Well, after the trauma of the lost purse everything settled down again and we left Cherbourg on Friday 8th June at 1315 in slightly misty weather with not much wind. The fog horn was sounding and it reminded us of home. After an uneventful journey we approached the Little Russell Channel off Guernsey which looks horrendous on the chart but was actually a lot wider than you expect. We had timed the tides right and were doing over 9 knots over the ground as we neared the island. We were seeing more and more boats all congregating on St Peter Port and a lot had passed us earlier talking to each other on the radio asking where each was and where they were all going. The same place as us of course! The weather was calm and we dropped anchor at 2130 in Havelet Bay to the south of the harbour to wait for the tide to enter the marina. The tides in the Channel Islands are massive and drop as much as 9 metres at Springs and still 7 metres at Neaps. It was so peaceful in the bay with only three or four yachts in the anchorage that we decided to stay there instead of going into the marina the next morning.
We launched Poco Lobo the next morning and went ashore and walked round to the marina. We had met a nice couple from Fareham in Cherbourg, Bob and Sally on ‘Shadowfax’ who were on their way to a rally in France. They were in a hurry to get to St Malo and into the canals so had left the day before us. Of course we bumped into them again in St Peter Port and had coffee on their boat before they left for Jersey. The Channel Islands are not part of the UK and there are rules regarding flying the ‘Q’ flag and having to declare any alcohol or cigarettes on board. We still have umpteen bottles of spirits given by friends so were a bit worried but Bob and Sally told us that the customs officers were as laid back as their French counterparts and only required a form being filled in and returned on leaving. They had been given this form when they entered the Marina and we promptly forgot all about it until the Monday morning when we remembered and asked a customs officer for one. We told him we were at anchor in Havelet Bay and he said “That’s OK, just fill this in and put it in the box”. The rules state that no-one is allowed to leave the boat until being ‘cleared in’ but we had been wandering all over the place for three days. I bet we will have to obey the rules as we move further afield!
Guernsey is really lovely and we managed to explore quite a lot in a short time. The local buses are marvellous. Every journey costs just 60p. So you can travel one stop or forty stops for 60p! There are two buses which go round the whole island, one clockwise and the other anticlockwise. These journeys last over an hour so you certainly get your money’s worth. For longer stays you can buy passes which reduces the fare to 45p or even 30p a journey! We still took the bikes ashore as although St Peter Port itself is quite hilly the rest of the island is flatter, especially the northern part.
Guernsey is the most densely populated of the CI’s having a population of 60,00 living in an area of only 24 square miles. There is not much open countryside as you can imagine but there are miles of spectacular cliff walks and sandy beaches. There are also many small scale horticultural and crafts attractions and many interesting historical sights.
The dank and gloomy German Underground Military Hospital at St Andrew still appears as it must have done to the slave workers who built it. More than a mile of confusing corridors and halls were blasted out of the rock. The management have been keeping tally of arriving and departing tourists for 40 years, in case anyone gets lost in the dark, empty maze. Very atmospheric!
Another tunnel complex is occupied by La Valette Underground Military Museum which is only a short walk from the centre of St Peter Port. The tunnels were built to store the fuel for U-boats during the war. One of the 30,000 gallon tanks is still in situ, the rest having been removed after the war, some still in use on the island.
We also visited the Little Chapel, covered inside and out with broken china and glass, seashells and pebbles. It is a miniature copy of the church at Lourdes.
We took Poco along the coast to the nearby Fermain Bay and discovered the most idyllic bay with a ‘beach café’ we have since discovered was voted the 2nd best in the world by the Guardian newspaper. We bought a beer from ‘the hatch’ and enjoyed the view from the terrace outside. The following day we decided to walk to the café via a lovely cliff path and again had a drink from ‘the hatch’ after a half hours walk. We decided that we’d treat ourselves to a meal at the ‘Beach Café before we left the island.
We did try to do something cultural while we were on Guernsey, apart from visit museums. Elaine Delmarr, the jazz singer was billed to appear at St James’ Hall on the Thursday night, in a concert of music by George Gershwin and Cole Porter so we walked up to the Hall to book our tickets a couple of days beforehand - and who do you think we bumped into? Why, Princess Anne of course. She missed us at Lowestoft so decided to catch up with us in Guernsey! I managed to get a photo of her as she passed us but unfortunately missed her slipping on the steep road and falling on her bum further down! After all that Elaine Delmarr was ill and had cancelled her show.
We tend to explore during the day then are too whacked to go out on the town in the evening and so stay on board but were determined to go out one night. We found there was a comedy festival on that week so walked to a hotel to book our tickets for four comedians (who we confess we’ve never heard of) from The Comedy Club in London but alas they were sold out but there was one other comedian doing a free show at a pub called The Doghouse that night. We managed to get there by taxi and had a super evening laughing at Rob Deering who was very funny and played brilliant electric guitar as well.
Mike arranged to get some new fairleads and bow roller fittings made at a local engineers so on the Wednesday we decided to sail over to Sark. We anchored overnight in Havre Gosselin before exploring the island next day. Sark is a wonderful island with no cars, only horse drawn carriages, bicycles and tractors. Mike was in heaven and kept saying things like, “That’s a Massey Ferguson 135, and that’s a 35E. There’s a John Deere and a David Brown! Look, over there, there’s a McCormick International B275” You can imagine Pat’s expression!!!
We walked over most of the island which is only 3 miles long and a mile and a half wide, and were tickled by the local school turning out with all the children, some very young indeed, jumping on their bikes for the ride home. Sark is ruled by a feudal government led by the Seigneur and we visited the gardens of his home which are beautiful.
