Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunshine at last

After what seems like months of wind and rain today dawned with light winds and blue skies, some relaxing sea kayaking at last.  Paddled east from Bouley Bay,  almost to La Coupe before retracing our steps.  Just great to be out.
 Heading east from Bouley Bay.  Although the cliffs aren't completely vertical, as in parts of the Island, further west they are pretty steep.  The small pier was built in 1829, mainly for use by oyster fishermen.
 Small headlands are dotted along this section of coast.  In the distance is White Rock or Tour de Rozel, one of the best white water spots in Jersey.
 The views to the west included part of Belle Hougue, the tallest headland on the Island
 Timing was important when going through some of the gaps.  Although the wind had died down there was still quite a heavy ground swell.
 A brief shower interrupted the sunshine but did produce a spectacular rainbow.
 Chasing rainbows is always entertaining
Arriving back at Bouley Bay after a really enjoyable couple of hours.  Hopefully plenty more Sunday mornings like this are on the way.  Fort Leicester just above the pier is available as a holiday let from Jersey Heritage.  What a location for a sea kayaking holiday!

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Sunday morning kayaking

It is difficult to imagine what kayaking we could do on the sea, when the Sunday morning forecast was for winds gusting up to 60 knots and a heavy swell.  Fortunately there is an interesting feature which appears in the middle of the sand dunes, during very wet winters.  A seasonal lake develops, although not every winter and it had probably been 15 years since I last paddled there.
Most of the Club members who met in the car park had no idea what they were letting themselves in far.  Putting on paddling kit in a car park in the middle of the sand dunes is always going to be a talking point.
What followed though was an entertaining and memorable two hours. 
 Quite a group getting ready to leave
Walking across the sand dunes with kayaks is always going to attract attention
It wasn't always easy walking
 It is quite a large lake by Jersey standards.

 Some people decided on alternative ways to launch
 It was just a bit of fun when kayaking on the sea was out of the question.
One intrepid person even carried their stand up paddleboard

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Tide, Feather, Snow

In 1998 I was fortunate enough to spend a few weeks kayaking in Alaska, I remember being particularly excited as it was the first sea kayaking trip away that I had organized completely via the internet.
We flew into Homer, chartered a boat to take us out and spent 3 weeks paddling back in to Homer.  It was a scenically spectacular area with great wildlife and we were lucky that for the first 10 days we didn't experience any of the rain for which the region is famous. 

This is the view across Kachemak Bay towards the Kenai Fjords National Park.

I came across the book "Tide, Feather, Snow" by Miranda Weiss towards the end of last year.  It describes the life of somebody who moves to Alaska and lives in Homer.  The book describes the Homer that we knew, I recognized the descriptions of the town, of the bars and some of the towns characters, reading it brought some great memories.
It is a delightful read which reflects on the challenges of living in the largest State.  Anybody who has an interest in the north or has been to Alaska will really enjoy this book by Miranda Weiss.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Sea States

Living in Jersey we are fortunate that the Jersey Met Office issues regular and accurate weather forecasts, including shipping forecasts.  As I sit here writing this there is howling gale blowing outside with trees down, roads closed and coastal floodingWhat is unusual is the Sea State, I can't remember the last time that I saw "very high" given as the sea state in Channel Island waters.
As with most weather phenomena there are clear definitions. Most of us are probably familiar with definitions of some of the lesser sea states but the last couple are rarely seen in our waters:
Smooth:        Wave height less than 0.5 m
Slight:            Wave height of 0.5 to 1.25 m
Moderate:     Wave height of 1.25 to 2.5 m
Rough:          Wave height of 2.5 to 4.0 m
Very rough:   Wave height of 4.0 to 6.0 m
High:              Wave height of 6.0 to 9.0 m
Very high:      Wave height of 9.0 to 14.0 m
Phenomenal: Wave height more than 14.0 m

Forecast from 7pm Tuesday until 7pm Wednesday

Wind:Southeast to south gale 8 to severe gale 9 with gusts to 65kt, temporarily decreasing 7 to gale 8 around midnight, then veering south to southwest gale 8 to severe gale 9, perhaps locally storm 10 mid Channel for a time in the morning, veering southwest to west later.
Sea state:Rather rough to rough becoming very rough to high, locally very high for a time from late morning.
Weather:Rain clearing around midnight to squally showers Risk of hail and thunder.
Visibility:Moderate to poor in rain and in showers later, otherwise good.
Swell:Confused. Total waves becoming 20 ft in the south and 35ft in the north for a time.
 Corbiere Lighthouse.  Wind calm, 5 hours after high water
 Corbiere Lighthouse.  SSE Force 4 High Water +2
Corbiere Lighthouse.  SSE Force 8 gusting 48 knots.  High water + 2

It is difficult to imagine what it is like out there tonight with stronger winds, a bigger swell and a larger tide.


