Jersey Kayak Adventures

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Jersey Sea Kayaking Guide

January 20th, 2014

Jersey Sea Kayaking. A guide to the top places to sea Kayak in Jersey

jersey caves

Devils hole caves

Arrive on Jersey and things look British. The cars drive on the left, the people speak English and all the usual high street retailers are in the capital of St Helier. It all looks rather familiar.

Gradually you begin to notice that things are not quite what they seem. The currency is sterling, but there is a watermark of a cow instead of the Queen on Jersey bank notes. Car number plates carry long numbers and drivers seem to spend most of their time stopping to let people out of minor roads or playing “No, no, after you” at mini roundabouts called filter in turn. The more you look, the more you realise that you are no longer in England.

When you get lost travelling around the island (and “when” is the correct word to use), the labyrinth of lanes is confusing. Stop a local for directions and road names become a verbal challenge, as you try to pronounce the Jersey French place names. I’ll leave you to decide how to pronounce Le Ouaisné or St Ouen. Place names also vary between maps.

Independence and war

sea kayaking beneath Mont Orgueil Castle

Mont Orgueil Castle

Jersey is largely independent from the UK and sets its own taxes. Laws are based on Norman customary law, so do not assume the same laws of the UK – or “mainland” as the locals like to refer to the UK – apply. An example is that local kayakers are legally required to have their contact phone number written on their sea kayak, though visiting paddlers are exempt. This is probably good practice in case you underestimate the speed the tide rises around Jersey and return from a stop at one of the many excellent beach cafés to find your kayak has drifted away.

Though Jersey is geographically much closer to France than the UK, the island is loyal to the British crown. This dates back to Norman times when the Channel Islands became part of the English realm in 1066.

In 1204 King John lost Normandy to the French kingdom. Jersey and Guernsey though remained with the English crown. To all extents the islands were Norman and with Normandy visible on the horizon, it would have been easy to switch sides and join France. The geographical position of Jersey made it a strategic asset whenever England was at war with France. To keep Jersey on the English side King John poured huge amounts of money into Jersey for its defence and granted the island more independence. In return the island became the front line for English forces and a haven for privateers. At every bay and headland you will see 18th and 19th century British fortifications.

sea kayaking the north west coast of Jersey

Exploring the North west coast. Range control tower at Gros Nez

In 1940 the Channel Islands were occupied by the Nazis and Jersey quickly became an almost impregnable fortress. All the Channel Islands were more heavily fortified than any other coastal region in Europe and this level of fortification far outweighs the strategic importance of the islands to the Nazis. Around 10% of the entire Atlantic wall defences were constructed in the Channel Islands.

By 1944 an incredible 244,000 cubic metres had been excavated compared to 255,000 cubic metres for the entire Atlantic wall in Europe. The Führer greatly prized the islands in part because he had captured the oldest possessions of the English Crown. Hitler even ordered that all plans for the islands must be sent to him personally for approval. By 1943, 42,800 Germans were based in the Channel Islands – equivalent to two thirds of the civilian population.

Sea kayaking in Jersey

Jersey’s rich maritime history today manifests itself in the vast number of boats moored in the small harbours. For the Jersey-man owning a boat is almost a constitutional right, and as you drive around the island, it seems that if you don’t have a surf board, SUP or kayak on your car or in your garden you’re probably a visitor.

Jersey tides

sea kayaking into caves at Bouley bay

Jersey has a large tidal range so there is always plenty to explore.

Jersey has big tides of up to 12.5m. Get your timings wrong and the tide streams will easily send you backwards. On spring tides a rise of up to 3” per minute is common.

That’s not to say that Jersey is only suitable for experienced kayakers. Much depends on selecting the best location based on the wind and tide streams – which is a good reason for the less experienced paddler to get afloat with a local kayak company.

There are plenty of bays and coastline to explore and discover on an island of 45 square miles. If conditions are unsuitable on one coast, it is usually possible to paddle on the opposite side of the island, which is usually only a short drive away. And the big tidal range means, you can paddle a coastline which appears completely different within a few hours . This means the return trips are never boring, and if you time the tide streams right you will get assistance both ways.

