Saturday, February 28, 2015

Daily Picture - 58

Headed to La Pulente to watch the Wales - France match and on the way home came across a few of these little creatures as I came around the headland at Petit Port.  Normally I only see them in the autumn so it was a treat to see a few on the eve of the start of the meteorological spring.
Looking forward to kayaking tomorrow but the forecast looks more like winter than spring.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Daily Picture - 57

It was fairly rare day with some bright sunshine and relatively light winds although there was a significant westerly swell.  A lovely day for walking along the south west cliffs with views across to Corbiere.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Daily Picture - 56

Had a very pleasant evening working on an Open Water Navigation course.  Classroom based today but it won't be long before we are able to put into practice on the water what has been learned today.  Navigation is one of those things which always fascinates me, with a set of tide tables it is possible to look into the future and plan accordingly.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Daily Picture - 55

These are probably the newest railway lines in Jersey, having appeared in the last few months.  Running down the hillside near the Desalination Plant at La Rosiere, close to Corbiere.  When it was commissioned in 1970 it was the first desalination plant in Britain, located in an old quarry which provided some high quality pink granite for part of the Thames Embankment in London.  A great section of coast to paddle along, but not today with strong winds and a heavy swell crashing against the cliffs.

Daily Picture - 54

Looking north along St Ouen's just before another shower hits.  Looking at the Aviation Weather section of the Jersey Met site they were forecasting that the larger cumulo-nimbus clouds would reach up to 25,000 feet.  No wonder that the showers were pretty lively during the day!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Paddling to Jerusalem

A mid-life crisis can be handled in different ways, some people change their careers, others take a lover whilst David Aaronovitch decided to paddle around Britain.  Not an easy objective for somebody whose previous paddling experience was limited to a none to positive introduction to the sport on the Bedfordshire Ouse over Easter 1966.        
The decision to paddle around England came to him whilst paddling a large green plastic canoe across a lake at Center Parc’s.  Possibly not the most stimulating environment but one which proved inspiring.  The description of David Aaronovitch is not one which inspires confidence as an able outdoors person.  His observations on the cliental of gyms are particularly wry.  If his description of the kayaking tuition he received is accurate then the future of the sport is not on very secure ground.
Against almost universal advice he decided to embark upon the journey and a route through the heart of England evolved.  He chose the Pyranha Orca sea kayak as his craft and the route linked the canals and major river systems of England.  The Thames, Trent and Severn plus the Grand Union, Leeds – Liverpool and Shropshire Union Canals provided the liquid highways.
To most paddlers this would appear to be a particularly drab choice of route if compared to more dramatic popular sea kayaking regions.  Numerous writers, from Defoe onwards, have for hundreds of year described the journeys they have undertaken though the heart of England.  Some have proved to be accurate observers of the state of the country and Aaronovitch is one of these.
Heading through some of the major cities of industrial England, by kayak, is not everybody’s idea of a classic paddle.  What it does allow though is a different perspective on life in Britain at the end of the 20th century.  He is looking at England through the backdoor, roads and footpaths tend to show the front of buildings, canals the rear.
His “camp” on the first night of the journey was the Hotel Ibis near Heathrow Airport, not on the main sea kayaking route, not a particularly auspicious start.  Another bleak moment was his arrival in Burnley, not many hotels in the world would have the temerity to place the following sign above a bed; “We respectfully request that you do not iron anything on the carpet, as it will melt.”
In contrast to these somewhat depressing descriptions there are numerous positive encounters.  Unfortunately his wrists didn’t last the pace and he was forced to abandon his paddle close to Gloucester and he had to finish his journey to the Millennium Dome at Greenwich on foot, following the tow path of the Thames as opposed to benefiting from the rivers free ride as it heads towards the sea.
Overall this is an optimistic book and it offers hope for all of us who will never see the younger side of 40 again.  In contrast to so many sea kayaking books which are written by paddlers hoping to be writers, this is a book which is written by a writer who is becoming a paddler. It is well written, informative and amusing.  He didn’t really get to paddle on the sea but the use of sea kayaks doesn’t have to be restricted to the salt water environment.  There are many miles of inland waters which are suitable for sea kayaks and this book will help open your eyes to some of the possibilities which exist.  A delightful book, well worth searching out.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Daily Picture - 53

Final approach into Jersey on a really murky afternoon. Elizabeth Castle is on the left of St Aubin's Bay and St Aubin's Fort on the right.
Apologies for another photograph out of the aircraft window but there have been very opportunities for photograph today. The pouring rain on the A38 between Plymouth and Exeter wasn't that photogenic so it's back to the opportunities on the flight.  Low cloud meant that the view disappeared really quickly and we didn't actually clear the cloud all the way back to Jersey.

