Staff Development

Sometimes days are just so enjoyable and this was the case the other day with Absolute Adventures staff development.  We left from St Catherine’s heading west on the ebbing tide.  In virtually flat calm conditions we headed past La Coupe and Tour de Rozel.
Lunch was on a small sandy beach to the east of Bouley Bay, which is only exposed on low water spring tides.  To the west we could see the remains of the SS Ribbledale. It was wrecked on the 27th December 1926, whilst en route from London to Jersey. Parts of the boilers were clearly visible just to the west.  Further information is available here.
The plan was to return via Tour de Rozel, where we planned to play in the flood tide, as it accelerated around the headland.  We weren’t disappointed, the water was starting to move to the east and accelerating quickly as the flood tide developed.
It was just the perfect place to look at skills and to work on strokes.  I always find it such an enjoyable place to play and somewhere to practice those techniques, which are crucial  to competent kayak handling.  In terms of staff development it was perfect, challenging conditions in a safe environment, helping to ensure that those paddlers who are leading groups during the summer months have the appropriate skill level.  Combined with the superb weather it was just a perfect way to spend a day.

Staff development
Paddling west past Tour de Rozel. The race doesn’t work on the falling tide but the tidal streams increase quickly once the flood tide starts. Conditions were somewhat different when we headed east later in the day.
Staff development
It was a day of one dominant colour, blue. Conditions like this are rare.
Staff development
Heading into Bouley Bay, in search of the small sandy beach, which is exposed on low water springs. Its not always an easy beach to find.
Staff development
A beach which I have rarely stopped on for lunch. Conditions were perfect and the situation ideal for a picnic.

Jersey Kayak Guide

The updated version of my Jersey Kayak Guide is now available on the site.  Hopefully  both visiting and local kayakers will find some of the information useful.  Starting at Corbiere, the guide takes you around the island in anti clockwise direction, which just happens to be the best place to start and the preferred direction of travel if you are hoping to paddle around Jersey.
As well as information about key places to visit there is guidance on tides and areas where challenging tidal races can develop at certain stages in the tidal sequence.

Jersey Kayak Guide
At certain stages of the tide quite challenging conditions can develop off Noirmont so always plan accordingly.

Over the coming months the aim is to add further paddling guides to certain areas, which will hopefully contain useful information for people visiting areas for the first.  A guide to Belize has already been produced, and others are in the pipeline.
If they are useful please let me know.

Atlantic Coastal Kayaker

The June 2018 issue of Atlantic Coastal Kayaker, a magazine published 8 times a year in Massachusetts, contains an article written by yours truly on sea kayaking in the waters around Jersey.
Each issue contains a range of articles, many not surprisingly with a focus on the sea kayaking opportunities of the north east United States but with others, which will clearly appeal to a wider audience.  This issue contains a report on an event arranged by the Chesapeake Paddlers Association, the hazards of cold water, places to launch in Massachusetts and an article on fishing, amongst others.
Subscriptions cost $24 for a year in the US or $44, for international subscriptions.  The online version is $15 a year and, in my opinion, well worth subscribing too.

Atlantic Coastal Kayaker
Front cover of the issue which contains the article on kayaking in Jersey.

Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium

Over 6 weeks has passed since my incident in Gozo, which resulted in a ruptured achilles, I still have my leg in plaster and at times feel frustrated by my inability to get out on the water.
This weekend I had arranged an Advanced Sea Kayak Leader training course with paddlers visiting the Island from both the UK and France to take part.  I was really looking forward to working with Olly Sanders, but it was not to be last weekend.  I was fortunate enough to be able to arrange for Calum McKerral to fly down from Scotland and cover me at the last minute.
I was able to spend some of the evening preparing for the Scottish Se Kayak Symposium, which starts this Friday evening on the Isle of Skye.  Having attended them all since 1995 it is an event, which holds great memories for me.  Some fantastic paddles, inspirational talks and great social evenings over the last 20 plus years.
As this is due to be the last one it was an event I was particularly looking forward to attending and to do some more paddling in Scottish waters.  In fact the plan was to remain in Scotland for a further week and to paddle around the Small Isles, with some of the other members of the Jersey Canoe Club.
With my leg still in plaster flying isn’t an option so Nicky and myself leave this evening on the ferry, to start the long journey north, taking slightly longer than normal as we are stopping off in Bristol to see Joan Baez in concert, on her farewell tour.
Instead of being out on the water this weekend with the Advanced Sea Kayak Leader Training, it has largely been spent inside the house preparing my talks for next weekend.  I might not be able to paddle but at least I will be able to contribute to the lecture programme.
So it has been time spent re-acquainting myself with PowerPoint and searching through external hard drives for that one photo, which I feel might make all the difference but in reality won’t have an impact at all.
So talks on Expedition Planning, the weather, tidal planning, 12ths,3rds and 50/90, Baja and sea kayaking in the Mediterranean have gradually taken shape.  Although there is still plenty of work to do before I am satisfied with the finished product.
Fingers crossed that I don’t have to deliver all of the talks.  If there is good weather on Skye next weekend people attending the Symposium should be out on the water, experiencing all that the island has to offer.  Far more enjoyable than hearing me ramble on about Proxigean Tides or the Coriolis Force, with the occasional pretty picture of kayaking thrown in for good measure.  That said if the wind blows, the rain falls and people feel the need to shelter from the worst of the Scottish weather I will be ready to go.
Whatever happens next I know that next weekend on Skye there is going to be a great sea kayaking event with plenty of paddlers having a great time.  I hope to see some of you there.

Symposium
Taken in the 1990’s these are just a selection of the kayaks lined up on the beach on Cumbrae.
Symposium
A helicopter demonstration in 2005. It was great fun being blown around by the down draught from the rotor blades.
Symposium
The extended programme in the week after the Symposium has always been enjoyable and at times experienced some great weather. Looking towards the Cuillins, on a day trip from Elgol. Always a favourite.
Symposium
Another day trip from Elgol, when the weather wasn’t so kind. Howard Jeffs on Soay, close to the basking shark factory.

Kayaking Magazines

Although out of action for several months with a ruptured achilles, it does allow me time to do some of those admin type tasks, which have been put on hold for several years as I have been to busy enjoying myself.  One simple task is to sort out my collection of kayaking magazines.
Most people at this point will switch off and think what is he talking about.  Over the years though I have built up a collection of canoeing and kayaking magazines, dating back to the 1930’s, which actually represent a significant body of knowledge about this sport we all love so much.
Even looking at the adverts gives you an insight into how the sport has evolved over the years.

Kayaking magazines
The quarterly magazine of the Canoe-Camping Club, this issue is from the spring of 1960. My understanding is that the magazine is still printed.

The Canoe-Camping Club still publishes its magazine but this one dates from the spring of 1960.  This issue contains some relevant advice on safety, a review of a 1957 Club trip to Sweden.  Noel McNaught, who wrote a couple of popular paddling books of the era, has an article on the River Blackwater in Ireland.  Again numerous short snippets illustrate what a well traveled and adventurous group members were in the Canoe Camping Club, 60 years ago.

Kayaking Magazine
The in house magazine of the British Canoe Union, this issue dates from July 1961.

The cover photograph of this issue of the BCU’s magazine is of trophy to commemorate Paul Farrant, the winner of the F1 class in the 1959 Canoe Slalom Championships.  Sadly he was killed in a motor cycle accident in 1960, when returning back to London after retiring from the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race.  The first page announces the appointment of Oliver Cock as the National Coach from the 1st January 1962.  The fee for the services of the National Coach for the weekend was 12 guineas. £12.60 in todays money.  Another announcement was the introduction of Third Party Insurance liabilities up to £1000.  I think the current liability cover is £10 million.  How times have changed.  Most of the rest of the magazine was taken up with competition results, not the most fascinating reading.

Kayaking magazines
First published at the end of 1960 this was one of the first magazines devoted solely to canoeing.

