Monday, December 30, 2013

Corbiere Swell

There was a really stunning sunset this evening, with a large swell and high water combining to create the perfect atmosphere at Corbiere. A memorable way to finish the day.  An interesting observation is that some of the photographs were taken with a Nikon DSLR and others with an iphone.  Not easy to tell which is which.

Symposium Cliffs

Although yesterday dawned bright and sunny, for a change, prior engagements prevented me from getting on the water.  Not wishing to waste the best day for several weeks I did manage a quick walk along the cliffs of the south west of the Island.  This is the area where the 2014 Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium is going to be based, at the end of May.
Plans are well advanced for the event and approximately half of the places have already been booked but if you are thinking of heading to Jersey for what promises to be a great week of paddling then contact Kevin soon and start planning.
 The road to Corbiere, the next land to the west is Newfoundland.  This is a perfect place to find more challenging conditions, either because of swell or tidal flows, all within a few hundred metres of where the Symposium is going to be based.
 The Highlands Hotel.  This is the symposium HQ.  What a superb location with stunning views to the south and west.  Swimming pool, gym, bar on the terrace.  What more do you need after a great day of sea kayaking.
 The south west corner of the Island, how about a quick session of coasteering in the evening.  You will be able to walk to and from the start of the session, straight from the hotel in your wet suit.
 Also close to the hotel are the workings for the desalination plant.  There are some great jumps into the sea in this area.
 Fiquet Bay looking across to Pt Le Fret.  A number of the paddles which are being arranged will pass along this section of coastline.
 It is just over a mile to drive to St Brelade's Bay, where a number of sessions might leave from.  There are 3 launch sites which are closer though, all of which offer a variety of different kayaking.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Coffee in Greenwich

An early morning start was the order of the day because of the tide times.  We needed to paddle to Greenwich and be back at Tower Hamlets just after 12.00 otherwise we would be paddling against a significant tidal flow.  The river is always quieter on Sunday mornings so we were able to be more relaxed when it came to crossing over or to passing some of the river ferry terminals.
I always find paddling past Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs a nostalgic experience as I lived in the area in the early to mid 1970's, when it was a completely different place.  We used to be able to see ships from our kitchen window and there wasn't an office block in sight.
Arriving in Greenwich we found a small rubbish covered beach on which to land before a quick sprint for coffee and muffins.  These were consumed on the river bank as inquisitive tourists passed by.  In previous years we have had time to linger for lunch but today time was tight because of the earlier tide and all too soon it was time to cross over the river and head back towards the Canoe Club.
Another couple of great days paddling in the heart of London thanks to the hospitality of the Tower Hamlets Canoe Club.  We already have next years dates fixed but with a slightly different programme which includes an over night trip.  It should be interesting.
 Early morning calm as we headed past the commercial hub of Canary Wharf.  The river was uncharacteristically calm.
 As we were approaching slack water we were able to explore the remains of some of the derelict wharves, left over from when London was the greatest port in the world .  Urban caving.
 Landing places are not always easy to find in Greenwich.  This rubbish strewn beach seemed the best option.  It is hard to believe that something like this is allowed to exist in a World Heritage Site.  We were lucky as the day before there was a dead dog on the beach.
 Coffee and cakes were the order of the day, barely an eye brow was raised as we mingled with the Sunday morning crowds in our dry suits.
 As time and tide wait for no man it was important to head back towards Tower Hamlets.  En route we came across an Antony Gormley sculpture close to The Grapes pub.
Launching the day before required some imagination, today it was exiting.  Keeping hold of the kayak with a foot whilst climbing onto a ladder and then reaching down to grab the bow required a certain amount of co-ordination.
The final movement of the kayak out of the water was completed with several willing volunteers.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Capital City Kayaking

The annual Jersey Canoe Club visit to the Tower Hamlets Canoe Club is always an enjoyable weekend and this year was no different.  The contrast between the rugged coastal scenery of Jersey and the urban architecture of London is always fascinating and this was another paddle which was not to disappoint.
There is always something exciting about kayaking through the heart of London, particularly if you spend most of your life in a more rural setting.  It can be quite challenging due to the speed at which the tide flows and the density of the other river traffic but in terms of similar paddles this was quite relaxing.  For some reason there were very few boats moving on the Thames and because of the tide times we managed to complete the paddle in daylight, not always easy in the middle of winter.
If you haven't paddled through the heart of one of the great cities of the world then it is highly recommended.
Launching at Tower Hamlets can be very entertaining, depending upon the height of the tide.  At times some imagination may be required.
Approaching Tower Bridge.  It has been interesting to watch the Shard start to dominate the London skyline over the last few years.
This 1004 feet (306 metre) high building designed by Renzo Piano, can be seen from almost anywhere in London.  It is currently the tallest building in the European Union  and a visit to the viewing platform is on the list of things to do, in a future visit to London.
The Old Billingsgate Market was built in 1875 and at one time was the largest fish market in the world.  In 1982 the market was relocated to the Isle of Dogs but the original market remains a distinctive building on this stretch of the River Thames.
Paddling past Westminster and the Houses of Parliament is always a memorable event.
Chelsea was as far upstream as we ventured on this particular day.  Lunch was sought out at a local watering hole.  Very pleasant it was indeed.  You can't go wrong with a full English breakfast and a pint of good bitter.
 There are numerous bridges across the Thames on London, with some such as Tower Bridge having very distinctive profiles.  This one is Albert Bridge built in1873.  At the right hand end can be seen the former toll booths, this is the only bridge in London whose toll booths have survived.
 Built in the 1930's Battersea Power Station is the largest brick building in Europe.  I can't help thinking about Pink Floyd every time I paddle past Battersea as I was fortunate enough to see them in concert in 1977 on the "Animals" tour.  It featured on the album cover.
From underneath the derelict cranes, which were used to unload the coal which was transported to the site on colliers, from north east England and south Wales.  This must have been a busy location as at the height of its power production it was using more 1,000,000 tons of coal per annum.  Electricity finally stopped being produced here on the 31st October 1983.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Boxing Day Sea Kayaking

Boxing Day almost offered some respite from the almost continuous storms of the last few weeks but we probably experienced all four seasons during the course of 2 hours.  Belcroute, on the western side of St Aubin's Bay was the chosen venue, mainly because it gave some shelter from the potential squalls.
Heading south we quickly reached Noirmont before turning and heading across the bay towards St Helier, experiencing some lovely rides on the following swell.  Half way across the bay it was clear that we were going to be hit by quite a significant squall.  The hail proved to be pretty painful but within 10 minutes the sunshine returned and we spent a very pleasant 15 minutes paddling around St Aubin's Harbour chatting to the stand up paddleboarders, who had clearly put some effort into their fancy dress.
This was followed by the inevitable visit to the Smugglers for a warming pint, a traditional that has been part of Jersey Canoe Club's history for 30 years.
Heading out from Belcroute.  There were some very dramatic clouds towering over St Helier.  These had already passed but others were on the way.
 The coast to the south of Belcroute is one of the few sections of the islands coast where trees approach the waters edge.
 Noirmont Point is nearly always entertaining, the westerly swell and wind meeting the opposing tidal streams.  From here we turned north east and ran with the wind into St Aubin's Bay
 This was quite an intense squall.  The hail was particularly painful.  The temperature drop as the squall passed through was particularly dramatic.
 Within a few minutes though the wind dropped, the sun came out and we paddled around St Aubin's Harbour in delightful conditions.
We weren't the only group out on the water, members of the Stand up Paddleboard Club were on the water in some quite spectacular fancy dress.