Daily Picture - 52

Great view of Lihou Island, just off the west coast of Guernsey as we flew north towards Exeter this morning.  Scene of many great sea kayaking days and looking forward to another weekend paddling there with the Jersey Canoe Club in June.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Daily Picture - 51

Final approach through the low cloud into Jersey earlier on today.  Very large spring tide so plenty of beach exposed at St Ouen's.  Good views of St Ouen's Pond to the north.

Daily Picture - 50

Fascinating day yesterday at the Tower of London in the afternoon followed by the a really special opportunity to watch the Ceremony of Keys.  Every night for nearly 700 years the Yeoman Warders have performed the gate closing ceremony, it has never been cancelled and has only been delayed once and that was during the Second World War because of bombing.
Finishing with the last post on the bugle the ceremony is timed to the minute.  A superb aspect of British history, followed by views of a floodlit Tower Bridge, which I had last seen whilst kayaking underneath.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Winter's Paddle

I am an avid reader and collector of books related to sea kayaking and canoeing having read literally hundreds over the years.  When I have finished a book I can normally imagine myself taking part in a similar trip and start to mull over the logistics regardless whether it is a canoe trip in northern Canada or a kayaking trip in Europe.
There are very few books which when I put them down I think to myself this isn't for me, this person is clearly operating on a different level to myself and to most other paddlers.  Paul Caffyn's "The Dreamtime Voyage" is one such title and it is joined by "A Winter's Paddle".  Tara is clearly a highly motivated, technically competent paddler with a flowing descriptive writing style.  I read significant portions of the book each time I picked it up, eager to know what was going to happen next.
The winter circumnavigation of South Island New Zealand is a huge achievement but to complete some of the more committing sections solo takes the paddle onto a completely different level.
I did wander at times why they exposed themselves to such a significant challenge, the surf landings and the long periods of being storm bound all added up to create a trip that wasn't for me but  incredible respect  to Tara for seeing it through.
If you are a sea kayaker you will enjoy this book, partly because you will have some insight into the technical challenges it presented but also because of the way it describes the routine of life whilst on a long sea kayaking trip.  I don't think it will be encouraging many people though, to pack their bags and follow in their wake.
The book is available from Tara Mulvany and is well worth getting hold of.

Daily Pictute - 49

There are certain things which can set the pulse racing of any self respecting geographer.  One of them is a fine example of a meander.  This was one I spotted earlier today in the Severn Valley just upstream of Ironbridge.  I just had to pull the car over to take a quick photograph whilst en route to one of the birth places of the industrial revolution, Ironbridge.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Daily Picture - 48

A really entertaining day on the Glyder's in North Wales.  We went up from the Pen Y Gwryd, which was a first.  Didn't see another person until we reached the main ridge.  Glyder Fawr first and then headed along to Glyder Fach, the far summit.  A lot of the snow had been blown off the summit ridge leaving behind large areas of ice, so crampons were the order of the day, up high.

Daily Picture - 47

The amazing thing today was that there were 2 cars in the car park at Capel Curig and both contained members of the Jersey Canoe Club.  It was quite a surprise to see Andre whilst we were lacing up our boots.
We headed out from Capel Curig to the east and ended up having a superb mountain day.  Large areas of terrain with barely discernible footpaths, craggy summits requiring short scrambling sections as we selected our own route, frequent blasts of icy precipitation, 3 summits over 2000 feet and not another person in sight.
On a half term day in February we found complete solitude, close to the Ogwen Valley, with views which offered a totally different perspective of Tryfan.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Daily Picture - 46

An absolutely stunning day in Snowdonia.  Nicky on the final slopes of Moel Hebog, with the village of Beddgelert below.  We had great views across to Snowdon, with its summit slopes covered in snow, as well as many of the other major mountains of North Wales.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Daily Picture 45

Airborne from Jersey earlier today.  The westerly swell, which had been absent earlier in the week, was breaking on the offshore reefs and around Corbiere.  Lovely flight, why would anybody ask for an aisle seat?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sea Kayaking Emergency bag

Virtually every time we go on the water we should carry some basic items of safety equipment.  Unfortunately I am basically a disorganised person and finding small items of equipment from the chaos of the kayaking shed was virtually an insurmountable problem.  So the solution was to put together a small bag with all the essential items of kit.  It took about 3 months to source all of the things that I needed and it is true to stay that it still isn’t complete.  I still search diligently in yacht chandlers and outdoor shops for that elusive item of equipment, which may provide the final piece of the jigsaw.

