SUP Module

Over nearly 40 years I have run hundreds of British Canoe courses across all levels, in both coaching and personal performance but one of my favourites is the SUP Module.  This Discipline Specific Module was introduced several years ago in response to the significant increase in the number of people taking up Stand Up Paddleboarding.
Over the last couple of years I have run quite a few of the courses, attracting paddlers from both on and off Jersey.  What is interesting, is that as each course follows another, the level of the participants has steadily increased.  As a result last weeks course was just a pleasure to run.  With all the paddlers showing competency on the boards.
Conditions couldn’t have been better for the SUP Module.  I remember completing my training course in Nottingham, wearing a dry suit and being absolutely frozen, trying to avoid going into the water too many times.  This week it was warm, clear seas and light winds with every opportunity was taken to get into the water to cool off.
In the past it has been all to easy to be critical of British Canoeing courses but I think in this instance they have just about got it right.  That day with the staff from Absolute Adventures, we had a really positive experience.

Tico
Tico might be the first dog to complete the SUP module. He has previously found fame in national papers as a surfing dog.
Beauport
Heading across Beauport Bay in perfect conditions. It was an ideal day for paddling a few hundred metres, stop off to practice a few skills and then carry on with the journey.
SUP Module
We even had the opportunity to paddle through some narrow channels, which are normally too rough to consider going through, when working with groups.
SUP Module
No course in Jersey would be complete without the opportunity to leap off the cliffs. Jumping off rocks is in the DNA of people who live in Jersey.
SUP Module
Heading back in we were able to join together in one long raft, which we managed to hold together for at least 400 metres.
SUP Module
It was inevitable that we were going to finish the days with a few games.

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.

Bell Boats

The Bell Boat is a pretty unique paddling craft, which was designed by former Olympic racing coach David Train.  Designed as a crew boat, to encourage co-operation, the Jersey Canoe Club decided to use them as a bit of training before the September Dragon Boat Racing.
Nine metres long, with two separate hulls they can take up to 12 young people and a helm, as none of us fall in the category of young we settled on 8 adults plus myself as helm.  First introduced in 1992 we were using the Mk 3 version which has been in production since 2012.  We borrowed them from the Air Training Corps, who had purchased them with the help of a grant from the One Foundation.
It is possible to become a qualified Bell Boat Helm with a course through British Canoeing, which was a course I really enjoyed doing a couple of years ago.
Despite the relatively strong north easterly wind we were soon heading towards Beauport, mostly in rhythm with each other, direction controlled by myself as the helm.  A nine metre craft doesn’t respond immediately to the subtle changes in the helms oar.  It requires some significant planning to ensure the bell boat maintains its course, as well as some appropriately timed group co-ordination.
We followed a circular route around some of the offshore reefs before returning back to St Brelade’s.  It was a great evening and no doubt that when we have the next session in a couple of weeks time there will be enough members present to ensure that both of the bell boats can be launched resulting into some friendly racing across the bay.

Bell Boat
Paddling along the cliffs just to the west of Beauport.
Bell Boat
Peter Hargreaves on the rear left hand side. The Grosse Tete is the large rock behind, which we eventually circumnavigated.
Bell Boat
Looking towards the bow of the Bell Boat.

 

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.

February Sunshine

For what seemed like the first time in months the Sunday morning session of the Jersey Canoe Club took place in some bright February sunshine, although the temperature was modified by the strong north easterly wind.  11 of us paddled out from St Brelade’s heading towards Corbiere, the granite cliffs looking particularly stunning.
Although Corbiere was our destination, as we approached the south west corner it was clear that with the amount of water moving, due to the Spring tides, and the westerly swell, that we might need to cut our journey short.  We didn’t really want an unplanned journey to Sark.
Close to the causeway, at Corbiere, a plaque commemorates the attempts of Peter Edwin Larbalestier, an assistant keeper of the lighthouse, who was drowned on 28 May 1946, while trying to rescue a visitor cut off by the incoming tide, who also lost her life.  Many years ago I was landing on the slipway at Corbiere, after a Club session on a Thursday evening.  I noticed the plaque and said to one of the people who was with us, “that’s funny you have the same name as the lighthouse keeper who drowned” his reply was “that’s not surprising he was my uncle and I am named after him”.
In the Corbiere Phare Restaurant there is a photograph of Peter Edwin Larbalestier, in his lighthouse keepers uniform.  The likeness to Peter Larbalestier is really quite amazing.  Sadly Peter from the Canoe Club passed away a few years ago but every time we look at the photograph of his uncle we are reminded of the good times we had with Peter kayaking.
The paddle back to St Brelade’s against the wind and tide was a bit challenging in places but that was largely irrelevant as we enjoyed our first sunny Sunday morning paddle of 2018.