I haven’t got the first issue of this magazine but managed to find the second one. John Disley was the Advertisement Manager and had an article on strength training.  He won the Bronze Medal in the 3000 metres steeplechase, at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, and went onto to co-found the London Marathon.  Oliver Cock had an article on “Canoeing”, which was largely about the developments at the British Canoe Union and the possible appointment of the first National Coach for canoeing.  A position he was to get.  Another article considered the movement of water through the Swellies, in North Wales.  The research carried out under the supervision of instructors from Plas Y Brenin.  Plus numerous other short items.  A varied and actually quite interesting selection.

Kayaking magazines
Beachbreak is a specialist surf kayaking magazine first published in February 1980.

This was the magazine of the British Canoe Union Surf Committee, clearly it had a very small and specialist market.  I think it last for 17 issues, that’s the number of issues that I have any way.  Articles included a review of surfing in Brittany in 1979, riding waves in Hawaii on a ski and a guide to Kimmeridge Bay, in Dorset.

Kayaking magazines
This North American magazine, from 1994, is the most recently published of those illustrated.

Atlantic Coastal Kayaker is published 8 times a year and is available in both print and online versions.  I remember buying this issue, which was my first one, from Maine Sport in August 1994 after a family canoeing holiday on the West Branch of the Penobscot.  Here are a few images of that first multi day trip with our children.  Surprisingly when I opened the magazine I found a short review of a lecture I had given at the Crystal Palace Canoe Show of the Jersey Canoe Club trip to Greenland in 1993.  The link with the magazine continues as in the next issue I have an article on sea kayaking in Jersey.

Aerial Photos

The great thing about flying is the opportunity, even on commercial passenger flights, is the opportunity to get so interesting aerial photos of some classic sea kayaking areas.  Photographs which will either re-kindle memories of great days spent on the water or stimulate thoughts of future trips.
So next time you find yourself next to the window on a flight, keep your fingers crossed for clear skies and sit back and enjoy one of the best free shows available.

Aerial photos
Take off on a clear February afternoon gave these superb views of Jersey. So many great kayaking trips are contained within this photograph, particularly the north west corner of the island.
Aerial Photos
Passing over the east coast of Greenland en route to Copenhagen. Still haven’t managed to paddle on the east coast despite plenty of visits to the west coast.
Aerial Photos
Flying back from Greenland we were fortunate enough to have really clear views of most of Iceland.
Aerial photos
Hurst Castle Spit at the western end of the Solent. Some quality paddling to the Isle of Wight and the Needles
Aerial photos
On approach to Gatwick you normally get good views of the south coast of England, including Brighton. Its been quite a few years since I last paddled off the Sussex coast.
Aerial photos
Flying south from Belize City. A fascinating stretch of coast but the better sea kayaking in Belize is offshore.

Sea Kayaking Books

One of the things I have at the moment is time (ruptured achilles) so I am able to consider complete a few projects.  Something that I have been thinking about  is sea kayaking books.  Mainly, which ones have been influential over the years both in terms of coaching and the general evolution of the sport.

A substantial body of paddling literature has evolved over the last 170 years, with a wide range of books covering broad spectrum of topics. The last 40 years has seen a proliferation of sea kayaking books, offering both advice on skills and coaching, plus those describing journeys, many of which, provide inspiration.  I think that the selection of books below are all worth seeking out, giving an insight into how our sport has developed over the years.
Some of the key writers in the U.K. included Alan Byde and Derek Hutchinson. I remember seeing “Living Canoeing” by Alan Byde for the first time.  Published in 1969 there is the classic photograph of Mike Ramsay vertical at Hambledon Weir, I sat there staring at it as a 13 year old wondering how on earth the paddler got into that position. This is a book which provided inspiration to a generation of paddlers, both sea kayakers and white water paddlers.

Sea kayaking books

For me the next big development was the publication of Derek Hutchinson’s book “Sea Canoeing”. I had seen it advertised in Canoeing in Britain, the BCU magazine of the time and couldn’t wait for mine to arrive in the post. There was no way that the local bookshops were going to stock such a specialist title in 1976.  My copy was signed some years later by Derek and I feel fortunate that I got to know him.  For me one of the most significant aspects of the book were the photographs, they showed just where it was possible to take sea kayaks and they encouraged us to start to explore further afield.

