Idyllic Biscay

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Sun 15 Jun 2014 18:31
We set off Thursday morning from Camaret, near Brest having spent the night at anchor just off La Mort Anglaise (the English Death - see previous entry) an hour later than planned because I hadn't changed the alarm clock time from Irish time. The weather was glorious.

We motored out of the bay while I faffed about securing the anchor until Franco, out of deperation came to help. We needed to head 27 miles west to get far enough out into the Bay of Biscay to get round the Pointe du Raz, a Breton submarine peninsula which sticks out a very long way and has a strong tide running over it, before we could turn south. Winds were light so we decided to fly our spinnaker, our beautiful orange and yellow kite. TJ, our rigger, and Franco had made quite a few changes to the rigging before we set off so we needed to think things through. We got everything ready and the sail on deck but as Franco pulled on the halyard I heard a terrible tearing sound as our sail ripped on a sharp edge of the forward window hatch.

Down came the sail, out came the sowing machine and we hand cranked it to make a half-decent repair though in orange as we had no yellow fabric. By then the wind had picked up so we packed the spinnaker away.

Stir fry for dinner

As the sun slowly descended into the sea to the north-west, the full moon rose in the east and travelled across the sky keeping us company through the night, until it was dawn once again. We spent the night in our usual shift pattern 3 hours on / 3 hours off from 8pm to 8am.

The following morning the wind had dropped again and we were barely making 3 knots. Spain was getting further away every minute.

knots = Nautical Miles (NM) per hour
1 NM = approx. 2 km
1 land mile = approx. 1.3 km
1 Irish mile = 4 km (at least that was the length of Jim Kennedy's mile between the slipway he works from and the nearest village!)

We boldly hoisted our spinnaker, everything worked fine and we doubled our speed. Franco was gleeful when we caught up with, and left behind another sailing boat.

Caption: Kath minding the spinnaker sheet (the red rope).

I complained bitterly that we still hadn't seen any dolphins, not in the Irish Sea, not the Celtic Sea nor anywhere. I should say though that the luminescence in the Irish and Celtic Seas nearly made up for it, it was amazing, in addition to the glitter that we have seen many times, there were phosphorescent organisms the size of small dinner plates.

A visitor arrived, a tiny bird smaller than a sparrow, with brown plumage and a long upturned beak. These tiny birds migrate between the tropics and temperate zones and many get shot in Malta and Italy or die in storms at sea. On previous sailing trips with Tony (Franco's brother), Caramor has provided a valuable haven to some of these migrators, often in a bad state of exhaustion. These are remarkably fearless of humans on yachts and have sought to warm up sat next to Tony's thigh! This visitor, however, was very perky and constantly looking around, I assumed for fear of predators, not in the least... as we found out at the expense of a small insect that made the mistake of flying past at that precise instant. Zap! it was a goner. Birdy found dew water in the sail cover and a rich hunting ground in the turbulence at the rear of Caramor, running up and down the rigging provided endless entertainment and B even perched on Franco's finger for an instant.

Caption: Tony the bird refuge on a previous trip.

The sun beat down relentlessly, glorious! my whites came out and hats and sun glasses were de rigour.

Caption: Franco getting used to the sunshine.

Butternut squash risotto for dinner

The wind was stable, Force 2/3 from the North, we decided to chance it and keep the spinnaker flying over night, with the full moon even if the wind picked up we were confident we would be able to drop the sail without difficulty. We sailed on through the night, swallowing up the miles.

When I woke at 8am Franco told me he had seen dolphins. During breakfast the dolphins returned then at 10 then at 12:30 then at 2. How do they move so fast? it is effortless, yet they move much faster than the 7 knots Caramor will sail at. The game is diving to and fro in front of the bow, some show more bravado than others, these are usually larger and have scars on their backs.

I baked bread and a sponge cake. Only 50 NMs to go, it was looking good for getting to Gijon by nightfall.

Franco spent most of the afternoon coaching Aries on how to steer while surfing waves, this is Aries' only weakness, he steers day and night without complaint but still hasn't mastered surfing. The lesson wasn't conclusive and Aries went on strike.

Lasagne for dinner

We sailed past the Gijon breakwater, dropped the spinnaker, motored into the harbour and tied up to the visitor pontoon 43:32.81N 5:40.09W by 10:30 pm, changed into our glad-rags and imbibed Saturday night fever in Gijon at our favourite cider taverna "La Galana" where the cider is so bad they throw most of it on the floor. One bottle was enough and we headed back to the peace and quiet of Caramor.