Update – Part 2: Crossing Biscay

18 Jul

This part of the trip had been lurking at the back of our minds for as long as we’d planned to set off cruising. Horror stories of what the Bay of Biscay can put sailors through abound…having to heave to for days; running under bare poles; 10 metre seas; being forced onto a lee shore; knockdowns and worse….

So we weren’t taking this venture lightly. We’d provisioned, we’d planned our passage, and we’d got a favourable forecast…. No more hanging around…. Let’s just get going!

In the event, the anticipation was far worse than the actual event. The crossing went very smoothly and we completed 591 nautical miles in 93 hours.

We set off from Kilmore Quay at 9.15am on Monday 22nd June heading south west over a positively glassy sea; not even the slightest whisper of wind.

During the first 24-hours we settled into a 4-hourly watch system, with a new crew member coming on watch (and someone else going off watch) every 2 hours. We’d used this system before on Escapade and it works well. We also endeavoured to sit down together for a meal in the evening just to catch up with the goings-on. Even though I was the architect of the watch system, I still managed to draw the short straw of the midnight to 4am slot and thus missed out on the stunning sunrises and sunsets that the rest of the crew witnessed – personally, I think they were exaggerating!

Sue & Lu

Sue & Lu

Although we did get the sails up, it was mostly motor-sailing for the first 2-days so the main issue was diesel consumption and calculating when we would have to ditch the engine and sail, regardless of the wind strength and direction. The other concern during the first night was fog.

The appearance of fog wasn’t surprising, particularly after a hot and sunny day. It was rather unnerving when, in the darkness, the visibility closed in and the stars disappeared and, although we were nowhere near any shipping lanes at this point, the radar gave us some reassurance. A few vessels came within range and, although we never saw them, there were no close shaves…as far as we know! An AIS receiver may go on the shopping list; those that have them rate them highly.


Seafarers lead a hard life...honestly!

Seafarers lead a hard life...honestly!

During the trip the self-steering got a little upset with itself. An alarm kept on activating and the steering was switching off. Eventually we discovered that it wanted more current, so more current it got and it settled happily to take us to La Coruna. There is so much to learn and discover on a new boat with unfamiliar systems and gear though, a very steep learning curve.

On Days 3 & 4, the wind increased to Force 5 – perfect strength for sailing…unfortunately from the wrong direction! Right on the nose! Having to throw in a few tacks added on some miles but we sighted land in the early hours of Friday 26th June and spent a few interesting hours identifying all the different lighthouses (they DO like their lighthouses on the Costa del Morte), interpreting lights (I was sure that the yellow flashing lights belonged to the early morning binmen ashore, until one appeared right alongside us!) and avoiding the numerous fishing vessels as we neared the coast.

By 7am we were tied up safely in Darsena de la Marina in the heart of La Coruna…shipshape, newly showered and ready to explore! Bliss!

Overall, an easy passage across a potentially very dangerous stretch of sea without any major trauma or drama. Result!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: