Viveiro, España 43:40.1N 07:35.6W
Hola from España,
After leaving Camaret at the ungodly hour (or it is to us) of 0730 we headed out into the bay of Biscay. Biscay has a notorious reputation, largely because of prevailing south west winds in the days of square riggers and also the steep continental shelf, where the depth rises from around 4000m to about 100m over a very short distance. For this reason, we picked our weather window carefully. Maybe too carefully in the end as the winds were a little lighter than forecast most of the way. Luckily for us, Stargazer is quite a fast boat and with the help of a little motor sailing here and there we were able to make pretty reasonable speed. Sadly, whilst the wind proved no problem, the swell did and at times with little wind, it was a bit 'roly poly'. The mate succumbed a little to the swell, but she still took all her watches and didn't moan too much - brave soul that she is! Not only that, day two of our passage was the mate's birthday. Luckily, I'd remembered to buy a small bottle of champagne and although alcohol at sea on Stargazer is banned, some rules have to be broken... Stargazer and Neptune enjoyed some too.
The whole trip lasted two days and 10 hours and for the most part it was sunny and warm. The solar panels kept the fridge, autopilot and MFD going with fully charged batteries until the second morning when we were belting along under full sail and it was slightly overcast. So, I decided to put our Duogen to use. This is a very clever device that can generate power via wind and water. Having deployed it in water mode, I realised to my horror that I had omitted to put the locking pin in the float arm, meaning that the generator part of the unit was rotating/capsizing uncontrollably - it had to be sorted out and fast! If anyone's tried to recover a Duogen whilst under way they will know that you need the strength of two men, maybe even three. The only way to retrieve it is to stop the boat, so I hove to, recovered the Duogen, gybed out of the hove to position and reset the course. All in the middle of the bay of Biscay, the mate, being off-watch, actually managed to sleep through all of this! Well done to the mate. *note – the mate did not sleep through all of this and was very aware of pandemonium on deck! However, deciding that I would be called upon if really needed I stayed in my bunk J
On the morning of day three, we were about 80 miles from La Coruna, the major port on the north west Spanish coast and about 50 miles from Viveiro, a port to the east. Figuring that another night at sea wouldn't be met with smiles and warmth, I made the decision to head into Viveiro instead. And, we are glad we did. It's a rather nice spot to hang around for a few days. This part of the Spanish Rias is notorious for fog (think very warm air over a cool sea and of course you’ve got advection fog!). Our final approach to Viveiro was greeted by none other than the said fog. However, with the marvels of radar and AIS, we had no problems and we knew the fog would disperse as we closed the coast. Even so, it was an eerie experience.
Spanish customs procedures were straightforward. Both the marina and the visiting customs officer who came to see Stargazer were very nice and very friendly. The whole experience in fact, couldn’t have been more pleasant. The same can’t be said for refuelling, Spanish style. Although the marina staff did lend us a shopping trolley!
Now we’ve arrived safely, the mate is looking forward to her delayed birthday celebrations. I'll hand over to her...
Crossing Biscay really was an amazing trip – a physical and mental rollercoaster with highs and lows! I was surprised how much energy my body needed – I felt like I needed to be constantly grazing!! The night watches were great. Being all alone it the middle of the ocean with only the stars and the occasional cetacean for company made one feel very zen. The two opposing swell patterns at the start of the trip were a bit too much for my out of date Stugeron. Note to self: don’t try to buy more Stugeron when there is a big regatta on as all the pharmacies will have been cleared out…
One highlight was a fin whale surfacing right in front of the boat on my birthday evening watch. I’d been gazing to the west watching the sun starting to set, and it had snuck up from the east. I heard it blow and looked forward to see the enormous blow hole and arching back which kept on rolling. I held my breath waiting for the back to end and the tail to pass before we hit it! Luckily it did and the fluke print drifted right down the side of the boat. Wow. Sadly the captain (now el capitan) was asleep through all of this.
Spain is really lovely. I had forgotten how mountainous northern Spain is until I saw the tops of the mountains peeping through the fog as we closed the coast. The sun is hot, the beer is cheap and the people are very friendly. Looking forward to doing some more exploring and enjoying lots of tapas.
Stargazer safely berthed in Spain – sunshade in place. Wow!
In a few days’ time we’ll be heading round to A Coruña, maybe stopping at Cedeira en route. There is a little bit too much wind forecast early next week so we are likely to leave next Tuesday or Wednesday. We’ll let you know how it all goes. In the meantime, Viva España!