Bay of Biscay

We sailed from Morlaix and then around the coast of Brittany finally leaving the Channel and entering the Atlantic. Now it was time to wait for a suitable weather window to cross the notorious Bay of Biscay. As we sailed past Brest it was obvious that the time to go was “Now”. We were surrounded by boats with spinnakers flying all heading south. A look at the weather forecasts confirmed that we had three to four days of perfect conditions ahead of us.

We put in to Sainte Evette to fill up with water and food, and drink a last cup of french Cappuccino. They had a Lidl supermarket outside of town so we had a forty minute walk there and back to do the shopping. The walk there was fun but, fully packed, we were happy when we reached the harbour on the way back.

In the afternoon we weighed anchor and headed south on a bearing of 216° heading for the north west corner of Spain. The wind was behind us, there was little swell and we were making over five knots. 300 miles felt like a long way but we were optimistic that “after three times sleeping” we should be seeing spanish hills and forests.

Downwind sailing in Bay of Biscay
Downwind sailing in Bay of Biscay

At some point a pod of dolphins turned up to play. They were all around us and surfing the surrounding waves. One time we were looking straight at four dolphins looking out of a wave next to us and probably wondering what we were doing in the middle of their ocean.

Heidi took the first shift, I took over in the middle of the night and Max sailed us in to the dawn. At some time we sailed into fog. No stars, no moon and glad that there was so little shipping in the Bay.

During the day the fog burnt off and the sun came out. We turned down wind, poled out the Genoa and sailed straight down wind seeing only one warship in the distance and a sail in the evening. So much space and no one but us and a few dolphins .

By midnight the wind had picked up and we were still sailing downwind. A gust from the side backwinded the mainsail and the windvane lost control. “All hands on deck!” even Heidi who had been in bed for about five minutes. We stowed the Genoa and reefed the mainsail during which we managed to rip the first reefs (already damaged) line. No problem – we have two more reefs so we put in the second reef.

On our second full day there was less sun but still plenty of wind so we let out a little genoa and once again were making good speed straight downwind. A second day running we achieved over one hundred miles in 24 hours. At one point the windvane broke but we are now experts at running repairs and quickly had “her” back up and running. In the morning we saw a japanese tanker and in the afternoon a bulk carrier. We called the carrier on the radio and asked for a weather update. “Force 4 from the north” was the short east European sounding answer which was exactly what we wanted to hear. Max was still trailing a fishing line behind us and once again catching nothing. Heidi was either immersed in her book or creating great food – no cruise ship can compete with our food. And Neill was planning or sleeping.

Dawn in the Bay of Biscay
Dawn in the Bay of Biscay

The east European weather forecast was a lie. The wind turned steadily from the west driving us in to the bay. Before dark we set both sails to the port side and then increasingly turned up wind during the night. By dawn we were hard on the wind and even then we couldn’t round the last headland. Neill tacked away from the coast, left instructions for a later tack and went to sleep leaving Heidi and Max to get us to the port. After 325 miles we were just off Ria de Cadeira when the wind dropped completely so we motored the last mile in to the bay and anchored in Spain three days and one and a half hours after leaving Brittany.

Yeh! We have crossed Biscay.

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