26th January 1977

Guernsey passengers are battered by storms

The Earl Godwin, a British Rail car ferry serving the Channel Islands, docked at Guernsey on 26 January 1977 after a very rough night at sea.

The ship had had to heave-to seven miles outside St Peter Port when the rocking motion of the boat started to shift cars on deck. When this happens, it can affect the balance of the vessel which, if serious enough, risks capsizing it. It also washed a life raft overboard.

When a crew “heaves to” it effectively parks its ship without using an anchor. This is a particularly useful tactic in a storm since laying anchor could cause even more damage if it should snag on an underwater obstacle and the ship be thrown by the waves. If the anchor snags on an undersea cable it can snap the cable, causing significant damage.

Ferry operators experiencing very rough conditions will sometimes point the ship into the force of the storm even if that is not the direction they want to take. This way the waves are sliced by the prow rather than hitting the flat sides of the vessel, thus reducing the sideways rocking motion.

A widespread storm

On this occasion, the Channel and the whole of the south of England was being battered by storm force winds, which had felled trees in nine counties and delayed trains. Even in London, the gusts were sustaining 60mph; at the coast they were approaching 100mph and throwing up 15ft waves.

The previous year, passengers had staged a sit-in on the Earl Godwin, refusing to leave the ship until they and their cars were transported from Weymouth to the Channel Islands when stranded by a strike.


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Other events that occured in January

Alderney elects its first president 1st
Guille and Alles open their library 2nd
Guernsey bans smoking in public places 3rd
Guernsey Press registers its domain 4th
Guernsey Zoo is sold as a going concern 5th
Guernsey opens its wartime files
Guernsey Police moves to its new headquarters 6th
Guernsey Fisher makes its maiden voyage 7th
Work begins on the Val des Terres 8th
A hotel porter goes on trial for murder 9th
Guernsey Police Service appoints its first inspector 10th
Royal theft inquiry heads to Guernsey 11th
Channel Express Airways plane crashes in Guernsey 12th
Sibyl Hathaway, Dame of Sark, is born 13th
Channel Television disappears 14th
Benefactor Osmond de Beauvoir Priaulx dies 15th
MV Prosperity is wrecked at Perelle 16th
Guernsey’s Royal Court sits for the first time 17th
Doctor Who travels to Guernsey 18th
Channel 4 gameshow Treasure Hunt comes to Guernsey 19th
Hanois Lighthouse is cut off by the weather 20th
Guernsey-built prototype plane crashes 21st
Guernsey Steam Tramway stops running 22nd
Radiant Med sinks with loss of life 23rd
Guernsey wins gold at the Commonwealth Games 24th
Sark is awarded Dark-Sky status 25th
Guernsey passengers are battered by storms 26th
Sir Isaac Newton has his say on a mysterious Guernsey invention 27th
Guernsey’s last witch trial takes place 28th
Guernsey poet George Métivier is born 29th
The States of Guernsey proposes a new airport 30th
Guernsey lifeboat performs a chemical tanker rescue 31st