Friday, September 30, 2011

Tour de Rozel

Thursday's large tide and stunning weather created ideal conditions for kayaking at Tour de Rozel.  The lack of wind and swell meant that the race didn't really develop, it was just really fats moving moving water.  It is always difficult to estimate the speed of tidal flows but I estimated that it was about 8 knots, unfortunately the photographs don't do justice to the speed at which the water was flowing.  What we do know was that it was a great way to spend a couple of hours after work.    

 Tour de Rozel viewed from the rear door of a Hercules on a previous day.
 Pete playing in the run.  The water is moving from left to right.
Andy making the most of the run.  Belle Hougue is the large headland behind.
Looking back towards the headland across the main tidal flow.
  Great conditions.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

St Brelade to Corbiere

My first experience of sea kayaking was at St Brelade's Bay in 1969 and in the following 42 years I have spent very little time living outside the parish so the bay is still my local paddling area.  I decided that today was the day to get out of work on time and make use of the superb weather and the spring tide.
It is only a 4 mile return paddle but there are numerous places to interest sea kayakers, both historically and geographically.  The south facing cliffs often have a Mediterranean feel and as the sun sets the colours change dramatically to produce a memorable landscape.  I have been paddling along this stretch of coast for over 40 years but I never get bored with this continually changing environment.

 Heading out of St Brelades Bay.  Pt Le Fret is the obvious headland, with La Cotte de St Brelade to the left.
 Beauport, one of the islands most beautiful bays.
 Gorselands Gully, this is my favourite place on the island to swim, the coasteering along this section of coast is superb.  At the rear of the gully is a large blow hole which was used as a dump for cars and other vehicles in the last.  Fortunately we now live in more enlightened times and the environment receives greater protection.
 Chockstone Traverse, a classic V Diff climb, runs up the left hand side of the main nose on the cliff.  It received its first ascent in the early 1960's by John Hunt of Everest fame.  As far as I am aware it is his only first ascent on the Island. 
 This is the site of the islands desalination plant, which was built in the 1970's to help address the islands water shortage.  Due to the decrease in the number of tourists it is rarely used now.  Located in a quarry whose rocks were used for part of the Thames Embankment in London.
The distinctive German Tower at Corbiere.  It used to be the location of Jersey Radio (Coast Guard) but today it is possible to rent it out from Jersey Heritage, a unique residential experience. 
 Corbiere marked my turning point.  First lit in the 1870's its light is visible from 18 miles away.  In my opinion the most beautiful lighthouse in the world, but then I am biased.
 If I had to be a painter how much more exciting would it be to land on this rock and to paint it white, compared to somebodies living room.  Jument Rock is a navigation mark.
 Heading back towards St Brelade.  Pt La Moye is the largest headland along this stretch of coast.
Within the hour we had cycled down to Corbiere to have a pint and watch the sun set on another great day.
La Cotte de St Brelade

This is one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe and during the summer I was involved in helping archaeologists from University College, London look for possible other sites along the south coast of Jersey.  We used kayaks along to south coast to try and identify sites which might warrant further investigation and part of the work was filmed by the BBC for the programme "Digging for Britain" which is going to be broadcast on BBC 2 this Friday evening.
At La Cotte de St Brelade the remains of mammoth and rhinoceros, amongst other things have been discovered at this Palaeolithic site.  Every time I paddle past I am awe at the significance of this site which lies just a couple of miles from where I live but which looks out across some of the finest sea kayaking in north west Europe.  
Take a look here for further information.

