Saturday, 6 August 2016

End of the line!

We entered Coruna Marina on the Monday morning and arranged our lift out for the following wing Monday. We had a week to get the sails etc off the boat but still Lenny of time to do a bit of sightseeing and winding down before flying home.
We took the very impressive RENFE train to Santiago de Compostella made famous by the Camino pilgrims walk which is becoming evermore popular. The route varies from as far as 800km away in France, to a minimum of walking the last hundred km required to get the certificate or have your sins forgiven in a holy year!
A beautiful city it is though with an incredible restoration of the cathedral ongoing.

There was an African happy clappy band who tried to enlist me and were nearly successful 

We had a few good walks around La Coruna including one to the famous Torre de Hercules, reputed to be one of the first ever lighthouses built by the Romans. The original was added to over the years and is now a very grand building.
Susan did a bit of cycling on ye olde bike!

The last Monday arrived and with a tinge of sadness we made our way to Marina Seca for our 4.30 travelift appointment! Reversing in with the crosswind was not going to be easy or perhaps even possible. The team were though very professional and a rib tied a line on the bow to hold her straight. Within 1 1/2 hours we were lifted out, pressure washed and safely placed I a secure cradle.

So there she will be until next year when we will decide when and where to go. This year was just over 1500 miles but I could happily do much less next year!

Friday, 22 July 2016

Another day another Ria

Susan and I drove back to Gijon which took  couple of hours on the excellent dual carriageway. A day pottering around town and then hiring a car for the next day to revisit the Picos de Europa's. They are spectacular. We managed on this visit to go on the funicular railway which is carved through about a mile of solid mountain from Poncebos to Bulnes. Bulnes is a remote village with no vehicle access, now though with the railway it has many of the Alpine type houses turned into cafe's which made a grand lunch stop.

I wish we had had time to walk the path down but we had only a day to do the whole range. We headed east then South to Potes and up over two passes over 5000ft with spectacular views. Visibility had greatly improved over the day which made for a memorable as well as long (over 300 mile) journey.

We fuelled up and headed off in pleasant sunshine, slow progress but a pleasant lunch stop anchored in the sun then into San Estaban on the top of the tide, just as well as the previously dredged entrance is now well silted. A pleasant and secure anchorage if a bit noisy with the usual weekend partying!
Next day along to Luarca, a fairly straightforward entry but no room in the inner harbour. 5 moorings are provided in the outer harbour but this does involve running a sternline ashore onto the high quayside.

Just like Eyemouth

A pleasant trip to Ribadeo with the Principado of Asturias behind us were now in Galicia! A lovely Marina made for a quiet night and big shop at the Gadis supermarket, home of the €7.50 Gordon's gin bottle. Oh yes and number 3 check and form issue by the friendly customs guy who had visited the Borders on his motorbike!

We had a lumpy longer trip next day round some rugged headlands to Viveiro a cracking Marina which is not unknown to Corinthians with Paul Taylor overwintering there a few years ago. We toured the sights of the town which did not take too long and decided on a reconnaissance trip by train to Ortigueira where we were headed for the annual Celtic music festival. Ortigueira is a beautiful Ria with a  very taxing ever changing entrance and only a small Marina in the town. A great trip on the cheap and comfortable but slow FEVE train allowed to meet meet the Capitaneria (harbour master) who said he could give us a berth for 4 days.

Rugged headlands

We left Viveiro at 6am to ensure arrival in plenty time for full use of the tide, in fact due to the great sail we were 2 hours too early so a little anchor stop in the sun with Susan napping and me watch the water rising on nearby pier. With a light following wind and a light swell the sums all done it was time to go. We went in without any trouble with clearance between the sand and the keel never below 2m. A big sigh of relief though when we were over the bar. The channel is then marked but challenging in beautiful surroundings for a couple of miles to Ortegueira.

The bar

The Ria 

We arrived at 1.30 and were told he would give us "primo berth" which was on the hammerhead and perfect at €20 per night with power etc!

