We are properly off on our adventures now, we have crossed the Bay of Biscay!
Our last day/night in England was spent in the company of Martin, Richard and Harvey of Minnetaree in Coverack. We had a last proper English meal of Fish and chips with a pint of ale, eaten whilst sat on the harbour wall looking out over our yachts anchored in the bay (the only two), with our tenders bobbing in the little harbour.
We set off the next day just after lunch to catch the tide, (and allow for our last sterling change to be spent on a morining ice-cream). Minnetaree sailed with us for a time en-route to Cadgwith cove, until our paths diverged and we headed south.
Our last view of England was the Lizard peninsula, Matt watched as this disappeared astern (Amy was already getting ahead on some sleep for the coming night). We had plotted a course that stayed well clear of the shipping, including the shipping separation scheme off of Brest. Once clear of this we headed south but stayed to the West of the shipping which we could see crossing Biscay.
The first full day was glorious and we hoisted the spinnaker just before lunch. We had a brief visit from a pod of dolphins, and later in the day Matt was surprised in the cockpit by a strange sound and a fin alongside. His first thought was to call Dolphin to Amy who was snoozing below, but as he said it his brain was arguing that the sound he had heard before he saw the fin was not a dolphin sound but a whale sound (blow hole clearing), sure enough as Amy came on deck another appeared and it was definitely a whale. There were 2, possibly 3 whales, unfortunately they soon disappeared as they were heading north. Using our whale chart we think they were either Minke or Bryde’s whales.
The second night was a little more tiring, we had a wind shift in the early morning as expected which allowed us to gybe and cross the shipping lanes, so we had a few course changes to dodge the shipping. We needed to be to the east of the shipping lanes to get into La Coruna so we had to do this at some point. Florence ate up the miles under main and poled out genoa and it was looking like we were going to be in La Coruna in 2 and a half days instead of our conservative plan of 4 days, however this was not to be. The wind started to build towards the evening, we were expecting this from the forecast and the fact that the wind accelerates along the coast in this area. We reefed down to a deep reefed mainsail (the smallest we can make it) and a double reefed genoa in preparation.
The wind continued to build more than we were expecting, so just before the light faded we furled the genoa and set the storm jib on our inner forestay. We had rehearsed this whilst in Falmouth and were pleased that it went exactly as planned. The dinghy on the foredeck was a help rather than a hindrance as we could strap the sail down to the dinghy until we were ready to hoist it. An hour or two later the wind was averaging 27 knots and Florence was getting ideas above her station, of surfing down the by now massive sea state. ‘Surfing in the dark is only for racing yachts’ we told her, as we took the mainsail down and strapped it round the boom. We had known that there would be a large sea running and had planned our angle to it for the run in to the coast so we were on safe angle, not straight down the wave where we would surf into the back of the one in front, but also not directly across the wave where we could roll. Florence, now under just the storm jib (which was occasionally over sheeted to slow her further), stayed at a sedate 4 knots through the night as the wind was averaging well over 30 knots. We’ll be honest, we didn’t really sleep much as it sounded much worse below deck than it did above. We were however amazed at the performance of the Aries self steering, it coped with what ever the wind and the massive confused waves threw at it. Being on watch just entailed letting Florence sail herself whilst keeping a look out for any shipping.
As we approached the coast the next day and got into the lee of the land the sea state eased off, followed by the breeze and we wallowed with just the storm jib up doing 3 knots. At this point we took it in turns to get a bit of sleep before deciding that only having the storm jib up was now ridiculous. We hoisted more sail to speed our arrival and sailed past the tower of Hercules into our lovely anchorage just off a beach in La Coruna bay. We anchored just after lunch, tidied Florence, put the sails away, and then fell asleep pretty much until the next morning.
We’re still learning about filming whilst on passage, we will get better at it!
Overall our passage of 437 miles in 3 days and 1 hour was not bad going, Florence could have sailed a lot faster but we were sensible and safe in the way that we got here. We learned a few things about sailing her and when to reef (always earlier), on the second night and applied them well to the third. Florence sailed very well and the Aeries self steering worked faultlessly for the whole trip, we are very happy that we chose Florence out of all of the boats that we looked at.
It has been interesting to note the first evidence of the relaxed Spanish attitude is a lack of anchor balls or lights on display in the anchorage, Karen our yacht master instructor would be appalled.
We will now mostly be swimming, sun bathing, relaxing and grinning like cheshire cats for the next few days.