After saying goodbye to my folks over the weekend I noticed the fuel tank was leaking. Trina worked out we were loosing 5 ltrs of diesel a day.
I was tempted to throw caution to the wind and just get going, but after speaking to the marina it turned out I’d just missed a guy who runs a welding company by a mere couple of minutes who might be able to help.
Later that day he’d been spotted again, and we were told to give Danny a call first thing Monday morning.
Monday morning came, and it was going to be a long day. Danny from Metalcraft Cornwall could come pick up the fuel tank in his van, we just had to empty the tank and get it out. Our jerry cans were already full, so I ended up walking around the marina selling second hand diesel. The first couple were suspicious but they were eager to save themselves £5 and took a can for £20. I had one snooty no from a large rassy, helped another couple moor up and then sold a can to them, whilst returning to the boat I heard a shout from across the marina for another can. By 11am I’d sold all 80 ltrs and began emptying the main tank.
I had to take the trusty angle grinder to the copper fuel pipes and the main fuel intake hose. Then with a bit of jiggling we pulled our the tank.
On a side note, two tools that have been worth their weight in gold have been the Bosch GWS 12V-76 N angle grinder, and the Bosch Professional GKS 12 V-26 Cordless Circular Saw. I can’t recommend them enough!
Danny turned up in his van and took the tank away at lunchtime, and called later to say he’d found the crack and advised that a new bottom was welded on.
In the meantime I cooked up batches of spag bowl, chilli con carne and chicken curry to be vacuum packed for reheating on the trip.
Danny came back at 6 with the tank fixed and some new hose pipes and clips. Absolute legend!
Come 10pm, two Aldi Kong Strong energy drinks and the tank was back in and connected up, and Trina had finished installing the last of many cupboard door catches.
By 10:30pm we were in the Chain Locker necking 2 pints and 3 rum and cokes before closing time, wandering what the fucking hell just happened. We sat there looking at each other thinking quizzically “I think we’ve done it. We’re ready right?”
We were up at 6am, aiming to depart at 9am. I don’t recall eating breakfast, only that I’d drunk just half a cup of tea. Very unusual to start a day on half a cuppa tea.
We filled up the new tank, started the engine and checked for leaks, all fine. We bought more diesel, filled the water tank, and did a last minute Tesco shop for fresh supplies and unloaded the last of our sterling on the cashier.
With the boat ship shape and ready to go we delayed our departure for a shower. Radio 4 was banging out Black Betty over the radio in the showers. Finally I started to feel excited and ready to go!
We said our goodbyes to the marina staff. A few berth holders walked past wishing us a safe passage. We stood with the last chap (wish I knew his name) listening about his leaky windows whilst ready to slip our lines. The strangest thing was to casually say “well I guess we best be off”, wished him well and slipped our lines like we were off for a little day sail.
Just like my departure from Gillingham, people waved us off from the marina hut down to the pontoons as we motored around the marina. I felt they genuinely wished us a good trip, despite the fact they must have seen numerous people set off like us time and time again. People we’d come to know since we arrived waved, one of the boats I’d sold a can of diesel to the previous day, and others we’d not met all gave us a wave.
That was it, we were off.
We cracked open a bottle of Guatemalan rum Matt and Jo had bought us, and had a celebratory drink with Neptune as we headed out to sea. Trina was pissed after one glass (it was 10am), and I was eyeing up a second glass but had the self restraint to hold back. This was going to be our first sail of the year. I still can’t get my head around the fact that my first sail this year was on Biscay.
We motored out of Falmouth and plotted a course to avoid Ushant’s Traffic Separation Scheme (a motorway for cargo ships). We spotted dolphins straight away, and settled in. The seas were benign and we were indescribably relieved to finally be off. No more DIY!
Not much happened after that. The Cornish coastline remained in sight for many hours. Even with smooth seas our bellies were unsettled. Cue a bowlful of beef super noodles. I can’t stress it enough. Feeling a bit rough on a passage? Chow down on a bowl of super noodles. They’re plain but filling, and nicer to throw up than chicken curry if you need to. Less burn.
In the evening we listened to podcasts. The cockpit speakers are brilliant. We listened to a few different podcasts, but really enjoyed the BBC’s Boring Talks.
I recommend the episode where a girl recounts her time working as an ice cream driver.
I took the first 4 hour night shift, and Trina took the second.
Dolphins followed us through the night, but I was too tired to get that excited. Occasionally I’d stand up and watch them play alongside Excalibur, twisting and turning to reveal their ghostly white bellies. I felt bad for not praising their appearance, but sleep was more important, so I dozed off for 10 minute naps.
As my shift ended at 4am it was time to fill the fuel tank up with 1 of 4 of our jerry cans. Filling up below was super easy.
By 10am, 24 hours later we were on the same latitude as Brest, just slightly further along than the projected positions I’d penciled in on the chart. There’s nothing special about that though given the conditions.
We both had a couple more naps in the day. Mum’s welsh cakes suffered a tragic end and got squashed.
Thinking back about the previous day, I found it strange that nobody was there to stop us casting off. Setting off was our responsibility and our decision alone. There wasn’t anyone to tell us we were crazy for setting off with the given weather forecast. It all felt a bit too easy. Perhaps it’s a result of living in a country where hand sanitising dispensers adorn every office doorway telling us to clean our hands, signs telling you floors are slippery when wet. We’re always being told what to do. Sailing feels like one of the last unregulated pastimes one can enjoy 🙂
I’m looking very smug here (cringe), but this is the moment we crossed the continental shelf. There were no visible signs of disturbed seas or what was happening below us. Not in my wildest dreams did I think we’d have a passage like this.
Evening soon came and the winds that were forecast didn’t materialise. We sat on the bow of the boat eating chicken curry and drinking a beer, watching the sun go down in a purple haze over quiet waters. Then Trina farted and we both laughed.
In the evening we watched a film in the cockpit (The Drop). Large ships gave us no cause for concern. Everything was well.
Trina took the first 4 hour watch, I took the second.
I got up in the early hours to relieve Trina from her watch.
The wind had picked up just a fraction, so I tried sailing with the genoa alone. With the engine off, we quietly sailed along at a respectable 5 knots.
In the morning we were rolling about a bit, and there seemed to be enough wind to get the main out. To be honest I was quite happy to keep on motoring, and needed a bit of a kick up the arse to get up on deck. Anyhow, we got our downwind rig set up with a preventer on and the genoa poled out.
The boat was uncomfortably rocky as the waves were hitting the rear quarter of Excalibur, whilst the wind was coming from a different direction. The result was Excalibur yawed from side to side, down below we rolled form side to side.
The cooker jams when Excalibur rolls, meaning one of us has to keep the oven steady when using the hob. The most effective way to do this we’ve found is to use a tea towel.
In the day Trina read, and I spent my day either sleeping or just sat in the cockpit staring into the horizon. I planned to do fuck all for once. I hadn’t done fuck all for a really long time, so today I thought ‘I’m going to do fuck all’, so I did. I watched clouds. I watched a tanker. Then I had a day nap. Turns out, I actually quite like doing fuck all.
It was another super noodles evening and a red sunset. We sat in the cockpit watching the sunset with a cup of tea and a whisper to serenade the end of another day. Trina’s tea went down the wrong hole, and she snorted it out through her nose and mouth.
I shouldn’t be so mean, sorry Trina.
Earlier that day I couldn’t be bothered to go down below to use the heads, so tried sitting down and peeing into a bottle with little success. As the boat rolled away the bottle filled up, and then as the boat rolled back, well you can imagine what happened. Piss everywhere. I must have looked like a chimp in a zoo playing with his todger. Lesson learn’t.
In the early hours of Friday morning the engine went back on.
We were starting to close in on Spain now. Our weather reports said the area around Finisterre was rough, but would calm down on Saturday which would be our day of arrival. We were originally going to head to Baiona, but instead we decided upon Ría de Muros y Noya, as it’s the first Ría on that part of the coast. This way we could carry on down and visit the others Ría’s at our leisure.
We headed on a course roughly inline with A Coruña. I wasn’t sure what the affect would be as the seabed rose from from 3000 metres to 300. So if the conditions were nasty, we had the option to tuck into A Coruña or continue around Finisterre.
More and more cargo ships appeared around us, but none of them gave us any bother. Though one did catch my attention as he was coming fairly close to us. I kept an eye on him as he closed in whilst Trina was making tea down below. The AIS started beeping away, telling me the cargo ship was getting close. Each time I turned it off, it would come back on again. Then I heard a big puff of water, much bigger than that with which a dolphin makes. I shouted down to Trina ‘WHALE’! With a boiling kettle in hand Trina rushed up into the cockpit, and between turning the AIS off every few seconds and watching the tanker, we saw a whale breach 3 times, puffing and exhaling before disappearing. I think that was Trina’s highlight of the trip.
Trina worked out it was a fin whale. The second largest mammal after the blue whale. Fin whales account for a large number of collisions with ships. A 60-foot-long fin whale was once found stuck on the bow of a container ship in New York harbor in 2014.
