Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Plemont: A headland worth saving

One of the most spectacular areas of Jersey is the north west corner of the island, with its dramatic granite cliffs.  When the swell drops it has to be one of the most enjoyable places to kayak in Jersey.  As the tide drops a beautiful sandy beach is exposed, which is popular with both tourists and locals.
Unfortunately on the cliff top is a blot on the landscape, the old Plemont holiday camp.  On the 20th November the States of Jersey are due to debate the future of this headland.  One plan is to demolish the holiday camp and replace it with 28 homes, but an alternative outcome is being pursued.  To acquire the headland for future generations of Jersey inhabitants and restore the land to its natural glory, allowing wildlife to become established in the area, particularly sea birds.  
My daughter has set up a Facebook page through her voluntary work with the National Trust for Jersey, so please consider showing your support with thousands of people who already have done so.
Further information is also available from the National Trust for JerseyThis is a great opportunity for us as sea kayakers to demonstrate their concern for the coastal environment from which we gain so much pleasure.
Plemont viewed from above.  The scale of the holiday camp and the fact that it is in quite a remote location is clearly visible in the photo.
 Approaching Plemont from the north west.  The old holiday camp is visible just above the head of the kayaker.
 Looking east from the north coast cliff path.  The holiday camp is just visible on the cliff top.
 Looking west from Plemont Beach.  The beach is one of the finest on the island and at times has excellent surf.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Some more aerial shots

It has been a while since I posted any aerial shots, so I as it sit grounded by fog, waiting for my flight home, I thought it would be appropriate to post a few pictures taken over the last few months.  Always keep a camera handy as you never know when the opportunity will arise to get some shots of classic kayaking areas from above.
 Alderney, a great but rarely visited, sea kayaking destination.  The breakwater at Braye is clearly visible.
Herm, towards high water.  Shell Beach is clearly visible.  Great paddling.
Final approach into Jersey with the delightful paddling area of the north west corner rising above the exposed rocks off L'Etacq.
The Needles, from almost directly above.
Entrance to Langstone Harbour, just to the west of Portsmouth.
 Galway Bay at sunset, as we chased the last rays of daylight across the Atlantic.
Svendborg in Denmark, where I had left from last year on a few days sailing.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Some thoughts on forward paddling

As sea kayakers forward paddling is the most important stroke that we have in our repertoire but possibly the one that we practice the least, once we reach a certain skill level.  Something that we rarely think about is cadence, the rate at which we perform the stroke.
This weekend I have spent a very enjoyable two days with members of Portsmouth Canoe Club, paddling in Swanage Bay.  We conducted a number of 5 minute time trials recording the number of strokes performed on the right hand side of the kayak, there were 16 of us in the group and over half of the paddlers were within 10 strokes of each other.
This is an exercise, which I have conducted in many areas of the world with a large number of paddlers of all abilities, for nealy 30 years, and from the results I would suggest that an appropriate paddling rate is between 135 and 145 right hand paddle strokes every five minutes.  This would appear to be suitable for paddlers of all sizes and abilities, all paddle lengths and types and weather and sea conditions.  There is no scientific evidence for this number but it seems to work.  For most paddlers it results in an appropriate forward paddling speed.
Try it when you are out on the water and see what figures you come up with, as an exercise it also helps to pass the time whilst on open crossings.
Remember that if you have an effective forward paddling rate of 145 right hand strokes every 5 minutes this translates into 10,440 strokes on a six hour day trip, whereas if you have a rate of 180 strokes in the same six hour period you will end up doing 12,960 strokes.  Over 2,500 more strokes, which on a two week trip translates to an extra 35,000 strokes hence the need to develop an efficient technique.  
These are my thoughts and observations but comments would be welcome. There are plenty of other ideas regarding forward paddling plus a variety of other strokes available in my e-book The A - Z of Sea Kayaking, which is available from Amazon.
 John Crosby leaving Polyageos for Folegandros, nearly 12 nautical miles.  An effecient forward paddling stroke is essential when paddling in waters like these day after day.
 Pete Hargreaves en route to Sark with a reasonable westerly swell.  Sark is just visible in the top left.  A  fluent forward paddling style is required on such crossings.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 16: The final day of kayaking

