Brittany and Biscay crossing (03.08. – 09.08.2019)

Camaret was only a short stop over for the night. Unfortunately, we did not have the time to visit that beautiful town.

NIce anchorage in Camaret

Michael and Mario go into town to make some provisions, while I study the weather conditions and possible alternatives. There is no wind over the Bay of Biscay – not the best condition to realize the 340nm crossing in one go.

Due to the unfavourable weather forecast we have to take a decision:
– either we sail South-East and visit some places in southern Brittany, waiting for favourable winds for the crossing
– or we start to cross immediately but have to motor for long periods due to the low winds or even winds against.

The long motor passage of almost 200nm from Cherbourg to Camaret was more than enough for all of us. We need to use our sails more often from now on. Therefore we decide to visit South Brittany while carefully observing the development of the weather. There must be a favourable weather window one day. We even think about continuing along the costs of France and Spain if there is no other possibility. That would be much longer, though.

First destination is the Glénan archipelago. The most famous sailing school of France has its base on these islands. We start at 07h in Camaret. Again we have to carefully observe the water surface for fisher buoys, which are hard to be seen.

Early morning departure in Camaret


At first we have to use the engine until the “Pointe du Raz”. We are passing “Le Raz” with 7kn of current, which makes 14kn over ground including our own speed. After that we can set sails and we can even use the blister for a short period of time. Not really for long. The wind dies down and we have to use the engine again. 5 miles sailing and 50 miles motoring that day…  

To Iles de Glénan

There are several good anchorages in the archipelago, but it is very crowded due to the general Holiday season. We decide for the island Penfret, the most easterly of the group and drop the anchor at 12 meters depths – that makes 16 meters at high water. No problem since there is almost no wind. Later in the evening more boats come in and are forced to anchor at even deeper spots.

Iles de Glénan arrival


With our dinghy we go to the island, where most of the area is used by the sailing school. These areas are prohibit for public. No problem, we have anyway some beautiful views all over the archipelago.    

Penfret / Glénan


We still see no weather window for the crossing. The wind is very weak all over the Bay of Biscay. BUT: there is a strong depression which is suddenly visible on the Atlantic, which will reach Northern Spain on Friday morning. It looks pretty much like a storm.

Storm on the Atlantic – expected to reach Spain on Friday


We therefore change our decision on Sunday morning. If we are forced to motor in South Brittany, then we can also cross the Biscay – slowly under sails or with the engine if the wind dies down.  We would have 4 days of very variable winds if we start on Monday, before the first strong winds of the storm reach Cape Finisterre. We have to hurry up now. 3 days should be enough for the 340nm…

We have to make some provisions. We have not enough on board for several days of the crossing. We therefore sail to Lorient, which is very nearby. Mostly motor, some sailing… For dinner we go to a good restaurant, since it is my Birthday and I want to celebrate at least a little.

Lorient – and kids in the mast…


Michael suddenly has to leave for business reasons, and we have to cross the two of us – Mario and me. We start on Monday and aim for A Coruna. If the depression comes earlier than expected, we can still change and go into Gijon or even Santander.

We fix the dinghi on deck and mount the windvane (steering gear using the wind). Suddenly I get a message from Robert that there is a field of very strong winds in the middle of the Biscay with winds of up to 30kn from the SW – on the nose… We absolutely need to avoid that strong winds area.

That means now: If we start too early, we run into the strong winds area in the Bay. If we start too late, the storm will hit us on arrival. I never ever crossed the Biscay under these preconditions. We wait a bit and start on Monday afternoon while having a very strange feeling…

Start of Biscay crossing


On departure we have good winds but at night it dies down. At least we have used our sails for 32nm. Then we start the engine. We really start the engine if there is no other way to advance. Only when our speed drops below 2,5kn, we give up.

During the entire crossing we constantly have to change between motor and sails. We finally did not get the strong winds field in the middle of the Bay, but only some remaining friendly winds. Under sails, the windvane steers very good. But if the speed drops under 3kn we need to use the electric pilot. If the speed still continues to drop, we start the engine. We really do not want to get the storm on arrival.

Biscay crossing


Very rarely we see dolphins. On the continental shelf they are present, but mainly during the night. Moreoften we see whales. One of them is at some 20 meters on our side, swimming into the opposite direction. Not easy to take fotos of them. Here is the result of a several trials…

Whales


During the last night – around midnight – we can clearly smell land. It is very peaceful and nice. We already had seen Spain in the evening, but now we can even smell it. At 02h all changes. The wind starts to blow. We suddenly encounter extremely high waves – much too high for the wind. Cocon hits into the waves and is brutally treated. The storm has come earlier than expected, and we still have 35nm to go. We are fighting against wind and waves by using the engine. But the more we approach A Coruna, the more the waves calm down.

Arrival A Coruna


On arrival there are only strong winds left, which we can easily manage. The waves are gone, and there has been no damage. Ship and crew are ok. We are both very tired because no one slept last night. We go directly to the gas station of Marina Coruna, fill up the diesel tanks and stay directly in the Marina. I actually wanted to go to the Marina Real, only some hundred meters apart, but we are really too tired to move on. The Marina Real is much better – very near to the old town.

In summary this Biscay crossing was not very pleasant. We permanently had pressure from the weather situation so that it was really stressful. It was my 5th crossing North-to-South, but this one was by far the worst one of all.

The result:
123nm sailing, 243nm motor.
Duration 2 days 16 hours.

In A Coruna we start to relax – even though there is the storm fully blowing. We are very safe in the harbour. We profit from nice Spanish restaurants, visit the town and sleep deep and long.

A Coruna


On Friday, Mario has to leave and I am alone for 2 days. Christine arrives on Sunday and we continue together to the south. The predicted winds are favourable for the next time. But nobody really knows what the future will bring…

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