Given our south coast record (plenty of blown out trips including our previous CI attempt) we were all watching the weather forecasts with concern. What do we find? High winds predicted for Sunday – our planned day to cross the channel ! Meant to calm in the afternoon though!
So with high hopes and not a little trepidation we arrive at various times on the glorious Saturday afternoon. The traffic, as expected on a bank holiday weekend at the height of summer, pretty dire, although some set off early enough to plan a rest stop to watch the Belgian Grand Prix.
Loading the kit onto the boat, MV Salutay, went without a hitch and we only had a short walk to ‘The Boat that Rocks’ (the rebranded marina bar) for an excellent evening meal.
The plan being to set off when the wind died down. So we had the morning walk and returned for lunch. Not dying down so let’s regroup at 15.00. Another walk – Portland is very nice but it started to mizzle (fine rain). Text just before 15.00, don’t rush back. Let’s plan 19.00 departure. So our day is a bit of a walk then eat and repeat ! Not that we are complaining the food a plentiful and excellent. Haggis stuffed chicken tor dinner. Yummee! So eventually after dinner at around 20.30 we headed out. A little lumpy but not bad until we left the shelter of Portland Bill. 15 minutes of that and the skipper made the very sensible decision that it wasn’t worth risking a night crossing with the swells as they were. So a rush back in with a re -evalution in the morning and daylight.
Monday morning and we are on our way !!!! Still a little lumpy for those of a sensitive disposition (me) but just manageable and a good crossing in the end. We were aiming for a 14.00 slack and banked on going through the Swinge (passage through dangerous currents to the west of Alderney) but as we approached the standing waves were visible. Is this a bad decision ? As we get closer we can see the sea churning but the waves at the east side of the channel don’t look that bad. And we are through !
So onward to Guernsey and our appointment with the cement wreck aka ‘Oost Vlaanderen’ just off St Peter Port. The wind had stirred things up a bit, so visibility wasn’t good, with lots of plankton in the water as well, around 3-4 m. Lovely upright wreck. The main feature being the abundance of fish – shoal of Bib glistening purple and silver in the torchlight, Tompots and especially lots of Congers. One was even out.
Given that it was still a little lumpy our skipper decided to try for a berth. Success ! So we have time ashore for a wander and aperitifs.
Freda continues her assault on our waistlines with Chili and peach. pear and mango crumble for dinner. For those that can’t manage the quantities an after dinner walk along the front is required. (and it’s only day 2).
We have a late start (slack window) on Tuesday so a shopping opportunity emerges (or other wandering). So we make our way towards Sark in glorious sunshine, it’s picture perfect. Les Vingt Clos (the twenty fields ?) pinnacle. It’s a beautiful drop off to around 30m witha flate area there and then a further drop off. The wall is covered in life. Yellows, purples, greys even some soft coral. With the tidal range there is also a lot of green seaweed. Vis is not great again but close to the wall it get’s much better. We follow the wall round with the current and get to see Crayfish, Blennies, Gobies, various Wrasse, Pollack and even a few Cuttlefish.
Late afternoon brings us to Bouley Bay on Jersey. As we are arriving there is a call for a child swept out to sea from the beach. We start to search the extended bay before the lifeboats arrive. After about an hour we get the stand down message. No explanation so we assume a false alarm. La Mauve, just off the bay, is a deliberate sinking as an artificial reef that is now well developed. It’s a small wreck, standing upright with a tiny hold. A little congested with 10 divers. The life is great with shoaling fish and blennies on the wreck. Nice big lobster as well. Anchor off Bouley bay for the evening and sit down to double pork chops followed by Freda’s special (no jelly) trifle (totally recommended).
An early start ? What’s this ? 8.00 for the MV Heron off Jersey. An upright wreck that is starting to breakdown in areas. So swim throughs possible into the holds and out through the ribs. Nice size, lots to explore, and loads of life. The over to Sark for the Baie des Kaines pinnacle. No so much life on the walls here but very nice gullies to follow up to the top. Diving all over by 13.00 so, after lunch, an opportunity to go ashore on the zodiac (rubber boat to you and me). Frankie eschewed the warmth offered in the sunshine and plunged off the top deck 3 times in succession.
Lovely little beach under the isthmus (thank you Syd) connecting Sark and Little Sark. Time for sun bathing, swimming for the hardy (that’s not many then), pebble throwing and a walk up the vertiginous (dangerous to all except mountain goats) path to the top of the cliff. The tides coming in now so time to ask to be collected but a waves are breaking quite strongly on the beach. No escape that way. Have to trek round to the little harbour. Everyone has to go up the path now ! Well, we all get to explore a little of Sark. Thank goodness for friendly locals / visitors and google maps or it could have taken longer. The sheltered harbour was still a little challenge for the small rubber raft with tiny outboard but got us all back in small groups safe and sound with only Jill’s leap of faith presenting some excitement (video available).
Vast quantities of chip and minted mushy peas (we all need that recipe) accompanied breaded fish. It’s a good job a few people didn’t want dessert because Jill was on the lookout for more than her triple portion of 14 profiteroles (she was the only one that went swimming though so was more in need).
The last day in the Channels Islands so what to do. Need to be around Guernsey / Sark for the journey back. Let’s do the Cement Wreck and our favourite pinnacle again. Exploration was a little more relaxed but all the life was there again. On the pinnacle there was a bit more current and some divers missed the target zone. At the end there was a nice exhilarating drift over the kelp. What you are asking was the last supper ? Curry with all the fixings and Key Lime Pie (yes, it does need capitals).
Overnight crossing to Portland and a scallop dive to finish. Packed and on our way for 12.30.
Many thanks to our hosts on the Salutay – Al and Freda Wright. Great skipper, deckhand and chef. Freda, the food is to die for,and Al’s an OK skipper (sorry Al, you are great too !!).