The Towers

There are a few paddles in Jersey, which visiting and local sea kayakers, should aspire to complete.  One of these is to paddle around, what is referred to as “The Towers”.  This refers to two towers, which are located to the south east of the island, Seymour and Icho.
The Jersey Canoe Club has run weekly Sunday morning sessions for nearly 45 years and this week it was the turn of The Towers, to be the venue.  Weather and tidal conditions were such that quite a few members had guessed the venue several days in advance, well before the WhatsApp message was sent out, on the Saturday.

Seymour and Icho Towers

Of the two towers Seymour is the oldest, being built in 1782, the year after French troops landed nearby, which resulted in the Battle of Jersey.  Our initial target was Icho Tower, just over 1 mile offshore.  Low an squat compared to the older towers, it is based on the design of towers found at Mortella Point, Corsica.
They probably contained a garrison of 12 soldiers and a sergeant, but today they are largely the preserve of sea birds.  Today it was curlews and sandwich terns but some winters a spoonbill has started to call Icho home.
From Icho we headed virtually east towards Seymour, the final push of the flooding tide ensured that at times our speed over the ground was nearly 6 knots.  Seymour Tower has been refurbished and is available for rent from Jersey Heritage, accompanied by a guide.  Today a family was in residence so landing was not an option.
Instead we turned offshore to visit Karame Beacon, which is one of the many navigation marks in the area.  The tide was flowing with a degree of speed around the rocks, which provided some enjoyment.  From there it was a ferry glide in excess of a mile into the coast at La Rocque, a small harbour with signicant place in Jersey’s history.  Baron Philippe de Rullecourt, landed here on the 6th January 1781, with approximately 1,400 French troops.  The subsequent Battle of Jersey, in the Royal Square resulted in the defeat of the French forces.
Returning from the towers, we followed the coast back towards Le Hocq.  Conditions were just perfect, in fact quite amazing for the beginning of September.  Conditions were such that we had to stop and roll, as well as having a swim in the crystal clear waters.  It will be possibly 9 months, before we experience such conditions again.  Great memories to help us through the winter months.

Jersey Towers
Briefing before departure from Le Hocq. It was a stunning morning which goes some way to explain the 22 Club members who turned up on Sunday morning.
The Towers
Off the three towers we saw up close today, Icho is the youngest, dating from 1810.
The Towers
Seymour is the oldest of the towers we paddled past. It has been refurbished by Jersey Heritage, and is available for rental. There were residents staying today.
The Towers
We headed offshore to pay a visit to Karame, one of the many navigation marks in the area. The coast of Jersey is visible as a thin line in the distance, next week on the large spring tides it will be possible to walk here. Evidence of the tidal range found in this area.
The Towers
After a ferry glide, of over 1 nautical mile, we reached La Rocque harbour, where the French troops landed in Jaunuary 1781, before marching into St Helier, which resulted in the Battle of Jersey.
The Towers
A superb morning paddle of 7 nautical miles. Arriving back at Le Hocq it would have been rude not to practice some rolling and to have a swim. Especially as the water temperature was nearly 19 degrees.

Welcome home

Going away on a kayaking trip is always enjoyable but there is always something satisfying about coming home. Perhaps it is because most times I return home it is on an aircraft, so it is a very direct transition from holiday to home.
Landing on Tuesday evening I had received my first invite to go paddling before we had arrived at the gate, the welcome vibration of a WhatsApp on the phone.  In complete contrast to the weather before I had been away and whilst I was away, the forecast for Wednesday was pretty good.  No “beast from the east” this week.
Wednesday morning dawned with light winds and cloudless skies, we were leaving from St Catherine’s, the home of the Jersey Canoe Club, and heading south towards Seymour Tower.  This isn’t a section of coast, which screams of dramatic scenery.  It is rather more gentle, with a fascinating historical background and then a unique coastal environment, which is exposed as the tide drops, particularly off the south east corner.
We headed towards Seymour Tower, which was built in 1782 in response to the invasion of Jersey by French troops in January 1781.  It is now a unique place to spend an evening, with a qualified guide from Jersey Heritage.  Lunch was a rather hurried affair as the tidal range was 9.5 metres.  Not a particularly large spring tide but we were in the third hour after high water so the water was dropping at nearly 4cm a minute.  Resulting in a potentially long walk!
Returning to St Catherine’s we meandered through the reefs towards Karame Beacon before returning north to our starting point.   It was one of those days which hints of summer, light winds, blue skies and water of a surprising clarity.
A perfect return to my Island home.

