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The Bay of Biscay
-- 14th to 23rd July 2011 --
Waiting,waiting... then finally the Great Adventure may start: into the Bay of Biscay!

22 miles along the coast in Brittany and 353 miles through the Bay – 2 days, 23 hours and 50 minutes... 1620 miles since the start.
Our stops, click on the names for more details:
La Corunna (marina)
14th – 19th July: waiting...
Once all our guests were gone, we discover a sudden passion for weather charts of the Bay of Biscay and start compulsively checking them every 10 minutes. Unfortunately there seem to be no suitable window in the near future.

The National Day celebrations in Concarneau feature some nice fireworks and street concerts. Then we move Saltimbanque to Port Belon, on a buoy: this little harbour is closer to Kersolf. Camille’s father sails along, which reminds him that he, too, is fond of sailing (must run in the blood).

Thus settled in Port Belon, we wait. Five days, long days spent on little work on the boat in the morning and quality time with our families in the afternoon. Captain Shadok will tell you all about this waiting time – we are much too frustrated to talk about it:

On the 19th July in the morning, we quickly pass by Kersolff, just to confirm our departure on the same evening we thought... well still good to check the charts, as the wind is slow to decrease below the 30 knots it seems. Well, tomorrow then. Which leaves some time for a last celebration lunch in a good “creperie”!
20th – 23rd July: Port-Belon to La Corunna (353 miles)
Finally the D-Day! All excited and a bit stressed, we sail out of the Belon river with the morning high tide… only to pick up a buoy a few miles further. It’s raining, foggy and there is no wind at all!

A couple of hours later, after a good little nap, the wind has picked up and we get going – sailing close to the wind as usual. Persistent rain, westerly winds 15-20 knots, rough sea: things could be more comfortable. But we have faith in the weather forecast of 6h47 this morning: wind 4-6, rough sea they say.

On the long waves that evening we are anxiously waiting for the next update. Wind 5-6 now, very rough seas. Mmmm the waves might become a little bit too big for us there… We ponder for a while. Should we turn back and wait one more night? Then we decide to play our last ace and get our brand new satellite phone out. With it we can receive very precise weather charts (grib files) on our computer. Grib files are the reference for high seas sailors. And in that occasion they foresee a good strong night but truly decreasing winds afterwards. So we are reassured and sail firmly on to Spain! Taking another reef in the sail before the night yet...
The night is windy. A good westerly 5b, then veering North-westerly and increasing around 2 a.m. The seas though don’t seem as rough as expected. Of course there are a few waves sweeping the deck and filling up the cockpit, but we were expecting much worse. We don’t really see a difference at the end of the continental shelf, when the sea-bed suddenly plunges to an abyssal 4000m depth or more. We enjoy the pre-cooked meals, warm and easy to cook in a moving boat. Really the worst is actually the pouring rain, soaking everything through. We are cold and soaked in our summer-night outfits (fleece + thick wool pullovers + wool hats + rain jackets)
First sunrise partly hidden by the swell
At dawn the wind decreases a little. The boat runs very well with 2 reefs in the great sail and the jib. Our wind steering system Bob is at work. Another sign convinces us that things are going better: a small group of dolphins swims alongside for two hours! The first we see in our trip!

After the time « washing machine » of the first night comes the time « dryer »
The second day at sea is another game to play! The good wind from the side allows us to run effortless at 6 knots on a direct route, the 4000m deep seas show dark blue colors we had never seen before, and above all the rain has stopped, leaving a bright sky with light clouds. We enjoy the typical “triple effect” of the sun: 1. Dry the clothes, 2. Shine on the solar panel and fill up the batteries and 3. Make the crew feel alive again! We have a very good day on a long quiet westerly swell and can even indulge in a Trivial Pursuit game before diner. There are a lot of birds to be seen as far as 300km from the shores: puffins, gannets and little sea-swallows.
It feels like time has paused for a while on that day: for the first time we are sailing a full cycle night – day – night, for the first time we spend a day at sea without leaving or arriving somewhere. More than 24 hours and 100 miles behind us: during our “usual” crossings in the North Sea or the Channel, we look forward to the shore at this point. Yet we have now more than twice the distance to cover, and strangely enough, we are not impatient at all. Just enjoying. Proof that psychological preparation is key: we are set to sail 3 days, not longer, but not less...
At the end of the day the wind decreases a bit and we set all the sails out for the night. A quiet night, even too quiet at times… In the morning on the empty horizon we see a cargo ship in the distance. As much as we could hate those cold and soulless mountains of steel in the North Sea, here they bring some life in the flat 360° horizon!

