Triagoz

The Cote de Granit Rose is that stretch of the Brittany coastline, which is much loved by visiting British yachtsmen, and land based tourists.  Although the inhabitants have French passports they are regard themselves first and foremost as Bretons.  The coastline is deeply indented as a number of ria’s penetrate the countryside of Cote D’Armor and these inlets provide shelter during the periods of unsettled weather which can sweep across the region.  Along the coast a number of small bays and harbours are virtually enclosed by the large granite monoliths, which are widely spread providing a unique and dramatic seascape.  Against this background there is some superb sea kayaking.
It was an early April morning that we met at Ile Grande, the early season meant that car parking was not a problem.  Our destination for the day was the Triagoz lighthouse, about six miles to the northwest.  The tides in this area can run with a speed that can catch people unawares and to approach Triagoz meant crossing the tidal streams so we had chosen a neap tide to minimisz the effect of the flow.
As we paddled out from Ile Grande, along one of the many channels, which run in between the surrounding reefs it, became apparent that there was a swell approaching from the west.  As the swell began to feel the shallower water they steepened rapidly before crashing forwards in a surge wall of white, the unleashing of such power emphasized the need to steer clear of the reefs.
Triagoz lighthouse was built in 1864 and its light, 30 metres above the sea, is visible from 14 miles away.  On this day the early season mist, which hung over the water meant that the light wasn’t visible from 5 miles away and so, we headed out on a compass bearing towards an unseen destination.  After about 1.5 miles the Bar-ar-Gall west cardinal mark slipped by to our left and we entered deeper water.  The mean depth changing from under 20 metres to over 60 metres with a result that the swell settled into a more regular rhythm.  This was a swell, which had travelled from the open ocean, and there was a feeling of real power as we rose and sank a couple of metres at a time.
Eventually the lighthouse started to emerge from the haze and its face glowed gold reflecting the local rock from which it had been constructed.  The defensive ring of reefs was fringed white as the Atlantic swell was halted in its progress east.  We had hoped to land and to briefly explore the area surrounding the light, no more internal visits though, this light became automatic in 1984.  Unfortunately the ever-present swell prevented this happening.  We could have landed but this was not an emergency or a sea kayaking assessment, no need to risk the kayaks so we remained in deep water, savouring the atmosphere and taking photographs before turning east towards a known landing spot.
Les Sept Iles were six miles to the east but we had some tidal assistance for this section of the journey.  Barely visible in the distance we were being drawn towards them both by the tide and by reputation.  Located 3 miles north of the Breton coast they are a superb paddling destination in their own right.  Numerous vedettes travel backwards and forwards between the islands and the mainland but it is only possible to land on one of the islands, Ile aux Moines, the others are all part of the nature reserve.
The bird life in the area is truly spectacular.  On Ile Rouzic there are thousands of pairs of gannets, the most southerly colony on the eastern side of the Atlantic.  For the majority of the boat travelling tourists though the most exciting observation would be of a Puffin, which breed here in small numbers.  I would doubt if hardly any would become excited at the passage of a Manx Shearwater, which also breed in the area.  As we approached the archipelago a few of these birds passed close by and to me they embodied all that is interesting in a bird.  Complete mastery of their environment with a freedom of spirit to roam widely across the ocean.  As they glided past on stiffened wings there was the occasional tilting of the head as if in disbelief as to the type of craft they could see on the water.  The most common bird was the gannet, numerous individuals flying past on their regular commute from Ile Rouzic to the more distant fishing grounds.  Their numbers increasing dramatically during the last few hundred of metres, even if it was thick fog it would have been apparent that we were about to make a landfall.
As we approached the reef it appeared as if there was a line of mist across the rocks at the western end of the reef.  It quickly became apparent that this fog was in fact spray being unleashed from the exploding swells.  Clearly as we bore down on the islands it was going to be necessary to exercise a degree of caution to ensure that we weren’t swept into a maelstrom of exploding waves.  Le Cerf was the first landfall that we made, more of a large rock than a small island, we skirted north avoiding a number of dramatic reef breaks until we entered the calmer waters inside the reef.  We knew that there was a seal colony and were not disappointed when a number of inquisitive individuals swam out to accompany us on our exploration of the reef.
We landed on the northern side of Ile aux Moines for lunch, basking in the early April sun and savouring some of the delights of the Breton cuisine with a number of local paddlers.  Clearly a huge amount of military building had been undertaken in the past but for me the most dramatic man made feature was the lighthouse.  Its construction was started in 1854 and its powerful light is a key feature when approaching this coast.
We circumnavigated the two largest islands, Ile aux Moines and Ile Bono, encountering a number of the nesting birds, which have made these islands such an important ornithological site.  Time was pressing though and it was time to cross the channel towards the mainland.  On spring tides the streams run through the channel at speeds of up to 4 knots and with an adverse wind a significant sea can be generated.  Fortune smiled on us that afternoon and the ferry glide towards the perched granite boulders of the shoreline was carried out in flat calm seas.  We skirted the outside of Ploumanac’h, possibly the most picturesque harbour on the north coast of Brittany, and passed close to Tregastel, so popular with tourists during the summer months.
We threaded our way through the reefs back to Ile Grande, from where we had departed six hours and 20 nautical miles earlier.  Some of the French paddlers concluded their day with a number of celebratory rolls but I was more interested in remaining dry.  As we changed in the car park the full implications of the day’s paddle began to sink in.  We had visited two of the major lighthouses of northern Brittany and seen a diverse range of wildlife in a dramatic natural environment.