Along with a good chart the States of Jersey 1:25,000 map and a copy of the Admiralty tidal stream atlas NP264 are essential items.

Apres paddling

There is a huge choice of accommodation on the island ranging from camp sites to 5 star hotels and lots of other activities and sights to visit when not kayaking. Wild camping and sleeping in camper vans at local bays is discouraged, so you may wish to opt for a hotel, B&B or camp site.

The southeast coast of Jersey

Seymour tower. kayaking the gullies

Sea kayaking on the seabed. Low tide in the south east coastal gullies of Jersey

The intertidal zone in the southeast coast is remarkable. Select the right tide and this is literally a paddle on the seabed with many different habitats. Since 2000 the area is an internationally designated Ramsar wetlands site.

During the third hours of a spring tide the rise and fall is around 3” per minute, so on the ebb tide you need to get your timings right, unless you like long portages up the gullies. Alternatively bring a set of kayak wheels with you.

Start at the old lifeboat station in St Helier Harbour. If it is a big low tide, expect to wade through ankle deep harbour mud.

To the north of the Dogs Nest (Le Nic ès Tchians) on a big low tide is the wreck of the SS Diamant (sunk 1942); this reef can be exposed to a south west swell.

Aim 0.5km south of Green Island (3km distant) for La Sambue channel. Initially this looks like a mass of rocks, but you soon notice routes appearing and your speed will increase as the flood tide rushes between the reefs. From now on you will be going with the flow as if on a travelator. This is when river techniques come in handy.

As you cross St Clement’s Bay slipping down gullies like a Mackerel going with the flow, observe the seabed and the jungle of seaweeds (most are edible). The deep water Laminaria releases an iodine like smell; there are records of Laminaria being used as a dressing for wounds during the Nazi occupation.

sea kayaks at Seymour tower

Seymour Tower. Built in 1782 to defend against attacks by the French

La Rocque Harbour was the site of the French invasion led by Baron De Rullecourt on 5th January 1781. The British garrison wrongly assumed the treacherous reefs of the Violet Bank would stop any landing. De Rullecourt, however, had local knowledge from a somewhat dodgy character named Pierre Journeaux.

At midnight 26 boats sailed up the main gully, the nine militiamen on guard had been celebrating Twelfth Night, so they were in no fit state to detect the 700 men. The French attack was finally defeated after a brief battle in St Helier.

A metal safety tower (0.75 km east of the harbour) is a good target, as the water will be flowing through dozens of small channels by now. Take care if you climb the tower as the tide rapidly covers the shingle spit.

A detour out to Seymour Tower (1782) is worth doing before the tide gets too high. You can stay over a tide on the parapet. Sleeping inside the tower, which is fitted out with bunk beds and cooking facilities, must be booked in advance with Jersey Heritage or Jersey Walk Adventures. The view is superb and you may see gannets fishing.

If you have time paddle out to Karamé and La Conchière beacons and the Violet Bank. There is a good chance of seeing seals here though you will now be 4 km offshore and tide streams run fast.

seymour tower and kayaks

1 mile offshore

From Seymour and La Rocque it is a straight run across La Baie du Vieux Château to the busy harbour village of Gorey with plenty of places to eat and enjoy a pint.

Oysters galore

Until 8000 years ago it was possible to cross to France on foot. As the sea rose shallow lagoons formed off the east coast of Jersey, which were perfect for oysters. In the 19th century oyster fishing developed into a huge industry. This led to the construction of most of the small Harbours around Jersey at an average cost of between £2500-£3000 per Harbour.

The high levels of extraction were unsustainable and the oyster stocks had collapsed by 1872.

Gorey to Bonne Nuit Bay

white water sea kayaking in tide races off jersey

Tide race at La Tour de rozel

From Gorey a north going stream runs between Le Nez du Château rocks beneath Mont Orgueil castle. Few people get the chance to see the castle from this angle, so it is worth looking up, while you try a few ferry glides.

