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Rose & Brian – 5th August 2009

Benodet to Ribadeo – via the Bay of Biscay

Hi again
I thought I would do a quick update while we have internet access – no knowing what
the facilities may be further on. We did as planned and waited for a nice westerly
breeze to set in for a few days for our Biscay crossing – and waited, and waited for
almost a week. We decided to give up and head east along the Breton coast to
L’Orient, La Rochelle etc or possibly Belle Isle. But I mulled this over and thought
that this would add another two weeks at least to our journey to the Med if not more –
and I wanted to be somewhere warm! So I persuaded Brian to look at the Biscay
crossing against the weather map on a half day by half day plot to see what the wind
looked like at each stage.

We were both surprised to see that if we set off on Thursday 30th July, we would be
able to get some reasonable winds, and miss the heavy weather that was heading up
the English Channel. We plotted the course several times and decided that we
should do it – Brian agreed that we could wait for the right wind for ever!
So with that in mind we planned the longest non-stop trip we had ever done. I
bought merguez sausage and made a huge sausage and bean stew, we stocked up
with bread and cheese and pate for lunches, cleaned the boat, crossed our fingers
and set off on Thursday about 10.30 in lovely sunshine and a good breeze initially
from the south west, but then it went a bit more west. However this did mean that we
were close hauling with the wind blowing from the right (starboard tack) yet again –
the wind was supposed to go more west, which would have made for an easier sail
but it never did.

A diagram of our route is on the next page – the drawing won’t fit on this one!

The first night was great – dolphins came and played with us several times, chasing
us right behind the boat and going underneath, and leaping the waves at the side.
The water was so clear we could see them with the light cast by our navigation lights.
It was a totally clear night and you could see all the stars, milky way etc.
At about 2pm on Friday we were surrounded by about 20 yachts heading west – we
followed them for a while but they disappeared. They were virtually the last people
we saw (apart from one container ship) until we got to Spain, no more dolphins and
very little else to see.

Reeds Almanac (sailors bible) says south winds in Biscay are very rare. Ha! We
had south winds for about 80% of the time. However it wasn’t bad sailing – just hard
work constantly sailing close to the wind. Finally the predicted NW wind started at
2pm on Saturday, which meant we could head SW easily, with the wind blowing from
the side (beam reach) which is much more comfortable. We crossed our fingers that
it would last, looked at the map and decided to head for Ribadeo. The description in
the Almanac looked OK, and we were really pleased that it was quite a lot further
west than we thought we might have got.
0430 Friday

0400 Saturday

0600 Sunday

Here is a picture of where we went drawn on one of the wind charts we had
downloaded! Needless to say instead of the 270 miles straight line, we covered 370
miles. The wind didn’t do entirely what was predicted but most of the time it was dry
and sunny.

It was quite bumpy the whole time, with a cross swell both from the NW and W and
SW from all the different wind directions and a height up to 3 or 4 metres. We had to
hang on tight when we went below – cooking, pouring drinks and going to the loo
were all rather hard work! The autohelm broke again (it came apart in my hand gov,
honest) but fortunately on Saturday evening, so we had to steer by hand for the last
20 hours which was a bit of a pain. The person steering couldn’t come down to wake
up the other for the next shift. What to do? (No we haven’t got an alarm clock, we’re
retired). Quick thinking – I dug out the foghorn and we used that to wake each other
up – gosh it worked well, you jump when you hear it!

Finally Sunday dawned with a bright sunrise, and eventually we could see Spain –
what a relief!
There was some way to go to get to Ribadeo but once you can see land time seems
to go more quickly. We finally arrived and found a berth at 1.30 on Sunday afternoon,
just over 3 days after we had set out. We had worked 3 hour shifts at night and 4.5
hour ones during the day, so we both got a reasonable amount of sleep, just in short
bursts of 2 hrs at a time. We were quite tired but not overly so, just a bit spaced out.
We toured the seafront and a bit of the town, including getting a map from the tourist
office, then had calamares in the seafront café and fell into bed. We had to
surreptitiously look at people’s watches to check the time – the almanac tried to tell
us that it was an hour earlier here, but no, still Central European Standard time, i.e. 1
hour earlier than UK.

Ribadeo is a really interesting town. It is a mixture of old crumbling palaces and

houses and modern office and apartment blocks. It is slowly being regenerated and
the marina has obviously had some money spent on it – nice teak walkways and
stainless railings along the promenade. But the shops are a way away (uphill as
ever) and, as I discovered, are mostly closed from Sunday lunchtime to Tuesday
morning! I have wandered around the old alleyways, and at every turn you come
across another old palace or house, some with big walled gardens, some in ruins.
Ribadeo was the port where pilgrims landed to start the journey to Santiago de
Compostela. It was a thriving port with quite a few of the houses and palaces built by
traders who had built up wealth in South America.

Here is a crumbling palace on the waterfront (for sale if anyone wants a major
construction project) and the village across the Ria and the surrounding countryside
with wooded hills behind it. It is like Scotland only warmer!
That’s the history lesson for the day! We discovered yesterday that Ribadeo is the
half way destination for a yacht race called the Transgascogne, where about 27 small
yachts (21 ft) have done the same trip as us, but from further down the French coast
in a sort of half circle. The leaders have just arrived (Tuesday 3pm) and the rest will
straggle in. We looked on the internet and you can see their progress on the
website. Internet here is free – hurray! There are lots of little boats which are really
pretty too. I won’t include the picture of the motorway bridge which is just south of
the marina!

Brian has spent yesterday and today fixing the autohelm again (just another plastic
ring that had come unglued), dismantling, cleaning and reassembling all four winches
after one stuck and when taken apart was all gunged up and dry, and both of us
fixing other bits and pieces, shopping, washing etc.
Dead Winch

We were planning to move on tomorrow, but after two days of lovely hot weather it
has started to rain and the mist has closed in, so we will probably wait until it clears a

Adios, mes amigos

Rosemary & Brian

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