Triagoz
Rafted up close to Triagoz during one of the few lulls in the swell. We couldn’t wait here for too long.
Triagoz
Approaching Sept Iles. We had been in the kayaks for nearly 4 hours at this point with just a few minutes break close to Triagoz.
Triagoz
Looking back through the reefs, close to Tregastel, a real jewel, on the Breton coast.
Triagoz
It wouldn’t have been to healthy to have been caught inside the break, at times.
Triagoz
Heading along the channel back into Ile Grande, the following sea was certainly helping our progress.

Sea Kayak Symposiums of the Past

Whilst continue to look through my old slide collection I came across a number of photographs, which help to illustrate what informative and entertaining events the Jersey Sea Kayak Symposiums have been over the years.  In addition they have attracted a number of paddlers who are well known throughout the sea kayaking world.
The next Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium will be held in May 2019, it should have been May 2018 but the organisers of the Scottish Symposium asked if they could use the slot and we readily agreed.

Symposium
1992 was the year of the first Symposium, attracting about 60 participants. Unusual sessions include this one being run by Dave Collins, who became better know through his work with UK Athletics. Also in the picture are Kevin Danforth, at the time editor of Canoe Focus and Martin Melling who was Secretary of the BCU Sea Touring Committe at the time (I think).
Symposium
The social side has always been important, the 1992 BBQ. The person in the blue sweatshirt is my dad (Ray Mansell) who was Chairman of the Jersey Canoe Club at the time. This picture was taken outside the Club cottage at Egypt on the north coast of the Island
Symposium
In 1994 we were fortunate enough to have French paddler Didier Plouhinec talking about Greenland paddling. At the time it hadn’t really been seen that frequently in the UK.
Symposium
Based at the Canoe Club premises launching was sometimes a problem when the wind was in the east. Monday in 1994 was borderline, for some people, particularly if you had a composite kayak.
Symposium
The weather had been kinder earlier in the weekend. Derek Hairon is running a towing session, off the same slip. Peter Midwood is one of the paddlers observing.
Symposium
Rolling sessions have always been popular, they remain so to this day. This is rolling 1994 style with Graham Wardle.
Symposium
By 1996 we had a swimming pool for the Greenland session but still didn’t have enough kayaks and paddles to go around. Gordon Brown is demonstrating the techniques whilst world authority, John Heath gave a running commentary. We were really fortunate to have two such icons of the sea kayaking world.
Symposium
Gordon setting up for another roll.
Symposium
1996 was the third Symposium and Derek Hutchinson had been to all three. His on water sessions were always popular but it was his talks which were the most memorable. Anybody who heard his North Sea Crossing talk will never forget it.
Symposium
Graham Wardle and Donald Thompson clearly discussing the finer points of a particular stroke, outside the clubhouse of Jersey Canoe Club.
Symposium
Cliff jumping has always been a popular Jersey sport. Here is Barry Howell jumping off the Paternosters. Derek Hutchinson is the paddler.
Symposium
1996 was the year that we finished the event with a sea kayak slalom. Possibly the only slalom ever held when every entrant was in a Skerry.
Symposium
Pete Scott ran a sea anchor session, the first time it appeared on the programme in Jersey.
Symposium