Primo berth! The square building to our right is the stage at n ear splitting range!

The festival was great but took a bit of getting used to as like so many Spanish festivities they start late. There were a few parades and sessions through the day on Sat but the main events on the big stage did not start till 10.30, about our bedtime!
                                Some odd folk at these parades!!

We were joined by Susan's friend and colleague Sheila with Dave who were kind enough to play some of my favourite fiddle tunes and generally keep us entertained for most of the afternoon. 

Sheila in good tune

Accompanied by Davy

Girls in the sun

We waited on the Friday night for the Peat Bog Faries who came on at 1.45. After an hour we headed off to bed which being only 250 yards from the main stage meant we still heard the music until 5am! We slowly rallied next day taking things very easy planning to spend more time back on the boat than standing waiting for new acts to come on. Sunday saw a major parade of pipes from Galicia, Brittany and band of Scots pipers from London. All very good. We were now acclimatised and thoroughly enjoyed the last "late" band who were Manran who we've enjoyed before in Stornoway. Even though last they absolutely nailed it with great music and interaction with the audience.

Manran also in fine tune

Ria de Ortiguera

Orteguera was a beautiful place but we had to leave so we did on Mondays tide and very settled conditions. We anchored for 7 nights in various places, Espasante, Carino, Cedeira, Port Felipe in Ferrol and Ria de Ares travelling only about 40 miles in that time. The weather was hot so we walked a bit in the morning swam a bit and generally chilled out before heading in to La Coruna which will be journey's end.

A dingy safari!

Port Felipe in Ferrol

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The North Coast

After a brief trip home to attend my sons stag doo I arrived back to Bilbao and awaited new crew consisting of Davy Jim and Chris who were out for a week to sample Spanish cruising.

We did the bridge and a trip into the city to visit the Guggenheim museum. It looks a bit weird from the outside but inside is impressive with it seems not a straight line anywhere. Some interesting exhibits from the very impressive paintings to some sculptures that need someone with a more artistic brain than me to make anything of!

By Friday morning we were ready for off and left Bilbao for the 40 mile trip to Santander. We did this with a fair wind and went upriver past the town to the main Marina near the airport. The Marina was ok but the most expensive at 45€ and miles away from town. We also had the first visit by 2 customs officers who not overly chatty were content and issued us with a form which we could present later!!I would anchor in the river next time. We stayed aboard and headed west with a couple of harbour options though they are limited on this coast. They also require a bit of tide to get over bars and are further complicated with the all to regular swell.
Puerto de Suances is not the easiest but we did have sufficient water but also a fair swell. We went in for a look and it did flatten out in the channel despite white water on the near wall and the beach on the other side. We got into the tiny harbour and tied alongside a fishing boat.

A meal ashore where the main course of hamburgers x4 never quite arrived though the chips did! The starters were plenty for us so we were lucky the order was lost in translation.
I had a chat with some local fishermen to confirm we were OK in the harbour. I also wanted confirmation if leaving at 6am in the morning allowed us enough water. They said 5 would be better. It would also be dark! Playing it safe we left at 5am following our entry track and the lights to make our exit into open water though it was a relief to see the depth increasing.
The weather was bright and sunny with a light tail wind we made good time in the rolling beam on swell.
With an early start and no place to go as we were out over low water we kept going for Ribadesella the views of the Picos de Europa were stunning. These mountains are up to 7000ft and quite spectacular. Jim correctly noted the snow still,on many of the tops. Arriving in bright sunshine and a fair swell we went in for a look. It pays to watch a while as after it looked reasonable a big swell sends a breaking sea in the entrance. I didn't fancy it so we kept going to the all tide fishing port of Lastres. A nice little pontoon saw us protected by the biggest walls I've seen on a harbour, I can imagine a Biscay storm will take a bit of stopping!
Jim and Davy had a very quick swim and a pleasant night was spent watching the fishing boats leaving. 
A short trip next day found us in a very nice marina in Gijon. It was now Monday and only 2 days left until the crew leave and the admiral arrives. 
We took a city tour and visited a piping and rural life museum which was very pleasant.

