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.

Read the Water

Read the Water

“Read the Water” is a small booklet written by respected South Wales sea kayak coach, Nige Robinson.  In full colour this is a useful addition to the library of an paddler who pursues their hobby on the sea.
The focus of the book is in helping sea kayakers acquire that almost indefinable quality described as a seamanship.  There are chapters covering such diverse topics such “Fundamentals”, “Observing the water”, “Change”, “Wind and weather”, “Surf”, and “Moving Water”.
The book has a pretty unique approach to instruction, not so much telling you what you need to know but prompting you to question what you see.  Encouraging you to try and make sense of what you are seeing and if possible to predict any possible changes.  Experienced paddlers are always assessing their environment, the interaction between the water, air and land and deciding what is an appropriate course of action.
What do these clouds mean, what is the consequence of tidal change on the water, interpreting colour to decide what the sea bed and sea shore consist of.  Once you have interpreted the data it is possible to make an informed judgement, as to whether the trip can continue or whether it should be amended or even abandoned.
In addition it encourages paddlers to use all their senses.  How often have you heard experienced paddlers say “The tide is against us here”.  They have developed a feel for what the water is doing and are able to come to a conclusion without being reliant on visual information.
This is a book to dip into on a regular basis, as opposed to just sitting down and reading it in one go.  Look at a few of the photographs, interpret what they are showing and then head out on to the water to put it into practice.  It is certainly a novel approach for a book but it is well worth pursuing.  A worthwhile investment.
The book is available by mail order for £10.99 from Nige at Sea Kayak Guides,.

Circumnavigation of Gozo

It had always been an ambition of mine to paddle around Gozo in a day but on every previous visit to the Island the weather had been too unsettled or I had been with paddlers who might have found it a bit too much of a challenge.
It was a surprise therefore after the winds of the last 5 or 6 days a narrow window of opportunity seemed to open up and so at 07.30 Thursday morning we found ourselves at Dahlet Qorrot, unloading kayaks and sorting kit for an 08.00 departure.
We were heading around Gozo in a clock wise direction so just after 08.00 we were heading for the easterly point before turning onto the south coast.  As we paddled along we disturbed a short eared owl, which hopefully didn’t hang around on the Islands much longer as it would be at high risk of being shot!   Just past the harbour at Mgarr, we came across a couple of hunters, who had decoys floating offshore, as they sat with guns at the ready.  That probably goes someway to explaining why we saw virtually no sea birds all day.

Gozo
Approaching the harbour at Mgarr, always busy with ferry traffic care is needed when crossing the entrance.
Gozo
We paddled into the deep inlet, partly in the hope of a coffee, sadly the cafe didn’t open for another 90 minutes.
Gozo
The cliffs in between Mgarr Ix-Xini and Xleni are the most spectacular in the area, rising vertically up to 130 metres. They are important nesting sites for some of the Shearwaters, which breed in the area.
Gozo
We rafted up just off the north coast to grab a quick bite to eat. We didn’t really have enough time to paddle inshore and land.
Gozo
Not quite as dramatic as the Azure Window was, Wied Il-Mielah is still a pretty spectacular arch.
Gozo
Just to east of the north coast salt pans there are some rather unusual rock formations. We felt we were on the home stretch paddling along here.

We pulled back into Dahlet Qorrot at about 15.15, we hadn’t raced around but we certainly hadn’t just dawdled along.  Apart from the extra time to go into Mgarr Ix-Xini we didn’t really stop and we certainly didn’t get out of the kayaks.  Chris did have an appointment at 15.30 though so we were on a bit of a schedule.
I have heard lots of distances given for the circumnavigation of Gozo and most of the them also include the phrase “It is about”.  It was good to be able to measure the distance on the GPS and confirm that our route was exactly 20 nautical miles.  Spectacular scenery and good company combined to produce a memorable day out.  I just hope that I don’t have to wait another 5 years before I repeat it.

Channel Islands Sea Kayaking

A few pictures of sea kayaking around the Channel Islands, mostly from about 30 years ago or slightly older.  The difference in shape of the images is because the earlier ones were taken with a Kodak Instamatic camera (remember those?) before I had a job which paid enough money to be able to buy a 35mm camera.
In all the time that we spent paddling around the Channel Islands in the 1970’s and 80’s I don’t think we ever bumped into any other sea kayakers, it really did feel like an era of exploration.