Instead of paddling directly to St Catherine’s breakwater follow the coastline, which is best paddled around high tide. Archirondel Bay marks the start of the Rozel Conglomerate, a product of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.

The slip at St Catherine is a handy take out and is next to the Jersey Canoe Club boathouse. It’s worth contacting the club in advance for advice and the opportunity to paddle with club members.

Unless you are in a rush, explore the usually deserted bays of Fliquet, La Coupe and Scez as you head to Rozel. The small harbour has long been the departure point for fishermen (and smugglers). Onwards to Bouley Bay the inshore route has many tiny coves to explore. There are also plenty of rock gardens of varying technical levels.

La Tour de Rozel (or White Rock) is a well known tide race and play spot, which works best on the rising tide (east going stream). If the overfalls are big at La Tour they will be even bigger off La Belle Hougue point.

Beneath La Tête des Hougues is the wreck of the SS Ribbledale which ran aground during a storm in 1926 and is visible at low tide. All that remains is the engine and boiler after the ship was broken up for scrap metal.

Le Petit Port or Égypte is a tiny cove with an ancient guardhouse that is maintained by the Jersey Canoe Club as a bothy style accommodation (for hire).

Survival at sea

sea kayak among rock gardens in Jersey

Rock gardens

On 9th October 1964 Jersey was battered by westerly 94 knot winds. During the storm the yacht Mariecelia was found abandoned off Noirmont Point on the south coast. There was no sign of the five people on board and a search ensued.

On the 10th came news that 14 year old Alison Mitchel had survived. Having abandoned the ship one by one her companions drowned. After being swept around Jersey for 18 hours she struggled ashore at Égypte, her body so swollen by the seawater, she could only see by forcing her eyes open with her fingers.

La Belle Hougue and unexploded bombs

Between La Colonbine and La Belle Hougue the coast shows off some fascinating geology and a narrow gully in Les Ruaux can often be paddled.

La Belle Hougue Caves lie in the gully below the viewing point and can be explored on foot in very calm conditions. Take care as you scramble over the rocks as I once found a large unexploded German shell here. Paddling against the stream around Belle Hougue on a big tide is difficult unless you are prepared to handrail the coast and use every tiny promontory as a breakout.

Bonne Nuit

rock hopping in sea kayaks

West of Bonne Nuit is “The Toilet” where you can get flushed through!

At the entrance of Bonne Nuit Bay Le Chaval Guillaume rocks once formed part of the St John’s day celebrations (24th June). Back in 1792 Phillipe Dumaresq wrote: “For years an old custom has drawn … people to enjoy the insipid amusement of being rowed in a boat around a rock. That done, there is nothing to do but to drink gin and cider.” Dumaresq decided to liven this event up with a two day fair. This became so popular it was closed down by the authorities for being “contrary to good morals”.

Bonne Nuit is the finishing point for the annual Sark to Jersey rowing race. The single seat rowing boats make the 28 km (15 nm) crossing in around 2 hours. Currently sea kayaks are not permitted to enter the race.

Greve de Lecq caves

sea kayaking in caves at Greve de lecq in Jersey

One of the many caves near Greve de lecq

The harbour is a good example of how things were not always built to last in the past. Constructed in 1872 it collapsed within 13 years. Above the bay though is a late Iron Age promontory fort. The headland is a popular spot for Jersey’s national sport of “cliff jumping” as well as coasteering.

Rounding Rouge Nez are some of the best sea caves in Jersey. Entry to each cave varies depending on the height of tide. Half tide gives some of the best opportunities to explore the caves, some of which are up to 100m deep. Check there is no swell running and keep an eye for sudden changes in swell height unless you fancy some advanced rescue practice.

