The St.Malo Rib Cruise (September 2002)
There we were………all good stories start like this!
Five Ribs in total:
• Revenger 29
• Phantom Evolution 7.5m
• Aluminium Rib
A total of 21 people made the effort to partake in this ‘late season’ cruise.
Runners and riders were to assemble at Lymington on the morning of Friday 27 September 2002. As these things turn out, the party only left the Solent later in the morning at approximately 11:00, arriving in Alderney at 14:30.
We were blessed with virtually windless conditions and a remarkably flat sea. The smaller ribs took off approximately half an hour before the larger ribs and we caught up to them approaching the north coast of Jersey. Taking the straightest line possible, the ribs made their way between Jersey and Sark intercepting the NW Minquiers buoy, turning the corner to pick up the SW Minquiers Buoy seven miles further, and then on a heading of 135 ° down to St.Malo. This passage was uneventful barring the silly jokes certain people were intent on telling us. We arrived at St.Malo on a beautiful Autumnal evening at approximately 18:00. Distance covered was 74 miles.
Everyone off-loaded their kit and the skippers took the ribs across to the Des Sablons marina, saving the weary crews a mile and a half walk from the marina to the old town. It was mass confusion attempting to check in at our hotels as the French managed to completely cock up the bookings. Rooms and beds were soon sorted out, and we got stuck into the beers. Another bit of confusion arose when I checked up on the restaurant arrangements. They booked for SIX people, not the TWENTY-SIX I had asked for. A quick few phone-calls and an alternative restaurant was found. At this stage we somehow lost Geoff Campbell and his crew, only to be too pleased when they tracked us down an hour later. Fine food and wine was enjoyed by everyone.
We left the restaurant after a very expensive meal and were attracted to a rather noisy, festive pub and ‘got stuck’ there until the early hours of the morning. Staggering back to our hotel at 01:30 we got a bit lost as every building in St.Malo looks the same. After going around in circles for quite some time we found the hotel and four of us squeezed into the rickety old lift, only meant for 3 persons! Our room was on the fifth floor, and on the way up the lift came to a grinding halt between the 4th and 5th floor. It was mildly amusing to start off with, as we were jumping up and down trying to get the lift to move. As the minutes ticked by, and no-one apparently coming to rescue us, Jan Falkowski took it upon himself to wake up the entire hotel by banging on the doors and shouting like a madman. Very soon we had many irate frenchies swearing at us and telling us to shut up! We were stuck in this godforsaken lift for over two hours, while Mr. Otis was being tracked down. Whilst waiting for him the lift was slowly being dismantled from the inside by four very drunk and disorderly ribsters. Mild panic was setting in and discussions ensued as to what sort of damage our bodies could expect if the cables snapped! Morbid stuff!! Anyway, I digress. Mr Otis showed up eventually and managed to open the door with Jan bursting out, screaming at the top of his voice that he was going to die! I quietly gathered my stuff and sought alternative accommodation across the road as soon as I realised I was sharing my room with Paul Lemmer. Now, there is a good reason for this. I have found myself in this situation many a time, including Cardiff at the SOC send-off, Mr. Paul Lemmer is the loudest, most annoying snorer this side of the equator. I was not going to have the little sleep owing to me deprived by him again!
Next morning we gathered in the lobby of the Hotel du Broken Leeft and decided it was best to high-tail it out of the place as they demanded we pay for the broken lift. Hugo’s son Thomas, and I, kindly volunteered to fetch two boats and pick everyone up at the closest slip. As we approached the marina Thomas could not remember what pontoon and berth the ribs were moored at so, with a nasty hangover we trudged up and down eventually locating the Revenger and the Phantom. I was just across the way from the Phantom when it took off, in reverse with Thomas frantically trying to disengage the gear. After bouncing off 3 other boats, he managed to slam the throttle forward and bounced off another 4 boats before finally pulling out the kill-cord. I suggested, to a very ashen-faced, shaken Thomas, that I tow the Phantom out of the marina and start her up where there were no other boats around, just in case the throttle got stuck again. We did this and there were no further problems.
After picking up the rest of the crew and depositing them on their respective ribs, we tootled out of the marina, turned left and went to look at the barrage on the River Rance. It was half-way there when the Phantom’s engine gurgled, spluttered and died- it had run out of fuel, although the gauge showed half full. Another tow-job was required and it was back into the marina. Why is it that the French always have to be so difficult!?? The fuel pumps could only accept French cards, no visa, switch or anything else. After mucking about for an hour, with the knowledge that the tide was receding and the potential of being stuck in the marina because of the sill, we had to make hasty arrangements for acquiring fuel. A kindly Frenchman agreed to ‘lend’ us his card after exchanging 90 Euros we proceeded to fill the Phantom. The pump reached about €40.00 and promptly stopped. We could not afford to waste any more time and elected to proceed to Iles de Chausey. If the Phantom ran out of fuel we would just have to tow her on to Jersey. As it turned out the Honda 225hp four-stroke was incredibly fuel efficient and a third tow was not necessary.
We arrived at Chausey 3 hours later than envisaged. It was a glorious day with temperatures in the high 20’s. The ribs picked up the permanent mooring buoys and we all went ashore to find some more of the cold amber stuff. A very pleasant afternoon was spent drinking lots of beers, discovering the island and spectating at the annual SIB conference. We had agreed to meet the sibs at a specific time to take us all back to the boats, but as usual Monsieur Lemmer and Micklewright were no-where to be seen. Our resident hairdresser, Vincent, hailed a passing French sib with two occupants and they kindly agreed to take me across the channel to collect one of the ribs. As I sat down in the sib, the Frenchman’s prop hit a rock and broke the split-pin in the prop. So, there I was rowing two frenchies across the fast-flowing current with all sorts of comments thrown at me. Maybe I should stay away from lifts and boats altogether!
After this little escapade I took the Revenger to pick up the rest of the motley cru and so, the two missing sibs turned up. Paul and Simon came alongside in Pepper II, with Geoff in his Ribcraft on the other side. Simon lifted the 5hp engine onto the Ribcraft and no sooner was the engine safe when Vince and I opened the valves of the sib and cast the two of them adrift. It was hilarious, you have never seen two grown men virtually walk on water the way Paul and Simon did. They only got their shoes wet.
Chausey was left in the distance as we headed north to Jersey. I had booked everyone into a fine Jersey hotel, the Pomme D’Or, all the lifts worked and everyone had a wonderful meal at a local restaurant. I am pleased to inform everyone that this was a totally uneventful evening. The UK ribs set-off at approximately 10:00 the next morning, visiting Gourey harbour in the corner of Cap de la Hague before proceeding on to Alderney and then home.
The weather was fantastic for this time of the year, we were very lucky. New friendships were established and next year I plan to organise another cruise to the Channel Islands, camping in Herm and horse-carting around Sark amongst other activities.
At least there are no lifts in Sark or Herm!