Category: Passages

Hasta la vista Spain. For now.

It’s not what it seems.

I finally publish this wrap up of Spain almost a year on (14 Aug 18): The journey back was demanding and we lost interest in blogging.

Right now we are in Piriac sur Mer heading south, slowly, toward La Rochelle.

Onward from Ribadesella

28 Aug 2017. We’re back in France. We speak the lingo, we know the supermarkets and we are in the comfortable but dull Les Minimes Mega Marina.

To cover the rest of N Spain from Ribadesella onward:

Santander (via St Vincente de la Barquera ) 75nm

On St Vincente the pilot guide basically says don’t bother. We did bother and went in the hope of breaking up an otherwise very long haul to Santander.

St Vincente de la Barquera. The only suitable anchorage for a 2m yacht is in the area to the right of centre.

The guide was right. There is only one place to anchor and it was already full. Press on, it’s going to be a long day.

So we arrive around midnight at Santander. Of the first marina the guide says “it will be fruitless hoping to charge in, hoping for the best” and is again right. At midnight there is a security guard armed with a whistle and he knows how to use it.

It’s more than his jobsworth to let you stay, even though there were spaces clearly available.

Marina Del Cantabrico was all he could say. So orft we went a further 20 minutes away from the town. Marina Del Cantabrico has no guard, plenty of space etc. Crash out at around 1230 after 75nm in about 14 hrs…..

We met Timothy Spall and Shane 2 boats up taking their new boat down to the med.

We noted that it was probably a longer walk inside Gatwick than it was from the marina to the Airport

We slept like a log, but otherwise didn’t do anything but recover.

Laredo (25/29nm)

A massive investment has created a large and empty marina.

From the port office looking South

From the port office looking north. If you count out the pontoons we are on the furthest out (6th) on the left!

The journey here was wind on the nose for most of the way, reaching F6. A lively arrival aided by neighbours to get Filibuster secured.

Bilbao (20nm)

A quick check of the forecast for Bilboa showed rain. Curious, from sunny Laredo that didn’t seem right, and our destination was less than 20nm away.

Until we got the spelling right….

Our chosen marina was full, so we ended up in the outrageously priced (€54 a night) Puerto Getxo. Taking advantage of the free laundry big time seemed to make things better.

Navigator of the Seas by Royal Caribbean. It left after dark and it was impressive to see a whole town on the move.

It don’t think its called Boaty McBoatface, but I could be wrong

Mojo Lost at Sea!

It’s fair to say that after yet another non sail, we were beginning to wonder about Mojo and where it had gone to.

Things were not helped by the Bilbaon B***stard fly. Smaller than a mozzie we woke up before during and after the night being bitten to death. The resulting blisters were “angry”, itchy and bloody….grrr

We didn’t venture into the city….

Next stop Bermeo

Charming and pretty and very much Basque Country. Suddenly we are in another country. The language of which is so alien to Anglo/Spanish/French we can’t understand a word of it.

The old port and old harbour.

4 new finger berths for up to 8 visitors

So the new finger berths look OK, and are OK: water and electricity as normal.

The pilot guide is again out of date and has no mention of the above. Fortunately we have local knowledge from Jerry & Aggie.

And the things we should add to anyone coming this way are:

a) the locals are fishing fanatics

b) at all hours many of the boats in the first photo above head out to fish. Most at a speed that creates a significant wash. And they come back..

c) they all pass by your bow (or stern depending on which way you moored).

A recommendation is to moor stern in. We didn’t and our mojo took another knock that night.

And so farewell to Spain

In Bermeo we looked at the options. Option A was to carry on around the coast then head North along the French coast. Reaching the Gironde in around 10 days. Option B was to regard Bermeo as the closest point to the Gironde and go for it.

B won. We left aiming for Royan well after low tide. Motoring the whole way we got a bit too early for Royan and ended up across the way in peaceful Port Medoc.

Two days later we are in La Rochelle. Familiar places beckon and unless something interesting happens, this will probably be the last post.

Les Minimes. Nice but dull. The end of the adventure

Back to normal. In Spain the bikes were hardly used as most supermarkets are close to the port. In La Rochelle this is the track coming back from the more distant Carrefour

The end of the adventure

By the time the boat is parked both of us will have covered more than 1000nm. Virtually all under motor.

Here’s a summary of what we liked and didn’t like in Spain.

We liked

  • The Spanish. Always friendly & helpful with a smile and good sense of humour
  • The temperature: generally mid 20s
  • Food – excellent seafood in Galica, great quality meats everywhere and never expensive.
  • The scenery
  • Cleanliness. Seems to be a passion
  • No problem with the language. Quite often they don’t do English or French and we don’t do much Spanish. But if you want to buy a loaf of bread they want to sell you a loaf of bread. No problem.
  • The scenery: often spectacular / mountainous. In more ways than one it’s like Ireland without the cold & rain.

