Last Autumn (2002), I had to go to Madrid on business. I flew out on a rare, perfectly clear Sunday afternoon. After the delight of studying Alderney, Guernsey, North and South Brittany, and trying to spot the anchorages we'd visited, and then the longer haul across Biscay, up came North Spain. Quite unexpectedly, for me who'd only seen the arid plains around Madrid before, the countryside was gloriously green, with hills rising from the coast to quite substantial mountains. Best of all, the coast was deeply indented, promising numerous sheltered anchorages.

When I suggested Spain as a destination to my wife,Ann, I had an enthusiastic response. But how to get there? We'd previously cruised as far as la Rochelle, doing day sails over a 2-month cruise. We clearly wouldn't be able to reach and explore North Spain in a single cruise this way. So, we'd need to cross Biscay, either going or returning, in a single hop. The most we'd done before was cross the Channel and the North Sea, and we were a bit apprehensive about going properly offshore for the first time. Setting out on a longish voyage with a real chance of prolonged head winds or heavy weather is not our scene.

However, Frank Singleton's excellent web site suggested a middle way: stop off in West Brittany and wait for a decent forecast. The crossing from there is around 300 miles, rather than the 400 or more from Cornwall, so that you can reasonably expect to complete it within a period that can be accurately forecast, say 3 days. Furthermore, you will be clear of the main shipping routes from Ushant to Finesterre. And if the forecasts are unfriendly, there are many worse places to be stuck!