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Cabin-boy

2 days, 3 islands and 6 ferries

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On Saturday 14th October I went over the Channel Islands for a couple of days cycling and island-hopping. I had been planning such a trip since mid-August but every preceding weekend had been rejected on the grounds of either the poor weather forecast, incompatible ferry timings or other planned activities. This last weekend was the first when the combination of all the relevant factors worked in my favour. So, I caught the 8am sailing on the Condor Rapide form St Malo. She left around 10 minutes early (as did all Condor’s sailing I took at the weekend) having been delayed the previous two days due to engine problems. There was no suggestion of any delay to our crossing and we made good progress up to Jersey just as the sun came up. We passed Bretagne on her way into St Malo as we were leaving and also passed Clipper as she was leaving St Helier on a run down to France as a replacement for the Goodwill which is off for a refit at the moment.

Travelling by bike on Condor is a very pleasant experience. It was the first time I have done so but will certainly do it again. Firstly it is free to take your bike with you (as opposed to some companies – no names – who seem to think that a £10 supplement is required per crossing just to save the planet!) and secondly you are first on before any cars or foot passengers and also first off meaning that you are never more than the 10th vehicle through immigration.

I therefore left the vessel in St Helier and headed west along the dedicated cycle lane all the way to St Aubin around the bay. I then took the ‘railway walk’ up the hill from there. It is a path open to walkers and cyclists that climbs gently up and over to the Corbière lighthouse on the far southwest point of Jersey. It follows the old railway line through cuttings, valleys and a small tunnel so the gradient is never too taxing. Google maps said I should allow 40 minutes to do the trip. In the end I took 50 minutes first due to my age, second as I was carrying panniers with a change of clothes and camera equipment etc. and third as I had to slalom between a load of joggers out doing a ‘fun-run’ at the top of the hill. The sun came out in full force just as I made it to the lighthouse and the view was as fantastic as always.

After a quick photo opportunity I cycled down to Petit Port beach and then rounded the headland on a footpath to cut the corner to La Pulente. From there I cycled along St Ouen’s Bay (maybe 3 miles) to Jersey Pearl and then turned east up the long climbing road to St Ouen’s village where I wanted to visit a shop I had heard about. After that I continued east to St Mary’s village then turned down the St Peter’s Valley road all the way to the bay on the south coast and from there back into St Helier. I locked my bike up by the Magistrates Court in Union Street on the basis that no-one would dream of stealing it from there and had a couple of hours wandering around the back streets, covered market and shopping arcades etc. I bought myself lunch from M&S and then took it back on the bike to the marina and sat on the wall outside the Radisson hotel to eat. From there you get a great view of Elizabeth Castle and due to the rising tide the amphibious bus/ferry which takes people across.

At around 2pm I went back to the port and checked in for my crossing to Guernsey. Again I was at the front of the boarding queue and was on Liberation before anyone else. It was my first trip on her and I can honestly say I was very impressed. The garage space is huge compared to other high-speed ferries and the passenger space is well appointed although strangely laid out compared to what I had imagined. As I had booked through-tickets from France to Guernsey I was able to get access to the Ocean-Club lounge free of charge when normally inter-island passengers must pay around £15 pounds for the upgrade. This was great as I had a sea view and a free drink. We again left early due to the low volume of traffic and headed out around the south-west coast just as the fog closed in. Therefore we saw nothing almost all the way to Guernsey. It was a dead calm wind-wise but with a significant swell with the peaks around 20/30 metres apart. This produced an interesting rolling motion onboard forcing me and virtually everyone else (including the crew) to grab onto anything solid when moving around the vessel. It’s unlike the normal rocking you get on ferries and completely unpredictable. I then understood why the interior is divided into such small individual compartments with narrow corridors etc. as you have less distance to fall before bouncing off a wall. I had my cup of tea, a quick nap having been up since 4am UK time, and then went out onto the upper deck to see if the movement was the same. It was! What I also noticed was then when she turns under such conditions, rather than rolling gently to one side like most vessels, she sort of skids across the waves like a fast-RIB or even a jet-ski which produces a juddering sensation. I guess this is due to the water jets being located in the central hull. It’s quite a strange sensation and certainly different from a classic ferry or high-speed craft.

On arrival in St Peter Port I locked up my bike and had a wander round until the shops closed and then went to my guest-house. I used St George’s B&B as it was the cheapest I could find on Booking.com. The reviews on Trip-Advisor were mixed but I had a single room which was small but clean and comfortable which for £41 is all I needed for around 12 hours. They also had a locked patio where I could leave my bike and offered an early breakfast which suited me. I went out in the evening, had a good fish and chip dinner in Dix-Neuf in St Peter Port and a wander round the harbour before bed.

