Saturday, January 31, 2015

Daily Picture - 31

The last day of the month and so far I have manged to get out somewhere every day and take a photograph.  Today's picture shows where we hope to be kayaking tomorrow.
I have looked at this area for a number of years and thought at the right state of tide it would be possible to paddle safely in strong winds as the reefs would protect you from the larger waves.  Tomorrow morning the forecast seems ideal NW force 6-7 possibly gusting to 50 mph and low water at 11.22.  The worst that can happen is that you will be blown onto the beach.  So hopefully tomorrow morning we will be able to paddle in the reefs off La Pulente at the southern end of St Ouen's Bay.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Daily Picture - 30

Inspired by thoughts of Morbihan and its rich archaeology I decided to visit the what is probably the oldest dolmen in the Channel Islands this afternoon, being approximately 6,500 years old.  Heading to La Sergente, on the headland above Petit Port it was a matter of dodging the showers which were being blown towards the island on the brisk northwesterly wind.  Sark, on the horizon appears to have missed one but it looks like Herm and Jethou were being hit.
The dolmen was excavated in 1923, prior to this time it was covered by a mound.  During the excavation the only finds were 4 pottery items, there were no human remains present.
Today it is located on the headland between Petit Port and St Ouen's Bay, a special place to visit, particularly at sunset.

Sea Kayak Morbihan 2015

After the pool session last night with the Jersey Canoe Club we headed to the pub as usual for a quick pint and the conversation very quickly turned towards our future trip to Morbihan, on the first weekend in May.  I didn't manage to get there last year but since my first visit in 1984 I have paddled in this sea kayaking mecca numerous times.
It is the combination of strong tidal streams, numerous islands and world class historical sites, which combine to make this area of southern Brittany such a  great kayaking destination.  Roll on May but a quick look at a few photographs whetted the appetite.
 The island of Gavrinis, with the passage tomb clearly visible.  It is believed that it was constructed about 5,500 years ago.  There are great views as you paddle past but to see the ornate carvings inside the tomb it is necessary to travel by boat from Larmor-Baden.
 Sea kayaks on the quayside at Auray.  A delightful paddle up the western side of the Gulf.
 Er Lannic towards low water.  Where else in the world is it possible to paddle through a stone circle.
 Ruth enjoying the sensation of being on the water in Morbihan
 Heading south out of the entrance to the Gulf.  It won't be long to the welcome cool first drink at the campsite bar.  Port Navalo is on the opposite side of the entrance
 The tides are always entertaining.  Nicky is playing on the west coast of Ile aux Moines
Larmor-Baden.  Preparations are well under way for the first Greenland rolling competition to be held in Brittany.  We had a superb couple of days judging a large number of Breton paddlers competing in a variety of challenges. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Daily Picture - 29

Another blustery, cold day with a strong northerly wind, it was gusting at nearly 50 knots when I took this photograph of La Rocco Tower, in St Ouens Bay.  It was built between 1796 and 1801and named Gordon's Tower after the Lieutenant Governor.
It looks particularly dramatic when up close.  It has been recently refurbished and will soon be able for rental from Jersey Heritage.  What a great place to stay!
If you were to head due west from here (straight out to sea) the next landfall is Newfoundland.

Daily Picture - 28

Beauport is one of the most stunning bays on the south coast of Jersey.  It is a popular paddle with the sit on top paddlers who leave from St Brelade's.  The flat area just above and behind the beach is a classic raised beach from when the sea level was about 8 metres above its present level.  Some of the ancient sea cliffs can be seen protruding through the trees on the opposite side of the bay.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Daily Picture - 27

This is the old lighthouse, which stood at the end of St Catherine's Breakwater, warning shipping of the hazard for over 100 years.  Today it stands, outside the Maritime Museum in St Helier, as a memorial to the Islanders who were deported from Jersey and died in concentration camps far from their Island home.
The wreaths were the result of a service earlier in day, as part of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Some more aerial photographs

