Arrived in Port la Forêt, Brittany

Ocean Gem
Geoff & Eileen Mander
Thu 29 Jun 2017 21:45
Date: Thursday 29th June 2017
Position: 47:53.949N 3:58.436W
Distance from A Coruña: 329NM

Well Biscay was a real bitch.

I've only sailed across it three times now but on each occasion it has given me a hard time. All was going really well for the first day. We left A Coruña in light winds and had to motor for a couple of hours until we had sufficient wind for sailing. By nightfall the wind had become strong but from our port quarter so sailing was still good and fast, albeit heavily reefed down.

This continued through Wednesday morning until wind strengths started to lessen to the point when it became necessary to use the engine again. Ominously the barometer went into free fall dropping from 1010 to 998 in just a few hours. I suspect that we had sailed into the centre of a depression. Then at about 3:00 pm on Wednesday we were hit with headwinds of around 30+ knots. We still had around 150 miles to go to our first waypoint to the west of the Raz de Sein, but it was impossible to make any real progress against the strong and rising wind and building seas. So we bore away for a point further east along the French Biscay coast. I spoke on the VHF to a passing ship and asked if they had a current weather forecast. Their answer was not what I wanted to hear. Apparently the wind was due to rise to gale force after midnight.

During Wednesday night conditions became horrible. The wind did increase and the seas also. The waves were both high and steep with very short intervals between the wave crests. As the waves hit they really shook the boat and sent cascades of high velocity water shooting across the deck and giving the cockpit a thorough washing. Some of them hit with such force that they threw me off my seat in the cockpit. The rigging was howling and there were periods of torrential rainfall reducing visibility to almost nothing. During the breaks in the rain is all that we could see were the foaming wave crests and distorted swirling boundaries between the different shades of black and dark grey in the clouds. Things inside the boat that I thought had been well stowed were scattered around everywhere. This included both of my laptop computers that had been flung from one side of the cabin to the other. Even the fitted sheets on the bed in the aft cabin had somehow worked themselves free and now lay in a muddled heap in the corner of the cabin.

By sunrise on Thursday we were both feeling pretty tired and miserable as we were cold and wet, we hadn’t had much by way of sleep and neither us us had felt like eating let alone cooking. On the bright side we were now less than 100 miles from landfall, both we and the boat were in one piece and the auto helm was still working well. The angle we were making on the wind indicated that somewhere around The Isle de Groix would be our best bet so we continued on our merry way. The rain stopped, mostly, and as we got closer to land the winds moderated.

By around 5:00 pm we were approaching Concarneau when we radioed ahead to ask for a berth. The answer was a firm Non! So where to now? Port la Forêt was nearby but had a very shallow entrance. We called them up and they had a free berth so we approached carefully and tied up to the fuel berth at around 6:30pm. After a hot shower, a few beers and a plate of moules and frites I slept more soundly than I have done for a long long time.