Crossed the Biscay: an homage to weather forecasters

The adventures of Chili III
Peter & Belinda Vernon
Mon 18 Oct 2021 07:07
Position: 42:15N 008:43W

At 1030 Saturday we were guided to a berth at Royal Club Nautico de Vigo and given a warm welcome by one of the marineros who came to meet us in his rib. Although this is the 4th time we have crossed the Bay of Biscay we were particularly pleased to have arrived given the time of year.

The trip fom Milford Haven had taken almost exactly 4 days and at 630 NM (according to our log) we averaged  6.5 knots which is consistent with previus longer passages.

The last 40 hours was almost entirely motoring or motor sailing (pretty much as predicted) with very light winds generally from the N or NE making sailing impossible. Of course we'd always rather be sailing but with the risk of gales in this area double that of the summer months we were happy to settle for quiet weather.

By this time we had settled into our "3 hours-on, 6 hours-off" watch routine which was so much easier then when it's just the 2 of us (3+3). Koo was the perfect crew member - a diligent watch keeper and recorder in the log, an increasingly good sail trimmer, a willing a good cook and washer upper, great company and so knowlegeable about the natural world and yet also content with his own company. He was a pleasure to have on board.

At one point, sitting at the chart table, a very small bird flew into the cabin and sat, apparently fearlessly, on the saloon table watching me writing in the log. After a while it flew off and did a couple of circuits of the boat and then came back in again.  We were 150 miles from land and I expect it needed a rest. Koo, identified as probably a willow warbler on migration south (right time of year). I found it amazing that such a tiny bird can travel these huge distances. Eventually it carried on its way.

We have now sailed almost 1000 NM south from Ardfern and with favourable weather. Since we started sailing in 1990, forecasting has improved immeasurably. We used a combination of met office 24 hour shipping forecasts, surface pressure charts from the met office which show a picture of weather systems for the north altantic projected forward 4 days and grib files (wind and wave 5 day forcasts that we can overlay on electronic charts).  All this info is downloadable over the sat phone. On this occasion we also had a very helpful daily email exchange with the brilliant Simon Rowell (british sailing team meterologist) who commented on our own weather and routing analysis and added some great insights. Sailing down to the med at this time of year is thought of as being more risky than the summer but, if prepared to wait, and with the benefit of much better forecasting, it becomes perfectly doable - thank goodness.

Sunday was shorts and T shirt weather - just lovely. More on the joys of Vigo to come before heading off to Lisbon

Sailing Yacht Chili III

Sailing Yacht Chili III