On the water

The opportunity to get back on the water presented itself much earlier than expected as my ruptured achilles appears to be mending quicker than anticipated.  My first excursion at sea, over the weekend, was on a sit on top as I worked out that I would be able to keep my foot straighter than in a closed cockpit boat.  In addition, if necessary it would be pretty easy to place my foot into the cooling water.
St Brelade’s was the chosen departure point and it had been some time since I had paddled there last.  The hardest part of the whole trip was probably carrying the kayak down to the waters edge as I was so apprehensive about walking and carrying on the sand, multi-tasking was a pretty new experience.  Once afloat though life became much easier and despite having relatively low aspirations we did manage to paddle all the way to Corbiere.
I have only been off the water for 3 months, which doesn’t seem too long, but flicking through my paddling log books I realized that it has been the longest time that I haven’t been paddling, since I started my log books in January 1979.
This was the first place I went kayaking, in 1969, and I still appreciate that it is a special section of coast.  In the warm June sunshine, the red granite cliffs, fringed with vegetation and the blue seas combined to produce a coastline, more reminiscent of the Mediterranean than the British Isles.  Just a great day to relaunch my kayaking career.

On the Water
Nicky and Ruth heading towards the cliffs at Beauport.
On the Water
Heading west towards Corbiere. Offshore are the Les Kaines, one of the islands small reefs.
On the Water
Just to the east of Pt La Moye. One of the most impressive things about today was the clarity of the water.
On the Water
One happy paddler and his friend!
On the Water
Looking towards Beauport, one of Jersey’s most beautiful bays. Today the only boat at anchor was an old style French sailing boat.

Achilles Rehab

5th April 2018 is etched in my memory as the day that I ruptured my Achilles’ tendon, whilst kayaking in Gozo. It has been a difficult and at times frustrating 3 months but today I felt I made a significant step forward on the road to recovery. For the first time I went to the gym.
Although I wouldn’t place myself in the category of a gym fanatic I must admit that when the opportunity arises I do enjoy spending an hour or so in the gym, listening to some music and working up a sweat on some of the cardio- vascular machines.
My machine of choice has always been the Concept 2 rowing machine, for a couple of reasons. Firstly it seems to be the most suitable machine for maintaining my kayaking fitness and secondly it seems to give you an all round work out , without any significant impact on the body.
I started off gently on the bike and then the cross trainer, all seemed to be going well. So I thought I would try the rowing machine, managed one pull before having to get off, it might be some time until I get back on the Concept 2. The long road back to fitness might be slow and bumpy.
The gym I go to, the D-W Gym, must have one of the best views of any. Looking across St Brelade’s Bay to Pt Le Fret, the scene of some great sea kayaking in the past and hopefully in the future, once my leg has recovered.
The next waymark on my route a degree of normality will be when I manage to get in a kayak, that day may still be some time off, but you never know.

Gym
The view from the bike in the gym. There can’t be many gyms, which have such a stunning view.
Gym
Looking out from the gym. Pt Le Fret is the headland in the distance, where there is some superb paddling.
Winston Churchill Park
Looking across St Brelade’s Bay from the Winston Churchill Memorial Park, it was not an easy walk through the trees, I had to stop and rest 3 times.