Look out for lengths of rope and even ladders leading down to rocky ledges along the coast. They are used to access good fishing spots – fishing in Jersey can be an extreme sport.

caves near greve de lecq

One of the huge sea caves in Jersey

Beyond L’ île Agois, a small islet with narrow gullies and a sea arch, the cave entrance at La Touraille (Devil’s Hole) is tricky to find. It lies just below the line of the small valley and before the path swings west. Though facing north east there is often a swell inside this cave, which opens into a large amphitheatre complete with tourists looking down on any kayakers. The name Devil’s Hole is reputed to come from when a ship’s figurehead was washed into the cave in 1851. A statue of a devil was adapted from the figurehead by Captain Jean Giffard “Stonemason, self-taught stone-carver, Prison guardian, Master Mariner and reputed smuggler” and erected above the Devil’s Hole as an attraction. The statue was regularly ‘borrowed’ as a prank in the 19th and early 20th century and would reappear outside the local newspaper office in St Helier.

In calm conditions you can approach a small waterfall at the end of La Vallee de Mourriers. Continue round Sorel Point towards Le Cormoran Rock. Nearby is Wolf’s Caves. The unsafe cliff path descent is now closed, but you can land at low tide on the boulders and enter a tiny entrance on the right at base of the cliff. Around half tide it is possible to paddle into the cave system via an entrance between Cotil Point and the boulder beach. 100m further east are some excellent rock gardens known by local paddlers as “The Toilet” because you get flushed through them.

Gros Nez

Head west beneath the cliffs from Greve de Lecq to La Tête de Plémont. Check it is not the Puffin breeding season as a voluntary 100m exclusion zone exists. From a few hundred birds in the 1920’s Puffin numbers have plummeted. It is suspected that this is a result of rats, wild cats and perhaps the arrival of Fulmars, who have colonised traditional Puffin nesting spots.

Le Creux Gabourel is one of the few caves to have a sandy beach. Above the entrance of the cave, wedged into the roof are rounded boulders from when sea levels were 8m higher.

exploring caves by sea kayak in jersey

Le Creux Gabourel

The small cove of Le Petit Plémont (with evidence of boat moorings on the rocks) is a good spot to assess the tide race and swell off La Tête de Plémont. There can be a huge difference in the swell size once you round this headland.

Plémont Bay or La Grève au Lanchon (lanchon the Jersey French name for sand eel) has some caves and a very good café. The beach is completely covered above half tide.

This section of cliffs beneath Gros Nez castle is rarely paddled by local sea kayakers because it is quite exposed and it is rare not to have some swell about. As you approach the sea stack known as La Vie, there is a sea cave with two entrances which can sometimes be paddled. 300m west of Plémont beach (and above sea level) is La Cotte à la Chèvre, where some of the earliest Palaeolithic remains of habitation in Jersey were discovered.

At the base of the cliffs below the Nazi range control tower lie the remains of some heavy artillery guns which are visible at low tide. At the end of the occupation the guns were dumped over the cliff. Some have been recovered and can be seen at Noirmont Battery.

Le Pinacle Rock is an important archaeological site with Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman remains. For more than 4500 years this imposing rock which resembles a huge Menhir (standing stone) captured the imagination of the inhabitants of Jersey as a very special place. A narrow cave runs beneath the headland.

Kayak surfing

La Baie de St Ouën is an excellent surfing beach and it is not until you are near La Pulente that you may find a relatively sheltered landing. In large surf it is a good idea to head inside the reefs towards La Rocco tower and land at La Pulente.

If you are planning on surf kayaking, you are required to have third party insurance such as is provided through BCU membership.

La Pulente and La Corbière

La Corbière and sea kayak in rough water

La Corbière

This area has many reef breaks, so you’ll need to keep a close watch on the wave patterns and keep a good distance apart. Victor Hugo (who lived in Jersey 1852–1855) described this area as the ‘herdsman of the waves’. I’ve seen sea kayaks go airborne here, as paddlers frantically dash beyond the swells, and this is also where tow ins (surfers are towed in to catch huge swells by jet ski) may take place …

Landing at the La Corbière lighthouse is tricky, as a tide stream runs over the causeway on both the flood and ebb tides. The causeway is a great spot for ferry glides and overfalls occur off the western end of the lighthouse.

There are numerous shipwrecks in this area, the most recent was the St Malo high speed ferry in 1995 with 307 passengers. The captain was attempting a tricky inshore passage as a short cut. Fortunately all were rescued.

