Cross Channel Yacht Cruise – To France / Channel Isles
Whether you are wanting to build miles, add tidal experience, enjoy French cuisine or relax and take a break in great company a Cross Channel Yacht Cruise To France or the Channel Islands is a great way to have some fun with like minded people… and learn. Read on for a bit of general information on longer distance cruises. Click here to see available dates of cruises…
Why Cross the Channel by Yacht
People want to cross the English Channel by yacht for all sorts of reasons – some have it on their ‘tick list’, others require a 60 mile passage as Skipper for their log book prior to their MCA / RYA Yachtmaster course / exam and some want to experience foreign travel and landfall by a different transport method and enjoy a cafe culture. Many just want the confidence of having an experienced Skipper aboard to make sure all goes well before they do it ‘for real’ by themselves if they have their own boat.
We often get individuals or groups that want to consolidate their sailing experience and add in more tidal experience specifically to understand the ramifications of the tide in the English Channel and around the Channel Islands. Many of these customers come from the continent with much non-tidal experience accrued in the Mediterranean or other non tidal waters on numerous flotillas and charters.
Others want to understand what crossing a busy shipping area would be like, gauging the distances between the various ships and making calls to pass astern and learning about collision courses and making sure that you make the right call.
What do You Experience Crossing the Channel?
All groups on these events with Yachtforce get to plan passages and understand the elements that go into that all so important element of the planning and the decision making. Some will take control of a crossing as Skipper under the scrutiny of our experienced Commercial Skippers and Instructors adding to their ’60 mile passages’ that are required before they take their Yachtmaster exam. Others will be members of a watch system and run the boat taking turns helming, adjusting sail trim, keeping a look out and taking bearings on any ships they see, to check for collision courses.
Before we Cross the Channel to France
As well as the tides and courses we have to plan the food, make sure the crew are capable and rested, sort out a watch system, decide whether to do a daylight / night crossing or a bit of both depending upon crew experience, check our ‘fall back’ plan, practise MOB and reefing before we leave, make sure everyone is familiar with the boat, work it all out so we know when to leave regarding the forecast and tides and decide where to step off from in the Solent – either Needles in the West or possibly Portsmouth or Bembridge in the East. Think about a passage being 14 hrs and if the wind should turn on the nose – well that could mean a punishing 24 hr beat! Best to lee bow the tide and see what alternative port you could make for.
During the Channel Crossing
Some may just want to kick back and relax when not on watch, read a book and enjoy the peace of being at sea. If it is calm you even can get to swim out of sight of land 20 miles out to sea! If you are really lucky you may have fantastic dolphin experiences and the water is so flat you get to eat great food and catch a few rays! It just means that you end up using the motor rather than sailing. You also drink loads of tea… heaps of tea and stay hydrated until the G&T are on the table when you arrive and are safely tied up!
When on watch above decks we put reefs in / we take reefs out, we study the sky for local visual sky signs of different wind conditions or localised squalls and we trim the sails. We study ‘the met’ for an understanding of the wind and weather and react accordingly. If conditions allow we fly a spinnaker – symmetrical or asymmetrical depending upon the strength and the direction – but we try to stay above 4.5 knots average boat speed. Below decks we plot, do nav and record in the log, cook and prepare food if calm, serve out what was pre-prepared if rough. The most important thing is to look after the crew and especially the Skipper so that they don’t get too tired and make effective decisions throughout the passage.
At either end – you make landfall. That is the exciting part. If it is daylight when you approach France the distant dark smudge of land gradually increases in size and then definition – if it is dark you will see the lights of the light houses miles out to sea and it seems an age til you get close in. The lights and buoyage are interesting when you get within sight of the land and you get out your pilotage plans and refresh yourself for the final few miles .
Tiredness / Sea Sickness at Sea
Remember that a crossing of just 14-17 hrs is tiring and if there is any sea sickness aboard it is absolutely exhausting and can put additional pressure upon the crew left operational. Make sure that crew take their medication to prevent sea sickness – and in good time. Check the prescribed doses but a tablet the night before helps get the drug into the system and then 2 more – at least 2 hrs before you cast off is a good tip. It can be controlled – so use the drugs, patches, pressure points or the goggles if you are likely to get ill. (James wasn’t really ill here – he was just recounting the tales of woe of a certain staff member on board during staff training.)
Favoured First Coss Channel Arrival Ports From Solent
Cherbourg is the easiest. Well protected all tide availability with large marina. Great cafe culture, shops and restaurants. Brilliant city with great food and loads of things to do close to the marina. Cherbourg Marina Info
St Vaast means lock in / lock out but is a small and pretty fishing village. Great seafood! You may have to raft. Just make sure you are happy with rounding Pte de Barfleur and heed the pilot book advice. St Vaast Port lock times
Stunning Alderney in the Channel Islands – You will swing on a visitor buoy and protected apart from weather anywhere from the North. Tiny Island with welcoming locals and great pubs. You can do a tour of the sights. Alderney info
Barfleur – Drying fishing port just south of the Pte de Barfleur – great for a short stay or fantastic for an overnight if you can take the ground. Barfleur Port
How Long A Cross Channel Yacht Cruise Experience
If you fancy doing a Cross Channel Cruise we would advise a minimum of a 3 day experience. This gives us more room for a weather window to get both there and back. If the wind is on the nose it would call into question the validity of a Channel crossing – but would probably make for a good West Country Cruise instead! A 5 or 7 day experience will allow you to venture further into the Channel Isles – but remember the tides – if you are in a tidal sensitive port you are constrained by entry and exit times and this eats into your allotted period. You cannot push a foul tide in the Channel Isles!
We also have to take into account the prevailing weather conditions and the sea state so if you are wanting to try for a very short and condensed ‘Weekend Channel Hop’ you may find yourself thwarted as conditions do need to be perfect. See a report on a weekend channel hop here. The short time frame can also put quite a degree of stress on the crew as you have little ‘downtime’ to relax and recover. It really is a ‘touch and go’ type of thing and there is no time to appreciate where you are or explore. 3 days is more comfortable minimum time frame.
Our advice is to take the longest time period possible and appreciate your environment, enjoy the culture and cuisine and enjoy making landfall in new places. Embrace the challenge – but enjoy the environment!
Check out here prices and info on our page for longer distance cruises for individual berths. If you have a group / family / friends and want to book a Skippered Charter then check out what it would cost – see our page here and we can tailor an itinerary to your needs.
You may also be interested in our Accompanied Flotilla in Greece in May
Our Canaries Island Cruise February gives longer passages
Any questions please give us a bell on 02380 016450 or email: email@example.com – you’ll be very welcome!