Sunday, October 11, 2015

South West Delights

Although this is the closest stretch of coast to where I live, it seems to have been quite some time since I last spent a day exploring this area of Jersey so it was a real pleasure to be on the water on Saturday.
This is a section of the Jersey coast, which I have paddled hundreds of times but there is always something to discover whatever the season.
Paddling into a feature which we known as Junkyard Gully.  At the rear of the inlet there is a large blow hole into which was thrown a lot of scrap metal and cars in the 1930's and 40's.
Laurie passing to the south of Corbiere Lighthouse, which marks the south west corner of the island.  There was a bit of swell around and some tidal movement but it was a relatively calm day.
 Heading south past Corbiere after stopping for lunch in the reefs to the west of La Pulente.  A bit chilly but it is October.
 Louis looking as if he is having a good time.
Louis and Rachel playing in the small race which was developing to the west of Corbiere.
Along this section of coast there are some many great jumping spots.  This flat topped rock is at Gorselands.  Laurie is in mid air whilst Simone is considering his options.
Just before Beauport we were able to take a short cut through the reef at the Grosse Tete.   This is known as Conger Gully, mainly because of the stories we tell younger people when out coasteering along this section of coast.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Wildlife sightings

Over the years I have seen numerous species of bird, animals and other wildlife at quite close quarters whilst out paddling in my kayak.  In common with many other sea kayakers I thought that paddling in a sea kayak was the ultimate green vehicle.  The one form of marine vehicle, which was going to cause the least amount of disturbance to wildlife, either along the shore or on the water.
On reflection though I am not so sure we are as environmentally as friendly as we think we are.  I remember the indignation I felt when a wildlife watch boat off Shetland approach us and told us we were disturbing the birds.  I then watched the boat approach much closer to the cliffs than we had been with no visible impact on the thousands of birds, which were in the area.
On another occasion I recall paddling off the south coast of Skye.  There were numerous seals hauled out on the rocks and although we paddled out from the rocks there was some disturbance with a number of the seas entering the water.  One of the small boats which operated out of Elgol passed reasonably close to us before approaching the rocks so that the passengers could get a better view of the seals.  Surprisingly although the boat was closer than us the seals weren't at all concerned.
Thinking of other meaningful interactions with wildlife of various shapes and sizes many of the closest encounters have been whilst have been sitting still in my kayak.  Puffins swimming close by, seals approaching the bow my my kayak, whales surfacing nearby, the list could go on.
So why didn't these larger boats with engines disturb the wildlife?  One theory is that we are not a fixed shape, our paddles are rotating and at times the sunlight catches the blades.  We are a moving image and perhaps the wildlife concerned becomes confused whereas a boat is a fixed shape and so the animals become accustomed to the shape and less agitated.
Of course this might be complete rubbish but I think that it is worth considering the impact we have on wildlife, our environmental credentials may not be as robust as we think they are.  With the winter approaching be particularly thoughtful about those small wading birds who have traveled thousands of miles to find a regular food supply along our shoreline and then we paddle along, passing close to where they are roosting, causing them to take flight and wasting some of their hard earned energy resources.
Seeing wildlife in all its forms is one of the most memorable aspects of sea kayaking but lets slow down, give a bit more space and reduce the anxiety to those animals which call our seas and shoreline home.
Paddling in Shetland.  There were literally thousands of gannets plus numerous other species such as Puffins and Great Skua's.  We didn't need to approach the cliffs as we slowed down the birds came closer of their own accord.
This was a memorable day heading south along the west side of the Sleat Peninsula in Skye, for several miles we were accompanied by dolphins.  We didn't follow them or chase after them, they just decided to be with us.
Basking Shark off Wiay.  Sitting and watching this magnificent creature swim alongside and underneath the kayaks was a very special experience.
 Whilst launching after lunch two whales appeared alongside us.  We sat for 30 minutes watching an amazing display and then as if they had had enough fun they just disappeared.  One of the reasons why kayaking off the west coast of Greenland is so memorable.
 This beautiful bird just swam past whilst waiting for some others in the group to launch.
It is always worth experimenting by pointing the camera down.  This was just a lucky shot but there were so many sea lions in the area it was worth trying a few underwater shots even if I couldn't see what the camera was pointing at.

