Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A few more aerial shots

It has been a while since I posted some images taken from the aircraft window, the last few months has seen some pretty turbulent flights so I haven't managed to get too many pictures.  Below are a selection of some of those I have taken over the last few years, generally illustrating some superb sea kayaking waters.  Remember the best entertainment on a flight is the view out of the window so keep your camera handy.
 The Cherbourg Peninsula, seen whilst flying north.  The infamous Alderney Races separates this tip of France from the most northerly of the Channel Islands.  Very challenging waters best visited for the first time on neap tides.
 Approaching Athens, landing in Athens is always exciting because it has inevitably resulted in some superb sea kayaking.
 Looking back towards Bonne Nuit, on the north coast of Jersey.  This was a particularly memorable flight as I had been running a course for the local Air Training Cadets, which resulted in a flight around Jersey in a Hercules.  Very memorable
 These are the Casquets, a wild group of rocks  with an unusual lighthouse about 8 miles west of Alderney.  As we were flying at about 18,000 feet it gives an idea of the size of the waves.  August 1989 was the only time that conditions came together to allow me to paddle out to this remote outpost of the Channel Islands.
 Cap Vani, the north west corner of Milos, in the Greek Islands.  Always great sea kayaking.  Contact Rod at Sea Kayak Milos for a superb trip.
 The Ecrehous, the shingle bank of this memorable reef is clearly visible.  Any sea kayaker visiting Jersey should aim to visit this delightful offshore reef.
 The north western corner of the Nuussuaq Peninsula on the northern side of Disko Bay.  A small piece of land can just be seen jutting into the ice.  This is the village of Niaqornat.  The 2013 film "Village at the end of World" was made here and is well worth watching.  I visited the village in 2012.
 The entrance to the harbour at Portsmouth.  From this height it is not obvious just how busy the waterways are in this area.
 Last Thursday morning as we passed over the Isle of Wight the Dorset coast was just about visible.  I have spent some great weekends kayaking along this coast with Portsmouth Canoe Club in the last few years.  Although not great views it seemed to be the first time for months that anything at all had been visible from the aircraft window.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Top 5 Sea Kayak Trips

Whilst sitting around a camp fire on a remote beach or in the classroom on a 4 Star Assessment a question which regularly comes up is "What are the the 5 best sea kayak trips that you have ever done"?  Just take a minute to think about what are the best 5 days that you have spent in a sea kayak, factors to take into account might include companions, scenery, wildlife, weather etc.  What is interesting is that if you repeat the process in a couple of days time you will probably come up with some different paddles.
So I thought, what are my 5 most memorable sea kayaking day trips at the present time?  I present them below in no particular order.
There is something special about kayaking through the heart of the world's great cities. London and Paris have both been memorable paddles but looking back towards New York from the Statue of Liberty is second to none.
Heading through the Ecrehous reef.  Located approximately half way between Jersey and the coast of Normandy and visit to this delightful ref is a must for any sea kayaker who is visiting Jersey.  There will be a number of paddles arranged here during the Jersey Symposium in May
The west coast of Scotland is justifiably popular with sea kayakers and the paddle at from Elgol into the heart of the Cuillin Mountains has to be one of the finest one day paddles that there is.  This was a beautiful day a few years ago, the day trip at last years Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium included a quick visit to the neighbouring island of Soay.
Disko Bay on the west coast of Greenland has many of the basic ingredients of classic sea kayaking, isolation, dramatic scenery, memorable wildlife etc.  what makes it so special though is kayak through ice whilst there are historic and cultural links between the region and the kayaks we paddle.
This small island is Er Lannic in Morbihan, southern Brittany.  Where else is it possible to paddle in tidal streams which reach nearly 10 knots whilst less than a hundred metres away it is possible to explore semi submerged stone circles, several thousand years old?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Corbiere Waypoint

A day of warm sunshine and low tide provided the opportunity to rush out to Corbiere Lighthouse to complete some of the preparations for the Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium, which is going to be held towards the end of May this year.
The Highland's Hotel is within a few hundred metres from the lighthouse, which promises to be a spectacular backdrop to quite a bit of the sea kayaking that week. 
Corbiere Lighthouse marks the south west corner of Jersey, and although people may think I am biased I think it is one of the finest lighthouses in the world.
If the opportunity arises to look around inside the lighthouse it is truly memorable.  We are hoping to be able to arrange a visit for the Symposium in May.
Looking along the south west coast of Jersey.  The Highland's Hotel, where the Symposium is going to be based is just behind the tall German tower.  The large white building on the left is the Corbiere Phare restaurant and bar.  This is where the Monday evening meal and social is going to be based.
Looking north, across St Ouen's Bay.  There should be plenty of paddling through the reefs in this area with the launching spots just a few hundred metres from the hotel.  We are aiming to keep traveling times to a minimum.
Looking back across the causeway.  Some interesting water conditions can be created when the tide  floods across the causeway.
A photograph that has been taken thousands of times.  The reflection can be perfect when there is no wind.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sea bed ramblings

