When we sailed out of the harbor of Cherbourg at 7.00h in the morning, ‘waved’ goodbye by a group of 15 dolphins that swam in front of the bow of the ship, we were excited to go to Jersey! The excitement had 2 sides: we heart so many good stories about Jersey by people that we have met. But the ‘down’ side was, we would have to cross the infamous Alderney Race, well known among sailors. It’s a strait that runs between Channel Island Alderney and Cap de la Hague, a cape at the northwestern tip of the Normandy, France. A strong current runs through the race, notorious for making it a treacherous passage, with sudden weather changes (dense fog) and the current is can run up to about 12 knots.
Strait of Alderney
When we came towards the Strait, we saw it happen in front of our eyes: a fog swell and because the wind and current ran into opposite directions, the sea became chaotic. We saw small whirlpools around our ship, we saw areas of flat water, but when we sailed over it, it started to bump the ship. There was another area where the water looked like little raindrops fell on it, except there was no rain, but the water became very choppy. Really spooky. I noticed Gilles got quieter. I thought it was focus and concentration on the route, but without saying anything, he pointed to the navigation information and I saw that we had 6 knots of current against our direction. We were lucky that the tidal coefficient was below 80, but our 2 engines were running a lot and we only got 7 knots of speed maximum out of them. Which means, we were winning 1 knot of speed and we had to cross 8 knots to get out of the Strait…. The worst part was we were slowly drifting off, towards the island of Alderney on the west, which was not the direction we wanted to go at all. We needed to go south to Jersey. It took us 3 hours to get out of the Strait of Alderney. Not many words were said during that time….
But then the sun came out again (literally and figuratively), we could use our sails again and we were going in the direction of Jersey! Even better, the tide turned and we got a ‘present’ of 3 knots in our favor. So we gained some time back of the 10 hours that we had planned for this sail.
Port of Saint Helier
Normally the duration of the sail is not an issue. We like to get into the harbor in daylight and that’s it. But now I had a ‘meeting’! With Marieke Koopman, she’s a Learning & Development colleague from the Netherlands, working at a client of mine and we had talked 2 weeks before online about an event this November where I will deliver 2 workshops for trainers. During that meeting we found out that we would be at Jersey around the same time! But it turned out, she would leave Jersey on the day we would arrive and she would take the 18.00h ferry. So we aimed to be in the harbor of St-Helier at 17.00h, so we could wave at each other, but now time got tight! Luckily we managed to see each other! It was so nice, as we sailed into the harbor, she was waving with her shawl on the ferry quay and her husband had climbed on the rocks on the highest point he could find! A very warm welcome to Jersey! And once we tied the boat to the jetty, we ran up to the ferry at 17.50u, where they had checked in and were standing on the deck. Now we waved to them, standing on exactly the same spot on the same quay!
After 10 hours of sail, we were hungry and the adventure at the Strait of Alderney also did cost us some energy. So we both didn’t feel like cooking, the sun was shining and Marieke became our savior. She Whatsapped us from the ferry 2 great dinner options she discovered during her stay at Jersey. We cycled to Portelet Inn, a traditional pub at the beach and we had a great dinner! Our time in Scotland and England immediately came back to us while cycling to the pub: the stacked stone walls along the road, the pubs, the typical UK food. And like I said to Gilles when we started cycling and almost got hit by a car: ‘How about we cycle on the left side of this street, dear 😉?’
We had 4 wonderful days in Jersey: we were amazed by the exotic atmosphere of the island, it’s bursting with colors! The vegetation with palm trees and colorful flowers, the turquoise color of the sea, the tropical temperature which makes the red, green, blue painted shops in the villages ‘shine’ even more. Especially this turquoise color of the water, we kept staring at it all the time. This is the middle of the North Sea! Which we Dutchies associate with grey, murkey water! The warm gulf stream makes the feel more Cote d’Azur then UK.
Being one of the Channel islands, Jersey doesn’t belong to the UK by the way. It has ‘crown dependancy’ which means it is part of the British Common Wealth, but it has it’s own currency (Jersey Pound) and government (headed by the lieutenant-governor for 5 years). So on the island, you see this funny mix of French streetnames, but typical sand stone houses build in UK style. The supermarket is Tesco, but next to it, there is also a ‘Boulangerie’.
We also learned about tidal pools. Every 6 hours the change in tide is 8 meters at Jersey, which is quite much. So at the beach it can get dangerous if you’re swimming there during the change of tides to ebb. So they have built a 2 meter high stone wall in the shape of half a circle which always leaves 2 meter of water in the ‘pool’. So when the water retreats, you keep on swimming in the tidal pool! The pool gets flooded every 12 hours and gets filled with clean seawater. A great and safe concept! This is also what I love about travelling the world: Not-Knowing. Because you step out of your routines and structured life, you are open to new impressions and you learn something new everyday!
We cycled every day on the island, stopping at restaurants at the beach build of bamboo sticks (Portelet Bay cafe), having a drink. Or eating an icecream (made of Jersey dairy of course) looking over the harbor of Gorey or Saint Aubin) with ships standing on the dry seabed, 8 meters below the quay. It’s strange to see ships standing up or hanging to the side, with no water below them.
We did meet some wonderful people in the harbor of St Helier, like Tom and Kelly Wilson and their boys Owen and Warren who liked the catamaran and sailing from Guernsey, where they lived, to Jersey or Alderney.
The highlight of our visit was walking towards Elizabeth castle which is located on a rock in the water in front of the coast of St Helier. So the pathway from the beach to the castle, has a time window of a few hours where it is safe to walk the 20 minute distance, visit the castle and then walk the 20 minutes back again, before the flow comes in!
When we left Jersey it was with a bit of pain in our hearts, because it’s paradise in the middle of the North sea! But back to reality: we came to the conclusion that our Strait of Alderney adventure costed us a lot of our diesel (we have 600 liter tanks), so we filled the tanks up again, because Jersey is also a tax free paradise 😉.