Tonight we are at anchor on the Helford River by Frenchman’s Creak. We passed through the mooring buoys as we headed up river. All the visitors buoys were taken. Anyway it looked more like a Pontin’s holiday camp they were so close together. Beyond was a most beautiful stretch of river. It is idyllic. After careful deliberation, taking into account the rise of tide, wind direction and proximity of other boats, we dropped our anchor. There is perfect peace on the mooring. The wind has gone. The water is calm. Daphne Du Maurier wrote a book also called ‘Frenchman’s Creak’. Apparently the descriptions of the area are magical and match the real scenery. It’s all about a Frenchman smuggler risking his life for the Lady Dona St Columb. Linda has been advised to look out for a ghostly ship tonight, and listen for the hoot of an owl. Then, her friend says, slip into your husband’s breeches and run to the Frenchman by moonlight. If that happens, I’ve told Linda that we’re history. She has been seeking the wise counsel of her book club friends. So far the advice seems to be to stick with the devil she knows!
Last night fellow sailors at supper told us where Lidl was. Linda turned to me as if to say ‘do we look like the sort of people who shop at Lidl!’. Well probably. Or Asda. But we wanted be seen as one of Waitrose finest and most loyal. So this morning we headed for Tesco Express, which in reality is our natural habitat. The walk there was through one of Plymouth’s more seedy areas. But the walk back was delightful with sweeping views up and down the River Tamar. Once fuelled up, we headed for Helford River and for the first time this trip, we’re loving being at anchor once again.
Our parting gift from Guernsey was a full tank of diesel at the bargain price of £1.16 per litre. It demonstrates what a huge tax take there is on fuel in the UK. In my view that’s fair. The money has to come from somewhere and why not raise the revenue from a big polluter? But I was still happy to fill our tank at a discounted price!
One of the disadvantages of tides is that a boater’s life revolves around tide times. Once in the English Channel, there is not a lot of tide to worry about but Victoria Marina in St Peter Port has a sill to contend with and there is only sufficient depth to be able to navigate over it for 2 hours or so either side of high tide. We were able to cross the sill at 0815 today, so for once, we were able to rise and leave at a civilised time. The weather has detained us on Guernsey for longer than planned. Our neighbours decided to wait another day for even better conditions. The overfalls along the Little Russel Channel between Guernsey and Herm were uncomfortable but soon eased as we headed towards the north coast of the island. But not quite as much as we would have wished for. 18 knots proved too fast and uncomfortable. 10 knots was comfortable but with the wind predicted to build later in the day, too slow. So we settled for about 15 knots and arrived in Plymouth after about 5 1/2 hours. We were accompanied by porpoises for some of the way and shadowed by a warship heading into Plymouth. Filling in the C1331 form for UK customs resulted in a huge challenge to my otherwise even tempered nature. The same rudimentary Excel spreadsheet that we used on departing the UK last month with multiple bugs was finally completed after an hour requiring an immediate dose of medicinal St Miguel at the club restaurant where we received lots of tips on exploring the south coasts of Devon and Cornwall from an old hand and his wife.
From our cliff top vantage point eating our picnic of prawn and mayo sandwiches,we watched a small yacht as it appeared to search for an anchorage. We put ourselves into their shoes. Sure. A beautiful location, and largely sheltered from a stiff north westerly breeze, but the issue for us would be staying afloat and not swinging into rocks with a 5-6 metre rise and fall of tide. What follows is a bit of arithmetic. You need 5 times the amount of anchor chain as your depth. So that’s 30 metres of chain just to accommodate the tide. So even if you find a rock free area and anchor in 3 metres of water at low tide, you need to lay 45 metres of chain which means that you would be in the centre of a circle of 90 metres diameter. When you look from above, a 90 metre circle free of rocks looks a big ask. We are happy in a marina!
This should be the last day on Guernsey. Had the weather been better, we may have gone to Jersey and Alderney too, but we have explored this tiny island, just over 3 times the size of Mersea. Within 5 miles of its capital, there is so much variety from the sandy beaches at the bottom of tall cliffs in the south to the broad sweeping bays to the north and west and gentle undulating countryside in between. It is beautifully manicured everywhere with little concession to mass tourism. We’ve loved it!