Saturday dawned windy yet again with the promise of substantial showers around in the afternoon so I decided to head out towards Seymour Tower, off the south east corner of the Island.  Due to the large tidal range in Jersey (almost 12 metres on the larger tides) a virtually unique coastal environment is exposed twice a day, particularly on Spring Tides.  For several hours, each day, the opportunity of walking around on the sea bed presents itself and I took full advantage of the opportunity yesterday.  Amazingly I was the only person who seemed to want to experience the delights of this corner of the Island on blustery Saturday in January. 
 Looking towards Seymour Tower, my aim was to try and reach a navigation mark, Karame, which is beyond the obvious tower.  As I headed out across the exposed foreshore I was the only person in the area.
 The rescue beacon.  In the past people have lost their lives when they have been cut off by the rapidly rising tide.  Between Christmas and New Year two German tourists were fortunate to be able to climb the tower when they underestimated the speed at which the tide rises.  The inshore lifeboat collected them from the tower which prevented them having to speed a cold and dark night 6 hours perched above the swirling waters.
 Viewed up close the superb construction of the tower is clearly visible.  The concrete additions are as a result of the German occupation.  It is possible to hire the tower from Jersey Heritage, a very unique place to spend a night.
 A quick lunch stop coincided with almost the only sunshine of the day.  The tower casting its shadow over the sandbank.
 Looking north towards Gorey, with the magnificent Mont Orgueil Castle towering above the harbour.  The shiny slopes to the left of the castle are some of the earliest fields to be planted with Jersey Royal potatoes.
 Seymour Tower seen from the south.  Painted white as a navigation mark.
 I had been hoping to get as far as Karame, it was going to be touch and go but as I stood here the atmospheric pressure was 987mb.  As many of you know, tidal heights are based on mean atmospheric pressure of 1013mb and as a general rule a change of one millibar results in a change of one centimetre in sea level.  26mb lower than  average pressure meant that the tide was 26 cm higher than predicted.
 Heading towards Little Seymour, my final navigation mark before heading back to the shore.  The clouds were obviously building to the south and west, it was time to up the pace.
Looking towards La Rocque Harbour, the end of the pier clearly visible, being painted white.  It was at La Rocque that Baron de Rullecourt landed on the 6th January 1781, an invasion which resulted in the Battle of Jersey being fought in the Royal Square in Jersey, followed by a rapid expansion of the building of coastal fortifications.  Many of the towers survive today, part of the distinctive coastal architecture.
The predicted heavy showers approaching from the south west.  A significant increase in walking speed could not prevent major soaking as the downpour hit.  A very wet end to a thoroughly enjoyable 3 hours, and the only people I saw were on the slip at the beginning and end.  There is still isolation in Jersey, waiting for those who seek it out.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Svalbard again

Following on from my post early last week Louis arrived in Jersey and it was great to catch up after nearly 30 years.  It is a privilege and fascinating to spend time with somebody whose life has been spent in such a complete contrast to our own.  I may have some idea about the challenges facing young people and education but ask me about how to clean eider down and it's price on the global market and I haven't a clue.
In 1983 I always planned to return to Svalbard to undertake some other entertaining adventures.  Most I have achieved, including sea kayaking in Greenland, but one or two have escaped me.  perhaps with contact re-established with Louis at least 1 of these challenges may be achievable.  Only time will tell but in the mean time here are a few more pictures taken in this arctic outpost over 30 years ago.  Apologies for the quality of some of the scans from my old slides.
Whilst sea kayaking off the west coast the scenery was particularly dramatic.  It doesn't matter how many photographs you see, nothing can prepare you for the first time you paddle past an ice front.
Conditions were not always co-operative.  We were aiming to camp near the approaching headland.  On most paddling days we spent about 8 hours on the water so it was always a pleasure to get the tents up and some warm food inside us on days like this one.
 In 1926 Roald Amundsen left from this tower, in Ny Alesund, in his airship "Norge" for his flight over the North Pole.  The other interesting thing about Ny Alesund is that it has the world's most northern post office and we were able to pick up some mail.
It was rare that we were able to stand around camp without full protective clothing on, but on this particularly still morning towards the north of Spitsbergen Dave is looking at the freshly fallen snow on the mountains behind.
 After a great days sea kayaking there is nothing more risky than jumping from one ice floe to another whilst wearing fleece trousers.
In totally remote areas there is nobody to see you when you decide to wander around on a glacier whilst wearing wellingtons.  You might not get away with this level of equipment on Mt Blanc!
Heading back into Longyearbyen towards the end of August, we had been in Svalbard for over 2 months and as the first of the winter snows fell we knew that it was time to head south to the warmer waters of Jersey.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