We didn’t like

  • The wind: always in the wrong direction and often on the nose with resultant unpleasant conditions
  • Distances between stops can result in tiring days
  • The amount spent on diesel: in a good season we can get away with €150, sailing as much as possible. This year, with adverse conditions we spent just under €1000 🙁

Should you be following in our footsteps maybe it’s worth thinking about doing the trip the other way round to get more favourable winds and currents. However the traditional winds will nearly always be on your stern, again uncomfortable 🙁

And will we go back?

With all those pros of course we will. Perhaps not with Filibuster

Back to Muros, On to Santiago

Here we are back in Muros. It’s just after 1 o’clock on a warm Saturday 24th June . We went to bed 12 hours ago after Pedro Snr (marina boss) invited us and a few other yachties (French, Irish and English) to a street BBQ last night.

We’ve surfaced. Most of Muros, some of which partied until dawn, has not. it was a good night, there is a distinct air of quietness about…. but from leaving Sanxenxo to here:

Islas Cies

Rapidly departing Sanxenxo we headed 15m across to Isla Ons, the largest of the Islas Cies group off Vigo.

To stay you need to register at the National Parks office and then apply for a permit with date of stay: all done, all done efficiently. In our case at the office in Vigo followed by online permit application.

To ensure the area is not overwhelmed by visiting boats.

We anchored, went ashore, walked up to the lighthouse:

From the lighthouse on Isla O Faro looking SE ish at San Martino. The outskirts of Vigo faintly visible on the left through the haze

it’s a long and winding road to the top

Autonomous Boats

There’s a lot of talk about autonomous cars these days: I can confirm that it has already happened in the boat world

Self driving boats

The dinghy in the foreground had autonomously decided to head to Vigo, away from it’s Irish owners.

The more distant yacht was doing the same.

Out of shot, stage right, are 2 Belgians, previously enjoying the beach until that “oh firkit” moment when the realised their boat was off on its own… now very determinedly paddling as fast as their blow up beach dinghy would allow…..and yet to come was the 45ft Irish yacht at speed…

Both caught their respective runaways.

Soft white sands, turquoise water. Nice.

And finally, our most distant point south:

Taken from our most Southerly point, looking at both of the lighthouses on Isla O Faro . At this point we are 693 miles from home (as the seagull flies)

Beautiful as it was, the Islas were uncomfortable at anchor. Besides the now re-parked Belgian, a Swedish boat came by at night. He dropped hook about 100yds away. By morning he had autonomously dragged his anchor to about 20yds away. We upped and left for Porto Novo.

Porto Novo (Ria Pontevedra)

Not much to say. Nice marina, with nice beach, nice bar overlooking the nice marina and nice beach. Very little left of the old town and much given way to modern buildings with restaurants.

So exciting we didn’t take any photos.

Portosin (Ria Muros y Noia)

Friendly, well run marina spoilt by adjacent fishing port working all hours.  We went for a walk in the town but gave up due to lack of anything interesting and turned back.

More autonomous boats: We stayed 1 night. On the next hammerhead seagulls decided to congregate and were doing well when we crashed out around 11pm.

The next morning an autonomous boat had snuck in and sunk itself. We heard nothing. The seagulls said nothing. The marina night watchman saw nothing.

Inspection of the hull revealed a rectangular hole about 30x45cm. Now how did that get there?

And back to Muros

One night in Portosin was sufficient: 5 miles away lay our final destination – Muros. It was a tough decision but we set off late and arrived before mid day.

Pedro Snr warned us about yet another noisy night to come: Mid Summers night / Festival of the Witches: bonfires everywhere: beach, streets, gardens. A little evidence of religious artillery to be expected…

Invited to a BBQ by Pedro in the small main square starting at 2130 we ate and drank along with a few other crews until 0100.

The knockout blow being the Witches Brew. it goes like this:

  • take one cauldron, apply a load of coffee beans, lemons, oranges and a few other flavourings
  • sling in a flammable spirit and set fire
  • add a few bottles of wine and keep alight
  • serve hot, very hot

All this done on Muro’s genuine celtic / pagan statue

The French are coming…

And still haven’t worked out how to arrive at port: just now a very nice Jeaneau 42  DS arrived, winds gusting to F6. 2 people on board. No lines ready!! Takes 2 attempts to land, crunch neighbour a bit, 3  people ashore to hold them whilst they get lines out and ready attached…Incroyable…

And then a French HR42…expensive boat…medium winds…missed his pontoon despite having bow thruster and a powerful enough engine.

Ah well.

And that’s the end of boating until August.  Filibuster is being looked after by Pedro. I’m back at home.

The rain in Spain falls, quite often on the coast.

