Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Herm again

The plan had been to paddle across to Herm for an evening at the beer festival but the prospect of a north easterly F6 blowing against one of the largest tides of the year required a strategic re-think.  Get the ferry from St Peter Port.  This was a decision that was completely justified when we saw the size some of the areas of overfalls.
The beer festival was great event with some interesting music from local band Buffalo Huddlestone, I had not really come across Guernsey rap music before!  The following morning allowed us time to explore this delightful Island before heading to Guernsey on the ferry.  The only downside was that this time we didn't get to paddle across but conditions on the Wednesday were just a bit too entertaining.
 This is probably the most iconic view on Herm, Shell Beach but although I have been numerous times over the years I can't actually remember seeing the beach at high water on a spring tide.  It came as a bit of a surprise.
Many of the visitors to the island will follow the coastal path with the result that you miss out on some pretty good scenery and the opportunity to interact with some of the locals.

The common occupies the northern part of the Island.  Sir Percival Perry, who was chairman of the Ford Motor Company, was tenant of Herm prior to the Second World War.  He converted part of the common into a golf course.
The recently restored harbour crane is now on display in front of the White House Hotel.  It was dismantled in 1997 and shipped to Guernsey where it was stored until recently.  Built in approximately 1850 it was used to load Herm granite onto ships.  The rock was used in the construction of Blackfriars Bridge in London as well as the East and West India Dock Walls.  When time allows I should go through my slide collection to find pictures of the crane in use in the 1970's and 80's.
The south west of Herm, I have spent many a happy hour paddling these waters.
The Herm shopping parade built in the early 1960's by a group of Italian workmen.  It always surprises me that when I visit I can find something to buy.
Looking south along the west coast of Herm.  A ferry is alongside the small jetty, which is almost submerged because of the height of the tide.  Behind lies Jethou, which was once the home of Compton MacKenzie, best known for his book "Whiskey Galore".  To the left lies La Grande Fauconniere and to the right Crevichon.
The small island of Crevichon, which lies just to the north of Jethou, is passed quite close by when heading from Herm back towards Guernsey.  As can be seen from the profile there has been a history of quarrying on the island with the granite being used in the building of Castle Cornet in St Peter Port and possibly the steps of St Paul's Cathedral in London.
 Sitting in the middle of the Little Russel and surrounding by some truly amazing tidal streams, is Brehon Tower.  Completed in 1856 the tower was no longer needed by the First World although it was used by the German's in the Second World War.  Today it is the home of a small tern colony.  behind and to the right of the tower are the chimney's at St Sampson, which are an ideal navigation mark.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Another Ecrehous Day

The continuing spell of settled meant that the Ecrehous was an ideal destination for Sunday's sea kayaking adventures.  The relatively large tide, just over 35 feet meant that a prompt departure from St Catherine's so that we avoid the fastest tidal flows.  The crossing of just over 5 nautical miles was completed in a very satisfactory 1 hour 10 minutes.
On spring tides the water often flows across the tombolo, which joins Marmotiere to the smaller islets to the north.  It is always a great place to play and Andy obliged with swimming through the run so I could experiment with the various options for rescuing a swimmer.
Although it was the last weekend of September and the continuous flow of swallows south was an indication that summer was over,  the temperature rose into the low 20's celsius. A very pleasant few hours were spent on the reef before heading back to Jersey, and again the crossing passed relatively quickly.  Isn't it satisfying when the navigation works out?
Although we will no doubt visit this far flung corner of the Baliwick of Jersey over the coming months I think it will be some time before we have such pleasant conditions.