Sunday, October 04, 2015


Every year the Jersey Canoe Club arranges a weekend to Morbihan in southern Brittany.  Most years we are blessed with settled conditions and warm temperatures but this wasn't the case this year, particularly on the Saturday.  Continuous rain on the Saturday was accompanied by increasing wind on the Saturday evening, resulting in a couple of the tents becoming damaged.
It didn't stop us getting on the water, both days, it was just that we didn't aim to paddle as far as in previous years. 
Still a thoroughly enjoyable weekend away though.
Our first port of call, in rapidly deteriorating weather was Er Lannic.  The stone circle is thought to be approximately 5,000 years old.  Where else is it possible to paddle so close to such significant historic monuments, whilst playing in significant tidal streams?
 Our plan was to paddle up the river to Auray.  The southerly breeze considerably assisting our progress but also blowing in some very damp conditions.
 It wasn't a day for the best photographs!
 Kayaks on the quayside at Auray  It was pretty miserable and we didn't need much convincing that an afternoon in the bar was far more preferable than 8 miles into a head wind in torrential rain.
 Sunday dawned far brighter, so following a paddle around the islands in the southern part of the Gulf we returned to the play spot near Ile Berder to make the most of the waves which are generated on the flood tide.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Autumn on Herm

Herm, is a delightful island, which lies several miles to the east of Guernsey across an interesting section of water, the Little Russel.  Today is almost perfect conditions we were able to explore, not just the coast of Herm but the fascinating reefs to the north.  A memorable paddle for the beginning of October.
 Jim just off La Rosiere Steps on Herm.  Once we arrived here we knew that we were out of the strongest tidal flow and we could relax to a certain extent.
 Lunch spot on the north east corner of Herm.
 Laurie off Shell Beach.  The Humps are visible to the north.  It is hard to believe that it is the fist weekend in October with conditions like this.
Approaching Godin. This small island is the largest  of the Humps, a fascinating area to explore to the north of Herm.
There are plenty of distinctive navigation beacons around Guernsey and Tautenay is no exception.  It provided a convenient resting place whilst crossing the Little Russel, back to Bordeaux.

Friday, October 02, 2015

North West Gozo

Having paddled quite regularly in Gozo over the last few years there was still one section of coast which had eluded me, the north west corner of the island.  A visit in June provided the opportunity to explore this section of coast and we weren't disappointed.
 We left from Qbajjar Bay on the north coast with the aim of paddling to Xlendi on the south coast.  For me this was closing the circle.  This was the only section of the Gozo coastline that I hadn't paddled before.  To the right of the paddlers the low lying rocks are the salt pans.  They are about 350 years old.
 Entering Wied il-Ghasri, a narrow inlet on the north coast.  It is the last place with easy access to the cliff top until you reach the Inland Sea on the west coast.
 Turning west from Wied il-Ghasri, the vertical and uninterrupted cliffs stretch to the west.  The start of some really memorable kayaking.
 Wied Il-Mielah, is a stunning arch, part of the way along the north coast.   We returned the following day, abseiled down the side of the arch before climbing back out.  A pleasant addition to a kayaking trip.
 There were numerous caves to be explored, some of them going some considerable way into the cliffs.
 Approaching the north coast cliffs, the top of the lighthouse is just visible.
 Looking down from the cliff top later in the day.
 Approaching San Dimitri Point, the north west corner of Gozo.  Amazingly from this point there is no land before Barcelona.  You don't always imagine areas in the Mediterranean having such a large fetch.
 One of the great thing about paddling in Gozo there is always something to do over lunch.  Laurie swimming off the slip.
If people can hold their breath long enough it is always good fun to build a human tower.  4 people standing on each others shoulders was our best result that day.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

