Thursday, 22 August 2013

Plymouth to Guernsey 31/7 - 1/8

Through no fault of Eurospar's, the spare parts for the traveller (new plastic wheels, moveable stops and end stops) that they had ordered, failed to turn up on Monday and we had to wait until Wednesday before they finally did appear.

The earlier removal of the old car had proved to be a complex and nerve wracking operation.The existing end stops on the track had been cunningly fixed by means of machine screws from the underside of the stainless steel base plate that ran the length of the traveller, but these screws were not also fastened through the fibreglass bridge deck of the cockpit. That meant that the only way of accessing them was by removing the base plate. BUT all the machine screws attaching the traveller to the base plate had corroded solid. No amount of battering by either us or the guys from Eurospar could shift them. The only options appeared to be a lengthy and of course expensive operation to drill them all out in order to disassemble the whole structure and remove the base plate, or to cut off the end of the base plate with the offending stop attached to it.

We decided on the latter! Not that straightforward though with the plate flush on the fibreglass bridge deck. The ship's hacksaw could not cut flush with the blade owing to protrusions below it. Fortunately Eurospar's hacksaw could but even so it was by far from a straightforward operation. A great deal of bashing and hammering was also employed until at last the guys were able to remove the end of the plate and the stop. Thank goodness AS was robustly built!

By the time the spares arrived late on Wednesday we were itching to be off and did not want to delay our departure further by installing a new section of base plate (which would require removing all the head lining (again) under the bridge deck in order to secure the new end stop. Fortunatly a swift alternative could be implemented - we used one of the old moveable stops as a temporary end stop and had the whole unit back together in 30 minutes.

Next up - where to go? Ireland and/or the Scilly Isles beckoned and had been on our wish list from the off AND we had just purchased new charts and pilots. However, a grumpy looking low was developing west of Ireland and was forecast to move NE along with attendent wiggles in the isobars. As Mick pointed out these were not disimilar conditions from those that gave rise to the 1979 Fastnet disaster (which we sat out on my Dad's Standing Gaff Cutter in Jersey). Reluctantly therefore I bowed to wiser counsel and we decided to head in the opposite direction - to the Channel Isles.

Tides dictated an evening start so we headed out at 1800 in the gathering gloom and a fresh and squally westerly wind. We motored out through "The Bridge", set sail (with two reefs) in the outer harbour and aimed south. Within 30 minutes one reef was shaken out closely followed by the next and by 2200 we were motoring once more due to the by now very light westerly wind. Our escape from the on coming Low was all too complete!

The rest of the crossing was largely uneventful and noteworthy only for excessive use of the engine. We sailed whenever we could make 4 knots, but that was significantly less than 50% of the time (see the stats below).

We did finish the passage with a cracking sail down the Little Russel in a mixture of bright sunshine and fog patches and entered St Peter Port at 1800 on the 31st making our passage one of exactly 24 hours. We were greeted by one of the marina chappies who after establishing our draft (1.4 meters) declared there was just enough water for us to get over the sill to the marina. There wasn't. At least not without excessive trauma.  As we cautiously edged over the sill in a significant swell we grounded with a jarring crash on a falling tide. The only person more aghast than the marina chappy was me. The image I conjured up of Arctic Smoke stranded on the sill with her mast buckling against the harbour wall was not a pretty one. The marina chappy called for a halyhard to try and lean us over enough to free the keel from the sill's grip. As one was passed over and my cool began to blow, AS gave a wiggle and was over. Welcome to Guernsey I thought!

Rough ket stats:

Departed Plymouth 1800 on 31/7/13
Distance over the ground = 98 nautical miles
Total hours = 24
Engine hours = 15
Sailing hours = 9
Average speed over ground = 4k
Arrived St Peter Port 1/8/13 1800

Arctic Smoke in St Peter Port shortly after arrival (in the middle)
 
We were all in need of a stiff drink after that and the still sunny evening suggested G&T on the quarter deck was in order. Mick was dispatched to find the necessary ice but came back empty handed. Both the two local super markets were waiting for their next delivery of freezer stuff - 3 days off. Apparently nowhere on this one time centre of duty free trading, could an ice cube be found. We therefore repaired ashore in search of a good pub but once again were disappointed. The Guernsey harbour area once (that is 30 years ago) replete with good watering holes had only seedy and scruffy establishments to tempt the visitor.

Back to the boat for another excellent meal cooked up by Bernie.

Bernie's and the crew's delight


The next day we deserted Guernsey for Herm via local tripper boat. 

Herm from St Peter Port

The crew on the tripper boat




Herm at least was still the jewel in the Guernsey Crown. Her wonderful beaches were unblemished and even the sun came out (for a while). We spent a very pleasant day appreciating this beautiful and still unspoilt island.


Both the above - shortly after our arrival on Herm

Shortly after that!




All the above - some of the local sights!
 
On our return from Herm and with the previous night's disappointments in mind we first partook of yet another Bernie delight and then repaired to the Yacht Club over looking the harbour where we spent an enoyable evening and planned the next leg. We had still not completely given up on the idea of reaching Ireland or the Scilly Isles but that grumpy Low was still moving up the Irsih Sea. We decided to give it time to move on and so settled for a short leg up to my favourite Island, Alderney. From there if the weather allowed we still had just enough time for a "dash" to the Scillies before commencing the homeward run. Our route would be up the 'Little Russell' and 'The Swinge'. The local weather was forecast to be benign and we planned to arrive at The Swinge at slack water in order to avoid the worst of the overfalls.