Many of us have a limited cruising window of two or three weeks during the summer. Sailing to the Channel Islands is doable within that timescale

Sailing to the Channel Islands promises a rewarding and interesting cruising ground with lots of historic interest.

The Channel Islands often have better weather than other parts of the British Isles.

The entire population of Alderney was evacuated to Weymouth during the Second World War and the forts on the islands provide places to explore.

Alderney feels particularly wild and remote, cut off as it is with races on both sides, and less developed than Jersey and Guernsey.

For a competent crew familiar with the boat, leaving the Needles and sailing the English Channel for Alderney is a nice passage if there is a favourable wind with no hint of it coming from the south to west quarter.

A woman sitting on a rock overlooking boats anchored after sailing to the Channel Islands

Havre Gosselin is a stunning anchorage, but is open to the west. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

There is also the divert option of Cherbourg if things don’t go to plan.

Having pottered around the Channel Islands coming back via Alderney to Portland or Weymouth, the shortest Channel crossing at the western end of the Channel will create a triangular route with plenty of interest in-between.

The Channel Islands have swingeing tides and timing is everything.

In the first instance a departure from Yarmouth is dictated by the Needles Channel where the tide runs hard, particularly through Hurst Narrows.

The tide turns west off Yarmouth at Portsmouth HW-1.

Yachts anchored in the bay at St Peter Port on the Channel Islands

The moorings outside St Peter Port’s Victoria Marina are for locals, but there are now waiting pontoons for visitors. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

The rhumb line for Alderney is west of south and you need to make 23M of westing, so getting the best of the tide and monitoring your set and drift is critical. (Braye harbour is actually due south of Worbarrow Bay).

It is important to arrive uptide of Braye Harbour because the tides run harder on the other side of the Channel.

What you don’t want is to get swept down the Alderney Race, nor the Swinge nor the Ortac Channel.

So, your course will need shaping, particularly during the final hours of your approach.

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If you have anxieties about this passage then choose neap tides which are slightly less daunting and don’t be afraid to call it off if the weather looks unstable.

To leave Braye for St Peter Port the Swinge can be taken at slack tide and is shorter than going around the top end of Alderney and down the Race.

There is very little slack time. The SW going stream starts at St Helier HW+0350/Dover HW-0100/Braye HW +0230 by which time the Corbet Rock on the eastern side is clearly visible.

There is a band of calmer water on the eastern side in the earlier stages of the tide.

A chart showing the Channel Islands

Credit: Maxine Heath

You should make it all the way down the Little Russell Channel and into St Peter Port on that tide.

There you can go on the waiting pontoons to await depth to enter Victoria Marina, or berth outside.

Herm has beautiful beaches on the NE side, and you can anchor to the south just north of the Percée Passage.

Boats moored outside a castle

Head down the Little Russell Channel from Alderney to St Peter Port in Guernsey, with Castle Cornet as a backdrop. Credit: Chris George/Visit Guernsey

Famously traffic-free Sark is always enchanting, has several anchorages, and there are mooring buoys at Havre Gosselin, Port Gorey in Little Sark and at Greve de la Ville to the NE.

Children are always charmed by the horse and cart rides.

Jersey has an excellent zoo, and a sizeable marina at St Helier.

A horse and cart being driven on Sark

Horse and cart rides in car-less Sark are a highlight for younger crew members. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

If you still have time you can consider sailing to France.

The Les Minquieres plateau and Les Îles Chausey satisfy the adventurous, and if time still permits you could even make it to St Malo which is a wonderful town, with Mont St Michel nearby.

The adjacent town of Granville has tides that have to be seen to be believed and is well worth a visit.

All of these are within a day sail and a tide of each other.

Herm’s beaches are stunning, but the main harbour is on the west of the island. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Herm’s beaches are stunning, but the main harbour is on the west of the island. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Sailing to the Channel Islands & St Malo

Time Taken:

2 weeks Channel Islands and back

3 weeks St Malo and back

Yarmouth to Needles – 5M
Needles to Braye Harbour – 61M
Portland Marina to Braye – 54M
Needles to Chantereyne Marina, Cherbourg – 61M
Braye Harbour, Alderney to St Peter Port – 22M
St Peter Port to Sark – 6.5M
St Peter Port to St Helier – 26M
St Helier to Les Minquieres – 12M
St Helier to Les Îles Chausey – 14M
St Helier to St Malo – 37M

Ferry services at St Peter Port,Jersey and St Malo

Flights from Alderney, Guernsey and Jersey

Sailing to the Channel Islands: hazards

Tidal gates at the Alderney Race, the Swinge, the Ortac Channel, and the Little Russell Channel.

The Pierre Vraic rock which covers, and the Corbet rock in the Swinge.

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