Les Dirouilles

Several miles off the north east coast, a reef of rocks is gradually revealed as the tide drops. The are largely viewed from afar, their presence indicated by the breaking waves, unleashing their energy following their journey from the storms in the North Atlantic.  This is Les Dirouilles.
It is a reef which I rarely visited until the last few years. It used to be somewhere we passed as opposed to a final destination. In recent years though we have paddled there as a destination in its own right. What has been a revelation is just how easy it is to get.
More than any of the other offshore reefs which surround Jersey, a visit to Les Dirouilles benefits from the tidal streams.  The water runs almost directly from the end of St Catherine’s Breakwater onto the reef.  The crossing is about 4.5 nautical miles and on our speed rarely dropped below 5 knots.  There was a slight drift to the west, indicated on the GPS but it was pretty easy to compensate for, so we drifted gently onto the reef.
We probably arrived a bit too early, so we took advantage of our early arrival to explore some of the more detached rocks to the north of the reef.  Moving into areas I had never paddled in before. After early 50 years of kayaking in Jersey’s waters it is quite amazing to discover small new pockets of coast, waiting to be explored. This was quite a fortunate development as we discovered an absolutely stunning lunch spot.
We were able to land on sand, always so much kinder to the hulls of the kayaks, with lunch being eaten on a raised flat rock, which gave exceptional views of the area. The coastline of France clearly visible to the east and north east, with the nuclear plant at Cap de la Hague shimmering like a mirage on the horizon.
To the south we could see the whole of the north coast of Jersey, stretching from our departure point at St Catherine’s all the way to Grosnez, the north west corner of the Island. To the north west Sark, was the dominant landmark, the location of so much great sea kayaking.
One of the pleasures of sea kayaking in Jersey is the opportunity to visit some of the offshore reefs and from our lunch spot we were able to see 3 of the 4 main reefs. To the west the Paternosters, were visible becoming bigger as the tide dropped. To the east was the Ecrehous and surrounding us was Les Dirouilles, all we needed was the Minquiers for a full set of the reefs but they are to the south of Jersey and therefore invisible from our picnic spot.
After lunch we launched off the small sandy beach, which had been revealed by the ebbing tide. None of us had ever seen this beach before even though it was within 5 miles of where a couple of the paddlers lived.  We explored the southern edge of the reef before heading straight towards Tour de Rozel, the low water slack providing the opportunity for fairly rapid progress.  At the start of the ebb we turned towards St Catherine’s with a speed over the ground in places in excess of 7 knots.
A thoroughly enjoyable paddle for the last Wednesday in September.

Les Dirouilles
Heading towards the reef from St Catherine’s. We were pushed slightly to the east but overall the tidal stream was particularly beneficial
Les Dirouilles
This was a great place to sit for lunch on the last Wednesday in September. The views were exceptional.
Les Dirouilles
Looking back towards the north coast of Jersey. The small sandy beach is just being uncovered.
Les Dirouilles
The views along the north coast were quite amazing. Grosnez, the north west corner of the island is visible in the distance.
Les Dirouilles
Exploring some of the narrow inlets on the south side of the reef. On a previous visit we had landed here as it was a perfect place to swim.
Les Dirouilles
Crossing towards Jersey at low water slack before turning east and using the start of the flood tide to accelerate our journey back to St Catherine’s.

 

Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium

The first Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium was held in 1992 and there has been one pretty much every 2 years since then. The next one is going to be held in May 2019 and bookings will be opening at the end of September.
So what can you expect at a Symposium in Jersey? First of all some superb paddling, take advantage of the large tidal range, superb coastal scenery and in places swell rolling in from the North Atlantic.
Secondly, great accommodation. For many years we used campsites but now we base the event at the Highlands Hotel. Stunning sea views from most bedrooms, a swimming pool on the terrace, small gym, great food, a pleasant bar and very friendly staff.
Thirdly, a comprehensive kayaking programme, lasting up to 7 days. There are skills sessions run by some of the most respected coaches in the UK plus plenty of guided trips, including, weather permitting, to the offshore reefs such as the Ecrehous.
Fourthly, a diverse evening programme including lectures, a meal with live music, photo sharing, a quiz night and a BBQ in a Napoleonic guard house.
The event starts on the evening of Friday 24th May, with a welcome reception with the on the water action starting on the Saturday morning.  At any one time there is normally a choice of at least 8 different workshops and paddles.
The event is based at the Highlands Hotel, which is really comfortable and very convenient for the paddling, which is available during the week.  The options for the following day are normally posted at the hotel the night before, between 7.00 and 7.30, once we have an up to date weather forecast.  If you choose to stay at a campsite or a different hotel it will still be necessary to come to the HIghland’s Hotel in the evening to ensure that you are able to select those sessions you are interested in.
The feedback from previous events has been really positive and we are sure that this will continue in 2019.  If you are interested in receiving further information, about the Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium, please contact me at, kevin@seapaddler.co.uk,  so that I can add you name to the mailing list.

Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium
Looking towards the Highland’s Hotel from offshore. It is in a fantastic position on the cliff top just to the east of Corbiere.
Jersey SeaKayak Symposium
The challenging waters around Corbiere lighthouse are nearby. Swift tidal streams and Atlantic swells provide the opportunity for refining skills.
Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium
The reefs to the south east of the island provide the opportunity for historical paddles or navigation exercises.
Jersey Sea Kayaking Symposium
Exploring and playing along the cliffs of the north coast will be an option most days of the Symposium.
Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium
For many paddlers a highlight of the week, if the weather allows, is a trip to the Ecrehous.

Nordkapp Meet continued

After the fascinating talk by Sam Cook the Nordkapp meet continued on the Sunday in less than perfect weather.  Bouley Bay was our venue of choice as it offered the best chance of protection from the southerly winds, which were forecast to increase to force 7.
Initially the winds were light and we were able to explore the headlands between Bouley Bay and Bonne Nuit, which are the highest in Jersey.  Clouds were clearly building from the south and the wind increasing towards the forecast force 6 to 7.  Certainly the paddle back into Bouley Bay was what could be described as entertaining.
Although we had hoped for a day trip when we planned the Nordkapp weekend, the reality was the morning paddle on the Sunday was the best that could be hoped for in the conditions.
Monday morning dawned brighter and slightly calmer so we were able to plan a day trip from the Jersey Canoe Club premises at St Catherine’s.  Around the north east corner of the island and along the north coast, before hitching a ride back on the first of the flooding tide.
It was amazing over these two days to see such a variety of Nordkapp sea kayaks on the water, performing perfectly in the environment they were designed to operate in.  In the mid 1970’s Frank Goodman designed a sea kayak, with significant input from paddlers such as Sam Cook in particular.
The first kayak was produced in February 1975 and in the following 43 years it has maintained its position at the forefront of sea kayaking expeditions.  Last weekend was a celebration of the Nordkapp and in many ways the early years of the Jersey Canoe Club.
Paddling Nordkapp’s members of the Club completed the first circumnavigation of Ireland, a circumnavigation of the Outer Hebrides, the west coast of Spitsbergen and our own Nordkapp expedition to name just a few.  This was in addition to ground breaking exploration of the Channel Island waters by sea kayaks.
Members of the Club continue to paddle at a high standard in a range of geographical locations but these trips are no longer the preserve of the Nordkapp alone.  Times have changed but we still maintain our respect for this iconic sea kayak, which has contributed so much to the history of modern sea kayaking.

Nordkapp meet continued
Heading east around Belle Hougue. We were sheltered from the wind but from the clouds it was clear that things were going to get lively.
Norkapp meet continued
Arriving back in Bouley Bay on the Sunday morning. Fort Leicester, visible above the bow of the kayak, was rebuilt in 1836 and is available for rent from Jersey Heritage.
Nordkapp meet continued.
Monday’s lunch spot was taken on a small beach just to the west of Vicard Point. The small Canoe Club cottage at Egypt is visible at the foot of the cliffs across the bay.
Nordkapp weekend continued
On the return paddle to St Catherine’s we stopped off to play in the tide race at Tour de Rozel. An exciting way to finish a superb weekend.

Nordkapp meet

The Jersey Canoe Club Nordkapp meet got under way on Friday evening with a small reception and a photo opportunity at the Club premises at St Catherine’s.
There were 22 Nordkapp’s on showing, varying not just in model type but also in age. The oldest was an orange and white Nordkapp HM, which had been produced before the introduction of recessed deck fittings. This probably dates it to about 1977.  The most recent kayak was a Nordkapp Forti, which was available for people to try.
The evening was an opportunity to look at kayaks, chat with friends about paddling and to meet Sam Cook, our weekend guest.  In addition planning the paddle for Saturday, from Ouaisne around Corbiere and into the reefs near La Rocco Tower.
On the Saturday we were able to show Sam some of the most interesting paddling in Jersey waters, granite cliffs, tide races and lighthouses, offshore reefs and North Atlantic swells.  A perfect backdrop to our Nordkapp meet.  It was just amazing to see so many of the classic kayaks out on the water at the same time.
On Saturday evening Sam gave a talk on the 1975 Nordkapp expedition, which was fascinating.  So many things that we take for granted came about as a result of that innovative trip:
Hatches
Bulkheads
Pumps
Buoyancy aids (PFD’s) with pockets
Asymmetric paddle blades
It was a truly ground breaking expedition, which set the scene for so many more which followed.  Without the Norkapp meet people would have not had the opportunity to experience and learn what an influence this sea kayak has had on modern paddling.  There was still two days of paddling to go!

Nordkapp Weekend
22 Nordkapp’s lined up in front of the Jersey Canoe Club at St Catherines. Quite a sight.
Nordkapp weekend
22 Nordkapp’s on the beach on Saturday morning, at Ouaisne. These were not all the same kayaks that were lined up the evening before, in addition there were 3 left on roof racks. So we had over 30 different Nordkapp’s in total.
Nordkapp weekend
Rafted up in front of the cliffs at Beauport. Part of a great day on the water.
Corbiere
Paddling past Corbiere, the south west corner of Jersey. An iconic kayak in front of a classic lighthouse.
Lunch on the Saturday was amongst the reefs off the west coast of Jersey, an area which is infrequently explored by sea kayakers because of the persistent swell.
Nordkapp
It is not that often that you see so many Nordkapp’s paddling in unison.

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.