Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It had been 12 months since our last visit, which was probably too long. Morbihan (which means “Little Sea” in Breton) has to be one of the great paddling areas of Europe. Don’t expect dramatic scenery and a wilderness experience though. This is a popular tourist and sailing venue but the combination of world class historical sites, tidal streams reaching 8 knots, a diverse bird population and usually pleasant weather conditions produce a fascinating kayaking area.
The entrance to the Golfe de Morbihan. A knowledge of buoyage is vital here because of the numerous craft which navigate the waters and the speed at which they travel.

The small fishing boat was closing pretty quickly upon us, even though the GPS was registering nearly 8 knots and we were barely paddling. The narrowing of the channel to the south of Iles Berder and Gavrinis forced the stream to accelerate as it rushed towards the open sea, still nearly 2 miles away. We were taking advantage of this liquid conveyor belt but clearly the fisherman had other ideas about both our sanity and paddling ability. The raised, shaking fist and the shouts that we were stupid and likely to die did little to improve the confidence of the more hesitant members of the group.
History from the water. The stone circle at Er Lannic at low water, as the tide rises it is possible paddle between the stones. Just to the north, across the fast moving tidal stream is Gavrinis, the world famous passage grave, is visible in the trees.
We were on the final rush towards the open sea at the end of two days of superb paddling. Although the tidal streams do run fast in the Gulf, with appropriate planning it is possible to harness that power to your own advantage and so enjoy a relatively effort free ride around the inner recesses of the Gulf. Although many people are put off by stories regarding the power of the tidal runs do not be unduly apprehensive. Try to arrange your first visit to coincide with neaps, use a detailed chart and be sure of your position at all times.
Saturday was a leisurely exploration of the islands close to Larmor-Baden. One ferry glide after another allowed us to access golden sandy beaches, narrow inlets and historical sites. To me the most fascinating location is the semi-submerged stone circle of Er Lannic, due to sea level rise the circle is largely submerged at high water, where else is it possible to paddle through megalithic monuments? As the afternoon progressed we jumped onto the ebbing tide and hitched a free ride back to Locmariaquer.
Locmariaquer at dawn. A great place to base yourself for the weekend or longer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lihou Again

I have posted several times about the pleasures of Lihou Island, off the west coast of Guernsey. It is a fascinating place to visit, not just for sea kayaking with a rich history and varied wildlife. At one time it was one of the world's largest producers of iodine, derived from the burning of the vast quantities of seaweed which wash up at certain times of the year.
The remains of the 12th Century Priory are clearly visible, dues were collected for the mother house of Mont St Michel, in nearby France. The Church was decorated with carved limestone from the Caen region, also in northern France. The Priory has featured on BBC2's "Meet the Ancestors" programme.
I am looking forward to another 5 days of exploring this intriguing island, by kayak and by foot, next week.

This is the view back to the main house from Lissroy. This is an unusual perspective as access is restricted to this area for most of the year because of nesting birds.
At the back of the house is a small hut which has been renovated with funds donated by the Jersey Canoe Club. Visiting sea kayakers are welcome to stay here.
The crossing to Lihou can be a simple paddle in delightful conditions but when the wind blows and the tide runs it can be a very different seascape.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Even More Aerial Shots

This is a selection of a few more shots taken from commercial flights, over the last few months. Most show high quality sea kayaking destinations. So don't forget to pack your camera next time you have a window seat.
Guernsey the second largest of the Channel Islands. Viewed from the east as the aircraft climbed out of Jersey heading towards Gatwick.
Passing overhead Herm (the larger island) and Jethou. Shell Beach is clearly on the left hand side of Herm.
Passing over La Coupe, the north east corner of Jersey. This is frequently the first sight of the island on the way home.
Heading south from Ilulissat to Kangerlussaq after 4 weeks off the west coast of Greenland. There is fresh and salt water in this photo with the ice cap visible in the distance.
Athens viewed from the approach to the airport. This view always means that there is great kayaking in prospect in the next few days.
Serifos, one of the Cyclades group. These islands are viewed when flying towards Milos.
Poole Harbour and Old Harry. Cloud covered the English Channel as we headed south.
More of the Dorset Coast. I haven't paddled in this area since October 1981, a return visit is long overdue. In fact I am embarrassed to admit that I haven't paddled in England since 1996!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kayak Models