We found an interesting article in the LA Times about the government of Sark at the following link. Read here
We left Sark then intending to anchor in Fermain Bay, have our meal at the Café, then leave for Jersey the next day, Friday, after picking up the new fairleads and bow roller fittings. We managed to have our meal (which was delicious, and we were lucky they’d had a cancellation because, apparently, you have to book two months in advance normally) but the wind had got up while we were eating so we decided to go back to Havelet Bay for the night. There were five or six boats in the bay again as we sailed in late in the evening, and when we got up the next morning all had left bar us and two other fools. It had been the most uncomfortable time we had had all week and we hardly got any sleep with the banging and pitching of the anchor chain. There was no damage done to the boat but at 7 am we decided to go round into the marina and wait for better weather to go on to Jersey. We had been lucky until then as we had been staying for free in the bay. Our batteries weren’t too far down as our wind charger gives us up to 6 amps at times on a windy day and the solar panels a constant 4 amps when the sun is shining.
The weather forecast wasn’t good for the weekend so we decided to stay in the marina. Pat was able to get some washing done ashore and it was nice to plug into the mains electricity again to get hot water without running the engine, also we could get the bikes ashore.
We rode our bikes north from St Peter Port on the Sunday and found a lovely little marina at Beaucette. The entrance had been blasted out of the solid rock by the Royal Engineers. We could have taken El Lobo there but probably wouldn’t have managed to get the fittings made there as we had at St Peter Port, so we didn’t mind. It is in a lovely setting though. The whole of the north coast is beautiful with miles of golden sand and dunes with cycle paths.
On the Monday we visited Castle Cornet in St Peter Port and it was so clear that from the battlements we could see every island in the group, including Jersey, our next port of call.
At last the time came to leave Guernsey and we set sail for St Helier on Tuesday 19th June. When we arrived at the waiting pontoon outside the marina we couldn’t believe the amount of boats there. There were about 50 or 60 boats, mostly French, all rafted up and we thought they were all waiting to go in, but as it turned out only a few of us did enter when the tide rose. The remainder were leaving early the next morning and would not have been able to leave the marina until the tide covered the sill. That was a relief!
St Helier is much bigger and busier than St Peter Port as you can imagine, and we spent the first evening just wandering around town. We walked past a pub and Pat suggested we had a beer and as we approached the bar we heard a voice “Hello Mike”. It was an old sailing friend of Mike and Brian’s, Keith, who has been living on Jersey for 8 years. It’s amazing who you bump into, first Princess Anne, then Keith!
The following day we made our usual visit to the Tourist Information Office and found our bearings but didn’t do much else. The bikes were out the next day and we had a good ride along an old railway track all the way along the south coast to the lighthouse at La Corbière. This is particularly striking as it is on a rocky promontory which is joined to the mainland by a causeway at low tide. It is also the first lighthouse in the world to be built of concrete. (Mike in heaven again!)
We visited La Hougue Bie, a Neolithic ritual site which is one of the largest and best preserved passage graves in Europe. The great mound which covers the grave is surmounted by an early mediaeval chapel built in the 12th century. During the Occupation the Germans built a bunker and 70 trenches on the site doing extensive damage. The bunker is now a memorial to the thousands of men, women and children who were transported to the Channel Islands as forced workers during the War.
The same day we visited the Jersey War Tunnels which is a definitive story of the Occupation as seen through the eyes of the islanders themselves. This is well worth visiting, very moving and thought provoking. Apart from the main exhibition in the Tunnels of Ho8, there is a Garden of Reflection, containing plaques with the names of all Islanders who died as a direct consequence of the Occupation and a Woodland Trail through the remains of a gun placement area. There is also a special exhibition of the life of Violette Szabó, the SOE agent who was executed at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in 1944. Her daughter, who received the George Cross in 1949 on behalf of her mother, now lives in Jersey.
We only intended to stay in Jersey for a couple of days but we got a bad weather forecast on the Friday night so decided to stay for the weekend. It was good we did for we went on a lovely cliffside walk from L’Étacq to La Grève de Lecq on the north-west coast. The morning started dull but we ended the walk in bright sunshine. We have noticed that this happens quite often in the Channel Islands.
One thing we have noticed mainly in Jersey, is that nearly all service staff in shops, bars and restaurants are either Portuguese or Polish. Even in the Jersey Yacht Club where we dutifully signed in as WBA. There is a long history of Portuguese involvement on the island, some families having been here for 4 generations, although a lot of the young people in the shops and bars seemed to be seasonal workers.
The weather still didn’t improve so we have ended up staying almost another week. We managed another couple of walks, one down the middle of the island along a valley containing several small reservoirs, and we found the Hamptonne Country Life Museum which we probably wouldn’t have visited if we hadn’t stumbled upon it. Mike was in seventh heaven again although some of the exhibits were before even his time! We partook of a bowl of Jersey bean crock (beef stew with beans and vegetables) served with cabbage bread (bread baked in cabbage leaves) all washed down with a glass of their own cider. Delicious.
We have been really frustrated at the weather, force 5 to 6 south westerlies, exactly where we want to go, but we are going to try and leave tomorrow (30th June), and if we can’t make it to Treguier we will cut and run back up to Guernsey and try again next week. There are a lot of boats in the same position as us, trying to go west, but at least we don’t have a tight schedule. In the past, the times we have had uncomfortable trips were when Mike had to back at work on the Monday!
Hope to have better news next time.