Ships Log Earth Date 11th June 07 Post Biscay
Mon 11 Jun 2007 21:14
I apologise once again for the delay in writing this. I must say that I am
staggered to find that it is Monday the 11th. In short the intervening days
have beeen filled with sleep. Sleep and a deep lethargy, ( from me at
As you know, we decided upon the inside route at Cape Finestaire. As
predicted, the wind steadily increased to force 7, (26-30knts) and swept
round as we neared the cape. Likewise the wave trains, this meant that we
were taking them only slightly aft, more or less side on. They were big.
These were wind created from the NE wind but set across them was the
original swell from the West, this meant that we had peaks and troughs
co-inciding every so often and there were a few hairy moments. I kept my
eyes across the bows at such times and watched the horizon, my idea was to
get a handle on the angles of lurch that we were going through. If one took
the general feel as it was happening then it was worrying, but by looking at
the horizon it was clear that we were leaning no more than 20 degrees each
way as the peaks went under us. We had only the genoa flying and were doing
between 7 and 11knts depending which side of the wave we were on. I gave
myself a stiff talking to and decided we were not in danger and that Rebel
was entirely comfortable and being sailed well within safe margins. After
some hours we were still the right way up and it was clear that my
affirmations were working. I decided to buy a clinometer at the next port,
then decided against it. No sense letting science into a comfortable faith
that was beginning to emerge. Trevor always says that one of my strengths is
that I never let the facts get in the way of my thinking. This was one of
those times when my little idiosyncracy was just what was needed. In
retrospect I may buy one anyway, for Trevor's benefit.
I was hoping that we would get South of the shipping lanes before dark, but
because of the shortened sail we were still just within as evening passed
into night. Again the AIS radar was most valuable, many of the ships were
steaming at 28knts or more, one at 32knts, but because the AIS told us these
ships bearings we were able to reckon our comparative courses and knew which
to worry about. We had only 2 miles or so visibility and at those speeds
relying on eye cotact or normal radar would have been a good deal more
worrying. Most of the ships we watched we never saw. One massive ship was on
a similar course to ourselves and doing 32knts, but between it and us was
another ship doing 8knts. We just about had this slower ship on visual, we
were doing about the same speed but were steering slightly more South. As we
watched, it suddenly steered hard to starboard, (it's right) and then seemed
to stop. We thought that it was avoiding us and exhibiting " A clear and
early decision", as we discussed what a professional action the captain had
taken, the massive ship hove into veiw. The small ship had basicaly gotten
out of the juggernauts way pronto. This left us feeling very vulnerable, we
steered 20 degres further East. The ship blew it's foghorn, which rent the
sky asunder and declared it was turning to starboard. we were now safe.
Within 3 minutes it was out of sight. God, you need to keep a good watch.
Later we were told that Cat-man-do. a competitor Catamaran was nearly run
down, but was not sure by whom. The ship would not respond to VHF. Bottom
line treat every ship as a "Clear and present danger" and watch everything
especially your own arse.
As night progressed the wind slowly eased. Once we were below La Caruna, an
amount of lee was attained. I had been on the helm, ( gripping like a
limpet) for 3 watches despite requests from Trevor and the crew to try to
sleep. I did give in for about 20 minutes, but it was no good, each lurch
was magnified by my fertile imagination. I got up, I had only been on the
saloon bench anyway, as I looked out to see the helmsman the whole backdrop
was wave face, no sky. My normally robust vocabulary could only summon up a
weak, " Oh dear" Rebel was swept up so that you felt the upward acceleration
in the stomach, then down the other side. We all just stood where we were.
The next wave was gigantic, there was no sky. we flew in its face and then
began climbing up. I couldn't properly get the size into context. Double
Plus Big or bigger. I felt weak to think that in the 20 minutes I had been
sleeping the waves had grown so tall. I don't think I have ever been in
bigger, As luck would have it, these two waves were the biggest by a margin,
that we experienced. Thereafter of course, all the waves were tiddlers by
comparison and so breathing out was possible again.
It was most noticable that the boys immediatley went into silly mode for
twenty minutes, giggling and hooting with laughter. Surely dissapating large
volumes of adrenalin recently pumped into all our systems.
I find time and time again that the biggest unknown at sea or at times of
extreme, is not the event itself but the human reaction. It is a cliche I
know, but We are the unknown in all these situations. The significant
journey travelled in in the head, the event is merely the springboard.
