Day 58  Saturday 29th July 2017

Alderney to Cherbourg

The two boxes of wine we ordered are delivered to the boat by Mainbrayce’s just before we slip the mooring.  Apparently the Customs men were sniffing round last night so they couldn’t deliver – you’re supposed to receive the duty-free alcohol one hour before setting sail, so you can’t drink it all!

Squadrons of gannets pass us on their way back to Les Etacs and Ortac.  Alderney is so near to the French Cotentin coast, only 8 miles away.  You can understand why the Victorians built all those forts to defend against the French.  They also fortified Portland 60 miles to the north, to defend the Channel from north and south. 


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Farewell Alderney!


We motor-sail with the main and the genoa as the wind is insufficient to take us through the swell.  It was blowing Force 7 at 3 a.m. this morning.  We cross the Alderney Race at slack water to pick up the start of the east-flowing current off Cap de la Hague.  This current, which is up to 4 knots, takes us all the way to Cherbourg and for a while we can switch off the engine.  Good passage planning, Mr. S.! 


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Bonjour, France!


We’ve got our oilies on as rain is forecast, but as we approach the Grande Rade of Cherbourg (the outer harbour protected by a breakwater) a thunderstorm with lightening erupts.  Always makes us nervous as we were struck by lightning on our very first sailing holiday in Greece.  We are completely soaked by the time we reach Port Chantereyne Marina but secure the boat and put the sail cover on as we’re so wet it won’t make any difference.  Definitely new oilies next year!  But it is only the second time we’ve worn them this year.

We lose an hour as we’re now in France again.  Paddle off to the laundry for a major wash where I meet Dutch and French lady sailors, so pass the time happily talking about our children, and my grandchildren.  Malcolm has been to Carrefour and then the Orange shop in town in search of a new sim card for the dongle. 

The rain dries up at last and we go out to eat at a restaurant recommended in the Rough Guide, Le Faitout.  Pass the statue of Napoleon on the way.

DSCF2013 (478x640)We order the Menu a l’ardoise (set menu on the slate) and are treated to elegant and delicious nouvelle cuisine with excellent service.  Good to be back in France again!


Day 57 Friday 28 July 2017


Another day on the boat, rocking and rolling around with strong winds gusting down the harbour.  A couple on the sea wall are frightened by the waves crashing over and the water taxi tells them to return – they get back safely, together with a motorcyclist and a fisherman, obviously oblivious to the dangers.

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We eventually go ashore for showers – we’ve had to economise on water on our mooring buoy and after four days it’s beginning to tell.  Promise ourselves a cream tea at the Alderney Sailing Club as a reward for braving the dinghy ride.  Our last taste of Channel Islands cream teas!

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Back on board, I cook a Thai chicken curry from ingredients bought at Jean’s shop near the harbour – stocking stuff from Waitrose!  Listen to Elton John and wonder which track we’re going to sing at our Karoake Boat Night on 30th September?

A flurry of posts on What’s App from the family, all trying to beat each other for the highest temperature on their holidays in Croatia and Morocco.  Think Alex and family in Cornwall have got similar weather to us in Alderney, so not the best!



Day 56  Thursday, 27th July 2017


Much better day today but still very windy.  Dinghy to the pontoon and walk round the inner harbour.  We’re warned by a chap who has been working on the pier about freak waves coming over – he says two people were lost last year.  He tells us that he’s going to work in York as Alderney is very expensive, not only just to live here but also to get off the island.  There’s a big problem with the Dornier aircraft operated by Aurigny airline.


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Little Crabby Harbour


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 Braye Harbour with the moorings




We follow the coastal path westwards from Braye Harbour, passing 3 of the 18 Victorian forts and batteries on the island, to another, Fort Clonque situated idyllically on an island with a causeway.  Apparently you can rent this fort – we are both mesmerised by the idea of living in a castle on an island, regularly cut off at high tide.