It has been a while since I have posted some photographs taken out of aircraft windows so here are a few from the last few years.  Some great kayaking destinations seen from above.  With views like these it is hard to understand why anybody would book an aisle seat!
 Passing over Calshot when heading south towards Jersey.  The site of the BCU Sea Touring Committee Symposiums in the early 1990's.
 Greenland West Coast.  The island on the right is Uummannaq and the larger Salliaruseq to the left.  The cliffs and the larger islands are over 1,000 metres high.  This post documents the day we paddled between the two islands.  This was taken whilst flying from Heathrow to Seattle.
 Final approach into Stockholm.  It looked like a kayaking paradise.  Little did we realize the frustration which was to follow after we landed
 Take off from Jersey on a beautiful summers day.  The aircraft is banking north over St Ouen's Bay.
 Sunrise over the Thames estuary.  The south coast of Essex is clearly visible, just minutes after leaving Heathrow.
 A few hours later the Essex coast had been replaced by the Turkish coast to the west of Istanbul.
Approaching Heathrow.  The rectangular shaped water directly in front of the engine is the location of Tower Hamlets Canoe Club, an area we have visited regularly over the years as members of the Jersey Canoe Club paddle with kayakers from London.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Daily Picture - 26

Look east from the cliff path along Fiquet Bay early this afternoon.  The rock formation on the right is the Grosse Tete, where the swell was running yesterday as we paddled along this stretch of coast.
Beyond is Pt Le Fret, possibly the most dramatic headland on the south coast of the island but great paddling.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sea kayaking Sunday morning - St Brelade's

The last Sunday morning session with the Jersey Canoe Club saw much warmer weather than we have been experiencing over the last few days.  Launching from St Brelade's the plan was to head towards Corbiere but it was necessary to take into consideration that we still had an 11+ metre Spring Tide and there was a swell approaching from the North Atlantic.
It was a reasonable turn out for the time of the year, there were 17 of us heading along the south coast of the Island, experiencing some constantly changing conditions.  We turned back just before Corbiere, spending some time working on skills, something we probably don't do frequently enough.  The Peregrine, which flew over whilst we were looking at edging was a real bonus. 
A pint sitting outside, at the end of the session, was a treat for the end of January.
 Passing through the gap between St Brelade's Bay and Beauport.  In the summer months this is one of my favourite places to stop and swim.  There are some great jumps off the rocks, particularly towards high water.
 Just entering Beauport, one of the most beautiful bays on the Island.  In the summer months there would be numerous boats at anchor in the bay but we had the water to ourselves today.  
 Approaching the Grosse Tete, just to the west of Beauport.  This was the first time that we had really appreciated the swell
 The swell was certainly arriving in sets. Pete Hargreaves and Peter Wrigglesworth certainly gained some altitude as the passed through the gap.
 Trespass Point, the tide was certainly starting to flow west.  The cliffs behind are a lovely climbing location, short steep routes and sheltered from the prevailing winds.
 We pulled into the bay under the Highlands Hotel.  This is where the Jersey Sea kayak Symposium was based last May.
 Corbiere seemed isolated today.  We decided not to go all the way to the lighthouse.  The swell arriving in sets, the speed of the flow and 17 members in the group, seemed to have the potential to become just a bit too interesting.
 We, therefore, decided to turn and head east along the base of the granite cliffs.
 Some late morning sunshine catching the granite.
 St Brelade's lies ahead.  We had only been out for 2 hours but it had certainly been a morning of contrasting water conditions.