Later that evening we had spag bowl watched Sister Act.
I had the sunrise watch. It really is the coldest before dawn. The seas were dead calm and I could see land. Every so often a small fin would break the surface disappear into the water. A few dolphins came up to the boat and then vanished.
The ferocious seas never appeared. The swell was long and nonthreatening as the seabed rose up.
Trina finds this video hilarious, must admit I do look pretty out of it as I came to the end of my shift.
We motored along towards Finisterre, a few other boats were sailing so we got all the canvas out and switched the engine off . I don’t pretend to be the most experienced sailor, and tend to watch what other people do. Over the last 6 years I can’t say there’s been many days when the wind has been in my favour. You’re always bound by tides and deadlines. When you take a sailing holiday there’s either too much wind or too little. When you have to move the boat at the weekend the wind is always against you. Fact of life.
At first we pootled along downwind. As we came up to Finisterre the waves felt more and more powerful, and combined with the wind we surged along maxing out at 7.5 knots before the next wave carried us along to the sound of Escape by Rupert Holmes.
My highlight of the trip had to be having Mr Blue.sky banging out, a beer in hand, hand steering as we neared the end of our Biscay trip. Mr. Blue Sky is one of the ultimate driving songs to me. Coming out of Biscay unscathed was a moment to celebrate. We had blue skies, wind and waves and stunning scenery. This was some of the best sailing I’ve ever had.
We could have switched the engine on as we entered the Ría and motored straight up to the marina, but instead we tacked back and forth across the bay enjoying the last of the journey, and take in the scenery.
Neither of us really expected such a smooth and uneventful passage.
Pedro waved us in and took our lines, and told us we were crazy when we made landfall.
I quickly febreezed the bed we’d been sleeping unwashed in for the last week, and then we headed out for a meal. Conversation was light, we were tired and a bit spaced out. As I write this, it feels like we just sit in pubs side by side in silence drinking beer, watching other people wide eyes and spaced out. After dinner the two sailing space cadets went to bed.
We were super lucky with the weather. I would have liked more wind, but too little to me was more preferable to too much. We had plenty of fuel, and a fuel tank that didn’t leak.
The boat performed well, nothing broke and there were no dramas. I put this down to the calm conditions more than anything else. We prepared for the worst but just lucked out.
The contrast between the trip I did with Oliver 6 years ago and this was quite amazing. We could have sailed across in a bathtub (with an engine). All the safety prep was overkill for this trip, but will at least it’s now done.
I think if you were to attribute percentages to the amount of effort for prep, planning and voyaging it would go along the lines of:
The prep took the most amount of energy, money and patience. Planning was relatively simple, check the weather, head out, keep going. Voyaging (couldn’t really call it sailing sailing) was straight forward given we had light unchangeable winds.
No doubt at some point in the future we’ll get a juicy sail, and things will break and I’ll have more to write about, but this trip was for the most part uneventful. I think only once did a kettle fly off the cooker.
The cockpit cupboards we made were an absolute hit, and well worth the pain and hard labour. Trina wasn’t so sure of them to begin with, but now loves them. We stocked them up with snacks, water, torches, kindles, laptops and pilot books. Having all the necessities to hand was awesome.
The vacuum packed food made life so incredibly easy. Trina introduced me to boil in a bag rice. I’ll never go back.
This is the weather forecast we went with if anyone’s interested. We didn’t really need the weather forecasting service in the end that we paid for, but it was only £30 and the peace of mind was invaluable. Had the conditions been different, then the weather advice could have been extremely helpful.
Quick thanks to Ben and Ollie for keeping an eye for us, and an apology for Oliver for not getting in touch before we departed.
We’ve been in Muros for 3 days now. We’ve done a bit of hiking, a lot of sleeping, eating, drinking and shopping. Trina’s also very taken with the famous Spanish vegetarian cuisine.
We plan to head off tomorrow for a pootle and a hike. This weekend we’re going to head to the next river down for a donkey festival.
I doubt I’ll write anymore blogs for a while. I’m no Judith Chalmers, and I don’t think anyone wants to read about where we’ve been. I might post a few pictures of the donkey festival, but I don’t want to be that annoying cunt who shares pictures of his feet in the sand or a cocktail overlooking a beach ^ or my arse crack in a bikini.
For me, this picture sums up our Biscay crossing perfectly. Trina in a party hat in her pj’s, Skip Novak on the tiller.
Much love to everyone back home. T&T x
Wish you were here!