Thisbe episode 3

Tue 15 Aug 2006 10:40
12th August 2006

Departed La Corunia after a restful time, enjoyed the stylish city very
much. Plan is to go direct to Bayona in one hop of about 150 miles. The
forcast for sea area Fitzroy was much the same as it has been for a couple
of weeks, gales, particularly around the cape Finnistaire area, except that
this time they left off the 8. My thinking
was that, as the wind was from the N/E it would be from behind (ish), from
ahead would have been an absolute no. The usual sequence of wind events in
this area seems to be quiet through evenings and early morning, with a big
blow from 11 to about 4. We set off at 3pm the earliest we could manage due
to last minute preparation,.content that we had put right all the wrongs
done to Thisbe previously, she sure is a high maintenance lady. We rounded
the breakwater right into the teeth of a snorting northeaster, (I love that
phrase) Alex on the helm while I did the finals to the course. That until a
school of Dolphins decided to join in. Alex (Spielberg) Cockle whips out his
mobile to do video clips which make great viewing when downloaded onto his
laptop. The ferocity of the gale made me question the decision to leave
despite knowing that it was the afternoon blow. Something about the
mountains, Katabatic innit.
We got wet. About two miles out we rounded onto
our course and started to get Thisbe settled down.
A little aside here. The crew is now 3 ! Long distance sailors have told me
that the wind vane (self
steering device, sorry sailors) becomes a personality in its own right,
aparently they hang them on the wall with their sowester when they quit, and
ours has turned out to be no exception. What a crew member! so solid and
reliable, on one meal a day, copious amounts of oil every morning no fail,
he loves it. He does need a bit of stroking and tweaking though, to get up
and running, and we dont have the experience to be able to deal with him,
yet, but getting better. Ours is called James. What a team, in the now
words of G W Bush. Bring it on.
We had a bit of a do on Alan and Sue's boat the night before, (captain
fantastic and saucy Sue), a nice dinner, two guitars and a bottle of Mount
Gay rum, need I say more? Alan admitted that he shot the sherriff
but definitely not the deputy, he told the whole marina.
I have been wondering why the ship seems a bit down by the head, but it is
becoming more clear as Alex brings out his stuff, we even had an amp for the
party, and, while rooting around for my teeth or glasses, I came across a
little keyboard. Anyway, the result was that only one of the crew was on his
and it wasn't me. We made good progress in front of the gale of wind but
rolling very badly. I must have left me sea legs under the bunk because I
felt orrible. The Spanish coast is very dramatic hereabouts. Mountains
overlapping mountains, with little white brushstrokes on the shoreline which
are the towns and cities. Wish I could paint, the blues and purples against
the evening sky are a sight.
I had decded to run on Genoa only, Thisbe's is
a 150% one and with it all out we were romping along at 6 to 7 knots.
Certainly overcanvassed for the conditions but she didnt seem to mind.
It was nice to be able to see the coast instead of just
water but some of it looked very forbidding. We had decided to do two on and
two off as we were
both a bit under the weather. The crashing and banging had already shifted
anything not screwed to the bulkhead and I cursed myself for not doing more
chartwork before leaving. Peering through wet glasses at that stuff while on
a fairground ride is not very pleasant. Coupled to the fact that as it got
darker I started to question my figures as the coast was only a few miles
away, lighthouses flashing everywhere, and my only son asleep down
below.What if there was something ahead in the darkness that I had missed on
the chart ?
Must have been up and down those damn steps about a dozen times an hour. Got
to thinking about Chris, a pal waiting for the weather to clear before
making his way north from where he is sheltering inside of Cape Finistaire.
Must tell him not to try it under any circumstances till the wind shifts,
coming the other way would be hell. Alex was suffering from Mount Gay colic
at this stage, which was just as well as I could not have left him alone,
this sailing was way beyond his experience, mine too for that matter. We had
turned the corner of Cape San Adrian and were runnig down to the waypoint
after which I expected to gybe and head off parallel to the dreaded cape.