I can't believe that it has been nearly 18 months since I entered my last stand up paddle board race, I am not sure where the intervening months have gone. After a Saturday of bright sunshine and light winds Sunday dawned somewhat differently. Overcast with a penetrating southerly wind of about Force 5.  It would have been easy to bail out but I had committed myself to going.
Bonne Nuit looked calm when we arrived but the cats paws moving across the water was an indication that there was a bit of wind about and so it wasn't going to be that easy a morning.
Wet suits and racing vests on we were ready to go.  The events are organized by the Jersey Paddle Club, which has a really active membership with people out on the water most days.
As a sea kayaker I have considered what are the advantages of getting out on a paddle board and in no particular order the reasons include:
  1. General fitness
  2. Balance
  3. Paddle and blade awareness
  4. Better understanding of the dynamics of waves
  5. Ease of access.  30  minutes on a SUP is worth it whereas kayaking seems to need longer.
So as the next few months pass and we head towards summer why not consider giving it a go besides being really enjoyable it may have benefits for your general sea kayaking
 Myself and Chester from Absolute Adventures getting ready to race.  I was naively relaxed at this point.
 The start was just under the pier entrance at Bonne Nuit
 Some of the paddlers heading east towards Giffard Bay and the first turn
 The first leg was to the rocks on the far side of the bay, complete a short leg out to sea followed by a long run back to Bonne Nuit, a short leg back towards the pier and then start lap 2!
 At the end of lap 2 there was a shorter circuit around the Cheval Rock before returning back to Bonne Nuit.  This addition meant that although we were quite spread out, it was possible to see many of the other paddlers.  Somehow being out there didn't seem quite as lonely.
5.5 kilometres completed in about 50 minutes, pretty satisfied considering it had been 18 months since my last race.  What is clear is how fast the board designs have evolved in that time.  Entering races again may have some serious cost implications

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Svalbard - 30 years on

In 1983 I was fortunate enough to spend two months sea kayaking in Spitsbergen, a truly memorable experience.  Whilst there we met a hunter who had a hut located on the northern shores of Bellsund, an area we would be kayaking through as we head towards the southern point of the archipelago.
A couple of nights in a hut, without the worry of being attacked by polar bears was a real bonus.  The hut was a haven of luxury in an otherwise remote wilderness.  During this 4 week section of the trip we didn't see another person, in those days Svalbard was a truly remote area.
The hunter, Louis after seeing our sea kayaks, decided that this was the type of craft that he needed.  I didn't really think much more about it until a few months later an immigration official telephoned me from Jersey Airport.  He got straight to the point, we have a man here who says that he is hunter in Spitsbergen and he has come to Jersey so that you can teach him to eskimo roll.  "Is this true"?
I wasn't in a position to deny this and so Louis entered Jersey and I did teach him to roll.  We met again a couple of months later at the annual Crystal Palace Canoe Exhibition, I introduced Louis to Frank Goodman and he purchased a kayak from Valley Canoe Products and in February 1984 he disappeared back to Svalbard to resume his life as a hunter.
Then out of the blue, tonight Louis called from St Malo and he arrives in Jersey Thursday morning, what an opportunity to catch up on 30 years of life in the arctic.
 The hut where we spent a couple of wonderful days, making full use of the facilities.
 The view from the front door.  At certain times of the year you would need to keep a watchful eye open for roaming polar bears.
The inside of the hut had a range of modern facilities.  Using the cooker was a pleasant change from trying to coax a reluctant primus stove into life.
It wasn't far to the nearest ice front.  In the evenings we could pass some time shooting the small ice bergs which drifted past on the tide.
Two nights later we were back in the tents.  After nearly 40 years of visiting the arctic this particular place still remains one of the bleakest places I have ever camped.
 One of the real advantages of paddling in the high arctic is that whenever the wind drops off you can go kayaking.  This is just after midnight.  I think that we were in bed by 06.00
 We didn't always have to paddle at night.  On a couple of the days that we were in Spitsbergen the sun actually shone as we approached one of the many ice fronts.

This ice front was nearly 10 miles wide. Quite a distance to be exposed to calving ice.