This was our first, and probably last modeling assignment. Jersey Tourism were looking for some new images to publicize the island and sea kayaks in front of some of the islands more iconic buildings is seen as possible way forward.
So dawn this morning saw Nicky, Katie and myself on the water at Archirondel posing for the cameras. We have seen a few of the results and they look great but we have to wait to see which ones might be used in any marketing publicity. Its great though to see that Jersey is looking to attract more visiting kayakers to our beautiful island.
I think that it is true to say though that I don't have a future career as a professional model.

Two new and recently polished kayaks waiting on the beach

The dawn light had a particularly special quality.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Tour de Rozel

Today was one of the largest tides of the year, creating ideal conditions for sea kayaking so I headed to Tour de Rozel in my new Nordkapp LV.
Low water was 14.28 0.5M 1.8 feet
High water was 20.04 12.1 M 39.7 feet
This produced a tidal range of 11.6 M or 37.9 feet. This was a huge amount of water to move in 5 hours 36 minutes and it was clear that there would be plenty of excitement off the major headlands.
Tour de Rozel is in the north east of the island and in the 2 hours we spent there we were not disappointed. Fast moving tidal streams and complicated wave patterns produced aching shoulders and a memorable afternoon.

Chester heading back to the relative calm of the eddy.
Andy enjoying the speed of his Nordkapp
Pete crossing the inshore stream with the Red Arrows overhead.
This is what sea kayaking is all about! The Ecrehous are visible behind.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Sea Kayaking in Brittany

Our good friend Christian Scalbert has launched his updated site, with plenty of information about sea kayaking opportunities in northern Brittany and further afield. Well worth looking at if you are heading towards this delightful corner of Cotes d'Armor.

View the antics of Christian and Perig as they become the first people that we are aware of to use Stand Up Boards off the west coast of Greenland. Here they are amongst the ice bergs of Disko Bay.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

An Ecrehous Sunday

For the first Sunday in September the forecast for the Ecrehous was pretty good. SE Force 3-4, 26 degrees and a pretty small tide. A reasonably early start was required and it would have been easy to head to the cafe when we arrived at St Catherines. The south easterly breeze was creating some interesting clapotis off the breakwater but once we cleared the end of the pier the sea state settled down and we were rewarded with another beautiful day on the reef.
A visit to Jersey is worthwhile just for the opportunity to paddle to the Ecrehous.
Chris entering the pool to the south of Marmotiere. Surprisingly there were very few boats anchored today.
Andy heading north along the French side of the reef. A small tidal stream was developing here but the waves were unfortunately not steep enough to surf.
The standard Ecrehous view. Looking north west from the bench, which has to be one of the finest places in the world to eat your sandwiches.
The Bench and today's lucky paddlers.
It was pretty small tide but there was still some movement.
Andy off the Petite Rousse. It is often difficult to approach this close to the reef when the tide is running south.
Catching some air in the tidal race close to the Petite Rousse. I was in my new Nordkapp LV and she surfed like a dream, reaching speeds in excess of 8 knots when surfing against a 4 knot tidal stream. Sea kayaking doesn't get much better than this!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Milos Training