MIT – Part 2

After a wet night and voracious insects we woke to a beautiful morning and a high tide, meaning we could launch without the problems we faced landing the previous day.  It was a real shock how far the tide went out.
We headed south from the bay before rounding Indian Point and heading into Sheepscot Bay, were we began to feel the swells rolling in from the south east.  There were a couple of areas, where boomers required attention with our route finding.  As we paddled north though the swells subsided and soon we were inside the shelter of Five Islands.
It was here that we really began to appreciate one of the pleasures of sea kayaking in Maine, stopping off for a lobster lunch and a glass of Allagash Blond before carrying onto the evenings campsite.  We stopped of at Five Island Lobster Co. and ate a delightful lunch on the outdoor terrace.
The afternoon paddle to Whittum Island, where we aimed to camp for the night, easily passed by, fueled by lobster and soon we were putting up the tent on our island home.  It was a great place to sit and watch the tides swirl as the Sheepscot River went through its daily cycle.  The most obvious other residents were the ospreys, so we maintained our distance from the area around their nest.
The following morning was another incredibly early start, those fishing boats really are noisy!  We ferry glided across the ebb tide before passing through Townsend Gut, a sheltered passage, which avoids paddling around some of the larger headlands.  Heading east we had to be aware of the significant boat traffic which was operating in the area of Boothbay Harbor.  A couple of headlands, including Pemaquid Point, demand respect, particularly if the sea is anything but flat calm.
What was particularly interesting about the mornings paddle was that there was virtually nowhere to stop.  We eventually paddled all the way to Bar Island, where we were going to spend the night, 16 nautical miles and very few places to land.  In contrast to virtually everywhere else I have  paddled it is not possible to just land wherever you want.  Parts of this coast was kayaking through some very exclusive suburbs.  Lunch and rest stops require planning in advance.
Bar Island was a lovely place to stay, with a couple of wooden tent platforms, we spent the afternoon and evening exploring our island home.  The following morning some stewards form the MITA turned up and it was great to have the opportunity to discuss the Trail, with them and they very kindly took our rubbish away.

Sagadahoc Bay
It was so much easier to launch in the morning when the tide was in at Sagadahoc Bay. Planning is essential.
Five Islands Harbor
A convenient place to stop for a lobster roll and an Allagash blond.
Osprey
One of the Ospreys that we shared Whittum with.
Hendrick's Head Lighthouse
Hendrick’s Head Lighthouse, catching the late evening sun.
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse was constructed in 1835 and automated in 1934.
Bar Island.
Part of the coast of Bar Island. Looks like glacial deposits.

Bar Island
Tent platform on Bar Island. A comfortable place to spend the night.

Maine Island Trail

I first visited Maine in the summer of 1994, on a canoeing trip to the West Branch of the Penobscot.  Our girls were 5 and 7, so it seemed to be a great way to get in some multi-day paddling trips.  I did manage to get a day in sea kayaking and recognized the possibilities of paddling in the area.  Over the years I heard about the Maine Island Trail but it wasn’t until 2016 that the opportunity arose to paddle a section of the Trail.
The support provided by the Maine Island Trail Association, is crucial to making the most out of your journey along the coast of Maine.  We rented sea kayaks from Portland Paddle, who were really friendly and helpful.
With the position of Portland on the Maine coast, we planned to head north east towards Penobscot Bay, before returning back to Portland, hopefully by a slightly different route.  We did delay our departure for a day because of the intensity of the thunderstorms, which were forecast.  A delay which proved to be a sensible decision from both a meteorological perspective as well as allowing us time to visit LL Bean, in Freeport.  Always a treat.
Leaving Portland we headed east through the islands, which shelter the waters of Casco Bay, having lunch on a delightful beach at the southern tip of Jewell Island before heading north to a lovely campsite on Bangs. To make the most of your journey and to support continued access to the Maine coast it is important to join the Maine Island Trail Association.
The Maine Island Trail extends for 375 miles from the border with New Hampshire all the way to Canada and the Association maintains over 200 sites, which are available for day use or camping.  Membership of the MITA provides you with an annual printed guide to the trail as well as an App, which some people find more useful.  It is an essential $45 if you are going to be kayaking in the area.
Bangs was just an ideal place to spend our first night, not too far to paddle but far enough to produce a feeling of isolation.  We were clearly on our way!  For us one of the strange things was watching the sunset over the mainland US, living on the west coast of Jersey our sunsets are always over the sea.
We woke early the next morning to the sound of the local fishing boats heading out, I am surprised that engine silencers haven’t reached the United States.  There was no need for an alarm clock, whilst we were away!  We had left by 07.40, passing just to the north of Eagle Island State Park, which was the summer home of Arctic explorer Robert Peary, on another visit I am sure we will stop to visit the museum.
Ball Head and Small Point seemed to have the potential to have challenging conditions but we paddled around in flat calm water before stopping for lunch.  Ahead we knew that there was a potential hazard in the form of the entrance to the Kennebec River, and we weren’t disappointed.  There was a significant tide race down the sides of the islands but coming from Jersey we are used to moving water and managed to comfortably hold our ferry glide just upstream of the waves before reaching the sheltered waters on the eastern side of the river mouth.
We were aiming for the Sagadahoc Bay Campground but we knew that the tide was dropping rapidly and eventually we grounded about 0.5 miles short of our target.  Abandoning the the kayaks we carried the tents and clothing up to the campground whilst waiting for the moon to perform her magic.
As the tide started to return I floated the kayaks up the channels, unfortunately as the sea started to flow in the the rain the started to fall and the insects started to bite.  I have to admit it was a pretty miserable couple of hours moving the kayaks up the bay and once I reached the shore it was a matter of retreating to the tent and not re-appearing to the following morning.
An interesting 19 nautical miles covered with a slight sting in the tail at the end of the day, but the forecast was for the rain to clear overnight so we went to sleep with a degree of optimism.

