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A short cruise to the Channel Islands

13th August 2019

Not enough wind - but gales on their way! A truncated cruise to the Channel Islands

It was supposed to be a 10-day cruise to the Channel Islands and Brittany, but we never got to France. We were enjoying ourselves too much in the Channel Islands, and there was rarely enough wind to get anywhere without using the motor - especially when fighting foul tides! In the event we came home a couple of days early, due to forecast gales which we did well to avoid.

It was a small but convivial group that set off early on Friday 2nd August. Dick & Pam Morgan aboard Seren, Mark & Jan Willard on Lyra Vega, and my brother Mick & I on Triton. In fact Mark was single-handed on the channel crossings, as Jan chose to fly from Exeter. Apparently 12 hours looking at nothing but sea doesn't appeal! Having a small group on a cruise makes for easy planning and getting a table at a restaurant.

The wind on the outward trip was light and north-easterly, so Triton hoisted the assymetric and began to pull away. Mark tried to follow suit on LV, but a shackle let go, leaving his halyard at the top of the mast. As the wind gradually died, Seren started surreptitious motoring and caught up with Triton just south of the traffic lanes. Meanwhile LV was way out west, preferring to keep sailing as long as possible, and heading for the later tides around the south of Guernsey. We all ended up motoring, with the lead boats having to wait for enough water over the sill at Victoria Marina - so by the time we were tied up, LV was not far behind.

We spent two nights in the marina giving us plenty of time to see the shops, an art gallery, climb the Victoria Tower, see far too many German helmets and cap badges at a military museum, and eat one or two ice creams.

The next day, Seren set off for a bay at the north east end of Sark, reputed to be sheltered from the predicted south-westerly winds. Triton and Lyra Vega decided to go to Shell Beach on Herm for lunch. We didn't actually make it ashore - partly as the sun had gone in, and partly due to some anchoring antics. As the tide went out, a large uncharted rock started to emerge rather too close to Triton and two other boats, so anchors were retrieved and reset further offshore. Meanwhile Mark had discovered that the windlass on LV had seized up. After lunch on board, we had a good sail across the Big Russel, making at least 45 degrees of leeway due to the cross tide.

We joined Seren in La Greve de la Ville, where there were several free mooring buoys - some of them even designated for visitors. We stayed two nights, and enjoyed a full day on the island, dodging the traffic of cyclists, tractors and horse-drawn carts (actually there weren't many - it was very peaceful!) La Greve was indeed sheltered from the wind, but was not immune to swell from the tidal streams, and from the wash of passing ferries during the day. Triton was fairly stable, although tending to veer about despite using a bridle. The mutihulls, however, were pitching and rolling quite violently at times. Difficult for sleeping at night - and Seren had to move to a different mooring buoy in the early hours. Some of the visitor buoys are rather too close together for large yachts.

After Sark, a marina beckoned, and due to the forecast we decided we would have to go home early, and there was not going to be enough time to head down to St Helier. So it was back to Guernsey, plugging a tide up to 3kns south of Sark. Triton did try to sail against the tide, but we were well on our way to Jersey when we tacked, and saw that our track was pretty much headed towards where we started! Once clear of Sark and into a north going tide, we had the best sail of the trip, hitting 10kns through the water for a while. Beaucette was full, so it was back to St Peter Port, and rafting up on the pontoons outside the marina, in anticipation of an early start on Thursday morning for the return trip. It seemed like a lot of other people had the same idea, and the harbour master's assistants were really cramming the boats in. In each bay, the boats were four deep, and five across. Seren was totally blocked in for the first night, but as many boats left the next day, she was able to swap berths and worm her way out to a prime location for departure.

So we had another full day to explore Guernsey. Some had a good sleep on board... The Triton crew did some walking, taking in Fermain Bay, both chandlers, and B&Q! A telescopic deck brush at Boatworks was offered at £43 for the handle and £49 for the head. A similar (if less rustproof) item at B&Q was procured for £2.43. We got a specially good deal, as the checkout assistant only scanned the barcode on the handle. We awarded ourselves with another ice cream.

During the trip, we had some really good meals ashore - not to mention a number of drinks receptions on board and one Rock and Roll evening meal aboard Lyra Vega with the different crews each contributing a course.

The return trip was quite similar to the outward one, with light winds this time coming from the south. We managed a bit of sailing, then motor sailing, then about 9 hours of motoring through calm seas, arriving in Dartmouth in fog and drizzle!

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