South West Corner

For what seems like the first time in months we were able to have our midweek kayaking day trip off the south west corner of the Island. There have been numerous strong wind warnings this year, issued by Jersey Met, most of them appearing to involve some south westerly involvement. The consequence of this is that day trips, along the south coast have been few and far between recently.  Fortunately today’s forecast allowed us the paddle from Belcroute to Corbiere and return.

Weather forecast
Wind warning number 101 of the year, issued at 02.47 on the 31st January, an indication of just how unsettled the beginning of 2018 has been.

It was just a few hardy members of the Jersey Canoe Club who congregated at Belcroute on Tuesday morning. Many of the regular attendees of the mid week day trip were off Island or unavailable this week. The aim was to use the last of the ebb as it flowed west, towards Corbiere, with the added assistance of the light north easterly wind. Amazingly as the tide turned and the east flowing stream started the wind also went around to the south west. It’s not often that you get both wind and tide with in both directions on a day trip. We were certainly getting our monies worth from environmental factors.
From Belcroute it was an easy run south to Noirmont Point, clearly identified by its black and white, early 19th century military tower.  Although it wasn’t easily visible today because of the low cloud/fog.  We used the last couple of hours of the tidal flow  to assist our run towards Corbiere.  This section of coast has to be one of my favourite lengths of the islands coastline, it is where I gained my original kayaking experience, starting in 1969.
It is normally a blaze of colour, the blue sea, red granite and green vegetation complementing each other but today the overwhelming colour was grey.
It was just a delight to be on the water without having to battle wind and waves, which have been our constant companions for the last few months.  Corbiere was our turning point, the iconic lighthouse was first lit on the 24th April 1874 and over the years has been the scene of a number of dramatic rescues.
Lunch was on the small beach below the Highlands Hotel, before we took advantage of the easterly flowing tide and south westerly wind to assist our return.  Overall we paddled just over 11 miles each, assisting Jersey Canoe Club’s entry into the British Canoeing Winter Challenge.  Taking the Clubs combined mileage  since the 1st December to just over 2,000 miles, a significant total considering the weather and the fact that because of geography we are limited to paddling on the sea.
I have written more information on the route between Belcroute and Corbiere elsewhere on the SeaPaddler site, so take a look for further ideas on places to paddle.

Belcroute to Corbiere
Launching from a rather foggy Belcroute. St Aubin’s Fort, the islands outdoor centre, is barely visible.
Belcroute to Noirmont.
Approaching Noirmont from the north. At this point we had the tide helping us reach 5 knots. The tower was built between 1810 and 1814, to help protect the Island in case of invasion by the French.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Approaching Pt La Moye from the east. Potato fields, covered in plastic, to encourage early season growth are just visible on the slopes.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Approaching Corbiere, the lighthouse is virtually invisible.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Even when relatively close the lighthouse was barely visible.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Nicky heading past Beauport, one of the most attractive bays on the Island but today it looked rather grey.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Adam heading past Pt Le Fret, one of the most dramatic headlands on the island, which is normally exposed to swell.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Nicky heading towards Pt Le Fret.

Sunday Morning Kayaking-Ouaisne

After a brief respite from the gales yesterday, it was business as usual this morning at Ouaisne. The only difference to pretty much every other day of the year so far was that the gale was out of the east as opposed to the west.  As we left the beach little did we realize what adventures were about to unfold with a couple of sit on tops.
Linked to the wind going easterly was the related drop in temperature, both real and wind chill. The apparent air temperature was probably close to zero, pretty rare for Jersey, so dry suits were the order of the day.
The large, powerful swell which had been running the day before had raised a few doubts in my mind about the sea state so I spent some time walking over Pt Le Fret, before heading to Ouaisne, so that I could scout the proposed route.  It was clear that there was plenty of wind about but under the cliffs we would be reasonably sheltered.
So it was a hardy group of 12 paddlers from the Jersey Canoe Club, who left the beach, at Ouaisne, keeping close to the shore before reaching La Cotte de St Brelade.  An important archaeological site, but today our focus was more on maintaining direction in the wind, as opposed to contemplating the activities of the mammoth hunters who used to live in this area.
Pt Le Fret was much calmer than we anticipated although there was some headwind as we turned into Portelet, one of the least visited bays on the south coast, although visitor numbers have probably increased in the last few years with the opening of the Pizza Restaurant.
Our turning point for the day was in the small bay just to the west of Noirmont but as we entered the bay there appeared to be a splash of colour on the rocks, which isn’t normally there.  As we approached it was clear that there were two sit on tops on the rocks, it actually turned out to be parts of three different craft.  We decided that it would be best to tow them back to Portelet, so Jim and myself landed and got them down to the waters edge, but it was clear that they had suffered a real battering in the recent storms.
John managed to tow one around to Portelet but as soon as I put the tow on the second one it started to sink, it became obvious why a quick release tow line is important.  There was no way that we could get it around to Portelet.  The one thing that we took away from today is that sit on tops probably need some form of internal buoyancy.  If they develop a large hole they will float semi submerged, at best.  Perhaps not quite as safe as many people consider.
The return to Ouaisne was somewhat exciting as the wind appeared to be a bit more easterly that north easterly, resulting in the loss of some shelter but what was clear was that it had increased in strength.  Looking at the statistics on Jersey Met, when we were relaxing over a pint once back at the beach, the wind had been touching 40 knots.
All in all a rather entertaining Sunday morning paddle and all that remained to do was to contact the Coastguard to inform them of the whereabouts of the sit on tops.

