Biscay – Sailing South to Cascais


I came up on watch this morning just as we rounded Cape Finisterre in Galicia, breathed a sigh of relief that the corner had been turned and a new course of 180 (S). A misty dawn, the sky filled with spray from the vast Nw’ly swell crashing on the rocky shore. Small fishing boats harvesting the sea greet us with waves and cheers – Galicia, the maritime blood of Spain.

It seems weeks ago that we left our home of Fowey and started out on the first leg of our journey to the Western Canaries. Ophelia and Brian managed to hold us up for a while, sitting out the first in Falmouth then making a mad dash across the channel with some big seas but a good wind to carry us over to Ouessant. In fact, so fast was our passage that the chosen port of Camaret to escape Brian was bypassed and the crew headed on round the Point du Raz and into Concarneau.

Concarneau – an old fishing town and “Ville Close” to you and me, a walled city offering protection and a good berth for a gale. A good French friend of many years, Clementine, whom I sailed with on Anna Rosa, organised a secure berth with the port officials and our enforced visit began with a beer in the charming  square. The bustle of life here is seriously diminished now – few fishing boats adorn the quays and there seems very little happening now the tourist season is over. Not to worry – more room for us in the Hotel Grand Voyageur that became our rendez-vous for a cider and a laugh – although Karina could not resist a chocolate crêpe.

Four days waiting for a window in the weather and spirits tend to get low – it is always difficult to explain to those not used to a life at sea that they would not like a strong gale in Biscay and 6 metre seas. They see the adventure of it all, the challenge but perhaps not the responsibility. Sailing also incorporates the art of travelling and exploring new cultures as much as trimming a jib or standing watch. Those times will come and they did, we set off at a storming rate, all sail set with a stiff F5 and slipping along at a fair 8.0kts.

The favourable breeze did not last, and come sundown the Iron topsail began her steady rhythm. Gentle rolling and a night as black as pitch set in while dolphins jostled for a ride on the bow wave. One sight of which you can never tire, these silver darts as lit by the bioluminescence that abounds in these waters. The crossing of the continental shelf saw them bid their farewells and our ship sailed on towards the Spanish coast.

Monday was a frustrating day, opposing winds and a huge swell left by Brian set into Biscay, we tacked a few times trying to find the most comfortable course, but really not worth the effort.  Life was a rolling deck!  Tuesday and the world was perfect – now in the warm sunshine with good sightings of three large whales and countless dolphins.  The mountains along the coast rose up in the sunrise only to disappear in the midday haze.  By evening, the lights of Coruna lit the horizon, but our enemy, the swell was back, the ship wallowing in the vast troughs with little or no wind.  The main sail is taking it well, but the strain on the gear in such conditions makes me worry – all this rolling about and flapping.   Maybe you ask why the sail is up?  To reduce the rolling even more.  The slab of canvas reduced the motion – at least a little.

Wednesday morning, today and bread is baking in the ovens and a new course of South – Cascais is closer but we still have 240 NM to go and planes to catch.

One thought on “Biscay – Sailing South to Cascais

  1. Brian Cowen on said:

    What a challenging outward journey for you. Shows the real skill of seamanship required. See from AIS you are now in pleasanter climate and calmer waters.
    Happy sailing to you all

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