Joining Judith and I on this trip were experienced sailor friends Andy and Nicola. Our original plan was to leave Shamrock Quay at high water at 0300 on Saturday 2 August for Braye in Alderney. However, the Friday evening forecast was for Force 4-5 SW winds developing to possibly Force 7 overnight so we decided to stay put and wait out the passing front.
Leg 1 – Saturday 2 August: Shamrock Quay to Cherbourg
The weather cleared up a little by morning. The wind continued to be south-westerly so we decided to make for easier sailing by heading to Cherbourg instead, departing Shamrock Quay at about 1300 for the sail to Hurst Point in the western end of the Solent arriving there at about 1700, some one and a half hours after local high water.
As the wind was a strong south-westerly and the tide ebbing, rather than negotiate the Needles Channel we took the more cautious route via the North Channel and skirted west around The Shingles and Dolphin Bank and headed on a constant course south under sunny but windy conditions. Conditions improved once out of the Solent.
All sails – the main, staysail and genoa – were fully unfurled and driving the boat at about 6.5 knots though a swell of about 2 metres on a starry night. When helming became tedious, we engaged the autopilot. The ebb tide continued until about 2100 and an hour later we started to cross the main shipping lanes pretty well at right angles as required. The secondary laptop chart plotter using OpenCPN connected to the ship’s WiFi to receive the ship’s instrument data, including AIS information, showed precise information of closest point of approach (CPA) and arrival times for the numerous ships first travelling west then east via the traffic separation zone. Two or three ships passed silently and almost invisibly at about 3 cables in front of us and a couple a further distance behind. The AIS receiver – at least with passenger ferries and vessels greater than 300 tonnes – made collision avoidance anxiety-free.
Over the 60 nm journey from The Shingles to Cherbourg, we were pushed some 12 nm east by the flood tide until 0200 then west by the ebb to eventually arrive at Cherbourg at about 0800 on Sunday 3 August. Our southerly course to steer was calculated allowing for the tides using Neptune optimization software and backed up by manual calculations and proved to be spot on.
With irregular sleep overnight and with a couple of crew suffering a bout or two of seasickness, Sunday was a day of rest with a little sight-seeing and a nice restaurant dinner in preparation for an early morning departure for Alderney on Monday.
Leg 2 – Monday 4 August: Cherbourg to Braye
Departure was at 0500 amid sunshine and light west by north winds As we were heading west, the motor was called for. The tides were approaching the neaps and, in the light winds, the Alderney Race was somewhat benign. Nevertheless, we steered a more northerly course to avoid being ‘sucked down’ by the ebb towards Guernsey and Jersey by a tide running at about 3-4 kts. [Nine knot tidal currents and dangerous overfalls are not uncommon in this area]. We passed Cap de la Hague at about 0700 and continued until we picked up the leading lights into Braye Harbour at around 0900. A departing yachtsman kindly indicated that there was a free mooring buoy ‘up front’ which we promptly aimed for and secured.
It was another fine sunny day with light winds and it just happened to be Alderney Week with loads of festivities, timed very nicely for Andy’s birthday. I took the opportunity of testing my new 3D Tender and rowed the crew to the dinghy pontoon. We toured the area on foot and stumbled across a carnival procession, including a fair number of pirates. We had hoped to book a celebratory birthday dinner but without success so we returned to Baybreeze for some home cooking – courtesy of the birthday boy!
The water was very clear so I took the opportunity to don flippers, goggles and snorkel to check the hull below the waterline, not seen since Baybreeze was launched last November. Although the hull looked relatively clean and free of marine growth, to my surprise, the propeller was covered in centimetre-thick carbonaceous growth. This was easily removed with a sharp knife over several dives. A nicely done job: a cleared propeller should give us better fuel economy.
Leg 3 – Tuesday 5 August: Braye to St Peter Port
Catching a ride on the westward tide again meant an early 0615 departure. Rather than proceeding around the north and east side of Alderney, we decided to head west and south through The Swinge as the weather was calm. Nevertheless, swirling overfalls were clearly visible. Sometimes I had the impression that we were not moving at all, when in fact we were traveling at 5 knots!
We arrived at St Peter Port, Guernsey, at 1045 but had to wait for half an hour motoring while trying to maintain a fixed position as the tide level rose to give Baybreeze sufficient clearance over the sill at the marina entrance and to allow yachts leaving sufficient clearance. A half dozen other boats were in a similar situation. We were finally in the marina and, as is common in this marina, we rafted alongside another boat.
Leg 4 – Wednesday 6 August: St Peter Port to Herm and Sark
During our stay here we received a weather forecast update which indicated that a deepening low (the remnants of hurricane Bertha) was developing and predicted to reach Force 8 in the next few days, so we altered plans, shortening the trip by a day to avoid the worst.
Depart St Peter Port 1330 arriving at Bishop’s Cove, Herm, at 1520 for a late lunch while anchored.
Departed 1645, arriving at Dixcart Bay, Sark, at about1845. A suitable anchorage was found amongst several other anchored yachts and we enjoyed dinner on board as the sun set. Shortly afterwards, we looked round to see the square-rigged Jantye appear on the horizon. We were then surprised to hear Vangelis’s “Conquest of Paradise” and looked round to see which of our neighbouring boats was being antisocial but then realised that this was Jantye announcing her arrival. What a spectacle! It was like being on a movie set.
The wind piped up overnight and I felt Baybreeze was a little too close to cliffs for my liking so I slept sporadically, waking to check whether the anchor was holding. Fortunately, it remained secure.
The next morning, started with a ritual swim followed by a scrub around the boat’s waterline to remove slime and then a climb up the hill for a better view of the bay.
Leg 5 – Thursday 7 August: Sark to Braye
The return from Sark to Braye was fairly uneventful with pleasant, sunny conditions. We departed around 1400 and soon sighted a pod of porpoises swimming across our path some 200 m ahead. They soon dived and reappeared some 200 m astern. We arrived at Braye at around 1900.
Leg 6 – Friday 8 August: Braye to Lymington
We departed at 0530 in glassy calm conditions and motor-sailed to about 15 nm of the Fairway buoy, near the Needles Channel, when the wind picked up and squalls headed our way at around 1600. We passed Hurst Point at 1700 (LW+2) arriving at Lymington Berthon Marina at 1845 where Andy had sensibly reserved a berth in advance. As we were arriving from Alderney, outside the European Union, I contacted the Yachtline to clear customs and filled out and posted form C1331 Part 2.
Leg 7 – Saturday 9 August: Lymington to Shamrock Quay
Departed 1300; downwind sail with genoa only to Southampton Water then gybed up. Arrived Shamrock Quay 1630.
Our guests, Andy and Nicola, were purists in using traditional navigation methods with little recourse to electronic navigation aids – pilot books, charts, tide tables, hand-held compass for bearings, triangulation, etc, landmark identification and leading lines – oh, and the occasional GPS position for added security! All this while I continued to have one beady eye on the chartplotter!
All in all, a lovely trip. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions, except perhaps on the return Channel crossing when we had to motor under wet, windy conditions in the Needles Channel. Total distance 705 km or 380 nm. Eight night hours sailing. 36 engine hours.