St Brelade heading west

sea kayaks at Beau Port

Beau Port

There is a sea stack at Les Jeteuses below Beau Port battery. The gun battery is one of 13 that defended St Brelade bay from French attack. Le Beau Port is a jewel. On a sunny day the bay takes on a Mediterranean feel and often has a few luxury yachts at anchor. The red granite cliffs along this part of the coast have a wonderful warm feeling.

The cliffs continue from Beau Port to La Corbière with many small caves and sea arches that are easily missed, if you stay further offshore. There are a couple of peregrine falcon nests at La Grosse Tête and Trespass point (La Tête) and lots of bird life around Les Leaux de Ficquet.

A little offshore, Les Caînes reef was the site of the grounding of the SS Roebuck in 1911, when travelling in thick fog at 17 knots the steamer ran onto the reef. A subsequent inquiry suspended the somewhat accident prone Capt Le Feuvre’s master’s ticket for only three months even though it was the second time he’d hit rocks off Jersey. In 1897 he’d lost his ticket for six months after the Ibex, which was racing a rival vessel, hit rocks off La Corbière.

sea kayaks near Portelet

Cave with a view

Near Point La Moye is a large cave. On the cliff top is a huge hole which some locals recall once worked like a whale spout in storms. You can paddle into this cave, but look out for the swell from passing boats. Inside, you can see the remains of a few old cars that used to be pushed into the hole until the 1960’s. From Point La Moye to La Rosière there are numerous channels and stacks. The granite wall at the base of the cliffs in La Rosière was constructed in Victorian times as a tourist path into the caves.

The large tidal range makes the return trip very different and worthwhile.

The you-can-do-it-here island

With such a huge range of sea kayaking opportunities on Jersey this brief guide has not even covered the offshore routes to Les Écréhous, Les Minquers, Sark and beyond.

Apart from excellent kayaking the small island also offers an astonishing variety of things to do and visit – be it walking, coasteering or explore neolithic dolmen, a mediaeval castle and romantic harbours with inviting restaurants, not to forget friendly shopping precincts.

Landing at les Ecrehous

Landing at les Ecrehous

Add that there are regular high speed ferry links and flights from most regional airports, and you may well be out sea kayaking the Jersey coastline quicker than if you were driving to some “Mainland” paddling destinations.

Derek Hairon

This article was originally published in Ocean Paddler. View as a pdf.

Sea kayaking goes green in Jersey

May 24th, 2012
Eco friendly sea kayaking article

Going green touches the bottom line

We just had an article about our environmental activities published in Business Brief, Jersey this month.

I was asked to write the article to highlight how even small business can respond to Green initiatives. It was also to highlight how things are changing and the way environmental considerations can impact on business.

We are already members of EcoActive Jersey and achieved Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS) GOLD grade.

Read the article “Going Green touches the bottom line”.

Derek Hairon

 

 

Sea kayaking at the Jersey Boat Show

May 8th, 2012

Well we survived the coldest 5th May on record at the Jersey Boat Show to promote sea kayaking in Jersey.

Jersey kayak adventures stand at boat show

A cold and windy Saturday at the boat show

Fortunately the weather improved over the next two days as it was very quiet on Saturday.

The show was good opportunity to showcase our sea kayak tours and courses in Jersey. We met quite a few people who do not realise there are many great water-sports and adventure activities on offer in Jersey.

We were in the Outdoor and active zone. This felt a bit separate to the main show as you had to brave the food section and then wander past the RNLI station to get to us. I suspect a few potential visitors got stuck at the Hog roast,Thai meals and other food stalls while trying to find the adventure activities zone.

30000 visitors to the show?

According to the organizers the foot fall was 30000 people over the weekend- about the same as last year.  Frankly I am dubious that this number visited the show.

Saturday was a washout so numbers needed to be pretty high on both Sunday and Monday to make up for Saturdays low turnout. Any increase in numbers on Sunday and Monday did not seem to be reflected in the area we were in. Unless there were counters installed in the Outdoor area or at the main entrances I am not sure where this figure comes from. It means that around 20% of the population of Jersey visited over the weekend. I’ve previously suggested to the organizers that counters are installed to measure footfall like they do in Kings Street to give more accurate figures around the show areas.