Davy ready for lunch!

We also had some interesting meals ashore where we often missed the mark on the menu interpretations.
We hired a car for the return to Santander and took in the mountains which were very Alpine and looked magnificent in the sunshine.

On along the very impressive road network to the airport including an impromptu tour of the city the 3 amigos flew back to Edinburgh on the plane Susan arrived on. They did a great job covering over 100 miles in some very rolly conditions.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Off to sunny Spain

Eddie and Brian duly arrived in St PeterPort Guernsay and after doing the island tour on the service bus for one pound!! a plan was hatched to do an evening departure for Aber Wrach which is a small sheltered town just over 100 miles away and more importantly near to the tidal passage inside Ushant. With high hopes of a nice sail no wind meant us motoring all the way. We had a walk ashore enjoying a really nice meal and a few grande French beers. Next day we could not leave until the tide was favourable to allow us to turn south round the western extreme of France. We enjoyed a ramble in the countryside which was warm and pleasant. Leaving at 4pm it was great to get 3 knots of fair tide down to Anse du Bertheaume where we picked up a mooring before dark.
While the gulf of Brest offered a lot of tempting places to see it was a bit too much of a detour so we planned for the final tidal gateway of the famous Raz De Sein. The Raz has tides up to 6knts and has a fearsome reputation for over falls and all things bad. The tide would not set in our favour till afternoon so we planned a lunch stop on the Isles de Seine. We anchored in the bay of the tiny rock infested island and went ashore to a very pretty but now mostly holiday home village. The Raz with a fair tide and no wind was very simple but I can imagine a SW storm would be very different.
     The famous Raz de Sein Lighthouse                  

Well it was now warm with the sun looking out now and again, long troosers no more as the shorts prevailed despite the peely wally legs. 

We anchored up in the bay of St Evette just outside Audierne. Despite a fair walk we had a lovely lasagne ashore. Short of bread next morning we headed into town which was a long way. Alas it seemed to be some kind of holiday with nearly every shop closed. Using our Del Boy French we were told a Liddles was the only big shop open today, just along the road! Along the road was about another 1 1/2 miles up a hill in a very hot sun. Liddles came good though and well stocked up we tried for a taxi, not today were they queuing in the car park and the store lady could not get one. The thought of the long walk back was hanging over us. We passed a taxi office which was closed but an ambulance depot was next door so I went in to enquire with my best bonjour to date. In a second or two I had negotiated a lift back in a car type ambulance which made Brian and Eddie smile ear to ear!
We left after lunchtime and as we were later than hoped decided on the small rocky islands of the Iles de Glenan. They look very intimidating on the chart but are fine in settled weather. It was busier than expected when we anchored 

Eddie cooked up liver and onions which was very good despite it seeming worryingly tough before cooking. A trip ashore and after a walk round the island found us in a little bar for a beer. The locals were friendly with one who sat holding his pet hen called Bridget. He insisted I hold it for a minute which I did but noticed it would barely make a pan of soup let alone Sunday lunch though I didn't share my thoughts with him! The small islands are home to one of France's most famous sailing school but there appeared to be no courses on at the time.
On again next day to Lorient a busy harbour with a huge marina where we tied alongside. This was home to the German U boats during the war and the servicing facility is a huge concrete structure still intact today. It's mostly being used for a variety of commercial reasons with part of it being a museum. France seems to have a lot of its high performance racing yachts here which was interesting to see. The museum was too,late for us but we nosed about and got the feel of it.

U boat Pens

Next it was down to the inland sea of the Morbihan. We made good speed and got through with the strong tide to pick up a mooring at Anse du Moteno. We could here the tide roaring not far away as it ebbed over the shallow water not far away. Next morning we went with the tide up towards Vannes. There were some tight spots in the channels but well marked.

