Sunday, July 11, 2010

Greenland Today

Having seen a few issues of this magazine lying around in Greenland I decided to take out a subscription on my return from my last visit to this beautiful island.
Now on issue 9 there is plenty to captive anybody who has an interest in Greenland. The current issue which landed on my doorstep yesterday contains an article by Dubside on teaching women to roll in Ilulissat and another one on a kayaking trip off the east coast of Greenland.
More general articles include a profile of a Greenlandic musician and badminton player, dog sled driving, cross country skiing and eating sea urchins.
So if you have an interest in Greenland take a look at Greenland Today there is bound to be something to attract your attention.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Baie de Morlaix Continued

Passing close to Ile Louet. This picture illustrates that sea kayaking in Brittany isn't always in bright sunshine. A rare cloud covered day.
From the lighthouse at Ile Louet continue heading west, paddling in front of the popular summer holiday resort of Carantec. It is likely that in the distance the distinctive spires of the churches of St-Pol-de-Leon will be visible. The single spire of the Chapelle Notre Dame de Kreisker has dominated this skyline for nearly 600 years. There is a need for a degree of urgency in our paddling if we wish to be able to cross the Passe aux Moutons, which links Ile Callot to Carantec at low water. Being able to cross this neck of land allows access to the waters of the Penze River and the lovely beaches of the west side of Ile Callot. The size of the tide will dictate how far away from the coast it is necessary to paddle. If possible follow the contours of the coast and select a beach towards the northern tip of the island for a well deserved lunch break.

Looking across the Baie de Morlaix to the west. The numerous navigation marks and shell fish farms are visible.
To the north the ferry terminal of Roscoff can be easily identified, particularly if there is a ship on its berth. The more attractive face of Roscoff is not visible from here located as it is opposite Ile de Batz. The superb waters of this area will have to wait for another day. Rounding the northern tip of Ile Callot we can start our journey back towards Terenez. Two distinctive navigational marks indicate the start of the crossing of the bay. Head for Le Cerf and then Ile Ricard. It is likely that there will still be some outwards movement of the tide so move from reef to reef as opposed to steering a course down the middle of one of the main channels. These channels are narrow and at times very busy with craft which have far less freedom than the average sea kayak so please paddle with the movements of other boats very much in mind.

Heading out across the Baie on a bitterly cold February morning.

Threading your way through the reefs remember the regulations of the bird reserve. From the 1st March to the 31st August it is prohibited to approach within 80 metres of the high water mark. The main islets covered are Ile Verte, Ile Ricard, Ar Beg Lemm and Ile aux Dames. There are numerous smaller islets which are also vulnerable to disturbance. A large scale chart is a real bonus when paddling in this area because of the numerous navigational marks. In fact kayaking can be quite a cerebral activity when paddling in this area.
This is just a flavour of the area, there is plenty of exploration waiting for the sea kayaker. Head into the Morlaix River on a rising tide and explore the small estuary of the Dorduff or follow the buoyed channel all the way to Morlaix with its very distinctive railway bridge. This would be an ideal paddle when weather conditions restrict activities on the outer coast. To the west of Ile Callot the Penze River, starting wide it narrows significantly and provides a pleasant paddle on a rising tide.
Many kayakers who visit Brittany head for the justifiably popular areas such as Morbihan and Brehat missing out the pleasures of this region. It is ideal for those British visitors who are using the cross channel ferry from Roscoff. Pay it a visit, at any time of the year and I am certain that you won’t be disappointed.


Brest is the Standard Port for this area and the tidal differences are as follows:Roscoff +00.55 Pen Lann +01.00 As a general guide the in-going tidal streams commence at -04.50 Brest and the out going at +01.05 Brest. The maximum rates are stated to be around 2 knots but I know that one day when heading towards Morlaix we were brought to an abrupt halt off Locquenole by the out going tide. It was impossible to make any progress and I am certain that when I am paddling with full power that I am able to move at a speed greater than 2 knots. The moral is to be vigilant for local anomalies. Due to the large number of rocks within the bay the sea kayaker is generally able to make progress by using the eddies which develop. There is comprehensive tidal information on the SHOM Chart 7095 Baie de Morlaix.

Useful Waypoints
Ile Louet N 48° 40’22 W 03° 53’19
Morlaix N 48° 35’28 W 03° 50’29
Roscoff N 48° 43’54 W 03° 58’59

Terenez N 48° 40’34 W 03° 41’04

Primel Tregastel marks the eastern side of the Baie de Morlaix and provides some superb kayaking.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Baie de Morlaix

The Baie de Morlaix is a delightful area to explore by sea kayak and it lends itself to day trips as opposed to multi-day wanderings. The outer mouth of the bay is in the region of 5 miles wide between Pointe de Primel and Roscoff to the west, but most paddlers will want to explore the middle and upper reaches of the Bay. My favourite launching spot is Terenez on the eastern shore.
Terenez seen from the south. At high water it is possible to launch from either side of the spit.