On Sunday morning I was the first down to breakfast (continental is all that is offered to keep the costs low but was varied, fresh and copious) at 7am. I then walked round to the harbour to catch the 8.30am ferry to Herm Island. There were only 8 passengers in all, the others were a vicar and 6 parishioners going to a harvest-festival service in the island’s church. Therefore on arrival they all went off to the left carrying their baskets of produce etc and I turned right up the cliffs and had the entire island to myself save for a couple of guys fishing from their boat on the far side. In the hour and a half it took me to go anti-clockwise around to the gift-shops and café I didn’t meet a single person and the silence was only interrupted by the occasional boat engine and the helicopter picking some wealthy guest up from nearby Jethou Island. I caught the 10.50am ferry back to Guernsey (there were 160-odd passengers this time heading for picnics on the beach etc), picked up my bike and checked-in for the Liberation back to Jersey.

This time the sea was a little choppier but without any swell and Liberation rode much better with very little movement which resulted in a very comfortable and smooth ride. I noticed that the passenger cabin is mounted on what appear to be dampers (and surrounded by a gaiter-like plastic skirt) to help absorb the vibrations. This clearly works very well under normal conditions but may not be able to compensate so well with a swell like we experienced on Saturday and may even exacerbate the motion. We arrived in St Helier on time after allowing Rapide to clear the harbour and I cycled into town to buy some lunch and then sat on the beach to eat it, soak up the sun and rest my leg muscles. I then had an ice-cream and rode back to the port just as there was a 2-minute shower which caught everyone unawares. My ferry back to St Malo again left early and we arrived early too as the tide was high allowing Rapide to take the most direct route home. Once back in France I put the bike in the car and drove home but got delayed by the sheer volume of traffic on the road to Rennes. It seems everybody in the entire west of France had spent the day on the coast.

So to sum up: an excellent weekend away, great service on the ferries, good communication from Condor regarding boarding cards and text-messages to tell me the ferries were running to schedule and a very positive impression of Liberation (except I subsequently heard that she developed an engine problem on her way back to the UK and arrived in Poole 50 minutes late after having behaved impeccably all weekend. I promise I didn’t touch anything!). Enjoy the photos – there are more views available if anybody want them. Ed

Seen on Herm Island.JPG

Herm Trident approaching the landing steps.JPG

Rapide leaving Jersey for Guernsey.JPG

Liberation in the haze passing behind Elizabeth Castle on its way back to Guernsey and the UK.JPG

Bretagne arriving in St Malo.JPG

Clipper leaving Jersey bound for France.JPG

Corbière lighthouse.JPG

Amphibious bus or boat to Elizabeth Castle.JPG

Liberation in dock in St Peter Port.JPG

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Thanks for an excellent report, Ed, glad you liked Liberation, nice to see positive comments about her, nice comments about Condor in general, pretty sure they'll appreciate it.  

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There were a lot of people coming off the Liberation in Guernsey on Sunday lunchtime and being told to check back in again around two and a half hours later for the return crossing to Poole. They clearly had cheap day-trip tickets but it seems like a lot of time spent at sea for very little time ashore. Liberation left Poole at around 9am and was due back at around 7pm (plus the delay) so not very long to go round those shops that were open. However they were all clutching bags of cigarettes and alcohol so Condor must be doing well out of such offers. Ed. 

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This is the problem I found, the time ashore.  My intention was, and still is, is to spend a good few hours on tnr island so that I can do shopping, visit attractions (in my case WW2 related places) and have a good pub meal.  At present the only way one can do that is to stay overnight on the island.  Which I am wanting to do.  

Lib has got a very large shop on board, so quite a few people take advantage of that, it is about three times NEX's size, and plenty of choice.  Difficult to stand up in though when she is in full roll mode!!!

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1 hour ago, Khaines said:

Lib has got a very large shop on board, so quite a few people take advantage of that, it is about three times NEX's size, and plenty of choice.  Difficult to stand up in though when she is in full roll mode!!!

Tell me about it. They had stuffed kitchen rolls between different lines of bottles in the shop to stop them smashing together in Saturday's swell. There is in fact very little to hang on to in the shop apart from the display islands. But it is a decent size and reasonably well laid out. Ed. 

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1 hour ago, Gareth said:

So, Ed, did Rapide go straight through the Minkies on your way back to St Malo?

I guess she probably did cut across the eastern end of the chain, yes, by taking the direct route back. There are no TVs showing the GPS track visible on board so it's difficult to be sure. All the screens are used for advertising to the best of my knowledge and I didn't think to check on my phone. Ed 

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On 18/10/2017 at 16:33, Cabin-boy said:

There were a lot of people coming off the Liberation in Guernsey on Sunday lunchtime and being told to check back in again around two and a half hours later for the return crossing to Poole. They clearly had cheap day-trip tickets but it seems like a lot of time spent at sea for very little time ashore

We have done it a couple of times in the summer when there are half price offers. It's a day out, a chance to meet up with some old friends and a good lunch. If you get the right sailings (and Libby is actually running at full speed), about 3 1/2  hours ashore. It could be longer but Condor seem to think to think we enjoy spending a lot of time crowded in the cattle shed that is the departure "lounge".

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5 hours ago, SpecialK said:

 It could be longer but Condor seem to think to think we enjoy spending a lot of time crowded in the cattle shed that is the departure "lounge".

Nothing will beat me almost getting shut in a toilet cubicle for the duration of the roughest part of a crossing, as could not get my balance to open the door...😄

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