Daily Picture - 25

Mine and Nicky's kayaks ready to depart St Brelade's.  Lovely paddle to Corbiere although we turned back before the lighthouse because of the size of the swell and the speed of the tidal currents on the spring tide ebb.  17 paddlers from Jersey Canoe Club out on the water followed by out first apres paddle pint sitting outside at La Marquendarie Pub.  So much warmer than yesterday.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Daily Picture - 24

Another day of winter sunshine.  The network of Green Lanes on Jersey are ideal for cycling and allow some unusual views of a familiar landscape.  This is looking across St Ouen's Bay, early afternoon today.  St Ouen's Pond is visible, surrounded by its reed beds, they provide a home for the Marsh Harriers which could be seen flying around the area earlier.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Daily Picture - 23

Lovely afternoon walking out to Seymour Tower across a unique coastal environment with a group of year 11 students from Jersey College for Girls.  The tide retreats across a mixture of sand, shingle , mud and rocks, possibly unique in the world.
This is Jersey's wilderness, which needs to be protected from the inevitable pressures of development.
Seymour Tower was one of the coastal defences which was built as a result of the invasion of Jersey in 1781, which resulted in the Battle of Jersey.

Sea kayaking on the Laita

One of the advantages of sea kayaking in Brittany is that when the wind is blowing hard and paddling on the sea is something that is probably best left for another day, there is always the opportunity to discover some of the delightful estuaries which punctuate both the north and south coasts.
One of my favourites is the Laita, which lies just to the west of Lorient, close to the eastern border of the Finistere Department.  We have always aimed to complete a two way trip, paddling up the river to Quimperle on the rising tide, lunching in this delightful Breton town before catching the ebb tide back towards the coast of southern Brittany.
For much of the trip the road pulls back from the banks and there is a sense of isolation, which is increased passing through the reed beds where even access by foot is difficult if not impossible.
The total distance for the return trip is 16 nautical miles but it can feel much less due to appropriate planning, resulting in tidal assistance in both directions.  I have paddled most of the Breton estuaries, with it normally being seen as a bad weather alternative to kayaking on the open water.  The reality is that this is a delightful place to paddle in all weather conditions and the Laita is possibly my favourite estuary paddle in the region.
Nicky just upstream of Le Pouldu
Typical paddling conditions.  The valley had a remote feel with a wide variety of birds encountered.  We saw Kingfishers and Green Sandpipers on the banks with the inevitable buzzards circling overhead.
The railway bridge just to the south of Quimperle
Arriving in the centre of Quimperle, progress upstream is stopped by the weir.  Lunch was taken on a slipway in the centre of town.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Daily Picture - 22

At last a day of sunshine and virtually no wind.  A visit to Grosnez this morning was particularly pleasing.  Unlike other Jersey castles the one at Grosnez is almost impossible to sea from a kayak, perched on top of the cliffs of the north west corner of the Island.
Probably built in 1330 it is protected on 3 sides by steep granite cliffs and on the landward side by walls and a ditch.  It was probably demolished in the 1460's.  A lighthouse marks the point today but in the 19th Century there was a signal station here for communicating with Guernsey.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Daily Picture - 21

Over the last couple of months I have been running a Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning Course.  It is always important to bring in a practical element so this evening we were out on the sand dunes undertaking a map and compass exercise, it was a bit too windy to go out in the kayaks in the dark.
The concrete foundations behind are the remains of a First World War Prisoner of War Camp.  In March 1915 the first prisoners arrived, reaching a peak of about 1,500 but by February 1917 there were only 300 prisoners left, the others having been relocated to England.  It finally closed in October 1919.

Interesting tidal flows - Tidal Diamonds

In the early 2000's Chris Jones and myself ran the Sea Paddler website.  At the time it was very popular although nowhere as technically advanced as present sites.  We updated it regularly over the years, at least weekly, so there were literally hundreds of articles and thousands of pictures.  I may post some of the more relevant ones over the coming months.

Tidal diamonds are invaluable sources of information in relation to the speed and direction of tidal streams.  Whilst away on a paddling trip recently I came across, what must be an almost unique diamond?  It is diamond C on Admiralty Chart 808, East Guernsey, Herm and Sark.

