Almost to the date two years ago we departed from Cherbourg in France to Isle of Wight in the UK. Now 2475 nautical miles later we are ready to cross the English Channel again on the other way back to the continent.
Last time the water was silk smooth and we motored directly across. There was even no need to avoid any ships and we got lucky, as there was a cap just for us in the queue of cargo ships. This time there is a huge Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) between Salcombe and Alderney on our way. We could go around it either first east and then turn south after TSS or we could go SSE before TSS and then turn to the east. The wind forecast was from SE backing to E later. Once underway we tried to sail as south as possible for passing the TSS. However the wind was not accepting the forecast and stubbornly veering south. We were only half way across the Channel and about to reach the TSS. In maritime regulations (COLREGS) it is strictly forbidden to cross the TSS at any other heading than at 90 degrees to the traffic. There were also a few 1000 feet long leviathans approaching fast on AIS and all things considered we put the engine on and motored across the rest of the Channel.
Our destination was Alderney. In last few days we had been reading through all pilots and thinking should we go to Alderney or Guernsey. There were a strong wind forecast for upcoming weekend and at last minute we changed our destination and turned south to Guernsey instead of continuing to Alderney.
So in theory we did not circumnavigate the UK, as we did not cross our own wake only missing it by 24 miles. However for all practical purposes we can say that now we have sailed around the British Isles by our own sailboat. Yeah, we did it!
Our route took us east from Solent and arriving back to the North Sea soon after the white cliffs of Dover. We sailed up the east coast of England and Scotland until reaching Orkney and Shetland later. Coming down from Shetland we passed the treacherous Cape Wrath and arrived in wonderful Western Scotland. Still southbound we stopped in Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man followed by east and south coast of Ireland. After crossing the Celtic Sea and stopping on the Isles of Scilly we were back in the English Channel and sailing eastbound on the south coast of England.
It would be unfair to ask for a one favourite place on a two years voyage. We visited 50 harbours and anchorages, there were definitely so many wonderful places there. In the UK generally it comes down to the weather. We’ve been sitting in harbour for two weeks waiting for the gales to blow out or sometimes we had to leave quickly as strong winds were forecasted and would have left us stranded somewhere. On the other hand we were lucky to enjoy a plenty of sunny days and amazing sailing experiences, indeed.
But to pick one place where we would like to return it is Fair Isle. We could also easily spend a whole season in Western Scotland’s uncountable anchorages. Also we’d rank the Isles of Scilly and estuaries of many rivers in south of England quite high.
While approaching Guernsey we were full of success and achievement. We really did it! Also when looking back two years when we were pondering that should we continue directly to the Med or circumnavigate the UK, we definitely made the right choice, indeed.