6am rise- still dark. Back to bed for half an hour! None of the buoys are lit in the Gulf so we weren’t going to risk leaving in poor light. As the windlass is broken we have to improvise with the electric winch, primary winch and chain snubber. The system works well, I guess if we were in deeper water it’d be a pain but as it’s only 3m deep it’s good.
The route out through the islands was a circuitous one through multiple swirling whirlpools as the tide ripped out through the narrow gaps between islands on it’s twice daily trip out of the Gulf. There were guys standing on the bow of their fishing boats going sideways in the rush of ebbing water happily casting their lines. Meanwhile we were hanging on tight and glad to be wearing lifejackets: many of them weren’t! when the SOG is 10kn plus just because of the tide it’s quite alarming.
Needless to say, it woke us up and with a quick fuel stop in Cruesty which is at the exit point of the Golfe du Morbihan, we were set for a full day sail to Ile d’Yeu. The journey was a little over 60nm and we arrived at 17.30. It was super crowded with boats rafted up all over and as the harbour guy took us deeper into the marina we were looking astonished to find ourselves directed to raft outside of two boats one of which was Believe! Neither of us could quite believe the co-incidence despite the fact we are travelling similar routes.
A trip up the capitainerie went very well as we discovered that being rafted outside of two boats you get a discount on your mooring fees- it was about Euro 34 in the end! Showers and supper set us up for a walk into town with Rick, Julie, Tom & Nicky from Believe and delicious ice creams. Followed by a nightcap of Paddy (thanks to Willi who hid the bottle on board!!).
The town of Port Joinville is populated by bicycles and the island a great place to cycle. As Believe untied and set off at 11am we were able to get ashore to the poissonerie to join the very long queue for the renowned Ile d’Yeu tuna, clams and crevettes. The market was also open so fresh bread and salad. It’ such a great way to shop as all the produce is fresh, not packaged in multiple layers and sold by really lovely people.
With lunch made we set off on our bikes for what ended up as over 20km ride (which for us is quite long!). The island is very Mediterranean with whitewashed cottages, terracotta roofs and brightly painted shutters and the most glorious gardens again. The cycle route purely for bikes so we spent very little time on the paved road which is great and encountered many large groups of cyclists doing just as we were. We visited Le vieux chateau built in XVIth century to protect the island, some lovely beaches – a great place to explore. Made it bak to the boat around 5.30pm as another boat was directed to tie up along side us- Jean Marie and Marilynne on their beneteau which they have only sailed for 4 days!! A brand new boat to them and they are heading down to Ibiza. We traded details after a chat as our routes were going to be similar and they too were leaving for La Rochelle the following morning at 8am.
It had been a long and fun day so just as we were getting ready for bed we noticed that there were lots of people walking along the breakwater beside us – the town had been buzzing all evening with live music and arching bands etc. Then all of a sudden we were in the thick of an amazing firework display that just went on and on. It was fabulous!
60nm sail to La Rochelle
8am depart, main up just outside harbour and off we go. Forecast for light force 3 breeze which was good. It didn’t however materialise so we motor sailed the whole way which is pretty painful when you anticipate being able to sail. Nonetheless it was a productive day- got through a whole load of paper work including old sailing magazines that had been waiting to be read before being discarded! Sun was shining so it was ok. About an hour out of La Rochelle the wind piped up and we sailed the last bit into the marine. Minimes marina is HUGE. This is a recurring theme in these notes about the places we have visited- there are an astonishing number of boats in France but this place must have had at least 3000!!
Dropping the main is usually a calm and quick action but today it came down with an almighty crash- the boom vang had slipped so the boom hit the ridge of the conservatory. We have a very fancy boom vang made by Selden, fitted by a rigger which after close investigation we found that he had drilled only one of the two bolt holes that hold the top of the vang onto the boom. We’ve been lolloping around in very sloppy seas on this trip and the boom has been ‘wanging’ about to the point of driving all of us, the Captain in particular, crazy. It seems this constant movement must have loosened the one bolt that was properly fitted and made the other one slip. It’s lucky neither bolts got lost and nothing got bent. Another job to add to the list: find new longer bolt, drill hole and secure. Then review the whole set up for a heavier duty fix in the winter.