The following items of equipment are contained within my waterproof bag:

Signal Mirror:  A small item, which could prove to be useful if you have an accident on a sunny day.  I found mine in a small French yacht chandlers.  It only cost 3.00 €, so it is worth the small financial outlay.
Spare Hatches: 
I carry the Reed hatch covers and have used them twice so they weren’t a waste of money.
Bungee Cords: 
Just one set and you never know when they will be needed.  Ideally for keeping some of the items in the bag wrapped up.
Multi-purpose Tool: 
There is the Leatherman and then there are cheaper ones.  For this emergency bag I have selected a cheaper one, as there is every chance that it will damaged by the seawater.
Woollen Hat: 
I might swap this for a sun hat during the warmer summer months.
Plastic Sheet: 
Cut from a sparkling water bottle.  The thin plastic is ideal for helping to repair a relatively large hole in the kayak.
Repair Tape: 
Spinnaker tape, electrician’s tape and duck tape.  A selection, which should be able to sort out most needs.
Epoxy Resin: 
I use a French variety, partly for the challenge of translation, and partly because it is effective.  It will set under water and will repair most materials.
I have the loudest one that I could find.  The literature makes numerous extravagant claims about decibels etc, all I know is that if I blow it my ears hurt!
More like a blowtorch than a lighter.  An effective heat source and according to the publicity material it can’t be blown out by the wind.  Useful for a number of reasons.  Just in case the gas runs out I also have a box of waterproof matches.  (I also remove this from the bag before I fly anywhere)
Fire Lighters: 
Just a couple in case it is necessary to light a fire.
A small poncho, which is ideal if people are cold at lunchtime.
Exposure Bag: 
I don’t have the traditional orange exposure bag but one, which is made of the same material as the well-known space blanket.  The advantage is that it packs up very small.
Spare Food: 
Just a small amount.  I don’t plan on getting stranded for several days in the heart of what is in effect an urban area.  I normally take food, which I am not that keen on so I am not tempted to eat it. 

Money:  Just a small amount, stored in the inevitable film container that is if you can still find one.  Useful for telephones, cafes etc.
Spare Batteries: 
These are for both the GPS and the VHF radio.  A selection of cheaper batteries is better than the more expensive variety; they only have to last a couple of hours.
  Ideal for drawing attention to yourself at night.
Wet Wipes:
  Ideal for all sorts of uses.
First Aid Kit: 
Just a few small items.  Triangular bandage, skin closures, assorted plasters, wound dressing and safety pins.

When I open up the waterproof waist pack it always amazes me that all of the above fits inside such a relatively small container.  What it has enabled me to do is to always carry a basic level of safety equipment.  It can be customized to meet individual needs and because I am always on the look out for another useful item it remains a work in progress.

Daily Picture - 44

A rather different image today.  Another day of strong winds and at times heavy rain so on the way home I popped into St Matthew's Church at Millbrook.  It had been some time since I visited this place of worship and had forgotten just how impressive it is.  What is amazing is the glass work by the French artist Rene Lalique.  Florence Boot (Lady Trent) commissioned Lalique to refurbish the Church as a tribute to her husband Jesse Boot.
The work was completed by September 1934, by which time Lalique was 74 years old.  The Church is not only a memorial to Jesse Boot but also to the work of Lalique.  Sadly the other church with Lalique worked on was in Normandy and it suffered substantial damage in the Second World War.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Daily Picture - 43

Winter sunset at Corbiere this evening.  The hands are a memorial to the French catamaran "Saint-Malo which struck a rock to the north of Corbiere on Easter Monday, April 17th 1995.  All 307 passengers and crew were saved.  I remember standing on the cliffs that morning and watching them tow the stricken ship round in St Aubins.  Somewhere I still have the slides of that memorable day.
On evenings like this it must be the most photographed location on the Island.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sark Silver Mines and sea kayaking