Maine Island Trail
Beach at the southern end of Jewell, where we stopped for lunch on day one.
Maine Island Trail
First nights campsite. Bangs Island
Maine Island Trail
Sunset over the land. An unusual perspective for somebody who lives on the west coast of Jersey
Maine Island Trail
Just passing to the north of Eagle Island State Park. Robert Peary’s summer residence.
Maine Island Trail
Typical scenery along the coast of Maine.
Maine Island Trail
Sagadahoc Bay, the sea has disappeared, leaving the kayaks high and dry.

Buoyancy Aids (PFD’s) & Life Jackets

One of the pleasures of my week is listening to Paddling Adventures Radio, a podcast from Canada.  Essentially Sean Rowley and Derek Specht chat about a range of topics related to all aspects of paddle sport.  This evenings opening article on people wearing buoyancy aids (PFD’s) got me thinking.
My first buoyancy aid, which I had for Christmas at the end of the 1960’s, was filled with kapok, a vegetable material, which was used in life saving devices in the Second World War.  I feel certain that it must have been one of the last buoyancy aids to contain kapok.  Towards the end of the 1970’s, most paddlers in the UK were wearing life jackets, which met the specifications of BS 3595.  They were designed to support an unconscious person in the water, if the inherent solid buoyancy had been topped up with air.
The only disadvantage, being that they were cumbersome and seriously uncomfortable.  As a consequence many paddlers used to carry them under the rear deck elastics as opposed to wearing them on the person.  As shown by the photograph of Nicky taken off the Ecrehous, in the summer of 1979.  How that contrasts with the photograph taken last summer, off the west coast of Greenland, where everybody is properly equipped.
I can’t remember the last time I paddled to the Ecrehous, with my buoyancy aid under the deck elastics.  It must be at least 20 years ago.  Putting on a buoyancy aid is now an automatic reaction.  The last time I remember consciously not putting on my PFD was on a seriously hot, flat calm day in Baja, when I judged that I was more at risk from heat exhaustion than from an unexpected capsize.
There is no doubt that equipment has improved dramatically over the last 50 years that I have been kayaking and the current buoyancy aids are far more comfortable to wear than their predecessors.  So the best advice is to wear it.
Another point to consider is the explosion in paddle sports in recent years, it is rare to be alone on the water nowadays.  Mid week in January, on a rainy windy day doesn’t guarantee isolation in 2018.
Regularly whilst out paddling we come across paddlers, particularly on sit on tops, and it is amazing how many of those paddlers aren’t wearing buoyancy aids.  What is particularly scary is when you see 3 people, normally 2 adults and a child on a double sit on top, and none of them wearing buoyancy aids.
There are 2 potential responses, paddle over and have a friendly word, I have done this a few times as people on SOT’s have been approaching tide races, but my advice has always been ignored.  The other response is to hope that by wearing the appropriate equipment you will be a positive role model and raise people’s awareness of the need to wear buoyancy aids.

Nordkapp
Nicky off the Ecrehous, in the summer of 1979. A classic image of the time, a beautiful orange Nordkapp HM and the BS 3595 Life Jacket tucked under the rear deck elastics.
Buoyancy aids
The group from the Jersey Canoe Club in Greenland last summer. All wearing their buoyancy aids, even though the conditions were pretty benign, apart from the water temperature.