A few aerial shots

I can never understand people who actually select a non window seat when flying because, without doubt, the best onboard entertainment is found from looking out of the window.  Frequently the flights pass over some of the more classic paddling destinations, so the advice would be to always keep your camera at the ready.  You are unlikely to be disappointed.
 An early morning departure from Heathrow gave superb views of London.   The Isle of Dogs is clearly visible and the more eagle eyed will be able to find the location of Shadwell Basin, where we were paddling last weekend. 
 Lihou is a small island off the west coast of Guernsey, where we have passed many a happy weekend.  This was taken in the aftermath of a February storm, hence the swell breaking on the north and west coasts.  We are there this weekend but the forecast is for much calmer conditions.
 Brecqhou, off the west coast of Sark.  The narrow channel is the Gouliot Passage, where the tidal streams can reach 7 knots on springs.  A very entertaining location.
 Just after take off from Ilulissat in Greenland and before the plane turns to the west and the south.  These waters had been much more ice choked when we had paddled south a couple of days earlier.
 Approaching the Isle of Wight.  The entrance to the River Medina at Cowes is clearly visible.  Calshot is largely obscured by the bank of cloud.  This picture was taken when heading south towards Jersey
 Heading north from Jersey you have a different perspective from the Isle of Wight.  We are just to the east of the island looking down Southampton Water.  Portsmouth Harbour is visible in the middle of the picture, whilst Langstone Harbour is to the right.
 Alderney is the most northerly of the Channel Islands and the closest to France.  The harbour at Braye is clearly visible, whilst the small island is Burhou, a fascinating bird colony.  Between Alderney and Burhou is the Swinge, with tidal streams of 7 knots, whilst on the other side of the island is the famous Alderney Race, where speeds can reach 8-9 knots in places.
 Bonne Nuit bay on the north coast of Jersey, a popular place for the start of kayaking trips.  In the middle of the bay Cheval Rock is clearly visible.
 Departing from Jersey in a westerly direction, the cliffs at L'Etacq are exposed to the Atlantic swell.
Flying out of Milos in Greece, after what would have been another great weeks sea kayaking.  We are looking across to the summit of Mount Profitis Elias 748 metres (2,454 feet) high.  On one particularly windy day we did walk to the summit, from which we were able to see some of the finest sea kayaking destinations anywhere.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Kayaking Architecture

After a memorable paddle on the Saturday, we joined in the Shadwell Basin paddling festival on the Sunday and although we didn't paddle that far we had an illuminating talk on the history of the area by Toby.  Next time we visit the area we will be looking at the buildings through different eyes.
William Kidd was executed a few yards below Wapping Old Stairs, on May 23rd 1701.  Pirates were normally hung and then chained to a post on the foreshore for 3 tides, as a warning to others.  Today the pirate is commemorated in this riverside pub.
Wapping Police Station is the site of the oldest police force in the world, formed in 1798.  It was formed because of the level of crime on the river.  It was estimated that 11,000 of the 33,000 people who worked on the river, at the time, were known criminals.
Toby was really well prepared with numerous visual aids.  He would land and whilst talking about the area use the photographs to illustrate the history of this area of London.
 Crossing to the south side of the river our first stop was Butler's Wharf.  Built between 1871 and 1873 it was supposedly the largest tea warehouse in the world at one time.  Today as the docks have moved downstream it has been developed with luxury flats and apartments.
Looking west towards the city skyline, which has changed significantly in the last few years.
 The design of Tower Bridge was the result of a competition.  A number of the submissions were a bit more unusual.
 The bridge was built between 1892 and 93 using granite blocks from near Liskeard, in Cornwall.  Many people are surprised that the bridge isn't older.
One feature we passed over but couldn't see was the Thames Tunnel.  It was built between 1825 and 1843 and was designed for horse and carts.  It now forms part of the London Overground railway system, between Wapping and Rotherhithe.  This was the first tunnel in the world to be constructed under a navigable river and when it was completed a banquet was held to celebrate the engineering marvel of the Brunel family.  Although we couldn't see the tunnel we did pay our respects as we paddle above its route.