top of page

Let the Fun Begin

7th Oct 2021

Well, after waiting for 2 weeks on a mid-river pontoon at Hamble Point in 40kn winds it finally looked like we had a window to cross the channel to Guernsey. We decided to head across to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight and stay there for a couple of nights to give us the jump on getting out of the Solent. We stayed in the marina for a night and had dinner and a couple of drinks in Yarmouth for old times sake. We had two glasses of wine in the George for £29! Jo’s budget planning hadn’t got off to a good start! We also popped in to Salty’s which had just re-opened after the fire (we’d spent many a drunken evening in there previously with other boating friends). This meant we had pole position to get our names on the ceiling.

Next day we moved out of the marina on to one of the mooring buoys outside the harbour. We’d planned to leave Yarmouth at 11pm that evening and didn’t fancy threading our way out of the marina in the dark! Check out the video clip below. Sorry about the wind noise. We'll get better at this, I promise.

We’d planned to get some sleep before setting off as we’d be doing our first overnight passage (ever!). Yes, crossing the English Channel in the dark as our first overnighter - what were we thinking! However, nervous excitement meant sleep wasn’t happening. So at 11pm we slipped the lines from the mooring ball and we were off on our big adventure!

The forecast was for light winds, so probably motoring all night, but it was our best shot at getting to Guernsey, and we were keen to get going as the Biscay crossing was playing on our minds from a 'late in the season' weather perspective! We headed towards the Needles under engine. It was a new moon so it was pitch black (I could only just see the front of the boat!). Safe to say adrenalin levels were high and about to get even higher!

Apart from the darkness it was fairly straightforward getting past the Needles. However, we soon found out the weather forecast must have been produced by Michael Fish, as we were straight in to 20kn head winds and a short chop sea - not the start I’d hoped for.

As I was expecting it to take around 15 hours to do the crossing, and it was really important to get the tidal gates right when approaching the Channel Islands, we decided to plough on under engine. It definitely wasn’t the most comfortable sail we’ve ever had but we were making progress. We had set up a watch system (3 hours on, 3 hours off), however Jo started to feel queasy (probably nerves coupled with lack of food - also probably nerve related!). She did try a cheese and onion pasty (twice!!) but obviously it was too late. It was going to be a long night! We crossed the first shipping lane (east to west) at around 3 am.

Lots of ships about but with AIS (Automatic Identification System) and their lights it was fairly easy to avoid being mown over! I was looking forward to daylight for the next shipping lane. Typically for the Greenwood’s the dawn came and we were in the middle of a fog bank just as we were approaching the west to east shipping lane. Jo at this point had shown her mettle and was back on the helm so I could have a rest. As expected we hit a foul tide and our speed over ground was down to 2.7kn as we motored west just outside the shipping lane (remember, all the ships were coming from that direction!). We were doing this to make it as far west as we could so that when we crossed the shipping lane we wouldn’t lose too much ground to the tide as we approached the Channel Islands. Anyway this manoeuvre elicited a couple of radio calls. The first from a Dutch war ship and the second from the French coastguard. Both callers were interested in my ‘intentions’. They were courtesy calls I guess to make sure I did have a plan (which I’m pleased to say I did - honest!). We also spotted Rainbow Warrior, the `Greenpeace boat. It was much bigger than I expected!

This is where AIS comes in to its own. You can see the name of the ship, it’s size, speed, course and closest point of approach and time to reach it. In the foggy conditions this was literally a life saver.

We finally crossed the shipping lane and had a well deserved cup of tea, We were over the worst of it. We’d nailed the tidal gates and were making good speed for the final part of the journey. We sighted Guernsey around 11am and as we approached I noticed our speed over ground was 11.4kn (the actual boat speed was only 4kn!). So yes there is a strong tidal race around the Channel Islands which is why it’s so important to get the time right.

We motored towards St Peter Port harbour entrance and managed to get out of the tidal push thankfully. There’s a traffic light system on the harbour entrance and we had to wait for a fishing boat to come out before we could go in (so near and yet so far!). We entered the harbour and were met by a marinero who showed us to the quarantine pontoon in the outer harbour. This proved to be interesting as I had to manoeuvre the boat through a tight channel between the fishing boat mooring balls. We finally tied up to the Q pontoon - we had made it!! I would have kissed the ground but the pontoon was covered in seagull poop!


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page