No time to disembark at Sark
I had to be up early to pack and vacate my room, and be down at the harbour by 8.30 for the short crossing to Sark. There is a fabulous lighthouse set into the cliffs at Point Robert on the island, and my original plan was to take one of the island’s famous pony and trap rides there after disembarking at Maseline Harbour. But the only return crossing back to St Peter Port was at five o’clock, and by the time it arrived, my ferry back to Poole would have already departed. So my only option was to photograph the lighthouse from the Sark ferry, then stay onboard for the return journey to St Peter Port.
I was fortunate, at least, that the ferry route passed immediately in front of the lighthouse, and I was able to take a number of decent photos. On board I met a photographer called Gary, who had been using a camera mounted to a small drone to take some breathtaking close-up images. He fired up his laptop to show me them, and I was able to view the lighthouse’s lantern and buildings from every angle, even look through the windows on both floors. In fact, I wouldn’t have been able to get nearly as close if I had made it there in person.
Point Robert, Sark
Sark Lighthouse was built by Trinity House in 1913 to guide vessels passing through the Channel Islands away from the pinnacle of Blanchard Rock. It comprises a white octagonal tower, fifty-five feet tall, with keepers’ accommodation underneath, set into the cliff face at Point Robert at the north-east of the island.
The only access is via steep steps down from the top of the cliff, but the lighthouse was automated in 1994 and since then has been remotely monitored from Harwich.
I discovered that Sark was considered a cushy and desirable posting for lighthouse keepers because it was classed as a ‘rock station’ by Trinity House. That meant it attracted a higher wage, despite being considerably less remote than most other rock stations, and it was certainly the only one where a keeper could retire to the pub when they were not on duty!
Since my visit, the rotating optic has been removed and replaced with two LED lanterns, positioned one above the other to provide a main light and a standby light. Where once the light could be seen for more than twenty-eight miles, the new configuration has a reduced range of eighteen miles.
Point Robert Lighthouse on Sark. Trinity House classified this as a rock light. Back to the mainland later today…. pic.twitter.com/CAnR12DHRm
— Edward Peppitt (@thebeaconbike) May 17, 2015
Returning to St Peter Port once more, I had a fiddly, irritating afternoon’s work ahead of me. There were still a few lights around Guernsey that I had yet to see, and they were all some way apart.
Somehow, I had missed Platte lighthouse, incorrectly assuming that it was just a shortened name for the light at Platte Fougère, which I had seen two days earlier. So I headed back along the coast beyond St Sampson to find it. As I approached the ruins at Castle Vale I was able to spot the distinctive green-painted short tower offshore. It had originally been a daymark, but was at some point fitted with a modern navigation light, which is why it qualified for inclusion on my list. It wasn’t up to much, and had I done a little more research and preparation before setting off from Kent, I might have established some grounds for disqualifying harbour beacons and converted daymarks like this one. Nevertheless, it was done now.
There were still two more lights to reach, and I also wanted to take a better look at the three principal lights around the harbour at St Peter Port.
So I raced to Jerbourg Point, on the south-eastern tip of Guernsey, to see the lighthouse also known as St Martin’s Point. It’s a strange-looking thing, with a light sited on a short post on top of a square, white-painted stone building. It shows a white light that flashes three times every ten seconds, which is visible for ten miles. Once again, it stretched what I considered to be the definition of a lighthouse, but I was on a roll now and this was my third lighthouse of the day.
Before returning to St Peter Port for the last time, I climbed up the hillside behind the harbour to see the rear range light at Belvedere. It was identical to the Dalek-like squat tower at St Sampson, although this time painted white, and flanked on either side by a pair of white-painted wooden lattice structures that looked a lot like cricket sight screens. These serve as daymarks, while the tower itself shows an occulting white light, visible for ten miles.
Only the three lights around the harbour itself remained. I had seen and photographed each of them a number of times now, having embarked here on my ferry route to Jersey, as well as on each of the day trips to Alderney and Sark. But until now, I hadn’t got up close to any of them.
Castle Breakwater Light, also known as St Peter Port Harbour Front Range, guides vessels into the harbour in conjunction with the rear light that I had just visited on the hillside above at Belvedere. It’s a circular, 40ft granite tower, with lantern above. On its seaward side the tower is painted white, which acts as a daymark. It shows a fixed white light, followed by a fixed red light, both operated by electricity.
A second harbour light is displayed from a 36ft circular stone tower set into the pier wall on White Rock Pier. It shows a flashing green light and, like the main light, is electrically powered. The walkway along the top of the harbour wall was closed for structural repairs, but I got close enough to take some good pictures.
Finally, at Victoria Pier, there is a thirty-foot-tall, square skeletal wooden tower with octagonal lantern above. It is painted white, although the lantern’s seaward face is painted red. It shows three lights: a narrow fixed white light, with a flashing green sector light to the north and a similar red sector to the south.
— Edward Peppitt (@thebeaconbike) May 17, 2015
And that was it. Guernsey’s lights were covered, with barely an hour to spare before the Condor ferry back to Poole was due. Not for the first time the Condor service was running late. I smiled when I remembered the reporter from the Guernsey Press telling me that the service had been so unreliable of late that they only bothered reporting when the ferries were on time!
We finally berthed at Poole after midnight, where I booked in for the second time at the Riviera Hotel.