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There are also little egrets and oystercatchers nesting nearby, and sea holly grows in profusion near the beach.

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We are also mesmerised by The Swinge, the passage on the NW side of the island you can take to avoid the Alderney Race.  Our other next-door boat in Guernsey was very keen to tell us about his tips for going through The Swinge.  He was an Alderney resident, so perhaps we should have taken heed although it looks pretty turbulent out there today (later, it gets much calmer). 


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The Swinge


We follow signs for The Gannets: Les Etacs is home to some 12,000 gannets between March and October.  Another rocky outcrop we can see in the distance, Ortac, has another 5000.


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Les Etacs


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Not sure this beats sailing up to Bass Rock in 2014!




Burhou, which is lower, has puffins and storm petrel colonies.  The Casquets lighthouse is 7 miles distant, the most westerly part of Alderney.

Have our picnic by the tiny airport, hoping to see a small plane fly over our heads but they wait until we are further on and lower down on the cliff path.  We take this narrow cliff path, marked by white stones, high above the sheer cliffs plunging into the sea below us, on the south side of Alderney.  It feels very remote and we don’t see a soul.  Suddenly we come upon the Wildlife Bunker.

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This German bunker was a Luftwaffe Dezimetergerat station, used for very high frequency radio communication with Guernsey, Jersey and France during WW11.  The bunker has a new use now and contains information on the island’s natural history, as well as a display on the island’s military history provided by the Alderney Society.  The island changed after the war – all the inhabitants were evacuated in 1940 and brought back in December 1945 – and farming changed too.  The Blaye Wall surrounded the island’s main farming belt from 800 AD up until WW11.  Most of the farming was carried out cooperatively within the community with individuals and families owning small strips of land, which were enclosed by a banked wall to protect crops from livestock.  Nowadays much of the land is overgrown by gorse.

We pass over the highest point on the island, 290’, back to St. Anne’s with it’s lovely old streets, and order a well-earned cup of tea at a pub in the main street.  Buy a homemade steak pie for tea at the Alderney Farm Shop and I send Malcolm back to the boat as I’m determined to go to the Victor Hugo lecture in the Museum.  Wander around the individual shops (no chains here), and then visit the Church and end up at the Museum – early, I’m the first in (my family all know this is an impossibility!).  A lady, an Alderney resident, sits next to me and tells me that she’s never been to Victor Hugo’s house in St. Peter Port.  We chat about the connections with France: they toast the Duke of Normandy after the Queen and have close connections with their twin town on the  Cotentin peninsula. I find out about the two hotels being closed on Sark – all due to the Barclay Brothers who live in the huge castle on Brequiou.  There are undercurrents going on in Sark!  Not a very happy place, it seems.

The lecturer is a founder member of the Victor Hugo in Guernsey Society and last year they all went to Paris and had a week of junketing with the Victor Hugo Society in the Place Vendome.  Think I might join!  Hugo never landed on Alderney but sailed past it many times on his way to England for his holidays (he had to get the train to London and then the ferry from Dover to Belgium, to avoid France).  He also had maids at Hauteville House who came from Alderney, and talked about the fraternisation and the gentle sparring between the Channel Islands. 


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Lady Hamilton from the water taxi


After the lecture I return on the water taxi to find Malcolm cooking tea.  He’s had a bit of an adventure as the outboard ran out of fuel and he had to row to the boat! 


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Settling down for a another roly poly night



Day 55 Wednesday 26th July 2017


Rain and wind this morning – can hardly see the shore.  A French yacht comes in with the crew in oilies and lifejackets – what a contrast to yesterday!

We stay put on the boat all day – me blogging, painting my nails and reading about French history.  Malcolm doing important things like changing the secondary fuel filter, running the engine to charge the batteries, passage planning for Cherbourg (ensuring we get the reverse tide at La Hague on the western end of the Cotentin peninsula) and redoing the mooring lines to the buoy – and then reading and falling asleep.

