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:
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!
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.
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.
What a difference an hour makes. I was running the Sunday morning sea kayaking session for the Jersey Canoe Club, we headed south out of Ouaisne but within a few hundred metres we were running for the shelter of La Cotte Island as a significant squall was approaching fast. Visibility and temperatures were dropping fast whilst wind speeds and rainfall intensity was going in the opposite direction.
We sheltered for perhaps 20 minutes whilst being exposed to the full force of the rain, but eventually the conditions started to ease and we were able to continue with our paddle in far more reasonable conditions. It was interesting to consider what action we could have taken if we had been exposed to such a squall whilst on an open crossing. We still haven’t come up with a definitive answer.
This is one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe and during the summer I was involved in helping archaeologists from University College, London look for possible other sites along the south coast of Jersey. We used kayaks along to south coast to try and identify sites which might warrant further investigation and part of the work was filmed by the BBC for the programme “Digging for Britain” which is going to be broadcast on BBC 2 this Friday evening.
At La Cotte de St Brelade the remains of mammoth and rhinoceros, amongst other things have been discovered at this Palaeolithic site. Every time I paddle past I am awe at the significance of this site which lies just a couple of miles from where I live but which looks out across some of the finest sea kayaking in north west Europe