After a couple of years of disruption, the Spring Cruise was set to return to it’s usual schedule, and begin with an easy sail to Yarmouth. The weather didn’t entirely agree with the ‘easy’ part, especially those pushing up to Yarmouth from the East. Wind over tide kicked the Solent into a mini maelstrom to give us a wet ride, but at least it gave many of the boats a slight headstart on the channel crossing to Cherbourg. Dinner was enjoyed at The Wheatsheaf, before everyone retired early in preparation for the early morning start.

For many of us, this was to be our first trip beyond UK shores since the Covid disruptions, and also since Brexit had created new requirements. There were concerns about flares, no red diesel in cans and proof of vaccination, so Apps were rapidly updated and hard copies of vaccination certificates obtained. Next was the unfamiliar C1331 to allow us to leave UK waters and the French customs arrival document, but the administrative hurdles were succesfully navigated.

The waters around Hurst and The Needles were a little disrupted, with wind on the nose out to The Needles. It gave some good sailing after we turned due south, but then reports were coming in that the initial part of the passage had unfortunately claimed an early casualty. Our Commodore had suffered a nastily broken finger, and Chesterton was forced to return home. Leslie was optimistic that he and his crew would be able to join later via ferry, pending x-rays and diagnosis of the damage.

It was a generally uneventful crossing in very light airs but Southern Hey managed to collect a pot buoy line trapped between skeg and rudder in 55 metres, Nigel losing his wrist watch in the kerfuffle of cutting free. Ten boats successfully arrived in Cherbourg, with Q flags duly fluttering in the light breeze.

The following day saw a mixture of activities, with some crew paying a visit to the Maritime Museum and Liberation Museum, while others took a more leisurely approach with a stroll and lunch in the sunshine. Following instructions that Leslie was unable to travel, his crew joined the party having travelled by ferry, and were accomodated by Malaika, Carinya and Belrose. Even the hurdle of Chesterton being forced to return home can’t deter NYC perseverance.

The Cherbourg police wisely decided that it was simpler for them to come to us to stamp our passports, to prove when we’d arrived in the EU. The days’ activities set everyone up nicely for a meal together in the evening. There was no mistaking that the NYC was in residence, as there was an impressive display of Battle Flags.

Visitors to Liberation Museum in Cherbourg

Reports of the weather refusing to play ball (high winds, on the nose) meant that our Cherbourg stay was curtailed by a day, and the fleet set off early for Alderney after we were quickly stamped out of the country at first light. There was an early mist, but the fleet had a cracking sail heading well above Cap d’la Hague and then down into Braye. We joined up with Polly, who’d opted to sail direct to the island. Their delayed joining of the cruise was caused by the mysterious disappearance of a crucial part of the rigging, which had proved elusive despite a thorough search of boat and home. It was unexpectedly discovered under a mattress – the same one that had been slept on by a member of the crew. Clearly no ‘Princess’ to notice that particular ‘pea’. Later that night, our final boat, Indulgence, arrived in Alderney, representing the Western contingent, with home berth in Exmouth.

Braye Harbour

The following morning began with ‘Boules on the beach’, which provided an entertaining sight. Sloping ground and soft sand which occasionally hid the target ball provided only a slight hinderance, and certainly didn’t lessen the competitiveness. The Ultimate Winners, from Malaika, were declared, and the Ultimate Losers, from Chaiya, were equally happy to accept their crown.

Boules on the Beach

The afternoon’s activity took the form of a leisurely walk along the north coast, exploring the numerous bunkers which had formed WW2 coastal defences, and a Roman fort, which set people up well to enjoy a drink or two at the Sailing Club and a burgee swap, which was followed by a delicious meal at Braye Beach Hotel.

Alderney burgee swap – Andy Brown and Hugh Harrison
Braye Beach Hotel

The following morning looked set to bring a temporary split in the fleet, with half the boats planning to set of for Guernsey. Catry was opting to stay a day longer, to have a better opportunity to park herself on the beach for repairs. As it transpired, the seas predicted for The Swinge resulted in a change of heart, and all boats stayed an extra night. For Samollu, this was a last minute decision, as one line had already been slipped.

Catry undergoing repairs

The aborted departure provided more opportunity to explore the island, and enjoy any hostelries that were found. Tenacious, a tall ship from the Jubilee Sailing Club arrived in the harbour, and an impromptu visit was arranged. There was a slightly hairy clamber up and down the rope ladder, getting wetter than at any time in the cruise, but it was a privilege to be shown around and one hopes the Jubilee Sailing Trust can survive the economic fallout of Covid.

For our extra evening, we returned to the Sailing Club for drinks. The schedule changes meant we weren’t able to enjoy the BBQ that had originally been planned, but more importantly spending another evening at the Club meant we ruined their ‘just in time’ delivery system. We drained them of one of their beers, and had to watch as the delivery boat docked with the new stock.

Our delayed sail to Guernsey actually put us back on our original schedule. Dolphins were allegedly spotted by some boats, but the lack of photographic evidence means the claim cannot be confirmed. The Swinge conjures up visions of a maelstrom with boats foundering on the rocks, but despite the grey and drizzly morning, modest winds produced some white water but certainly no maelstrom.

The St Peter Port harbour master managed to pack us all in together, except for Chaiya needing an inner harbour shore power top up. In Guernsey, we were joined by a couple of land-loving members, who’d opted to travel by ferry. Our numbers swelled even further, with the arrival of a final final boat, in the form of Snow Gum – Tom’s new acquisition which had been collected from Jersey a couple of days earlier. Snow Gum is built for extreme latitudes, and it’s toughness was demonstrated when a Swiss yacht attempted to t-bone it and bounced off.

Battle flags flying in Guernsey

A full day in Guernsey was spent enjoying walks, shopping trips and bus rides, punctuated at suitable intervals with refreshment breaks. There were also the inevitable visits to the Island’s Chandleries, where purchases included the most expensive burgee halyard.

Saturday saw trips to Herm and Sark by different groups. Herm saw a further split between a contingent choosing a full curcumnavigation, and another which concentrated on helping to boost the local economy by supporting all hosteleries found, for coffee, ice cream and lunch.

The Herm contingent

An impromtu Pimms party saw about twelve litres of the summery drink consumed, followed by several bottles of Prosecco when Pimms stocks ran out.

Pimms party
The evidence…

Chesterton’s crew departed by SeaCat, to ease the logistics of getting home, while the remaining members enjoyed a final cruise meal at the Yacht Club, where we made a further burgee exchange. A Nautical Tie/Scarf theme for the evening was suggested and produced a great response. By popular demand Guernsey Yacht Club member Phil Hargreaves stepped up and entertained us to a hilarious judging session won by Jane for her Shackle Necklace and Derek for his Tea Clipper tie!

Phil Hargreaves and Andy Brown, burgee swap in Guernsey

The following morning saw half the fleet set off to return to the UK as planned, while the remaining boats decided to remain another night. An early start after the Yacht Club meal was part of the thinking, but so was the slightly choppy seas that were forecast. The delay allowed a coastal walk in the sunshine, another impromtu drinks gathering, which was accompanied by Titian’s infamous anchovies on fried bread which some members had yet to sample.

Monday saw the final break up of the cruise fleet, with the remaing boats planning a return to UK shores setting sail. Winds were light, and the direction not as requested, but sailing was still possible for those who wished, and some colourful sails were flown.

The cruise saw thirteen boats (accomodating forty two people) join, for varying lengths of time, which may well be a record attendance. It was an excellent cruise, which many would have liked to last longer. Roll on the next expedition!

20th-29th May 2022