Jersey Kayak Adventures

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Les Minquiers, Les Écréhous & Sark Kayak Tour Dates

June 29th, 2018

Dates of all our 2018 offshore kayak tours are now online. Travel across by charter boat to explore these fantastic offshore islands by kayak.

Les Écréhous; Sundays, July 29, August 5, 26.

Les Minquiers; Sunday, August 12.

Sark; Saturday, August 18.

 

 

Sea Kayaking in Fog. Be Prepared

May 12th, 2015
Derek hairon. Les Ecrehous sea kayaking P1110887

Derek at les Ecrehous, Jersey

Yesterday was a great day to get out sea kayaking in Jersey. A 5 nautical mile offshore trip to les Écréhous off the north east coast of Jersey in our fast sea kayaks looked a good idea. We set out from Archirondel off the east coast with a calm sea, good visibility with barely any wind.

“I can see some grey shadows over there” said Mick. The “shadows” turned out to be a small pod of Dolphin feeding about 1 mile south east of les Écréhous.

It felt cooler once we’d stopped paddling so the extra bits of clothing and paddle jackets we’d packed proved to be a good idea. I later learned that two kayakers dressed in light clothing had been rescued off the south east coast of Jersey after one had fallen in and could not get back into the kayak. On May 11th the sea temperature was 11.5 degrees. Without extra clothing you soon lose your ability to perform a rescue so dress -or be prepared- for immersion.

sea kayaks at les ecrehous, jersey. Rockpool Taran

Mick at les Ecrehous, jersey

An evening snack while sitting on a bench looking back towards Jersey was a chance to enjoy the peacefulness of this wonderful place. We were the only people on the les Écréhous apart from a couple of yachts on the moorings.

As we sat on the bench Mick spotted another shadow. This time it seemed to be forming along the north coast of Jersey. Just a bit of haze we thought at first but as we watched it gradually crept eastwards.

After 20 minuted paddling the “shadow” had changed into a fog bank and visibility was less than 100m. At times Mick was starting to look a bit hazy so it must have been even less visibility. The last time I’ paddled in these conditions I was on a 5 hour crossing when the had been due to lift but instead remained around us for almost the entire trip. We could hear aircraft on their approach into Jersey airport repeatedly trying to land.

Sea kayaking in the fog back to Jersey

Sea kayaking in the fog back to Jersey

For the next hour we cruised across a mirror like sea on a compass bearing of 240 degrees which we’d calculated would allow for the south east running stream. Sounds of vehicles and aircraft drifted through the fog but they seemed to come from all directions. If you stopped for a moment our kayaks ended up pointing in all directions. Without a compass and a bearing to steer we’d have been in trouble.

We had a GPS was on board. However, we had a compass bearing, and knew our speed was about the same as usual. Some kayakers find there speed drops when they enter fog or head offshore so this is something which might alter the route plan and timings. In our case paddling in fog just added a nice dimension in what was still excellent sea conditions. There seemed little need to use the GPS until we were around or just past our estimated time of arrival. Jersey is also quite a large island to miss -though I know a few who have ended up well off course due to the tide streams and by not trusting a small bit of magnetised metal.

Fog lifting over Jersey at sunset

Fog lifting over Jersey at sunset

Finally the fog lifted 1 hour 20mins after it enveloped us. Directly ahead of us was our target, St Catherine’s breakwater.

Elsewhere around Jersey the fog was very thick while in other areas visibility was very good.

A superb trip which shows how important it is to carry a few basic bits of kit especially when heading away from shore. In these conditions even crossing a bay would have been a challenge without a compass. A compass was an essential item along with a spot of trip planing with a chart. A GPS was just an extra aid but with lots of previous paddling practice at night and in poor visibility it was just an extra safety device.

We had a VHF but were in the strange VHF marine radio “blackspot” that seems to be around St Catherine’s bay and missed a call from the Coastguard which we only learned about when we called in by mobile phone after landing. A good reason to carry a couple methods of communication.

A great trip so long as you have a compass and the right gear.

We run a range of intromediate and advanced sea kayak courses in Jersey

Derek Hairon

Sea kayaking in Jersey. Reconciling Conservation and Recreation – Video

April 4th, 2013

I’ve uploaded this informative video because it gives some very useful information about observing wildlife from a sea kayak around the coast.

The video is about the marine sea kayaking code in Wales. This gives lots of useful advice when observing wildlife from a sea kayak. There are also a few safety tips as well as guidance and dates when sea birds and marine mammals are breeding.

For those of us who sea kayak in Jersey there may be some variations in the breeding dates. However, it is surprising just how many of the species mentioned in the video can be seen in Jersey waters.

Though some species are less common in the Channel Islands most of the advice is very useful when paddling around the coast of Jersey, the Channel Islands and UK.

The Jersey Marine and Coastal Wildlife Watching Code and other Jersey wild life guidelines is on our Sea Kayaking in Jersey – A guide to good environmental Practice page.

Produced by: Pembrokeshire outdoor charter.

Sea kayaking at les Ecrehous,Jersey.A short video

September 5th, 2012

Kayaking the small tide race at les Ecrehous on a 10.96m tide.