By now we were in a full gale. I had been trying to reduce sail for some
time but had discovered that the furling line had jammed on the drum. A
couple of coils had come off and gone around the shaft. I could see the
problem clearly by using my big spotlight. Our rule is, no foredeck work
without someone in the cockpit, not that it mattered as I didnt have the
nerve to go up there anyway. We passed the waypoint on the same heading
and thought about it for a while. I stupidly decided that I could gybe the
sail with a little care and carry on as we were. Looking back I cant believe
I made that decision, tiredness is my only excuse. One gets a false sense of
the winds power when running before it and it proved to be my undoing. I
gave James a couple of clicks to change the heading, then, instead of
waiting for it to back, I eased the sheet off the winch. It was immediately
snached away from me and the sail went thrashing off around the forestay
where it flogged and flogged, making a noise like an army of banshees from
out of the gates of hell. I was frozen with fright and couldnt think what to
do. When the brain finally got going again I started the engine and shouted
down the companion way for my main man, Alexandros Cockeele, who, if you
remember, was in duvet and sleeping bag heaven, prostrate seminaked and
dreaming of God knows what. The noise woke him up, that and the old man
yelling down the hole in the wall above his head to come up and bring the
The noise drove him up before he was fully dressed and he had to go back
down again to get harness etc. He reappeared to find me trying to get the
headtorch between my teeth as the strap had come adrift, ( I have a very
small mouth), he fixed the strap, put in the washboard, and we discussed
how best to sort it all out, all this with me driving around trying to find
the best direction to stop the awful flogging. What a boat though, we were
sometimes side on to waves which were very big, and though she rolled she
quickly popped back up. Alex took over the helm and poor James was thrashing
and needing attention. I clipped on to the jackstay and started to crawl up
the side deck, Alex had discoverd that if we went directly downwind quite
fast, it lessened the flogging as the sail streamed out in front. The first
thing I came across was a 10 inch Garfish, I kid you not, still alive on the
deck. Right up front was a chaos of thrashing rope, tangled around every
fixture and whacking me around the head and eyes. Managed to free the coils
around the drum quite quickly and shouted for Alex to undo the stoppers on
sheets, both of which I then hauled forward. After a lot of shouting we
managed to sort out the mess and begin to roll up the sail, it was such a
relief to see the size of it reducing. Its not as bad working on the fordeck
kneeling down, better than at the mast thats for sure, except that the deck
keeps on dropping away leaving you in space for a second. Please dont think
I am trying to make it all sound heroic, more a case of uncocking the
cockups. When you are faced with stark choices what else can you do? Must
get one of those peakless potholing helmets with the built in lamp and some
After a rest and some water we reset the sail, much reduced, and got back on
our course. All this took place off Cape Finnistaire which we didnt actually
set eyes on except for the lighthouse. During the little crisis all I could
think about was the Tommy Cooper sketch where they are shaking him around in
a box done up like a cabin with people chucking buckets of water in from the
side. That and the size of the cockpit drains which had been worrying me for
sometime, were they big enough to clear the cockpit quickly if a wave came
aboard, I neednt have worried, any water that comes aboard seems to find its
way into my bunk.The gale persisted for a few more hours but we were under
control and feeling not to bad, my first experience of a force 8 gale. Alex
has seen plenty during his time on the Bilbao.The run down to Bayona was
uneventful but tiring, we radioed ahead as we approached with no success but
a man came out in a little rib and led us to a berth. I was impressed. Not
for long, great pontoons and marina installations, lovely town merged
beautifully into the mountainside, all let down by sloppy staff. The
facilities were a disgrace, and the girl in the office when I went to pay
and do the paperwork seemed to be having a spat on her mobile. I filled in a
form she chucked at me and wandered off, she didnt even bother to collect
the fee for the berth.?
Have tried to condense this a lot and have left out some of the detail so as
not to make it tedious reading. We have learned a lot since leaving home and
that will no doubt continue, I have to say that I have not felt so alive for
a long time. Since writing this we have moved on, so will bring you up to
date at the next session. Just to keep you in the picture it is Tuesday 15th
and we are about to leave a place called Povoa de Varzim on route to Lisbon
to pick up Sue. Bit of a forced march to be there by Friday so are doing a
75 miler overnight tonight. Best wishes to all from Manny and Alex.