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Five go mad in the Channel Islands

A short cruise in company

Cruisers outing to Alderney & Guernsey July 2022

A total of five boats crossed the channel to meet up in Alderney. The planned date for departure from Dartmouth was Thursday 21st July, but due to the forecast light winds, Triton set off a day early, and Ruby delayed until the Friday. Lyra Vega and Dorothea stuck with the plan but had to make extensive use of the “iron topsail”. Sea Moose, a motor yacht, found these ideal conditions and made the crossing in 3½ hours!

A good time was had by all on Alderney, which has plenty of choice for eating ashore, although it can be a little busy when a cruise ship is in. Some of us visited Alderney Sailing Club for drinks and were very warmly welcomed. Crews of Triton, Lyra Vega and Sea Moose took an evening stroll along the coast to Fort Tourgis, where one of the hotels in town had set up a van offering “Prosecco Sunset” We mostly had beer, with nachos and burgers. It was a bit too misty for a perfect sunset, but it was a lovely evening.

Alderney offers a very fine selection of fortifications all around the island, dating from Roman through Napoleonic/Victorian forts to Hitler’s concrete “Atlantic Wall”. Coastal paths and quiet lanes allow the whole island to be explored on foot or bicycle. It’s only 3 miles long and 1½ miles wide. Several crews hired electric bikes to make the tour even easier. The weather was hot and sunny, so sunblock, hats and sunnies were the order of the day.

On Saturday, Triton and Lyra Vega set sail for Sark, with Dorothea following a little later as they had another crew member flying in. Getting the tides right is of course very important in the Channel Islands, and we headed south down the Alderney Race, near the start of the ebb. The wind was initially good for close hauled sailing, but by the time Sark was reached it had backed to the South West and some motor sailing was needed to avoid heading off towards Jersey. The plan had been to anchor in Dixcart Bay on the south side of Sark, which would have been a good setting off point as the tide changed after lunch, but with the freshening SW wind that promised to be a rather uncomfortable anchorage. So we diverted to La Greve de la Ville on the NE side. That proved to be a fine sheltered bay, but all moorings were taken (clearly the effect of the French holidays!) and we had to anchor. Lyra Vega set off for Guernsey after lunch on board, while crews of Triton and Dorothea went ashore to walk up to the town for lunch. Sark is rather a step back in time with dirt roads and no cars – only tractors, horses and bikes for non-pedestrian transport. There are some nice restaurants and hotels on the island, but apart from bike hire, many small businesses such as shops and cafes have closed in recent years, and the COVID epidemic has not helped. While we were there, there was clearly some sort of event going on, judging from the loud PA system in action. This turned out to be sheep racing, which is apparently quite exciting, with frantic betting. We made our excuses and returned to the boats.

Unfortunately, we now had to fight against the tide to get across to Guernsey, either by going south around Sark, or around the north side, down the Big Russel. Triton chose the south route and ended up motoring at 7 knots into wind and tide and only making 4 knots over the ground. And this was at neaps!

Eventually we all met up again in St Peter Port, with Ruby coming a day later to give them time to enjoy Alderney, and the Sea Moose crew enjoying another day in Alderney and still having time to travel to Guernsey (just 40 minutes. Tide? What tide?)

We enjoyed pre-dinner drinks on board Sea Moose. Who would have thought you could seat 12 people in the cockpit of an 8m motor cruiser? We were all impressed by the cockpit drinks fridge! Most went for a curry at the Taj Indian Restaurant on the quay, which was excellent.

On Sunday, the Dorothea crew went off sightseeing, whilst the rest took a walk to Fermain Bay for lunch at the café and swimming (for some) in the bay, which was quite crowded with moored boats. The weather was hot and sunny once again, and while the sea was welcome for a cool-down, negotiating the pebbly beach with bare feet was a challenge!

In the evening, with all five crews reunited, we booked all 16 into La Perla, which has been a staple of RDYC cruises in past years, as it can handle large groups. Last year it was closed down, and clearly it now has new management. Although it was a very convivial evening, the food was disappointing and poor value for money. We’ll take that one of the list until we hear of some improvement.

On Monday, Dorothea returned to Dartmouth, encountering winds up to F6 in a 13hrs crossing. That seems to be typical of the sailing weather this year – either not enough wind or far too much!

Some of us had a lazy day in port, whilst the Sea Moose crew went off to see the sights by way of the excellent Guernsey bus service. Even more WWII German fortifications!

Triton, Ruby and Lyra Vega crews had lunch on the terrace at Guernsey Yacht Club. Slightly windy, but great views. Passing the Model Yacht Pond on the way back, we were amused by the sight of youngsters in Oppies being coached by helpers standing in waders. The wind was clearly too strong to hoist sails, so the crews were holding up small squares of cloth on 2 sticks. Seemed to work well downwind, but we didn’t see any successful tacking!

In the evening, the Sea Moose crews went off in search of Pizza, while the rest of us visited La Piazza restaurant, which was absolutely excellent. Very Italian!

The next day, Tuesday, Triton set off at dawn to return home. Great sailing at the start and end of the trip, but mostly motor sailing in between, with 3-5 kns from the north, before the wind backed to the west in the afternoon.

Ruby opted for a night sail, arriving into Dartmouth on Wednesday morning after a pleasant sail with shooting stars, dolphins and enough wind to keep the sails full and a crossing time of 13 hrs. Meanwhile Sea Moose popped across in 3hrs!

Lyra Vega stayed on until Friday morning, and was welcomed home by a large party of cruisers having supper on the terrace.

In summary, a great cruise with unbelievable weather. Shame about the lack of a good sailing wind, but on balance I’ll take sunshine and calm seas – and almost no rain!

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