New M-O-A Pennants Fly In Alderney
Alderney Cruise, 27th – 31st May 2005
The late May bank holiday was due to be a busy weekend on the island of Alderney, with events varying from the Miss Alderney pageant and procession to a round-the-island race led by the Jubilee Trust tall ships. And, of course, not to forget the M-O-A Alderney cruise! With somewhat varied weather forecasts, the one thing that the forecasters seemed able to agree on was the risk of strong westerlies in the Irish Sea moving down into the channel on Saturday. When we finally arrived on board Magewind after fighting through the Friday traffic, my intrepid mate, Nick, and I had a hurried discussion and decided to set out on the evening tide around Bembridge. “That way, we will be in Alderney before it blows up”, we assured each other.
I know what you are thinking – we should have known better! After motorsailing into a light south-easterly for several hours, a fresh south-westerly set in around 1am, and began to build steadily. By 3am, it was dead on the nose, and we were seeing gusts up to 30 knots. With the change of tide, steep, breaking seas started to form and life was starting to get very wet and uncomfortable. Time for Plan B! As we bore away towards Cherbourg, we picked up speed to over 8 knots, and settled into a more comfortable motion, surfing down the waves rather than smashing into them. Much more fun!
Meanwhile, Nick’s wife, Kath, my wife Alison and our two girls, Jenny and Ellen, had got up at 5:30am and were flying out to Alderney on a tiny plane with only 16 seats, in the full expectation that their “floating hotel” would be there, waiting for them. No such luck! The floating hotel was tied up in Cherbourg, with half a gale whistling through the rigging. By mid-afternoon, at least the sun had come out, and the French forecast (so much more reliable than ours) was predicting that the wind would drop through the evening, so we set out for an exciting trip across the Race on the west-going tide.
All was going well until we were well in sight of Alderney, when a particularly vicious tidal swirl caught us, and: “Seat Overboard!” We had lost the seat across the transom, and it was now heading down the Race for Guernsey at about 6 knots.
With no handles and floating just below the surface in 4 foot waves, this was not an easy M-O-B drill. After the first near miss, I gybed for another go, and the vang parted company with the mast fitting. “You’ve got to get it this go, or we will be down the Race”, I shouted at Nick, who was leaning out over the transom, restrained only by his harness. Amazingly, he grabbed and held it, and we clawed our way past the Alderney lighthouse just in time.
By the time we got in to Braye, the French weatherman had been proved right, and it was turning into a lovely, quiet evening. We had barely got our foulies off when the first M-O-A visitors came aboard to claim the promised glass of Pimms. Soon we were catching up with everyone else’s adventures.
Lindsay and Viv on Iona had set out from Yarmouth on Friday, and got a bit further than us before the wind hit them. They arrived in Alderney to find waves breaking right over the breakwater. This had to be worth a closer look, so they went for a walk (what were they on???). Unsurprisingly, a large wave came over, and dumped half a ton of water down their necks. Luckily, there is room for plenty of spare clothes on an 1100.
Peter and Sue on Blue Rider had been cruising around Guernsey, and had an exhilarating, but slightly scary, run up to Alderney before Saturday morning’s gale. They didn’t know their 1000 would go that fast! Even so, Peter was a bit disappointed that he had not had a chance to use his new spinnaker.
Simon and Terri on Brent Goose had planned to leave Yarmouth late Friday night. One look down the Needles channel was enough to convince them that discretion was the better part of valour, so they were present only in spirit (and by mobile phone). They had a much more pleasant crossing on Sunday, and were able to join us for a cup of tea on Monday morning.
Graham and Nikki on Jolly Roger were planning to join us on Monday, but we did not see them. Hope they had a good weekend, wherever they ended up. Roger and Val on Seabiskit also deserve an honourable mention – their crew were unable to make it, so they decided to stay closer to home. Matt and Jean on Superted were last heard of heading towards St Vaast. And finally, Pell Mell was one of very few boats in the JST Route des Moules regatta to actually make it to Alderney – even the tall ships had given up crossing the channel on Friday night! Even Miss Alderney stayed firmly indoors, although she was on the radio next morning.
On Sunday, the Magewind crew set off to explore the beautiful Longy Bay and Raz Island by sea, while the others explored the island overland. It proved a bit cold for sand-castles, and nobody was brave enough to swim, despite the lovely sandy beach. We all met up for a pre-dinner drink in the yacht club, and a great dinner in the First and Last – a haven for hungry yachtsmen for the last 30 years to my personal knowledge.
On Monday, it was our turn to explore by land, on rather creaky rental bikes. We discovered that, for such a small island, Alderney has some quite impressive hills. By Tuesday, the others had left, and we decided to circumnavigate the tiny island of Burhou. This little, rocky island is inhabited only by birds, and presents quite a challenge, due to numerous rocks and the very strong local tides. Its wild beauty was well worth the effort, though, and we found a very cosy anchorage for next time we visit.
As we set out on the crossing home on Tuesday afternoon, the little plane carrying Alison, Kath and the girls flew over us. Soon we had the spinnaker set, and were watching a beautiful sunset in perfect conditions. After a quick snooze in Yarmouth, we woke to a miserable grey drizzle for our final leg back to Gosport, matching our mood at the thought of going back to work. We had had a very relaxing and enjoyable long weekend in Alderney, with excellent company from the other Maxi owners. It is such a lovely island – I must try not to leave it 10 years before I go back this time.