Les Minquiers video. Sea kayaking in Jersey,Channel islands
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 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
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.
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.
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
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.