The idyllic islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Herm, and Sark make up the Bailiwick of Guernsey. They have lovely cruising, sandy beaches, clean water and generally better weather than the British mainland.


The islands, now British Crown Dependencies, were once under the provenance of the Duchy of Normandy. The residents have retained their own identity, part French and part English and a few still speak the Norman patois dialect of Guernésias. The greater sunshine hours allow more tender, sub-tropical, plants to flourish and the gardens and parks have exotic flora and fauna.

The different periods in their history have all left their mark, particularly with the WW2 forts, the Loophole Towers, and the ancient Castle Cornet which is now a museum. Victor Hugo sheltered in exile on Jersey and then in Hauteville House (also open to the public), above St Peter Port, where he finished Les Misérables. He dedicated The Toilers of the Sea to the ‘island of hospitality and freedom’.

During the Second World War the entire population of Alderney were evacuated, and those remaining on the other islands were subjected to Nazi rule. The islands were liberated on 9th May 1945 and 9th May remains a national holiday.

The islands are now well geared up for tourism, with bus tours, museums and forts to keep families and history buffs alike happy on outings. The yacht clubs are welcoming and regular ferries link the islands with Jersey, St Malo, Cherbourg and mainland Britain.

There is no VAT in the shops and the duty-free fuel is an added bonus particularly for the bigger yachts. St Peter Port is always a favourite stopover, full of life, with quaint streets, lovely shops, and excellent restaurants. There are few harbours where you can berth with such an attractive town at your feet.

The shortest western channel crossing is from Portland Harbour to Alderney (55M). Crossing from Yarmouth or Portsmouth to Cherbourg avoids the Off Casquets TSS. A subsequent departure from Cherbourg or Omonville to the west makes the timing of your onward passage to Alderney easier.

The Channel Islands are swirled about by very strong tides which gallop along the French side of the Channel. Passages down The Swinge and the Alderney Race need careful planning. Neap tides are best for your first visit. Braye Harbour has very secure moorings and a water taxi, but is best avoided in north easterlies and can be rolly on spring tides.

From there you can get the timing right for slack water in the Swinge (Braye HW+0230hrs) and then carry the tide down the Little Russell Channel.

There is a waiting pontoon outside the Victoria Marina to await adequate depth over the sill. Berths are allocated on a first come first served basis, however vessels are nearly always accommodated. During high season rafting can be expected. There are walk ashore facilities for larger or deeper draught yachts which may have to remain outside.

The very busy harbour is well run. There are IALA traffic lights on the northern breakwater for entry & exit, when three red lights in a vertical line are displayed, no vessel traffic may enter or leave the harbour. There are efficient marina staff who will greet arriving yachts in harbour dory’s with an information booklet, instructions on berthing and Customs documentation.

Victoria Marina has laundry facilities on the Albert Pier, and excellent showers on both sides of the basin. There is a well stocked chandlery beside the fuel berth. It is a very popular rendezvous for racing fleets, both French and British, and a useful staging post for harbours in northern Brittany and for customers under the Passeport Escales scheme. Superyachts up to 120m can be accommodated on the commercial wharfs..

Distances between the islands are short and numerous small ferries ply back and forth. If you fancy a day trip without losing your berth then the local ferries are the answer.

Away from the crowds there are lovely anchorages particularly around Sark, and off Herm’s beautiful beaches. Alderney has retained a wilder and more remote feel to it, with forts to explore. It has a smaller population of only 2000 inhabitants and St Anne has kept the charm of a previous era.

Sark remains carless and peaceful. Transport is either by bicycle, tractor or horse drawn carriage. The most spectacular anchorage is below La Coupée between Sark and Little Sark. This is where Mervyn Peake’s charming fictional character, Mr Pye, made his spectacular departure at the end of the novel of the same name. There are also free visitors’ buoys at Havre Gosselin.

The Channel Islands are a lovely destination, and it is hard to match the triumph of arriving safely at Victoria Marina and being surrounded and embraced by the hospitable arms of St Peter Port.

For more information contact Guernsey ports at: or via phone on: 01481 220229


Mr Pye by Mervyn Peake
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows