Catch up

Tue 11 Sep 2018 17:31

This is “a bit of a catch up”, written in Portugal on 11 September when I am about to fly back to the UK. Cynthia and I left the Hamble on Saturday 21 July.

Saturday 21 July

Packing the boat up and finding places for all of our gear: there is always more to do than either of us expect so we are glad to get away late afternoon. The wind wasn't being helpful so we motor down to Hurst Castle where we anchor.

Sunday 22 July

We leave shortly after sunrise and hoist the sails, passing through the Needles en route to ...... Alderney. Tim is determined to avoid motoring if possible and although we are beset by light airs and headed near Cap de la Hague we finally anchor in a peaceful Alderney harbour at around 11am. 

Monday 23 July

Woken by the harbourmaster demanding money at an ungodly 09:30. Give him £5. Manage to get ashore for a walk and head up the hill into the town. It's hot and sunny so we drop by the sailing club afterwards for some refreshment.

Tuesday 24 July

By now we have spotted a problem with the port-starboard light on the bow (we noticed it at night when coming into Alderney. The LED light had failed on one side so we where only showing green  (or was it red). Anyhow, it was non-compliant or unsafe (depending on whether you are a lawyer or a sailor) so we decided to drop into St Peter Port to buy a replacement.

We arrived at Boatworks at around lunchtime, bought some fuel and picked up the new navigation light as well as an LED that (I was assured) was the right one for the lamp.

We sailed the rest of the afternoon and overnight.

Wednesday 25 July

Still at sea .. it was a peaceful night with light winds from the north east. We hoisted the asymmetric (newly installed in snuffer) and enjoyed more light airs sailing before arriving in L'Aberwrac'h in the early evening.

Thursday 26 July

Took Cynthia out to lunch at Le Vioben. It's a great restaurant, one of the best on the Brittany coast. Years ago it was literally a boatshed where the fishing gear for the boat of the same name was kept and it was good then but it has moved up a couple of gears now.  Lunch there is just ridiculously good value for money. 

We left the marina in the evening and went to anchor a bit to the northwest.

Friday 27 July

The anchor was raised a little bit later than sunrise. We motored down river and sailed or motor sailed down through the Chenal de Four and headed for the Raz. Cynthia took some time off watch down throught the Chenal de Four, we swapped over at the end and Cynthia sailed the boat to the Raz.

We had been suffering from a lack of wind early in the day but by the time we passed through the Raz into the Baie d'Audierne we had a decent F4 from the west. Rohkea was sailing happily with a full main and genoa and the hydrovane making easy work of the helming. The “hydrovane” is our self-steering mechanism that works purely off the wind, no electricity required. It is a marvel of engineering design and does a remarkable job of steering the boat in most conditions.

Anyhow, back to the wind …. There was a radio transmission on the french maritime radio announcing a “Grand Frais”. That is not a large strawberry (which would be a “Grande Fraise” ) but a strong wind warning. Or was it a gale warning? On later research it's actually between the two and means average wind speeds up to F7. Anyhow, as we were planning to cross the Atlantic and wouldn't be able to rush for shelter mid-ocean, I didn't think that a bit of breeze should worry us. We prepared by putting the smaller headsail on the inner forestay and rolling away the genoa completely. Then we put two reefs in the main. Most the the night we had around 25-29 kts of breeze and Rohkea seemed very happy. Cynthia took the early watch and we swapped over around midnight. I can't remember the exact time but it was around 1am that the 40kt squall along with driving rain came through. The wind got up very quickly and there was no chance of doing anything to further reduce sail so I tried to keep the boat heading almost dead downwind in order to reduce the apparent breeze and hoped that the wind wasn't going to go higher that 40kts. Anyhow it didn't and the moment passed. It was quite unpleasant but over in 10 minutes so we survived.

Saturday 28 July

Dawn saw us approaching Belle Ile. It was a relief to get into the lee of the island as the waves had built overnight and we were looking forward to some calmer water. I was heading for Sauzon where I had spent a couple of days in 2017. It's a lovely little village and the anchorage is sheltered from all points west. We arrived at around 0700 by which time Cynthia was back on deck and we decided to pick up a mooring buoy rather than anchor and the buoys were in the most sheltered part of the bay.

