Channel island fishing trips from the UK mainland are becoming increasingly popular. Weymouth has established itself as one of the UK’S top angling ports and Chris Caines skipper and owner of Tiger Lilly III is one of the ports top boats. I had the pleasure of accompanying Chris and a group of anglers on an angling trip to Guernsey in the Channel Islands. We all met up at Tiger Lilly’s berth at 7am, an early start but we had a long journey of some 80 miles ahead of us. It was a lovely sunny morning with clear blue sky’s, the wind however was fresh, blowing A good force 5- 6 from the N/E. After clearing Weymouth harbour it was clear we were in for a rough passage. Our destination was two wrecks 40 miles S/W on a dog leg course to the Channel Islands. This put us beam on to the waves which as we cleared shelter increased in size rapidly. Ahead of us was the notorious Shingles bank, which we would have to cross or face a 10 mile detour. The banks are one of the English Channels most notorious stretches of water. The sea bottom rises from over 200ft to 50ft and tides race across the bank at over 5kts. Wind over tide conditions in fresh winds can put up steep ugly seas, exactly the type we now found ourselves encountering. Chris was well used to the local underwater topography and conditions on the banks, and felt that we should be able to cross if we kept west of the shallowest section. However conditions were much worse than expected with standing vertical waves 6-7ft high in a confused sea. We had no option but to slow down and turn east to run with the seas in order get out of the worst of it. Anyone who has experience these conditions will know how treacherous these waters can be, waves were literally heaping up alongside the boat and breaking over the bow and transom. Eventually we cleared the worst of the seas and turned back on to our original course and increased speed. Running with the seas on our beam resulted in some heavy rolling but the boat handled it well maintaining 15kts.
Eventually we arrived at the first of the wrecks we were to fish over. Chris surveyed the wreck for a while, ascertaining how she lay across the tide and checking fish concentrations, which were clearly shown on the sounder. Chris then expertly set us up for a drift over the wreck, which produced plenty of good size mid channel Pollock. We did several drifts over this wreck with good catches of Pollock and Cod. We then moved on to the second wreck and enjoyed excellent sport there as well. Whilst we were drifting the wrecks Chris pointed out one of the boats best features, her attitude and angle of drift to the wind. Because of her deep V hull and large keel, she had plenty of grip in the water at the bow, and as a result drifts nearly beam on to the wind, at a slow rate of drift. Other fast boats often tend to have their bows blown down wind, and lay at an awkward angle for fishing from. Their speed of drift is also to fast, with anglers being unable to keep in contact with the bottom.
As time was getting short and we still had a long way to go, we continued on our course. The wind was still blowing 5, now with the wind aft our beam in a quartering sea, Tiger Lilly ran on auto pilot towards the Alderney race. These conditions represented the edge of the operational envelope charter skippers like Chris are forced to operate in, but being able to head offshore in these conditions reduces the number of cancellations Chris makes through bad weather. Chris recounted a story about his last Islands trip when he left port with four other boats, straight into a force 6 head sea, This is a course that the Interceptor excels in and whilst all the other boats had to either slow down or turn back, Chris was able to maintain 15kts and arrived nearly two hrs ahead of the others! The Alderney race is a dangerous place in the wrong conditions, but we now had a decreasing wind with tide, so we were able to be swiftly carried through the race, with water boiling all around us. Once through the race Chris changed course for a bank situated 5 miles off Guernsey. Here we did repeated drifts trailing a 20Ib weight to slow us down.
Fishing was excellent with plenty of fine Plaice and Several large Turbot. Around 6pm we called it a day and headed for Guernsey, unfortunately we were now punching a 4kt tide which made our progress somewhat tedious at only 11kts, Eventually however we arrived at Guernsey to be met by Richard Seager, the owner of another Interceptor 38 ‘Out the Blue’ It would appear Interceptors have a great reputation in these waters with another 33 operating in Guernsey and a 38 soon to arrive in Jersey.