Gorey Castle
Heading south past Mont Orgueil or Gorey Castle. It is one of the finest castles to be found anywhere, occupying a dominant position on the east coast of the Island.
Seymour Tower
Less than an hour before we had paddled across these rocks. The tide drops with amazing speed in the third hour of a 35 feet high tide. I wrote about walking in this area in an earlier post.
Karame Beacon
We headed south towards Karame, easily recognized by its top mark. On the large spring tides a fast group is able to walk out to this navigation mark.
Reef paddling
Heading north through the reefs in conditions which have been incredibly rare this year. Sunshine, no wind and surprisingly good water clarity.
Heading north
Gorey Castle is visible directly in front of the kayakers whilst in the distance the long this line of St Catherine’s breakwater, our final destination, is discernable.

Sea bed ramblings

Saturday dawned windy yet again with the promise of substantial showers around in the afternoon so I decided to head out towards Seymour Tower, off the south east corner of the Island.  Due to the large tidal range (almost 12 metres on the larger tides) a virtually unique coastal environment is exposed twice a day, particularly on Spring Tides.  For several hours, each day, the opportunity of walking around on the sea bed presents itself and I took full advantage of the opportunity yesterday. Amazingly I was the only person who seemed to want to experience the delights of this corner of the Island on blustery Saturday in January.

Sea bed ramblings
Looking towards Seymour Tower, my aim was to try and reach a navigation mark, Karame, which is beyond the obvious tower. As I headed out across the exposed foreshore I was the only person in the area.
Sea bed ramblings
The rescue beacon. In the past people have lost their lives when they have been cut off by the rapidly rising tide. Between Christmas and New Year two German tourists were fortunate to be able to climb the tower when they underestimated the speed at which the tide rises. The inshore lifeboat collected them from the tower which prevented them having to speed a cold and dark night 6 hours perched above the swirling waters.
Seymour Tower
Viewed up close the superb construction of the tower is clearly visible. The concrete additions are as a result of the German occupation. It is possible to hire the tower from Jersey Heritage, a very unique place to spend a night.
sea bed ramblings
A quick lunch stop coincided with almost the only sunshine of the day. The tower casting its shadow over the sandbank.
Gorey Castle
Looking north towards Gorey, with the magnificent Mont Orgueil Castle towering above the harbour. The shiny slopes to the left of the castle are some of the earliest fields to be planted with Jersey Royal potatoes.
Seymour Tower
Seymour Tower seen from the south. Painted white as a navigation mark.
Karame
I had been hoping to get as far as Karame, it was going to be touch and go but as I stood here the atmospheric pressure was 987mb. As many of you know, tidal heights are based on mean atmospheric pressure of 1013mb and as a general rule a change of one millibar results in a change of one centimetre in sea level. 26mb lower than average pressure meant that the tide was 26 cm higher than predicted.
sea bed ramblings
Heading towards Little Seymour, my final navigation mark before heading back to the shore. The clouds were obviously building to the south and west, it was time to up the pace.
La Rocque Harbour
Looking towards La Rocque Harbour, the end of the pier clearly visible, being painted white. It was at La Rocque that Baron de Rullecourt landed on the 6th January 1781, an invasion which resulted in the Battle of Jersey being fought in the Royal Square in Jersey, followed by a rapid expansion of the building of coastal fortifications. Many of the towers survive today, part of the distinctive coastal architecture.
Black Skies
The predicted heavy showers approaching from the south west. A significant increase in walking speed could not prevent major soaking as the downpour hit. A very wet end to a thoroughly enjoyable 3 hours, and the only people I saw were on the slip at the beginning and end. There is still isolation in Jersey, waiting for those who seek it out.