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

Sunny Sunday Kayaking

Sunny Sunday Kayaking
A group of 29 sea kayakers is an impressive sight as they prepare for departure even more so when 6 of them are in the brand new orange Tiderace Vortex kayaks, which have just been unwrapped in the car park at Ouaisne.
This was the annual visit of Tower Hamlets Canoe Club to Jersey and the plan for Sunday’s kayaking was to head east from Ouaisne, have lunch on Elizabeth Castle before taking advantage of the increasing north easterly wind to aid our progress back.  As it was the wind and tide slowed us down earlier than we anticipated with the result that it was sandwiches on St Aubin’s Fort.
That really didn’t matter as we had a really entertaining paddle along a lovely section of the Jersey coastline in conditions, which were quite interesting at times.  As we paddled back into the bay you could feel the warmth of the sun on your face for the first time this year, it really did feel like spring had finally arrived. 
 Its Christmas, in March!  Unwrapping the six new kayaks ready for our friends from Tower Hamlets Canoe Club to use.
 With 29 paddlers in the group, a clear pre-trip briefing is pretty essential.
 Angus just off Noirmont
 Matt paddling in front St Aubin’s.  Less than 72 hours earlier we had gone in the opposite direction on our night paddle.
 Janet enter St Aubin’s Harbour.  This was a pretty big tide so the water level was dropping at about 90 cm every 20 minutes, so we didn’t hang around.  Within minutes it was dry.
 Lunch at St Aubin’s Fort.  Thanks Matt for this photo.
 Approaching Noirmont, wind and tide with us.  It was a pretty quick run back to Ouaisne, although a bit choppy off the point.
Nicky passing through one of the narrow channels off Noirmont.

Portelet Pizza

For a number of years the old beach cafe at Portelet gradually crumbled through disuse, it’s decline seemingly linked to the closure of the holiday camp, which used to dominate the cliff top above and the associated drop in the number of visitors to the beach.
This year has seen the refurbishment of the building and its reopening as a pizza place and the Jersey Canoe Club decided to visit the Portelet Bay Cafe for lunch on the last day of August.  A paddle from Ouaisne allowed us to visit some of the historical sites, which exist along this section of coast.
This was followed by a very pleasant break at Portelet Bay Cafe, the pizzas are highly recommended, and the paddle back assisting with their digestion.  Considering it was a rather grey day with an increasing north westerly wind we think we made pretty good use of the time.
 Leaving from Ouaisne is always fascinating as we pass close to La Cotte de St Brelade, which is one of the most important neanderthal sites in north west Europe.  Within the ice age sediments there are thousands of stone tools in addition to the bones of their prey.
 To the south lies the small stack of La Cotte Island, which has a number of short climbs on its west face.
 The first major headland is Pt Le Fret.  It is fully exposed to the Atlantic swell but today it was all calm and we able to thread our way through the gullies.  Earlier this year the swell so large that we had to keep about 200 metres out, when rounding the point.
 Noirmont Tower was completed in 1814 to help protect the southern coast of the island from potential invasion by the French.  Today the lighthouse marks the western approach to St Helier.
 Nicky passing in front of Batterie Lothringen, part of a World War 2 coastal battery.  The first part was completed in 1941 but this tower was built April and October 1943.
 On the beach at Portelet, after our pizza’s.  Today was a particularly large spring tide, when we had landed less than 2 hours before, we left our kayaks at the waters edge.
 Another Jersey round tower, it was completed 6 years earlier than the nearby one at Noirmont, in 1806.  A sergeant and 12 soldiers manned the tower, it must have been rather crowded.

Belcroute Sea Kayaking again

It was another Sunday morning with strong westerly winds forecast so the options for our weekly paddle were limited.  It was another visit to Belcroute, which is sheltered from the strong winds from the west.  The winds on the day didn’t appear to be quite as strong as forecast so we were able to head across St Aubin’s Bay towards Elizabeth Castle, using the wind for quite an entertaining outgoing ride.
One advantage of living on an island is that whatever the wind direction it is always possible to find somewhere to paddle and as result of this the Jersey Canoe Club has managed to get on the water, on a Sunday morning pretty much every week since the mid-1970’s, although some weeks when it is blowing hard and the rain is falling numbers might be limited, at other times when the sun is out and winds are light we have seen over 40 kayakers on the water at times..
Jason preparing to launch at Belcroute, sheltered from the strong westerly wind which was blowing at the time.
 Looking back up the beach at Belcroute.  With winds like those forecast for this morning the kayaking options were limited.  The Jersey Canoe Club were not the only group paddling from there today.  The faster group of regular Jersey kayaker’s who paddle Taran’s had also chosen this location to leave from.
Pete just before Noirmont.  The relatively calm seas don’t indicate the true wind speed as we were sheltered by Noirmont headland.
Crossing St Aubin’s Bay.  The further we moved away from Noirmont the greater the impact of the wind.  Due to the limited fetch sea conditions weren’t too rough.
 Elizabeth Castle lies ahead.  One of the finest military fortifications of Jersey.
 You don’t see too many of these navigation marks around, an Isolated Danger Mark, just to the south of West Park Pool.