Channel crossing

oakleyb

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Planning my 1st Channel crossing as skipper with friends as a test prior to taking kids wife etc. Looking at Portsmouth - Yarmouth - Cherbourg - Alderney - Portsmouth over a 4 day period

Any tips or experiences from your first crossing would be great

Thanks
 

philip_stevens

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Coming from Falmouth, I don't cross from the IoW area, but have gone from Cherbourg to Alderney.

One thing you will have to do in this passage, that you will probably do on an ebb tide from Cherbourg, is to stand off the coast about two miles when passing along the north coast of the Cherbourg peninsula to Cap de la Hague. If you don't, you could get "sucked" down the Alderney Race with the ebb tide - especially worse on a spring tide ebb.

Even on a course from Cherbourg to Falmouth, I made sure I stood off at least two miles by the time I passed Alderney.
 

KenMcCulloch

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I would just say don't underestimate how tiring it can be making passages of that kind, even without any overnights, and how the weather may dictate the need to adjust your plans. The worst thing is to find yourself making decisions on the basis of your (or a crew member's) 'need' to be back at work on day n, rather than on the basis of weather and tide times/etc. Set aside 6 days for your 4 day plan, also might allow you half a day or so to wander over an Island or whatever.
 

fireball

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Planning my 1st Channel crossing as skipper with friends as a test prior to taking kids wife etc. Looking at Portsmouth - Yarmouth - Cherbourg - Alderney - Portsmouth over a 4 day period

Any tips or experiences from your first crossing would be great

Thanks
Unless the wind is SW then I would go Portsmouth-Cherbourg (unless you're picking up friends from Yarmouth!)...

Be prepared - sounds corny - but you do need to be....

1) Being prone to seasickness I ensure I've got sufficient snacks and water on deck to survive the crossing - then I don't have to go down below ...

2) Be prepared to motor - it's usually a 11-12 hour crossing and ~60Nm - speed dropping to 3 knots would make it a 20 hour trip ... keep the average up.

3) The crossing can be boring - so a book or a Magazine to read (Sailing today? :eek:) could be handy ...

4) Tide & Time check - I try and leave early so I get in at a reasonable time to eat and relax before turning in - sometimes I'll bash tide in the first part of the journey to achieve this - but you don't want to be just off Cherbourg beating into an east bound tide in a SW F6 - been there ... not fun!
 
Go for it, we did our first chanel crossing last year, really enjoyed it, and did it again this year over the long Easter - May bank holiday week.

A few points:

Whether you leave from the E or W end of the Solent is best decided based on predicted wind direction. If it is SW'ly, then going from Yarmouth makes sense (although you do have a beat / motor down the Solent to get there). In the recent NE'lys, going direct to Cherbourg from Portsmouth via the East end of the Solent would have worked well.

Do calculate the tidal drift for your crossing, calculate your required heading, and stick to it, erring a little up tide of Cherbourg. We got it a bit wrong the first time, and had to motor into quite a strong current for a couple of hours as we approached. This probably added an hour or so onto our passage. Note that staying on the rhum line for the crossing will also take you an hour or two longer.

While Cherbourg is well lit etc, we felt more comfortable approaching and entering in daylight, and therefore set off very early in the morning.

If N - NE'ly winds are forcast, the moorings at Braye (Alderney) are lively, and there is no marina on Alderney, but it is only 60 NM from there to the Needles Fairway bouy. Given you only have 4 days, you may want to spend a couple of days at Cherbourg to rest / see the sights (interesting WWII museum if that sort of thing interests you) depending on how you feel after the outward journey.

We had all our paperwork in order (SSR Cert, ICC, VHF cert, insurance, passports etc). Nobody in Cherbourg was in the slightest bit interested in them. The staff in the marina office speak good English, and the price is very reasonable compared with Solent marinas.

Best of luck and hope it goes well.
 

eddie2000

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Planning my 1st Channel crossing as skipper with friends as a test prior to taking kids wife etc. Looking at Portsmouth - Yarmouth - Cherbourg - Alderney - Portsmouth over a 4 day period

Any tips or experiences from your first crossing would be great

Thanks

Hi. 4 days isn't enough to enjoy this trip - take 6 days. If you have to be back in that timescale, then think of skipping Alderney.
Remember there are significant tides off Cherbourg so make sure you arrive uptide in the offing.
As another poster has said you'll probably be motoring much of the way.
 

Skysail

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Miss out Yarmouth and/or Alderney if it has to be 4 days.

Avoid Braye harbour in strong NE or easterly winds, it can be very uncomfortable - not good preparation for passage back.

Work out course to steer for 12 hours, repeat at 6 hours, 9 hours, then every hour to ensure landfall is up tide of destination.
 