Bonne Nuit

Whilst writing one of my previous posts on photographs from aircraft windows it became apparent that I had written very little about Bonne Nuit over the last few years.  In fact the only real piece I could find was on the recent Stand Up Paddleboard race.  This is quite a serious omission as Bonne Nuit is a delightful north coast harbour from which to start a number of entertaining sea kayaking journeys.
The harbour was built in 1872 by the States of Jersey, to provide shelter for the local fishermen and a means of exporting stone from the quarries at Mont Mado, at the top of the hill.
In the middle of the bay is Cheval Rock, traditional was that on midsummers day the young maidens of the parish of St John as part of a fertility rite whilst other traditions state that it was merely a way of preventing bad luck in the coming year.
Today, located below some of the highest land on the Island, Bonne Nuit is a popular bay with visitors and locals alike.  Launching from the bay superb kayaking is reached, which ever way you head.  To the east is Belle Hougue, with steep slopes and some great tidal race paddling at certain times.  Heading to the west takes you towards Wolf's Caves and Sorel, steep cliffs and entertaining rock hopping.
Those who are attending the Sea Kayak Symposium in May, this year, will have the opportunity to paddle from here several times during the course of the week.  There are still a few places left, it is an excellent opportunity to visit Britain's most southerly inhabited island.
 High water on a neap tide.  The pier has always been a popular jumping location but unfortunately signs have appeared in the last couple of years stating it is not allowed.  Most people seem to ignore the signs as pier jumping is part of the heritage of Jersey people.
 Looking across to Bonne Nuit from Belle Hougue.  This clearly demonstrates how sheltered the harbour is from the south westerly winds, tucked in under some of the highest land in Jersey.
 Preparing to launch, early one January morning.  At low water on the larger spring tides the sea retreats to the end of the breakwater.
  Looking across to Belle Hougue, the tallest headland in Jersey, from the harbour wall.  There is a great tidal race, particularly on the ebb.  The sunlight is just catching the on the roof of La Crete Fort.
 Looking across Giffard Bay, from La Crete Fort.  On a big swell there is a lovely low tide break on this beach.
 La Crete Fort and Belle Hougue, the north coast footpath is clearly visible cutting across the hillside.  A walk or run along this path is a great way to spend a few hours and an excellent way to assess some superb paddling water.
Bonne Nuit from the west, the harbour is tucked in around the headland.  This picture clearly illustrates how quickly you reach an interesting section of coast.
Playing off Belle Houge, the tide is running from east to west and meeting the swell which is approaching from the west.  Great paddling.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

West coast damage

For the second time this year a damaging storm and large swell has coincided with a spring tide, creating the potential for significant damage and disruption.  Fortunately the pressure wasn't too low, about 1006 mb, so although it had an impact on the height of the tide it was too significant.
All around Jersey the islanders have been counting the cost of the late and early morning battering including on the west coast where the Splash Surf Centre has been almost destroyed.  At 10.00 last night we were rushing to remove all of the boards, wet suits, stock etc as the waves pounded the sea wall.  Amazingly the whole building was moved by the power of the waves and the rear wall ripped off.
First light today, when the full extent of the damage could be seen also coincided with a 12 metre high water, so water was again pouring over the sea wall, some of the waves must have been shooting nearly 50 feet in the air and with a particularly powerful wave we witnessed the building move on its foundations.
Fortunately nobody has been injured and it proved possible to save virtually all of the equipment.  Amazing power of the sea.