So, day comes and we look at the charts: it was too quiet indeed, we’re getting behind! Out of our magical box we get our big spinnaker. Relaxed with a large empty space around us we can take our time to set it right :o) and there we are, running at 4,5 knots again!

The sun goes up for the second time and Bob is steering, never tired.
So the day goes by in the shade of the great spinnaker, when suddenly...

« I think I saw the line move…
_ You’re right, there’s something there! »

Laure gets the line out cautiously

« I don’t know what it is but it is not a mackerel...
_ Look at the fin, it must be a tuna fish !
_ Don’t know… it doesn’t look so big from here...
_ Here! Take the bucket!
_ Uhm… well, it doesn’t fit in the bucket...maybe not that small after all! »
In the end it’s a nice 3kgs tuna fish we get out, also known as a “’four meal” fresh tuna! After shortly checking in the books, Laure bravely starts slaughtering and skinning and slicing – like she’s done it all her life! Next days we won’t have to wonder about the menu: tune steaks, tuna marinated in lemon, Teriaki tuna (our favorite) and cold tuna in salad. Yummy! And a change to our mackerel – diet!
Our first catch in high seas !
Now reassured on our food, we are facing another problem: the wind has veered and is now coming right from behind us – which is not the most efficient nor comfortable state for a sailing boat actually. We try a few options to get some speed: with a spinnaker (perfect, but not sustainable as someone has to steer all the time); both sails in opposition (very unstable with those waves), the genoa held open with the spi-pole (our pole is too long)… So we are left with the “Dutch option”, very popular on the other side of the Scheldt: get the great sail down and keep on the genoa only. It works well, especially as the wind is picking up a bit. So weirdly-looking we are back at 5 knots on the direct route for the third night.

We are getting closer, time to hoist the Spanish flag !
The first thing we see from Spain is a vague light glowing in the distance: lights of La Corunna reflected in the clouds are visible from 50 miles off shore. Some hours later we see the Cabo Ortegal lighthouse. At daybreak we are along the coasts: they are high and rocky, like mountains falling into the water.
Another 20 miles along the coast under the sun and pushed by a great wind, and we enter the bay of La Corunna: we see the “torres Hercules” lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in the world built by Romans, and the big white H-shaped control tower – all those sights seen a thousand times in guides when preparing the trip...
The oldest lighthouse at the entry of La Corunna

No mooring zone any longer behnd the dyke ; but a big new marina
Some words of caution to other sailors: if like us you are expecting behind the dyke a mooring zone, store your memories away and get your ropes and fenders out. There is now a huge new marina – and no mooring possibility. But there is plenty of space at the pontoon, a little quarter of them are taken...

So we were a little surprised by the new looks of the place and also by the dozens of swimmers crowded the harbour entrance. We tied Saltimbanque to the pontoon and put a foot down on Spain! Less than 3 days at sea, a bit shoresick – and extremely happy!
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Your messages:

Fred - 02/08/2011 10:54:47
Excellent le thon! ça me fait saliver!! Super récit! bonne continuation!

Jean-Pierre - 30/07/2011 19:19:56
Vous nous faites rêver !
Bon vent ...

Nadia - 30/07/2011 17:05:59
merci Camille et Laure pour la réponse , je ne savais pas qu'on parlait de mal de terre ;-))

Bonne continuation !

la mamou - 30/07/2011 08:34:40
moi , j'avais l'impression de monter des marches d'escalier dès que je marchais sur un sol ferme :-/ ....

Camille & Laure - 29/07/2011 22:10:25
Et bien le mal de terre c'est quand le plancher des vaches semble bouger et que les lignes droites paraissent onduler ! Le pire c'est les carrelages de douche...

nadia - 29/07/2011 14:34:10
vous suivre est un régal ... je connais une maman qui doit être fière ....
ca existe le "mal de terre ? " ça se manifeste de quelle façon ?

Bonne route !(mer ;-)) )

michel - 28/07/2011 18:35:23
bravo Bonne traversée Rapide nous avions traversé beaucoup moins vite Avec un anti cyclone et des grands calmes Nous avions vu beaucoup de dauphins et notre bateau s'appelait Delphinus II Bon vent!

helene (la mangeuse de langoustine) - 28/07/2011 14:33:06
vos textes sont super,on s'y croirait presque... bon voyage

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