Heidi and partner Kevin head off on the first leg of their journey through the French canals to the Med on their Sealine C330
Words Heidi Halser
Having checked the engines, filters and other general checks, we left Brixham Marina at 06:30am to beautiful skies and calm seas – although the calm seas did not last long…
An hour into the journey and the sea state changed to swells of 2m and an uncomfortable beam sea. Not pleasant to go over the Channel in and we knew that the other powerboats, that are smaller than Chilaxin, were going to have an even rougher trip as they were leaving at 11am.
The yachts that were heading out at the same time as us had a great time I think – one managing to get 9 knots at one stage! They arrived between 3:00pm and 6:00pm at St Peters Port.
It is always comforting to see the Channel marker and you know, at that point, that you are on the right heading. The only challenge is travelling across the shipping lanes, dodging the massive tankers. Somehow we always time it right – behind one and in front of the next with plenty of time. It’s awe inspiring how massive these ships really are.
As we close in on Guernsey, the first thing we see are the towers near Sampson. Then you look east and see the lighthouse in the middle of the channel which you have to go round before heading into Little Russel.
We hit this point at high tide, as we wanted to get into the inner harbour of Victoria Marina. The only downside to this is you get a very confused sea state – eddies, rip tides and strong currents. It is amazing to see nature behave in this way but you have to be aware of other boats and ferries all coming in at the same time!
As you head into the harbour wall, you have the fuel quay to the left below the large grey chandlery building. Then you can see the various entrances to the individual marinas.
Victoria is dead ahead and, as you get close to the pontoons on the outer wall (for low tide mooring when the sill is too high), the harbour guys come out to greet you in their small boats and ask where you wish to go and if you want electricity or not. We always try to get to the inner harbour as it is more sheltered, you have power and are close to the facilities.
Once in, you are presented with customs documents to complete. You can either place the completed documents in the yellow boxes or pass to one of the harbour team. You can also go to the main office to pay or wait until one of the team comes around and pay by card or cash with them.
When all the Bay Hoppers (the colloquial name for the Brixham cruising club) had arrived safely and the boats were clean we decided to meet up for a beer and discuss our trip over. We headed for the Ship and Crown (right opposite the marina). Several beers later, after all the tales of being bounced around, covered in sea spray and being very cold… I only went and won the raffle!
We then decided to move on for dinner. We chose China Red Chinese Restaurant – I have been before and think it is the best Chinese restaurant ever! They managed to get us a table for nine people and, as before, did not disappoint – amazing food and service!
Once everyone was fed and watered, tiredness kicked in from the long day and we all headed back to our boats for a well earned sleep.
We awoke to a beautiful blue sky and stunning views… what more could you wish for?
We headed into town, to Guernsey Goldsmith (in the Main Street just down from Lloyds bank to see Sue, who provides the best customer service I have ever encountered in a jewellery store.
She is fixing an issue that I have with a ring that I purchased last year, and has assured me that it will be completed within my stay. I actually get a call the next morning to say that it is ready to collect. Awesome service!
We head further into town to get some supplies, as we will be leaving Sunday to head half way between Guernsey and Le Havre. On the way back to the marina, we see that the local RNLI team are show casing their 22-year-old-boat, which has been reconditioned.
Having never been on a lifeboat (and hopefully never will in vain), I had a good look around – what a beast! I never realised how many people can be onboard and the engines… every man and boys dream!
The RNLI, who rescue thousands of people around the coast of the UK, do such an awesome job – many are volunteers. Check out their website!
We head back to Chilaxin as Dave from DLC Marine Services is due to help us programme our VHF correctly for ATIS (this is required in Europe on the inland waterways). What a great guy! Turns up on time, takes five minutes to do the work and then heads off again. If you ever need any help, definitely contact this guy as he knows so much to do with Raymarine and Garmin.
While chilling in the afternoon sun, we start talking to our neighbours (Nigel and Elizabeth on their beautiful Sunseeker) and are invited later for drinks before we head out for dinner. Such a beautiful boat that makes Chilaxin look like a tender! We sit up on the flybridge and have a glass or two of bubbles and talk about our boating experiences.
After an hour of chatting we head off to meet all the Bay Hoppers. We are meeting up at La Perla Restaurant on the sea front – there are 36 of us! We went there last year and had very good food. This year was no different and a very reasonable price at £55 per couple including drinks – and we had quite a bit of wine!
A final night cap is required before heading back to the boats. We head into the Ship and Crown again and it’s heaving! Obviously the place to be on a Saturday night. Chilaxin will be moving on tomorrow so that we do not have such a long run on Monday to get to La Havre.