By the tme I had finished my 2am watch I was utterly spent. Mark alledges
that he stared at me from 4inches and asked me to get some sleep and that I
answered by speaking about french roadsigns. I do recall having French rural
vistas in my head, little La Provence type cottages that are all warm and
safe and on land and stuff. It is sunny and a pot of tea with a champagne
chaser is on the way, Paine De Choclate in ample supply, Heaven.
As I understand it the wind had died to about 17knts and I had been asked
should we put up more sail, but no discernible response could be gained.
Trev's watch came up, I left the helm. At some point the sun came up again
and we were sailing up the wind in relatively calm conditions. Land was 20
or so miles to port but beyond sight and Bayona was 5hrs ahead.
about 10am UK it became clear that we were indeed going to get to Bayona and
that he world beyond our little tupperware box would reappear again. Anthony
and Mark began cleaning up, Rupert scrubbed the decks with Mike tidying
away. Trevor set about producing a meaningful ETA and placed diagrams from
Reed under my nose so as to pre-arm me with final pilotage. He put a course
line on the chartplotter and Anthony wound up the iPod.
ZZ-Top, "Sharp Dressed Man" featured Highly as did classic Rolling Stones.
WE dined on chicken curry Thai style, washed up and prepared for the finish
line.We had estimated that we had slipped to about 8th or so and so not
being, " In the Chocolates" as we say in West Mersea, I set about deciding
on a finishing flourish. WE decided against a team mooney, considering it a
little too much and perhaps not the Spanish way. Instead we went for a
dramatic sail across the line and onto the marina entrance where we furled
the genoa on the run, then turned directly into wind and dropped the main in
an instant. Crew at allotted posts, triangulated the main boom, zipped the
sail cover and dropped black-socked fenders over the side. Such panache.
Nelson would be proud. We were cheered by fellow competitors, we motored
round the few moorings once waving and shouting then manoueouvered
perfectly into our pre-arranged berth. We tied up without incident and that
was that. We were finished, we were in Bayona, we had crossed the Biscay.
Colette and the Rally organisers greeted us at the pontoon, others came and
offered congratulations including Cat-man-do's crew. I think we all went for
a drink, Colette and I left the crew and went for a meal. I fell asleep and
seemingly awoke a few minutes ago.
The whole crew slept as though innocent of all sin for the next couple of
days, waking only to eat and drink. Elements of the crew did indulge fully
in the hospitalty at hand, but of that I will say no more, what happens on
tour, stays on tour as they say.
"This week I 'ave mostly been sleeping". It is only today that I have
recovered a semblence of myself. I was worried that i was old and passed it,
but on speaking to other skippers it seems I am not alone. Everybody has
been sleeping on and off for the last few days.
Even now, just a few days after the crossing it has merged into a flurry of
"gets ups" radar watches, cold feet, sticky eyes and furry teeth. I hold one
or two images, one of which is the , "Big wave, no sky" approaching
Finnestaire, another is the Juggernaut thundering into veiw then deafening
me from two miles with it's fog horn, Brown Sugar and dropping the main at
How can something so long planned be over so quickly. Sitting here now it
seems weeks ago that we arrived, infact it was four days ago. We had no
breakages or accidents, ( excluding my little accident on the deck involving
my breakfast ) The main sail clew line came adrift and needed retying, but
all else went well. It seems that all the planning and preparation paid off.
The weather has been stiff from the SW since we arrived, We set off again
tomorrow for the destination in Portugal, wind is expected light from SW
filling in from West as the day progresses, so we shall see. Crew is
changed. Mike, Anthony and Rupert are back in UK and Colette has joined for
the remainder of the time to Lagos, Algarve. So we are Four.
We start tomorrow at 9am. We need to diesel up and check the main clewline,
possibly buy a few items of food and try to get some pictures onto the Web
log site. OK back to my lists, all is well that ends well!! Lists may well
be becoming my own little Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I find I keep
buying matches and lighters, (curiously I don't like round ones, I only buy
flat ones) and putting them in safe places. I keep checking my pockets to
make sure I have my headtorch with me. I am concerned that only some of my
pockets are trully secure. Others don't have zips and are not to be trusted.
"Is it safe? is it hidden? ". Quiet voices keep me informed of what else
needs doing and I put these instructions on my lists, but sometimes I don't
hear the voices because of the barking.
I will write more later, when it's safe.