We were given a berth quite near the entrance to the marina which was easy to get to on our bikes and about a fifteen minute ride from town. I knew that Blew Beyond had headed for La Rochelle a few days before us so touched based with them and they were still there and expecting to be so for a few more days. We hooked up with them on the river bank along with hoards of other people to watch or rather listen to the concert which was in the big stadium they’d built in town and wait for Bastille Day fireworks. Jonny Halliday, well know ageing French rocker was the headline act and played for hours……. We gave up waiting for the fireworks and headed back to Mel & James’s boat just in time for the start of a half hour display- we had ringside seats with an unencumbered view: perfect!! And enjoyed Mel’s home made damson gin as a night cap. A fun end to the day.
Boat work: we took the windlass apart again and thought we’d solved the problem as it worked when we tested it remotely. Sadly it doesn’t work under load and needs to come out once more and for us to get right into the guts. It’s very likely a pin holding the gear onto the axle that is causing the trouble, we probably should have gone that deep this time but actually think there was another problem that we solved which was masking this inner non-working part.
Having failed on that front we tackled a long term issue which was trying to find where the leak in the forward water tanks was coming from. We haven’t been using them at all since the boat left Inverness: we didn’t need copious amounts of water and wanted to find the source of the problem before filling them and as we have family coming in the next few weeks need to resolve it once and for all.
Like all of these jobs, getting to the guts of the problem is easier said than done. Whoever fitted these tanks (they are relatively new) plugged all the screw heads so we had to drill out the plugs before we could remove the base of the bottom bunk to get to the tank- I think this was one reason why we’d not tried to find out what the problem was because it took ages to get to the tanks. Anyhow, once in the issue became clear, the top of one of the tanks wasn’t secure because the ten washers keeping the bolts water tight were no longer working. They were proper plumbers reddish fabric washers and had disintegrated. Where we were going to find these in La Rochelle was the next question but one we decided to wait to tackle because by the end of this activity we felt a little like we’d lost the will to live: it was 5pm and boat jobs were all we’d been doing. We’d made a dinner date with Mel & James so hopped on our bikes for a short tour of the town and the huge number of chandleries to find the bolt for the boom and possible washers.
On our mini tour we saw Believe again who had pulled in earlier in the day & said we’d meet for ice cream later! Dinner in town was delicious and very good value. We haven’t eaten out a lot as marina fees and eating out bites into the budget quite severely. It was great to have a feast cooked by someone else especially after a frustrating day on the work front! We all have the same aim : to cross the northern Spain so are biding our time for the right weather window. It’s been looking likely Friday would be good although as the week progresses the wind lightens but is still from NNE.
With more time in the marina we know we are able to deal with the jobs: trip to the laundry; a bit of food shopping and finish fixing the leak in the forward water tanks. All of this was achieved, it was a prefect laundry drying, deck cleaning, water tank cleaning & testing, deflate the dinghy for the crossing and get ship shape kind of day. Topped of with a short early evening visit with Mel & James, who had friends join them for two weeks. We said we’d see them at the fuel dock at 8am the next morning.
8.45 left the fuel dock, Jean Marie on board Conconne was also fuelling up which was a great surprise. He had sent us an email to say he was planning to cross as well but we hadn’t seen them. So that was a great surprise and we left the marina with them in our sights and kept in radio contact for most of the day.
0915 SW 9.5kn full sail. Not the wind we hoped for but it was forecast to switch to NNE by midday. We had conferred with Jean Marie who sent us a waypoint that was approx. halfway to Gijon (pronounced He-hon as far as I can tell) as that was his planned destination. Blew Beyond were aiming to go further west to Ribadeo so we had different trajectories.
We managed a decent amount of sailing. The first 24 hours were pretty uneventful although halfway through the night we lost sight of Conconne who were behind us and there were great lightening storms to the north, east and south east.
Daylight brought us to an astonishing number of fishing boats all clustered in one very deep area. There were at least 30, luckily we passed the bulk of them without having to change course although later in the day we found ourselves in the midst of a fleet and had to duck and dive to get behind everyone. I think they were fishing for tuna. We saw multiple fish, they were swimming along side of us and some would come jumping in shoals. We’re not experts as you’ll know form our Norwegian exploits but decided after some discussion that we may as well try and catch something. Searching and finding the rod was the first challenge, second was what lure to use and what technique. A combination of haveay shiny lure and feathery fluttery lure were cast over the side and eventually tied onto the radar arch as nothing was biting. Patience is the name of the game I think.
