June 2006 – Across the English Channel to Channel Islands and France
We arrived back at the boat on 31 May and spent a few days in and around Plymouth, walking the coastal paths and doing those jobs we had been putting off like waxing the topsides. The weather had changed completely from the wind and rain of May into glorious sunshine and light winds - these conditions have been forecast for the whole month! We'll see......
We took a short hop down to Starehole Bay, just outside of Salcombe - it is a pleasant anchorage in calm weather but does attract the wake boarders so it is not as peaceful as it could be! We then departed at 1 a.m. on 5 June bound for St Peter Port on Guernsey. The unsociable start was to time our arrival at the north end of the Little Russel channel just as the tide would be turning southward. The Channel crossing was mostly windless and we motored for the majority of the time. The only matters of note were three Basking Sharks alongside the boat in mid channel and England throwing away the third test at Trent Bridge against Sri Lanka. We were safety berthed up by 6 p.m. and there we stayed for 5 nights.
We decided to leave Innisfree in Victoria Marina (see left) and take the Ferry to Sark. Not too many turned out for the 08.00 ferry, the 09.45 was much more popular. There are no cars on Sark, transport being either bicycle, tractor and trailer or horse and cart (see below), though foot is often the better choice as the others are restricted to the tracks and consequently the footpaths are nearly deserted.
It was the Sark Seafood Festival while we were there - the Visitor Centre had information boards extolling the virtues of limpet casserole as well as other local traditional fayre. unsurprisingly, we struggled to find any of the many hotels and tea rooms on Sark willing to offer any limpets but the seafood platter at Le Petit Champ hotel was excellent and good value too.
The bus network on Guernsey is excellent. A ticket is 50p no matter how far you go. The No.7 goes right round Guernsey on a 30 odd mile circuit and is an ideal way of see the whole island. The Ship Wreck museum on Guernsey was very good. It is set in the old Fort Grey over looking the western approaches to the island that is littered with rocks and shallows - not a place for any craft to be in poor conditions. The South coast path runs along the cliff tops and well worth the effort even in the heat! Normally the Good Beer Guide is a reliable source for stopping off points, however, some of the Guernsey entries were less than note worthy.
Another of our day trips was a visit to Herm, again by ferry, though this time we had the company of a local primary school on their summer trip! Herm is much smaller than Sark and to our minds was the better of the two as it was less commercialised and more discreet. The flora and fauna was stunning (Burnet Rose - see below) and the beaches were outstanding .
On 10 June we crossed to Jersey for a night before continuing the next day to Granville on the Normandy coast in the Bay of Mont Saint Michel. Winds were light both days and we again had to motor for some of the way. Flat days have their advantages as dolphins are much easier to spot in the calm seas and they seem to be attracted to vessels motoring - they enjoy playing in the bow wave. Two bottlenose dolphins came to say hello so a short while before visiting the two other boats that we also on passage to Granville from St Helier. You can tell if there are dolphins are around a yacht as most of the crew are stood at the bow looking down into the sea.
The entry into the marina in Granville was a little fraught as we arrived just as it opened at 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoon (you can enter 3 hours either side of high water) and were joined by nearly a hundred french craft who had spent the day over in the Isles de Chausey and were desperate to get back, moor up and leave their boats for the week.
The tidal range in this part of the Channel is an astounding 9m at springs. The two adjacent views show the difference between the tides at the entrance to the marina. You certaily have to plan your arrival and departure with the tide tables.
Our main purpose in visiting Granville was to catch a train to go and see the Bayeux Tapestry (we did not plan to visit that area of Normandy by sea this season). The Tapestry is an amazing piece of social history let alone a significant relic from 900 years ago. One thing that stood out was that the fisherman's anchors used by William the Conqueror's fleet which are depicted in the tapestry were exactly as they are now in the 21st Century. Bayeux itself is also a superb medieval town that is worthy of a visit.
We stayed in Granville for a few days catching up on domestic chores and maintenance (the auto pilot needed stripping down after it failed during the crossing from St Helier). While there, we had some exercise by walking part of GR223. This is one of the national footpaths which are excellently marked, GR223 has red and white striped markings.
Just before a turning, the direction is indicated below the standard mark, and at the junction, red and white crosses show which way not to go. So a map is not required, and is certainly more fun without, as it becomes like a treasure trail looking out for the next marker, not knowing where you will be taken next. The portion we followed included dramatic cliff paths, fields full of song birds, traditional villages with chicken running loose, and nature reserves, ending in excellent views of Mont Saint-Michel. It was a scorching hot afternoon, so rather than retracing our steps we caught the STN local bus back to Granville.
From Granville, it was back to St Helier. Our house sale was due to complete and we had to return home to move out! Jersey is a good place from which to make short visits home as there are cheap flights to many parts of the mainland. We booked ours from an internet cafe of which there are several in town. There are two excellent markets in the centre of town, one for veg, bread etc, and the other just fish, but what a variety to choose from! It opens at 7.30a.m. so you can buy fresh fish for dinner before heading off for the days activities. For us this means walking, with reference to the CAMRA Good Beer Guide to suggest a suitable route, aiming for refreshment half way along! We found its recommendations much more reliable in Jersey than we had in Guernsey.
The north coastal path is worth a visit, Bonne Nuit bay (shown left) looks idyllic, but on close inspection has a few too many pot buoys to make a happy anchorage, Bouley Bay to the east looked better, and just as picturesque. We also enjoyed walking the south west corner around to Corbiere Lighthouse, with excellent refreshment at the Smugglers Inn in Ouaisne Bay.
On our return we plan to head for the north coast of Brittany.