Tag Archives: Channel Islands

Channel Islands – August / September 2016

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 !!).

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Channel Islands – 10th -16th September 2011

There have been some very famous British maritime explorers, Captain Cook, Sir Francis Drake, Earnest Shackleton and Richard Ward……………….who?
OK, Richard Ward may not be quite as well known as some but in the ranks of Huddersfield BSAC 18 he is known for single handedly organising famous expeditions to the Orkneys, the Shetland Isles, Oban and, most recently, the Channel Islands.
Commander Ward, as I shall now refer to him, has all the hallmarks of the great explorers. Great organisational skills, a steely determination, uncanny man management skills, a capacity to respond rapidly and positively to changing circumstances (mostly climatic) and a profound belief in the principles and process of democracy.
The long awaited exploration of the channel Islands became a story of both profound and very ordinary experiences to those intrepid followers of Commander Ward  – Steve and Diane, Kate, Gaz, Damien, Frankie, Scott and Lynne, Will, Ray and Matt – your humble author.

It was a trip of firsts. The first affected by the tail end of a hurricane (Katya) which frustrated the attempts of Commander Ward and his boat Captain Darren, to achieve the longed for goal of land fall on the channel Islands. The first time Frankie had been seasick but certainly not the first time Matt had been. The first trip, for Scott, to the James Egan Layne in all its rusty abundance (but no John Dory). The first trip where two, almost legless dogs (Daschunds or sausage dogs to you) called Sinbad and Popeye, held court on the upper decks entertaining us all with their vertically challenged antics. The first trip in a steel hulled ex. auxiliary fleet tender which was well appointed, well organised, well spacious (mostly), well equipped, well skippered (apart from shot placement ) and various others wells I can’t think of.

It was a trip of dangers. Descending to the Scylla, our intrepid explorers were confronted by the guillotining action of a huge metal plate at the bottom of one shot line or a huge barrel drumming its deadly tattoo on the hull at the bottom of the other. Only their great skill and buoyancy control saved the team from that great watery dive site in the sky (or is that a contradiction in terms?)
It was a trip of spookiness with a ‘hangman’s head’ on the Scylla – you’ll have to ask Diane about that as I haven’t a clue. The deep Clyde like gloom on the Armed trawler (no it was not a boat with arms) and the weird current on the Scylla that tried to suck you into the bowels of the ship. Perhaps it was the ghosts of those poor, unfortunate divers that had so recently perished inside!

It was a trip of love. A trip where Steve formed a deep and abiding devotion to Sinbad, or was it Popeye, with the devotion being returned in full measure. Or was he just sitting in the right place? A trip where the obsessive/compulsive ‘love gift’ purchasers were frustrated by closed shops whenever we were able to make land. They resorted to sending IOU’s on postcards to their loved ones…………how romantic.

It was a trip of unmentionables mostly blocking the shower waste pipes. This was variously blamed on foaming shower gel/shampoo, disposable contact lenses but was really just a load of………………no, I can’t say it. Of course it was all the fault of previous passengers/divers most of whom were foreign……….probably French or Belgian and probably women. (thankfully no photograph available)

It was a trip of democracy in action with Commander Ward giving his devoted followers the opportunity to vote on whether to push for the Channel Islands for one day, or not. It was a ‘hung’ vote, three in favour of a push to the island, three in favour of the security of the south coast and three wanting chips with their tea (actually it was for an attempt on the Scillies). Commander Ward had the casting vote. This is where his steely determination came to the fore, as he was driven to fulfil his promise of getting all his disciples to the Channel Island by hook or by crook. So we settled in for a 10 hour steam there and a 10 hour steam back where much sleeping, reading and listening to music went on. It was quietly mentioned that there is a lot to be said for benevolent autocracy.

It was a trip of accommodation inequalities with Commander Ward and his cabal of youthful (well relatively youthful) followers, commandeering the largest cabin and the rest of the group squeezing into the remaining couple of square metres. To be fair, however, we were constantly reminded that we (Matt, Ray, Gaz and Will that is) had the best cabin
for rough seas as it lay at an exact rotational pivot point such that, whichever way the boat rolled we would be completely motionless………………..yeah, right.
It was a trip of discovery with Steve finding an almost full set of kit over the week – probably on ebay soon. Matt finding a handy double clip which, in a moment of uncharacteristic generosity, benevolently gave it to Gaz. He later realized that he could have done with said double clip for his Practical Instructor Exam (doh). Ray decided it was time to buy a new bottle for his auto inflate blobby a determinedly chucked his current one into the briny.

As in all feats of exploration and derring do, there were times of social conflict, personal irritation, tedium and tiredness. But, there were also many times of humour and even hilarity, wonderment, excitement, close camaraderie, a sharing of experiences and enthusiasms (often underwater), of help and encouragement and an overall sense of achievement and personal satisfaction. We all came away happy and desperate to, yet again, follow our beloved Commander Ward to the far flung reaches of the United Kingdom and toward the setting western sun.

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