Across Biscay – Wednesday to Saturday, 10 July 2003 to 12 July 2003, 294 miles

Next morning, the 5-day forecast from the Met Office (downloaded from the web using a mobile phone and laptop), gave 4 days of winds between F3 and F5, all from between North West and North East, before the wind backed South West.

Almost too good to be true. By noon, we were watered and provisioned for 3 days (with our normal 2 days of “emergency food” in non-fresh provisions), and cast off, setting a course of 210 for la Coruña. Through the afternoon, a gentle North Westerly F2 increased to F4. Mr Lion pulled us to the Pont de Sein, where we were cutting around a mile inside the Chausee de Sein. The water ahead was in some turmoil even though the depths are around 30m, so we dropped Mr Lion. We crossed safely enough, but I imagine it could be dangerous in heavier weather. Up with Mr Lion again, until nightfall, when we reduced to plain sail, as we didn’t want to risk a spinnaker wrap-up in a squall at night .

The first night we stood 4-hour watches, Mark and Luke, then and Ann and me. Next morning, we agreed this was excessive – the fourth hour on watch was too tiring, and none of us managed to sleep more than 3 hours – so we changed to 3-hour watches.

Through the second day, the wind veered until the afternoon it had settled to North East F4/5, giving us 8 to 12 knots under plain sail. This made our course of 210 for la Coruña dead down wind, which is neither comfortable nor the quickest way of cruising in a sporty cat. So we gibed, and altered course to 225, thinking that we could gibe back later when we had a better angle on la Coru?a.

All the time, the sun shone and seas sparkled. Luke spent most of the crossing lying on the trampoline reading the latest Harry Potter!

At tea-time, with the wind now a good F5, we took in one reef. The 1800 forecast promised F6 and, indeed the wind was still rising, so we took in 3 reefs, for the first time since we’ve had her, with a tiny sliver of jib. Razzmatazz was still making around 7 knots, with surges to 10, but now under complete control, and quiet enough for the off watch to sleep. This was the first time I’d seen seas running offshore, and was amazed at how they exactly resembled the pictures in the weather books illustrating Beaufort forces. The big difference from being in the Channel or North Sea was that the waves seemed much longer and less steep.

As an aside, a cat doesn’t force you to reef in the same way as a mono. If you’re brave and tough enough, you can simply hold onto the sail and go faster and faster. The limits are, first, that it’s damned uncomfortable in a sea, and no normal person can get any rest, and, second, you risk breaking something. We have twice broken dagger boards at 15 knots, and, on another occasion, been stopped dead hitting a wave at 12 knots.

At dawn (day 3), the wind was down to F4, but still North East. We took out 2 reefs, leaving the last until the other watch had finished sleeping.

Now was high time to gybe if we wanted to go to la Coruña. But, our present course would bring us nicely to Ribadeo by lunchtime, and the pilot book said that Ribadeo was safe at all states of tide in anything except a Northerly gale. So, Ribadeo became our destination!

First view of Spain

FirstViewOfSpain (23K) As we neared the Spanish coast, the wind slowly dropped, and the visibility, which had been excellent for 2 days, steadily reduced down to about a mile. No danger, because there appeared to be no traffic, but disappointing not to see the mountains in the distance. In fact, since we didn’t get a reading on the echo sounder until around 10 miles off, it required a little faith to believe that Spain existed at all.

So, we finally drifted under the bridge spanning the Ria de Ribadeo at noon, 48 hours and just under 300 miles from le Conquet.