Carol and Jon returned as planned from N Ireland on
Wednesday 7th to rejoin Arnamentia in Plymouth. Bob had worked tirelessly with a couple
of agencies to get the VHF radio sorted and Andy Anderson joined us as planned
on the morning of Thursday 8th.
Carol’s sister, brother-in-law and niece (Pen, John and Alys
respectively) drove down from Pembrokeshire to see us off and we all we all
hooked up for lunch with Andy and Fiona Bristow who were aboard their yacht,
Atlantis, in Plymouth harbour whilst Andy was on a quick break from the joys of
The weather was fine and sunny, wind SW Force 4 but the
forecast was distinctly unusual. We
hauled down a large number of GRIB files (detailed diagrams showing anticipated
wind directions and strengths). The
picture was clearly that over the next few days life was going to get pretty
exciting in the English Channel but that the Bay of Biscay was to become a haven
of serenity. Andy Bristow and Jon
discussed this pretty counter-intuitive situation over lunch and came to the
conclusion that this was as good as it gets and that crossing the Bay should be
a doddle. It ought to be recorded (so, it is) that Peter Bruce’s clear advice by
e-mail was that, as far as sailing was concerned, the next few days represented
an excellent opportunity to catch up with land-based friends or see those films
you’d always meant to see. But,
honestly, what would he know? So,
off we set, despite the minor irritation that, although the VHF radio and
antenna had been replaced, the cockpit VHF handset was still faulty.
The wind was SW Force 4 or 5 to begin with. Then it backed to S and gradually
eased. By lunchtime on Friday we
were rounding Ushant, the wind had died away to Force 1 or 2 and
visibility was poor. We can’t be
more precise about wind speed since the B&G anemometer, having been
thoroughly serviced prior to departure, decided to pack up in the early hours of
Friday morning. By 1830 the wind
had backed to SE and freshened to Force 5 and then 6 - enough to spill the gin
and call for a reef. We had a
lively beam reach for the rest of that night in what is absolutely Arnamentia’s
weather. But, enjoyable as it was,
this wasn’t really part of the script.
As Saturday morning dawned, we were about 150 NM SW of
Brest and a couple of things became apparent. First, we’d lost a liferaft in the
boisterous seas of the previous night.
For complex reasons, we had been carrying two liferafts and had had to
re-site our 4 man raft from its stowage forward of the companionway to a bracket
on the pushpit. It had been secured
with the standard lashing straps in the normal way in which such straps are
rigged. The loss of the raft was a
rather expensive way of re-learning the lesson that no amount of sales blather
will prevent what looks like an unseamanlike lash up from being one.
The second problem was that the French meteorological
authorities reported on Navtex that Hurricane Katia had decided to go
‘extra-tropical’ and embark on rather more of a walk-about than had been
expected. The previously predicted
S Force 2 in Biscay was now to be replaced by a SW gale Force 8 or severe gale
Force 9. We apparently had until
sometime that evening to do whatever we were going to do about it. That couldn’t involve making for a safe
port – Brest was
the nearest and there was no hope of making that in time. Confidence in predictions having been
severely dented, we decided to go the whole hog in preparing for the windy
stuff. The roller headsail was
removed completely and the mainsail was dropped and stowed inside its cover,
with plenty of sail ties around it all.
The boom was browsed down to the deck. The storm jib was hoisted on the inner
forestay and the trysail on the mast.
The gale duly arrived that evening and we beat into it for the next 24
hours or so. We’d probably overdone
the preparations a bit but weren’t sorry about that. Mainly we dealt with Force 8 winds and
the associated gusts of Force 9 or so. The waves were fairly large and the sea
very confused. So, life aboard was
pretty uncomfortable as we rocked, rolled and slammed our way to windward. Mostly we relied on the Raymarine
autopilot. Obviously it wasn’t
particularly clever at looking ahead at waves and weaving up and over them as
you ought. So, we shipped a bit of
water and slammed more than we might have done. But, it did a lot better than a tired
helmsman would have managed.
Around midnight on Sunday the wind eased to a very manageable Force
4-5. Monday dawned clear and bright
and we put up some decent sized sails.
A secondary low pressure system and associated trough passed through on
Monday afternoon, serving up a series of squalls. But it was pretty much business as usual
and thoroughly enjoyable sailing along the stunning coastline of northern
Spain. By early evening all that had passed and
we arrived in La
Coruna at 2050 to berth in the Marina Real close to the
town centre where we could rest, repair and recuperate whilst drying the boat
and ourselves out.
Yeah, yeah, we know we said we were going for Bayona originally. But, that plan had been blown away
somewhere mid Biscay. But, hey, we’ve sharpened up our heavy
weather procedures and our confidence in Arnamentia’s ability to take the tough
stuff in her stride has been further boosted. Were she a horse, you’d certainly
describe her as honest.