 Looking down into La Cotte de St Brelade.  The reefs are a beautiful paddling area.
 Peter Wrigglesworth paddling past La Cotte.  The red and white Jersey Round Tower in the distance is on Ouaisne Common.  Ouaisne is a great place to leave from and even better place to arrive because the Smuggler's serves great beer!
 La Cotte de St Brelade is the obvious gash just to the centre of the cliff.
This short clip is part of the programme, "Digging for Britain" which looks at how kayaks have been used to help identify possible further sites of archaeological interest.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Low Tide Exploration

On one of the warmest days of the year, combined with one of the largest tides a sea kayaking trip should have been the order of the day but work commitments got in the way.  But what better alternative than exploring Jersey's unique environment, off the south east corner of the Island.
As the spring tide retreats a unique landscape is revealed, a mixture of shingle, sand, rocks etc are exposed for up to two miles from the shore.  The importance of this area is recognized by the fact that it was the first Ramsar site to be designated in Jersey, in November 2000.
A favourite destination for low water fishermen, I was surprised how few other people were in the area, considering the weather.  A great way to spend the last Tuesday afternoon in September 2011. 
 Looking north towards Gorey and its spectacular castle just after we left the Seymour Slip.
 Approaching Seymour Tower.  Built in 1782, it was named after General Seymour Conway, the Governor of the Island.
 Looking south east from the Tower there was still a considerable distance to go to the waters edge.  Unfortunately we were too late leaving to head much further out.
The shadow of the tower points towards the east coast of the Island.
 The rocks in the distance are the Petite and Grande Anquette.  An interesting sea kayaking trip to an isolated part of Jersey's coastal waters.
Looking west along the south coast of Jersey, exposed rocks as far as the eye can see.
 Seymour Tower viewed from the south.  The concrete additions on top are as a result of the German occupation of the Island.
 The dried seaweed indicates the direction of the tidal flow as the banks dried.
 One of the larger sand banks.
 We paid a visit to Little Seymour, as we headed back towards Jersey.
This is an area which is not without economic worth.  These are oyster beds but there are also significant areas of mussels.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Herm Again

Herm has to be one of my favourite Channel Islands and it holds many attractions for the sea kayaker.  Just a couple of miles off the east coast of Guernsey but separated by significant tidal flows it is always an entertaining paddle.  These are just a selection of the photographs taken on my three visits so far this year.

When crossing the Little Russel from Guernsey it is worth keeping an eye open for some of the other maritime traffic.  Guernsey does attract some large vessels such as the Queen Elizabeth.  Just north of the ship is the location of the tidal diamond described in an earlier post.
Heading along the north coast of the island in delightful conditions.  The Humps are stretching away to the north, great sea kayaking but out thoughts were focused elsewhere this particular day.
On the small hill known as Le Petit Monceau is a statue by Antony Gormley.  It appeared in March 2010 and is visible from some distance away when approaching the island.
 Another piece of art work has appeared close to the harbour, greeting the thousands of visitors to the island.  By Ev Meynell, this 5 metre tall piece, is called "In Flight"
 For most sea kayakers the main attraction of Herm is the quality of the paddling.  Here we are heading south along the famous Shell Beach.  A memorable day.
Looking up the east coast.  Belvoir Bay is the first beach with Shell Beach slightly further away. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spring Tides This Week