There is a lot of water flowing around les Ecrehous. This short video is from one of our guided sea kayak tours. A few more videos can be seen here.

This is just one example of the sort of tides you can find. Think of it as a river (which changes direction twice a day) and the flow of water makes sense.

Les Ecrehous is a remarkable offshore reef 6 miles north east of Jersey with old small fishermen’s huts.

Kayaking to les Ecrehous

La Marmotiere les Ecrehous.View towards le Blianque Ile on a dropping tide

Le Blianque Ile and la Taille shingle bank on a dropping tide

It is possible to kayak to les Ecrehous from Jersey but the trip is for the very experienced sea kayaker as you will be more than 3 miles from land with tide streams of up to 5 knots in places.

I often get asked by paddlers wanting to undertake the trip and remind them that this is a classic BCU 5 star sea assessment trip so it is not for the novice.

Get the crossing wrong and you can easily miss the islands. I’ve ended up off the Grande Rousse and have also been swept well past Gorey when paddling on big tides, or when we have turned to soon towards the islands.

I know of one trip which completely missed the islands so the 6 mile paddle became a 12 mile trip back to Jersey in the dark.

Les Ecrehous at low tide

Les Ecrehous at low tide

For the less experienced paddler we organize escorted and guided trips to les Ecrehous by charter boat. This is a great way to explore the reefs and see perhaps Seal and even Dolphin in Jersey.

Guided walks are also possible as there is a lot of history on the reefs. For example the main historical book on les Ecrehous is over 200 pages long (les Ecrehous, by Warwick Rodwell).

Derek Hairon on Google+

Trips to Les Ecrehous

April 9th, 2012

I came across this delightful home movie of a families trip to Les Ecrehous in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. The film reminds me of my first sea kayak trips to Les Ecrehous. After many kayak trips and guided tours to Les Ecrehous these tiny islets still have a special magic.

Almost all the huts remain as seen in the film. A few have been destroyed by storms and rebuilt. Some now include modern windows and solar panels. Many features remain unchanged, apart from a new coat of paint.

The sea still pours between the rocks at high tide as seen in the movie. If you know what you are doing this can be an exciting swimming spot. Just ensure you have plenty of safety cover in place.

I’m quite impressed with the number of Lobsters being caught near to the islet.

The hermit of Les Ecrehous- Alphonse Le Gastelois

First crossing to les Ecrehous. Photo. K Mansell

My first kayak trip to les Ecrehous in August 1974

The man collecting lobsters is Alphonse Le Gastelois, the hermit of Les Ecrehous. He fled to Les Écréhou, where he lived for 14 years; Alphonse was something of an eccentric and a loner on Jersey and he was therefore a prime target for suspicion when a series of sex crimes occurred. To prove his innocence Alphonse moved to the reef where he remained until 1975.

I recall visiting Les Ecrehous by sea kayak one weekday when no other people were about in the 1970’s. Alphonse reminded me of Robinson Crusoe with a long beard, duffel coat and a huge telescope. He was happy to talk about how the States of Jersey had no right to govern Les Ecrehous. Only the Queen had this right and Alphonse believed he should act as the Queen’s representative.

Les Ecrehous huts

Les Ecrehous huts are now more brghtly painted than in the film

A large bundle of letters and documents sat in his hut as evidence of his dispute with the States of Jersey to be the Queen’s representative. He wanted to show me the documents and letters but regrettably I did not have time as the tide was turning. It made me wonder whether he visited Jersey to research and follow up his claim to be her majesty’s representative.

In 1971 the perpetrator of the crimes was caught, but by then Alphonse had made Les Écréhou his home and refused to return to Jersey. ‘This is my home now! … Jersey crucified me’ reported Time magazine in 1971.

During the latter years of his residence his relationship with some hut owners became more tense as he increasingly regarded the reef to be under his guardianship. He only returned to live in Jersey in 1975 after he was arrested and charged with arson for burning down two huts. Alphonse was subsequently acquitted but never returned to his remote and wild home.

Csutoms hut les Ecrehous

Impots or customs hut is on the left.The inside views of the hut in the film is on the right

Today we organise guided walking and kayak tours to Les Ecrehous. Travel across by charter boat to to Les Ecrehous and explore the reef with trained guides.

More about Les Ecrehous

There are many variants in the spelling of Les Ecrehous, Écréhou, Ecréhos, Ecréos. One explanation is that the name is derived from the two Scandinavian words sker-holm, meaning rocky islets, hou is a contraction for the Old Norse word “holm” meaning an islet. However, Dr Richard Coates postulates that the preponderance of the use of “..re..” in medieval records suggests that Ecrehous actually means “island distinguished by adjacent skerries”.

The excellent (but out of print) ‘Les Écréhous Jersey’, by Warwick Rodwell is a remarkable source of information about the tiny islands lying 6 miles north east of Jersey.

Learn more about our guided charter boat tours to les Ecrehous.

We travel across by charter boat and there are options to either kayak or walk the reef with our trained guides.

Derek Hairon

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