Southampton to La Coruna, Spain (29th August - 3rd September)

We left Southampton at o815 on 29th August bound for Porto Sin about 600 miles away. The GSB was fully crewed up with our long standing sailing friend Paul Elliot, his girlfriend Keiko and another family friend 'Big' Jack Green. Expected passage time about 6 days, weather forecast fine for at least a couple of days, burn - not smelling, GSB, skipper and crew ready, able and willing - we were all set.

We had made good use of the 3 days unplanned stop at Southampton. As the weather slowly improved I was able to sort a few odds and sods out on the boat , including installation of a bar across the cooker to prevent idiots falling and burning themselves. I also made daily visits to the hospital for inspection of the burn and dressing changes. I asked at the hospital what I should do if it became infected on the passage to Spain ... 'not much you can do' was the response ... so that all seemed fine.

The passage plan was to sail west until Start Point, hang a left to pass outside the Traffic Seperation Scheme (TSS) off Ushant and then steer straight for Cape Finisterre to pass the TSS to the east; Porto Sin is about 30 miles south of Cape Finisterre. I didn't expect to follow the plan to the letter and I was right.

Over the first 36 hours we made good progress with the engine and a bit of sailing. The wind was light and the sea relatively calm which was good news because Keiko and Jack had limited sailing experience ... in fact none. The watch pattern was 3 hours on and 3 hours off with Jack and I on one watch and Paul and Keiko on the other. Jack was bearing up well after a number of shocks the night before; firstly he had assumed that the trip to Spain was a series of hops round the coast stopping frequently in delightful anchorages in Brittany and Northern Spain ... as opposed to the actual plan of a 6 day non-stop passage with a maximum 3 hours sleep at anyone time.

This initial shock was followed by the revelation that whilst underway the GSB was a dry ship and no alcohol could be taken until arrival - this blow was softened by my promise that when we did arrive we would drink at a rate that would make up for any previous lost opportunity - I can
say with absolute confidence that I kept my word.

On Sunday morning we were off Ushant and turned south west for Cape Finisterre but as ever the wind had by now also come round to the south west so we were starting to be pushed east of our planned course. Stronger winds of 25 + kts were forecast with even stronger winds to the west so we carried on southwards accepting the risk of losing westing. In fact as we sailed along we enjoyed the novel experience of missing gales as opposed to being smacked squarely between the eyes. By Monday night the wind was up to 20 + kts and increasing and in keeping with the previous 6 weeks was right on the nose, so yet again the GSB found herself bashing into some fairly fruity biscay waves with triple reefed main. The bad weather was softened by the company of several schools of dolphins who had regularly appeared from about the second day - it's great to see them although I sometimes get the feeling that they're having a right old laugh at the idiots in the little boat.

As the weather deteriorated my urge to cook curry increased until I could control myself no longer and dished up a Tesco's classic ... Beef Curry with Bombay Potatoes and BITB rice. Following the failure of my Chicken Tikka to hit the mark with Gordon and Jerry I was hoping that the beef option would prove more popular, however, once again my cooking failed to pass muster and once again a brief bout of sea sickness followed dinner.

Mid passage we tested the new Iridium Sat Phone out which was brilliant. It was really strange sailing hundreds of miles from anywhere having a conversation with Selma and then Alasdair about the weather. Al gave some great advice as we ducked and dived our way through the worst of the bad weather. Nonetheless by Tuesday morning the wind had reached near gale so we hoved to to give the GSB and crew a break; as ever the change was dramatic as conditions immediately improved both above and below deck. We stayed hove to until mid afternoon on Tuesday when the wind rapidly moderated and came round to the NW to give us some great sailing and for the first time in a few days in the right direction!

During Tuesday we received updated weather info by text from Al and also on the navtex which was forecast to be severe gale 9 from Thursday afternoon as this is pretty much when we were due to arrive in Porto Sin we decided that a stop in La Coruna about 60 miles closer would be sensible. It transpired to be a good call because the weather did get worse and La Coruna was great.

The last 24 hours were really damp with constant rain and light winds, crew and the GSB were simply soaking. Paul shared the useful information that Galicia was the wettest part of Spain which went down well with Big Jack who had assumed that by now the weather would be verging on tropical. Paul's useful meteorological information was no doubt in part a counter to comments made about the speed of his getting out on watch. It was noted by Big Jack that Paul dissappeared, undressed, into the heads, stayed there for an extended period, but then emerged equally undressed. What was going on in the heads remained a mystery until our arrival at La Coruna when we discovered the horrific truth ... Paul was changing his pants. My standing advice to crew is that you need one pair of pants for any trip of any duration and one pair for arrival - Big Jack had taken this advice to heart by bringing just one pair of pants in total (well done Jack) but Paul had suddenly become fastidious in respect to personal hygiene. In hindsight this was probably for the best because Paul had volunteered to change my dressings on the passage so a bit of hygiene was perhaps a good thing, but we questioned the extreme to which it was taken. Either way Jack and I discussed the problem at length but could only conclude that it was the influence of a woman on board; this has never been confirmed.

We arrived in La coruna, Spain, at 1730 LMT on Wednesday 3rd September. It was just brilliant. The decision to go to Norway before heading south was always a risky one and had been a bit of a worry for several weeks but all of that was lifted with our safe arrival in La Coruna.

All that remained for me as Skipper was to fulfill my promise to Big Jack. We tidied the GSB up and then tucked into a few Norwegian beers before heading ashore in search of Cerveza and Tapas. The food was absolutely superb, the beers slipped down a treat and La Coruna immediately fell into our personal favourites category. As we slowly slipped into an alcoholic blur; any hardship experienced over the previous week was rapidly forgotton.


Jackanory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jackanory said...

Top blogging mate, brings it all flooding back. Will have nightmares tonight...

turquoisenicki said...

WoW! I don;t understand too much of the boaty/wind stuff (!) but your blog is wonderful - keep it up. Glad arm on the mend, J. Love the dolphins - how cool is technology! Love to all, Nicki

pauldrijs said...

Was pointed to your site by Gordon. I have just started a day-skipper course with him at Henley. The Dolphin video is great and just what I need to try and get my daughters interested in sailing. They are also at the European school (aged 12 & 13, was Dutch section now in English section).
Good luck with your voyage & enjoy. Maybe one day we will be there, If can get through course.
Paul, Marie-Ann, Ellen & Hanne.