First and foremost, let me thank Peter and Chris Seaman aboard Ubiquity, for all their efforts researching, planning and briefing us all so well.
FOGOF 2021 was always going to be problematic given Covid and Brexit, but eventually the group decided that Guernsey, arriving on the 1st July when quarantine restrictions would be relaxed for “Double Vaxers” was the best option.
The long list of interested boats slowly distilled down to 5 with a total of 15 crew between them.
Aboard Whisper, Michele and I plus Minky a 15 year old Jack Russell, decided to make life easier, with an easy hop to the Yealm which was made special by a pod of dolphins that escorted us across Plymouth Bay.
The following day on the 30th June, we joined Ubiquity in Starehole Bay outside Salcombe whilst Skyfall moored up inside the harbour.
Demi Plie and Déjà vu opted to leave from Dartmouth mainly driven by a decent restaurant booking that could accommodate their crews.
Each boat had slightly different ideas on how to approach the passage to St Peter Port given the wind and tides, some from the North with excitement of being swept down the Little Russell and some from the South as a safer option.
Aboard Whisper we opted for a Northerly approach and left at 4:00am, mainly driven by the fact that there was a 18:00 hour cut off time for Covid clearance checking in St Peter Port, or the prospect of being confined to the boat on a quarantine berth until the following day (with a disgruntled dog !)
We departed Salcombe in complete calm with oily seas and a stunning sunrise. Winds remained light for the majority of the passage and we kept the motor on for most of the time to ensure we arrived in good time for quarantine clearance, eventually hoisting our “Q” flag at 16:30 hours when we arrived at the harbour entrance. I say “Q” flag but would confess that is was really a yellow microfibre cloth, as pucker flags seem to be in short supply since Brexit ;-)
Upon arrival we were directed to a quarantine pontoon and instructed to download and complete the “Guernsey Tracker” app on each crew members phone and then show vaccination proof to harbour staff located in temporary marque tents ashore. Vaccination proof basically involves uploading your vaccination certificate, passport details and other medical information into the Tracker App unit it gives you a Blue Approval screen which you can present to the shore staff. In return your boat is given a green clearance sticker and the Harbour Master will allow you to enter Victoria Marina.
Whisper, Déjà vu and Demi Plie who all entered from the North managed to clear quarantine before the 18:00 cut off time, but given the height of tide over the sill at the marina entrance, couldn’t enter the marina until the following day, but at least could go ashore. Ubiquity and Skyfall arrived after the cut off but quickly cleared the following day and all boats were tied up inside the marina the following morning.
The marina was quiet.
After a day sight seeing, we all regrouped for a dinner at the Village East…. From what I remember it was a great evening (and hope that “what goes own on FOGOF, stays on FOGOF) !
On Saturday evening everyone assembled on Déjà vu for some "light refreshment” and the obligatory sea shanty singing…..luckily early dinner reservations mean’t that we were still able to walk safely ashore and local boats only had a short introduction to our singing abilities.
With a worsening weather forecast we decided to make an early return the following day with Demi Plie and Déjà vu Ubiquity and Skyfall were fortunate to have time to stay on, enjoy the Island and wait for the storm to pass.
Aboard Whisper, we departed at 05:00 hours, headed north around the top of the Island and set a course for Fowey in light Southwesterly winds. Despite the forecast predicting that high winds wouldn’t arrive until the following day, the wind slowly built into a steady 25 Kts and mid Channel turned more Westerly and increased to 30 Kts with regular gusts of even more. Beating into heavy seas with both sails heavily reefed became very difficult and a particularly large wave swept our deflated Avon dinghy off the deck. Luckily one of the tethers held and we managed to recover it back onboard, but the floor had been torn out, and oars outboard bracket, and seat lost. At this point the crew made an executive decision, to head for the Yealm to shorten the journey. We managed to run the entrance in a big swell at low water at 20:00 hours thankfull that we have a Southerly with a lifting keel.
Deja Vue suffered engine problems after a cooling hose failed and could only run their engine for short periods of time. They finally made Plymouth just after midnight after a brutal sail with adverse tides prolonging the agony.
Demi Plie made the wise decision to bear away and run for Dartmouth, completing the passage in less than 12 hours.
Ubiquity and Skyfall made the return in calmer conditions 4 days later,
An adventure for sure and I’m sure that we’ll all be up for it again next year !
John, Michele & Minky
Whisper: Southerly 35RS