Pierres de Lecq

Located to the north of Greve de Lecq, the Pierres de Lecq are better know by their other name the Paternosters.  Small boats frequently pass by although people rarely land.  I first visited the reef in 1979 and on every subsequent visit we have had the reef to ourselves.
Visits tend to take place on spring tides, in Jersey high water on springs is always in the morning and the evening, meaning that low water is around lunch time.  Visits have to take place around low water, otherwise there won’t be anywhere to land.  A consequence of going on springs is that the tidal streams will be flowing much faster so an understanding of tidal flows is necessary.
We headed east towards Sorel point as we were going to allow the tide to sweep us back to the west for what we hoped would be our arrival at the Paternoster’s.  This wind and wave swept reef is formed from gneiss, a type of rock absent from the main land mass of Jersey.  At high water there is virtually nowhere to land so it is best to arrive at mid tide on the ebb, which just happens to mean that you will be the crossing towards maximum rate.  This always adds to the entertainment.
The Pierres de Lecq have become known as the Paternosters due to a legend linked to the settlement of Sark by some families from the parish of St Ouen in Jersey, in the 16th century.  One of the boats was wrecked en route to Sark, with the women and children drowning.  At times it is said that their cries can still be heard in the wind and so it became a tradition for fishermen passing by to say a Lords Prayer.  On the day of our visit the only sound was the call of oystercatchers and herring gulls.
Although only a few miles from Jersey  the reefs have truly remote and wild feel.  All too soon though it was time to head back to the mainland.  We used the flooding tide to carry us towards Plemont headland, the speed over the ground rarely dropped below 7 knots before returning along the coast back to Greve de Lecq.
Overall we only paddled about 9 nautical miles but what quality, any visit to the Paternosters or the Pierres de Lecq makes you feel that you have visited somewhere special.

Pierre de Lecq
Approaching the Paternosters from the south east. The tide was running from east to west at close to 3 knots.
Pierres de Lecq
Once we had landed it became apparent how quickly the tide was dropping, stranding my kayak well above the water.
Paternosters
Looking across the reef as the tide drops. To the north the closest land is Sark.
Pierres de Lecq
Probably 20 years ago we paddled out here one November morning and we managed to climb all the way around the Great Rock, just above water level. We named the route “Howards Way” after the television programme of time but also because well known sea kayaker, Howard Jeffs, was with us on that day.
Paternosters
Preparing to leave. We we about to jump on the liquid conveyor belt that is the consequence of spring tides in Jersey.
Paternosters
Crossing the last of the tidal flow into Plemont headland, before heading back to Greve de Lecq.

Staff Development

Sometimes days are just so enjoyable and this was the case the other day with Absolute Adventures staff development.  We left from St Catherine’s heading west on the ebbing tide.  In virtually flat calm conditions we headed past La Coupe and Tour de Rozel.
Lunch was on a small sandy beach to the east of Bouley Bay, which is only exposed on low water spring tides.  To the west we could see the remains of the SS Ribbledale. It was wrecked on the 27th December 1926, whilst en route from London to Jersey. Parts of the boilers were clearly visible just to the west.  Further information is available here.
The plan was to return via Tour de Rozel, where we planned to play in the flood tide, as it accelerated around the headland.  We weren’t disappointed, the water was starting to move to the east and accelerating quickly as the flood tide developed.
It was just the perfect place to look at skills and to work on strokes.  I always find it such an enjoyable place to play and somewhere to practice those techniques, which are crucial  to competent kayak handling.  In terms of staff development it was perfect, challenging conditions in a safe environment, helping to ensure that those paddlers who are leading groups during the summer months have the appropriate skill level.  Combined with the superb weather it was just a perfect way to spend a day.

Staff development
Paddling west past Tour de Rozel. The race doesn’t work on the falling tide but the tidal streams increase quickly once the flood tide starts. Conditions were somewhat different when we headed east later in the day.
Staff development
It was a day of one dominant colour, blue. Conditions like this are rare.
Staff development
Heading into Bouley Bay, in search of the small sandy beach, which is exposed on low water springs. Its not always an easy beach to find.
Staff development
A beach which I have rarely stopped on for lunch. Conditions were perfect and the situation ideal for a picnic.

Round Jersey

As mentioned in an earlier post we were due to paddle around Jersey, with Samuel, to raise money in memory of his dad, who sadly passed away last year.  Well yesterday was the day, on which the round Jersey paddle was planned, but the weather decided not to co-operate fully. After days of virtually calm winds, there was the possibility of a force 4, but we were happy to give it a go.
Just after 08.00 we left St Catherine’s and headed along the north coast.  With wide and tide with us we made pretty rapid progress, averaging well over 4 knots, Samuel was in the double with Jim, whilst John and myself were in singles.  Sections of the coast, which we often spent hours exploring, slipped past quickly.  The north west corner, is a particularly spectacular section of coast but no time to appreciate today as ahead lay the broad sweep of St Ouen’s Bay, which we knew would have potential crosswinds.  The west coast wasn’t as challenging as we anticipated but as soon as we rounded Corbiere onto the south coast the headwinds kicked in.
The automatic wind broadcast from St Helier Pierheads was a pretty constant 11 knots, gusting 19 knots, although it did reach a rather inconvenient 21 knots of headwind on several occasions.  It was a matter of simply putting our heads down, and covering the 8 nautical miles, with the least amount of discomfort possible.
As we headed onto the east coast St Catherine’s Breakwater came back into view so we knew whatever happened we were going to complete the circumnavigation.  What had started as a vague plan for Samuel, at Christmas, had developed into reality.  The 29 nautical miles were much harder than we anticipated due to the level if the wind but we were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd as we reached the breakwater and Samuel had his moment in the spotlight when he was interviewed by the local television station.
Samuel set out to raise £2,250 and even before we started the paddle he had more than exceed his total, which is great news.  To find out more about Samuel’s project take a look at his Just Giving page to see how much he has currently raised.
It was a great day and as experienced sea kayakers John, Jim and myself were just amazed at the amount of effort Samuel put in on the day we paddled round Jersey.