Elemental

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Plenty of good advice above. I'd echo concerns about the length of the trip for the distance proposed. It'll be a tough trip as it is and if you encounter some bad weather you'll feel the need to keep pressing on even when it's not necessarily sensible to do so.
While Cherbourg is well lit etc, we felt more comfortable approaching and entering in daylight, and therefore set off very early in the morning.
IMHO, making a daytime landfall in unfamiliar waters is harder than at night. This is because bouys, with their well defined flash sequences, are easier to identify at a distance when it's dark. Identifying an unknown bouy during daylight can be difficult until you're right on it.

I do remember my early sailing days, and the slight apprehension when sailing in the dark, but it's well worth making sure you are as happy sailing at night as during the day.
 

BlueChip

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Planning my 1st Channel crossing as skipper with friends as a test prior to taking kids wife etc. Looking at Portsmouth - Yarmouth - Cherbourg - Alderney - Portsmouth over a 4 day period

Any tips or experiences from your first crossing would be great

Thanks

That route is a typical Bank Holiday milk run for South Coast sailors, as others have said leave West or East end of the Solent depend on tide times, there is nothing more satisfying than getting the time right and taking the ebb out of Portsmouth and carrying it down the East side of the Wight, but leaving from the West will often give you a better angle on the prevailing winds.
If the tides suit and you have time, I wouldnt stop in Yarmouth but carry on to Poole, maybe anchor in Studland Bay overnight. That would give you an even better angle for Cherbourg and you'l then be crossing the shipping lanes closer to 90 dgrees which is always easier first time. Or maybe go direct to Alderney if the winds suit, then its likely to be downwind all the way back.
If you going on a bank holiday weekend, Cherbourg may be full so be prepared to anchor. We always anchor in Braye Harbour, beats rafting up on a buoy when it is rolly.
 

rob2

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Cover all eventualities! A friend made his first channel crossing to Cherbourg and picked up a pot marker round the prop just before entering the harbour. He turned around and sailed back as he couldn't manouvre into the marina, but could sail onto his swinging mooring in Southampton. Emergency provisions are a very good idea!

Rob.
 

aslabend

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Don't piss about if the visibility is looking iffy, discretion / valour and all that. I can't think of a worse place to be than in the middle of the shipping lanes (strictly they're not separation schemes between Chrbg and Prtsmth) with the visibility dropping. A Phone call to the Coastie is a good way to check channel vis.

Other than that, if you've a good boat and crew, done some preparation, stocked up with pimms for the arrival........relax a bit and enjoy it.
 

Elemental

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Cover all eventualities! A friend made his first channel crossing to Cherbourg and picked up a pot marker round the prop just before entering the harbour. He turned around and sailed back as he couldn't manouvre into the marina
But there's an anchoring area just outside the marina. Wouldn't it have been safer to anchor and clear the prop at Cherbourg. Or is that your point - make sure you know what your options are when you enter a harbour.
 

rob2

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But there's an anchoring area just outside the marina.

I know that - but it was his choice. I can only guess that he didn't fancy diving without a dinghy to work from. Though that brings up the subject of another post. The boat is a T24, with a tailgate in the transom, so you can step in and out of the water with a step about a foot below the waterline.

Rob.
 

Boathook

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Planning my 1st Channel crossing as skipper with friends as a test prior to taking kids wife etc. Looking at Portsmouth - Yarmouth - Cherbourg - Alderney - Portsmouth over a 4 day period

Any tips or experiences from your first crossing would be great

Thanks

Possibly as others have commented you are trying to do to much in 4 days. Just settle for Cherbourg and back and have a day of rest. My first crossing as skipper made me feel very tired even though I had crossed the channel many times as crew.
 
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catalac08

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Looks ambitious, without any allowance for bad weather hold ups-but have a great sail anyway and come back safe!
 

Topcat47

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All good so far,

If you end up downtide on the Barfleur (East) side of Cherbourg, the best port of refuge is St Vaast. Watch the tidal gate for entry to the port, you may have to anchor off until it opens. Don't be tempted to try the inshore route, even with a Cat, the first time.

+1 allow for 6 days or moderate your programme. I know you ought to be able to cream the crossing in a Prout but I've spent 22hrs motorsailing back from Cherbourg in the past just in a NE F5 with a disturbed sea state and as you're in command, you will need your beauty sleep.
 

Topcat47

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PS the closer you get to Barfleur, the stronger the tide runs and it does get rather lumpy as you turn the corner. Wind over tide just makes it worse.
 

fergie_mac66

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I would just say don't underestimate how tiring it can be making passages of that kind, even without any overnights, and how the weather may dictate the need to adjust your plans. The worst thing is to find yourself making decisions on the basis of your (or a crew member's) 'need' to be back at work on day n, rather than on the basis of weather and tide times/etc. Set aside 6 days for your 4 day plan, also might allow you half a day or so to wander over an Island or whatever.

i would agree very good advice !
 
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