Howard Jeffs discussing paddling with Terry Harlow from the United States.
Symposium
The 4th Symposium was 1998 and were fortunate to have Bill Oddie as our personal guide on the sea birds paddle. I paddled him around in a double Spud which proved to be ideal for the task.
Symposium
Gordon Brown was back, in 1998, and here he is working on a small wooden kayak which had been designed by Duncan Winning. It was completed over the period of the Symposium. In following events Duncan stuck to making Greenland paddles as they take less time.
Symposium
The event has always attracted coaches who have been able to offer something different. Mike McClure from Northern Ireland has been a popular and regular contributor.
Symposium
As well as visiting coaches local paddlers have also worked on many sessions. Nick Queree is running a navigation session in 2002.
Symposium
Chris Jones is running a rolling session in 2006, as popular then as it was 12 years earlier.
Symposium
In 2008 the BBQ was still going strong on the Monday night, prior to the start of the extended paddling programme. Now the Monday night is the Symposium meal with the BBQ normally on the Thursday.
Symposium
One of the most popular paddles in the following week is always the day trip to the Ecrehous. In 2010 on at least one day we had great weather.

The 2019 Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium will be the 13th time that the event has been held over a period of 27 years and it all came about after Bill Small and Pete Scott had attended the Anglesey Symposium in 1991 and decided that Jersey Canoe Club could do something similar.

Hans Lindemann – Atlantic Crossing

Whilst searching through my kayaking literature I came across my copy of “Life” magazine, which was published on 22nd July 1957.  It recounts the story of Hans Lindemann, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean, from east to west, in a kayak in 1956.  I  had managed to find a copy a few years ago through the wonders of eBay.  A seller in Miami just happened to be selling something which I had been trying to find for years.
Hans Lindemann left Las Palmas in the Canary Islands on the 20th October 1956, in his folding kayak, Tangaroa, eventually making landfall 72 days later on St Martin, in the Caribbean.
During the crossing there were numerous incidents, a chance meeting with a cargo ship half way across the Atlantic, capsizing and clinging to the upturned hull throughout the night, another capsize in daylight, hitting a shark with his paddle etc all while his body was fueled with tins of condensed milk and beer.

Lindemann
The front cover of Life Magazine, from July 1957.

It really is one of the most significant sea kayaking trips of all time, if you haven’t managed to find a copy of Life Magazine then search out a copy of “Alone at Sea” which describes the crossing in far more detail.  At the end of the book though I was left wondering “why on earth would you do it?”

