Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Undiscovered Gem

After over 30 years of visiting Brittany to go sea kayaking I thought that I knew many coastal areas reasonably well and some of the sections of the coast intimately. On Bank Holiday Monday we headed out from a car park which we had used possibly 50 times in the last 10 years into waters which I thought I knew as well as anywhere in Jersey.
Yet despite these frequent visits we discovered a delightful island, which we had paddled past on numerous occasions but had never bothered to land on. Access is restricted to a couple of hours either side of high water.
The views in all directions were stunning with shingle banks being revealed as the tide dropped and the inevitable Breton lighthouse on the horizon. We were unable to stay too long as the water receded but once afloat we were able to enjoy some time playing on some small tidal generated waves before we headed back.
One of the great pleasures of sea kayaking is the discovery of new destinations and it was satisfying to come across this small gem on Monday morning. I have not disclosed the exact location of this beautiful island so that if you come across this small piece of Brittany you will experience the same thrill of discovery that we did on Monday.

Looking back towards the main Breton coast.
The view north west from the small island.
The closest lighthouse to the Island. It would be possible to combine a visit to both the island and the lighthouse in the same day.
The group on the "summit" of the island.
A few small waves provided some entertaining moments.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Herm is beautiful destination for the sea kayaker, although the normal crossing is from Guernsey. Although only a couple of miles wide the Little Russel does provide good entertainment for the paddler. Tidal streams of 5 knots ensure that planning should be accurate.
We had chosen the longer version, heading north from Jersey we spent the night on Sark before making the crossing the following morning. Herm has a fascinating history, ranging from Compton MacKenzie and the Ford Motor Co. to Bavarian aristocracy. Since
the late 1940's the island has been leased to private tenants, particularly the Wood family, who have developed the island for tourism. Unfortunately we didn't have time to explore the coastal waters as we were only popping in for lunch prior to an 18 mile crossing back to Jersey.
Approaching the east coast of Herm after crossing the Big Russel from Sark. The sandy sliver on the right of the picture is the famous Shell Beach.
Our kayaks on Shell Beach. It is hard to believe that this isn't the Caribbean.
Looking back towards Shell Beach as we walked towards Belvoir Bay for lunch. It was surprising that it was possible to hire sit on tops off the beach. The tide runs particularly strongly in this area.
The view from Belvoir Bay across to Sark. We had camped on Sark the previous night. After lunch on Herm we took a direct route back to Jersey, a crossing of 18 nautical miles. Through good use of the tides we completed the crossing in just over 4 hours.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Coruisk and Soay Again!

Approaching the head of Loch Scavaig, at the end of the crossing from Elgol. The clouds certainly helped to create a dramatic backdrop.
After landing on the north coast of Soay we walked across the island to explore the small village. There had been a few changes since my last visit 3 years ago when we were able to look in the old school house. Today it was locked and appeared to have been neglected for some time.
Heading out past the remains of the basking shark fishing industry. We didn't have enough time to explore the ruins, but it is a good excuse for a return visit.
No visit to Skye would be complete without the obligatory paddle to Loch Coruisk. Living in Jersey where our highest point is about 150 metres above sea level it is always inspiring to kayak into the heart of the most dramatic mountain range in Britain. Gordon Brown goes as far as to say that it is in his opinion "the best one day paddle in the world." I have to defend the Ecrehous, as they are my favourite paddle, but Loch Coruisk comes a very close second.
As we left Elgol the mountains were obscured by low cloud and rain but as we approached the clouds parted to reveal the true grandeur of the mountain scenery. We walked up to the freshwater loch, although there wasn't time to carry the kayaks up today.
After a quick lunch we headed towards Soay, to look at the industrial archaeology and if possible walk across the island to the village. We used what little tidal flow there was to our advantage, in Soay Sound the stream is always running west.
We walked across the island to the old village and as we sat in the sunshine it was hard to imagine the scene on the 20th June 1953 when the 27 evacuees left the island on the SS Hebrides for a new life on Mull.
Unfortunately it was all to soon time to leave, as we paddled out of the north coast harbour a light westerly breeze had sprung up and it significantly eased our journey back to Elgol, surfing along on the small wind generated waves.
A great day out, one of the great paddles in the British Isles.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two new sea kayaks
There is always something exciting about paddling a new kayak, or so I am told as it has been 25 years since I purchased my last new sea kayak. Nicky and myself launched our new kayaks last night at our local beach St Brelade. I have paddled Valley Sea Kayaks almost exclusively since the 1970's and have never been disappointed with either the performance or their construction. I have gone for the Nordkapp LV to replace my trusty Nordkapp HM whilst Nicky has opted for the Atlantic LV.
The finish on the kayaks was superb and as we walked down to the beach they drew positive comments from the tourists who were sitting in the late afternoon sunshine. There is something beautiful about a well made sea kayak with graceful lines, which even the non paddler can appreciate.
Although only out for just over an hour we managed to find a variety of different water conditions to test the kayaks and were not in the slightest way disappointed. We are looking forward to a more thorough testing this weekend when we head off to northern Brittany for 4 days. We had been planning to wait until we got to France to launch them but the attraction of paddling became too much and so we gave in a few days earlier.
Check out the Valley Sea Kayaks and North Shore Sea Kayaks sites for more information about their range of kayaks.

The inevitable photograph of the proud owner of a new kayak.
As we left the shelter of St Brelades there was a slight chop due to the increasing westerly breeze. It held the promise of a quick ride back to the beach, surfing the small waves.

Heading towards the Grosse Tete, where we ran out of time and had to turn to head back towards St Brelade.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sark - again
The summer seems to have flown past in a haze of excellent sea kayaking The Channel Islands experienced week after week of warm settled weather and so the paddling opportunities have been endless.
One of the most memorable trips was to Sark, that unique island which lies approximately 12 miles north of Jersey. Stunning coastal scenery, entertaining tidal streams reaching 8 knots in places and fascinating history combine to produce a unique destination.
Sark viewed from about 4 miles to the south, details of the coastline are starting to emerge. In the distance behind are the smaller islands of Herm and Jethou.
The 11 nautical mile crossing is almost over. The small island of L'Etac de Sark is just in front of my kayak. All that remains to make landfall is a final ferry glide across the inshore tidal streams.
Dixcart Bay, our final destination for the day. All that remained was the long walk up the hill to the campsite. What was surprising was not the number of yachts at anchor but the number which were Dutch.
La Coupee, the narrow isthmus of land which joins Little Sark to the rest of the island. This road was rebuilt after the occupation by German prisoners of war under the direction of the Royal Engineers. Either side the land falls away steeply for several hundred feet.
Last winter saw a major rock fall which has prevented access to one of the islands most popular beaches, La Grande Greve.
Sark is one of those places which is full of surprises, including this old prison which was reputed to be the smallest in the world.

If Sark has not featured in your kayak plans in the past it is a destination which is well worth considering for 2011, combined with a visit to some other of the Channel Islands.