This week sees some of the largest tides of the year, with significant amounts of water moving around the island.  Wednesday in particular promises to be pretty entertaining for both the casual observer and sea kayaker.
The basic facts are as follows:
High Water:  19.57  39.3 feet  12 metres
Low Water:   02.45   1.7 feet  0.5 metres
This translates to a tidal range of 37.6 feet or 11.5 metres, which is pretty substantial.
Using the 12ths rule this means that in the 3rd and 4th hours of the tidal sequence there is 1.89 inches of vertical movement every minute for the whole two hours, the water will just be flowing up the beach with not inconsiderable speed, an amazing sight to see.
I am certain that many locals will be heading out low water fishing but I am sure that a number of sea kayakers, myself included will be heading for the tidal races, particularly Tour de Rozel.
 High water at St Brelade's Bay, it is normally possible to walk to the pier along the beach.  In some places off the south east corner of the island at low water the sea will have retreated nearly 2 miles, exposing a unique littoral environment.
If there is any swell there is the potential for significant flooding along the south coast and at St Ouens, fortunately Magic Seaweed is predicting 2 feet or less of swell for Monday.
What there will be plenty of opportunity for is playing in the tidal races, particularly off the north coast.  Light winds and high temperatures can only enhance the paddling possibilities.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ecrehous Day Trip  
It was clear as the week progressed that high pressure would be building for the weekend and conditions would be ideal for a day trip to the Ecrehous, the only issue was that nobody seemed to be available for the paddle.
It was too good a day to miss though so I headed out on my own.  A quick radio call to Jersey Coastguard and I settled into a steady pace.  It was interesting to note an almost complete absence of birds whilst paddling just a few gannets and an inquisitive cormorant were my only companions on the crossing.  Arriving at the reef I expected to be greeted by numerous boats which had crossed from both Jersey and Normandy but it was surprisingly quiet.  Just a few on the moorings and a couple more fishing the outer edges of the reef.
The light southerly wind which had aided my journey out died away completely whilst having an early lunch so the return paddle was in quite exceptional conditions for a couple of days after the autumn equinox.
Sea kayaking is a social activity but sometimes a few hours on the water on your own, focuses your thoughts, ensures that you have confidence in your own navigation and provides the opportunity paddle in your own rhythm without always having to refer to other members of the group.
Looking back towards the north coast of Jersey.  These were the only boats moored at the reef apart from a couple of French yachts.  In complete contrast to the last visit hen upwards of 60 boats were at the reef.
The Jersey flag flying over the reef indicated that people were in residence.
Some of the small houses.  The faint outline of the French coast is just visible.
The French side of the shingle bank, my kayak is just visible close to the rocks.  Its a much shorter carry landing on this side of the reef.
Looking north along the tombolo.  Great surfing waves develop across the pebbles at high water on spring tides.
I first visited the Ecrehous by kayak in 1974 and despite numerous visits I can never remember bumping into other Jersey paddlers.
Heading back to Jersey I paddled around the north of the reef before heading towards the Petite Rousse.  The tide was heading south with considerable speed, I reached more than 8 knots on several occasions.
The north coast of Jersey is just visible beyond the Petite and Grande Rousse.  The 5 nautical miles passed in less than an hour.
Leaving the Ecrehous, one of the great sea kayaking day trips.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Paternosters

For many sea kayakers their first open crossing can be quite a daunting prospecting, cutting the tie with the shore and heading away from the security of the land requires a different approach to when you are just paddling parallel to the shore.
For many Jersey sea paddlers their first visit offshore is to the Paternosters reef which is nearly 3 miles off the north coast of Jersey.  3 miles isn't that far but when combined with cross tides up to 5 knots an the exposure to the Atlantic swell it becomes a bit more challenging than your average paddle.
At high water landing can be a problem, if not impossible, if there is any swell but as the tide drops a number of sheltered lagoons are uncovered which allow access to the reef.
I first paddled to the Paternosters in early 1979 and every year since I have visited on a number of occasions but have never encountered any other people on the reef, it really is the ideal place to get away from the crowds in Jersey.

Peter Wrigglesworth arriving at the Paternoster's after a crossing from Greve de Lecq.  The rock is gneiss, a metamorphosed granite which isn't found anywhere else in Jersey.

 One of the great aspects of the Paternosters is that it is the site of one of the best jumps in the Channel Islands.  John Richardson and myself are taking full advantage of the warm water.
 A few sea kayaks on the reef on a bitterly cold January day.  There was ice on the beach when we left and it was still there when we arrived back a few hours later.
 At low water rocks and boulders are uncovered with a few isolated sheltered lagoons.  At high water just a few isolated heads are exposed generally catching the full force of the North Atlantic swell.
 Looking back towards the north west corner of Jersey.  The island looks like distant in these conditions.
 Heading south towards Greve de Lecq, on sunny days it is always difficult to identify specific locations due to the angle of the sun.