Channel Islands
This is returning to Jersey (visible behind the paddlers) from Sark in June 1979. Note the old style of Henderson screw hatches.
Channel Islands
Another image from the Sark paddle in 1979, in those days the only sea kayak which we considered having was a Nordkapp HM. If you could afford it you had Lendal Nordkapp paddles with wooden blades, if not you just used your standard Wild Water paddles.
Channel Islands
Heading north from Jersey, the island is Sark, which was our original destination but we changed part of the way across and decided to go to Guernsey instead. The paddler is Derek Hairon who now runs Jersey Kayak Adventures.
Channel Islands
Arrival at Bordeaux in Guernsey on our day trip from Jersey. What had planned to be a gentle paddle turned into a 40 nautical mile day trip. In the distance can be seen Herm (left), Jethou (right) and Sark just visible between the two. On the return journey we stopped off at Herm to phone through to our parents to let them know that we were going to be late home and the telephone box still had buttons A and B to press.
Channel Islands
The summer of 1982, I was getting married and so distant holidays were out of the question but we had a great two weeks paddling around the Channel Islands. This is Port au Moulin on the west coast of Sark in August 1982.
Channel Islands
Havre Gosselin, on the west coast of Sark This was on an Advanced Sea Assessment in May 1983. The Nordkapp HM still dominated the kayaks in use in the Channel Islands. This photograph was used on the front cover of Canoeist Magazine.
Channel Islands
Leaving Creux Harbour, Sark in December 1983. We left Greve de Lecq, on the north coast of Jersey, in the dark and crossed the 12 nautical miles to Sark. The idea was to purchase duty free drink for Christmas and we had a significant number of orders. Unfortunately the shops were shut so that part of the paddle failed. We did managed to find a toasted cheese sandwich before returning to Jersey and landing back at Greve in the dark.
Channel Islands
In the 1980’s I was busy running lots of training and assessment courses for the BCU Senior Instructor Award. This was December 1983 on the south coast of Guernsey. The paddler in blue is Ron Moore, a superb coach and legendary speaker who was based in Plymouth, who is sadly no longer with us.
Channel Islands
Another BCU training course in October 1984. This is at Havelet, just south of St Peter Port. Plastic kayaks had made an appearance, although Brian Aplin is still paddling what looks like a fibre glass KW7. It was Brian who I accompanied on his swim a couple of months ago, from Lihou to the Hanois.
Channel Islands
The Minquiers in September 1985. We visited this reef to the south of Jersey as a day trip whilst training for the Canoe Club paddle we were planning for the following summer when we kayaked from Tromso to Honnigsvag, around Nordkapp.
Channel Islands
In the 1980’s I ran a canoeing (kayaking) school in Jersey but we used to do lots of trips away. This is crossing from Guernsey to Herm in perfect conditions in July 1989.
Channel Islands
1989 saw the arrival of the Aleut II, designed a built by Howard Jeffs. I still have this kayak. It opened up a number of possibilities. Pete Scott and myself attempted to paddle around the Channel Islands but it also meant that some people could undertake paddles that they might not have done on their own. This is two of the younger Club members heading down the east coast of Sark in June 1990.
Channel Islands
I think this was still a Senior Instructor course, we hadn’t quite become Level 3 coaches. This is launching down the steep slipway in Saints Bay Guernsey in October 1990. I was amazed that we survived all these courses because nobody had heard of risk assessments etc. What I do remember was that there was always a huge element of fun.

Sea Kayaking around Comino

Comino is the third largest island in the Maltese archipelago and a particularly special one to paddle around.  Leaving from Hondoq, on Gozo, it is not a particularly long trip, just under 6 nautical miles, but it never fails to entertain.  For today’s paddle we were fortunate enough to be able to use kayaks from Kayak Gozo and were really pleased that Chris, from the company was able to join us.  It has been just over 2 years since I last paddled with him, on a particularly memorable visit to Herm.
Thousands of tourists visit the Blue Lagoon every day during the height of the tourist season and even on a Friday in November it was pretty busy.  During the summer months it isn’t possible to paddle through the Blue Lagoon as it is roped off for swimmers, but the ropes were taken away a few days previously and so for the first time in over 5 years I passed through the Blue Lagoon.
There was some reasonably choppy water as we made our way around the south west corner of the island, past the small lighthouse.  It wasn’t long though before we were surfing parallel to the south coast.

Comino
Nicky off the south west point of Comino. Marked on some of the maps as Lantern Point. Not the most spectacular lighthouse.
Comino
I always like this arch on the south coast of Comino although I think that it always looks better on sunny summer days.

After stopping for a quick stretch of the legs we carried on until we reached the east coast.  The kayaking is truly memorable with some challenging rock hopping at times plus some superb caves just waiting to be explored.

Comino
One of the many caves on Comino. Due to the fairly strong westerly wind only those on the east coast could really be explored.
Comino
Looking through the arch on the north west corner of Comino. The buildings behind are on Gozo.
Comino
Laurie and Simone performing a head stand in their double. Unfortunately their previous attempt had been virtually perfect but I was too slow with the camera.

The weather wasn’t quite as good as on some previous visits but the circumnavigation of Comino is always something special.  It didn’t disappoint today.

Grand Harbour Valletta

There are some truly memorable urban sea kayaking destinations such as the Hudson River in New York and the Thames in London.  Today we experienced a third, the Grand Harbour Valletta.  A paddle steeped in history and geography.
Once again we were the guests of the Malta Sea Kayak Club.  They have really convenient premises close to the Sliema – Valletta ferry, with a good selection of sea kayaks.  Once we were kitted out what followed was 3 hours of memorable sea kayaking, explore the various areas of the Grand Harbour.  Clearly paddling in such a busy commercial environment requires care and knowledge.  Our local guides were, yet again, Ian and Andrea and it was a pleasure to be on the water with them again.
The history of the various locations around the harbour is well documented, ranging from the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 when the Ottoman’s tried to evict the Knights of St John, and the blockade of 1800 as a result of which, the French surrendered, enabling the British to establish rule over the islands.  Possibly the most memorable military event was the relentless bombing of the island by the Italians and Germans during the Second World War.
It is possible to read about the history and to visit some of the excellent museums, but what we had today was a totally unique perspective on one of the great natural harbours in the world.

Grand Harbour Valletta
Getting ready to leave from in front the Malta Sea Kayak Club in Marsamxett Harbour.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Passing the bow of a ship moored the the Grand Harbour.  It makes you realize just how vulnerable you are in a sea kayak,when you are so close to such a vessel.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Passing in front of some oil rigs which were in French Creek.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Passing the stern of a huge cruise ship alongside the quay in the Grand Harbour.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Nicky inside Laguna Marina, with the colourful Valletta waterfront behind.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Ian passing in front of Fort St Angelo.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Nicky paddling underneath Ricasoli Fort, just to the south of Grand Harbour.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Returning to Marsamxett Harbour from the south of Grand Harbour at the last light of day.

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.