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Banter, Boats and Bruises: a Channel Islands sailing adventure

UNITED KINGDOM | Sunday, 17 July 2016 | Views [467]

The crew

The crew

A wistful sigh escapes as I gaze at photos of sunny islands and sparkling blue seas. The Sailing Meet-up group has my full attention and it’s not long before I have joined, and signed up for a week-long sailing trip to, and around The Channel Islands. The final school bell signals the start of the summer holidays and soon I’m driving to Southampton to meet up with Steve, our skipper, and six others who will form the crew of our 37’ Bavaria sailing yacht, Gemini.


Guernsey and Herm

It was midnight when we finally cast off and headed down The Solent towards the English Channel. The engine smoothly propelled us forward, shore lights cast dappled reflections in the wake of passing vessels and a jovial sense of adventure lingered as we sat on deck getting to know our fellow ‘shipmates’. Eventually sleep refuses to be delayed any longer and I head down to the rather intimate-sized berth beside the engine compartment I had been designated to share with Fi. The monotonous hum of the engine should, I thought, be quite soporific but nonetheless sleep took its time. As the first morning light appeared, our window was closed and thus began a day of intense sea sickness. There is no refuge and no respite so that when it hits you, it is an all-consuming misery! As the diesel fumes and sea swell combined to orchestrate the rearrangement, and finally expulsion, of the previous night’s supper, I was reduced to a state of feeble infirmity. Thrashing through the ‘moderate seas’, we were sailing at such an angle that staying on the bench seat often required more strength than I had, so that on more than one occasion I suddenly found myself on the floor. Hours later I am slightly revived by the magic of a Kwell pill. Alderney appeared and our hopes were lifted, until we sailed straight past heading for Guernsey! Some twenty hours after we left Southampton, it was with considerable relief all round that we gently cruised into the shelter of St Peter Port harbour.

A beautiful dusk was settling over Guernsey as we moored up and welcoming strains of music floated down to the marina on the evening breeze. Restaurants and bars filling up with Saturday night revellers were a stark contrast to our rather hard-day-at-sea bedraggled look. Itinerary: shower on shore, supper in a restaurant, sleep without engine running – eclipsed only by our very British disposition whereby tea takes precedence over all three! Our cooker gas had cut out hours ago and it was therefore a tea-less journey - you may need to be English to comprehend the immense satisfaction derived from a good cup of tea!

The morning Guernsey sky was grey and a light drizzle clung to the island. Yesterday’s ideas of bike hire or long coastal walks seem rather less appealing this morning! Undeterred however, everyone set out to make the most of the one full day we had here. I chose to start with a walk through the main town. St Peter Port is a quaint, well-kept place that somehow blends its British heritage with French nuances and a Swiss orderliness to create a charming identity of its own. The emerging sunshine enhanced the informative half hour ride on the tourist ‘Petit Trein’ with possibly the most cheerful driver - ever! There was enough time to queue up and try the wonderful ice-cream before getting the next local bus which travels the perimeter of the island in around ninety minutes. For just £1, it’s an excellent way to see some of the different landscapes: heading out anti-clockwise beautiful sandy beaches which eventually start to give way to rockier ones. Eventually we stopped briefly at the airport, which is conveniently located a mere twenty minutes away from St Peter Port. I am captivated by Guernsey’s charm and could happily stay here much longer.

Supper this evening was our first attempt at on-board cooking and it’s fair to say that in such a confined space; too many cooks are definitely going to get under each other’s feet! As it was, Ann produced a most enjoyable meal. Empty wine bottles collected in the recycling box as stories were exchanged, along with much laughter. For a group of people that did not know each other just a few hours ago, we recognise a similar mindset and find that we get on well.

The well-tended marina facilities were much appreciated: hot showers and proper loos. Fi aptly remarked that not unlike coaches, ‘conveniences’ on the boat are best left for emergencies only!

The morning tides dictated our departure, however there was time to dash off and get take-away coffee before setting off for Herm under heavy skies but with the comfort of a vanilla latte in hand. I was disappointed to need the assistance of another tablet.

The small harbour on Herm proved to be too shallow and we retreated to the calmer Eastern side of the island where we put down the anchor and prepare the tender. The outboard motor stubbornly refused to start and there is no seat in the rather shabby dinghy. It came down to a simple choice of oars, or not going ashore at all. Surprisingly, it was the women who decided they wouldn’t be defeated and Fi turned out to be a competent rower. I took charge of the rope and navigation and soon we had a good system ferrying everyone ashore. It would be a mistake to assume this was a serious business. There was much laughter as we wobbled our way onto the shelf-effect beach, fell over in the water’s edge, and watched helplessly as small waves effortlessly broke over the back of our boat leaving wet patches in undesirable places on our clothing.

The next beach along, the beautiful Shell Beach is a vast expanse of perfect sand, and yet I counted only fourteen people. We walked around the headland and straight into the wind responsible for the ‘moderate seas’. The beaches on this side are beautiful too, although the sand whips them wildly against you.

After lunch it was time to get back to Gemini (due to Steve’s Yorkshire accent, this has, to some considerable amusement, been mistakenly heard as Germany!) and commenced the whole ferrying process again. Julie and Paul, rowing Red Indian-style, worked well together, Dee elegantly clutching her flowers while DH also put in a good show. And then I wanted a go. From the beach they are able to hear our shrieks of laughter as we zig-zagged towards shore or simply went round in circles. It’s even harder to row when you can’t stop laughing. I was later told by those on the beach that my oars resembled windmills. I’m pretty certain the rowing machine I use in the gym has never gone in circles, so I’m not sure what went wrong here! Finally, we were all aboard and preparing to reach Jersey before nightfall.

Tags: alderney, bavaria sy, channel islands, guernsey, herm, jersey, rough sea, sailing


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