Patrick sends an email to say that Mum has had another fall and has been sent to Scarborough Hospital for an X-ray.  He visits her in the afternoon and the doctor tells him that she can go back to Peregrine House today.  That’s a great relief.  Mum and Dad loved travelling – one of the reasons we decided to carry on with our sailing voyages.

Waiting for the water taxi (below) to go to The Georgian House for our seafood platter, a supply ship comes in with containers for the island.  The man at Fort Grey Shipwreck Museum used to work for the supply vessels and on one voyage he said they couldn’t get off the ship in Braye harbour (where we are now) because of the swell.

Have a lovely table by the window in the dining room and enjoy our (very expensive) platter with a huge crab and half a lobster, prawns and oysters, and different salads.  Can’t get into the comedy duo at the Moorings as we’re too late so take a water taxi back to the boat.  Malcolm reads me jokes instead when we get back – such a card!

Day 54  Tuesday 25th July 2017

Guernsey to Alderney

Hurray!  We are leaving Guernsey at last, after 3 weeks here (although 10 days were at home).  We’d always intended to have a week exploring the island, including anchoring at Herm and Sark.  That plan was spoilt by the wind forecasts, but we did spend a day on each island – by ferry.  We’ve had a good time here: walking the town, the coastal path, the 91/92 bus round the island, visits to Herm and Sark and the amazing Victor Hugo house.  Like Jersey and Alderney, Guernsey has been inhabited since prehistoric times and fortified on every promontory. 


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The Captain waiting for the marina dory


We call up a marina dory to help us reverse out of our berth as it’s quite a tight fit, and all goes well.  Put up the main in the harbour.  A huge cruise ship, Caribbean Princess, is anchored outside and has a Herm ferry tied up alongside and many tenders coming towards St. Peter Port – it won’t be so peaceful on Herm today or on the 91 bus!

We have 5 knots of tide with us up the Little Russell Channel (between Guernsey and Herm), so doing 10.3 knots over the ground.  Very disturbed water at the end of the Channel – we crash into the turbulent waves and it knocks over my lidded beaker and coffee spills everywhere.  After the overfalls we put up the genoa and switch off the engine and it’s now much calmer.  Ten motor-cruisers whizz past us going from Jersey to somewhere on the south coast of England: it’ll only take them 4 hours!

Alderney appears, looking magnificent in the sunshine – we can see the lighthouse, forts and beach where we ate our picnic last year (see for more).  The current is still 3 knots with us – all down to Malcolm’s meticulous planning. 


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Alderney with gannets


Picked up the buoy first time – our next door neighbours in St. Peter Port are on the next buoy!  The journey took 4 hours.  It’s a lovely sunny day so lunch on the deck.  Got to get used to being on a mooring again – swinging around and rocking from side to side. 

Malcolm starts inflating the dinghy – we bought our outboard here last year so feel we must use it, rather than the water taxi.  I’m trying to sunbathe in my cossie and read my ‘History of Modern France’, but keep having to move and hand things like oars to Malcolm in the dinghy.  No peace for the wicked.  We go ashore mid-afternoon and tie up on a pontoon full of other dinghies.  Call at the Harbour Office and show our Guernsey Customs declaration form and pay for 3 nights. 

Walk up the hill to St. Anne’s, the capital of Alderney, and call in at the Tourist Office – I’ve seen a talk advertised in the window on ‘Victor Hugo’!  It’s on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Museum.  The lady in the office tells me about the new Alderney coastal footpath with markers and it tell her about the very poor signing along the Guernsey coastal path, which she says she’ll pass on.  


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St. Anne’s cobbled main street


We also book a seafood platter at The Georgian House for tomorrow night, hoping it’s as good as last year’s.  Buy some bacon from the Alderney Farm Shop for tonight’s supper – you can’t beat thick slices of local bacon! And you can’t get bacon easily in France.  It’s very tasty, done in the oven with asparagus and tiny Alderney tomatoes and served with Guernsey new potatoes.