Bay of Biscay

1530 BST 12th June

We are nearly half way across the Bay of Biscay. Between Ushant and Finistere.

I marvel at the power of the Ocean. Nothing nasty, nothing angry … its just that we mean nothing in this wilderness. Beneath us now the depth is 3,000 metres to the ocean bed.

Waking this morning after yet another short nap and night at sea we were approaching the continental shelf where the depths go from just a hundred and fifty metres or so to thousands in the space of a few miles. At this point the sea is particularly disturbed and so it was this morning. Somehow a glorious sight seeing these large waves and hissing white caps in a disturbed frenzy. But moderate conditions for these parts nonetheless.

A few miles over and the seas, although remaining large and indeed did increase in size, became slightly more uniform as the wind steadily grew to about 25 knots from the north. ‘Talisker 1’ lifted her stern, for the most part gracefully, to each and every crest and accelerated away with the gradient created. My wonderful ship has not complained once. I’ve had to adjust to a new form of life again. Carefully moving around the boat taking great care not to be thrown with each and every violent motion. I’ve got to look after myself.


This afternoon the wind has dropped and the sea has moderated but this east coast Thames Estuary sailor is still suffering vertigo. Sunlight can be seen through the top of the waves. There is something clean about this sea. And all day long, not a cloud in the sky.

You will gather that we have left L’Aber-Wrac’h. We started the engine at 1550 BST and were sailing out of the river an hour later.

So underway 24 hours now. We have travelled 170 NM over the ground and somewhat less through the water, 160 NM, with a favourable current to round Ushant and SW in to the Atlantic.

I’d chipped a tooth in Cherbourg. My last job was to walk in to village above the harbour to see Docteur Florence Brut, the very nice local Dentist. She repaired my tooth beautifully. At my age they do seem to chip quite a lot! Too much information.

I’m now going out on deck again! Just to sea the Ocean at work.

More later.

2020 BST

The wind has moderated and now we have a fairly consistent NNE wind blowing 15 knots over the deck. WE are sailing under a reefed main and the first mark on the genoa and still we do 7 knots through the water with comfort.

The sea has calmed considerably but beware. Even in its more benign state she’s playing with you. You sit at the chart table and have to brace with sudden violent movement. Jolted almost! Then there is the ‘bummmmmph’ on the side of the hull as a wave hits, the small explosion of water rising and then landing on deck with a thud.

Dolphins have come to see us but we are not nearly exciting enough. They arrive and go immediately and if you watch they fade into the distance over the waves, diminishing in to tiny dots as they dance and dive like lively, super fit, revellers making their way home from a party. I cannot believe that they leap from the water and ride the wake and bows of ships for any other reason than its just … shear undiluted pleasure. And swimming so gracefully close together has to be a game as they seem not to touch each other but still, some will divert others and form up so easily. Perhaps that’s the game too. Tag but no touching.

1600 BST 13th June

We are about 50 NM from La Coruna and we are motoring. Finally with under 6 knots from the NW I succumbed to steaming. The grib map tells me everything there is to know. There will be even less in the next few hours.

I’m quite tired! I think probably more the anxiety before leaving than not actually getting sleep. Obviously sleep patterns are not normal on a trip like this. I sleep as often as possible and for a very short time. Doc did 15 minutes! So for me, it’s setting a timer for half an hour maximum and then repeating the process once I’ve done a quick check. Radar and AIS alarms are not infallible. They are not going to get everything. But tiredness is perhaps a greater evil sailing alone.

I got my cruising chute nicely twisted this afternoon in the last of the breeze. When I got it back on deck I painstakingly repacked it. It was fatigue that caused the error. It’s important to keep things simple. I’ve got to remind myself of that over the next few weeks.

1245 BST 14th June

Approaching the Spanish coast I started to look at other options for a place to enter, even at night. I spotted Ria de Cedeira 17 NM away off our port bow. La Coruna was still 35 NM so arrival there would now be passed midnight.

I looked on the plotter and then found all I needed in Reeds. Cedeira offered very good shelter and excellent holding on sand and an easy entrance. I altered course and came in as darkness fell. To port, high up on the cliffs, a party was taking place and the music was beating loudly. The revellers were firing rockets out in to the entrance to the Ria above us and for a moment with the noise and then the flight path I thought we were being fired upon as the rocket shot out in our direction only for them to burn out much further away than it certainly looked to me!! For a second it was quite frightening.

Two fishing boats were putting to sea and we passed them on our way in. Turning to port in to the anchorage I could make out the riding lights of three anchored sailing boats and the silhouette of one without light. Down went the anchor making almost an exact square from what before had been a triangle of yachts at anchor. Engine off 2230 BST after 54 hours underway.

I received a lovely text from Doc. At every landfall I’ve made there is an immediate text from the great man. It means a lot.

I’ve been able to make most of my Iridium Go work very well indeed. There is more to learn.

Last night I slept soundly. Two yachts have gone. The unlit yacht, a French SV, is still here and I watched him struggle to start his outboard on his tender. Such a common sight it seems with a small four stroke! The tiny carburettors don’t seem to have been well enough designed on all of them yet!

Since leaving Orford we have covered 788 NM over the ground and 742 NM through the water.

It’s my birthday and I’m going ashore for bananas and bread.


15th June

I woke rather startled to find a very heavy duty Dutch Yacht, who had arrived a day after us, lying a boats length from our bow. Had I dragged? Negative! They’ve dragged! Or ….

Say “Are we ok here?” I asked.

The nice Dutchman appeared in the cockpit. We could practically shake hands.

“I don’t think I’ve dragged” I told him.

“Ya .. we seem ok” he said.

“Um .. Errrr!” Far be it for me to question such a distinguished blue water yacht. “How much chain you got out?”

“35 metres” said our Dutch neighbour.

I was too slow to stifle my astonishment.

I thought I was overdoing floating in 6 metres depth at HW with ONLY 17 metres of chain out in to pure glorious, never let ya down, sand.

“Oh .. I’ve only got 17 out” I say apologetically.

He looked at me as if I was bonkers.

Ten minutes later he was re anchored with the largest circle round him that he could find in the anchorage. Perhaps a sign saying large danger zone round this vessel required. Keep well off to … at least 40 metres!!

I looked at the grib weather forecast from here to Madeira. It looked good and that frightened me as it meant I might have to leave. I then wimped a lot in another long text to my mentor James Robi.

I hauled the anchor and set sail for Madeira mid afternoon. We had a fair way to go to reach Finistere and then a battle to get off shore and clear of the coastal and then shipping traffic. It would be a long night and day before I would be able to rest.

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