The Happy Hoppers Chronicles (Fallen Angle (:-)) - the Finale

andromeda of plymouth
Susan and Andrew Wilson
Sun 7 Aug 2016 11:24

The Happy Hoppers (a.k.a. Fallen Angle (!?)) Chronicles – The Finale

Leg One

This leg was an overnight trip from Camaret to St. Peter’s Port in Guernsey; it took some 26 hours over 130 nm, during which we saw:

  • Dolphins – one pod, one solitary soul
  • Cormorants - lots
  • Gannets - lots
  • Cargo Ships - 2
  • Fishing Boats - lots
  • Yachts – lots, heading in all directions
  • Seaweed – numerous rafts of the stuff


The first part of the trip involved negotiating the Chanel du Four, which has a fair old tide running through it, so the key is to get the tide you want and ride it for as long as you can. Which we did. The downside on a trip to Guernsey is that you will at some stage encounter a foul tide, so for a while we were managing about 1 knot, which is a little frustrating it must be said. However, the north setting tide duly arrived and off we went at a fair old lick whizzing along. Another overcast day with a little bit of sun breaking through was spent in our favourite past time, watching the sea, snoozing in turn and eating – the highlight however was Andrew’s fabulous chilli, which went down a treat as we headed towards Guernsey and started the night watches.


After an uneventful night we arrived off Guernsey around 10:30am but it took another hour or so to make the visitors berths outside the main visitor’s marina and get secured.  The marina is large enough for a fair number of berths and by the end of the day the waiting pontoon for the inner basin and the visitors’ berths were double rafted. The marina staff were however very friendly and helpful and we were very glad to have arrived when we did as it became very, very full.


After sorting the usual stuff out Susan and Aly headed off for some retail therapy and Bill and Andrew headed for the chandlery – we only had the rest of the day before our 6:30am departure the following morning for the Hamble. St. Peter’s Port is a busy place with numerous tourists and boats heading off to Sark, Jethou and Herm, with the huge fast cats heading further afield. It also has lots and lots of rocks.


Susan and Aly duly returned having enjoyed themselves especially in M & S and with news that they had found an Indian restaurant for that evening’s meal. So rested and refreshed, Susan having written and posted her postcards, we made our way along the quay to the Taj.  We were hoping for a nice meal and instead we got a fabulous meal, the ambience was lovely, the food so tasty and the staff so attentive that we will definitely be back there again, not sure when or how but it is well worth a visit. Well fed and happy we returned to Fallen Angel for a lovely sleep.


We are intrigued however; when crossing Biscay and indeed the trip around Madeira and the Azores, when we noticed that the gannets flew high and dived for fish, while the Shearwaters cruised the waves and troughs. On this crossing from Brittany we saw no Shearwaters and the Gannets were essentially flying the way Shearwaters did, cruising the waves and troughs – they often flew in small formations. Curious and puzzling but no doubt someone will be able to explain.


Anyway, a 6:30am departure to catch the north going tide through The Little Russell and the Alderney Race, followed by a channel crossing to the Hamble, were just a few of the challenges for the final leg of our journey.


Leg Two


The second leg saw us get away from St. Peter’s Port at around 6:30am, along with a dozen or so other yachts all heading up the Little Russell channel for the Alderney Race. We wanted to get the tide through the Race which would give us a real boost up and into the English Channel. We timed it pretty well and we rode the tide for a long, long way, reaching a top speed over the ground of 12.1 knots (Fallen Angels usual boats speed was around 5 knots) as we had just past Alderney – so well over double what she could usually achieve under sail, so we zoomed up the channel and into the English Channel in high spirits. The tide was initially taking us up the channel towards Dover and then turned to see us taken back towards Old Harry, our target being the Isle of Wight.


On this leg of the trip, which was about 110 nautical miles and took us some 18 hours, we saw:

  • Merchant cargo ships – 38 – more heading west than east, a couple were the large “panamax” ones, just huge and fast
  • Fishing Boats - 1
  • Dolphins – only a couple
  • Jellyfish – 3 species
  • Cruise Liner off Cherbourg, which subsequently went around us
  • 2 Orange buoys adrift
  • Brittany Ferry heading south
  • Tug
  • Gannets – lots and lots, some individuals, some flying in formation
  • Cormorants – a few
  • Gulls – Black Back we think
  • Several species of seabirds we’ve not yet identified – small dark birds with long wings which skimmed the waves and troughs, a white bird also skimming the waves with a “fat” face and a short beak
  • A dozen speed boats in a flotilla heading for Alderney, probably for a fishing competition, or maybe a BBQ, the weather was great
  • Yachts – a dozen left Guernsey with us, saw another dozen while crossing the Channel, most heading towards France
  • An amazing trimaran – appeared from astern in the Solent, with huge black sails, that effortlessly cruised past us at about 12 knots, while we weren’t going quite so fast
  • A fair amount of floating seaweed


We made the tide turn back to the East at the Needles, and saw a fine sunset, so stormed up the Solent at a cracking pace, around 8 knots with a fresh NNW breeze which peaked at around 20 knots. The day turned to evening so we had the fun of navigating by the lights on the channel markers, and dodging the Lymington Ferry, before the left turn and run into Southampton Water and the final turn into the Hamble River. The river was full of marina’s, pile moorings, several moving boats – some lit, some not, plus numerous anchored yachts, far more than we remembered, so the trip up the river was slightly stressful given the darkness and the myriad of lights illuminating channels, pilings, and pontoons, and Swanwick Marina was right at the top. Andrew took Fallen Angel up the river to the marina, before Bill moored her in her assigned berth.


We arrived not long before midnight and celebrated the 650 mile (as GPS miles, though we sailed more) with a fine bottle of champagne before a well earned sleep – it had been a long day which started around 5am for a weather check, but we were all pretty chuffed. We woke on Sunday morning to a grey and overcast cast and then and the loo packed up – ho hum, the joys of cruising.


So our adventure as the Happy Hoppers is now complete and we can look forward to seeing friends and family in the UK. It’s been a fair old journey from Northern Spain back to the UK, sailing in some challenging area – Biscay, Raz de Sein, Chanel du Four, The Needles and the Shingles Bank, the Solent (!?); two very large ships manoeuvred into Southampton Water while we were approaching – but a trip worth making for all sorts of positive reasons. Fallen Angel will now be taken out of the water and is up for sale in the Second Hand Boat Show here in Swanwick. We hope her new owners enjoy her. Bill and Ally now move ashore before new adventures await them, and we wish them well.


New adventures await us as well – more in due course...........


Bill, Ally, Andrew, Susan

Swanwick Marina,

The Hamble, UK

August 2016