Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Circumnavigation of Sark

Sark is one of the truly special sea kayaking destinations and this weekend we were fortunate enough to be able to complete a circumnavigation of the island in all almost perfect conditions.  Parts of the island have been covered in an earlier post in relation to Mervyn Peake and Sark but there is a lot more to the island.
We launched from Dixcart Bay, a convenient bay on the east coast, which provides relatively easy access to the main facilities on the Island, via a wooded valley.  The circumnavigation was clockwise meaning that we headed south first. Unusually there was very little swell so we were able to wander through the reefs and channels off the southern tip with relative ease.
Possibly the most challenging, but also most rewarding, part of the circumnavigation is the area around the Gouilot Passage.  To the west lies the privately owned island of Brecqhou, whilst to the east are the Gouilot Caves, through which the tide runs at quite a considerable pace.  The ability to perform a hanging draw, in the semi darkness, is a vital skill in this area.
To the north lie a variety of coastal erosion features such as the arch at Port au Moulin and the stacks at Les Autlets, interspersed with a huge number of caves, the presence of which were document by the Latrobe brothers in the early 20th century, a copy of their book is essential research for anybody exploring the coastline of Sark, by whatever means.
Bec du Nez the most northerly point of the island was missed as it was possible to cut through a channel to the south of the headland.  Heading south along the east coast we passed underneath Point Robert lighthouse before reaching Maseline Harbour.  This was completed in 1948 and was designed to take larger vessels than the original harbour at Creux, in the hope of increasing the number of visitors.
Creux Harbour lies just to the south of Maseline and was the original harbour.  It was destroyed in the winter storms of 1865/66 so the present jetty dates back to 1868.  We popped in for a quick visit, noticing the rack of sit on tops belonging to Adventure Sark, a specialist outdoor provider based on the Island.
From here we threaded our way through some very narrow passages before arriving at Derrible Bay, the Creux, a distinctive geographical feature is at the back of the bay and a must visit location, particularly if the tide is in.
Dixcart Bay is next, our starting point 8 miles earlier.  A memorable 3 hours of sea kayaking behind us. 
In the evening as we walked from the restaurant back to the campsite there was an intensity to the darkness which you don't get in many places, which is why the island was awarded Dark Sky Status. The clarity and number of stars was quite exceptional.  Just another reason to visit this sea kayaking heaven located about 12 miles north of Jersey.
 The view south from Dixcart Bay.  L'Etac is the island offshore, that is the usual landfall when crossing from Jersey.
 Paddling through the cave, just to the north of La Coupee, the narrow bridge of land which joins Sark to Little Sark.
Moie de Breniere, off the south east coast of the island
The whole of the coastline is pretty rugged, with easy access to the water only possible in a few places.
 Heading towards the Gouliot Passage.  Brecqhou is the island to the left.  The tides run up to 8 knots in this area.
 Looking across La Grande Greve towards La Coupee.
Entering the Gouliot Caves, the tide was running north through the caves, with a speed which created some interesting conditions.
Looking across the Gouliot Passage towards Brecqhou.
Toby sitting under the arch at Port au Moulin.
Paddling through Les Autlets
 Creux Harbour on the east coast was the original harbour for the island.
Looking out from the northern tunnel in the Creux de Derrible.  The conclusion of the circumnavigation is only another few hundred metres.

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