Friday, November 28, 2014

40th Anniversary Dinner - Jersey Canoe Club

The 40th Anniversary Dinner, commemorating the foundation of the Jersey Canoe Club is almost upon us.  Tomorrow evening well over 100 past and present members are celebrating the variety of paddling which has been undertaken by its members over the last 40 years.  It promises to be a really good evening.
 Paddling down the Allagash in northern Maine.  In the early to mid 1990's quite a few families were involved in open canoe trips either in the UK or further afield.
 Leaving the beach near Carteret, Normandy on the 15th July 1989.  The exact date is know because the previous day we had run the gauntlet of French maritime law and paddled to France to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.  It was a pretty memorable night.
 Derek Hairon, who now runs Jersey Kayak Adventures paddling a canoe on the Roches de Diable in southern Brittany in April 1983.  At that time it was pretty unusual to see open canoes being used on white water in Europe
 Paddling often involved messing around in small kayaks and when plastic kayaks such as the Mirage came into general use there were endless possibilities for fun.
 John Bulmer quickly demonstrating his ability to empty a kayak on his Senior Instructor assessment in the early 1980's.
Our first trip to Greenland.  1993 heading around the outside of the ice coming out of the ice fjord at Ilulissat.  We had just paddled over 300 nm from Sisimiut.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A November Ecrehous Visit

The Met Office had been forecasting light winds for several days but as Wednesday morning approached the amount of cloud cover and precipitation forecast increased although the winds remained almost non existant.
JR and myself met at St Catherines just after 07.00, this morning for a prompt 07.30 departure.  It was a predicted height of 35 feet so there was going to be a lot of water moving around and the tidal window for the crossing was pretty limited.
The one thing that we had on our side was that we were both paddling pretty fast kayaks, JR was in his Taran and I was in the Tiderace Pace 17.  It was the first time that I had paddled this kayak I was surprised by just how fast it was.  We cruised at 5 knots and on the way out with some tidal assistance we hardly dropped below 7 knots for the first 30 minutes.  It certainly won't be the last time that I put this kayak on the water.
 A day of limited colours.  JR on the way to the Ecrehous.
 At high water there are restricted landing opportunities.  We were the only people on the reef and whilst paddling there and back nobody else contacted the Coastguard on Channel 82.  If I hadn't called in I wonder if they would have spoken to anybody else on their shift.
 There is almost a rule that you have take a picture from by the bench looking north.  See this post to see what it looks like on a sunny day.
 Jersey is out there somewhere.  This photograph was taken from the same place as the top one in this post.
 The tide was pouring north on the eastern side of the reef.
 As the tide drops the tombolo uncovers, whilst standing here a Red Throated Diver flew over our heads which was rather a surprise.
 Last time I was here 6 weeks ago I fell asleep here in the autumn sunshine, not today.
 The bay on the western side of the tombolo looking towards Marmotier.
Almost back to St Catherine's and the island was shrouded in low cloud.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A good day for Brent Geese

Although Sunday morning is a regular time for kayaking the forecast for this Sunday was less than favourable.  Force 6 from the north accompanied by continuous rain was enough to put an end to any thoughts about paddling.
A meal out on Saturday evening resulted in the opportunity to help out with a co-ordinated count of the Brent Geese in Jersey.  These are always interesting had have been taking place for so long that it has been possible to build a reasonably accurate picture  of the status of the birds.
In just two locations yesterday there were 1340 birds present, which is really healthy total, it will be interesting to see the total figures when they are available.
For the latest news check out the Jersey Birds website.

18th December 2005    1280 ( this was the highest monthly count since 1989)
19th February 2006      1131
21st November 2007    1528
13th January 2008        1267
19th December 2009    1243
16th January 2010        1566
20th February 2011      1547
Can't find the data for 2012, if I can put my hands on it later I will update the blog
12th December 2013    1375

 St Aubin's Fort, Belcroute and the fields just inland drew a blank.  Not a goose in sight.
 Looking back towards La Haule, it was clear that there was a pretty good turn out.
 Not the best picture but the weather was awful and I was using my phone.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bouley Bay 3 Star