If there is another Show (I heard rumours this might be the last one from some exhibitors- which is a shame) then more accurate footfall data would help.

On a different note is this really a boat show when out of 74 stalls 20 are food and drink related? By my calculations a further 19 were not very marine orientated. That means roughly 39/74 or about half the exhibitors were not marine related. Why not link a boat show in 2013 with the fish festival?

All in all it was a useful weekend which gave us the chance to meet a few old clients and promote sea kayaking in Jersey.

Lots of thanks to all who came by to say hello and help on our stand.

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

My first offshore sea kayak trip a long time ago….

December 31st, 2011

My first 6 mile offshore sea kayak trip was in 1974 with Kevin Mansell to Les Ecrehous, a fantastic group of islets off the North west coast of Jersey.

I doubt we were the first to make this adventure crossing by kayak, but I’ve not seen any earlier reports (yet) so perhaps we were the first to deal wit the 5 knot cross tides on the crossing.

Sea kayaking 1974 style

We were well equipped with our BS3595 life jackets and Ottersport paddles (which weighed loads) and home built KW7 glass fibre kayaks.

My kayak clothing was state of the art. An old pair of trousers with a high wool content (not cotton), thin woolly jumpers x2 and a Peter Storm waterproof and a woollen hat On colder days I might wear a pair of long johns obtained from the local jumble sale. A lot of paddle clothing came form jumble sales as it was hard to get high wool content clothing which was warmer.

First crossing to les Ecrehous. Photo. K Mansell

My first trip to les Ecrehous in August 1974

When I look at this photo it makes me realise how things have changed.

I am sure that if someone did this trip with the same kit we were using back then there would be all sorts of negative comments-even from some sea kayakers. Instead, we got our photos in the local newspaper and compliments for being young people doing something challenging.

Over the next few Summers we certainly pushed our limits with 12 mile plus open crossings to les Minquiers and Chausey. All made with a home built

Angmagssalik kayak which tested my balance skills in a force 5.

There were a few close calls. We nearly missed les Minquiers in poor visibility -no GPS in those days. Just compass,chart and dead reckoning-. We only spotted the islet when we saw a Condor hydrofoil turn off the northern part of the reef. That’s about the only time I’ve been pleased to see a high speed craft nearby.

No mobile phone or water proof hand-held VHF or EPIRB, just an old PYE Bantam ‘brick’ sized VHF loaned by the harbour office. It needed to be kept dry and was stuffed in a hatch. The Harbour Master recognised we were going to do the trip so suggested we borrow a radio as a bit of safety backup.

Sea kayaking today

This year I met a couple Sit on top kayakers on les Ecrehous who’d paddled over. Their smiles said it all. Another time I got a call from Richard who’d solo paddled his Prowler 13 SOT across. He was a bit unsure just how high the 12m tide that day would reach to pitch his tent. On one of the biggest tides of the year that was some crossing.

The key thing was they all made sound decisions based on their knowledge and built up their experience around the coast of Jersey. I thought how some sea kayakers might be negative about their choice of kayak or deciding to make a solo trip. But what great achievements. The safety kit carried had moved on a long way since 1974.

Perhaps it’s not all about having the right gear, but also an awareness, knowledge and confidence to push your limits.

/h3

Sea kayaking in….Austria

December 10th, 2011

Sea kayaking in Jersey leaves us spoilt when deciding where to get adventure.

We grumble about 20 minute drives out west and driving through the tunnel….Yes, some west coasters never venture beyond the tunnel out east. I know by the number of times people can’t find La Rocque or Archirondel. But what about finding Belcroute for those from the east?

Sea kayak shop in Austria

Lots of nice bits of gear and a few manufacturers I'd not seen before

Spare a thought for sea kayakers who are not able to get afloat as easily as us in Jersey. I recall 6 hour drives out of London on a Friday night to sea kayak up north years ago.

Austrian sea kayaking

I recently visited Xsport Austria. Christian runs an Adventure sports company offering snowshoe tours, guided mountain walks and lots of great mountain biking.