The Art of Kayaking

The Art of Kayaking

I first met Nigel in 1979 at the 3rd National Sea Canoeing Symposium in Sheffield, when he spoke about his trip to Newfoundland.  Following on from this when I needed an assessor to assist with an Advanced Sea Assessment (5 Star) I asked him to come to Jersey early in 1981 and this was the first time that we paddled on the water.
It was clear right from the start that Nigel’s skill level was way ahead of most coaches who were active at the time.  I remember seeing him reverse loop a sea kayak, in a narrow gully, rotate 180 degrees and surf in the opposite direction, there was absolutely no margin for error.
Later that year Nigel went on his solo paddle in the Hudson Strait, which was significantly more challenging than anticipated.  Nigel has remained active, over the years, as a coach, designer, author and explorer and this book is a result of his undeniable passion for all things paddling.
“The Art of Kayaking” is divided into sections covering equipment, flat water skills, dry skills (navigation, weather etc), applying skills (moving into more challenging conditions) and a short section on breaking down skills.
All the chapters are supported by a large number of colour photographs, illustrating the key points.  Some of the photographs are clearly quite old, whereas others have probably been taken for the book and have been annotated clearly to emphasize the salient points.  The photographs clearly reflect Nigel’s considerable experience as a kayaker.  My only slight gripe, about the book, is that it doesn’t always say where the photographs were taken.  Its the geographer coming out in me, I like to know where places are.
This book will appeal to kayakers of all abilities, those starting out on the journey as a sea paddler will be able to dip into the book frequently as they gain experience and extend their horizons.  Coaches will also appreciate the clarity of some of the explanations and diagrams, enhancing the quality and variety of their coaching.
There are quite a number of sea kayaking manuals available and it is always difficult to decide which ones to buy.  Some are specialized, whereas others such as this one are more comprehensive and offer something to paddlers of all abilities.
If you are in the market for a sea kayaking manual or just want to add to your kayaking book collection then “The Art of Kayaking” is one book to seriously consider.

Nigel Foster
Nigel at the Port Townsend Symposium in 1995. Performing at skills session, to a crowd of approximately 100 people.

Sea Kayaking Frustration

It has been nearly nine weeks since I ruptured my Achilles’ tendon, whilst kayaking and swimming on the south coast of Gozo.

Gozo
Taken on the 5th April in Mgarr ix Xini, on the south coast of Gozo. About 20 minutes after I ruptured my achilles.

Today it was time for another visit to the hospital, to have my cast taken off, be seen by a consultant, with the possibility of a further few weeks in plaster.  In fact was transpired was good news, no more plaster and the start on the long road to recovery.  Physio has started and at some point in the next couple of months, hopefully the possibility of some low level paddling.
I think I can count myself fortunate that I have reached the age of 61, without having to have any part of my body put in plaster. The last 9 weeks with my lower left leg in plaster have been a complete revelation.
Simple everyday tasks take on a new challenge. Carrying drinks is virtually impossible unless they are put in flask or a jar with a lid on. I actually haven’t made a hot drink since my injury as I am concerned about the possibility of spilling boiling water.
Public toilets are a whole new challenge, normally access is relatively easy for those people with reduced mobility. The real hazard is the area around the wash hand basins. Normally there is a significant amount of water on the floor, which when combined with the normally slippery surface creates a real problem for somebody on crutches. Twice I have slipped on a wet floor, so now in the interests of personal safety I stopped washing my hands in public toilets.
Some shops are easier to navigate than others, one particular outdoor shop in Fort William was a nightmare.  Steps with broken bricks to navigate and stairs inside the building making browsing the products inside the shop a major challenge.  What I have developed over the last few weeks is a greater understanding of the challenges that some people have to face everyday.
Today though, instead of another few weeks in plaster, I have been given a modified boot, had my first appointment at the physio department and started on the rehabilitation road.  Any form of normal activity is still many weeks away, my decision to cancel my paddling trip to the Lofoten’s in July is still justified but I feel confident enough to start to plan a short trip to Herm, in September, to coincide with their beer festival.
By the time I get back on the water, probably towards the end of August, it will have been 5 months since I have been out kayaking, which is quite possibly the longest time without going on the water, since I took up kayaking.  I don’t think I will ever take paddling (or getting around towns) for granted again.

Herm
Approaching Herm in 2017 after paddling the 17 nm from Jersey, in one direct crossing.

