Thursday, December 11, 2014

Memories of warmer days

As the rain beats down on the windows and the wind starts to increase towards its predicted 55 knots is not too hard for thoughts to start to drift back towards the warmer days of summer.  Good memories and its only 4 days until the evenings to start to pull out.
 Agnes heading along the west coast of Ile de Brehat.  Waterproofs still on but it was the first weekend in May so still plenty of time to warm up.
 The west coast of Comino.  Mediterranean paddling is always a treat.
 Dawn in Baja.  The classic Mexican campsite.  The start of another great day in the Sea of Cortez
 Fascinating geology
 Always a favourite, the Ecrehous never fail to impress but it wasn't quite as pleasant a couple of weeks ago.
 Passing Gorselands on the south coast of Jersey.  A slightly different view of the cliffs to that a couple of winters ago
 The Hanois, off south west Guernsey, I don't think I had ever paddled out there when it was this calm.
 Approaching Jethou, off the east coast of Guernsey.  I think this day was probably my favourite Channel Island paddle of the year.
Sark never fails to deliver.  A pleasant way to spend a weekend in July.

Monday, December 08, 2014

A few days in the mountains

Last week we managed to spend a few days wandering around the mountains of Snowdonia, making a really pleasant change from being out on the sea, off Jersey.  I lived in North Wales for a few years towards the end of the 1970's, working in a number of outdoor centres and spending every available day meandering around the hills, from Cader Idris in the south to the Carneddau in the north.
We passed a relaxing day heading up Cnicht from the Gwynant Valley, with views stretching from the coast off Porthmadog to the crags on the south side of the Glyders.
Our second day involved a rising traverse from Cwm Idwal to the summit of Foel Goch, a mountain I have largely ignored in the past, followed by a reasonably steep climb to the snowy summit of Y Garn.  In retrospect snowy is too generous a term, it was more like closely compacted ice pellets.  Lunch sheltering in the lee of the summit cairn was as cold a meal break I can remember for years.  It wasn't a place to sit and savour the gastronomic delights purchased in Capel Curig.  As we headed down via the Devil's Kitchen I couldn't help but remember a bitterly cold January day in 1979 when all of the streams were frozen and we had a really memorable day ice climbing.
For the final day, there was only one real option, Tryfan by Heather Terrace.  I have lost count the number of times I have reached the summit of Tryfan, it must be in excess of 50 times, but each time it just re-inforces my belief that Tryfan is the finest mountain to be found almost anywhere.
Reading the walking magazines one gains an impression that British mountains are so crowded that it is almost impossible to find space for your feet.  In these 3 days we saw 4 people and only one was close enough to speak to.  So the moral of the story is if you want the hills to yourself then midweek in December is a good starting point.

 Moel Siabod from the car park at Tyn y Coed.  Lovely start to the day but not the best conditions for practicing navigation.
 Pete below the final slopes of Cnicht.  It must be one of the best little mountains anywhere.
 A perfect reflection in Llyn Gwynant.
 Heading up the final slopes of Y Garn, a bit slippy underfoot.
 The route from earlier in the day.  We followed a sloping route to the summit of Foel Goch.
 A picture from an earlier decade.  Cwm Idwal in January 1979.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

December's First Paddle

As the rain hammered down on the conservatory roof the easiest option was to roll over for another hour or so in bed but I was committed to heading towards Bouley Bay for the Canoe Club Sunday morning session.  It was only the really keen members who turned up but despite the rain, wind, low cloud etc we had a pretty good time for a bleak Sunday morning in December.
 The tide was running east with a south westerly wind so we turned back towards Bouley Bay and attempted to surf some of the swells.
 John just slipping off the back of a wave.
 In a few places the water was fairly lumpy, all adding to the fun.
 John just missing another wave, but in a reasonably spectacular fashion
 Belle Hougue really is a great place to play, as well as honing paddling skills
 After playing in the waves off Belle Hougue we headed west to Bonne Nuit, one of the small harbours on the north coast of the Island.
 Ruth near Bonne Nuit.  These buildings look as if there at risk of collapse as the cliffs underneath are crumbling away.
 We turned around Cheval Roc, tradition has it that young maidens from the parish were rowed around the rock on midsummers day in the hope of improving fertility.  We are still waiting to see if it had a similar impact on us.
 Heading back towards Belle Hougue, the tallest headland in Jersey.
 Passing just in front of Belle Hougue cave.

