As many of you aware any visit to the Ecrehous is special and even more so if you manage to squeeze a visit in during January. At this time of the year you are virtually guaranteed to have the reef to yourself, in complete contrast to weekends in the summer, when there is virtual stream of boats heading to the Ecrehous from both Jersey and France.
Late on Thursday the forecast showed virtually no wind on the Friday morning before it started to pick up around midday from the south. In addition it was a neap tide, with low water at 09.15, perfect for a quick crossing from St Catherine’s.
An early morning start saw us heading towards Les Ecrehous , in flat calm, with the promise of some sunshine. The sun still hadn’t risen, when we left. The journey out was pretty simple, our crossing coincided with the low water slack. The other advantage of crossing at low water is that the rocks stretch out towards Jersey so you actually feel that you have finished the crossing sooner.
As we expected we were the only people on the reef, we landed on the French side of the reef, the shingle bank is steeper on the eastern side and so it is a easier carry, today though we hardly had to move the kayaks as we weren’t planning to stay that long. We had a bite to eat on what is probably the finest bench to be found almost anywhere, with superb views in every direction.
Within 30 minutes of landing we were preparing to launch. The tide had already turned and the forecast from Jersey Met was for a southerly force 3-4 by midday. We paddled up the eastern side of the reef as we want to pass to the north before catching some of the southerly tide back towards Jersey.
What was amazing was the complete change in the weather, we had been comfortable sitting on the bench admiring the distant views but within 30 minutes the sky had turned dark, Jersey’s coast was becoming less discernible and the wind was starting to freshen. We weren’t surprised though as this was exactly what the Met Office in Jersey had forecast.
It was a fairly straightforward paddle back to St Catherine’s but as we landed the calm and blue skies of our departure were a distant memory.
It was a quick change and a retreat to the warmth of the cafe in order to savour the events of the morning. A January visit to the Ecrehous always feels a privilege.
A couple of weeks off the water with a rather persistent cough and cold had been somewhat frustrating. I had missed the kayaking opportunities and the possibility of contributing to the Jersey Canoe Club’s total towards the British Canoeing Winter Challenge. All that came to an end today as we managed to visit Les Dirouilles. Possibly the least visited of all the reefs, which are located in Jersey waters.
It was a reasonably late start for a winter paddle but at 11.30, we paddled around the end of St Catherine’s Breakwater and into the tidal stream, which was going to significantly assist our journey north. Most of the time our speed over the ground was just over 5 knots. Our destination kept disappearing from sight as the forecast fog drifted in from the west. This was a day of limited colours, the sea and sky changing between silver and grey. The only splashes of colour, in an otherwise muted landscape were the kayaks.
Even the birds appeared to be avoiding display of colour, there were a few Herring Gulls and Shags sitting on the rocks. The real pleasure was to see 7, very trusting, Purple Sandpipers as we had our lunch. No real surprise here as the swell washed reef appears to be a perfect habitat for such species. This is partly why the area has been designated a Ramsar area.
A great paddle to Les Dirouilles, which we managed to squeeze in just before Christmas, especially after the storms of the last few weeks.
Attracting canoeing and kayaking Club’s to paddle in Jersey has always proved a challenge. The concept of flying to a weekend’s paddling has been difficult to promote, although over the years Tower Hamlets Canoe Club have become annual visitors. This year at the Spanish Sea Kayak Symposium we fell into conversation with Jim Krawiecki and suggested that a group from Manchester flew south to warmer waters and experienced some of the paddling which Jersey has to offer.
After a quick paddle along the south coast yesterday using equipment courtesy of Absolute Adventures, today’ s focus switched to the north coast of the island. Meeting at St Catherine’s, were the Jersey Canoe Club has its premises, the plan was to head west on the ebbing Spring Tide before returning back to St Catherine’s as the tide started to flood. Along the way we hoped to be able to introduce the Manchester Canoe Club members to the delights of some of the Jersey tide races.
Remaining the tidal flow during the morning, we paddled from point to point, which meant that we were a significant distance offshore. The advantage was that our speed over the ground rarely dropped below 6 knots. St Catherine’s, La Coupe, Tour de Rozel and Belle Hougue, one point after another, passed quickly.
Lunch was on the beach at Bonne Nuit. The last of the ebb tide was still flowing west when we started our return paddle so we stayed close to the shore initially, passing things that we missed whilst heading in the opposite direction.
Our final play of the day was in the moving water at Tour de Rozel before we jumped on the tide and hitched a free ride back to St Catherine’s. Sprinting off La Coupe we managed to reach 8.3 knots over the ground, not a bad speed on what was supposed to be a relaxing days paddle, introducing some of the members of Manchester Canoe Club to the variety of sea kayaking that Jersey has to offer.