The Morbihan

Nice little houses

Big tides

We took the dinghy up the last mile of canalised river to the town which actually had a reasonable marina which was kept full by a reported cill. After a trip in the mini train round the very attractive town we headed back in the now roasting sunshine. A quick reactionary 180 turn when we spotted the cill 
Prevented us getting an early bath. The dingy portage was short and we were soon back aboard enjoying the weather. Pleasant walks ashore left a very positive impression of the area. We left next day with a roaring tide through the narrows and headed over to Ile Houat in pouring rain. Anchoring in a big sandy bay we had an interesting beach landing in the dingy with Brian thankfully taking the brunt of the breaking wave! A lovely small village and a nice little pub ended the day nicely.
Quite a boisterous sail next day down to Ile D'Yeu and tied up in a tight little Marina for the night. Clearly these off lying islands are very busy with visitors which is not surprising as they are very interesting and attractive.
With an overnight anchorage at Ile de Re we headed down into La Rochelle next morning. The Marina has more than 5000 yachts and is just huge. We fuelled up and made off into town on the electric ferry boat.
Electric Ferry

The city was great with museums and nice areas to wander around. 

The famous Bernard Moitessier's boat in which he did a record 37455 miles non stop

We spent 3 nights here waiting for good weather to cross the 180 miles to Spain. A fine forecast for leaving early Thursday showed 15knts W going NW then going very light. On the contrary we had light winds all day then it freshened with a reef going in before dark ( 2 reefs in fact) we had up to 37 knots of wind well forward of the beam for most of the night and next day along with a very uncomfortable sea. It was very hard to stay in a bunk and little chance to sleep. No surprise as we were going down the line where Biscay shallows up from about 1500m with under 20 miles to go we discovered the rocker cover gasket leaking which was successfully plugged using the good old epoxy putty. We got in though as planned on time to Bermeo where bacon egg and chips was served up and tasted great.
We stayed a second night and enjoyed exploring the busy town.

A welcome Bermeo

A sunny windless trip of 20 miles up to Getxo just outside Bilbao is where I am now. We visited the city and did a bus tour which showed how Bilbao is a great success as a town which has changed from heavy industry to lighter forms of business. The city is sparkling clean and a joy to the eye. Eddie and Brian's last day arrived and we crossed the top of the Bizkaia bridge which is one of the few bridges of its type left in the world. It has a carriage suspended on wires which travels over the river leaving clear passage for ships. You can get a ticket to walk along the high part which in the scorching sunshine was fantastic, despite it looking a bit daunting from the ground.

We enjoyed the lads last afternoon using the facilities of the Real Club Mertimo Del Arbra which included swimming pool and the most luxurious clubhouse imaginable. A meal in their restaurant and they were off with Ryanair from Santander after 3 weeks of pleasure and pain! Thanks to them both for their enthusiasm and good humour.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

First Part Over

After enjoying being in northern France which was a first for me we decided to move along to Dieppe. It was a 50 mile downwind sail which was very relaxed. Dieppe has a notoriously lumpy entrance which    proved to be the case with the northerly breeze. A lovely busy harbour where we enjoyed some good walks ashore. Being conscious of time and flight deadlines we had to decide whether to go down into the"baie de Seine" to visit the Normandy beaches or make the most of the favourable winds to get further west. We decided to head for Cherbourg leaving a very lumpy entrance late evening to ensure arriving at Cape Barfleur  90 miles away with a fair tide. The tide is awesome and as we were on springs was predicted to be 5 knots. We did not want to arrive early with a fresh NE wind over 5 knots of foul tide. We did at one point ease up on speed and duly arrived as the tide went favourable, at one point we showed 10 knots over the ground.

SOG Plus 10

Cherbourg was a massive harbour with an equally massive marina. The Marina has 250 visitor berths, reasonably priced with excellent facilities. 