 Andy playing on the small race which develops over the tombolo, when we first arrived.
 In places the water is shallow, fast and clear.  It can be very disorientating if you spend too much time looking down.
 Just after high water on a spring tide.  There is not much of Marmotiere showing, within a couple of hours a totally new landscape will be revealed.
Transporting Andy to shore after he swam through the race for the second time.  This was a far more stable position than having him on the rear deck.
 Once the tide drops it was time to explore the northern part of the reef on foot.  A couple of hours earlier this is the spot we had been surfing.
 One of the small alleyways which thread their way through the small but well kept huts on the main island.
Kate demonstrating the advantage of a plastic kayak when it comes to launching.
 Re-grouping at the southern end of Maitre Ile before starting the crossing back to Jersey.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A day on Lihou

Every day on Lihou is special but today was particularly so.  Sea kayaking in the morning, swimming and fishing in the afternoon and walking in the evening.
 Leaving the south side of Lihou in the morning, heading for the cafe at Portelet.  Lihou was part of the first designated RAMSAR sites in Guernsey.
 Happy paddlers with full stomachs heading back to the kayaks.  Lihou is the large island on the horizon.
 Heading north back to Lihou
 Lihou Priory was in existence by 1156, today it lies in ruins.
 The stones always look particularly warm in the late evening sunshine.
 The remains of the dove cot, part of the food source for the Priory
 The view south towards Pleinmont headland.  The Hanois light is just out of the picture to the right.
 Watching the tidal stream pour north through the gap between Lihou and Lihoumel.  3 hours earlier we had be able to scramble across the gap.  At this point we were people furthest west in the Channel Islands.
 Heading back towards the house for evening meal.

A swim to the Hanois

Off the south west corner of Guernsey is one of the classic lighthouses, the Hanois. We paddled out to the light in June this year, but sitting at Cobo last Saturday evening Brian Aplin explained that he had planned to swim from Lihou, out to the Hanois the following morning.  The aim was to use the southerly tidal stream to speed things along although care was needed not to be swept past the reef.
Launching from the causeway across to Lihou was probably the most challenging part of the day, the tide was dropping at quite a rate.  We joined up with Brian off the north west corner of Lihoumel and very quickly felt the impact of the tide.  Accelerating through the reefs but heading towards the Lighthouse.
Brian swam with just a couple of breaks to take on extra liquids.  On my GPS I measured the course as 2.18 nautical miles, taking him 1 hour 40 minutes to cover the distance.
I towed Brian's Nordkapp but when we arrived at the lighthouse there wasn't an easy option for him because we paddled a further 12 miles to St Peter Port.
 Joining up with Brian off the north west corner of Lihou.  He is just to the left of the closest rock.  The Hanois is barely visible in the distance.
Well under way.  Lihou is the large island on the horizon.  Brian swam in his crocs, they seemed ideal for this type of activity
 At this point I thought there was a possibility of missing the reef as the tide was pushing us south fairly quickly.  With the benefit of knowing how to ferry glide when swimming Brian did achieve the shelter of the reef.
 Almost there.  As far as we know nobody else has completed this remarkable swim.  What  a way to spend a Sunday morning.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

St Catherine's

For over 20 years the Jersey Canoe Club has paddled from St Catherine's, on the north east corner of the Island, on Tuesday evenings between April and September.  A large 19th Century breakwater provides some shelter from the strongest tidal streams and the north easterly winds.
Originally designed to be a major harbour of refuge, work started on the 27th June 1847, on the southern arm of the breakwater, which was designed to run out from Archirondel to meet up with another arm running out from Verclut Point, slightly further north.
Work was abandoned on the southern arm but the northern one was completed although it has never really been used for anything apart from walking along and fishing from.  A remnant of when relationships between the British and French were not as good as today.
 The breakwater at St Catherine's.  It was a beautiful evening for the final Tuesday night paddle of the season.
 The Jersey Canoe Club premises.  The Club has operated from this building since 1991.  It is in an ideal location for kayaking.
 Paddling around the end of the breakwater.  The date stone on the end is 1855.
 At this time of the year the evening light is always special.  It was possible to see the French coast behind Alan.
 Although it was only a neap tide there was still some tidal movement off La Coupe, the north east corner of the Island.
Looking west from La Coupe, the headland in the distance is Tour de Rozel, one of the finest white water play spots on the Island.
Sitting off Rozel, one of the small north coast harbours.  It would have been great to go further unfortunately we had a Canoe Club Committee meeting to go to.
 Returning towards La Coupe, St Catherine's is just around the corner.  A lovely final evening paddle of the summer season.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