Sark, the smallest state in the Commonwealth and one of the last societies, which retained some aspects of feudalism, is a stunning destination for the sea kayaker.  There are numerous sites of historical interest with the south west coast of Little Sark showing evidence of 19th century ill-fated silver mines.  Cornish miners came to the island, virtually doubling Sark’s population, in this area.  Four deep shafts were sunk at Port Gorey and one extended 100 metres out under the sea.  It was said in violent storms the miners could hear boulders on the seabed rolling about above their heads.
There are a number of myths surrounding the mines including the story that a ship with £12,000 worth of sliver ore was wrecked off the north east coast of Guernsey.  There is no evidence of this actually occurring.  What is clear though that by the time the mines closed in 1847, having only opened in 1833, numerous people including the Seigneur of Sark had lost considerable sums of money.
The evidence of the industrial past is clearly visible as you paddle along the south west coast of the island and on days with little or no swell Port Gorey is a great place to stop for a swim as well experiencing the industrial archaeology of a short lived mining enterprise.
Chris paddling south close to the mines.
Looking west from near the silver mines.  Guernsey is the island in the distance.
The first ruins that you come across when visiting the silver mines on foot.
The water off Sark always appears to have superb clarity.
Port Gorey on a particularly calm August morning.
The silver mines viewed from offshore
A late afternoon paddle around the Island with members of Tower Hamlets Canoe Club, including passing the area of the silver mines.  No time to stop and explore though that afternoon.

The entrance to the Port Gorey smelter
Looking up the inside of the smelter.

Daily Picture - 42

I took a walk in Coronation Park, Millbrook, on the way home tonight.  It is delightful oasis which was a gift to the people of Jersey from Lady Trent, who was the wife of Jessie Boot of Boots the Chemist fame.  She offered it to the island in 1937.
I had forgotten just what a pleasant area it is sandwiched between the Inner Road and Victoria Avenue.  With a buzzard circling overhead it was easy to imagine that I was in the countryside, as opposed to being next to the busiest road in Jersey.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Daily Picture - 41

For the first time this year I have not managed to get outside.  I am not very good at having a cold but have been able to complete some of the planning for our trip to Greenland this coming summer.  Looking forward to spending another 3 weeks sea kayaking in one of the most spectacular environments on earth.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Daily Picture - 40

I have cycled past this old tug most days this year but she looked particularly good this morning, not quite afloat on the high water.  This area of St Helier harbour is known as the English Harbour, during the Second World War the Germans built a railway bridge across the entrance to this section of the harbour.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Adventuring Through France

Its not often that I come across a canoeing or kayaking book that I haven't already got so it was with some excitement that I found this little treasure in Canterbury, just before Christmas.  What attracted my attention was the author, Gabriel Seal, I had read one of his other books "Canoe Touring Abroad". 
A quick perusal of the sleeve notes showed that it was about canoeing in France, so that was good enough for me to make a purchase, so in the bag it went.  It wasn't until the other night that I had time to sit down and start to read the little volume.
What the book described was not just France of 50 years ago, but what is possibly a nations perception of what teenage boys should be doing in their spare time.  This is rip roaring yarn of two 15 year old boys convincing their woodwork teacher to help them build a two man canoe and their parents allowing them to head off to France in search of adventure.  No sitting at home staring at computer screens for them or heading off on a family trip for the sanitised adventure of a theme park.
This is a description of the school Easter holidays spent hitching a lift on a barge, being able to paddle through Paris, some underage drinking, breaking into an ancient chateau, discovering prehistoric cave paintings, hunting rabbits etc
It is a description of an earlier age, whether it is a true description on not is virtually irrelevant.  It is a work of fiction, although the description of the paddling is fairly accurate as the author had canoed extensively in France.  It was written for a teenage audience in the early 1960's, when expectations were different.  It was still the Watch with Mother generation as opposed to the Sesame Street one.  Things took longer to develop, instant gratification wasn't necessarily the order of the day.
I cannot think of any teenagers I know today who would enjoy this book even though it was written for their age range.   What I do know is, that as a young person from the 60's and an active paddler today, I thoroughly enjoyed the couple of hours I spent reading the book.  So if you come across a copy and are a male over 50 who goes kayaking then don't hesitate, buy it, everybody else would probably better off saving their hard earned cash.

Daily Picture - 39

Paddling around Pt Le Fret this morning.  No swell and the shelter provided by the cliffs, from the north easterly wind meant that we were able paddle through the reefs in a pretty relaxed manner.
Sunday morning is the regular time for the Jersey Canoe Club to be out on the water, normally just a couple of hours but always enjoyable.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Lighthouses of Brittany Part 2.

