The Channel Islands lie a mere 30 miles off the coast of Normandy, but they’re british territory. Well, a crown dependency, to be more precise. They’re steeped in the history of the middle ages and the lore of ancient trade routes, pirates, mercenaries and other fascinating stuff. To no one’s surprise then, people in the Bailiwick of Guernsey are natural-born adventurers! Enter five intrepid Kona windsurfers who decided to launch off the main island and round the smaller island of Herm, fives miles to the East, just for kicks. Let us reassure you right off the bat: no one died. But they came out of that adventure with a list of seven safety tips that we’re thinking we might include in the Kona class rules. Okay, maybe not, but at least they’re good reminders of what to do, and what not to do, when you’re leaving the relative comfort of the coastline and venturing out offshore on a windsurfer.
I stop paddling to answer the phone. It’s Simon. He’s wondering where I am…Tim Laine
Story: Tim Laine | Photos: Ningaloo, Paul Mariess.
First, a disclaimer: this is the story of five Guernsey Kona windsurfers who decided to go on a long distance adventure. It’s a humorous story, we are all good friends and experienced in these waters, although this doesn’t give that impression. We have done this route many times before, however it is not recommended for the inexperienced. Although we went as a group, at the end of the day you are responsible for your own safety.
11:45AM. We leave Bordeaux, Guernsey. It’s the 1st of November, a bit late in the season for such an adventure. But the sunshine is so glorious, and it’s so warm, that we decide to give it a go. The breeze is light though.
Safety tip #1 – Make sure the forecast has some wind in it!
With Simon, we head to the North of Herm and take about an hour to get there. It’s 12:40PM and we’re getting ready to round the island clockwise. Seb, Jo and Jonathan headed South and are rounding the island counter-clockwise. We had no idea.
Safety tip #2 – Make sure the group agrees on the route before setting out!
On the backside of Herm, Simon and I cross paths at Saddle Rock with the others going in the opposite direction. It’s 13:35PM. We wave and continue on. Simon and I arrive at the Mermaid Tavern Pub, a great hangout on Herm. It’s a beautiful setting, and while we wait for the others we grab a coffee. We feel we’ve earned it! Simon arrived without a fin because he hit the rocks just after the start. The Kona goes amazingly well upwind in light air without a fin.
Safety tip #3 – Don’t hit the rocks!
We wait some more at the Tavern, and still no sign of Seb, Jo or Jonathan. We go on a quick lookout up the hill and spot them in the distance, three-quarters of the way back to Guernsey! Turns out they realized that the wind was dying and decided not to stop. Best we go while there’s still a breeze! We fit a spare fin to Simons board (yes, I had one in my safety kit) and leave Herm. It’s 14:20PM.
Safety tip #4 – Take with you as much spare equipment as possible!
At 15:05PM, the wind dies to virtually nothing. I tie up to a crab pot buoy and de-rig. Simon decides to try and continue to sail. At 15:20PM, I start paddling. Yes, I carry a foldable SUP paddle in my backpack! 15:30PM. I’m now at Brehon Tower (on a desolate rock midway across) and the tidal river is in full flow: the tides are 8.8m/2.2m today. Yes, Guernsey has one of the largest tidal ranges in the world. Low tide is at 16:40PM. A friendly yacht comes by to check I’m ok, and I say no problem, I’m fine, I’m enjoying the sunshine. Out of principle, I won’t be rescued, as that joke would last for years. I think about stopping at the Tower for a few hours while the tide slacks off but decide against that as it would be dark. You can see my GPS track around the tower in one of the pictures. I was actually trying to go in a straight line west! At 16:20PM, I stop paddling to answer the phone. It’s Simon. He’s back in Guernsey somewhere by St Sampsons, in the rocks again and nowhere near the planned finished point, but safe and wondering where I am. He tells me that Jo, Seb and Jonathan got back without a problem. I tell him I’m getting there, and yes I do want a lift when I get to dry land, please! A paddle back up to Bordeaux at night isn’t something I want to contemplate at this point.
Safety tip #5 – Always take mobile phones for communication, and also ideally VHF radio!
At 16:40PM, I arrive in Guernsey at Belle Greve Bay and watch a beautiful sunset. Yes, it gets dark early this time of year. Then I get a motorised transport back to the car. Thanks, Jo!
Safety tip #6 – When you sail in a group, you can ensure everyone is back safely, even if you end up miles apart!
After five hours of adventure on the high seas, I get sausage and chips on the way home. Can’t wait for the next one! I’m thinking that I might bring a flask of hot chocolate, Jaffa cakes, more drinking water and a tent next time.
Safety tip #7 – Think comfort at all times, in case the unexpected happens!
Kona One is an incredibly versatile board. It’s ideal for offshore, long distance trips. The last think you want in this type of adventure is a board that sinks, breaks down or sails around in circles when the wind drops and you need to get home!