In the meantime, we were visited by a whale which surfaced and blew just a few boat lengths away and then a little further away. This of course was extremely exciting. The Captain revealed he had heard that noise in the night and thought it was possibly a whale but wasn’t sure. Having an over active imagination, it seemed prudent to bring the fishing lines in as quickly as possible!
Then about an hour later we saw more blowing as a whale or perhaps more than one came past us. It was very exciting. Having reset the fishing lines, I realized there was some pull on one so reeled it in whilst the Captain slept, deciding that if it was a good size fish I’d call for help but would wake him before hand. It proved to be the right decision as we’d caught a black plastic sack and some seaweed. Tragic. Not to be outdone we cast the line again as we could still see tons of fish swimming alongside us, next bite turned out to be two white plastic sacks. It was a sad day for us to witness the detritous that is in the ocean. Although I suppose a happy time as we left all those lovely big fish alone swimming alongside of us!
Another night, no moon and weary eyes were saved by what sounded like something falling in the water. As I looked over the port rail I realised we’d been joined by dolphins. There must have been about 4 or 5, who came really close alongside at high speed. It was very dark so you could just take out their shapes but they stayed with us for about 20 minutes. I can’t wait for an accompaniment in daylight that we can all enjoy. This was a great relief and break in the watch as we approached Gijon at around 6am. We were tied up alongside by 7am and asleep shortly after. Blew Beyond and Believe were both in the marina.
10.30am knock, knock, knock followed by a voice saying “customs” and someone boarding the boat. He was a very nice chap, came on board examined our papers, passports etc and gave us clearance which we will now be able to use all through Spain.
It was a lucky thing Mr Customs/Immigration woke us so we could get going and enjoy the glorious sunny day. As we approached the land in the small hours it had a very different smell and we both said, it smells like Spain. It’s pretty exciting to have the boat so much closer to home now. Whilst we still have miles to go we are now only one country away from Portugal!
Up to the marina office, we asked to move to a longer pontoon (we were on a 10 metre pontoon which left our rear end hanging off the end!) and they put us next to Rick & Julie, Believe. It turns out Blew Beyond had left between the time we arrived and woke up, they’d refueled and then set off to Ribadeo I think. We shared stories with Rick & Julie and then set off to find brunch and explore. It’s an attractive town and has three beaches, the biggest is a couple of miles long and was jam packed with sunbathers and frolickers! It was a perfect beach Sunday, great for a bike ride along the coast and general explore of the town. There’s also a big industrial port and apparently they mine boxite in the mountains behind.
Once back at the boat we met more English sailors who were friends of Believe, they hadn’t expected to see these people so it was a pleasant surprise for them. It’s a small world.
A late departure after some Monday morning business/admin we went all of 10 miles in very light NE breeze with the code zero pottering along at 3kn. It was a perfect speed for the distance. The conditions were ideal for dropping anchor in a bay off Luanco. The beach was full and there were people jumping from the breakwater and generally having a good time. It was hot and sunny and merited the first swim off the boat for me!! The Captain donned goggles, snorkel and flippers (purchase in France) to inspect the bottom of the boat and clean it. One thing we have noticed when we are stationary is this peculiar fizzing sound. It trouble the Captain so much the other night that he was up for an hour (apparently) taking up floor boards and the engine cover to see if we had some problem with the keep or hull. It turns out in the warmer water there is a lot of activity under water organisms. At night it actually can sound like you are sleeping in a boiling saucepan. It’s intriguing how noisy it is but given the amount of sea life we have seen (fish etc) it is not surprising.
It was a good anchorage and calm night.
7am rise and departure shortly after for Ribadeo. Overcast, drizzly and foggy with no wind. Another day for the engine. It was meant to be F3 from the east byt actually what wind we did have was on the nose from the SW.
At 11am we had a call from s/v Conconne, Jean Marie was also on his way to Ribadeo so we agreed we’d see them later. Then about an hour later we received another call on the radio: Jean Marie had entangled himself in a fishing net which was around his prop. We got his co-ordinates and stood by to head back towards him : he was over 7nm away so it would have taken over an hour to reach him. In the meantime, another French boat must have heard our conversation on the radio as they were much closer and went to his aid. Remarkably they had a diver on board who was able to free his prop and set him on his way. We were reminded of our horrible experience on Norway with fishing nets and were anxious to hear how he got on. He was not close to any convenient port so it could have been a disaster. We hope we’ll now see them in the evening in the marina!