Autumn 2006
Commodore's Bit
AGM & Prizegiving
Annual Dinner
Bewl Visit
Bewl Water First trip
For Sale
In Memory Of
Indian Buffet
Kempton Park Fireworks
News of Members
Omerus Charity Dinner
Quiz Night
Return of an Old Friend
Sailing Secretary
Skittles Night
Social Calendar
Three Men in a Boat
Working Party
Three Men in a Boat
    Following our recent cruises to Cherbourg and the Isle of Wight Lyn's cousin Paul suggested a 'lads only' trip to the Channel Islands. Well I wasn't going to turn up an opportunity like that so arrangements were made to depart on the 1st of June.
    Paul's yacht is a Westerly 330 Regatta which is similar to the Westerly Storm in that both have GRP hull, deck and superstructure, fin keel, spade rudder and tiller steering. Their vital statistics are also similar at L.O.A.: 10.11m 33ft in, L.W.L.: 8.21m 27ft., Beam: 3.52m 11ft 5in., Draft: 1.68m 5ft 6in., Displacement: 5,130kg 11,310 lbs and Ballast: 1,910kg 4,210 lbs.
"Freetime of Hamble" sleeps six but with only three of us on board personal space was never going to be a problem. Just as well really as there was enough wine and beer on her to start our own pub.
    Day 1: The crew consisted of Paul, skipper and owner, Alex Collinson, a retired sub-editor on the Financial Mail on Sunday and me, Mike (Over Easy) Baker. I suppose you could also count 'George' but he's electro mechanical and only works when he's switched on and steering the boat.
    We left the Mercury yard on The Hamble River at 15:45 and arrived at Yarmouth, on the Isle of Wight at 18:45. With the harbour packed for the Old Gaffers Weekend and because we wanted to make an early start the following morning we picked up a buoy outside the harbour and used the Avon to go ashore for dinner at The George Hotel bistro.
    Day2: We departed Yarmouth at 07:00 clearing The Needles at 07:45. The sea was flat calm with hardly any wind to speak of. We had debated our first destination over dinner the night before and had agreed on Alderney. So, between the mainsail and Freetimes big Yanmar diesel thrumming reassuringly we set off.
    Paul settled on one hour watches/helm duties each. By 14:00 we were crossing the mid channel E-W shipping lanes. It's like the M25, only the juggernauts weigh thousands of tons, and also being a bit hazy a careful watch on the radar plot helped no end. We finally arrived at Braye Bay in Alderney at 20:15.
    Just short of the Island we spotted a small whale which eased past our starboard side not fifty feet away. No lack of wind problems for him. After picking up one of the harbour mooring buoys we went ashore for dinner at Bump's Eating House which completed a very pleasant day and a good crossing.
    Day 3: Was spent exploring Alderney which is still littered with wartime German military installations including one enormous observation tower known locally as 'the juke box'. It's so big the islanders haven't found a way of demolishing it. Apparently, at one time, they did consider blowing it up but thought better of it as it would have smashed virtually every window on the island they decided to leave it alone. I thought it was mis-named; it looked more like a stack of three CD players piled on top of each other.
Amongst the more recent German architecture you can also find earlier Napoleonic forts, including The Arsenal and Fort Albert.
    We lunched at the Alderney golf club which has the most amazing course. Nowhere seemed to be flatter than about 25º. A common problem seemed to be losing golf balls over the edge of cliffs or down old wartime communication trenches.
    We ended up in the capital St.Anne, which is delightful, albeit very small and mostly closed. That evening we had dinner at the famous 'First and Last' restaurant overlooking the harbour.
    Day 4: We departed Alderney for St Peter Port on Guernsey at 06:30. We left around the south of Alderney and ran out through 'The Swinge'. This is a stretch of water which runs between two rock formations, about half a mile apart, that rear up out of the sea. The sea is like a mill race and turbulent with over falls caused by deep water being forced upwards over the rough seabed terrain; Just the thing to get the heart racing first thing in the morning.
    We arrived at Guernsey at 10:15 having negotiated the Little Russell route in and tied up on one of the many visitor pontoons in St.Peter Port harbour.
    After a late breakfast on the quay we spent the rest of the day exploring the town and downing a few at SPPYC before having dinner on the rather agreeable outside balcony at Christies.
    We had a less agreeable diversion as a couple of local yobs knocked seven bells out of each other in the public garden below.
    Day 5: We went for a No.7 bus ride around Guernsey and stopped off at Forest to visit the German Occupation Museum. The Channel Islands were the only British territory to be occupied by the Germans during the Second World War and the museum tells the story of the occupation from June 1940 to May 1945. The curator looked like he had never been liberated but perhaps he was just having an off day.
    After we completed our tour of the island we returned to Freetime and set sail for Sark at 16:30.
    We arrived at 18:00 and picked up a mooring buoy under the cliffs at Havre Gosselin having passed the fabulously wealthy Barclay brothers island of Brecqhou, crowned with its pseudo-medieval castle, on the way in. We dined on board that night, our rough and ready meal washed down with one or two bottles of Merlot, as I remember.
    Day 6: After breakfasting on the boat we launched the Avon and crossed to the steps at the bottom of the cliffs. The climb to the top must have taken three quarters of an hour zigzagging backwards and forwards up a path that must have been carved out by mountain goats.
    Now people will tell you that cars are not allowed on Sark, and that's right. What they don't tell you is that everybody has a tractor. It's like tractor central on Sark, they are all totally mad.
