Thursday, 22 August 2013

Guernsey to Alderney 3/8/13

The tides dictated a late afternoon start so we slept in and breakfasted late - or was it an early lunch?

It was a pleasant afternoon and we were sailing within half an hour of departing the marina. We abandoned our initial plans to fill up with fuel (having previously done so at Portsmouth and Plymouth) due to a rather lengthy que and safe in the knowledge that we did not have far to go.

A fine sail to Alderney followed, on if memory serves me right, a beam reach in a civilised westerly. We recalled the advice we received from a local Guernsey Fisherman all those years ago - aim for Burhou and you'll be OK. The infamous Swinge was in fairly docile mood on our arrival with the westerly wind blowing in the same direction as the early flood. Even so enough of a chop developed off Burhou to remind us of what the Swinge was capable of delivering in less benign conditions.

Alderney may be my favourite island for a number of reasons but one sticks vividly in mind. At the tender age of 16 Alderney loomed out of the gloom at the end of my first every channel crossing. That one was on the Ocean Youth Club Pilot Cutter 'Equinox' and the landfall was quite simply the most amazing experience of my 16 years - absolutely magic. In those old pre-gadget days (30 years ago - only a couple of years after that first landfall - when I sailed on my Dad's standing gaff cutter, the most advanced technology we possessed was an occasional echo sounder (i.e. it worked sometimes) and a chip log - not counting the fancy RDF set that I could never master - new technology - pah); ensuring that one cleared the sunken breakwater was something of a challenge especially in poor visibility. This time though our GPS units and my laptop plotter made the task much easier. Mind you we still struggled to identify the leading marks correctly, but didn't follow the boat in front who went straight over it.

As we entered Braye harbour it was clear that whilst Alderney was still the island I had grown to love, things had changed. The 12 yellow visitors buoys had multiplied into closer to 50 and everyone was taken. We therefore anchored in 9 meters on the Eastern side of the harbour close to the North Cardinal and a very handsome one time steam yacht.

Our neighbour in Braye!
Later that evening

Hooray, we actually sailed more hours than we motored for the first time on the cruise (but note the rather short distance below).

Rough key stats:

Departed St Peter Port 3/8 1540
Total distance over ground = 22.5 miles
Total hours = 4
Total Engine hours = 0.50
Total Sailing hours = 3.50
Average Speed over ground = 5.6k
Arrived Braye 1930
Anchored 2027

It was late in the evening so despite mutinous mutterings from certain quarters we decided to stay on board and enjoy yet another excellent meal prepared by Bernie. And so reasonably early to bed. Except that there was  a beach party in full swing. This is no exaggeration - it was still going at 0800 the following morning! Those Alderney folk know how to party.

The next morning we hailed the water taxi (a new innovation since our previous visits) and went ashore.
The view from the quay in the morning

And another one!
First stop the the immortal Divers. Not quite the hostelry of old, but still a good pub and infinitely better than anything Guernsey had to offer. The wild seascape photos on the walls of yesteryear had been replaced by various "Divers" images. Appropriate enough but not quite the real thing.

The bar maid was very pleasant if a bit bleary eyed and we discovered the reason (for her bleary eyes) she left the party early at 0600! Some of her pals were in a far worse state and I supposed must have only just left! We also discovered the reason for the celebrations - it was Alderney Week!

After a swift pint - or was it two? .. we continued on our way up the hill to St Anne. Mick declared that having given up smoking some considerable time ago - he was fitter than he was at 25. Not having smoked I had to accept that I was not!

On arriving in St Anne we noticed that the locals were laying out their wares on various stalls up an down the high street. Pretty impressive given that many of them had been partying until 0800 that morning. Perhaps that was why we secured some excellent bargains - CD's at 50p a throw allowed us to stock up the boat's music library and I picked up a classy hip flask for a fiver.

We explored the town further - it was still as attractive as I remembered and quaintly some of the pubs still only opened on occasional days - Mick's favourite had however turned into an Art Gallery! Time for lunch. After inspecting the scene where yours truly fell asleep in his dinner some 30 years ago ....

As it says on the wall
.... we returned to the centre of town to a pub I have forgotten the name of (help guys) and had a most superb lunch. This was followed by a walk around the north Eastern corner of the island - as beautiful as ever ...

A humble Alderney home

The harbour from afar

Alderney delights - all the above

Then back to the boat for (yes you guessed it) and consideration of our next passage. That dam low was still lurking over the Irish Sea and so we finally had to let go of the idea of the Scilly Isles and turn our attention to Brittany. This had certain compensations (and we were to discover more) namely that Mick and I had spent many years on the trot in the 70's trying to get there on my Dad's boat. We never got any nearer than Jersey, so to get there now provided a certain symmetry to our trip. The die was caste. The next day we would head south once more.