The Channel Islands
Wed 30 Aug 2006 23:06
Ben and Milly making themselves comfortable in Alderney
What a difference the weather makes! We left Free Spirit a week earlier sitting without a ripple to disturb her on a visitor's mooring in Braye. My return, with Sally and the kids, was a little more bouncy. It will remain a mystery to me why Sal thought the Channel Islands would be a good idea for the family's introduction to life on board. It is not as though she has fond memories of her last sailing trip there with me and Angus in my father's Sigma 33! The 32 hours of miserable sea sickness had somehow been over-written by more distant memories of childhood holidays in Herm Island and, to her eternal credit, she wanted the family to be part of the trip. However, 10 minutes after boarding we were calling the water taxi for a return to dry land. To be fair, the roll in Braye was nasty (I ruined two mooring lines during the week we spent there) and it was not the best way to settle down after the 12 seater aircraft from Southampton. We were rescued by John and Julia Quaile (son at school with Ben) who have a house on Alderney and very kindly provided a wonderful fish pie dinner to welcome us to the island on the Friday night. Sleep came more easily after a couple of bottles of wine but it was an uncomfortable night and Saturday morning found us early ashore but homeless...the Quailes saved the day again with a lunchtime BBQ. Ben and I ventured aboard for a couple of hours but we all ate ashore before following the candle lit procession to the fireworks which mark the end of Alderney week. The fireworks were amazing, up close and in the strong wind we were grateful to have the full force of the island's fire brigade on hand. Another rough night aboard and we de-camped for a night in a B&B (luxury standard, of course) and a proper night's sleep on the Sunday.
Sally and Milly actually smiling en route to Guernsey!
Finally, on Monday, we left the mooring and had a wonderful sail to Guernsey with the wind behind the beam and sunshine overhead. Even Sal enjoyed the sail. St Peter Port visitor's pontoon was blissfully motionless but very busy. We had three 45 footers rafted off us and the fenders flattened to bursting point under the weight. A quick dinner ashore at the local Italian and we were done. The next morning we decided against leaving for France until the Wednesday and I foolishly started a "small" repair job replacing a burnt out main halyard sheeve. After loosening the bolts just enough to render the fitting useless I realised that the nuts underneath were not welded to a plate as I had assumed they must be. Access to those nuts was maddeningly almost impossible. Two phone calls to Sweden Yachts later and I realised that I had no choice but to remove the lining of the saloon ceiling and drill an access hole through a boxed section of the cabin lining. Very disappointed to hear that Sweden yachts changed this arrangement to a threaded plate from 2004 onwards but Free Spirit was one of the last boats to suffer from this problem. However, I managed to get at the nuts, remove them using a taped up spanner and I rushed off to the chandlers to find my replacement part....no chance. It needed a special order from Harken and could not be supplied in less than a week. Literally ran back to join Sally and the kids to catch the 1500 ferry to Herm to relive her childhood. Spent 2 hours wandering around the island visiting the White House hotel and Belvoir Bay where the flood of memories brought a tear to Sally's eye, much to the children's initial consternation and then amusement. The island is very special, having hardly changed in 30 years and would be well worth a trip back for a holiday sometime. On our return, I spent a very frustrating couple of hours trying to get the nuts back on the old main halyard sheeve (in order to make the deck waterproof again) and not only failed dismally but lost 2 washers and a nut inside the box as well. Poor old Free Spirit is beginning to resemble an ironmongers with all the stainless steel rattling around in inaccessible places. Huge sense of humour failure from me as I realised that we could not leave for France the next day with this problem unresolved. We drowned our sorrows at a Thai restaurant (Milly's choice) and worked out a new plan.
Wednesday early morning saw me at the chandlers again - new nuts and washers and a fresh approach to the problem. Finally replaced the saloon cabin ceiling to get back to where we had started prior to the 6 hours work! Weather forecast was horrible so we got a place in the QE2 marina organised and left the visitors' pontoons to find a new berth to leave the boat until the next crew arrives. Very rough outside the harbour so no regrets about not making the next passage and we filled up with diesel in the quiet and calm of the QE2 marina. We found a very snug berth tucked under the enormous harbour wall and out of the wind. After running out of gas (oops) we went for lunch in our favourite Italian and then set about doing some laundry and other chores in the pouring rain. Bought new oilies for me, secured 3 full new gas bottles, bought more kit for the galley and received medical kits for the Atlantic which had been shipped over from Jersey overnight. Sally cooked a wonderful dinner while Ben, Milly and I cleaned the boat and fenders and generally messed around with loads of little jobs that needed doing. Watched a DVD together and (finally) had a lovely evening aboard.
Thursday, Sally and the kids went to Herm again while I bought more provisions for the next week, and did more chores on the boat. Massive shop in the Guernsey equivalent of Waitrose and somehow the mountain of bags was swallowed up by the boat's storage. Found two lockers I had never seen before and managed to hide away a very large quantity of beer! Another meal on board and another DVD - grateful for the shore power and new age of technology on yachts.
Friday was another rush to get fresh food onto the boat in preparation for Sunday's arrival of the new crew and get the boat locked up for the weekend. Dragged the bags over the quay to the fast cat ferry from Guernsey to Poole and started the journey back to Seaview for my nephew's wedding with a very grim lunch on the ferry. All in all, a difficult week for a family holiday but with Sally's help Free Spirit is now much closer to being ready, domestically, for longer passages with more crew on board. And, the children have at least contributed to the overall journey - even if we did only cover 1% of the total voyage in a week!