For the rest of the day we didn't go ashore, I think that we spent most of the time just resting from the night before.

Sunday 29 July

This was another windy day so we stayed on the mooring and had a lazy day.

Monday 30 July

Sailed to Ile de Yeu.

Tuesday 31 July

Explored Ile de Yeu.

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Left Ile de Yeu early morning and sailed to St Denis d'Oléron. We had a lovely sail with the spinnaker up for much of the time in around 15-18kts of breeze. Champagne sailing (well Vendée sailing really).

We arrived in St Denis at around 2100 and moored on the long visitors pontoon where we spent the next week. We spent a couple of days exploring the island and then I hired a car in order to visit my daughter and family who were in a house nearby. In all we spent a week in St Denis.

Wednesday 8 August 2018

We slipped our mooring at St Denis and motored out of the harbour (by way of the fuel pontoon). The harbour entrance at St Denis is quite shallow so we had to be out by around 1600 or we would not have had enough water. Prior to arriving at St Denis I was having some issues with the AIS unit (that's a little radio that transmits our position so other ships can see and identify us in any weather) and a replacement had only just arrived from the UK so we picked up a mooring buoy outside the harbour so I could finish fitting the unit. By the time that I had finished it was early evening. It was then that we heard a gale warning on the french maritime radio (again). This time it was for a force 7 and from the North West. What we didn't know was the precise localisation of the warning. I phoned up the CROSS Etel (equivalent to the coastguard) and they told me the number was for emergencies only and suggested I call the local semaphore station. By this time it was getting late and as our port of refuge was La Rochelle then we decided to stop faffiing and just go for it. So we slipped the mooring and headed for La Rochelle … only to find out that we were moored in a bit of a hole and couldn't get out as the water was too shallow. So we picked up the mooring again. So we were staying the night on a mooring exposed to the NW, not more than 300 metres from a lee shore and there was a potential F7 on the way. To make matters worse the buoy was clearly marked (in French) to say that it was not suited to an overnight stay. To try and put our minds at rest I did a bit more research on the internet and found on the meteo-france website that the F7 wind warning was local to the extreme SE of Biscay, near Biarritz. We were around 100 miles from the specific locality of the wind warning although as the weather feature was approaching from the NW only around 50 miles from its path. Nonetheless it was a relief to know that it wasn't heading staight for us.

Thursday 9 August 2018

Whatever it was maybe didn't head straight for us but it took a good swipe at us on its way down Biscay: at around 0400 in the morning I was awoken by the anchor alarm. I was seriously windy outside and a quick look at the screen showed that we had started to drag the mooring buoy. Given that the lees shore was so close I was seriously scared at this point. So I rushed on deck wearing no more than knockers and a sailing jacket and started the engine in order to take some of the strain off the mooring. According to the instruments we had a F6 gusting F7 and according the the rest of my senses it was raining hard. Cynthia got on deck around five minutes later and took over whilst I went down below to put some warmer clothes on. Fully dressed I went back on deck, by which time the wind had dropped a bit and we were in control. After ten minutes or so the wind had dropped enough for us to safely stop the engine and rely on the mooring again. We had a chat about our options and decided to leave at first light whilst there was still enough water to get us over the shallow bits.

Once out into Biscay we had a beautiful sail under full main and genoa, making over 7 kts in the fresh northwesterly. We kept going most of the day like this until the wind died off when we had to start the engine.

Friday 10 August 2018

We had an easy night, if not the quietest as the engine was on for most of the time. Eventually, as it always does, the wind filled in and we found ourselves sailing along under spinnaker in the predicted easterly F4. Although we were (nominally) heading for La Coruña, our track, governed by the wind, was taking us down to Gijon so before the sun set we put a gybe in and heading WNW, safely away from the shore. Cynthia took the first night watch and had a fairly quiet time, there being little shipping or fishing activity along that bit of the coast.

Saturday 11 August 2018

As luck would have it Cynthia did encounter a small fishing vessel, not on AIS and badly lit just before the watch change but that was about it. I took my watch and we sailed on, still with the spinnaker up.