Round Jersey
Passing Egypt, on the north coast of Jersey, not the north coast of Africa. The Canoe Club runs the a small cottage at the base of the cliffs here, a great place to stay.
Round Jersey
Wolf’s Caves between Bonne Nuit and Sorel. Making good progress along the north coast with the following wind. In a couple of places we touched 7 knots.
Round Jersey
Rounding Grosnez, the north west corner of Jersey. Spectacular cliffs but unfortunately the end of the following wind, as we headed down the west coast, it was on our side. Somewhat frustrating
Round Jersey
The south west corner of the island is marked by the lighthouse at Corbiere. It also marked the change from a following wind to a head wind. The next 8 miles were not easy.
Round Jersey
Lunch was on the beach at Portelet, we had paddled nearly 19 nautical miles so were confident that we would complete the remaining 10 miles.

Fund Raising

I managed to get out the other day for a couple of hours with a young man named Samuel.  This was interesting from a couple of perspectives.  Firstly this was the first time that I had been in a closed cockpit kayak since my accident three months ago and secondly it was a chance to get on the water before Samuel’s fund raising paddle in a weeks time.

Samuel spoke to us at Christmas about undertaking a project in memory of his dad who sadly passed away last year. Whilst his dad was ill he set him self the challenge of paddling around Jersey, when he got better.  Unfortunately he never managed to complete his challenge and so Samuel has stepped forward to carry the challenge on.

He set himself a realistic fund raising target, which he has already achieved with the pledges that have come in so far but I am certain that when he completes the paddle next week, weather permitting his fund raising total will increase significantly.

At the moment the forecast for next week, although I know it is some time away, is pretty reasonable so we are prettyy optimistic that we will complete the paddle as arranged.  If not there are plenty more opportunities before the end of the summer.

There is no doubt in my mind that he will achieve, what is a very worthwhile project, if you would like to support Samuel he has set up a  Just Giving page.  He might up end up with a few blisters and some numbness in his legs but he will complete the 30 nautical miles, and I estimate in about 7 hours 30 minutes.

Hopefully next week I will be writing about an enjoyable and successful circumnavigation of Jersey.

Fund raising
Paddling past Mont Orgueil Castle, which towers above Gorey. This is one of the most iconic images of Jersey.
Fund raising
Arriving back at St Catherine’s Breakwater, 4 nautical miles covered. The extra 26 miles on the day will hopefully be as straightforward.

Staff Training

Although it was over 40 years ago I remember the excitement on opening a letter, within which, was the offer of employment at a centre in South Wales.  I was never sure whether it was my kayaking or mountaineering experience, which secured my employment.  I could barely contain my excitement as I headed west from London, along the A40 towards my life as an outdoor instructor.  At staff training on the first day I still didn’t discover, which of my activities was the most important as I received a crash course in archery and spent the next few weeks introducing school groups to the finer points of shooting with a bow and arrow.
Not once did I get on the water or walk up a mountain, I just spent hour after hour on the archery field.  My introduction into the world of an outdoor pursuits instructor wasn’t as exciting as I thought, so instead of returning to South Wales to further my career in the summer, I went to Chamonix climbing.
I did return to working in the outdoor world for a couple of superb years, in North Wales.  Great days on the mountains or water followed by personal time with a group of highly motivated fellow instructors.  Days off were spent on the crags at Tremadoc, unless it was raining and then we went paddling.  Those two years working in a centre were the equivalent of the present day gap year.
This week I was fortunate enough to spend time with some young people who are just starting out on the journey to becoming outdoor instructors, looking to achieve qualifications in a number of areas so that they are able to work with groups in Jersey’s superb marine environment.
They all work for Absolute Adventures, who are one of the largest providers of adventurous activities to both locals and tourists.  It was their first day trip in sea kayaks and the NE wind increasing force 6 ensured that in places the water conditions would be quite entertaining.
The first stop was La Cotte de St Brelade, one of the most important historical sites on the island, before heading towards Pt Le Fret, one of the most under rated headlands in Jersey.
We did manage to reach Portelet but ever wary of the increasing wind speed we decided to return back around Pt Le Fret, into the relative shelter of Ouasine Bay for lunch before looking at some skills in the shelter of the reefs.
It felt a real privilege to be on the water with three young people as they embark on their journey towards becoming full time outdoor pursuits instructors.  Hopefully the staff training they received will prove to be more useful in the long run than my few hours of archery instruction.  I haven’t picked up a bow since 1977!

Staff training
Heading through the gap just off Pt Le Fret. We were sheltered from the strongest winds.
Staff training
Heading towards Portelet with Noirmont behind. When the tide is higher this section of coast is great for coasteering.
Staff training
Although we had planned to have lunch in Portelet it was clear that the wind was increasing significantly so we headed back around Pt Le Fret to find shelter. Just after lunch the wind was a steady force 6.
Staff Training
Paddling across St Brelade’s Bay in an increasing wind. Water conditions were more reminiscent of the Caribbean than the British Isles, as we headed back at the end of staff training.

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.