Rock hopping for lunch!

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So, picture the scene. It’s 06:30, the sun’s been up for a couple of hours and there’s not a breath of wind.  We’ve untied the lines and we’re motoring out of the harbour at the start of our day out to îles Chausey.  I was simply bursting with excitement! There was just one little problem; this time I’m on a 37 foot sailing yacht and no wind means we’re going to end up motoring the whole way.  It’s been an awfully long time since a day at sea with no wind hasn’t put a smile on my face.

Never mind.  We are on a boat, the sun is out and our destination is a collection of tiny little islands just off the coast of Normandy and lunch is booked for 12:30, French time; does it get better than this, I ask myself? Definitely not!

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I can’t remember the last time I was out on a yacht but it was most certainly a while back.  I’d forgotten how serene it can be.  We ghosted along at a sedate 6 knots through the water and the tide added a couple more to help us on our way.  Slicing through the waves instead of feeling every little bump made a lovely change. We chatted and drank coffee and chatted some more and watched the Condor ferry come past at 9 million knots as it made ready to swallow the yacht in its path…

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Then we rounded the first of our waypoints and started the second leg of the route. Once we’d passed the NE Minquiers cardinal we headed south to pass west of Chausey before turning east along the bottom of the islands.

IMGP1830hi resLooking back towards Jersey with NE Minquiers in the foreground

Gradually, we got closer and Chausey started to become more defined through the high- pressure haze.  I guess it should have come as no surprise that it looked to me just like the Minquiers and the Ecrihous but I was still superbly excited nevertheless.  There is something magical about sailing to a group of rocks barely clear of the surrounding sea, with a few houses, a restaurant, a couple of shops and precious little else.

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The last leg along the south of the main island, Grande îletook no time at all but before we reached the bay where we’d decided to anchor, we got a distant glimpse of the house built by the Renault family many years ago.

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Finally, nearly 4 hours after we left the marina in Jersey, we pulled up and started choosing a suitable spot to anchor.  In short- order the pick was down, the dinghy inflated and a serpentine row later we were on the shore with soft white sand underfoot.

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We had surely arrived at paradise. I know the weather plays a huge part in making places that ordinarily seem average, look like they’ve been crafted by planet manufacturers to appear flawless but I reckon this little island would be special even in the pouring rain. On the other hand, it might just be that I’m so excited…

Lunch was over an hour away, so we set off on a tour of the island.  I’m not going to describe what you can see for yourselves, I’m simply going to put some shots up.

Enjoy!

It really isn’t a huge island and it wasn’t long before we’d done the tour and were sitting at a table with a view in the restaurant/hotel (Hotel du Fort et des Iles).  You’d imagine a business with little or no competition might rest on its laurels but the food was excellent if mostly fish dishes.  Incidentally, the desserts were to die for!

Soon after lunch, we headed back to the boat.

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By now the wind had picked up and we knew we were in for a proper sail on the way back – this day just kept getting better and better.

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What a wonderful way to spend a sunny summer’s Saturday!  If you keep your boat in the Channel Islands and you’ve never been to Îles Chausey then it’s about time you remedied that.  If you normally do your boating somewhere further afield then a visit to the Channel Island has to be on your wish list for this summer and whilst you’re so close, get yourselves down to Îles Chausey.

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

Circumnavigating the British Isles

This is going to be an epic trip, without any shadow of doubt.  Sadly, I’m only going to be able to make some of the legs but nevertheless, I’m going to chronicle the passages I do make and probably comment on notable happenings from the ones that I’m not on.  The last time I made a journey of similar magnitude was down the east coast of America, some of you may remember the Grand East Coast Tour. I think this is going to be just as exciting, if not more!  In order to protect the privacy of the owner of the boat, I’m not going to mention any names, including the name of the boat but I can tell you that the boat is a Botnia Targa. Whenever I’ve spoken with people in the industry about these boats I always get the impression they are the marine equivalent to the Camel Trophy Land Rovers – it appears that people who own these boats seem to wait until it gets rough and then go out!! Fortunately, not everyone who owns a Botnia Targa is loopy-loo and I suspect the ride around England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales will be a very pleasant and calm affair – at least I hope it will be when I’m on board.

So, the first thing to do is get the boat from Jersey to Southampton and that’s just what we did yesterday.  A suitable day appeared out of nowhere and after making some quick plans on Saturday, we were off at 08:45 Sunday morning.