Bouley Bay was once considered for a major harbour development due to the deep, sheltered water but the lack of suitable land for buildings prevented the project progressing and so the only sheltered anchorage is behind the small pier which was built in 1828 to meet the needs of the oyster fishermen.  The bay was always seen as vulnerable to attack, in fact in 1549 French invaders were repulsed at Jardin d'Olivet, therefore the bay is defended by a couple of Forts.
With a south easterly wind forecast it was selected as the venue for a 3 Star as provided both sheltered conditions as well as some more challenging water if necessary.
Bouley Bay on a warm summers day is one of the most appealing places to launch a sea kayak, sadly yesterday wasn't a warm summers day so conditions were essentially less pleasant.
Heading out of Bouley Bay yesterday.  The white mark of the pier head is just visible through the November murk. 
 Landing just to the east of Tour de Rozel.  Time to check personal equipment and to cover the theory side of 3 Star.  For the first time in months there was a real chill in the air.
 When we launched the tidal stream had changed direction so as expected, the sea state increased quite dramatically, due to wind against tide, this was only for 100 metres or so but it created some entertaining conditions.  Johan powered through the waves with remarkable ease, the Taran really is a quick kayak.
Sean enjoyed the surfing in the tidal run, but sadly it was all too soon to head to more sheltered waters to continue with the assessment.  A good day on the water.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

London Sea Kayaking Day 2

After a welcome evening in Richmond and energy levels replenished thanks to Pizza Express we launched early on the Sunday morning.  Almost immediately we felt the impact of the flow of water, average speeds registered on the GPS was between 1.5 and knots quicker than the previous day.  This was more like it.  Familiar features passed quickly by and the consistent drone of aircraft departing Heathrow was soon a distant sound.
A quick stop at Vauxhall for our annual visit to a Portuguese restaurant for some of the best egg custards to be found anywhere and we were soon passing through the heart of London, one iconic landmark quickly following another.  All too soon it was time to cross the river and land back at Shadwell Basin, with a celebratory pint at the Prospect of Whitby before heading out to the airport.  A great way to spend a weekend.
The view from the balcony of Richmond Canoe Club, kayaks are being prepared for the return paddle to Shadwell Basin.  Already there was more current flowing than we had experienced all of the day before on the journey upstream.
I am not sure that I have ever seen a kayaking Club in the UK with such comprehensive facilities.  I am certain that if I was living in west London I would be looking to join Richmond Canoe Club.
 Paddling through London there are some superb bridges.  Tower Bridge is clearly the most iconic but Albert Bridge and Hammersmith Bridge (above) have a certain style.
 The Harrods Furniture Depository close to the river has some of the characteristics of the more well known building in Knightsbridge.
Just downstream of Vauxhall Bridge there is a slipway in the shadow of the MI6 building.  It is well worth stopping here because just across the road there is a Portuguese restaurant which serves the best egg custards anywhere.  They didn't blink when we walked in and ordered 21 egg custards to take away.
Approaching the London Eye.  This is probably the busiest section of the river and it is important to have pretty tight group control and an understanding of the actions of the commercial traffic to avoid conflict with other water users.
 St Paul's always looks great from the river.
 Approaching HMS Belfast.  It is surprising how quickly you approach stationary objects, including ships, in the the river.  Thinking ahead is an important part of safe paddling on the Thames.
 The huge crowds around the Tower of London were partly the result of the poppies to commemorate the First World War.  In previous years paddling past the Tower there were nowhere near as many people.
 Journey's end, back of the Prospect of Whitby.  32 nautical miles paddled in 2 days, through the capital city.  A must do sea kayaking trip.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sea kayaking in London

Over the last few years it has become a bit of a tradition that in the autumn members of the Jersey Canoe Club spend a weekend in the capital city paddling in the company of the members of Tower Hamlets Canoe Club.  Normally we do a full day trip on the Saturday upstream to just beyond Westminster whilst on the Sunday its a slightly shorter paddle downstream to Greenwich or slightly beyond.
Last year as we sat in the Prospect of Whitby celebrating another successful weekend we decided to do something slightly different and a year on the plan cam to fruition.  So late Saturday morning a flotilla of 21 paddlers set off from Shadwell Basin Outdoor Centre in search of excitement and a good night out in Richmond.
The 16 nautical miles of paddling took us through the heart of one of the world's great cities, allowing  unusual perspectives of familiar landmarks but sadly not with the assistance of several knots of tidal flow.  For some reason there seemed to be almost no movement upstream so the 16 miles took over 5 hours including a short stop just upstream of Putney.
It had been arranged to us to stop at Richmond Canoe Club, which we managed to discover in the dark before we headed out to Pizza Express, a great way to finish the day.
 Just outside the Prospect of Whitby near Shadwell Basin.  A historic riverside pub which surprisingly has been the location where a number of future kayaking adventures by the Jersey Canoe Club have been planned.
Preparing to launch from Shadwell Basin.  Sarah discussing with her cousin Toby whether she had made a mistake in agreeing to go kayaking with her dad for the weekend.
Approaching Tower Bridge, it doesn't matter how many times I paddle along this stretch of water it is always exciting.
 The section of river between Tower and Westminster Bridges is always the busiest with river traffic.  Once past the Houses of Parliament it is easier to relax when on the water.
 Battersea Power Station.  It was a relief that there was no wind on the river because we weren't receiving any assistance at all from the tidal flow.  It just didn't appear on Saturday for some reason.
A stretch of legs and a quick snack at Putney.  It also gave us time to fix the white lights onto the kayaks because daylight was fading fast and we still had a couple of hours of paddling left.
 Lovely paddling conditions on the Thames.  We reached Richmond Canoe Club just over 5 hours and 16 miles paddling after we had left Shadwell Basin having passed through the heart of one of the worlds great cities and the great thing is that we had to do it all again tomorrow, in the opposite direction.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Some more memories of Jersey sea kayaking