February Sunshine
Looking east along St Brelade’s Bay. An hour after high water.
St Brelade's Church
Looking towards St Brelade’s Church, which must be it the best position of any of the island’s parish churches. There is evidence that parts of the church were here before 1035. To the left of the main church is the Fisherman’s Chapel.
Beauport
Approaching Beauport, once inside the bay we gained some shelter from the strong north easterly wind. Contrast this with the views of Beauport earlier in the week
February Sunshine
Once past the Grosse Tete you become more exposed to any westerly swell. There was a few feet of swell today plus plenty of water movement due to the 11 metre tide.
February Sunshine
Corbiere lighthouse in sight. The lighthouse must been the most photographed site on the Island.
February sunshine
Rachel close to the point where we turned back. Due to the size of the tide there was a large amount of water running past the point and when combined with the swell it was creating conditions, which were possibly a bit too entertaining for the Canoe Club Sunday morning session.
February Sunshine
Returning to St Brelade’s Bay, it was a rather windy as we paddled through the gap but it marked the end of an enjoyable couple of hours in the February sunshine.

South West Corner

For what seems like the first time in months we were able to have our midweek kayaking day trip off the south west corner of the Island. There have been numerous strong wind warnings this year, issued by Jersey Met, most of them appearing to involve some south westerly involvement. The consequence of this is that day trips, along the south coast have been few and far between recently.  Fortunately today’s forecast allowed us the paddle from Belcroute to Corbiere and return.

Weather forecast
Wind warning number 101 of the year, issued at 02.47 on the 31st January, an indication of just how unsettled the beginning of 2018 has been.

It was just a few hardy members of the Jersey Canoe Club who congregated at Belcroute on Tuesday morning. Many of the regular attendees of the mid week day trip were off Island or unavailable this week. The aim was to use the last of the ebb as it flowed west, towards Corbiere, with the added assistance of the light north easterly wind. Amazingly as the tide turned and the east flowing stream started the wind also went around to the south west. It’s not often that you get both wind and tide with in both directions on a day trip. We were certainly getting our monies worth from environmental factors.
From Belcroute it was an easy run south to Noirmont Point, clearly identified by its black and white, early 19th century military tower.  Although it wasn’t easily visible today because of the low cloud/fog.  We used the last couple of hours of the tidal flow  to assist our run towards Corbiere.  This section of coast has to be one of my favourite lengths of the islands coastline, it is where I gained my original kayaking experience, starting in 1969.
It is normally a blaze of colour, the blue sea, red granite and green vegetation complementing each other but today the overwhelming colour was grey.
It was just a delight to be on the water without having to battle wind and waves, which have been our constant companions for the last few months.  Corbiere was our turning point, the iconic lighthouse was first lit on the 24th April 1874 and over the years has been the scene of a number of dramatic rescues.
Lunch was on the small beach below the Highlands Hotel, before we took advantage of the easterly flowing tide and south westerly wind to assist our return.  Overall we paddled just over 11 miles each, assisting Jersey Canoe Club’s entry into the British Canoeing Winter Challenge.  Taking the Clubs combined mileage  since the 1st December to just over 2,000 miles, a significant total considering the weather and the fact that because of geography we are limited to paddling on the sea.
I have written more information on the route between Belcroute and Corbiere elsewhere on the SeaPaddler site, so take a look for further ideas on places to paddle.

Belcroute to Corbiere
Launching from a rather foggy Belcroute. St Aubin’s Fort, the islands outdoor centre, is barely visible.
Belcroute to Noirmont.
Approaching Noirmont from the north. At this point we had the tide helping us reach 5 knots. The tower was built between 1810 and 1814, to help protect the Island in case of invasion by the French.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Approaching Pt La Moye from the east. Potato fields, covered in plastic, to encourage early season growth are just visible on the slopes.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Approaching Corbiere, the lighthouse is virtually invisible.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Even when relatively close the lighthouse was barely visible.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Nicky heading past Beauport, one of the most attractive bays on the Island but today it looked rather grey.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Adam heading past Pt Le Fret, one of the most dramatic headlands on the island, which is normally exposed to swell.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Nicky heading towards Pt Le Fret.

Atmospheric Pressure

It is not that often that we, as sea kayakers, are aware of the impact of atmospheric pressure but it was clearly demonstrated one October day, a few years ago, at St Brelade’s.  At high water, in the morning, the atmospheric pressure was 993 mb, effectively 20 mb below the level at which tidal heights are calculated.  This meant that the tide was much higher than expected and when coupled with the swell which developed over night it created some problems for those boat owners who left their craft on the beach.
The predicted tidal heights for Saturday, Sunday and Monday were much higher than the morning in question but they passed without incident whilst these boat owners were caught out by this mornings tide, with not inconsiderable financial costs  as boats and engines were damaged.
Remember as a general rule for every 1 mb below 1013 mb the tide will rise 1 cm higher than predicted and for every 1 cm above 1013 mb the height of the tide will be depressed.  We were affected on our paddle to the Ecrehous in March this year when due to high pressure the tide did not rise as far as we expected.
So the moral of the story is not to just look at the tidal height but take into account the pressure.