One haven of sanity however was La Moinerie, a seafood restaurant situated between Seigneurie gardens and Port du Moulin. This is three hour lunch territory and worth every minute.
    The rest of the day was spent playing chicken with the tractors, taking photos and food shopping. Having scrabbled back down the cliff we were not inclined to try and re-climb it in the dark to go out for dinner so we brewed up a Spag Bol, opened a bottle (or two) and discussed the meaning of life. Yeah right!
    Day 7: Slow start but eventually we slipped our mooring at 11:00 and headed for Carteret on the west coast of the Cherbourg peninsular. No particular reason for this destination except that Paul had never been there and it has a reputation for be an absolute bastard to get into.
    Out past Little Sark the wind freshened and we goose-winged Freetime with the Genoa poled out using the yachts spinnaker pole. Although having a spinnaker pole Freetime doesn't have a spinnaker yet, I'm working on that.
    We arrived off Carteret at 17:00 after a good crossing and motored into the marina which is at the end of a short, curving river estuary. The tide fall here is about four metres so you have to be very sure of your arrival and departure times.
At low water the marina is dammed by a substantial concrete sill. We moored against a French Westerly Fulmar and then walked into town to find some dinner. That night it really started to blow.
    Day 8: Overnight, a yacht that had been pulled out and was on trestles up on the hard, was blown over and severely damaged. The owner, a Frenchman, was furious and stood for hours berating the boatyard staff.
    We, meanwhile, set off for Carteret's sister town of Barneville which has a magnificent beach. When we got back the boatyard workers were removing the fallen yachts mast, no easy task with a keel mounted arrangement and the yacht on its side. Eventually they extracted it and set about slinging the hull, all the time the owner hopping from one foot to the other and offering 'helpful' suggestions.
    Though Carteret is quite a small place it did sport one or two very good restaurants and that night Alex and I ended up with a fruits-de-mer the size of the Isle of Wight. It was hell, but hey, someone had to eat it.
Back aboard Freetime Paul announced that we would have to make an early start the next morning because of the state of the tide.
    Day 9: Up at 04:00 for a 04:30 start. Quick cup of coffee and we gingerly made our way out to the sill at the mouth of the marina. As we approached I spotlighted the depth indicators on the piles at each end of the sill. As we slipped between them I reckon we only had inches of clearance under the fin and any minute expected to hear a tell-tale grinding sound; but all was well and as we made our way back out to sea we passed Carteret's small fishing fleet preparing to put out from the wharf.
    Our destination was Cherbourg and we set a course for Cap de la Hague on the north western corner of the peninsular.
    The wind had come around during the night, we put in a reef and were able to sail most of the way covering the fifty or so miles to Cherbourg in eight hours at an average of almost six knots. As we passed the big nuclear power station on the tip of the peninsular the wind picked up to 18-20 knots and by the time we took the sails down to motor across Cherbourg's outer harbour we were recording lively gusts of 36 knots over the boat.
    We moored on the visitor's pontoon at Port Chantereyne and promptly crashed out and slept for a couple of hours. Dinner that night was at a typical French port restaurant called Le Faitout on the rue Tour Carrée just behind the Basilique de la Trinité.
    Day 10: Spent today exploring Cherbourg starting with a visit to the decommissioned nuclear submarine 'Le Redoubt' now in dry dock at the end of the Darse Transatlantique, just across from our moorings.
    Really interesting and somewhat frightening at the same time when you consider the destructive power that kind of boat is capable of carrying - more than all the bombs used in the two world wars apparently. Next a visit to one of Cherbourg's perfume shops seemed to be a smart move to buy some presents for our absent 'other halves' followed by more sightseeing around the backstreets.
    On returning to the boat the skipper decided that some housework was well overdue and we set to work washing the salt off Freetimes decks and fittings. No hosepipe ban in France. That night we ate in the harbour yacht club.
    Day 11: Departed Cherbourg at 07:45 and headed for our waypoint off The Needles. The sea was flat calm and we motored all the way with a little assist from the mainsail.
    Along the way we had an interesting pas de trios with a Brittany Ferry and a container ship that menacingly changed course each time we manoeuvred out of its way.
    We arrived back at Yarmouth at 21:00 where we decided to spend the night. The log registered that we had covered the 75 miles at an average of 5.9 knots which we thought reasonable given the conditions.
    Though it was late, we went looking for dinner and ended up at a new restaurant called 'On the Rocks'. Everything you ordered was uncooked and was served next to a hot rock, which you then use to cook your own food on. Novel we thought. The rock looked like a slab of granite about ten inches square and two or three inches deep. Actually the food was great and no chef to complain to other than yourself.
    Day 12: Left Yarmouth at 09:20 and headed up and across the Solent towards Southampton Water. The wind was out of the east and we ended the trip with a great sail that really had Freetime down on her lee rails.
    As we entered Southampton water, the wind died a little and it was time to down sails for the last time as we neared The Hamble. We motored back to the Mercury yard arriving at 11:45. Having offloaded and cleaned the boat we took her out to her permanent moorings in the river.
    And finally … I really enjoyed the trip. Paul and Alex were easy going and pretty laid back, though that could have had something to do with the amount of wine we got through.
    Freetime is a comfortable and well equipped yacht to sail, while still demanding respect and sound sailing knowledge.
    My thanks to them for everything they taught me and to Jan, Jill and Lyn for letting us off the leash for a few days to indulge in our own version of 'Three Men in a Boat'.
My special thanks also to Alex who edited this article and suggested a few changes. Well, what better person to do it than a professional sub-editor.
Mike (Over Easy) Baker