Lighthouses of Brittany Part 2.

Following on from the post a couple of days ago here are a few photographs of Brittany lighthouses.  There are endless opportunities for viewing them from your sea kayak, and here are a few more.  They are mainly from the north coast of Brittany.  I might be biased but I think the lighthouses on the north coast generally look more dramatic than those to the south.
Sadly they are now all unmanned but when we started to visit these offshore buildings a number were still manned and it was always a pleasure to take out the daily papers and some fresh milk.  These small gestures often resulted in the offer of a hot drink and on a few occasions a guided tour of the lighthouse.  Sadly these days are long gone.
Situated in the Baie de Morlaix, Ile Noire lighthouse was built in 1845, with the keepers house added in 1879.  Paddling in this area is always enjoyable with numerous islands to explore.
La Croix.  Built in 1867 it is situated just to the south west of Ile de Brehat.  In common with some many lighthouses in this area the Germans blew the top of the light as they retreated.  It is always a welcome sight when paddling around Brehat.
Cap Frehel is the largest headland on the north Brittany coast and on clear nights I can see this light from near my house on Jersey.  It is open to visitors a certain times of the year.  The headland is spectacular when viewed from below in a sea kayak or whilst walking along the cliffs.
Sept Iles lighthouse is situated on Ile aux Moines,  part of a delightful archipelago to the north of Tregastel.  This was one of the last lighthouses in France to be manned by keepers.
The Port Navalo light marks to entrance to the Gulf du Morbihan.  This is one of the finest sea kayaking areas anywhere, a mixture of fast tidal streams and world class historic sites.  The lighthouse was built in 1892.

Lighthouses of Brittany

There is something special about Breton lighthouses , particularly when viewed from a sea kayak.  This is a selection of some that I have seen over the years.  Not all of the photographs are of the best quality as some were scanned from slides.  That said Breton lighthouses are amongst the most unique maritime buildings encountered anywhere and it is always a treat to visit them by sea kayak.
Le Heaux de Brehat.  To the west of Ile de Brehat on the north coast of Brittany it was built in 1840, although the top was blown off by the Germans in August 1944.  Located on an offshore reef, the sea kayak is an ideal way to access this light.  It is close to the end of the Sillon de Talbert
Ile Louet is situated in the Baie e Morlaix, near Roscoff on the north coast of Brittany.
25 nautical miles west of Corbiere is the Roches Douvres.  The light was finished being rebuilt in 1954 after it had been destroyed by the Germans 10 years before.  We raised the Jersey flag but the following morning it was a serious crossing of 25 miles in dense fog.  I have to admit that we felt pretty isolated the night we spent on the reef.
L’Ost Pic is located just to the south of Paimpol.  Built in the 1890’s I have to admit that the last time I landed there I ended up swimming.
Phare du Paon is situated on the north coast of Ile de Brehat, this is ome of the finest sea kayaking you could find anywhere.  It was originally built in 1860 but like so many lighthouses along this coast it was blown up by the Germans in1944.  It was rebuilt in 1949.
Another lighthouse blown up by the Germans, this light, Le Grand Jardin, marks the approaches to St Malo.  It was rebuilt in 1949.

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.

Gozo Sea Kayaking

This is an article I  wrote over 4 years ago after a visit to Gozo.  Although I had been several times before conditions had never been good enough to paddle around to the Azure  Window from the south coast.  It was memorable day, which I repeated a number of times in the following years but one, which will never be the same again.

After a couple of kayaking visits to Gozo I still hadn’t managed to paddle the south west corner of the island, from Xlendi around to the Azure Window.  It just seemed that whenever we were on the island the wind was just a bit to strong from the wrong direction so we were pretty pleased when a window in the weather appeared on one of the final days that we were there. We weren’t disappointed.

Dramatic vertical cliffs, with virtually no places to get off the water.  The nearest land to out left is Algeria whilst straight ahead is Tunisia.  It is easy forget just how far south Malta and Gozo are.
 The Inland Sea, access to the open water is through the obvious cave.  We popped in for a an ice cream and a quick swim.
 Paddling under the Azure Window, not a totally relaxing experience because since a previous visit a fairly substantial area of rock had fallen into the sea and we hoping that there wasn’t a repeat performance.
 Lunch was on the rocks close to Fungus Rock.  Malta Fungus was discovered growing on the rock and believed that it had medicinal properties.  The rock was decreed out of bounds in 1746, with a guard posted there to protect the plant.
At the back of the bay close to Fungus Rock there is cave with two entrances.  The tunnel joining the two is particularly tight but there are some superb deposits on the rocks.

Heading back to Xlendi, it was only a short paddle but was full of contrasts.

Azure Window
After many visits to Gozo over the years and plenty of opportunity to view the changes online it was still a shock to see what impact the events of the 8th March 2017 have had on the coastal scenery of the island.