There is always a feeling of anti climax when such a superb trip comes to an end and it was somewhat fitting that we completed the 12 nautical mile paddle in perfect conditions.  Sea kayakers head towards Greenland to experience icebergs, wildlife and stunning scenery.  Today all three came together to produce a memorable end to our time kayaking in the Arctic.
Disko Bay is one of the finest sea kayaking destinations that I am aware of, I have enjoyed all 5 journeys that I have undertaken in the area, the only question which remains is when will we head north again to this beautiful area.
 Andy making progress south in perfect sea kayaking conditions.
Gordon picking his way through the ice to the south of Rodebay.
The bay was full of ice of different sizes and shapes. 
Nicky approaching the finish at Ilulissat.  The channel wasn't always obvious.
Looking south from Ilulissat, the large bergs are coming out of the world famous Ice Fjord.
These slabs have seen the beginning and end of many of my sea kayaking adventures.  Today the weather allowed us to unpack and sort out our equipment in a fairly relaxed manner.  You don't want trips like this to finish.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Day 15: Is this the best restaurant anywhere?

It was another short day, in fact it was more like a long morning.  A leisurely start packing on the slabs at Anoritoq before heading south to Rodebay, the final small village before Ilulissat.  If you have been kayaking in northern Disko Bay one of the rules is that you must stop at Rodebay in order to have meal at the H8 restaurant.  Which is probably my favourite restaurant anywhere.  The menu is fairly limited, this evening it was Musk Ox, on other occasions it has been halibut or whale, but the quality of the food, the setting and the service is second to none especially after 15 days out in the wilds.
There was plenty of ice heading south to Rodebay but we reached the village just in time to buy the obligatory cakes before the shop closed. We headed south, a couple of miles, before selecting a sheltered campsite which looked out across an ice filled Disko Bay. At times we wondered whether we were going to be able make any further progress because of the density of the ice, only time, the following day would show.
Our main focus for the evening though was the walk back into Rodebay, a cold beer and some delightful food. Sitting in the H8 is always a double edged experience. On the one hand we are enjoying a bit of luxury after weeks of living in basic conditions but on the other hand you know that the trip will be becoming an end.
 Heading south into the ice.  Rodebay is only a few miles away.
 Sometimes it was necessary to go closer to some bergs than we felt happy with.
Rodebay is a colourful village, on the main tourist route from Ilulissat
 A well earned beer outside the H8.
 Disko Bay with a considerable quantity of ice.
 Nicky making the most of our last evening out in the wild.  These are special moments.
 A fishing boat heading south, we would be following the same route less than 12 hours later.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 14: Almost there

When we launched from Kugssuaq, we knew that it was due to be a short day but were not certain that we would manage to reach our destination.  The pressure was right down and there were some very ominous looking clouds, it was one of those days when the weather could go either way.  A bitterly cold south easterly wind took the edge off the morning but just before the large inlet of Pakitsoq, the wind dropped off completely.
This was the fifth time that I had crossed Pakitsoq by kayak and on every other occasion there had been superb views of whales, today though we were to be disappointed by the lack of these huge creatures.  One possible explanation was that to the west there was a continuous line of ice and experience had shown that there was very little chance of seeing whales when there is ice about.
The south western edge of the fjord was choked with ice, within a metre of the shore.  Paddling through the leads close to the shore was a particularly vulnerable feeling.  We managed to find a way through before reaching our campsite in Anoritoq.  
The rocky slabs are a great place to spend time with the inland area well worth exploring.  It was only a 13 nautical mile day but it was worth stopping and if you are ever paddling through this area of Disko Bay make sure you camp here.
Leaving Kugssuaq, Arve Prinsens Ejland is the island behind.  The eastern shore is steep with few landing places.
Gordon threading his way through a narrow lead.
Up close and personal with ice.
 Not all icebergs are the beautiful blues and whites of the majority of photographs, as this moraine covered berg illustrates.
The slabs at Anoritoq are a great place to land and camp or to sleep as shown below.
 Looking out across what looks like an ice choked Disko Bay, we were wondering what conditions were going to be like the following morning.
Reflections along the opposite shore
 Inland exploration in the evening as the sun sets and shadows lengthen.
 A particularly memorable evening, three years earlier.  Not the sort of activity that is normally associated with Greenland.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Sunday morning squall