49°27.5 N
2°31.4 W
Rate (kn)
  Sp           Np




5.1            2.2
4.1            1.8
2.7            1.2
1.2            0.5
1.2            0.5
3.9            1.7

5.2                  2.2

 4.9            2.1
 3.3            1.4
 1.5            0.5
 1.3            0.5
 4.0            1.7
 5.2            2.2

The first observation is that the streams only flow in two directions, exactly opposite each other.  The tide is flowing approximately SSW and then it changes abruptly and goes NNE.  An exact 180° change.
Something else to note is that maximum rate occurs at high and low water, with slack, if it can be called that, occurring at mid tide.  Many a sea paddler or other water user has been caught unawares because they assume that maximum rate must occur at mid tide and have set out on what they thought was high water slack.
The advice is to always double check your data and to keep your eyes open for interesting and possibly unique items of information as shown by this tidal diamond.
The location of the diamond is in line with the two towers on the photograph and to the right of Brehon Tower, which is in the middle of the channel between Guernsey and Herm, the Little Russel.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Daily Picture - 20

Looking out past La Cotte Island towards Pt La Moye.  It was a pretty cold day but a quick scramble over the rocks from Pt Le Fret to Ouaisne provided some shelter from the southerly wind.  This is really close to La Cotte de St Brelade, which is one of the most important Neanderthal sites in north west Europe.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Daily Picture - 19

Sorel Lighthouse was built in 1938 and it currently has an alternating red and white flash every 7.5 seconds, warning mariners of the hazards of the north coast of Jersey and the offshore islets such as the Paternosters.
The headland is the most northerly point of the Island and on clear days, such as this afternoon there are great views of the Normandy coast as well as the other islands, including Alderney today.
For those interested in such things the exact location is 49° 15' 36.3" N  2° 9' 32.8" W


Leaving St Malo on the ferry last night we went past the island of Cezembre, somewhere we have visited quite a few times over the years.  It is a delightful one day paddle, particularly during the summer months.  Although it has been nearly 24 years since I first paddled there, it was a surprise to find that I hadn't written anything about it.
The island is in the Department of Ille-et-Vilaine to the north of St Malo, the south coast of the island consists of a lovely sandy beach whilst the rest of coastline is steep cliffs.  There is a small restaurant at the back of the beach but I wouldn't rely on it being able to offer refreshments.  I would go prepared to be self sufficient and if you are able to buy something that would be a bonus.
During the Second World War the islands defences were strengthened by the Germans as part of the Atlantic Wall fortifications.  
Following the invasion of Normandy  the Americans advanced to St Malo, which was taken by the Allies on the 18th August 1944 but the German forces on Cezembre didn't surrender until the 2nd September.  Whilst trying to recapture the island an early form of napalm was dropped on the island.
On our first few visits to the Cezembre we were able to wander around but on the last visit, large areas of the island were fenced off partly because of the large number of unexploded shells.  I am not sure what the current situation is but even if you can't walk around the island it is still an entertaining day trip if you are in the area. 
 Approaching Cezembre in June 1991.  It was the final day of a great weeks paddling along the north coast of Brittany.  At this point we had no idea what surprises waited ashore.
 When we walked onto the island we could not believe the scene of utter devastation which greeted us.  There were numerous shell holes and the German guns had been destroyed.  It was impossible to imagine what it must have been like on the island in August 1944, when it was being shelled from the shore.
A surprising find on the entrance to one of the bunkers.
Leaving St Malo for another day trip to Cezembre in May 2013
Looking out from the walls in St Malo.  Cezembre is the outer island.  Care does need to be crossing to the island because the fast ferries from Jersey normally pass in between the islands.  It is really useful to know your buoyage when you see a hi speed craft approach.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Daily Picture - 18

St Malo is a port that we have must passed through literally hundreds of times when heading to and from Jersey.  Today we didn't have time to explore the Intra Muros, delightful bars and a variety of restaurants lie within the city walls but that must wait for the next visit, we could just view it from the deck of the ferry.  It has been a day of cold north easterly winds and rain showers but we have good memories of paddling out of this harbour in northern Brittany on far more pleasant days.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Daily Picture - 17

Great afternoon today stand up paddle boarding in Tregastel, Brittany, followed by a walk along the coast.  Looking out to Sept Iles, some great sea kayaking days over the years.