Friday, October 31, 2014

Some more aerial photographs

Looking out of the aircraft window is one of the real pleasures of traveling.  I can never understand people who sit by the window and then close the blinds.   Passing over some great sea kayaking waters and providing inspiration for future paddling trips.
 The east coast of Baja, Mexico.  Heading home after 10 days of great sea kayaking
 Take off from Ilulissat, on the west coast of Greenland.  This is one of the most spectacular views from an aircraft window anywhere.
 Threading our way through some large cumulonimbus clouds over the northern French Alps.
 The tip of the Cherbourg Peninsula.  This is a common view when sitting on the right hand side of the aircraft on the flight from Jersey to Gatwick.
 If sitting on the left hand side of the aircraft from Jersey to London, instead of France you are likely to see Alderney and the smaller islands.  The small island is Burhou, which operates as a bird reserve.
 Flying over southern Sark, on a day with a significant swell running.  It would have been an entertaining day to paddle through the reefs.
Final descent into Hong Kong.  We didn't manage any sea kayaking but had a great day stand up paddleboarding.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Le Catel de Lecq

Le Catel de Lecq is an iron age hill which dominates the headland to the east of Greve de Lecq, possibly the finest beach for sea kayaking on the north coast of Jersey.  I must have paddled past it hundreds of times, in addition to passing by numerous times on the landward side.  It wasn't until this week though that I made the effort to climb to the summit.
It was well worth visiting it as it is one of the best preserved defensive earthworks on the Island.  In recent months the defenses have been improved with the introduction of a number of very inquisitive Manx four horned sheep, so if visiting ensure that the gate is firmly closed.

The fort seen from close to the road, minus the sheep
 Just a few of the many sheep which were grazing on the slopes and in the surrounding fields.
 Nicky on the way up.
 Looking east from the summit.  Directly below the fort are a number of the more interesting caves to be found on the Island
 Looking down on Greve de Lecq and the coast running west towards Plemont.
Nicky on the summit ridge, it was narrower than we imagined.
 Approaching Greve de Lecq from the Paternosters.  Le Catel de Lecq is the distinctive hill above the kayakers.  How many people passing by realize that it is man made?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Sea kayakers often have a significant interest in lighthouses.  There is something about their location, design and history which attracts us in a way that perhaps no other type of building does.  Some of us have probably been paddling long enough to remember the days when if we were heading out to somewhere with a lighthouse we would pack fresh milk, daily newspapers etc as a gift for the guardians of the light in the hope that we might be invited in.
Over the years I was invited into Beachy Head, the Skerries and the Hanois to name just 3 but as we are all aware automation has had its impact and these visits are a now just a distant memory.

Much has been written over the years about the development of lighthouses and when you are in France, pop into a bookshop to see how many "coffee table" books are available on the subject.  The lighthouses of Brittany in particular have fired the imagination of a generation of photographers.
On the subject of books about lighthouses the other day I was given the book "Stargazing" by Peter Hill.  It is a delightful book about a 19 year old Art student, in the early 1970's who took a job as a relief keeper for the Commisioner of Northern Lights.
He starts his short career on Pladda, an island which I had recently become acquainted with through reading the sea kayak photo blog by Douglas Wilcox. He describes the daily routine of the keeper, expressing his concern about having to undertake the cooking duties whilst learning about the routine required to keep the lights burning.
Considerably younger than many of the other keepers he not only learns about the lighthouses but some of the characters who spent significant proportions of their lives on these remote outposts fulfilling a valuable service.
His second posting was to Ailsa Craig, an island which he eventually spent 8 weeks on, as a consequence of changed rotas etc.  It is interesting to note his observations on the rats, which were so numerous that doors had to remain closed to prevent infestation of the lighthouse buildings.  The first rat was seen on the Island in 1889 when one was killed by a lighthouse keepers dog.  The impact of the colonisation by rats was significant on the nesting sea birds, including the complete destruction of  the puffin colonies.  In 1991 it was decided to eradicate the rats, which involved flying in 3 tonnes of Warfarin that year and another 2 tonnes the following year.  It was an immediate success and the last live rat was seen on Ailsa Cgaig on the 15th April 1991.  By 2009 the puffin colony which had re-established itself had between 50 and 100 pairs of puffins.
In contrast to comparative spaciousness of Ailsa Craig his final lighthouse was Hyskeir, accessed by helicopter it has the Small Isles of Canna, Rum, Eigg and Muck to the north with Coll and Tiree to the south.  It was here that he was introduced to the game of nautical scrabble, a 30 minute time limit and only nautical words allowed, sounds like a must have game on the next sea kayaking trip.
Peter Hill was not destined to be a full time lighthouse keeper, Hyskeir was his final stint on a light, but what a great way to spend a summer.
This book will appeal to anybody who has an interest in lighthouses or sea kayaking off the west coast of Scotland but you will probably enjoy it far more if you remember Captain Beefheart, Carlos Castenada, the Vietnam War and Watergate.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Parish Crosses