What a difference an hour makes.  I was running the Sunday morning sea kayaking session for the Jersey Canoe Club, we headed south out of Ouaisne but within a few hundred metres we were running for the shelter of La Cotte Island as a significant squall was approaching fast. Visibility and temperatures were dropping whilst wind speeds and rainfall intensity was going in the opposite direction.
We sheltered for perhaps 20 minutes whilst being exposed to the full force of the rain, but eventually the conditions started to ease and we were able to continue with our paddle in far more reasonable conditions.  It was interesting to consider what action we could have taken if we had been exposed to such a squall whilst on an open crossing.  We still haven't come up with a definitive answer.
 Looking back towards La Cotte.  The dark clouds are developing to the north.
 Sheltering close to La Cotte Island.  The temperature dropped several degrees and there was a significant increase in wind speed.
 John feeling the full impact of the rain
 Looking south towards Pt Le Fret.  Amazingly just 4 miles east no rain was recorded.
 The rear edge of the squall crossing St Aubin's Bay.
 The storm heads south, seas calm off and two paddlers return to Ouaisne.

Greenland Day 13: A day of sea ice

It had been a surprisingly wild night, with some very strong winds but fortunately we were sheltered from the strongest blasts.  We had an early morning walk to the top of the island which gave great views of where we had paddled yesterday and some limited views of todays route.  Most of the ice of yesterday appeared to have disappeared, little did we realize that it was waiting for us, just out of sight.
We headed out of the bay on the western side of Igdluluarssuit Nunatat, where we had spent the night, initially the kayaking was relatively straight forward but as we headed towards the southern point of the ice there was a dramatic increase in the amount of ice. 
Paddling the across the two mile wide gap of the entrance to fjord proved to be quite entertaining!  Huge amounts of ice appeared to have been blown in on last nights wind.  There was no clear route and in some places there wasn't even enough water to place a paddle, it was necessary to propel yourself forwards by pushing on lumps of ice.  It was for days like this that you come sea kayaking in Greenland.
Eventually the ice thinned out and we were able to make could progress south through Ata Sund with delightful views of Arve Prins Ejland to the west.  We covered another 23 nautical miles today but it was definitely beginning to feel as if we are on the home stretch.
 An early morning walk to the summit of Igdlularssuit Nunatat.  Our route of the previous day had been through the gap on the right of the picture.
 Today's route, what we couldn't see was just how much ice there was round to the left.
 Looking towards the ice front front at Eqi.  The front of the glacier is nearly 6 miles away which gives an indication of the scale.
 Heading into the ice.  Initially there were some relatively large bergs as well as the smaller pieces of ice.
The route finding options are closing down for Gordon.
 Alex wondering how we were going to reach the far shore.
 Heading back north in an attempt to find a lead through the ice.
 The view from my kayak.  Progress through ice this thick is pretty challenging.
 After a couple of hours in the ice we eventually found clear water and were able to head south down Ata Sund.
 I can never understand how somebody can make all the effort to reach such a  remote spot and then feel the need to carve their name into the lichen.  It takes years for such a fragile environment to recover.
 Evening sunset at Kugssuaq.