David Jefferson describes Portelet Bay, on the south coast of Jersey, as one of the island's most beautiful anchorages
Portelet Bay, Jersey
Portelet is a popular daytime anchorage with local boats from St Helier, which is just three miles to the east. Open only to the south, in fine, settled weather towards High Water they nose in, keeping to the west side of the bay and dropping anchor off a superb beach. As the tide recedes, if staying for a few hours, they will drop back to stay in the deeper water.
In the middle of Portelet Bay is an islet, Ile au Guerdain, with a miniature Martello tower. A string of unmarked rocks, covered around High Water, lies to the south of the islet running west, so local boats when entering the bay to the west side of the islet keep well over to the west side of the bay. Apart from these rocks the bay is clean. The chart suggests entering to the east of the islet is more straightforward, with no offshore rocks to avoid and if the west side is too crowded, visitors opt for this east side.
What makes the west side a perfect anchorage is when the tide goes down, the rocks off Ile au Guerdain provide protection from the wash of passing traffic including the considerable wash from the catamaran ferry making for or leaving St Helier. Those anchored on the east side of the bay do not have this protection. As the tide drops, the west side anchorage becomes a lagoon, protected on three sides by the cliffs, with a sandbank from the beach to the islet forming a natural causeway.
The superb bathing beach never gets overcrowded because the path down from Portelet village is very steep and many prefer beaches with an easier access. Boat owners anchored off the beach in the late afternoon and evening will often have these superb surroundings almost to themselves. On the beach, the renovated Portelet Bay Café, which opened in July 2015, serves lunches and suppers seven days a week during the season and is very popular with visiting crews.
When the tide goes out revealing the ‘causeway’, those who have walked down to the beach or landed here in the yacht’s tender may choose to walk out to the Ile au Guerdain, some lingering too long and having to wade back or swim to the beach, caught out by the rising tide. Fortunately, in the bay there is very little in the way of current.
The islet, known locally as Janvrin’s Tomb, has a macabre history. Philippe Janvrin, captain in 1721 of the Esther, frequently sailed between France and Jersey to trade with the French. When the plague became an epidemic in France, crews of ships returning from France were not permitted to land on Jersey, and Esther was forced to stay moored in Belcroute Bay. On the second day of quarantine Janvrin died, but his body could not be brought ashore because of the plague, so he was buried on Ile au Guerdain.