At the end of October 30 sea kayakers from Jersey are heading to Milos to raise money for two local charities, Jersey Hospice and Centre Point. The participants have been training regularly since the end of April, many having to make the transition from sit on top's to closed cockpit kayaks.
Today was our first day trip as group and conditions could not have been better. We headed from St Catherines along the north coast of the island, having lunch at Bouley Bay, after a number of the paddlers had been introduced to the delights of tidal races.
On our return we celebrated with ice cream in temperatures approaching 25 degrees, more like the Greek Islands than the Channel Islands in September. What was particularly satisfying was that everybody came away realizing that they were better prepared for the circumnavigation of Milos than they thought.
Approaching Rozel, the first small bay and harbour on the north coast of the island.
It was only a neap tide but there was still a bit of movement at Tour de Rozel.
As the day wore on the conditions just got better and better. Sea kayaking in Jersey can be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Friday, September 03, 2010

A Windy Baie de Morlaix

An increasing NW wind, perhaps reaching force 6 during the afternoon was not an ideal forecast to be exploring the outer coasts so we decided to head into the sheltered waters of the Baie de Morlaix.
Heading out from Terenez on the eastern shore we threaded our way past several distinctive lighthouses and explored the reefs and islands of the Baie. We headed towards the northern end of Ile Callot so when the wind increased, as it was certain to do we would be blown back to the cars.
A detailed chart and knowledge of tidal streams are essential for kayaking in this area, with it being a very rewarding experience. In contrast to other areas of Brittany though I have encountered very few sea kayakers in this area. So next time you are psasing through northern Brittany or heading towards Roscoff to catch the ferry consider stopping off to paddle in the bay, you will be pleasantly surprised at the quality of the kayaking.
Ile Noire Lighthouse, first lit in the 1840's families lived on the rock until 1938.
Ile Louet Lighthouse is certainly photogenic.
Chateau de Taureau, a fort as built here as a consequence of the British fleet sailing up the river to Morlaix, before indulging in some major destruction of the town. The first Fort fell into disrepair and when the famous French military architect, Vauban, visited the fort in April 1689 he recommended some major reconstruction which was finally completed in 1745.
The southern end of Ile Callot
The tide was dropping fast and it was necessary to pull the kayaks over the Passe aux Moutons. If we had been 2 minutes earlier or weighed 20 kilos less we would have floated gently across the passage which separates Ile Callot from the French mainland.
Nicky threading her way through the numerous reefs and inlets which characterize this section of the Brittany coastline.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Cote de Granit Rose

This has to be one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in France, if not in northern Europe. It is well known from the tourist brochures and guide books and each year attracts significant numbers of visiting yachtsmen.
My favourite departure point is from Coz Pors at Tregastel, the paddling in either direction is memorable but last Saturday we decided to head east towards Ile Tome, an island of approximately 35 hectares whose spine runs north south. Situated off Perros Guirec, it has been uninhabited since the Second World War and the last few years have seen an active programme aimed to rid the island of rats to allow sea birds to breed, and so far it appears to have been successful.

One of the distinctive features of this stretch of coastline are some spectacular coastal residences.

First of all though it was important to pay a visit to the small harbour at Ploumanach, it is reckoned by many to be the finest anchorage on the north coast of Brittany. As the tide was high we were able to paddle over the sill, which keeps the water in at low tide, and approach the tidal mills, a feature of this area.

Another feature of this area are lighthouses, of which a number were visible during the course of the paddle. One of my favourites is the Phare de Men Ruz, just to the east of Ploumanach. For those who are really interested in lighthouses it is possible to buy a re-usable shopping bag from Geant supermarkets complete with a photograph of the distinctive light.

There are some significant tidal streams in the area and access to Ile Tome was only possible by ferry gliding across the ebbing tide. The waves were not too big and some strategically placed navigation marks allowed us to use transits to maintain our course. We wanted a lunch stop not to be swept west along the coast away from our intended destination.

Ferry gliding across to Ile Tome, the tide was emptying out the bay of Perros Guirec, creating entertaining water conditions.
Lunch spot on the east coast of Ile Tome.
Offshore Sept Iles were clearly visible but they were not for us today, our interest lay back along the coast at Tregastel in the shape of an ice cold beer.