At some point the wind died and we had to drop the kite, reverting to motor sailing. By late afternoon we were not far off Costa del Muerte (Coast of Death!!) when eagle eyed Cynthia spotted some plumes of spray not too far away. There were whales around! Now whales are very exciting to see but they are also potentially dangerous if a yacht hits one. So when we saw one around two hundred metres away and swimming so as to cross our path we slowed right down to let it pass. In fact it was not one whale but a mother and calf with other whales not far away. This was very exciting for me as, although I have seen hundreds of dolphins in the wild I had never seen a big whale before. It is quite awe inspiring, especially when you realise that there is a lot more under the water than you can see from above. So that was our excitement for the day.

We were “nominally heading for La Coruña but I didn't really want to spend another night at sea if we could help it, plus I really like Cedeira on the Spanigh coast thirty miles north of La Coruña. I had been there before around fifteen years earlier and was keen to go back. The entrance is easy being around half a mile wide. It is well lit, the only obstacle being a rock in the middle, but as that has a beacon and a flashing light on it that is not really an issue. Once inside there is a large natural harbour which is totally sheltered from the Atlantic swell. It is surrounded by forests and mountains and is a lovely spot to spend a few days.

Sunday 12 August 2018

We inflated the dinghy and went ashore, walked along the keyside, found a restaurant went in and waited … and waited …. and eventually got given a table outside (but sheltered from the rain) where we had a simply superb lunch. OK, it would have been better if we had booked and got a nice table with a tablecloth in the dining room but the percebes, octopus and other goodies more than made up for the lack of formality. Anyhow we had a good view of the harbour and could keep an eye on Rohkea too.

Tuesday 14 August 2018

We were a bit late leaving. I had been working on the port startboard navigation light on the bow. The brand new light had not worked when I connected it up and I suspected a wiring issue for some reason (I am sure that I measured a low voltage at some point but now doubt myself). Anyhow, the main issue was that the “appropriate” bulb sold to me by BoatWorks in Guernsey had, when mounted in the nav light, got the red and green LED's on the wrong sides. So the red LED's were trying to send out light through the green lens and vice versa. So the light appeared not to work. Anyhow, I resolved the problem by reverting to a conventional bulb which is what we have now. It works.

We evnetually left at around 1400. The forecast for the morning was a bit on the light side. We ended up with 30kts of brezze from behind. At least that got us to La Coruña fairly quickly.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

We had a lay day in La Coruña. Cynthia chose a nice restaurant in the square where we had an assortment of seafood for not a lot of money. We probably ate more than we needed to but made up for it by walking to the old Torre de Hercules lighthouse. There was a roman lighthouse on that site of the present one, although the latter is clealy not roman. We walked back along the sea front and behind the crowded beaches, back through the town to the Marina Réal. There are now two marinas in La Coruña: the Marina Réal is the “old” marina but has excellent facilities and is right in the centre of town.

Thursday 16 August 2018

We headed off south again, heading for Ria de Caramiñas. I didn't actually want to stay in Caramiñas again as I got stuck there for four days about fifteen years ago, so we were off to Muxia in the same bay but on the south coast. The wind forecast was NNE 10 kts increasing to 18kts later. We got rather more than that by the late afternoon, the sailing was alright but berthing in Muxia was a little nerve racking but in the end uneventful. Muxia itself is pretty low key but relaxing and a good place to chill for a day or so. Our friends Linda and Allan passed by here on their Atlantic odessy the previous year and recommended it, so we decided to try it out.

Friday 17 August 2018

It was still windy from the north and we weren't in a rush so spending a day exploring was the obvious answer. We had lunch in the local Wimpy, except that it wasn't spelt quite like that and the food bore no relation to that of it's near namesake. It was good honest spanish seafood, fun and cheap. In the afternoon we wandered along to the tourist office and enquired as to whether Muxia had any claims to fame. It turns out that it is the end of the road for the only pilgrimage that runs from Santiago de Compostela (which is the well known end to the pilgrim route across France and northern Spain). We walked the final mile or so of this route and found a find and very spanish looking chapel overlooking a rather wild Atlantic ocean.