Out on the end

We found Cherbourg very attractive with interesting visits to castles and museums. The history of the German occupation is well covered. We also went on one of France's first nuclear subs. A massive piece of machinery.
Roule mountain castle with a great view

A leviathan of the sea

After 3 nights we made the short 24 mile trip to Alderney the most northern of the Channel Islands. Moorings are available in the harbour and there's a great water taxi to save you having to blow up the dingy.
There was a bit of a low key music festival on so we got on the only train on the islands for the shortest slowest train journey ever. About 2 miles across the island to the old quarry which is the reason for the past need for a train. We were though entertained by a jazzy/ folky band and given 3 tumblers of prosecco. Off to the pub for a few beers and tea.

A very old diesel engine.

Next morning was a bouncy but bright warm day which we used to explore the incredible defences built firstly in the Victorian period and latterly by the Germans. Apparently Hitler was pleased with himself at capturing a little piece of the U.K. and was determined not to let it go! Churchill occasionally prodded defences from a safe distance to ensure Adolf used his resources for the pointless task of defending Alderney meaning he did not use them in Normandy!
Intending to leave by the west side of the island and the infamous Swinge we left at 4pm. The Swinge was fast but flat unlike what we had seen in the morning where it was full of breaking over falls.
Down through the Little Russell with the tide meant a fast passage to St PeterPort on Guernsey. A large well organised harbour where we were met by a guy in a dory and shown to a holding pontoon to await the tide to enter the cill locked marina. Led in to a good berth at 11pm where I will be for 4 nights. Colin flew home this morning and I thank him for being great company and great crew. Brian and Eddie arrive on Wednesday for the trip south to Spain, let's hope it's summer weather all the way!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

On our way

With a fair forecast Eddie, Colin and I left Eyemouth at 5.30 on Sunday evening. A fair tide took us through the Farne Islands under engine and full main with a light west wind.
                                      Eddie in the Holy Island Sunset

An easy run down with little traffic found us off our planned stop at Whitby by 10 am. We were a bit early for the opening bridge so as the weather was fine we decided to push on to Lowestoft. A fair breeze took us on across the busy area off the Humber and past wind farms off the Wash to the mucky waters off Norfolk. With our pre made meals from Susan seriously scoffed we made into 
Lowestoft 40 hours from Eyemouth. Royal Norfolk marina was great for showers and a chance to stretch our legs. Steak night in Wotherspoons and a few beers was grand.
We planned to leave for the tide about 6 pm so firstly visited the restored Lowestoft trawler the "Mincarlo". We were shown round by an ex fisherman and really enjoyed it. Eddie and Colin very long suffering of my plunge into a sea of nostalgia! The elderly engineer showed us the AK diesels 60 year old 5 cylinder 500 horse power engine which looks as good as new. He must have enjoyed our interest as he asked if we wanted to see it running. It sounded like an orchestra, ticking over at 200rpm and full out at 320!

             Sweet music

More walks another museum and we had done Lowestoft we were off again. Thinking this would be the trickiest part of the trip with the shifting sands of the Thames estuary it was fine. A fair bit of shipping and a few course alterations round banks and wind farms saw us making good speed with 2 knots of tide past Ramsgate. We were washed out of the North Sea and into the English Channel to Dover.
There were no blue skies over the white cliffs but it was a welcome sight after 15hrs on the move.

Dover harbour is very busy with ferries but is well managed with permission required to move anywhere, all done in a very pleasant manner. A nice marina with pleasant staff provided good facilities at a reasonable price. Eddie left us on the train home and Colin and I explored Dover. We had about as bad an Indian meal as I've had at night. Next day bright and breezy! To go or not to go the same question. Forecast blustery SW 2.5 knots of tide and the busy Dover straight to cross, having seen Dover which is much less pretty than anticipated leaving was worth the effort. We left at 2pm to maximise tidal advantage in lovely sunshine and had a great sail of to Cap Griz Nez. A lot of very big and fast ships but we were lucky to get gaps between them. We got into Boulogne at the back of 7 and cooked 4 of the biggest pork chops I've seen. A shore day planned for Saturday and then see what the weather has planned for us.