He has a sea kayak shop with lots of lovely P&H composite sea kayaks,Palm gear, Werner paddles, plus a few makes of kit I was not familiar with.

Most of Christian’s sea kayak training is on huge lakes which remind me of Scottish lochs, but without any access to the sea.  You’d think the home page photos were taken in Norway. 

For his clients, sea kayaks are a way to decompress and enjoy superb scenery. The sea kayak is regarded as a fast and responsive craft in comparison to the shorter and slower river touring kayaks that are popular in Austria.

6 hour drives

Christian’s nearest salty water is a 6 hour drive to Croatia. This is where he leads sea kayak tours on a superb coast. This beats my long drives to North Wales many years ago. At least he can expect some warm water, though maybe not calm conditions. The photos of kayaks completely hidden by the swell looked impressive. Obviously it is not always flat calm conditions.

Think I’ll stick to those 20 minute drives to sea kayak on the west coast of Jersey or 5 minute put ins by my house.


Kayaking in tide races and overfalls

April 13th, 2011

Today I was doing some 1:1 kayak coaching in the tide race at Tour de Rozel (or white rock) on the north coast of Jersey. This is a cracking good spot as the water is fast but with some good breakouts to regroup and coach.

Tour de Rozel works best on about 1 hour after low tide on tides between 32ft-35ft. Above 35ft and the tide rises very too fast and you do not have much time to ‘play’.

Tide race kayaking tips

When to paddle in tide races

To often people try to develop skills in large tide races where paddling technique and skills soon turn into a battle for survival.

paddle to make every stroke count

Paddle with commitment. Make every stroke count

Start in small and slow moving tide races perhaps at the start of the flood or ebb so that you get time as it begins to build up. Neap tides may be a good starting point before heading out on the big spring tides when the water will be tanking through.

Make every paddle stroke count

If you are going to play in tide races it need not be a mass of whirling paddles and rapid movement. Try to slow down and make every paddle stroke count.

Relax in your sea kayak

You cannot respond to every movement of the kayak. Try to let the kayak move beneath you.

Be committed

If you do have to lock out or hold an edge then make it positive and committed. Rough water is not the time to be half hearted.

Connect with your kayak

Foot rests,thigh braces and seat contact needs to be positive and well defined.

Below the waste

Focus on what your body is doing below the waste. To often paddlers only think it is the upper body that is important. Good paddle technique runs form the tip of your toes to the end of your fingers.

Develop your kayak edging skills

Check out your inside and outside edging skills before you start messing about in moving water. Train in calm water inside and outside edges.

Be dynamic with your paddle strokes

sea kayaking in tide races

A lot of sea kayak control is achieved by the lower body

Use paddle strokes in the forward sector of the kayak rather than putting the paddle blade behind you.

A low brace may be comforting but it will slow down the kayak and you’ll find it harder to manoeuvre. This may result in you spending more time where you do not want to be.

Forward and dynamic strokes get you out of there.

Paddle faster or slower than the water

If you paddle a canoe this is a great way to work a rapid on the river. You can do the same with a sea kayak.

Whether you go faster or slower than the water you are in control. Stop paddling and you are now moving at the waters speed. The water is in control and will do what it wants with you.

The Falstaff principle

Doing Henry IV part one years ago I recall Falstaff saying “discretion is the better part of valour”. I often suggest this option in big water. If you want to get out of a spot then you’ll need to put power into your paddle stokes. Stop tickling the water and paddle in a focussed manner to get out of there.

Make every paddle stroke count

Imagine every time you put the paddle in the water it will cost you £100. Use your paddle skills wisely. Lean forward,edge, drive, power your kayak through the water.

Practice

Start on flat water checking your ability to edge. Hold a lean in a tilted turn. Practice inside and outside pivot turns before moving into tide races.

Try using a short kayak

A great way to tune up your reactions and confidence.

Change speed

Plan ahead

Plan ahead. Decide what you aim to do in a tide race

If you only have one “gear” when paddling it is going to be tricky to quickly change your paddle speed and style.

