Jersey Kayak Adventures

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Les Minquiers video. Sea kayaking in Jersey,Channel islands

October 7th, 2012

For the adventurous and experienced sea kayaker living in Jersey, or paddlers planing a kayaking trip in the Channel islands, Les Minquiers are a superb destination.

This video shows Les Minquiers from a sea kayaker’s perspective as we explore the rocks, gullies and sand bars which are revealed at low tide. Try to explore the reef at low tide. There are huge Caribbean blue lagoons, channels and enormous sand bars.

Kayaking to Les Minquiers

Les Minquiers Jersey

Maitresse Ile is the only part of the reef where it is possible to stay overnight.

Les Minquiers reef is the most southerly part of the British Isles, 12 miles south of Jersey, and tide streams are up to 5 knots.

If you plan to sea kayak across expect to be up to 6 miles from land at some stage. This is one of the most committing and advanced sea kayaking trips in Jersey.

Once on Les Minquiers you will often be the only visitors on the tiny islet of La Maîtresse Île.

Tide streams around Les Minquiers

Jersey has tides of up to 12.5m. At high water only a few hundred metres of the reef remain. Only Maîtresse Île is habitable – with a few huts – at high water. By low water the reef is said to dry to almost the size of Jersey. The reef is approximately 16km long and 11km wide.

The east going stream commences at -0540HW St Helier and gradually swings southeast until -0240HW when it then turns East. By HW a northwest stream is established near La Maîtresse Île. This is not shown on the tide stream atlas. The main west going stream is flowing by +0050HW St Helier.

Air crash and shipwrecks on Les Minquiers

Maitresse Ile. The cabins or barraques

Maitresse Ile. The cabins -or barraques- are now used as weekend residences

In 1936 the flying boat “Cloud of Iona” en route from Guernsey to Jersey became lost in fog and crashed at the Pipettes killing all on board. It took two weeks to discover the crash site.

A more amusing incident is Jersey’s version of the film “Whisky Galore”. In 1953 the Coaster Brockley Coombe was wrecked on the reefs. Part of its cargo included a quantity of Bristol Cream Sherry which hut owners from Les Minquiers rescued before Customs Officers arrived. Some bottles were never recovered.

History of Les Minquiers

Les Minquiers derive their name from the French word “Minkier” – a fish wholesaler – and probably reflects the abundance of fish and seal around the reefs. The reef was once important for conger fishing.

carvings on les minquiers

Carvings made by the quarrymen. Stone was shipped to Jersey to build Fort Regent

Today, you will see many lobster pot buoys which are useful markers to assess the speed and direction of the tide streams. On the biggest equinox tides the reef is a popular low water fishing spot for lobster and ormers (a type of abalone).

Approximately 89 out of 440 species of molluscs in the Channel Islands are found at Les Minquiers.

The huts on Maîtresse Île were constructed by quarrymen who were intent upon reducing the islet to nothing in order to build Fort Regent on Jersey (completed in 1814).

The La Rocque fishermen who sailed (and rowed) down each week to fish and hunt seal became irate at the rapid disappearance of their island base and resorted to direct action by removing the quarrymen’s tools and dropping them into deep water. Quarrying had ceased by 1807.

Landing is at the natural harbour to the east of Maîtresse Île. It is reported that this harbour was a very protected anchorage until the north-eastern crescent of the harbour was extensively quarried. This may have been a deliberate decision to stop the French navy using the natural protection afforded by the reef to escape detection from Jersey.

Years ago fishermen would sink their boats in bad weather because the boats were safer on the seabed than bouncing about at anchor during a storm.

A game of cards

The old quarrymen’s huts are now used as holiday cabins. The large hut at the north end of the islet was won by Bill Coom in a card game during the occupation after the owner was unable to pay his gambling debt.

les minquiers sea kayaking in jersey

Superb waters at les Minquiers

 

Stone carvings

As you explore the islet look for the carved names and initials written on the granite rocks by the quarrymen. Modern carvings can also be seen including a concrete kayak at the top of the slip. This was made by a party of storm bound kayakers who found a sack of cement to keep them occupied until conditions improved.