St Aubin's Bay Circuit

An early Sunday morning from Belcroute allowed a paddling circuit of St Aubin's Bay.  High tide meant that it was an easy launch of the pebbles, sheltered from the NW wind, which was blowing over the cliffs. After rounding St Aubin's Fort the wind, on our sterns, speeded our journey to Elizabeth Castle, our second major military fortification of the day. The return, into the headwind, wasn't as easy but the sun was out and it was a great morning to be out on the water.
St Aubin's Fort was our first target.  It was completed in the 1540's when St Aubin's was the main harbour on the island.  Additional fortifications were added by the German's during the Second World War.  Today it is operated as an activity centre by Education, Sport and Culture.
 Heading east across St Aubin's Bay we avoided the hobie cats, which were racing around the Bay.  Elizabeth Castle, offshore from St Helier, was built in the late 16th and 17th centuries.  Sir Walter Raleigh, who was Governor of the Island named the castle in honour of his Queen.
 In the 1970's and 80's members of the Jersey Canoe Club used to leave St Helier every Thursday night and usually included a circumnavigation of the castle on their paddle.  It is an area we venture into less frequently nowadays, which is pity is it is a fascinating historic paddle.
 Elizabeth Castle is well worth a visit on foot.
The end of the 19th century breakwater is painted as a navigation mark
 
 Crossing St Aubin's Bay was straight into the north westerly wind.  Offshore a cruise ship, of which there have been many more in Jersey this summer, lies at anchor.
 There was a slight swell having an impact on visibility, at times.
 We finished with a visit to Noirmont, returning to Belcroute along a pleasant section of
coastline.  A great 6.5 nautical miles.

Jersey Guide Book

After a disastrous paddling trip to Sweden at the beginning of August, when our luggage didn't arrive and therefore we missed the opportunity to get on the river, I was able to spend some time in Jersey putting the finishing touches to my latest book.  
Jersey: A Visitors Guide is available for Kindle, written with the general visitor in mind, although it does have some information on sea kayaking and other outdoor activities.  Available from Amazon, for less that a pint of beer, I think it would be useful for anybody considering a visit to the Island.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hong Kong Surprises

A quick visit to Hong Kong to visit our younger daughter who has been working there, was a week full of surprises.  There is the constant rush of the urban area but with a bit of effort it was easy to find a different side to this region.
Our first excursion was to the island of Cheung Chau, reached easily by ferry from the Central Piers, on Hong Kong island.  The 10 kilometre crossing taking about 30 minutes.  The central part of the island is well developed and appeared pretty crowded so we made our way to the east coast beaches, with the intention of doing some paddle boarding.
 The first surprise was the presence of shark nets, they can be seen running out to sea from near the rocks.  In 1995 3 swimmers were killed by sharks in 10 days so the Hong Kong authorities installed shark nets on a large number of beaches.  There have been no fatalities since.  This was the area that Hong Kong's only Olympic Gold medalist trained.  Lee Lai Shan won gold in windsurfing at the 1996 Olympics. 
 The southern and northern portions of the island consist of granite hills, just like paddling in Jersey, just the sea was a bit warmer.
 Taking a break with the main urban area of Hong Kong visible behind, hopefully the sharks have taken a day off as we dangled feet in the water.

On another day we visited Lantau Island to see the statue of Buddha at Ngong Ping, the cable car ride is nearly 6 kilometres long and gives great views.  After seeing the statue we dropped down to the village of Tai O, which many people also do.  After a walk around the village we left the crowds behind and headed into the hills, for the Tai O infinity pools.

The first section of the walk followed the coast west and south, fortunately most of the route was in the shade but it was still very hot.
After several kilometres of reasonably flat walking, the trail headed upwards.  Every now and again there were distant glimpses of some waterfalls.  On the walk in we only saw 4 other people.
On arrival at the waterfalls it was obvious that quite a few people had made the effort to walk to this delightful spot.
 The pools provided a great place to cool off, following the heat of the walk in from Tai O.  Technically you are not supposed to swim here, there is a sign saying that swimming is not allowed but I think in reality it can be ignored.
Looking over the lip of the dam.  The water behind is part of the Pearl River estuary
 and it was possible to see the building works for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge link, which went it opens in 2016 will be 50 kilomtres long.