At dinner last night we shared a table with four couples, one from Britain. There are a number of Brits on board, a bit of a surprise since they can so easily see their country by car and train, unlike the Aussies we cruised with Down Under. They told us that they had not been to many of the scheduled ports of call themselves and had gotten terrific last minute prices after all of us international folks had made our more complex travel arrangements. Like us they were looking forward to St. Peterport in Guernsey, our first port of call. They said they had friends who had come to Guernsey nine times on cruises and had only made it to the island once, because of dangerous swells. The port itself is too small and shallow for large cruise ships to dock. We were scheduled to use the life boats to tender in to shore from a deeper anchorage. That did not bode well for us.
The Guernsey Islands are unique in a number of ways. Although they are only eight miles from the coast of France, they belong to Britain - or to be more accurate they belong to the Queen and have always been a royal possession, separate from the country as a whole. This convenient loophole provides them with the opportunity to be a convenient tax shelter. They speak an English mixed with French and use both pounds and Euros as currency, as befits their location between the two. It’s easy to understand that they saw a lot of military activity throughout the years since the English and French have rarely been on the same side. Victor Hugo hid out here and did his best writing, waiting for Napoleon to go away. During World War II up to 12,000 Nazi troops occupied the islands and the locals became forced laborers almost as mistreated as those in concentration camps. In their isolated location, they wondered if anyone would ever rescue them and normal life return. The islands are laced with underground tunnels connecting bunkers, munitions depots, and hospital facilities from this time.
Well, we got a nice look at Guernsey from the deck of our ship and the sun was breaking through the clouds. Our back packs were ready and we looked forward to the planned bike ride around Guernsey when the captain got on the PA and announced that the two ships who preceded us here had already left because the seas were too rough for tendering. Not surprising, but clearly a disappointment.
And so a relaxing day at sea.