The most southerly toilet in the British Isles

Perhaps the most famous spot on Maîtresse Île is the toilet. This is the most southerly loo in the British isles and should be used with respect and care. Unlike its counterpart on Les Ecrehous construction of the loo in the 1930s did not create any outrage from the residents or national media attention.

Dolphins in Jersey

 

sand bar at les Minquiers

Sand bars surrounded by crystal clear water

Look out for dolphins. The southeast coast of Jersey and Les Minquiers are home to pods of dolphins, and there is a good chance you will see them.

Charter boat kayak tours of Les Minquiers

If you do not fancy sea kayaking across 12 miles of ocean, Jersey Kayak Adventures have scheduled charter boat sea kayaking trips to Les Minquiers. Private group tours can be arranged on request.

Derek Hairon on Google+

 

 

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+

Not a good day to travel by ferry in the Channel islands

August 25th, 2012

Routes of the Condor Rapide with detours

It’s not been a good day to be travelling on the ferries.

Strong winds caused the Condor Rapide to turn back to St Malo when just off les Minquiers this morning.

The sailing from Guernsey to St Malo went via the east coast of Jersey to get some shelter during the afternoon. Normally it heads west of Jersey and les Minquiers.

This evenings sailing from St Malo to Jersey looks like it had to make a larger course change to reduce the effects of the wind and swell north of les Minquiers.

The Condor Express from Poole headed directly to Jersey instead of first stopping at Guernsey while the Clipper waits of the south west coast so both high speed ferries can dock.

Note how the islands provide protection from the swell

People often say the roughest part of the crossing is between Jersey and les Minquiers.

3.2m wave heights reported this afternoon and perhaps higher elsewhere offshore.

The Previmer chart shows how Guernsey, Jersey and les Minquiers provide shelter from the ocean swells.

Eco Gold awarded to Jersey Kayak Adventures by Green Tourism Business scheme

August 15th, 2012

GTBS logoSea kayaking is a superb adventure sport to experience the beauty of Jersey’s coastline and observe wildlife . It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the environment and Green issues in Jersey.

Jersey Kayak Adventures has gone further by gaining the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS) Gold award and, is just one of five tourism related businesses in the Channel Islands to reach the Gold standard.

The Green Tourism Business Scheme is the most successful environmental accreditation scheme for tourism businesses of its type in the world, with approximately 2,500 members in the UK. Originally developed in 1997, the scheme assesses tourism businesses across of a range of measures (including energy, waste, water, purchasing, transport, communication etc.) with three levels of award: Gold, Silver or Bronze.

Kayak adventures in jersey to explore geology

Guided tours to explore the coastal Geology of Jersey

For a small company like ours meeting Green Tourism Business Gold standards may seem like yet another distraction from the daily task of running a business. In a recession some might argue that Eco credentials are considered less important by consumers.

Yet, when we looked at customer feedback we discovered that Green awards were a positive factor influencing bookings. Many customers reported that Eco awards encouraged them to book a sea kayak tour or course in Jersey.

We were assessed on a range of environmental indicators and customer service. A few of our approaches scored highly:

  • Offering a discount to clients if they use public transport, cycle or walk to launching points.
  • Collecting sea junk by kayak

    Try not to get carried away collecting sea junk

    Encouraging staff and clients to pick up discarded and old bits of fishing gear from remote beaches. Some clients have even treated this as a competition to see who can bring back the most detritus. The current record is a large wooded cable drum which ended up being recycled into a coffee table.

In the case of Jersey Kayak Adventures, the business is very green and low impact. Director, Derek Hairon and his team are well qualified with a high environmental awareness, good networking, and a strong green marketing profile. The business has excellent green information for customers, including the website, along with good educational aspects on sustainability and community involvement/support. There is also a strong support of local heritage and culture.” Said GTBS assessor Paul Jeffries.

Exploring Jerseys history from the sea

Discover the maritime history of Jersey from the sea

Our staff are often the first “locals” visitors have a chance to talk with; so during 2012 we enrolled staff in the Jersey Tourism Bronze Badge tour guide award to ensure they have an in-depth knowledge of not just kayaking but also the history of Jersey.

 

BCU 4 star leader sea kayak training in Jersey

June 30th, 2012
sea kayak in a blow hole jersey

Ensure the others in the group can rescue you before you head into tricky places

I’ve just had a great bunch of sea kayakers kayaking in Jersey as part of their BCU 4 star leader sea kayak training.