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Flat enough it may have been but it was also wet and pretty miserable as we left Jersey and headed north for the Alderney Race.  Tripping along at 22 knots, we were soon at the race and swept through at 28 knot SOG with a handy bit of tide under us.  The Channel was absolutely empty.  We didn’t have to change course once to avoid ships and we only saw four in the shipping lanes anyway – the breaks in the conversation were getting longer at this stage.  I reckon there’s only so much you can talk about before it starts to become prying.  Maybe it was time for a game of I-spy…

“Hang on a moment, that’s not a freighter and it’s not going the same way as the other ship in the south bound lane either…I know what that looks like, it’s a forces vessel and it’s headed our way!”

Sure enough, they tucked into our wake as we sailed past and kept pace with us for a short while.  Nothing came over the VHF, so we carried on, assuming they would have seen our name and the AIS signature and done all the checks they wanted without having to stop us…

WRONG!

The next thing we see, they slowed the cutter right down and launched a RIB, which hammered through the sea after us.  Still no call on the VHF and I was beginning to wonder if it was working and at the same time dreading the, “Why didn’t you stop?” conversation that was bound to happen once they boarded us.  So, we thought it might be prudent, at this point, to slow down and let them come alongside.

In no time at all they were upon us and three large and slightly intimidating ‘blokes in black’ got on the boat.  They were Border Force and simply wanted to know who we were, where we’d come from and where we were going.  Actually, they were really nice guys, very polite and we had an interesting chat.  Right up until the point when they spotted the table.  It’s not a particularly remarkable table really, save for the fact that it is suspended by a stainless steel shaft which is attached both at the floor and on the ceiling of the cabin. When ‘underway’, the table is slid all the way to the top of the post in order that it is out of the way and nobody can hurt themselves by striking it when the boat rocks about in a sea. Clearly, this leaves a tall stainless steel post as the centre of attention in the saloon area of the pilot house – yes, it does look as though it is there for ‘pole-dancing’ purposes!  When the Border Force guys spotted it and asked what it was for, they and I found out, at the same time, that it was for me to practice my ‘pole-dancing’ skills on!  Now this came as a shock to me, as you might imagine.  After all, anyone who knows me will instantly testify to the fact that my sheer bulk alone would prevent me from completing any sort of manoeuvre on a pole upside down or otherwise, not that I wouldn’t have given it a go; I’m always up for learning new skills!

Apparently, as the Border Force guys left the boat, they were giggling and I had gone a shocking shade of scarlet – I will get my own back at some stage, of that I’m certain.  Drat and double drat!

Once the ‘giggling’ Border Force had disappeared and we were on our way again, I put all scary thoughts of ‘pole-dancing’ to one side (I could always pick them up again later) and we concentrated on the last leg of the journey.  It wasn’t long before the south coast of the UK appeared in the form of the white cliffs by the Needles on the Isle of Wight. The weather was improving all the time and the sun even put in an appearance.

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We were soon through the Needles and as we went through, we made the call to get clearance on the HM Customs National Yachtline.  N.B. you must let HMRC know when you leave and enter the EU on your boat. It’s a short call, nothing onerous, so no reason not to.  It would pay to have your SSR or other registration numbers to hand.

A short while later and we were threading our way through boats off Calshot Spit, heading for the Hamble.  At this point we called up Solent Coastguard on the Small Ships Safety Channel VHF67 and asked them to let Jersey Coastguard know that we had arrived safely.

As soon as we’d tied alongside and tidied up, I bade farewell to my crew-mate and toddled off to start my journey back to Jersey.  Over the next few months there will be more instalments from the trip. If you enjoyed reading this post and don’t want to miss any of the new posts I will make in the future, simply click on the link to Follow the Blog and you will get notified whenever I post a new entry.

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

Offshore in the Channel Islands

Offshore, in the Channel Islands

As we zigzagged and rattled our way down the runway at Southampton I looked around at my fellow passengers and wondered if they were feeling the same sense of apprehension I was.  There were only 10 of us on the flight and that meant we were almost at capacity.  The curtain into the cockpit was held aside, so I had an excellent view of what was happening up front; finally I stopped panicking and instead I started wondering how different navigating through the air is to finding your way around on the sea.

Guernsey was wet and windy and as we walked across to the terminal it occurred to me that our first day of training, tomorrow, was going to be a little exciting.  Thankfully, the forecast from earlier in the week had changed somewhat, as it usually does, and the 30 knot winds had been replaced by much less worrying 16 knot winds.  Nevertheless, it was still going to make us think about how we approached our close quarters work.

