Light winds and a swell time was the fare of the 26 boats that took the passage from Cherbourg to St Helier yesterday.

Light winds and a swell time was the fare of the 26 boats that took the passage from Cherbourg to St Helier yesterday.

The Motor Boat Monthly control boat crews had been monitoring the weather, looking for signs that the low pressure had moved away sufficiently to allow a comfortable passage for a fleet that has several novice crews among its complement. Because of the need to hit the access times at St Helier, it would be necessary to take the tide in full flow through the Alderney Race, which in turn meant a very unwelcome (for that part of the world) wind against tide if there was anything significant blowing out of the south.

A barometer reading of 1018mb, up from 1012mb at midnight, favourable station reports and forecasts from Guernsey and Jersey and a synoptic chart that agreed with everything else, provided encouragement for the Fleming 55Play d’eauto head out at 0800 to see what conditions were like off the often ’emotional’ Cap de la Hague. Winds in the Channel had been up to 28 knots out of the southwest the day before, so some residual swell was to be expected but passing the Basse Bréfort north cardinal, six miles west of Cap de la Hague, the seas started to cut up into short six- to eight-foot waves and a call was made back to the rest of the fleet to recommend putting as much as three miles between it and the headland.

After that, the first part of the Alderney Race was uncannily quiet, the water sculpted in a series of swirls generated by as much as five knots of tide flowing over the uneven bottom. Then it was a question of tackling a series of swells, firstly those created by the boisterous current head on then, as the fleet left the shelter of Guernsey, a long, lazy Atlantic swell that rolled in on the beam.

It wasn’t quite the ‘calm’ passage that the briefing newsletter had suggested but the reality, for anyone that knows Channel Island waters well, was that the conditions were pretty much close to perfect, with deep blue skies and no wind at all towards the end. Gannets swooped low over the sea’s undulations, skilfully skimming the surface in a ballet of flight that provided endless entertainment and a couple of dolphins mirrored the act, arching gracefully in a tantalising glimpse before disappearing again.

Once around the lighthouse at Corbière, its sun-bathed white body stood out in stark relief to Jersey’s pink granite, it was a calm run in to St Helier past the island’s inviting southern anchorages.

One of the primary aims of the day was to make a rescheduled Vin d’Honneur, sponsored by the States of Jersey and a dinner at the St Helier Yacht Club. The people responsible for organising things there had kindly managed to push all arrangements back by a day after our weather delay, despite having to accommodate other functions at the same time. It was good way to celebrate seeing 49 09N on the GPS, the furthest south that many participants had ventured on their own boats.

The plan is to move to Guernsey tomorrow (Friday). Regrettably the fleet will be leaving one of its number behind following the discovery of a crack in the hull lamination above the bow thruster tunnel of Peter and Wendy Furby’s 1999-built Sea Ray 310DA,Furby’s Folly. Fortunately the crack is just above the static waterline, but the boat is in no condition to move. As to exact cause and effect we will probably know more when a surveyor visits today but it is in the same location as previously effected repairs and so that is all that can be said at the moment.

Peter and Wendy were talking about flying home, but now they are faced with deciding which of several offers of a berth to take in order to complete the week, such has been the response around the fleet.

Read previous Channel Islands report 

Read next Channel Islands report 

Return to Cruising Club home