On a day, when paddling wasn't an option I decided to visit all of the Millennium Crosses on the Island.  Every parish placed a cross and a stone at suitable locations, I had visited the Millennium Stones, in one continuous, a journey of 49 miles.  The wayside crosses which were placed around the Island are based on the design of a medieval cross, a model of one which can be seen at Elizabeth Castle, having been placed there in 1959.  It is thought that there many of theses crosses around the Island but they were probably all destroyed during the Reformation.
The circular ride to each of the Millennium Crosses is an entertaining way to pass a few hours and the route will take you some interesting areas of the Island.  The total distance was 39 miles which contrasts with the 49 miles it takes to cycle around the Millennium Stones
 First stop was the cross of St Brelade.  On a road junction near to the Airport garages.  It does look like it could do with a visit from the Parish gardeners.
 The St Peter cross is on the northern perimeter of the airport.  From here it was the shortest distance to the next cross, close to St Ouen's Manor.
The St Ouen's cross is close to the main entrance of St Ouen's Manor.  The flower beds added a dash of colour which was missing at many of the crosses.
 The St Mary cross is only just in the Parish.  Situated at Greve de Lecq it close to the historic barracks.
 Built during the German Occupation La Route du Nord runs above the cliffs of St John and it is where the parish decided to locate their Millennium Cross.
 The Trinity Cross would be easy to miss, located close to the walls of the Parish Church.
 The parish cross of St Martin is the only one on the east coast.  Close to Archirbondel, from here to St Clement's cross my next stop was the longest non stop stretch on the tour of the Millennium Crosses.
 The St Clement's cross is situated on the sea front at Le Hocq, overlooking some superb sea kayaking waters.
 From the St Clement cross it was an uphill ride to the Grouville one, situated on small grassy section of land at the top of Grouville Hill.
 St Saviour's cross is close to the Parish primary school.
 The St Helier Cross is in Victoria Park, which is the small open space close to the Grand Hotel.  This cross bears an inscription in Jerriais (the traditional language of the Island) À la glouaithe dé Dgieu (To the glory of God).
The last cross was in St Lawrence.  Located at the top of Mont Felard it was a steep climb to the final cross.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Paternoster Sunday

The Paternoster's is a wild reef nearly 3 miles off the north coast of Jersey which is always an interesting place to visit.  Sunday morning's forecast couldn't have been more co-operative with a light southerly breeze to blow us out and then dropping off, with the sun coming out.
It was a slightly longer Sunday morning paddle for the Jersey Canoe Club than usual and it did involve taking sandwiches but it was well worth the effort.  It is strange that we were only out for 5 hours in total but after a visit to the Paternoster's you always feel as if you have had a break from the island.
 The Paternosters are just visible, with Sark on the horizon beyond
 Nicky and Kate leaving the north coast.  Sorel lighthouse is just visible on the headland behind the kayaks.
 Just approaching Great Rock from the north, landing would probably have been impossible an hour earlier due to the swell but the ebbing tide had produced some relatively sheltered areas in the reef.
 Looking south west from the summit of Great Rock.  Grosnez is the obvious headland behind
 The view north.  Sark is visible on the horizon.  What a delightful paddle we had back from Sark earlier in the summer.
Paul crossing one of the tidal flows, which contribute to making paddling in this area so entertaining.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Captain Voss

