Crossing Biscay in late September

Sainte Marine near Benodet, France

It seems I’m always running late with my planned itinerary. Having a slow boat doesn’t help much but this time it’s definitely not my fault that I’m crossing Biscay in late September. Not that it’s such a big deal, but the appropriate weather windows grow few and far between this time of year.

Oh, and it’s now decidedly frigid after sunset.
I waited three days in the seasonally busy (read currently devoid of all life), but charming holiday village of Sainte-Marine until my chance to reach Spain presented itself.

Weather situation leaving France to cross Biscay

  • Day 1: Up to Force 5 Northwesterly winds in moderate to rough seas.
    The Aries wind vane steered Eileen effortlessly toward Gijon. I spent most of the time bouncing off the cabin fixtures (usually head first) and shivering despite my five layer wardrobe, but that’s a small price to pay for getting under way.
    Hats off the the 65+ sailing set. They must be made of sterner stuff than I am. While I’m certainly not finding my spiritual self alone at sea, I’m certainly discovering the measure of my physical self. This via a series of bruises, bumps and assorted muscular pains or strains. My trim office physique (hard as marshmallow) is having a hard time adapting, and if I hit that particular bulkhead one more time I’ll undoubtedly risk a serious concussion before the day is out!

The fishing vessel Magellan came rather close!

  • Day 2: Force 3 to 4 Northwesterly winds in settling seas.
    I’ve had to switch to my electric Tiller Pilot as the apparent wind is not strong enough to persuade the Aries vane gear to cease it’s incessant zigzagging.
    I’m at last far enough from any shipping to risk a good four hour sleep. With my new AIS system set to wake me if any vessel draws dangerously near, I snore to my hearts content as Eileen of Avoca’s automated systems take command. Bet you wish you could do that with your car!

Safe with Avel Vat at the visitors pontoon in Gijon.

  • Day 3: Force 2 Variable winds on a smooth sea.
    I’m motoring along at 4kts trying to decide whether to turn toward La Coruna or continue with my current course for Gijon. NAVTEXT weather forecasts are usually the adjudicating factor but in this particular case it’s my stomach that insists on having the final say. I eventually defer to it’s interminable grumblings and make haste for Gijon (in order to gorge myself on pizza and to stock up on Chinotto).
    On the horizon I spy another sailing vessel and interestingly it stays on an almost parallel course for much of the day. I say interestingly, because I’m used to being rapidly overtaken by just about anything that floats. Driftwood has been known to overtake my yarmoth23 in light winds! I conclude that they obviously have engine difficulties.
    By sunset I’m tying up alongside the very boat that has kept pace with me all day. It’s the French registered Avel Vat with it’s one man, one boy, crew.

The fearless crew of Avel Vat

I introduce you to Frederic and Vivien on their way to Martinique and blogging all about it (in French) here:
They’d been watching me with equal interest and even took a picture of Eileen of Avoca on route:

Going around the Raz is batty.

My route around the Isle de Sein. Red line shows Raz passage.

It was a relaxingly calm evening, so despite having missed the southerly tidal stream through the Raz I decided to set sail at sunset just to be ‘out there’. Besides, surely it doesn’t take that long to sail around the western end of the Ile de Sein instead of between it and the mainland!
It does…
Now that I’ve done it, I wouldn’t recommend it… Unless your next destination happens to be La Coruna, Spain. I was heading for the Sainte Marine (opposite Benodet) because the current weather window wasn’t long enough to safely cross Biscay.

Yes it's a bat!

Several little passengers took advantage of my unnecessarily lengthy overnight passage. Now most sailors pick up an avian friend or two in their travels but now I can boast about having had Chiroptera. No, it’s not some filthy infection I’ve picked up as a result of squalid living…
I’m talking about bats! There are bats in my new dodger pockets! Now last time I checked, Ile de Batz was on the other side of Brittany, but perhaps these were blown off course.
Before you ask, no I didn’t handle the furry critters. It’s a long way from South America with its blood sucking variety, but the thought of bats possibly carrying rabies kept me from disturbing their slumber. Besides, I hear that the series of injections for rabies treatment is about as entertaining as impersonating a voodoo doll at a witchdoctor rally.
No thanks! Though I understand treatment is somewhat less arduous than 16 painful injections these days.