Yachts & Yachting|June 2020
Less than 30nm from Normandy, Guernsey is the second-largest and furthest west of the Channel Islands, and the Bailiwick of Guernsey (a bailiwick is a territory administered by a bailiff) comprises Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, plus smaller islands, including Brecqhou, Jethou, Little Sark and Burhou. It is a Crown dependency, but not part of the UK, and has its own currency, the local pound, which is 1:1 with sterling. Guernsey is not car-free, but other islands in the bailiwick are: there are no motorized vehicles on Herm or on Sark, so all you’ll see are bikes and the odd tractor, or horse and cart.
For sailors, the Channel Islands are famous for their rocky approaches, massive tidal ranges and fierce tidal races that shoot through the channels. In the two-channel approaches to Guernsey, Little Russel and Big Russel, races can be as strong as 6kt on a big spring tide – great if you time your approach right, like taking a travelator, but soul-destroying if your maths has failed you. The general rule is if you are sailing to St Peter’s Port from the north, ride in on the ebb; if coming from the south, on a flood.
There are five marinas on Guernsey, all on the east coast – three in St Peter Port, the main town, one in St Sampson (these four are all state-run, by Guernsey Harbours), and a fourth, independent marina in Beaucette in the northeast. Visitors may only use Victoria Marina in St Peter Port or Beaucette Marina a few miles north. During the summer, the island welcomes up to 300 boats a day.
Victoria Marina is next to the town and has a bustling high street with shops and restaurants. There are interesting museums charting the island’s history, especially its occupation by Germany for five years during the Second World War. The St Peter Port harbour area is dominated by the beautiful 12th-century Castle Cornet, which is a striking landmark.
Victoria Marina is the visitor marina in St Peter Port and has 190 visitor berths for yachts less than 42ft (13.8m) LOA and 6ft (1.8m) draught.
Access to the marina, via the Pool, is over a sill, which is 4.2m above chart datum and is usually passable 2.5 hours either side of high water. Tidal ranges in Guernsey are about 10m, and usually average 8m in the summer months. On a typical 8-9m tide day, most yachts will be able to cross the still between half tide and high water. On a 6m tidal range day, some fixed-keel yachts will not have enough water to clear the sill even at high water.
In the summer, boats arriving too early or late to cross the sill can wait on the walk-ashore all-tide layby pontoons, within the harbour but outside Victoria Marina. These can hold about 100 visiting yachts.
Staff are on duty 24 hours a day, and during daytime hours (and on summer nights) they will come out in dories to guide visitors in.
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