English Channel Nostalgia

In March 1981 we were heading back to Jersey on the car ferry from Weymouth, with quite a warm feeling inside.  I was in the team which had just won the initial Home International Surf Kayaking Championships at Fistral Beach Newquay and as a result we felt that we were up for anything, so in the naivety youth of youth we hatched a plan to paddle from Jersey back to England. A Channel crossing but at the western end of the waterway, as opposed to the narrower and busier Dover Straits.  Over the next couple of months the reality of the paddle began to sink in but we pressed on with the planning.  In the end we decided to split the paddle in Alderney.
So early one Sunday morning in June 1981 five us loaded our sea kayaks on the beach at L’Etacq on the north west of Jersey and headed out, on our way to Alderney 33 nautical miles north, due to the speed of the tidal streams around Alderney our window of opportunity was quite small.  So there was no time to hang about or to pop into Sark, as we passed by.  In addition we were under added pressure as we had to catch a flight home in the afternoon.
6 hours after leaving L’Etacq we beached at Braye Harbour having made good use of the favourable tidal streams.  We quickly stored the kayaks, rushed to the airport and in a matter of 15 minutes retraced our route back to Jersey, although with considerably less effort.
The following Friday night we flew back to Alderney, retrieved the kayaks and rechecked our navigation for the following morning.  We aimed to leave at 06.00 so it was an early phone call to the Jersey Met Office for a current weather forecast.  It couldn’t have been better, virtually no wind, sunshine and the slight risk of a fog patch.  How wrong this turned out to be.
As we paddled out of Braye Harbour we disappeared into the fog and in the belief that it was a small fog bank headed north.  Little did we realize that this fog stretched all the way to the south coast of England, 58 nautical miles away, if we known we might well have turned straight around and headed back to Alderney.
We kept to our bearing but in the pre-GPS days there was no way of confirming our actual position we just had to have confidence in our compasses.  At times the visibility was less than 50 metres, although the fog couldn’t have been that thick vertically, as the sun was shining.
We decided to stop for lunch at 13.00 and as the top of the hour approached our thoughts turned to food.  Suddenly at about 12.58 there was disconcerting rumbling sound to our right.  Almost simultaneously John and myself shouted paddle as we had seen the bow wave.  We were directly in the path of an enormous cargo ship, which was steaming west clearly unaware of our presence.  As we sprinted forward we just cleared the ship.  At this point fear kicked in.
We decided that staying alive was preferable to stopping for food so we carried on north with an extra sense of urgency to our strokes.  Amazingly at about 20.00 we popped out of the fog just underneath the old Borstal on Portland.  I would like to claim credit for some seriously accurate navigation but I think that it was more by luck than judgement that we arrived at our destination with such precision.
We landed on the beach at Weymouth just before 21.00 which gave us an average speed of nearly 4 knots for the previous 15 hours and we just missed the overnight ferry back home to Jersey.  So it was an evening exploring the night life of Weymouth (very limited) before heading south on the British Rail ferry the following morning.
It was an immensely satisfying paddle but whenever anybody asked since for advice I have always recommended that they don’t repeat our journey.  Its not the distance but the risk of being exposed to the shipping something that it is impossible to imagine unless you have sat in the middle of the Channel.  36 years on I can still remember the feeling as if it was yesterday when that bow wave appeared out of the fog!

Although I have taken photographs of sea kayaking since the 1970’s I have none of the Channel crossing, I was just to concerned about the paddling to stop and take any.

Channel Crossing
An aerial shot of Alderney, with the harbour at Braye clearly visible. It was our arrival point from Jersey and departure point for England. The strong tidal streams, which Alderney is well known for, are visible running over the rocks off the tip of the island.

Dry suits

Whilst looking through some of my old slides I came across this one, which represents an interesting time in the evolution of modern kayak equipment, in particular dry suits.

It was taken in November 1982 on the beach at Greve de Lecq in Jersey.  It was an unusually cold day, note the snow on the front of the kayak.  I am the one in the paddling equipment, if you weren’t sure.
Wind surfing was becoming popular and a number of the participants were wearing this new clothing, a dry suit, prior to this evolution the dry suits were very basic items of equipment.  We were fortunate enough to be lent a dry suit to try out.
One of the main concerns, which was doing the round of the paddling community was that in the event of a capsize, if the dry suit hadn’t been vented properly it was likely that the feet would fill with air and the kayaker would be suspended upside down.  My role, no pun intended, in this exercise was to paddle offshore, do a couple of rolls before capsizing and hopefully swimming ashore with my head above water.
As I am writing this 35 years later it is clear that being suspended upside down with your feet full of air was an urban myth.  So based on this rather unscientific experiment we ordered 6 dry suits and 7 months later flew out to Spitsbergen for a 2 month trip.  As far as I am aware we were one of the first sea kayaking trips to use the modern dry suit, an item of equipment, which today is virtually essential for any self respecting sea kayaker.

Dry suits
Typical kayaking conditions in NW Spitsbergen, just short of 80 degrees N.
Dry suit
If you are contemplating sea conditions like these a dry suit is pretty essential.
Dry suit
The sea is frozen just in front of the paddlers, wearing dry suits in conditions like this made life on the expedition bearable. It was a complete revelation to us nearly 35 years ago.

Greenland Paddle

Anybody knows me is aware that I am totally lacking in any practical skills. My belief is that it is important to keep the artisan in work. So it was much to everyone’s surprise and some people’s disbelief that I decided to make a Greenland paddle.
Embarking on this journey I was completely thrown into unknown waters. I had managed to reach the ripe old of 60 and had never bought any wood in my life. It was with some trepidation that I entered the the timber yard and casually ordered two pieces of red cedar, as if it was something I did almost every day. The reality is that I wouldn’t have recognised cedar if it had hit me in the face.
One of the advantages of making your own paddle is cost.  Wood for two paddles cost £20 whereas commercially produced paddles are generally in the region of £200 or slightly higher.  The only problem is that I didn’t have any tools at all to work with so buying the necessary items cost just over £200.  So I have to make a few paddles if there is to be any return on the investment.
If you decide to make your own Greenland paddle there is plenty support out there.  I have used the really useful film that Matt Johnson has put on YouTube. Use the film in conjunction with the PDF written by Chuck Holst and available for download from Qajaq USA.
It has been a fascinating journey so far and my progress has certainly surprised some members of my family.