It allows easy access to many of the finer features of the bay, allowing one to sense the geographical and historical associations whilst being aware of modern navigational developments. At first sight the bay appears to be a mass of impenetrable islands and reefs but closer inspection reveals numerous channels which wind their way seemingly without purpose, but which actually allow access to one delightful lagoon after another, particularly at low water. At high water it is only the larger features which raise their heads above the seascape. A good introduction to the bay is the circumnavigation of Ile Callot from Terenez. Ideally leave about an hour or so after high water. Pass to the south of Ile Sterec. This is one of my favourite islands in Brittany, it has a ruggedness which is more reminiscent of the Hebrides than northern France.
The headland immediately to the south is the site of the Cairn de Barnenez, approaching 7,000 years old it is one of the most important pre-historic sites in the region. It is about 72 metres long and 6 metres high, whilst there are 11 burial chambers. It is estimated that it would have taken about 300 builders working for 10 months to construct the cairn, highlighting just how an important feature it was. Some of the burial features have been exposed by quarrying and it is fortunate that it remains because in the 1950’s the stone was almost used in the construction of roads. Today there is a museum which is attached to the site and well worth a visit.
Barnenez seen from the land. This human feature is well worth a visit although the views from the water are spectacular
Our journey takes us just to the north of Ile Noire lighthouse, which at 15 metres high and in the middle of the channel which heads towards Morlaix, is an instantly recognizable feature. Leaving at the time suggested the tide will be gently carrying you north at this point and due allowance should be made to ensure a close passage to Ile Louet lighthouse, which is one of the most picturesque lighthouses in the area.
Ile Noire light seen from the land.
To the north the distinctive square fort of Chateau du Taureau is clearly visible. Built in the 16th Century to help defend Morlaix, it has since been used as a prison and a sailing school!
Chateau de Taureau seen from the west
One of the interesting features of the Bay is the number and variety of birds which may be encountered. The exact species will depend upon the time of the year but one is unlikely to be disappointed. The islands to the north of Chateau de Taureau have been designated a bird reserve and landing is prohibited. During the winter months a wide variety of birds arrive including Brent Geese and waders such as Curlews, Turnstones and Oystercatchers. One March day I encountered a flock of probably 100 plus Red Breasted Mergansers and a number of grebes, whilst Little Egrets stalked the coastal shallows. In the summer months the species change but the interest is maintained. Gannets, from Sept Iles, may be seen cruising the outer waters of the Bay whilst gulls and terns breed closer in. At least 3 species of terns breed on the small islets. Common and Sandwich Terns are probably recognised by most paddlers but the far rarer Roseate Tern is likely to be less familiar. The moral is whenever you are in the area remain vigilant as you never know what may appear.

Chris passing in front of Ile Louet Lighthouse

To be continued:

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Emergency Bag

Virtually every time we go on the water we should carry some basic items of safety equipment. Unfortunately I am basically a disorganised person and finding small items of equipment from the chaos of the kayaking shed was virtually an insurmountable problem.
So the solution was to put together a small bag with all the essential items of kit. It took about 3 months to source all of the things that I needed and it is true to stay that it still isn’t complete. I still search diligently in yacht chandlers and outdoor shops for that elusive item of equipment which may provide the final piece of the jigsaw.
The following items of equipment are contained within my waterproof bag:

Signal Mirror: A small item which could prove to be useful if you have an accident on a sunny day. I found mine in a small French yacht chandlers. It only cost 3.00 €, so it is worth the small financial outlay.
Bungee Cords: Just one set and you never know when they will be needed. Ideally for keeping some of the items in the bag wrapped up.
Multi-purpose Tool: There is the Leatherman and then there are cheaper ones. For this emergency bag I have selected a cheaper one, as there is every chance that it will damaged by the sea water. I paid 7.00 €, at "Mr Bricolage" in France.
Woollen Hat: I might swap this for a sun hat during the warmer summer months.
Plastic Sheet: Cut from a sparkling water bottle. The thin plastic is ideal fro helping to repair a relatively large hole in the kayak.
Repair Tape: Spinnaker tape, electricians tape and duck tape. A selection which should be able to sort out most needs.
Epoxy Resin: I use a French variety, partly for the challenge of translation, and partly because it is effective. It will set under water and will repair most materials.
Whistle: I have the loudest one that I could find. The literature makes numerous extravagant claims about decibels etc, all I know is that if I blow it my ears hurt!
Lighter: More like a blow torch than a lighter. An effective heat source and according to the publicity material it can’t be blown out by the wind. Useful for a number of reasons. Just in case the gas runs out I also have a box of waterproof matches.
Fire Lighters: Just a couple in case it is necessary to light a fire.
Exposure Bag: I don’t have the traditional orange exposure bag but one which is made of the same material as the well known space blanket. The advantage is that it packs up very small.
Poncho: It fits over buoyancy aids, etc so is an ideal item of clothing to use on winter days when temperatures are low and it is important to retain heat.
Spare Food: Just a small amount. I don’t plan on getting stranded for several days in the heart of what is in effect an urban area. I normally take food which I am not that keen on so I am not tempted to eat it.
Money: Just a small amount stored in the inevitable film container. Useful for telephones, cafes etc.
Spare Batteries: These are for both the GPS and the VHF radio. A selection of cheaper batteries is better than the more expensive variety, they only have to last a couple of hours.
Strobe: Ideal for drawing attention to yourself at night.
Wet Ones: Ideal for all sorts of uses.
First Aid Kit: Just a few small items. Triangular bandage, skin closures, assorted plasters, wound dressing and safety pins.

When I open up the waterproof waist pack it always amazes me that all of the above fits inside such a relatively small container. What it has enabled me to do is to always carry a basic level of safety equipment. It can be customized to meet individual needs and because I am always on the look out for another useful item it remains a work in progress.