John and Yvonne Robinson put the spotlight on popular anchorages and moorings around Sark
Sark, the fourth-largest of the Channel Isles, makes a delightful stopping place for yachtsmen, either en route to Brittany or as part of a cruise around the Channel Islands.
Sark is known for its tranquillity, great natural beauty and mildly idiosyncratic way of life. It has passed from being the last feudal state in Europe to the smallest self-governing state in the Commonwealth and Europe.
The absence of cars combined with a wide array of local hostelries, restaurants and shops, a spectacular coast, an excellent network of paths and grit roads, lush vegetation and the famous La Seigneurie Gardens provide a welcome break from the rush of modern life.
Although a safe refuge can be found in the lee of the island in virtually any weather that the summer can produce, for leisure it is best to regard Sark as a fair- weather stopping point.
We have selected five of the most popular anchorages around Sark, two of which also offer free moorings.
There are also two small harbours on Sark, but neither is suitable for stopovers. La Maseline is a single jetty which is busy with ferries and the local freight boat, so use by yachts is not viable. The original harbour, Creux, is tiny, crowded with local boats and dries each tide: use should be cleared with the local harbour master first.
As with all anchorages in this part of the world, care should be taken to calculate the tidal range (spring tides up to 10m range are common), and a tidal stream atlas should be used when setting your course as there are some strong currents around the Channel Isles.
The waters round Sark have virtually no lit navigation marks, so approach should not be made after dark. Sensible planning will ensure a trouble-free and enjoyable visit: hundreds of yachts visit Sark each year. When choosing an anchorage it is recommended to select the lee of Sark: the island is not big, about 31⁄2 by 11⁄2 miles, so amenities are never far away.
Grève de la Ville
On the north-east coast, Grève de la Ville offers both an anchorage and free moorings. Situated in the bay below the Point Robert lighthouse, there’s good shelter from south-westerlies. Coming from Guernsey or the north or east, the easiest access is to sail round the Bec du Nez headland at the north of the island.
There can be a strong tide round the Bec and some overfalls, so although there is a passage inside the off-lying rocks (which the ferry uses), for the first-time visitor it’s best to keep 41⁄2 cables (0.45NM) off the coast, going with the tide and keeping outside the various rocks.
Follow the coast on a course of 130°T for 6 cables until you see the Noire Pierre rock with a yellow bn (stick) on it. Turn onto 160°T, leaving Noire Pierre to port. Grève de la Ville will now be in front of you, with Point Robert lighthouse clearly visible on its headland just beyond. The water is clear of obstructions into Grève de la Ville as you pass Noire Pierre. Either pick up a yellow visitors’ mooring (red and green buoys are for local boats) or anchor.
Grève de la Ville is more comfortable a bit further offshore, especially at spring low tides.
If staying ashore over high tide it is wise to carry your dinghy up the steps to the flat section above the high water line.
If approaching from the south, the simplest course is to keep 3 cables off the coast, passing Creux Harbour and outside Les Burons rocks. Once past Les Burons, La Maseline pier will become visible. Founiais rock will also be visible with a yellow bn (stick) on it. Turn west towards the end of Maseline pier and the (private) moorings off Maseline, passing midway between Les Burons and Founiais.
Once past Founiais, turn to starboard on approximately 340°T to pass through the deep channel midway between Point Robert (with its lighthouse) and the Grande Moie rocks. Grève de la Ville will open up in front as you pass Point Robert. Note: do not cut sharp to port (west) into Grève de la Ville after passing Point Robert: there are drying rocks.
Havre Gosselin on the west coast provides an anchorage and free moorings. Once ashore, the path up the adjacent headland provides stunning views of Havre Gosselin, with its clear blue water, and the islands of Brecqhou, Herm, Jethou and Guernsey.
The simplest approach is from the south-west and the Big Russel. The Pilcher monument, a granite obelisk on top of the headland above Havre Gosselin, provides an excellent landmark. Follow a course of 070°T towards the monument to avoid Les Dents rocks off Brecqhou, turning north-east into Havre Gosselin before the Pierre Norman rocks.
Either anchor or pick up a visitor’s yellow mooring. Access ashore is via the steps (ladder at low tide) in the south-east corner of the Havre. Secure your dinghy above the high water level or use a very long mooring line if staying any length of time.
La Grande Grève
La Grande Grève is located on the west coast just south of Havre Gosselin beneath the remarkable Coupée, a narrow road on an isthmus about 200ft above sea level that joins Big and Little Sark. Locals rate the sandy beach at low tide at Grande Grève as the best on Sark.
Approach is from the Big Russel on a course of 085°T towards Pointe de la Joue (this is in transit with the south end of La Coupée). This takes you between La Baveuse (drying 7.6m) and Boue de la Baie (awash at LW) rocks.
When 400m from Pointe de la Joue, turn to port and anchor north-east of the point. It is also possible to approach from Havre Gosselin, rounding Pierre Norman and following a course of 130°T into La Grande Grève. The climb up to la Coupée is worth it for the splendid views.
Derrible Bay and Dixcart Bay
The anchorages of Derrible Bay and Dixcart Bay are next to each other, both facing south-east. Dixcart is the more popular of the two, with the easiest access onto the island via a relatively gentle sloping path through a wooded valley that also passes the Dixcart Hotel (former haunt of Victor Hugo) and Stocks Hotel, both admirable establishments for refreshments.
Derrible has a much steeper access onto Sark across some large boulders, but is a lovely quiet anchorage with an interesting beach and rock caves, including the remarkable Creux Derrible – a huge collapsed sea cave with the roof open to the sky.
Point Château, called the Hogsback locally, separates the two bays. Both bays provide good holding on a sandy seabed. The simplest entry to both bays is to approach on a bearing of 340°T on Pt Chateau, before diverting to your chosen bay. The two large mooring buoys in the middle of Derrible Bay are used by ferries from France, usually during the day.
Whichever anchorage you use, enjoy your time on Sark.
And remember to take a torch if you expect to return after dark: Sark has no streetlights, and is not the world’s first Dark Skies Island for nothing!
Pete Hanson adds on the Practical Boat Owner magazine Facebook page: ‘Having lived on Sark for nearly a year, just a couple of additions, fuel can be bought at the post office (have your own Jerry cans) if you ask one of the carters, they will transport it down to the harbour for you for a small charge.
‘Food provisions can be bought from the “Food Stop” on the Avenue, (main street) or at Mon Plasir Stores near the Methodist Church. The post office also has a hardware department for bit & pieces. Cycle hire is available, as are horse and carriage rides.’
Pictures: The drying Cruex harbour on Sark; Havre Gosselin; John and Yvonne Robinson; A map of Sark. Photographs credited to: www.thecrusoes.wordpress.com
- Practical Boat Owner magazine pays for your published cruising stories. Contact us