First Channel Crossing Cruise For Some Time

Nutcracker's Sunrise start from WeymouthMichael concentrates on Crystella's balanced helmAnticipation of a good meal at Le NautiqueArcsine under Castle Cornet's glowStaying "dry" under Crystella's canopyHerm's Shell BeachSark's The AvenueSark's La Greve de la Ville anchorageNutcracker homeward bound

1st July saw the Bailiwick of Guernsey opening their borders to visitors from the UK who'd received their double vaccinations. A plan was soon hatched for a cruise in company across the channel, the first for some in a long time. Four boats, Arcsine, Crystella, Nutcracker and Moonshadow all showed a keen interest on originally setting out on Saturday 24th July, however, as often happens, a sharp change in the weather outlook including storms on Saturday meant an earlier than planned Thursday departure gave the only possible weather window. Unfortunately, this ruled out Moonshadow from making the trip due to other commitments.

After some frustrations of obtaining the necessary vaccination passes in time, and logging our details into the Guernsey travel tracker we were all set to go. Arcsine with Kathy, Pete and Sue set off around 3.30am intending to go directly to St Peter Port on Guernsey. Whilst the slower boats of Crystella with Ray and his cousin Micheal, and Nutcracker with David Lees single handing set off at 5.30 intending to make for Braye on Alderney. With a very favourable light Easterly breeze increasing throughout the day to a force 4 and wall to wall sunshine it made for a text book crossing, There was only one minor skirmish with the channel shipping when Kathy tried to call a cargo ship watchleader over the radio and tell them where to put their ship, but they declined to answer!

The crew of Arcsine, having enjoyed a very comfortable night on the walk ashore pontoon, had a very leisurely bus ride around Guernsey on Friday. Meanwhile Crystella and Nutcracker had a very unexpected rock and rolly sleepless night on isolation moorings that were tucked away in a bay to the East in Braye Harbour. Yes, protected from the Easterly breeze, however, not from the broadside swell coming in from the entrance!! Crystella and Nutcracker then timed their departure from Braye mid morning at slack water, with a good north easterly and only their genoas set they had a wonderful downhill ride through a tame Swinge and Little Russell to St Peter Port, arriving prior to the forecast strong wind and rain. Perfect timing! All crews met up for drinks at the Ship and Crown before dining in Le Nautique restaurant next door, well recommended, especially the Skate wings with black butter, capers and prawns. Yum. After dodging an amazing thunderstorm and downpour it was all back to Arcsine for nautical chit chat and a couple of nightcaps!

On Saturday it was Ray and Michael's turn for the round the island bus ride, with a couple of stops for breakfast, a walk and lunch, whilst David pottered around and walked the coast southwards towards St Martins Point. David, Ray and Michael had already said their goodbyes to the Arcsine crew as they were heading for an overnight anchorage on Sark before heading directly back to Weymouth on the Sunday. So it was a bit of a surprise when they returned later, all rather damp from the worsening weather, to see Arcsine back at the pontoon. The same worsening weather had thwarted their attempted idyllic anchorage off Sark. After various evening meal options it was all back to Crystella's tented cockpit for another nightcap session!

Sunday morning saw an earlyish departure of Arcsine for Weymouth. They cleared The Casquets then sailed a fortunate fetch all the way home, the forecast had given an “on the nose” Northerly!
For the crews of Crystella and Nutcracker, Sunday was another leisurely day taking the easy option of a tripper boat to Herm and a walk around the island. David went for an exhilarating dip at Shell Beach before we had a delicious lunch and drinks at The Ship Inn in the sunshine, paradise!

Monday morning Nutcracker and Crystella departed St Peter Port for the short sail to Sark.With a SW wind we headed for the shelter of La Greve de la Ville anchorage, a pretty secluded bay on the NE coast surrounded by offlying rocks, thank goodness for chart plotter pilotage, how times have changed! We went for another delightful walk ashore, taking in lunch on the sundrenched terrace at Hathaways in the beautiful grounds of La Seigneurie (effectively the Lord of the Manor). This was followed by a browse round the quaint Avenue shops and a beer at the Bel Air Inn. It was then back to the boats for an evening meal and then another very unexpected rock and rolly night on the mooring, yes we were protected from the SW breeze ok but not from a constant broadside swell coming into the bay.

Tuesday's forecast of a building Westerly was looking good for the return channel crossing. An early start saw us motoring to begin with and as we got to the Alderney race we took full advantage of the strong NE stream, hitting over 12 knots speed over the ground for a while. Once clear of Alderney and the race the wind started to fill in and we went through the gears until full sails were set and the sailing got better and better. The traffic lanes gave us very little concern, which is always a relief, however there was one sting in the tail to come as we approached The Shambles. A huge wall of blackness was approaching us from the West. Having reefed fully down in good time we were hit by an enormous squall with winds topping 30 knots. Nutcracker and Crystella are both well found cruising yachts, an attribute we were pleased to have in those conditions, as they took it in their stride still maintaining a very productive and comfortable 6 knots.

Safely back on the club moorings we reflected on what was a fabulous 6 days of cruising, it had a bit of everything. All weathers, good sailing, food, scenery and company. It was just great to be back on the cross Channel run again.

Submitted on 17th August 2021