Jersey Kayak Guide

The updated version of my Jersey Kayak Guide is now available on the site.  Hopefully  both visiting and local kayakers will find some of the information useful.  Starting at Corbiere, the guide takes you around the island in anti clockwise direction, which just happens to be the best place to start and the preferred direction of travel if you are hoping to paddle around Jersey.
As well as information about key places to visit there is guidance on tides and areas where challenging tidal races can develop at certain stages in the tidal sequence.

Jersey Kayak Guide
At certain stages of the tide quite challenging conditions can develop off Noirmont so always plan accordingly.

Over the coming months the aim is to add further paddling guides to certain areas, which will hopefully contain useful information for people visiting areas for the first.  A guide to Belize has already been produced, and others are in the pipeline.
If they are useful please let me know.

Jersey Symposium

It is amazing that the Scottish Symposium has hardly finished and already our thoughts are turning to events 12 months from now.  Unfortunately arranging a sea kayaking event in a popular tourist venue is a bit like arranging a wedding.  All the best locations get booked really early.  So this is the first official announcement of the 2019 Jersey Symposium.
It will start on the Friday evening, 24th May 2019, and will run will the normal format.  This is Saturday, Sunday and Monday workshops and paddles followed by 4 days of the extended paddling programme.  Most evenings there is some form of organised activity, which ranges from the Keynote lecture, a sea kayaking quiz, BBQ in a historic fort and live music, just for starters.
We are hoping that, as usual it will attract kayakers from a wide range of European countries and further afield.  Ensuring a true international mix of coaches and participants.
Jersey has a significant tidal range ensuring that there is plenty of opportunity for playing in tidal races, but the event is about so much more than rough water. Kayak handing skills, practical workshops, cliff jumping, open crossings are all topics that will be included in the final programme.
If you are interested in pre-registering for the Jersey Symposium please complete the form below, the first newsletter will be going out later in the summer.

Jersey Symposium
Just down the road from where the Symposium is based is this iconic lighthouse. Corbiere.
Jersey Symposium
There is plenty of kayaking available around the south coast, passing a number of historical buildings.
Jersey Symposium
The refs of the south east corner are a unique marine environment and well worth exploring by kayak.
Jersey Symposium
It is amazing what you might come across at lunch time. These German guns were thrown over the cliffs at the end of the Second World War.
Jersey Symposium
Fancy something a bit more challenging, a trip to the Ecrehous is an essential paddle.

 

Scottish Symposium

Well the Scottish Symposium has been and gone, all that remains is the extended paddling programme.  Two things set this event from the others, firstly it is the last one in its present format and secondly the unbelievable weather.
I travelled north in the expectation that I would be delivering a range of talks, including such diverse topics as Expedition Planning, Baja and Thirds, Twelfths and 50/90’s.  As it turned out the weather was superb and in reality who would want to sit in a classroom listening to somebody ramble on about sea kayaking when they could be out on the water experiencing, first hand the impact of a Scottish heat wave.
Nearly 200 people attended the final Scottish Symposium, in its current form.  The programme was the usual diverse mix of workshops, talks and paddles, delivered by some of Britain’s most experienced coaches.  Fortunately common sense broke out among the participants and pretty much everybody went on the water with virtually every classroom session cancelled.
The key note lecture on Saturday evening, delivered by Gordon Brown and was very much in the form of a tribute to our friend Duncan Winning, who sadly passed away earlier this year.  He was one of the most influential sea kayakers of the 20th Century as well being a vital cog in the machinery of the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium.  His presence at the event was sorely missed.
As the Symposium drew to a close, after a weekend of perfect weather and the extended paddling programme started you couldn’t help but think that Duncan would have been with pleased with the way the weekend had evolved.

Scottish Symposium
Nicky outside the Gaelic College, wearing her Moderate Becoming Good Later T shirt. Our nephew was starting his journey around the Shipping Forecast areas that day.
Scottish Symposium
A really unusual picture. Nicky and Gordon tucking into ice creams at Armadale. Almost unheard of at any of the previous symposiums.
Scottish Symposium
A group on a day trip around the Point of Sleat heading south in front of the College. Just a stunning backdrop.
Scottish Symposium
A busy Greenland Rolling session at Armadale. With the weather rolling was a pretty popular option.