The British Ensign that we fly on our boats is quite understated. A Union on Jack on a red background. There are variations for those who have served with the Royal Navy, and a range of other options. Normally they are relatively small. The Dutch, on the other hand like a tricolour so large that it all but dips in the water. It says much about the self confidence of the Dutch. The Danish like to make a bit of a statement with their maritime flag and I rather like it. It is a split flag with two long tails. The Danes have a proud history and it would seem, enjoy displaying their flag which is an attention grabber. I have spent the evening looking at a Danish flag.
After 3 days on no blogging, I feel compelled to report. Wind still windy. Sea still too wavey. Monday looks okay so we plan to head for Plymouth on Monday morning. One of our neighbours has recommended the Mayflower marina, so that’s where we’ll go. Our other neighbour has Covid and still testing positive after 8 days. He is feeling very well though. On Thursday we took our bikes to the fabulous Fermaine Bay where we we spent the afternoon at the Beach Café. Drama on the way back as the electric motor didn’t engage soon enough on Linda’s bike, she wobbled and fell off and grazed her elbow badly. Not to be outdone, I went to parkrun this morning and did a face plant onto a gritty path. Apparently it looked great from behind and I lay stunned for a few seconds whilst reassuring the people overtaking that I was fine and managed to complete the course with damaged pride and a sore face. There are still jobs to be doing on Ruby so that too is keeping us occupied.
Today started in the worst possible way. After completing Wordle correctly on 70 consecutive days, it defeated me. GAWKY. What sort of a word is that? It has become a ritual. It’s the way both Linda and I get our brains firing each morning over a coffee in bed. That along with Quordle, Worldle, Globle, Wordly and Nerdle. I suppose it is an addiction? Harmless though!
St Peter Port is a perfectly decent place to be holed up. We shan’t leave until we have the right conditions for a passage to Devon. So we are enjoying the pleasures that the island has to offer. Yesterday it was Hauteville House, the home of Victor Hugo while he lived in exile from Napoleon III. It is an extraordinary and rather eccentric place. Often rather dark with much of the interior decorated in a medieval style, but much of it a style very much of his own.
Today, we headed north on our bikes to Beaucette marina. Guernsey is like a big sprawling village. You never get into proper countryside. Just the odd field pehaps nestled between houses. The roads and stone walls are beautifully maintained, it is cycle friendly and speeds limited to an absolute maximum of 35mph, but often just 25mph. There are areas of greenhouses, perhaps covering a hectare or so scattered around the island. There was a time that many of our tomatoes were grown in Guernsey, but the oil crisis of the late ’70s and then competition from the Dutch made the industry unprofitable and explains the derelict greenhouses we passed today. It is difficult to believe that in the 60s, 7% of the island was under glass!
Originally, we had planned for Beaucette to be our Guernsey base until someone put us off and suggested St Peter Port instead. We like St Peter Port but Beaucette is thoroughly depressing! It is formed from an old quarry with a narrow access from the sea and a coastline liberally strewn with rocks. At low tide it is deep, cold and dark. However, the restaurant overlooking the harbour served fantastic food. Our seabass with crispy skin and served on a potato cake and vegetables was divine and good enough for me to forget the disappointments of the morning!
Still here! It’s a nice place right in the middle of the capital!
A visit to the castle reminded me of how poor my knowledge of British history is. Anyway, the Channel Islands became English possessions when in 1066, William the Conqueror crossed the Channel to invade England. England lost more and more of their French possessions, and when Queen Mary lost Calais in the 16th century, only the Channel Islands were left. They remain Crown dependencies and owe their allegiance to the Duke of Normandy. The Queen.
The castle has guarded the harbour for over 800 years. Today, the only battles were on the water between rival Spirit Yachts. Ten of them battling it out on a passage race around Sark. We had a perfect vantage point from the castle just above the starting box.
