future water, not just theirs but also that of their partner.

Pt La Moye
Corbiere is just visible in the distance but that was for another day. Just experiencing turning in the swells was satisfying enough for most of the group.
Alex positioned off Pt La Moye as other paddlers turn to run with the swell.
Kayak coaching
Reverse paddling through a gap in the rocks with some slight movement due to the waves creating some entertaining conditions.
Coaching
Angus trying out my Nordkapp HM, possibly the classic sea kayak.

All to soon it was time to head back towards St Brelade’s, after all we had the Canoe Club Sunday lunch to attend.  As the wind pushed us to the east we came across a group out coasteering from our friends at Absolute Adventures.  The south west corner of Jersey is a real playground for anybody with an interest in water sports.

Coasteering
On the return to St Brelade’s we passed this coasteering group at Beauport.

Friday morning coasteering in Jersey

Friday mornings have generally been reserved for coasteering sessions for the Jersey Canoe Club and today was no exception.  Today was the local schools half term so when we gathered in the car park above Portelet there were 17 of us, ranging in age from 6 to 61.

Coasteering
The first jump of the day. Always a good one to start with.
Coasteering
It is always good to practice get out of the water in calm conditions before become more challenging.

As we moved along the coast there were a number of other jumps plus the opportunity to explore a cave and an offshore reef.  One of the most common misconceptions about coasteering is that it is all about jumping into the sea from great heights but nothing could be further from the truth.  Coasteering is about a journey along the coast as opposed to just jumping from the highest cliff possible.

Coasteering
Swimming into the cave between Portelet and Pt Le Fret.  The arrival of the swell created a variety water conditions within the confines of the cave.
Coasteering
The tide had just started to flow west so it was an entertaining swim across the channel to the reef off Pt Le Fret.
Coasteering
The final jump of the day. Another great session approaches its end, all that is left is the swim ashore and the scrambling up the cliffs.

Portelet either side of high tide is a great location for coasteering, so many locations are turning into locations where there are just too many people, lines of people develop at the most popular jumping locations etc.  Portelet though has always retain its uniqueness.  I have never seen anybody else there whenever I have been coasteering in the area.
Coasteering is an activity, which receives negative press at times but in reality it is one of the most exciting ways to explore the coastal environment.
For those who are interested my book on Coasteering is still available from Amazon.

Ecrehous – a reef north east of Jersey

Located nearly 6 nautical miles north east of Jersey are Les Ecrehous.  Now I might be biased but I consider a visit to this reef one of the finest one day sea kayaking trips possible anywhere.  Last Saturday and Sunday as Storm Brian lashed the Channel Islands it seemed inconceivable that by Wednesday we would be heading out from St Catherine’s for a late October visit.
That’s is just what we were able to do yesterday.  A reasonably early departure from St Catherine’s Breakwater, so us taking advantage of the high water slack to cross the current, which in a couple of hours time would be endeavouring to sweep us sideways.  The tidal flow rates, weren’t going to reach the 5+ knots, that they can do on Springs, but they were still going to have an impact.
In the days of GPS and electronic plotters I am not sure how many people are still going through the process of laying off a course, producing vectors, using Portland Protractors and dividers etc every time they head out.  Certainly as kayakers operating in Channel Island waters it is a process that we have to go through every time we embark on an open crossing.  The chart work had produced a course of 25 degrees and the GPS was just used to monitor our possible drift.
The tide was running swiftly as we paddled around the end of St Catherine’s but the crossing to the Ecrehous reef seemed remarkably straightforward.  The 6 mile crossing taking 1 hour 20 minutes.  We had been hoping for some autumn sunshine, unfortunately it was a rather grey day.  The real bonus of the of the visit was that we had the area to ourselves for most of the time that we were there, in complete contrast to a visit on a summer weekend when the reef can feel really crowded.
Heading back to Jersey the tide had a bit more impact on our progress but we still made it back, in plenty of time, for the inevitable coffee at St Catherine’s.

Ecrehous
Playing in the tidal race formed as the water runs over the shingle bank.
Ecrehous
Sheltering from the wind whilst having lunch.
Ecrehous
Looking north across the reef from near the bench.
Ecrehous
Waiting for the tide to drop so that we could walk to the north of the reef.
Ecrehous
Looking back towards Marmotier

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.