logo Lady Stardust Faro-Portugal to Barcelona - 2010
Date: 07 Aug 2009 20:17:41
Title: Crossing Biscay (part 2)

POS 38:41.45N 9:25.18W
Friday 31st July
The wind changed direction during the night and we now have to tack (zigzag) our way down the coast because with the wind coming straight at us we have to manoeuvre the boat to turn away from it so that the sails can fill. Progress will be slower and due to the way the sails were set on my watch we were leaning heavily on the starboard side while the waves threw us around and crashed into the cockpit.  In these conditions immense effort is needed to do even the simplest tasks such as putting on clothes because one hand has to grab poles and bars to keep balanced and upright.  Paul recommended that I stay below and check outside every half hour for other boats.  We have to clip on to a harness attached to a steel structure when we go in the cockpit in rough seas to ensure we remain attached to the boat if a wave knocks us overboard and it was quite tricky to climb the steps and clip the harness on when forces are pushing you first one way then the other.  Once outside, however, it wasn't too bad. The wind was strong but not freezing and I stood watching the progress of a couple of fishing boats for a while before going back down to read more of the excellent book Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt.  Four hours later I was ready for a rest and had become concerned about the battering that the bow of the boat was getting when the waves threw her down into the water - the noise was akin to cannon fire - but Paul assured me it was ok and that she could withstand much worse conditions than these.
Today continued much like the night: waves crash over the side and pitch and toss us around, creating a feeling a bit like being on an out of control bumper car.  We've not been able to do much except sleep and I'm still doing plenty of that (inbetween reading).  Paul chats to our friend Neil in Birkenhead on the amateur radio twice a day and it's always good to hear his news and relate our progress and position to him - a great way of breaking up the day, too.  We managed to eat some crackers, fruit and a slice of bread and cheese during the day and at 10pm I heated up some pasties and beans to set us up for the chilly night watches.
Saturday 1st August
My reading material for last night's watches was Haunted Liverpool, a collection of true ghost stories relating the supernatural experiences of the people of Liverpool over several decades.  I read about a ghostly flying nun who foiled two robbers in Mount Vernon St, a Lime Street spectre who named herself after the station clock and a timeslip experience in a city centre shop - ideal stuff for stepping out into the darkness where eerie noises can be heard and poor visibility makes you imagine things that aren't there.  No ghost ships made an appearance, however and during the 4-8 watch the sea calmed down considerably, the temperature grew warmer and the clouds cleared.  The only drawback was the constant battle to keep Harriet on course.  Despite Paul's patient and explicit instructions on how to control her strings I struggled to get the balance exactly right but somehow managed to prevent us going too far off course.  By the time Paul got up at 9, the sun was shining and we had coffee in the cockpit while he once again explained where I go wrong with Harriet!!
Today has been lovely.  We've both lost the lethargy we've been plagued with since the start of the trip and have been able to get on with jobs such as drying out damp bedding and clothes and cleaning the cabin and ourselves now that walking is easier. I was also able to cook us a slap up breakfast/lunch at 1pm of quorn sausages, eggs, (bacon for Paul) mushrooms and toast.  Instead of coffee or juice, though we had a glass of red wine each to celebrate feeling better.  The afternoon was spent basking in the sun sorting out some code flags which had got wet in one of the lockers and doing other minor repair jobs.  We're near the Portuguese shipping lane now so more boats are around, and the radio kept warning that ammunition testing would be carried out nearby but thankfully we didn't hear or see anything.  By early evening it had got cooler and we moved into the cabin, listening to The Beatles while I cooked the remaining veggie pies, new potatoes and carrots.  We ate this while watching the sun go down on one side and the moon rise on the other.
Sunday 2nd August
Bright moonlight lit up the sea for the first hour of my midnight-4am watch, its light created a comforting glowing path on the port side of the boat and made it much easier to gauge the distances of other boats.  By 1am the wind speed had dropped considerably causing the sails to flap and bang and Harriet to go on strike.  Consequently our speed dropped to 2.5 knots and we began to go off course.  Aiming curses at Harriet that any mariner would be proud of, I had to resort to waking Paul up to come and sort it all out.  Just as he was calmly pointing out that as a wind vane, Harriet needs wind to operate efficiently the wind returned and made me look as if I'd acted too hastily or panicked unnecessarily.  Anyway Paul decided to let Simon take over the steering (probably feeling that he would be more likely to get some uninterrupted sleep that way).  Once that was set up and the sails were happy again I spent a fairly uneventful watch reading more ghost stories in the cabin and popping up every 15 minutes for lookouts.  I let Paul sleep until 5 30 to make up for the earlier disturbance and then slept until 10.  Paul made us a cafetiere of lovely coffee which we drank while Bizet's Carmen blasted through the cabin.
The weather isn't doing what we'd hoped.  Not only has the day been chilly and overcast, the sea is getting rougher and the change in wind direction will add hours to our journey due to the tacking.  On a brighter note, while Paul was talking to Neil this morning, dolphins came to visit!  They leapt and swam and played on both sides of the boat and gave us a great show.  More came in the afternoon and Paul managed to get some good shots of them.  More reading and lazing around today - no sun unfortunately.  We're 40 miles off the coast of Spain and should see land soon.  Biscay has been crossed safely and we're looking forward to relaxing in Camarinas tomorrow.

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