Greenland Paddle
No power tools for me just a good old fashion saw. It was fascinating how the sawing improved as the afternoon wore on.  Once I started with the saw there was no turning back.  I will either have a Greenland paddle or some expensive firewood!
Greenland Paddle
Markings which indicate how the shaft will emerge.
Greenland paddle
Markings for the end of the blade. The rounded edges were produced using a dinner plate.
Greenland Paddle
Quite amazingly a paddle shape is starting to emerge. A hand plane will be used to smooth the edges.

Some more memories of Jersey sea kayaking

Another couple of hours scanning some old slides has revived some great memories of sea kayaking in Jersey.  It is clear that over the years the Jersey Canoe Club has been involved in a variety of entertaining events both in local waters and further afield.

Jersey Kayaking
The start of the 1979 Canoe Club Middle Distance race from Gorey to St Helier. It is clear that it was important to have an orange Nordkapp HM and wear a Ricard sun hat.
Jersey Kayaking
John Hurley at the 1982 white water championships. Close to St Helier ,the white water was revealed when the tide dropped. The water was from the power station and so it was really warm. An ideal place to paddle on a cold winters day. Sadly it has since disappeared under the reclamation site.
Jersey kayaking
In the 1980’s Jersey competed in the Home International Surfing competitions. In 1986 we entered a team in the slalom event for the first time. This was training at St Ouen’s in almost perfect conditions. Sadly the week of the event was accompanied by no surf and pretty strong easterly winds.
Jersey Kayaking
In the early 1990’s the BCU introduced the idea of a National Canoeing Day. In September 1992 we managed to get 120 people to turn up to St Catherine’s to form a raft.
Jersey Kayaking
The 1990’s also saw the development of Sea Kayak Symposiums. This is 1996 and Gordon Brown is demonstrating a number of Greenland rolls and skills. We were fortunate to have John Heath at the event who gave a running commentary to Gordon’s performance.
Jersey Kayaking
Some people expressed an interest in folding kayaks. This is a naked Feathercraft Khatsilano.
Jersey Kayaking
We also developed a tidal slalom course in front of the Club House at St Catherine’s. I think this is Scottish paddler Donald Thomson taking part in the closing event of the 1996 Symposium. All competitors had to use a VCP Skerray.
Jersey Kayaking
The 1998 Symposium. This is a bird watching paddle, I ended up paddling Bill Oddie around in double Spud whilst he pointed at feathered things of interest. There must have been at least 50 people in the group, which created quite a spectacle.
Jersey Kayaking
An innovation at the 1998 Symposium was the making of kayaks over the weeken with people able to assist. Howard Jeffs produced a fibre glass BAT and Duncan Winning built the “Jersey Junior” being paddled here by my daughter Lisa.

Inuit Hunter

In 1993 we paddled over 300 miles along the west coast of Greenland, from Sisimiut to Ilulissat.  After several weeks paddling we called in at Qasigiannguit, in the south east corner of Disko Bay.  Formerly known as Christianshab, the town was established in 1734, making it the second oldest town in Greenland.
It is situated in the heart of a rich archaeological region so not surprisingly there is an interesting museum.  At the museum there was a traditional kayak and in conversation with the curator we asked if there were still any people hunting in the traditional fashion.  He replied that possibly there were still traditional hunters around Thule, in the far north, but certainly not in the area that we were paddling in.
It came as a complete surprise, therefore to encounter this Greenland hunter two days later in the ice, on the southern side of Ilulissat icefjord.  He was paddling up into the ice and then drifting back on the melt water current occasionally shooting a seal.  This is a scene from 1993 which I doubt exists today, certainly in visits to the area since 2008 there have been no similar encounters.

Inuit hunter
A hunter paddling among the ice on the southern side of Ilulissat Icefjord

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.