There are endless opportunities for viewing Breton lighthouses from your sea kayak, here are a few more.  They are mainly from the north coast of Brittany.  I might be biased but I think the lighthouses on the north coast generally look more dramatic than those to the south. 
Situated in the Baie de Morlaix, Ile Noire lighthouse was built in 1845, with the keepers house added in 1879.  Paddling in this area is always enjoyable with numerous islands to explore.
La Croix.  Built in 1867 it is situated just to the south west of Ile de Brehat.  In common with some many lighthouses in this area the Germans blew the top of the light as they retreated.  It is always a welcome sight when paddling around Brehat.
Cap Frehel is the largest headland on the north Brittany coast and on clear nights I can see this light from near my house on Jersey.  It is open to visitors a certain times of the year.  The headland is spectacular when viewed from below in a sea kayak or whilst walking along the cliffs.
Sept Iles lighthouse is situated on Ile aux Moines,  part of a delightful archipelago to the north of Tregastel.  This was one of the last lighthouses in France to be manned by keepers.
The Port Navalo light marks to entrance to the Gulf du Morbihan.  This is one of the finest sea kayaking areas anywhere, a mixture of fast tidal streams and world class historic sites.  The lighthouse was built in 1892.

Daily Picture - 38

Pretty much spent all day inside as it was a British Canoeing coaching update, some pretty useful stuff covered.  Came home to start to sort some kit out for future trips and got my sleeping bag out.  Not a very inspiring photograph I know but I bought this Mountain Equipment Snowline sleeping bag in the spring of 1976.  That summer I was off climbing in the Lyngen Alps, in Arctic Norway, for two months and needed something to keep me warm.
I think at the time it cost the equivalent of 5 weeks of my student grant money.  Since then I reckon that I have spent nearly six weeks a year in the bag. It has been to Greenland 5 times, Alaska, another month in Arctic Norway and countless trips elsewhere.
I cannot think of any other item of equipment which I regularly use, which comes anywhere near the age of this sleeping bag.  Good kit isn't cheap but after 39 years of regular use I have certainly had value for money.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Lighthouses of Brittany

There is something special about the lighthouses of Brittany, particularly when viewed from a sea kayak.  This is a selection of some that I have seen over the years.  Not all of the best quality as some were scanned from slides.  That said Breton lighthouses are amongst the most unique maritime buildings encountered anywhere.
Le Heaux de Brehat.  To the west of Ile de Brehat on the north coast of Brittany it was built in 1840, although the top was blown off by the Germans in August 1944.  Located on an offshore reef the sea kayak is an ideal way to access this light.
Ile Louet is situated in the Baie e Morlaix, near Roscoff on the north coast of Brittany.
25 nautical miles west of Corbiere is the Roches Douvres.  The light was finished being rebuilt in 1954 after it had been destroyed by the Germans 10 years before.  We raised the Jersey flag but the following morning it was a serious crossing of 25 miles in dense fog.  I have to admit that we felt pretty isolated the night we spent on the reef.
L'Ost Pic is located just to the south of Paimpol.  Built in the 1890's I have to admit that the last time I landed there I ended up swimming.
Phare du Paon is situated on the north coast of Ile de Brehat, this is ome of the finest sea kayaking you could find anywhere.  It was originally built in 1860 but like some many lighthouses along this coast it was blown up by the Germans in1944.  It was rebuilt in 1949.
Another lighthouse blown up by the Germans, this light marks the approaches to St Malo.  It was rebuilt in 1949.

Daily Picture - 37

Lovely morning at the Queens Silver Jubilee Activity Base at Crabbe.  Cycling down into Greve de Lecq had this great view of Le Catel de Lecq, an Iron Age hill fort looking out over the north coast.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Daily Picture - 36

These are the remains of quarry workings near the cliffs off the south west of the Island.  Rock from the quarry at La Rosiere was used in the construction of the Victoria Embankment in London in the 1860's.  This is what is left of the stone crusher shed where rocks were crushed, sifted and loaded onto railway trucks.  This was the original terminus of the railway from St Helier, trains reached here in 1884, with the line not being extended to Corbiere until 1899.
Very little is visible from the sea as the photograph in this posting shows.

Sabena - a Belgian airline and kayaking

I came across this advert for SABENA, the Begian airline that went bankrupt in 2001.  It was in an old copy of a National Geographic magazine, dating from the 1960's I think.
The paddles are particularly impressive, as is the attention to safety, not a buoyancy aid in sight.