 Looking towards the Splash Surf Centre at first light this morning.  The side of the building is missing.
 I think the wedged board is the only thing keeping the roof in place.  Emptying this at 10.30 last night was quite a challenge but people turned up and saved virtually all of the equipment.
 Looking south towards El Tico, the car park has turned into a lake.
 Every now and again a bigger set would roll in.
 Dave Ferguson from the Jersey Evening Post, perhaps going beyond the call of duty as a photographer
 This was a split second before a large wave swept over us.  The dark bits are seaweed contained within the wave.  The posts in the car are just visible to the lower left.
Looking north towards the White House as another wall of water crashes over the sea defenses. Just beyond the White House there was some significant damage to the sea wall. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A few more aerial shots

It has been a while since I posted some images taken from the aircraft window, the last few months has seen some pretty turbulent flights so I haven't managed to get too many pictures.  Below are a selection of some of those I have taken over the last few years, generally illustrating some superb sea kayaking waters.  Remember the best entertainment on a flight is the view out of the window so keep your camera handy.
 The Cherbourg Peninsula, seen whilst flying north.  The infamous Alderney Races separates this tip of France from the most northerly of the Channel Islands.  Very challenging waters best visited for the first time on neap tides.
 Approaching Athens, landing in Athens is always exciting because it has inevitably resulted in some superb sea kayaking.
 Looking back towards Bonne Nuit, on the north coast of Jersey.  This was a particularly memorable flight as I had been running a course for the local Air Training Cadets, which resulted in a flight around Jersey in a Hercules.  Very memorable
 These are the Casquets, a wild group of rocks  with an unusual lighthouse about 8 miles west of Alderney.  As we were flying at about 18,000 feet it gives an idea of the size of the waves.  August 1989 was the only time that conditions came together to allow me to paddle out to this remote outpost of the Channel Islands.
 Cap Vani, the north west corner of Milos, in the Greek Islands.  Always great sea kayaking.  Contact Rod at Sea Kayak Milos for a superb trip.
 The Ecrehous, the shingle bank of this memorable reef is clearly visible.  Any sea kayaker visiting Jersey should aim to visit this delightful offshore reef.
 The north western corner of the Nuussuaq Peninsula on the northern side of Disko Bay.  A small piece of land can just be seen jutting into the ice.  This is the village of Niaqornat.  The 2013 film "Village at the end of World" was made here and is well worth watching.  I visited the village in 2012.
 The entrance to the harbour at Portsmouth.  From this height it is not obvious just how busy the waterways are in this area.
 Last Thursday morning as we passed over the Isle of Wight the Dorset coast was just about visible.  I have spent some great weekends kayaking along this coast with Portsmouth Canoe Club in the last few years.  Although not great views it seemed to be the first time for months that anything at all had been visible from the aircraft window.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Top 5 Sea Kayak Trips

Whilst sitting around a camp fire on a remote beach or in the classroom on a 4 Star Assessment a question which regularly comes up is "What are the the 5 best sea kayak trips that you have ever done"?  Just take a minute to think about what are the best 5 days that you have spent in a sea kayak, factors to take into account might include companions, scenery, wildlife, weather etc.  What is interesting is that if you repeat the process in a couple of days time you will probably come up with some different paddles.
So I thought, what are my 5 most memorable sea kayaking day trips at the present time?  I present them below in no particular order.
There is something special about kayaking through the heart of the world's great cities. London and Paris have both been memorable paddles but looking back towards New York from the Statue of Liberty is second to none.
Heading through the Ecrehous reef.  Located approximately half way between Jersey and the coast of Normandy and visit to this delightful ref is a must for any sea kayaker who is visiting Jersey.  There will be a number of paddles arranged here during the Jersey Symposium in May
The west coast of Scotland is justifiably popular with sea kayakers and the paddle at from Elgol into the heart of the Cuillin Mountains has to be one of the finest one day paddles that there is.  This was a beautiful day a few years ago, the day trip at last years Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium included a quick visit to the neighbouring island of Soay.
Disko Bay on the west coast of Greenland has many of the basic ingredients of classic sea kayaking, isolation, dramatic scenery, memorable wildlife etc.  what makes it so special though is kayak through ice whilst there are historic and cultural links between the region and the kayaks we paddle.
This small island is Er Lannic in Morbihan, southern Brittany.  Where else is it possible to paddle in tidal streams which reach nearly 10 knots whilst less than a hundred metres away it is possible to explore semi submerged stone circles, several thousand years old?