The calm conditions on Monday allowed us time to work on a few skills followed by towing in the tide race at Belle Hougue. and on the water navigation exercises.

Practice your navigation skills

A simple method to get used to kayak based navigation is to always carry a map/chart on board so you get used to assessing your position. Even if you know an area well, reading a map/chart afloat is a skill and is best learned before you head out on a trip along unfamiliar coastline.

Sea kayaking in Jersey caves

sea kayak in a jersey cave

A whistle is a good way to communicate in caves and noisy places

Tuesday was a caving day at Greve de Lecq. This gave us lots of opportunity to look at leading skills and the issues that can arise if you start leading groups into more tricky spots.

Once in a cave (or any spot with a lot of crashing waves) voice communication is very difficult. Sort out some basic whistle signals so the group know when to enter -or not enter- the cave or gully. We carried out a few tests using voice and whistles. The whistles worked best -especially a referees pea whistle-. Just ensure the group know what each blast means.

Future water

Think future water. Observe swells before you charge in and plan ahead. That calm spot may be the only moment of the day when it’s calm so take your time and “look before you leap”! Around Jersey e have 12m tides so you also need to consider how the conditions and water depth are changing minute by minute.

4 star sea kayak cave landings

4 star involves landing in difficult spots

Watch this video to see how fast the tide rises in Jersey.

Protection

Consider how you are going to stop people ending up in in places you do not want them to be in. There are times when leading may involve putting yourself in places so you can quickly sort out problems.

Know the limits of your group

It may be fun for you paddling into some tricky places but if there is no-one in the group who can get you out of trouble stay out.

Derek Hairon

Alderney. Sea kayaking in the Channel islands

June 7th, 2012
Longis bay at low tide.Sea kayaks on beach

Longis bay and Fort Ile de Raz at low tide

I organised another successful sea kayaking adventure to Alderney over the long Bank holiday weekend. The weather was quite a mixture and ranged from fog to force 6 winds and rain. Just what you’d expect when sea kayaking around the most northerly Channel island.

One of the surprising things is just how sheltered the eastern coast of Alderney is, even in a north east wind. Even the Alderney race looked okay and it probably blocks lot of swell getting ashore. Conversely, the Swinge was tanking along and pretty lumpy.

The weekend included sea kayak tours out of Longis Bay and Braye Harbour. This was part of the Alderney Wild Life Trust 10th anniversary events and an opportunity for both locals and visitors to discover sea kayaking on Alderney. I was assisted by the Sarah the Conservation officer form the Trust.

Gannet nesting site Alderney

Gannet rocks

As a warm up our ‘short’ paddle along the south coast cliffs of Alderney tuned into a round the island trip. This was a classic case of suggesting we go round just one more headland, until it seemed logical to just carry on round.

For some reason on two out of the three times I’ve paddled around Alderney it has been in fog. This made for a very atmospheric paddle along the south coast of the island, especially near the old quarry at Cachaliere which looks very out of place at the foot of the cliffs.

As usual the tide streams were heading in directions they seem to decide each day.

Highlight was the Gannet rocks off the south west coast. This is the main Gannet nesting sites in the Channel islands apart from the nearby rock at Ortac.

Gannets on rocks

Gannets

Thousands of Gannets nest here. Virtually every Gannet seen in Channel Island waters will have flown down from Alderney. Until the 1940’s there were few reports of Gannets nesting around Alderney. There is a a suggestion the Gannets arrived on Alderney from Lundy -which was being used as a wartime military firing range and testing site. Radio tracking tests on Alderney  Gannets has demonstrated that they can travel over very large distances.

Another highlight was spotting Seals off the north east coast of the island along with a few caves to explore.

Brinchetais ledges were running well. A few of the group were impressed with the flow of water and  did not need much encouragement to give it a go. Just treat it like a river and keep paddling…

tide race on Alderney

Inspecting Brinchetais ledges before we paddled it

A paddle across to Burhou was very tempting, but we’d not planned to make the trip,  and by the time we were in the right spot to make a crossing we had missed the tide. Next time….

Read more about sea kayaking in Alderney in this guide I wrote for Ocean Paddler Magazine.

Derek Hairon

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