Tide races demand constant changes of paddle styles. This is a good reason to get used to paddling with high and low angle paddle styles.

Use your body

Lean forward to add extra power and accelerate. Lean back to slow down. Practice both while edging. Surf is a great place to develop these techniques. Just make sure you choose small surf.

Dress for immersion

Wearing the right kit will encourage you to try that bit more. I’ve started coaching students with our dry suits. A great way to remove worries about falling into April waters.

Decide what you are going to do

Set a goal or target every time you go into the tide race. That way you know what you want to do.

Whether it is to ferry glide across, run the race, or try and surf a standing wave, advance planning will make you consider the skills you may need to use.

Be prepared to change plan once in a tide race. That is part f the fun.

Safety

tide race kayaking in jersey with sit on top kayak

On the eddyline.Be dynamic and commited -or fall in-.

Make sure there is a good escape or empty out area near by. Ensure you are with others who can handle deep water rescues in possibly rough seas.

Wear a helmet

Rocks and other kayaks are a potential hazard.

Why bother?

One day you might find yourself having to go through a tide race so it is handy to know you can handle it.

Tide races are a good place to link skills together. Great for the confidence and guaranteed to erase any stresses from work

Sit-on-top sea kayaking

March 25th, 2011

Go Get Adventure recently asked me to write a short article for their what is sit-on-top sea kayaking section. Here’s the result.

Imagine slipping away from a busy beach and within a few hundred metres you are in another world. A place where the squawk of people is replaced by the sound of sea birds and seals are gently calling their young from within caves.

Sea kayaking enables you to discover and explore. You don’t need to sign up for a multi day expedition in a far off location to get a sense of adventure. Around the UK the ocean is a wilderness sitting on our doorstep.

Just how much “adventure” you want while sea kayaking is up to you. From a family outing exploring the coast to a more challenging tide race or offshore kayak journey, sea kayaking offers a range of adventure experiences.

Sea kayaking is a social activity. Even if you do not want to go exploring among rocks, you can share the experience as others slip down gullies and channels and be part of the adventure.

Sit-on-tops and sea kayaking

The arrival of the sit-on-top sea kayak transformed sea kayaking by offering rapid progression and the ability to get out exploring. Though not as fast or high performance as traditional closed cockpit sea kayaks the sit-on-top is an excellent craft to start sea kayaking- and it is user friendly.

The worry of dealing with a capsize is reduced with a sit-on-top kayak. Instead paddlers can focus on developing skills and exploring. Just try not to get over confident and steer clear of any outfitter or retailer that tells you that you can’t fall off a sit-on-top because it is so stable.

If you fancy a spot of kayak fishing the sit-on-top is the craft to choose for this popular activity.

Where to sea kayak

When it comes to deciding where to sea kayak, the UK is a great place to start. There are lots of sea kayaking spots around the coast. Scotland, Wales, the South West and Ireland have amazing scenery and top class centres. Sea kayaking is an activity, where the UK is a top destination.

Venture further south to the Channel Islands and the water gets warmer.

Sea kayaking in Jersey and Guernsey has plenty of options for courses and shorter trips. For the more adventurous there are offshore trips to Sark and Les Ecrehous plus boat supported kayak tours where you travel across by charter boat and then kayak.

The Channel Islands have an added advantage of a wide range of hotels, restaurants and other facilities, so there is more to do than just sea kayaking, when the paddle is over.

Training  and courses

If you are thinking of sea kayaking overseas, get some training in the UK. British sea kayak training is highly rated and you may find yourself paddling in more interesting places once they know you have some experience. A bit of knowledge will also help you spot the “cowboy” operators.

Centres offer sea kayak tours or half day and day long courses and trips. Select a quality outfitter because they’ll be used to working with a range of different abilities and interests. Good outfitters will operate with small groups and experienced staff, who know the best spots around the coast.

Paddle with companies that employ qualified staff. In the UK look for British Canoe Union (BCU), AALA and Adventuremark approval as indicators that providers have the correct safety and staffing in place.

There’s a wilderness on our doorstep waiting to be explored by sea kayak.

 

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