Saturday and Sunday 20 & 21 July… sailing home (ish)

As a postscript to Friday night in St Peter Port…the rain lashed down all evening and we stayed tucked up in Heydays having got wet once already. It was a real shame, as there was a water carnival and fireworks as well. We heard the fireworks and a brave announcer trying to make everything sound as though this was the most fun ever…full marks for trying.

Of the thunder and lightening which prompted our detour to Guernsey there was not a peep!

Saturday morning promises a fine sail across to Cherbourg for some last minute booze and cheese stocks and we leave at 7am BST at the head of a small flotilla of boats all hoping to catch the rapid tidal escalator round Alderney to all points East and North. The BST bit is important as initially we found ourselves working on French time i.e. Central European Summer Time (CEST), but with the added complication that some of our phones and tidal almanacs seemed to be giving us tidal info in GMT, BST and even CET. The fact that so many left with us gave us the confidence that we had finally got it right.

Down the channel the wind was gusty and there was a nasty chop, which to those of us used to sailing in the Solent is nothing (almost). Alderney and indeed any land came and went as the visibility closed down one minute and then lifted the next. The steady procession of boats gradually dispersed as the day went on and we rounded Cap de la Hague with a steady SW F5/6, which, despite having wind with tide raised a nasty little chop which threatened our soup! The rain held off, but we eyed the clouds over Cherbourg with suspicion. The outer forts take on a particularly foreboding attitude in this weather…

The clouds chose to off-load just as we entered the outer harbour…this is the real glamour stuff…

And then as quickly as it came, the clouds lifted and by the time we were moored up we were baking in layers of by then completely necessary clothing.

We planned to do some shopping at Normandy Wines who deliver to the boat, then on to Carrefour, then dinner before a kip and an early morning leave for a channel crossing to catch the last of the flood up the Needles channel and home. It turns out that Carrefour deliver to the boats as well, so we had an early dinner of our final French fruits de mer (for now)… or steak and frites. By the time we got back to Heydays our bags of shopping had been put on board and then the 14 boxes of wine arrived and we were complete. We have not had service like this in too many places at home and we were even more impressed at how much stuff we could buy package free . They stock a great range of pulses, cereals, rice etc etc sold loose….

With the wind now easing to no more than F4 with only occasional gusts of 19 or 20kts we decide to leave in the last of the light and maybe even get most of the way across the eastbound shipping lane before darkness sets in completely. Chris and Yee Tak had both been considering going home on the ferry, but stuck with us on this occasion with the promise of a lovely beam reach in a decreasing wind. We slipped our mooring and left France with real sadness but were treated to a fine sun going down over the old harbour…

We usually put in a reef or so at night and this was no exception if we want our female company on future crossings. With 2 reefs in the main and two in the genny, Heydays was making an easy 6 to 6.5kts. The only thing to disturb the peace was a very busy eastbound shipping lane and a large tanker crossing it on a very similar course to us. We have not seen such a large ship doing this before and it was momentarily alarming as it seemed to be altering course to go behind some boats…just like us!

With the excitement past, we slipped into our usual routine of 2 hours on and 2 off and so the night passed with the loom of Barfleur lighthouse finally dipping below the horizon as a wonderful moon rose to take its place…

The westbound lane on the UK side was equally busy and we did a spot more dodging behind boats and anxiously peering at bearings and the changing aspect of the lights as the boats passed ahead or astern of us.

With St Catherines light now visible and the bulk of the big boats slipping silently well astern, the first lightening of the sky signalled the approach of dawn…

and gradually the Isle of Wight began to take shape together with the familiar sight of the Needles to guide us home….

We passed Hurst Castle once more and joined up the dots so to speak, bringing Heydays home exactly 2 months after we left on our Brittany tour. Our final job is to tidy up, stash the wines and make our way back to our mooring.

Our mooring was taken by, of all things, a motor cruiser when we got back to it. We shoved Heydays onto a vacant mooring belonging to another poor soul and called the Harbour master. They said they will move boats around and sort everything out. When asked whether we get a cut of the sub-letting of our mooring, the reply was that the fees “…go into a pot to reduce the charges for everyone”. After a long night sail our repsonse was “Yeah right”

Welcome home! However we won’t leave it there, because this cruise done in stages with biggish chunks of time spent in France, has been a real revelation. The pride that the French take in their public spaces and their apparent willingness to spend on landscaping, sculptures and public art…even if they need more practice in using the often freely available poo bags! The seeming lack of cultural snobbery which prevents many young people from getting out on the water in this country. There, they have a big supply of mostly public owned marinas and moorings which enable people from all walks of like to be able to afford to moor their own boats….and they have vast numbers of very young children out on the water in all manner of little boats. But most of all, the sheer rugged beauty of the Brittany coast…

One thought on “Saturday and Sunday 20 & 21 July… sailing home (ish)

  1. Well done. Fantastic record. Very informative and great photos.


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