From Alderney to St Peter Port
The folks at Alderney asked “What do you want to go there for?”. And If you read the pilot books, getting from Alderney to St Peter Port, Guernsey, is fraught with danger. The route down The Swinge and the Little Russell will have you sailing blind and banging into rocks. And the Alderney Race will send you way past your planned arrival point… likely somewhere in the pit of Hades.
Actually the trip to St Peter Port was incredibly easy. Our speed on the way averaged around 8 knots, as it was a spring tide (fast flowing current). And we could see for miles. Nor did we hit anything on the way or in the marina.
Caution is needed of course, but with sensible planning and an eye on the weather, it’s certainly less fraught than trying to negotiate your way past a Sunsail Series racing fleet in the Solent. Actually, that’s probably an unfair comparison as I’d rather pull my fingernails out than tackle the Sunsail fleet – and I used to race in it.
We arrived at St Peter Port a little early, so we had to mix it a bit with the other boats on the cheap seats until there was enough water over the cill of Victoria Marina for us to enter.
The berthing masters here greet you in their little boats and direct you where to go. These guys have a tough job. It gets very busy in the harbour, and trying to squeeze boats in to a limited amount of space while trying to balance the requests of those already parked up is a thankless task. And things can get a bit emotional… more on that later
Eventually we were able to enter the marina and were guided to a space on the side we requested – starboard side – (with the pontoon on our right hand side). One of the bolts on a stanchion base had sheared, so we had to sort that out as well as completing the rest of the to-do items on our list.
After sorting the boat and ourselves out on the first evening, we had dinner at the Crows Nest restaurant overlooking the harbour – just squeezing in half an hour before closing. That was a good find… good food and friendly service, and the prices were reasonable. As a Friday night treat we booked in at the excellent, although garishly coloured, La Perla restaurant, which we can wholly recommend for its fantastic service, food and value.
Here’s a bit of a sidenote on prices: Although the island is duty free, it certainly isn’t profit free. Drinks are up at Hampshire prices and, as a frugal Northerner, restaurant prices can have tears dripping down your face. My understanding is that Guernsey used to be the place to stock up with cheap booze and fags, but no longer I’m afraid.
The only things we did find cheap was fuel and – as luck would have it – replacement stanchion bases. Diesel was a positive bargain at 60p per litre at the Boatworks + fuel pontoon.
You might get the sense that our stay in St Peter Port was more work than play. And you’d be right… it was. We still had a lot of things to improve before getting the boat ready to cross the Bay of Biscay. So we thought we would do that in Guernsey where there is easy access to chandlers and DIY stores.
Besides, it was raining day after day. From the day we arrived until Sunday when there was a little bit of sunshine.
So we used the time, amongst other things, to reorganise the boat; fit the wifi extender; re-test satellite weather data connectivity; replace some of the running rigging, and rig the spinnaker pole.
Then, on Sunday, we went on the Petit Train.
This seems to have become something of a ritual for the crew of Lady Jane. If a tourist train exists, I suspect we will be on it. This particular train, for £5 each, takes you on a 40 minute tour of the town and the harbour, teaching you a little of the history of the town, and generally keeping you – and people watching the train – entertained.
The sightseeing bargain, however, has to be the bus. For just £1 per person, you can grab a bus that takes you all round the island. There is no commentary, but you don’t need it. All you need to do is sit back and take in the sights.
Actually, I think the word got out on this bargain. Two cruise ships had just disgorged their bowels of human cargo, which proceeded to swarm all over St Peter Port. Some of the more able bodied found their way to the bus and squeezed on. So if there is cruise ship in town, you may want to leave the bus and the train well alone. It’s a feeding frenzy.
Most of our fellow sailors are good spirits. There’s a common fraternity, a mutual recognition that we are all in it together. And that each person has different levels of experience, different boats and budgets and aims and aspirations. But we are all sailors and we should, and mostly do, help each other.
But there are exceptions.
We met one of these exceptions at the Boatworks fuel pontoon when filling up with our bargain 60p per litre diesel.
There is a a bit of a trade off at the fuel pontoon, as you also get an unwanted top-side rub down from the swell coming into the harbour. For a boat of our size, when she starts to roll the effect can be quite something.
This didn’t escape the observation of our refuelling neighbour, who, rather than say something along the lines of “Can I help, given that you are wielding a heavy diesel fuel hose, trying to fill up while on the nautical equivalent of a bucking bronco – and your wife is single handedly trying to keep the fenders in place to stop the boat from getting damaged?”
Instead I heard the rhetorical statement “Oooh I’ve never seen a boat that size roll like that before” followed by “Are you staying to get some more fuel?” after Maria and I tried to get our wits together for a couple of minutes after filling up.
Fortunately these people are few and far between, and even more fortunate is that Neptune has their card marked.
When we returned from a brief trip into town, we had grown a neighbour, a 40ft French boat. That was of course fine by us, and when the gentlemen arrived back from their own trip into town, they were quick to ask if they could come on board, and explained that they are leaving early in the morning, but they will be quiet – etc. All very polite. The skipper said that they had tried to berth next to another boat, but were told they were too big (39ft vs 40ft) and had to move.
Who could possibly have been so unreasonable? Yes, you have guessed it… the arse at the Boatworks pontoon.
Neptune could not have left this unaddressed of course, so while my nemesis was at the yacht club, he arranged for a 46 footer to lay crushingly alongside. That’ll teach you you miserable git.