Sea Canoeing

“The Book of Canoeing” by Alex Ellis, first published in 1935 has 7 pages devoted to sea kayaking.  He states:

“Paddle technique could be described in detail, but it is doubtful if a theoretical description would be of any great value.  It has to be acquired gradually by actual practice.”

Although this is 80 years old it remains very sensible advice. There are no real shortcuts to competence with a paddle and a kayak.  The author mentions two paddles, which he thinks are suitable for sea canoeing.
1.) Fort William to Largs
2.) South West Ireland
Paddles which 80 years on would still be seen as significant achievements.

Sea kayaking books

“Kayak to Cape Wrath” by J. Lewis Henderson.  I am not sure to the exact date of publication buy my copy has a dedication in the front, dated Christmas 1953.  A journey from Fort William to Cape Wrath along the west coast and then a crossing of northern Scotland, via a line of lochs, to finish on the east coast at Lairg.  A significant journey undertaken over several summers.  It is a journey, which, an self respecting sea kayaker would be pleased to complete today.  Joe Reid was clearly an accomplished paddler in several areas as he was in the K2 1000m event at the 1948 Olympics.

Sea kayaking books

“The Canoeing Manual” by Noel McNaught.  First published in 1956, includes a whole chapter on crossing the English Channel, something which some paddlers still aspire towards but is actually discouraged because of the shipping hazards.

Sea kayaking books

“Vikings, Scots and Scraelings” by Myrtle Simpson, published in 1977 was the first book I read about kayaking in Greenland and it fired my imagination, encouraging me to consider heading north in pursuit of sea kayaking heaven.

Sea kayaking books

“Paddling my Own Canoe” by Audrey Sutherland from 1978.  Her initial paddling was in a nine foot inflatable canoe but she started her explorations by swimming the coast of north east Molokai.  She went on to paddle in several areas of the world providing inspiration to, particularly, a more elderly generation of paddlers.

Sea kayaking books

“Scottish Sea Kayaking” by Doug Cooper and George Reid published in 2005. In many ways this was the first of a new generation of sea kayaking guides, in full colour and full of useful information about a whole range of topics. Pesda Press have gone on to publish a whole range of sea kayaking guides, covering most of the British Isles

Sea kayaking books

So that’s my personal selection of sea kayaking books, which are worth seeking out.  There is no doubt in my mind that if was to write this piece in a couple of weeks time some of the titles would have changed.

Glovers Reef

The 35 mile journey out, from Dangriga to Glovers Reef, off the coast off Belize, was relatively quick but we didn’t see our destination until quite late. I suppose it is a geographical fact of life that coral reefs are not that tall.  We were on a three day trip with Island Expeditions.
There is something quite special about turquoise seas, coral reefs and a reasonably constant breeze. It would be easy to spout one superlative after another but in reality they wouldn’t do Glovers Reef justice. Suffice to say it is one of the most special places I have been.
This is not a place to come for high end sea kayaking, it is a place to relax and savour, whilst paddling a few hundred metres, I think we probably snorkelled further on our first day than we paddled. It was time to experience the wildlife and if time allows throw in a bit of gentle stand up paddle boarding.
This is “glamping” in the tropics. The tents come with double beds, 17.30 is happy hour and the food is memorable. It is glamping with activities.
The staff were knowledgeable and friendly, “B” one of our guides had 17 years of experience leading groups. It was noticeable that Roger, one of the other guides had a range of safety equipment on his PFD (buoyancy aid), this is in complete contrast to some places I have experienced in the past.
There was a range of single and double kayaks and it was possible to have feathered paddles if you wanted them. The buoyancy aids were Kokatak and the SUP paddles were from Werner. It was clear that the company wasn’t cutting financial corners by purchasing cheap kit.
You often hear the expression “Island Time” but on Glovers Reef there is no option. Island Time it is. Some great snorkelling although we did see the impact of man’s activity on the eco-system. Lion fish have clearly been released somewhere, and the animal population is exploding.
One thing we had the opportunity to do was to go kayak sailing, something I had never tried before. We were in pretty stable doubles, although there was still a capsize. I did regret not taking my GPS as it would have been pretty interesting to see what speeds we reached on the way in.
The final morning was an option of further kayaking and snorkelling, SUP or just some simple hammock surfing. Nicky and myself went out on the SUP’s heading down on the wind into the channel between the two islands. We did paddle over a small reef shark and although they are supposed to be perfectly harmless the sight of a shark under your board certainly focuses the mind.
All to soon it was time to head back and wait for the boat to come in which was taking most people back to the mainland but which was going to drop us off at Tobacco Caye and the start of our self guided paddle.
Glover’s Reef is a truly special place, it is somewhere to visit and relax, enjoy the easy kayaking and the other activities. It is not somewhere to go if you are seeking the full on sea kayaking experience.