Friday, November 28, 2014

40th Anniversary Dinner - Jersey Canoe Club

The 40th Anniversary Dinner, commemorating the foundation of the Jersey Canoe Club is almost upon us.  Tomorrow evening well over 100 past and present members are celebrating the variety of paddling which has been undertaken by its members over the last 40 years.  It promises to be a really good evening.
 Paddling down the Allagash in northern Maine.  In the early to mid 1990's quite a few families were involved in open canoe trips either in the UK or further afield.
 Leaving the beach near Carteret, Normandy on the 15th July 1989.  The exact date is know because the previous day we had run the gauntlet of French maritime law and paddled to France to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.  It was a pretty memorable night.
 Derek Hairon, who now runs Jersey Kayak Adventures paddling a canoe on the Roches de Diable in southern Brittany in April 1983.  At that time it was pretty unusual to see open canoes being used on white water in Europe
 Paddling often involved messing around in small kayaks and when plastic kayaks such as the Mirage came into general use there were endless possibilities for fun.
 John Bulmer quickly demonstrating his ability to empty a kayak on his Senior Instructor assessment in the early 1980's.
Our first trip to Greenland.  1993 heading around the outside of the ice coming out of the ice fjord at Ilulissat.  We had just paddled over 300 nm from Sisimiut.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A November Ecrehous Visit

The Met Office had been forecasting light winds for several days but as Wednesday morning approached the amount of cloud cover and precipitation forecast increased although the winds remained almost non existant.
JR and myself met at St Catherines just after 07.00, this morning for a prompt 07.30 departure.  It was a predicted height of 35 feet so there was going to be a lot of water moving around and the tidal window for the crossing was pretty limited.
The one thing that we had on our side was that we were both paddling pretty fast kayaks, JR was in his Taran and I was in the Tiderace Pace 17.  It was the first time that I had paddled this kayak I was surprised by just how fast it was.  We cruised at 5 knots and on the way out with some tidal assistance we hardly dropped below 7 knots for the first 30 minutes.  It certainly won't be the last time that I put this kayak on the water.
 A day of limited colours.  JR on the way to the Ecrehous.
 At high water there are restricted landing opportunities.  We were the only people on the reef and whilst paddling there and back nobody else contacted the Coastguard on Channel 82.  If I hadn't called in I wonder if they would have spoken to anybody else on their shift.
 There is almost a rule that you have take a picture from by the bench looking north.  See this post to see what it looks like on a sunny day.
 Jersey is out there somewhere.  This photograph was taken from the same place as the top one in this post.
 The tide was pouring north on the eastern side of the reef.
 As the tide drops the tombolo uncovers, whilst standing here a Red Throated Diver flew over our heads which was rather a surprise.
 Last time I was here 6 weeks ago I fell asleep here in the autumn sunshine, not today.
 The bay on the western side of the tombolo looking towards Marmotier.
Almost back to St Catherine's and the island was shrouded in low cloud.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A good day for Brent Geese

Although Sunday morning is a regular time for kayaking the forecast for this Sunday was less than favourable.  Force 6 from the north accompanied by continuous rain was enough to put an end to any thoughts about paddling.
A meal out on Saturday evening resulted in the opportunity to help out with a co-ordinated count of the Brent Geese in Jersey.  These are always interesting had have been taking place for so long that it has been possible to build a reasonably accurate picture  of the status of the birds.
In just two locations yesterday there were 1340 birds present, which is really healthy total, it will be interesting to see the total figures when they are available.
For the latest news check out the Jersey Birds website.

18th December 2005    1280 ( this was the highest monthly count since 1989)
19th February 2006      1131
21st November 2007    1528
13th January 2008        1267
19th December 2009    1243
16th January 2010        1566
20th February 2011      1547
Can't find the data for 2012, if I can put my hands on it later I will update the blog
12th December 2013    1375

 St Aubin's Fort, Belcroute and the fields just inland drew a blank.  Not a goose in sight.
 Looking back towards La Haule, it was clear that there was a pretty good turn out.
 Not the best picture but the weather was awful and I was using my phone.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bouley Bay 3 Star

Bouley Bay was once considered for a major harbour development due to the deep, sheltered water but the lack of suitable land for buildings prevented the project progressing and so the only sheltered anchorage is behind the small pier which was built in 1828 to meet the needs of the oyster fishermen.  The bay was always seen as vulnerable to attack, in fact in 1549 French invaders were repulsed at Jardin d'Olivet, therefore the bay is defended by a couple of Forts.
With a south easterly wind forecast it was selected as the venue for a 3 Star as provided both sheltered conditions as well as some more challenging water if necessary.
Bouley Bay on a warm summers day is one of the most appealing places to launch a sea kayak, sadly yesterday wasn't a warm summers day so conditions were essentially less pleasant.
Heading out of Bouley Bay yesterday.  The white mark of the pier head is just visible through the November murk. 
 Landing just to the east of Tour de Rozel.  Time to check personal equipment and to cover the theory side of 3 Star.  For the first time in months there was a real chill in the air.
 When we launched the tidal stream had changed direction so as expected, the sea state increased quite dramatically, due to wind against tide, this was only for 100 metres or so but it created some entertaining conditions.  Johan powered through the waves with remarkable ease, the Taran really is a quick kayak.
Sean enjoyed the surfing in the tidal run, but sadly it was all too soon to head to more sheltered waters to continue with the assessment.  A good day on the water.