Thursday, March 29, 2012

Early Jersey Sea Kayaking

Keith Pyman has sent me a short report about the paddling adventures of two young Jersey boys around the time of the Second World War.  A glimpse into a world which has been lost under the weight of regulations, risk assessments and in many cases parental fear of letting their children out to have their adventures.  So over to Keith for the story:

Two good friends of mine, Bernie Robert and Mick Fosse who still live at Le Bourg, grew up together during the time of the occupation during the second world war. They first knew each other at the age of 6 when they attended St Clement’s School and during the time of the occupation, despite the restrictions had access to the beach where they had many adventures.  These included their first attempts at “boating” when they constructed a raft out of scrapwood and four oil drums , all being fixed together with nails and rope.
Their first “voyage” was in the local gutters at Le Bourg and not knowing anything about tidal currents they were somewhat surprised by the fact that once off the edge they had considerable difficulty paddling the raft in the chosen direction. They had been warned by Mick’s father about the currents but just thought the tide just came up the beach and back down again with no thought to the movement along the shore.
Not long after the construction of the raft, the pair came across a “drop tank” on the beach and quickly retrieved it and turned it into a much better craft. It had a rounded shape at the front and was able to be paddled very easily compared to the blunt raft of oil drums.
They got up to all sorts of adventures during this time and also trouble when they paddled out and did not get back to the beach before curfew and had to hide their craft behind some rocks and sneak off the beach, avoiding the German patrol’s.
Shortly after the end of the war, they were able to “acquire” some old wooden (plywood) potato barrels, some old flooring planks and some tarpaulin and together built perhaps one of the first Kayaks to be paddled off the shore of Jersey. They cut the cylindrical barrels lengthways so that they could be sprung open and constructed a keel and gunwhales to which they attached the barrels using some struts across the width of the kayak to form the shape and then using the planks to cover the deck with tarpaulin over to make it waterproof. They obtained some paint from Woolworth's and knowing nothing about these things mixed it with water to make it easier to apply. Unfortunately they soon discovered that this red paint when dry was quite happy to attach itself to their clothes, presumably much to the annoyance of their parents even though they had a change of “work clothes” from their school clothes.
The kayak turned out out be too deep to sit in and look out so they adapted some chairs and used these to have a good paddling position. They made single blade paddles, also from scrap wood and began their adventures in a craft that was much more seaworthy than their previous attempts although once they ventured out towards Icho Tower and experienced the swell from the west they realised how powerful the sea could be.

The pictures show them aged about 12 about to set off on one of their voyages up the gutters.
  Bernie Robert at the bow and Mick Fosse (who was still in his school clothes on this occasion)
  Returned safely to shore.
Although they are both in their late 70’s they still manage to get out to fish occasionally and are two of the increasingly rare “Jersey Boys” and great characters.

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