Saturday is parkrun day. Mandatory activity for the obsessive parkrunner. So off we we cycled to Guernsey’s event. Linda tagged along with the promise of coffee and breakfast at the café next to the start. I feel that I’ve become flabby and unfit since we left home. A diet of pain au raisins, pastries and baguettes is the cause. So a time of 27 plus minutes was better than expected for the 5k. A beautiful course it was too along the dunes overlooking L’Ancresse Bay. We lingered over coffee afterwards and then Linda plugged her battery into her bike for our next coffee and lunch stop at another glorious location. Cobo bay. Heavy showers interrupted our ride back to St Peter Port via Waitrose (in the absence of Lidl and Asda!) to top up on provisions.
It is always interesting to visit local yacht clubs when ‘on tour’. They almost always welcome visiting yachtsmen. Just sign yourself in and make yourself comfortable, often with a great view of the local waters. More often than not, good value food and booze too. Sometimes you meet interesting people as well. Linda spotted a couple of girls wearing ‘Spirit Yachts’ T shirts. They were busy preparing for some sort of event. Spirit Yachts are partners with James Bond films and one of them features in the most recent film, ‘No time to die’. They represent the last word in luxury cruising and combine high tech with traditional design. Linda felt the urge to speak to them. I think the conversation went like this. ‘Hello. I’m Will Fox’s mum’. ‘OMG, not the Will Fox?”Yep. I’m his Mum!’. Anyway it turns out that they do know him because Will has been working on some structural engineering aspects of a new boat for them. Starting at the weekend, there is a Spirit Yacht regatta being hosted by none other than the Guernsey Yacht Club. There will be a full program of racing and apparently most of the 60 yachts ever built by Spirit over the last 40 years will be here. There are a few in the harbour already. With the start line at the castle by the harbour entrance, I think we can expect to be entertained over the next few days.
But it’s not all fun on Ruby. There are a list of maintenance tasks to be undertaken. This afternoon, it was window cleaning. By Bobby of course. Linda gave explicit instructions from a semi-recumbant position and appears to think that I did a good job. Beer and steak pie was the reward.
The Channel Islands have always, to me, been synonymous with fearsome currents, big tides and liberally strewn rocks. Lovely when you’re there but it’s the getting there. The ‘Alderney Race’. The very name strikes the fear of God into me. There’s no easy way to avoid it. This tidal stream, starting at the North western corner of the Cherbourg peninsula, can run at nearly 10 knots in spring tides. When there are strong currents, there are often rough seas. Fortunately we are on neap tides at the moment so the tide should be less fierce. Consultation with Reed’s Almanac confirmed that today at about 0900 was the time to arrive there when the tide was slack, then gradually building in strength to sweep us down to Guernsey. With light winds, this had to be a golden opportunity. And so it proved to be. A smooth trip almost all the way at 20 knots. We had to wait for enough tide to come in before crossing the sill and entering the marina where we were tucked into our own quiet little corner of the harbour. Early impressions of St Peter Port are good! We’ll be here a few days.
The weather for nearly a week has been iffy. Often very windy and looking ahead, it will be windy again. Today seemed a good day to go to Cherbourg where we can get our passports stamped and tomorrow head for Guernsey. We are on neap tides at the moment, so tides less problematic and the wind should be behind us. After quite a rough passage off Barfleur, we turned west, the seas settled, we powered up the engines, and we were soon in Cherbourg. It’s a massive marina. Lots of Brits, and the usual complement of Germans and Dutch. Oh, and French. Our German neighbours are heading for the Canaries in their new Dehler 38 SQ.
We can spend 90 days a year in the EU. Or is it 90 in 180? Whatever it is, you need to get your passport stamped, otherwise the clock keeps ticking and could prevent trips later in the year. We presented ourselves at an office in town. It was very informal. No computer checks. Just a rubber stamp and we were off. We fully intend to leave tomorrow but would anyone know if we stayed weeks, months or years?
Linda’s loving her electric Brompton. She found another chateau (Chateau Ravalets) and garden to visit at the top of a very long hill which she accomplished with ease where we had our picnic lunch.