Glovers Reef
The view from our tent!
Glovers Reef
Our tent
Glovers Reef
The grounds of the Island Expeditions base.
Glovers Reef
The local TV, just one channel
Glovers Reef
Most of the kayaks were doubles but there were a few singles for those who prefer to be on their own.
Glovers Reef
Heading back after our first session of snorkelling on one of the nearby Patch Reefs.
Glovers Reef
What a great introduction to the reef. Not the large Eagle Ray just ahead of the diver.
Glovers Reef
Sunrise on our first morning on the atoll.
Glovers Reef
Just on of several SUP sessions we did over the three days.
Glovers Reef
Sea kayaking sailing, I am in the front at the compete mercy of the wind and Nicky’s skills. It was fast run back to the beach.

 

Ecrehous sunshine

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

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

Some more old kayaking pictures

Here is another selection of old pictures, illustrating some of the places that we have been paddling over the years.  It feels like it is time to pay a visit to some of these places again, its been nearly 40 years since I paddled some of these trips.

Old pictures
This is paddling around the Great Orme in North Wales in November 1979. We couldn’t afford specialist sea kayaks so used general purpose kayaks with home made skegs that we used to slip over the stern, when we weren’t paddling the same kayaks on white water.
Eastbourne kayaking
I started work as a teacher in September 1980 and before my first salary check arrived I had ordered my first Nordkapp HM. I collected it from Nottingham at October half term and this is kayak being launched for the first time off the beach in Eastbourne.
Bardsey
The first summer holidays of teaching so it was time to go paddling. This is approaching Bardsey, in perfect conditions. The string across the hatch cover was there for a very special reason. My Nordkapp was one of the first to be built with the new hatch covers but the mixture proved to be unstable and the rims started to collapse. After this trip it was back to Nottingham for new hatches to be fitted by Valley before we headed off for a 4 week kayaking trip in Denmark.
Menai Straits
A rather blurred picture from the Menai Straits in October 1986. I was on my Level 5 Coach assessment at Plas Y Brenin. We camped at the south west entrance to the Straits and I still remember the look of horror on the face of the group when the shipping forecast for the Irish Sea was SW Force 12.
Porth Daffarch
Paddling out of Porth Daffarch at the 1993 Angelsey Symposium. The paddlers are Andy Stamp and Graham Wardle.
Rathlin Island
The bay at the western end of Rathlin Island, of Northern Ireland It was a Coach Assessment in 1996. We were looking forward to a night of traditional Irish music in the bar, but it turned out to be a karaoke evening with Japanese divers, rather disappointing.
Arduaine Children
The Scottish Sea Kayak Symposiums used to be great family affairs. The five children on the right are my two girls, Howard Jeffs two daughters and Gordon Brown’s oldest daughter. As you can see we used appropriately sized kit!
Cricceth Castle
The BCU Sea Touring Committee used to run Symposiums every autumn. Initially at Calshot and later on in North Wales. This is some paddlers from the 1998 event off Cricceth Castle.