A Valkyrie Vanquished 45:01.18N 07:53.18W

Sun 4 Sep 2016 10:04
Biscay has a formidable reputation for good reason. Many brave mariners have
perished on her lee shores. I can only begin to imagine the sense of dread
felt by the crews of the square riggers who had been blown into the bay by a
South Westerly Atlantic storm. With no capability of making way to windward,
they would have had no choice but to heave to and hope the storm would abate
before they were dashed on the rocks. Another reason Biscay is notorious is
for her very rough seas that occur with great regularity in certain
conditions. The major cause of this is the rapid transition in depth from
five thousand metres in the bay to less than one hundred and fifty over the
continental shelf. Powerful waves rolling in from storms in the mid-Atlantic
will meet this shelf and transfer all their energy in the only direction
left to them ...upwards! Even though modern sailing vessels have infinitely
superior capabilities to their older counterparts, this offers little
defence to mountainous seas.
Understandably some of the crew were anxious about our Biscay crossing. I
too was nervous at the prospect of frightening everyone to death on our
first significant ocean passage, particularly right at the start of our
great adventure. It was key to me that this would be a great opportunity for
all to get their sea legs and acclimatise themselves to life
aboard...without the constant overwhelming fear of drowning!
The crucial factors in planning a Biscay Crossing are to ensure you first
have a safe weather window of at least four or preferably five days and that
you have sufficient fuel to motor all the way if you have to. Prior to
departure, we had a slightly confused weather pattern as a result of a
hurricane that had tracked North East up the Atlantic. Although dissipated,
it was threatening to deliver some strong winds across the South West of
England on Saturday. Our original plan had been to stay in Falmouth for two
days. To do so would have resulted in then having to stay a further three or
four days to allow this weather to pass through and clear the western
approaches into the channel. We elected to leave a day early to then get far
enough South to miss this bad weather and this has worked out perfectly.
As I write this blog, we are motoring South with barely a wind ripple on the
surface of the sea. We have 130 NMLS to our next waypoint which is
positioned inside the traffic separation zone North West of the Cabo de
Finisterre. Last time I passed here was two years ago when I was sailing Sea
Flute back to the UK from Palma Majorca where I had purchased her. The
sailing on that occasion was certainly more "spirited" but Biscay was still
very kind to us.
I'm very pleased to report that the crew are getting into the rhythm of life
at sea, even Mrs P is still smiling...as long as she has plenty of
chocolate! The benign conditions have given me plenty of opportunity to
familiarise myself with all the new equipment and systems we have had
installed for this trip. The only failure so far has been the vacuum pump in
the forward heads which means all five of us are using the same loo in the
aft heads. These can be accessed from both the master cabin and the pilot
berth. To preserve all parties modesty a complex process of unlocking and
locking adjoining doors must take place. Anyone old enough to remember a TV
programme called Crystal Maize will be all too familiar with the task. On
one occasion last night poor Liz both failed to win a Cristal and preserve
her modesty when I entered the pilot berth to find a spanner!
Aside from the bog, all is well aboard Sea Flute.
All for now.
Skipper Peds