North West Malta

The coast of north west Malta was to provide an entertaining introduction to kayaking on the largest island of the archipelago.  We launched out through the surf at Ghajn Bay before turning north with the intention of reaching Popeye’s Village.
As we paddled along the coast we passed Golden Bay, its beach dominated by the large hotel above.  It is easy to imagine just how busy this area could be on a hot August day but on the last day of October it appeared relatively quiet.  There were numerous opportunities for rock hopping along this section of coast but the ever present swell was creating some entertaining conditions.
Although the modern developments associated with the tourist industry are clearly visible on the cliffs above fortifications are an indication of the more turbulent past.  Ta Ghajn Tuffieha Tower was the first tower that we passed, built in 1637.  It was the second of a series of small coastal towers known as Lascaris Towers constructed when Giovanni Paolo Lascaris was elected Grand Master of the Order of St John.

North west Malta
Ta Ghajn Tuffieha Tower, one of several fortifications along the coast.
North West Malta
Some of the cliffs on the way to Popeye Village.

The most northerly point of our paddle was Popeye Village, it started life in 1980 as a film set for the musical “Popeye” starring Robin Williams.  A popular tourist attraction, it was fairly quiet and today and we were allowed to land on the slip briefly.  A member of the staff from the cafe came down and took our coffee order, which was promptly delivered.  Such excellent service.

North West Malta
Nicky just off Popeye Village. We had just had our much appreciated coffee.

From there we turned south, enjoying the lively water conditions, aiming for the large headland of Ras ir Raheb.  The steep limestone cliffs were reflecting the waves straight back out to sea and the resulting clapotis provided some enjoyable paddling.  Just to the south of the headland there was a large cave, which we managed to paddled into despite the sea conditions, although the noise was quite something.
We returned north to Ghajn Bay, enjoying the last of the 11 nautical miles that we had paddled along the coast of north west Malta.  A great introduction to paddling in Malta with the Malta Sea Kayak Club.

North West Malta
The large cave, which marked to southern point of our paddle. The noise inside was pretty awesome due to the breaking waves.
North West Malta
Andrea getting a bit of air on one of the steeper waves close to the cliffs
North West Malta
Paddling close to the cliffs gave us some interesting conditions as the waves bounced back from the vertical limestone.
North West Malta
Every known and again what seemed like fairly simple passages became more challenging with the arrival of a big set as Ian found out.

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.

Sea Kayaking Emergency bag

Virtually every time we go on the water we should carry some basic items of safety equipment.  Unfortunately, I am basically a disorganised person and finding small items of equipment from the chaos of the kayaking boxes was virtually an insurmountable problem.  So the solution was to put together a small emergency bag with all the essential items of kit.  It took about 3 months to source all of the things that I needed and it is true to stay that it still isn’t complete.  I still search diligently in yacht chandlers and outdoor shops for that elusive item of equipment, which may provide the final piece of the jigsaw.
The following items of equipment are contained within my waterproof bag:

 

Signal Mirror:  A small item, which could prove to be useful if you have an accident on a sunny day.  I found mine in a small French yacht chandlers.  It only cost 3.00 €, so it is worth the small financial outlay.
Spare Hatches: 
I carry the Reed hatch covers and have used them twice so they weren’t a waste of money.
Bungee Cords: 
Just one set and you never know when they will be needed.  Ideally for keeping some of the items in the bag wrapped up.
Multi-purpose Tool: 
There is the Leatherman and then there are cheaper ones.  For this emergency bag I have selected a cheaper one, as there is every chance that it will damaged by the seawater.  I paid 7€ for mine at a French DIY store.
Woollen Hat: 
I might swap this for a sun hat during the warmer summer months.
Plastic Sheet: 
Cut from a sparkling water bottle.  The thin plastic is ideal for helping to repair a relatively large hole in the kayak.
Repair Tape: 
Spinnaker tape, electrician’s tape and duck tape.  A selection, which should be able to sort out most needs, including repair kayaks, spray decks and tents.
Epoxy Resin: 
I use a French variety, partly for the challenge of translation, and partly because it is effective.  It will set under water and will repair most materials.
Whistle: 
I have the loudest one that I could find.  The literature makes numerous extravagant claims about decibels etc, all I know is that if I blow it my ears hurt!
Lighter: 
More like a blowtorch than a lighter.  An effective heat source and according to the publicity material it can’t be blown out by the wind.  Useful for a number of reasons.  Just in case the gas runs out I also have a box of waterproof matches.  (I also remove this from the bag before I fly anywhere)
Fire Lighters: 
Just a couple in case it is necessary to light a fire.
Poncho: 
A small poncho, which is ideal if people are cold at lunchtime.
Exposure Bag: 
I don’t have the traditional orange exposure bag but one, which is made of the same material as the well-known space blanket.  The advantage is that it packs up very small.
Spare Food: 
Just a small amount.  I don’t plan on getting stranded for several days in the heart of what is in effect an urban area.  I normally take food, which I am not that keen on so I am not tempted to eat it. 

