So, it’s Sunday morning, wall to wall blue skies, light breeze and flat seas. What to do? Yep, you’ve guessed it. Sail the twenty nautical miles to Sark and have an ‘al fresco’ lunch at La Sablonnerie.
We met at the boat at 06:30 to make sure we were away in time to push against the last of the flood along the southern coast of Jersey and then catch the ebb all the way up to Sark. Sadly, the wind was so light that we had to motor as far as Corbiere Lighthouse on the SW corner of the island but as soon as we’d rounded the headland the tide started to push us north and made a very respectable seven knots over the ground all the way up to Sark’s southern shoreline. As we got closer to Sark, the tidal current changed direction to go NE around the bottom of the island and we began to experience a stronger and stronger sideways effect. Our COG (course over the ground) to Dixcart Bay, where we intended to anchor, was 340 degrees true but we were having to point the boat on a heading of 310 degrees true to counteract the effect of the tide. If ever there was a classic example of how such an invisible force can have an impact on how you navigate, then this was it. The seabed must have been extremely rocky and undulating as there were huge flat whirlpools all around us on the last mile of the approach – I love seeing quirks of Nature like this. If nothing else, it reminds you of how powerful the sea is.
It was a spring tide on this particular Sunday and we had worked out that we needed to allow for a drop in the tide of approximately eight metres. The spot we picked was on a five metre contour line just on the outer edge of the bay. The echo-sounder was reading thirteen metres when we dropped the hook and by our calculations that meant we would be in approximately five metres of water at low tide. This would give us two metres for the keel and a clearance of a further three metres. We let out thirty metres of chain – fifteen to get from the deck to the seabed, ten along the bottom and five for luck. In the time we were going to be away from the boat, the tidal height would only fall and therefore the holding capacity of the anchor and chain would only improve. The breeze was from the north all day, so no worries about being on a lee shore.
A quick paddle ashore and we were off to lunch. The walk up from the beach started quite steeply but soon levelled off to a gentle hike through a beautiful woodland and then out onto the narrow roads of Sark, the exclusive preserve of pedestrians, horses and tractors; no cars allowed on this island!
As we had landed on Big Sark and La Sablonnerie is on Little Sark, we had about a half hour hike and this included passing over La Coupée the seriously high up and steep-sided causeway joining the Sark islands to each other.
The views are amazing. Blue skies, blue sea and all the other neighbouring islands made up the stunning panorama that opened up before us as we walked along the narrow road. In the picture below you can see Brecqhou first, then directly behind it is Herm, slightly more westerly (left as we are looking north) is Jethou and finally, much further back Guernsey is just visible.
Not much further on we eventually arrived at La Sablonnerie. This one of only a handful of hotels/restaurants still privately owned on Sark but it is, without doubt, one of the loveliest and quaintest places to eat and stay at that I know of in the Channel Islands. It is run by the most charming of hosts. The lovely, if exquisitely unique, Elizabeth will do everything she can to make you feel welcome and to ensure that you have the most fabulous of experiences – this is the only reason you need to warrant a visit to Sark!
After a handsome lunch of freshly caught lobster, followed by amazing strawberries and cream, we headed back to the boat.
Across La Coupée, with a quick stop to help some tourists get a picture of themselves with their hired bikes (the other form of transport allowed on Sark)
Then on, down the lanes, through the woods and out into the sunshine at the top of the walk down to the beach. The sight was wonderful. Dixcart Bay was now full of anchored boats and the beach had grown massively in size as the falling tide had pulled the sea back.
The anchor had been weighed and we were making way by 15:30. Now, with the wind behind and the tide going with us as it started to flood, we were making good time towards home. The closer we got to home, the stronger the tidal effect. By the time we were running east along the bottom of our island the tide was up to five knots in spots and for one brief moment, we saw ten knots SOG (speed over the ground) flash up on the instruments.
Look at the effect the tide was having on this North Cardinal marker.
Pretty soon we were at the harbour and the day was over.
I just had to have one last look behind us at the sun starting to get low in the sky to remember that wonderful day out…
This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure. If I’m not in the office dreaming about delivering a boat or teaching Yachtmaster and Day Skipper courses then I’m probably off somewhere exotic on holiday! Whichever it is, I will still be adding my adventures and skipper’s tips so keep popping back to make certain you don’t miss anything and remember:
The Meek may inherit the Earth but it is the Brave who get the Oceans!