Another couple of hours scanning some old slides has revived some great memories of sea kayaking in Jersey.  It is clear that over the years the Jersey Canoe Club has been involved in a variety of entertaining events both in local waters and further afield.
The start of the 1979 Canoe Club race from Gorey to St Helier.  It is clear that it was important to have an orange Nordkapp HM and wear a Ricard sun hat.
John Hurley at the 1982 white water championships.  Close to St Helier the white water was revealed when the tide dropped.  The water was from the power station and so it was really warm.  An ideal place to paddle on a cold winters day.  Sadly it has disappeared under the reclamation site,
In the 1980's Jersey competed in the Home International Surfing competitions.  1986 we entered a team in the slalom event for the first time.  This was training at St Ouen's in almost perfect conditions.  Sadly the week of the event was accompanied by no surf and pretty strong easterly winds.
In the early 1990's the BCU introduced the idea of a National Canoeing Day.  In September 1992 we managed to get 120 people to turn up to St Catherine's to form a raft.
The 1990's also saw the development of Sea Kayak Symposiums.  This is 1996 and Gordon Brown is demonstrating a number of Greenland rolls and skills.  We were fortunate to have John Heath at the event who gave a running commentary to Gordon's performance. 
Some people expressed an interest in folding kayaks.  This is a naked Feathercraft Khatsilano.
We also developed a tidal slalom course in front of the Club House at St Catherine's.  I think this is Scottish paddler Donald Thomson taking part in the closing event of the 1996 Symposium.  All competitors had to use a VCP Skerray.
The 1998 Symposium.  This is a bird watching paddle, I ended up paddling Bill Oddie around in double Spud whilst he pointed at feathered things of interest.  There must have been at least 50 people in the group, which created quite a spectacle.
An innovation at the 1998 Symposium was the making of kayaks over the weeken with people able to assist.  Howard Jeffs produced a fibre glass BAT and Duncan Winning built the "Jersey Junior" being paddled here by my daughter Lisa.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Another Bonne Nuit Sunday ( Remembrance Sunday)

It seems as if we have launched from Bonne Nuit fairly regularly over the last couple on months, which is not a problem as it is always enjoyable.  On reflection we have headed west every time, again not an issue as there is plenty of entertaining paddling along that stretch of coast.  Today though as is the tradition on Remembrance Day we headed east to land in front of the Jersey Canoe Club cottage at Egypt.
Although we were there to observe two minutes silence we still experienced a surprisingly varied paddle and only covered a total distance of 4 nautical miles.
 Bonne Nuit harbour was the departure point.  The pier was built in 1872 and today provides shelter to a number of local craft.  It is the finishing point for the annual Sark to Jersey Rowing race.
 From further away the harbour its location under the highest land on the Island is apparent.
Nicky passing just to east of La Crete Fort it was built in 1834 for the magnificent sum of £971.  Today it is available for rent from Jersey Heritage.  It sleeps 4 adults and a child under 11, when it was built it provided accommodation for 1 officer and 30 other ranks.
Belle Hougue is one of my favourite headlands and the waves which form seem just right for sea kayak surfing.  Today we had missed the best of the spring tide but still spent an enjoyable 20 minutes playing in the tidal race.
We landed on the small pebble beach in front of Egypt.  There is an interesting history in this area, which has been described elsewhere but today we were coming to pay our respects on Remembrance Sunday.
The 17 members of Jersey Canoe Club paid their respects in front of the monument which, commemorates Operation Hardtack, an allied landing into occupied Jersey at Christmas in 1943.
This nearby bench is inscribed "In appreciation of past and present members of the Special Boat Service"
 We did take time to explore the cottage at Egypt, which is looked after by the Canoe Club and is available to hire by its members.  It is just a great place to wake up and have breakfast, sitting in the warm summer sunshine.
On the way back to Bonne Nuit we did practice rescues in what was left of the moving water off Belle Hougue.  No photographic evidence though as I was busy swimming.  The water was surprisingly warm, despite it being the second week of November.