Money:  Just a small amount, stored in the inevitable film container that is if you can still find one.  Useful for telephones, cafes etc.
Spare Batteries: 
These are for both the GPS and the VHF radio.  A selection of cheaper batteries is better than the more expensive variety; they only have to last a couple of hours.
Strobe:
  Ideal for drawing attention to yourself at night.
Wet Wipes:
  Ideal for all sorts of uses.
First Aid Kit: 
Just a few small items.  Triangular bandage, skin closures, assorted plasters, wound dressing and safety pins.
When I open up the waterproof waist pack it always amazes me that all of the above fits inside such a relatively small container.  What it has enabled me to do is to always carry a basic level of safety equipment.  It can be customized to meet individual needs and because I am always on the look out for another useful item it remains a work in progress.

Some Greenland Kayaking Advice

Having visited Greenland on a number of occasions and paddled close to 1,500 nautical miles along the west coast, there are a few bits of pertinent information, which I have picked up along the way and might prove useful to anybody contemplating a visit to these northern waters.
Food
Buy all of your food when you arrive.  It is a waste of time and money shipping food.  Even the smallest villages have a shop where you are able to buy anything from cream cheese to a sewing machine.  Ilulissat has a number of well stocked supermarkets, which can meet all your needs prior to heading out kayaking.
Shop in Saqqaq, northern Disko Bay.
Mosquito Net
Take a spare in case you mis-place your first one.  Have it ready to put on as soon as you get off the water.  You may not need it but like a good Boy Scout be prepared.  Remember to remove it when cooking in case the stove flares up, the molten material could make a real mess of somebodies face.
Some people use a complete bug suit, not just a head net.
Tipi
Although it can be a bit of a pain to carry they are a great piece of group equipment.  Perfect for those rare days when the weather isn’t good enough to sit outside and ideal for providing some relief when the insects are particularly troublesome.  You can end up spending a significant amount of money on a tipi but I bought a cheaper version in 2009 and it is still going strong.  It can have a significant impact on your luggage allowance so I have left mine in Ilulissat, ready for my next visit.
Pressure Cooker
Perfect for helping with fuel economy, bring the rice to the boil and then take it off the flame for between 8 and 10 minutes.  The rice will be cooked to perfection.  They are Ideal for most meals.  It takes a bit of searching to find one with small enough handles that it goes into a kayak hatch, we eventually found a suitable one in a back street in Istanbul.
 Nets off when cooking
 Granite slabs
Look for the those slabs which have been scoured by the ice, close to the waters edge.  They are perfect at lunch time for relaxing on and hopefully there will be no standing water nearby, which will reduce the insect menace.
Learning to relax on granite slabs is an essential skill for paddling in the Arctic.
Down jacket
The absolute essential item of dry land equipment.  Don’t leave home without one.
Relaxing after a good days paddle along the Vaigat
Campsites
Don’t always paddle to the rear of the bay, when kayaking in Greenland.  Think about collecting  plenty of water during the course of the day and camp on a low headland.  The location may be more exposed to wind, which will keep the insects down and the views are likely to be far more spectacular.  This was something which Greenlanders have known about for hundreds of years because quite a few of the low headlands we stopped at had indications of previous habitation.
A memorable campsite just the north of the abandoned village of Agpat.  There was no standing water nearby and we had a relatively insect free evening.

Sabena – a Belgian airline and kayaking

I have recently come across this advert for SABENA, the Begian airline that went bankrupt in 2001.  It was in an old copy of a National Geographic magazine, dating from the 1960’s I think.
The paddles, that they are using are particularly impressive, as is the attention to safety, not a buoyancy aid in sight.
It made me wonder, in addition to SABENA, what other companies have used kayaking in their attempt to sell a product.  Ed Gillet is well known as the person who kayaked from California to Hawaii, over 64 days in 1987.  It is reckoned to be one of the greatest achievements in modern sea kayaking.  Have a look at Canoe&Kayak Magazine for more details about this significant crossing.  I was in his shop, near San Diego, in 1999, when I saw an advert on the wall from Continental Airlines, which made reference to his paddle to Hawaii.  I can’t remember the exact words but it was along the lines that it was easier to fly to Hawaii than to paddle there
More recently McDonalds have been showing an advert of a kayaker losing his paddle and being carried down an artificial slalom course in a rather relaxed style.
As far as I can remember the first chocolate bar in the United Kingdom, which was produced in a waterproof wrapper was the Twix.  This transformed what we ate on the water, it was suddenly possible to keep a chocolate bar in your buoyancy aid pocket without fear of it disintegrating.  Interestingly the TV advert, which promoted the new chocolate bar, featured a shot of a car driving onto a ferry with a couple of sea kayaks on the roof.  It would be nice to think that it was planned but I imagine that it was just a coincidence.

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.