After lots of cheery ‘hellos’ and swift, manly hugs, we headed off to the boat to dump my stuff and then on to dinner.  There are hosts of lovely restaurants surrounding the harbours in Guernsey. If you ever choose to cross the Channel, and I would heartily recommend you do, this island is definitely worth a visit. For all sorts of reasons of course but mostly, in my opinion, for the food.  The fish dishes are magnificent and the French influence is plain to see.

It wasn’t long before we had convinced ourselves that the wind, being from the North, wouldn’t be that bad after all and as long as we made sure we set off when the tide and wind were going in the same direction, we would be fine – besides which, the forecast for the following day was zero wind and cloudless skies, so getting back from St Malo would be a breeze…

The next morning the wind had changed direction and was now going to be completely in the wrong direction.  ‘Wind over tide, lunch over the side’, one of my students said to me once. It was definitely going to be lumpy out there and St Malo had become a non-starter.  So, plan B came into effect and as soon as we’d had breakfast and completed all our checks we set off for a bumpy ride around Herm.

Drawing on some expert local knowledge – Ross has been navigating around these islands ever since he was a young lad – we wove our way through some narrow channels, with some ever so jagged looking rocks sticking up on either side of us.

Actually, the channels were really well marked and once we’d made it through it wasn’t such a drama after all.

Out of the wind it was a superb day.  There were barely any clouds in the sky and in places it was quite calm.  So we decided to head for a sheltered bay to anchor off for a spot of lunch – on the east coast of Guernsey, just below St Peter Port, is a lovely spot called Fermain Bay.

There were plenty of transits to line up on but the wind was so light in the bay, as it was supremely sheltered from the North Westerly wind, that we needn’t have worried about the anchor dragging.  We were soon anchored up and munching our way through a light lunch; must save space for dinner!  Incidentally, if you do find yourself in a situation whereby you’ve set the anchor but it then starts to drag, before you go about pulling it up and starting again, try letting another ten metres of chain out.  Also remember, never anchor on a ‘Lee shore’.  This is a shore which the wind is blowing on to.  Clearly, letting out more anchor chain in a situation such as that would just put you closer to the shore and you would run the risk of grounding on the shoreline.

After lunch we headed back to the marina.  Being a very tidal area and the marina having a sill, we needed to get back into the marina before the tide level dropped too low.  Once inside I thought it would be a good opportunity to practice some close quarters work.  We created quite a stir, not only the mud at the bottom of the marina but also from some bemused onlookers, who’d obviously never seen a 42 foot, fly-bridge motor cruiser going sideways down a channel before – we meant to do that!

Finally, we moored alongside the berth and set about planning our next great adventure.  Two mugs of very welcome tea later, it had been decided that we should go to France for lunch – our destination was to be Dielette.

The next morning it was completely calm and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Ross and I got up early to move the boat out of the marina before the tide dropped too far and put her on the waiting pontoon in the other harbour.  Once we had all showered and dressed we set about getting the tender off the back so that we could go ashore and get some… breakfast!

As soon as we were back on the boat we fired up the engines, let go of the lines and headed out to sea.  The plan was to head across to Sark and have a nosey round the island whilst we waited for the tide to come back up – heading into Dielette at low water can be a little exciting as it gets quite shallow…

Sark is gorgeous from the water, it must be even better on land.  Did you know that there are no cars on Sark, just horses, carts and a couple of tractors?

Look at the tide flowing through channel in front of the lighthouse in the shot below.

This next picture shows the harbour in the middle of the shot, with the road winding its way up the hill – an energetic walk or a ride on the tractor drawn trailer; you decide!

An hour and a half of perfectly flat sea later, Dielette harbour appeared in front of us and we headed in.  I made certain we had all the relevant documents on board, as a good sea school captain should do, especially since I have been asked for every bit of paperwork imaginable on previous occasions but the harbour master was kindness exemplified! Not only did he waive the mooring charge – we were only staying for lunch – but he telephoned a local restaurant and booked us in.  What a nice fellow.  Even better, the lady who owned the restaurant looked after us personally and sang a delightful song under her breath as she served us.  I’m certain it was delightful, even though my French is a little sparse, as she wore a lovely smile the whole time.

Go to Dielette, it’s a brilliant place!

Full from a sunny lunch in France, we jumped aboard and whizzed back to Guernsey.

As we made our way back to the marina I reflected on the last couple of days.

This is truly a magnificent way for friends and family to spend time relaxing together.  A spell of nice weather, an open sea, and a passage plan make up the ingredients for a smashing day out.

Keep a look out for my next big adventure which will be from Lake Windermere in Cumbria – by for now shipmates!

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventure.