On Friday we departed from Guernsey as soon as there was enough water over the sill and sailed to our weekend destination, the island of Alderney. The wind was just perfect 10 knots and we were beam reaching in a beautiful weather while enjoying the sunshine in a cockpit.
Our calculations about the current and wind were just right. The island of Burhou is located on the northwestern side of Alderney and the current can be immense in Swinge strait. At best we had a downhill current of 5.3 knots in addition with a wind from behind when we were passing the strait. Even at this benign weather there were standing waves rolling Suwena heavily. For sure we do not want to be there on strong wind against the tide conditions. It would be quite a washing machine then.
To our surprise the harbour of Braye was quite a full despite its still mid-June. There were only a few free yellow vissitors’ buoys near the outer edge of the harbour and we caught one. When I was coiling the mooring warp it looked like that the harbour master was speeding to greet us by dinghy but it was cheery young woman promoting a water taxi services. She told that its two pounds per person for going ashore and after 9.30 pm it is three pounds. There was also a tip in a pilot book that the water taxi in Alderney is convenient way for reaching the various establishments ashore during the civilised hours.
We thought that after mooring her we could put the dinghy down and go for a dinner ashore into some of the numerous restaurants of Alderney. The harbour of Braye is open to northern and easterly winds and in addition it looks like the northwestern wind also can push some swell around the end of the breakwater. The boats were rolling that happily in a swell so Pikku Suwena stayed firmly in the davits waiting for the next day while we were hailing a water taxi for a dinner trip.
To our surprise we heard from the water taxi driver that in Braye only two restaurants are open after 8.30 pm for a dinner and the rest would be already closed for the evening. We had a choice between pizza and seafood, and for sure we ended up in a right place. We have never ever got such an abundant amount of scallops like in the First and Last restaurant‘s dish which was brought to the hungry seamen – Yam yam.
Saturday downed into the most lovely summer day. The swell however was our companion for the whole night. When we were sipping morning coffee many yachts prepared for the departure. When the buoys were vacated more deeper in the harbour, we quickly untied our mooring line and moved Suwena deeper into the harbour. There are over 70 mooring buoys in the harbour of Braye and the more deep we drove the smaller the swell became. Pro tip: The swell is bigger next to the breakwater wall as it reflects the waves back.
We eagerly lowered Pikku Suwena into water for going ashore. First we checked the offerings in the Braye village. The bike rentals had ads about tandem’s being for hire and yes, they had a tandem which was already rented out.
We also found two decent food supermarkets from Braye. Our fridge was full of groceries and thus we started a long climb uphill to the island’s only town called St Anne.
We were rather surprised on how busy small town was St Anne with all the small shops. There are about 2000 people living in Alderney and the basic services were well available. Also overall Alderney looked like a big doll’s house. All the yards were well kept and buildings were in good order. You could really feel that Alderney people are caring about their island.
After enjoying quite a huge and delicious crab salad in the sunny terrace of the Jack’s Brasserie it was time to puton our backpacks and continue the island tour.
First we walked across the island to southeast shore and then continued to the northern tip of the island and then back to the harbour. In total we had a 12-kilometre walk while the Sun was burning my crown, while my sun hat was of course onboard Suwena.
There are quite a lot of lush leaf trees in the middle of Alderney while the trees turn into conifer trees closer to the coast. Especially in the north we could see that the terrain on any slope without shelter was rugged and barren from the beating of northern gales. On the other hand any sheltered area, especially if southern faced, were grown full of bushes and trees. The Sun worshippers were enjoying the summer in sheltered beaches while the windy side of the island was completely empty.
Alderney is the most northerly of the Channel Islands and the only one that is actually located in the English Channel, only 8 nautical miles from the cape of La Hague in Normandy. The rest of the Channel Islands are actually located in the Bay of St Malo.
We were quite charmed by the feeling and nature of Alderney. Fortunately we held our plans to visit there and returned to the Channel Islands. Last summer we planned Alderney to be the first port of call in the Channel Islands but due to bad weather we had to skip it.
Something from the slow pace of life in Alderney tells that while onboard on Friday evening we heard from the local radio station the eager host announcing: “the plane has just managed to land and the mail have has arrived and maybe even the newspapers”.
Unfortunately for Sunday evening and a few next days there was again a forecast of strong winds, rain and thunder. On Sunday morning we departed back towards Guernsey for holding the weather. On Sunday there would have been a market, a tour of the lighthouse and the only train in the Channel Islands would transport the tourists around the island. There is always something for the next time!