Many years ago I came across a copy of "The Venturesome Voyage of Captain Voss" which describes his journey around the world in a British Columbian war canoe. For those of you haven't read it is well worth seeking as there are some fascinating sections, for example, about his development of sea anchors as well as the numerous adventures which would occur whilst sailing a small boat around the world, although loosing your crew overboard whilst in the middle of the Pacific could be viewed as a bit extreme.  What does come through the book is that he is a superb sailor although perhaps not a very pleasant human being and there have been discussions as to whether the mate was washed overboard or murdered.
There are numerous facts about the voyage which are indisputable.  The "Tilikum" was purchased from a Nootka Indian on Vancouver Island.  It was a red cedar dug out canoe and to make it seaworthy there were a number of modifications including raising the top sides and adding a cabin.  The canoe had a length of 38 feet, so when Voss and his partner Norman Luxton, a journalist set sail from Victoria, on May 20th 1901, it was in one of the smallest craft to attempt a circumnavigation of the world.
The voyage last 3 years and 3 months, finishing in England.  Although they didn't return to the west of America, Voss considered that he had completed a circumnavigation because he had crossed all 3 of the major oceans, covering approximately 40,000 miles in the process.
Ownership of the Tilikum changed hands several times in the first 2 decades but the reality was she was falling into a very poor state.  This was brought to the attention of some prominent inhabitants of Victoria and arrangements were made to ship the vessel back to Vancouver Island in 1930.  Over the next 30 or so years the Tilikum was exhibited in various locations around Victoria until in 1965 she was moved to the Maritime Museum of British Columbia in 1965 and has remained on display there ever since.
You can imagine my frustration on returning home to Jersey, after some kayaking on Vancouver Island, to discover where the boat was on display.  I had read the book but at this time was unaware of the history of the craft after 1904.  Fortunately I returned to the west coast of Canada about 18 months later and pretty much at the top of my to do list was to visit the museum to see the Tilikum.
I wasn't disappointed and if you ever find yourself in Victoria with a couple of spare hours head towards the Maritime Museum and acquaint yourself with one of the more significant small boat journeys of the early 20th Century. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014


Approximately half way up the west coast of Greenland is Disko Bay, and on the eastern shore of this large natural feature is the town of Ilulissat.  This settlement is effectively the tourism capital of Greenland but it lies at the heart of some finest sea kayaking on the planet.  
I first paddled here in 1993 and it is quite amazing how it has changed over the years, I have since visited on 4 different occasions and we are just starting to put together the plans to visit the area in the summer of of 2015, for a 3 week paddling trip.
These photographs have all been taken since 2008 but when time allows I should look up my old slides from over 20 years ago to refresh my memory.
This the view of Ice Fjord as the aircraft begins its final approach into Ilulissat.  Any self respecting sea kayakers pulse will be racing by this time.
Chris packing in 2008 and attracting the attention of some of the local youngsters.
The first day of a new school year and may of the children appeared in national costume.
The view north.  The route always takes you around the rocky headland and after about 6 miles various options open up. 
It is hard to describe the architecture as exceptional but there is always something exciting about wandering around Ilulissat.  I suppose its because you are about to head out on a great trip or because you have just had a superb few weeks.
Above packing to leave in 2009 and below arriving back 19 days later.

 The harbour is very much a working harbour with many of the boats showing the signs of collisions with ice.
 Knud Rasmussen's birth place and now a museum.  Well worth a visit.
 This is some view from the kitchen window of a house.
 When we first visited in 1993 I don't remember seeing any kayaks.  How times have changed.
 You know that you are in the Arctice when you see signs like these.