Atmospheric pressure
Some of the small boats which were damaged on the beach at St Brelade.

British Canoeing Winter Challenge

The 1st December marks the start of British Canoeing Winter Challenge. It last 3 months and the aim is to encourage members of canoe and kayak clubs to get out on the water during the darker, colder days of winter.
Last year Jersey Canoe Club came top, in terms of miles covered, just about fending off a determined challenge by Portsmouth Canoe Club. In the 3 months the members of the Jersey club paddled a total of 4,108 miles, with 4 members paddling over the 300 miles.  The highest individual total was 520 miles, which is quite amazing considering that there is no inland water in Jersey, so they were all completed on the sea.
Today’s forecast was less than perfect for the first day of the Challenge as 5 slightly enthusiastic kayakers headed out from Belcroute. The initial mile was fast and easy as the northerly force 5 sped us on our way towards Noirmont point, which was the gateway to more sheltered waters, under the cliffs of Portelet. Some large black clouds gave a suggestion of rain or sleet but surprisingly we stayed dry. At times even feeling the warmth of the low angled winter sun.

Winter Challenge
Today’s weather forecast from Jersey Met.

Nicky pulled out in St Brelade’s whilst the rest of us carried onto Corbiere, with its freshly painted lighthouse. The tide had started to rise quite quickly meaning we had missed the opportunity to land in some of the small bays, so we headed back to Beauport for lunch. Without doubt one of the most beautiful bays on the Island, but on the 1st December we had the beach to ourselves.
After lunch we headed east across St Brelade’s Bay as the clouds built in size.  For most of the paddle we were reasonably protected from the wind but from Noirmont to Belcroute there was no respite.  The wind was blowing at about 30 knots straight into our faces, which resulted in some demanding paddling conditions.  When we landed our total mileage for the day was 60 miles, which despite the weather was a pretty reasonable start towards British Canoeings Winter Challenge .
It is probably true to say that we wouldn’t have normally gone for such a long paddle in the prevailing conditions but the fact that we did stay out there and put the miles in is evidence of the success of the Winter Challenge, which is to get more paddlers out on the water during the cold, dark days of December, January and February.

Winter Challenge
Nicky approaching Noirmont Point. We were moving really fast at this point with a steady force 5 wind behind us.
Winter Challenge
Corbiere looked rather grey and windswept today, despite its fresh coat of paint. Corbiere must be one of the most iconic lighthouses anywhere.
Winter Challenge
These caves just to the east of Corbiere were the same ones we had been swimming into a couple of days earlier.
Winter Challenge
Tucked in underneath the cliffs on the south coast of Jersey we received plenty of protection from the wind. Lunch was just around the corner.
Winter Challenge
As the day progressed the clouds became more impressive and the wind increased in strength. This is the last picture I took before we battled into a 30 knot headwind for a couple of miles. An interesting finish to the days paddle.

Kayaking Contrasts

It has been a weekend of kayaking contrasts, Saturday was very windy and sunny so we spent the morning paddling off the east coast.  Heading south from St Catherine’s to Gorey where we stopped for coffee and cake.  This is a section of the coast that we paddle most weeks during the summer months as it is the location for the Jersey Canoe Club Tuesday evening training sessions.  In contrast we rarely paddle along this section of coast during the winter but it is a couple of miles steeped in history.
For over 40 years the Canoe Club has paddled every Sunday morning at a variety of locations around the Island.  For the last 10 or 15 years the focus has been on using sea kayaks, hardly surprising as Jersey is a superb sea kayaking destination.  Today was a throw back to the 1970’s and 80’s as we used smaller play boats, as we headed out from St Brelade’s.  It was good to get out in the small kayaks as it gave us chance to hone our skills.  So it really was a weekend of kayaking contrasts.

Kayaking Contrasts
Paddling past the Jersey Round Tower at Archirondel. It was the 22nd Jersey Tower to be completed when it was built in 1794. We used it as one of the lecture venues at the first Jersey Sea Kayaking Symposium in 1992.
Kayaking Contrasts
Nicky paddling past the eastern margins of Mont Orgueil Castle. The most spectacular castle in the Channel Islands.
Kayaking Contrasts
Mont Orgueil Castle dominates the waterfront in Gorey. Gorey Harbour was the centre of the oyster fishing industry at the start of the 19th century. Up to 2,500 people were employed in the oyster industry at one time.
Kayaking Contrasts
Crossing Beauport, Janet and myself decided to paddle the Topo Duo. Another link to kayaking in the 1990’s, Jersey Canoe Club won the award for the best stand at one of “Sport for All” days at Quennevais Sorts Centre. With the money we won the Club bought the Topo Duo.
Kayaking Contrasts
Playing in the rough water just to the west of the Grosse Tete.
Kayaking Contrasts
Pete paddling through the surf at the Grosse Tete.