We left the bustle of St. Helier after extraditing ourselves from the usual huge raft of boats that a fill the spaces between the visitor’s pontoons at holiday time. It’s amazing how many boats can be packed into such a small space and you can observe the national mooring characteristics of French and Brit yachtsmen at close quarters. Most Brits will scowl at you if you tie up alongside them without putting your own lines ashore, but the French never seem to bother. Similarly, they often seem to turn up at a mooring, apparently unprepared, and then start getting fenders and warps out while the boat blows around the harbour. Chaos ensues, but somehow it all comes right at the end. Meanwhile, the average up-tight Brit is tying his fenders on before he even gets between the harbour walls! I’m all for a bit of pre-planning, especially with a biggish boat in a tight harbour, but I can’t help secretly admiring the French laissez faire approach……
Then, on to Guernsey. Me Jane and Richard. A good sail up to St Peter Port, and the usual wait on the holding pontoon for water over the harbour sill. We were able to creep in a bit earlier than most boats using our lifting keel to get a prime spot! We spent a few days on the island, circumnavigating it by bus. We had tea at Beaucette Marina (must go there next time it’s so peaceful), and by chance discovered the restored German observation tower on the South West tip of the island. It is a huge concrete construction on 5 levels which controlled the guns for a coastal battery making up part of the German “Atlantic Wall”. It has been restored by volunteers, and now contains original German equipment evoking a real sense of the occupation and the war in the Atlantic. I had previously visited the German underground hospital on Guernsey and been disappointed by the condition of it, but this was definitely worth the effort of the long climb up onto the cliff top. We enjoyed drinks in the two Yacht clubs and lunch in the quirky Thai-style cafe in St Peter Port, but eventually it was time to move on to Alderney, our departure having been delayed by the promise of NE’ly winds which are not good news at our next destination. (Braye harbour is totally open to the NE).
On the morning of our departure there was a difficult reversing manoeuvre required to get us out of our mooring. Having watched the previous 2 yachts make a meal out of it, Jane was justifiably smug at making it look very easy. (I un-gallantly attributed this to our rather nifty Featherstream prop, but Jane says it’s all down to helm-person talent…….)
Again, we were blessed with fine weather for the trip up to Braye Harbour. The huge Channel Island tidal streams pushing us up the Alderney race so fast that you have to start altering course for the turn into Braye ridiculously early like a car skidding on ice towards the outside of a bend. It’s always a slight relief to get into this one and tie up to one of their substantial swinging moorings. If you miss the entrance there is no going back against the tide until it turns…. A few days were spent doing the usual Alderney things. It doesn’t seem to change much, although there is now quite a big supermarket down by the harbour, and the Diver’s pub feels somewhat sanitised. But hey, nothing stays the same for ever. On the last night we had a great meal at the “First and Last” restaurant before setting out for the UK Mainland.
The Channel crossing was a good brisk sail (11hrs 20 mins mooring to mooring) with a westerly 5+ blowing most of the time. The new AIS system took some of the stress out of the shipping lanes by helping to confirm visual estimates of the closest point of approach of ships as we crossed their paths. We arrived in Portsmouth’s Haslar Marina at about 1 AM, celebrating our homecoming with a drop of Laphroaig.
Richard went home the next day by train, leaving Jane and I to spend the next couple of weeks or so cruising around the area, visiting some of the less frequented shallow harbours where we could start to get used to using our lifting keel and our new Manson Anchor, of which we have high-hopes.</p