St Peter Port is one of our favorite ports to visit! If you have a draught of 1.8 meters or less, you can dock in the old Victoria Marina and you’re in for a treat! You’ll be docked right below the town’s main street, close to shops and pubs and marina facilities, and you get electricity and wifi.
On Opsimath, with our 1.9 meter (6 foot) draught, we had to stay in the outer marina on a visitors’ pontoon. It was still nice, and cost the same, but without benefit of electricity or wifi. On our second visit this year, we were on the very last of the docks, which is not connected to the others, so we had to use the dinghy to get to shore. Kind of a pain in the ass.
The marina has 2 shower blocks, and the larger shower block near, the one near the harbour offices, is nicer by far. It’s new, bigger, and better aerated than the smaller facilities to the right.
St Peter Port is lovely, pittoresque and full of history, with almost all the things a sailor needs: food shops (a small M&S in the port and a large Coop at the top of Market Street), Boots pharmacy, bakeries, a wine and liquor shop, a Tea & Co, news kiosks, clothing… And lots and lots of authentic pubs and tempting restaurants.
We usually do most of our very best dining on board, but we had three meals out here: A good curry at The Taj (my review can be found here ), which feels like being in an old ship’s galley. The meal was almost perfect, except that they ‘tacked on” extra drinks to the bill… Luckily, Peter checks bills, I never would have caught the error. Second time in two weeks that had happened to us.
The next day we visited Castle Cornet and were very pleased with our visit. The oldest parts of the castle date back to the 13th century, and there’s a lot to see. We particularly enjoyed the old clock tower, and the beautiful little gardens; sweet little parcels of lovingly tended herbs, flowers and vegetables found throughout the castle grounds..
And we showed up just in time for the noon canon ceremony, where two “guards” come out and ceremoniously fire a canon over the bay. They put on a pretty good show, and turned out to be very good sports for post-ceremony photo ops.
We LOVED the maritime museum on the castle grounds, a rich balance of artifacts and explanations, with models, photos and stories that brought the island’s history to life. Fishing, trade, maritime business, shipwrecks and ferry disasters… The only thing missing is perhaps of tribute to the women in Guernsey’s maritime landscape, as the exhibit is a pretty masculine affair!
There are 4 other museums on castle grounds, so we’ve saved some for next time?
We ate at the newly renovated Slaughterhouse, and you can read my review of it here on Tripadvisor . The architecture is remarkable, though we found it very noisy and a bit lacking in warmth. Food was ok.
While visiting the castle, we noticed Havelet Bay. Nestled right next to the castle, this could be a great alternative to docking at the marina. A couple of smaller yachts were anchored there, enjoying the proximity to the town and the calm and quiet of the bay… probably without paying port fees (though harbour authorities are adamant throughout the UK).
I mentioned the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, about the 5 year period when the island was occupied by the Germans. It’s a great fictionalized account of that very difficult period.
We trucked on out to the German Occupation Museum, but we were both a bit disappointed by the museography The massive collection of objects reads more like a… massive collection of objects than a museum. Too many things cram-packed into a rather claustrophobic space for my taste.
Upstairs, they do have a recreation of the streets during the occupation era, which I found far more interesting. The recipe collection above, spoke to me on a level I could relate to: Women trying to feed their families and keep body and soul together with little more but potatoes and scarce rations.
We used the island bus system to get there (the buses pass right in front of the harbour office facilities), but didn’t want to wait for the bus back. So we hitched a ride with a very cool local named Matthieu. He told us about his mother, who was a young woman during the occupation who spoke Guernésiais, a Norman language. The locals used so that the Germans could not understand them. He was on his way to do some windsurfing as the winds were really picking up, with a big storm coming through.
With this inclement weather heading our way, we stayed an extra night in the port. We had planned to stay yet another night, but after studying his maps and tides and winds, Peter decided our best bet was to leave before the next round of storms, and we decided to leave at 2am.
Before bed, we got everything stowed away and prepared for early departure. Peter got up, and took everything into hand, and I went to bed while he pushed us off and started moving through the port. In his own words “a state of the art departure” until…
The dreaded sound of 5 short (and loud!) horn blasts! I threw my clothes on and leapt up to the cockpit and saw the huge white bow of the Condor ferry, entering the harbour and headed straight for us, moving quite slowly, so slowly that the movement was imperceptible. However, these massive ferries less manoeuvrable slow speeds). We had to get the &&& out of the way!
Peter had Opsimath in reverse, though I don’t know exactly what was going through his head, or at what moment he realized what the great white wall in front of us actually was. He turned port side, and the Condor blasted the horn 5 more times. My heart was leaping out of my chest! Finally, he turned starboard and we were out of harm’s way. Shaken AND stirred!
Once past the Condor (the crew was peering down at us, and I think we woke up all of St. Peter Port). After such a perfect departure, Peter was none too proud of the incident!
We got out into the bay. It was pitch black and nerve-racking navigation for Peter in the dark, with little more than our high-beam flashlight to light the way. But we made it! Once the sun came up, I went back to bed, and Peter set out the sails.
Peter writing: This was a truly bad situation. I didn’t expect any activity in the harbour at this time of the morning and certainly not the Condor Ferry. Although fully awake I just could not figure out what appeared to be a white wall blocking the entrance to the harbour. Was it a maintenance craft ? was I hallucinating ? The powerful bridge spotlight right in my eyes and the 5 short blasts suddenly revealed the reality of the situation. Fortunately the Océanis 37 is extremely manoeuvrable and we were able to get out of the Condor’s way in time. Shaken and stired ! Once out of St Peter Port harbour we headed south in the pitch black navigating on instruments until daybreak at around 6am.
The rest of the day was a beautiful sail on smooth seas. We sailed and sailed and sailed, and arrived in Granville after cutting through the Chenal Beauchamps of the Chausey Islands, from la Petite Entrée in the North to La Chapelle in the south. His planning was impeccable and the execution flawless, except for the horrifying Condor incident (which he is ashamed of to this day)! And, had we left the next day or later, we would have been facing rough seas and storms.
He’s a good skipper, safety-minded, conscientious, careful and intuitive. It was a scare, but not a close call, and we certainly must be prepared to face these kinds of situations while keeping a cool head.