Santiago de Compostella

I’m now officially “an old git”. Hooray – I can be grumpy without being guilty. This change of seniority happened whilst in Spain. Family came out to ensure the transition happened smoothly, stayed on the boat and in these 2 incredible locations:

Paradores Hotel des Reis Catholicos (Hotel of the Catholic Kings)

The front door. Note gargoyles gargoyling. It’s raining. Note lack of tourists outside.

Some superlatives to describe this incredible hotel:

  • Built in 1499, claimed to be the oldest hotel in the world (??)
  • On the main square of old Santiago de Compostella, next to the Cathedral and envrions
  • Has a 79 point historic tour inside the building
  • Has sufficient space for a full size church within its’ walls

We stayed for one night to celebrate my birthday. It’s a true 5 star. It’s not cheap. It’s worth it.

More about the hotel on their website. Paradores is a range of superb hotels, largely using old building and is state run. Well run from our experience.

BTW A key reason for choosing Spain to celebrate my 60th was to avoid the problem encountered on my 50th whence it rained cats and dogs and the outdoor events were all cancelled. Spain had to warmer, drier didn’t it? Well no. It rained, as some of the pics above show 🙁

Never mind, Santiago is a great place to visit, Easyjet and Ryanair both fly there, it’s €3 by bus to the airport and you can easily fill a weekend. We filled our boots with a multi course tapas meal for 4, 2 bottles of wine and some beer all for less than €60!

Casa Grande de Bachoa

The only reason we stayed in the hotel was after seeing it in a TV Programme by Alex Polizzi. “Spectacular Spain, Episode 5 on Ch 5”. I had fancied a villa in the mountains with a swimming pool.

My prayers were answered on our last night at Casa Grande de Bachoa . Only half an hour from Santiago airport. Spectacular again.

Our room – just €70

The view from the balcony including mountains and swimming pool

Main building

Panorama showing pools and annex. Our suite up on the right.



And the sailing Martin?

You may have noted that this blog has become a bit of a travelogue. Sailing has not featured much. Neither in the blog or reality. Our log shows 660nm covered. Sailed proper about 60nm. Have consumed about 225l of diesel, which is about the same as the 2 past years combined…. not good.

But that’s it for part 1 in Spain. Let’s hope for better sailing in part 2 starting in August.

‘ere Vigo, ‘ere Vigo, ‘ere Vigo

OK, so it’s a stupid title meant to be a play on the placename of Vigo (pron more like Vee-ho) but it’s a sort of celebratory reflection of all the planning that went on making last winter’s dream of “we are hoping to go to Spain in 2017, maybe as far down as Vigo, near the Portuguese border”.

And there was a lot of planning. And buying: charts, pilot books, new liferaft, ferry bookings, flight bookings, hotel bookings, getting a crew together, a week of boat prep, crossing the Bay of Biscay – which port to arrive at, which port as a backup, getting crew home, getting crew on board when arrivals plans changed dramatically…..and so on.

But here we are at Real Club Nautico do Vigo. Without doubt the most upmarket marina to date.

Besides the obvious facilities it has it’s own bar, restaurant, social & functions rooms and large swimming pool.


Sadly not party of the Passeport Escales scheme means we have to shell out at the rate of €35 per night to park. Not too bad considering Vigo was the objective and we stayed 2 nights.

More of Vigo in a mo, but first some notes from Muros to here.



If you like old fishing ports with good facilities, you will like Muros. If you like winding old streets with interesting back allies, you will like Muros.If you like Galician seafood you will like Muros. If you like more remote towns that still hark back to the past, you will like Muros.

We liked Muros.

The port has been organized to facilitate the large (huge) sea going fishing vessels away from pleasure craft. The harbour side has had some money spent on it and it shows.

Transport links by modern bus to Santiago are good.

Our plans include leaving Filibuster there for July.


How to broach a boat in no wind

The forecast was typical – no wind and it was on the nose. A light drizzle was falling. We left Muros expecting to motor all the way to Caraminal, but set up the main & genoa as a stabiliser against the swell.

Heading dead south, the rain stopped, the wind started to build. We were perplexed: looking up high on the mountain to the East the wind direction showed a NE, but we had West winds.

And they kept building. First reef then second reef. Winds topped 35kn…eek, or even double eek. Boat speed topped 8kn and with the 3m swell that became, shall we say, of concern.

Then we broached. (that’s a sailing term describing an over powered yacht becoming dangerously out of control ). We haven’t broached Filibuster since Bantry Bay in 2008 – it really can be dangerous to boat and crew.

The broach occured between points 3 & 4, downwind of a near 700m mountain.

What’s going on? A yacht passing on a reciprocal course only a few hundred yards away had no sails up due to lack of wind….

Wind off the mountains – to our left peaks of 600m steep down to the sea. That’s what was going on. A gentle wind on the top can create a massive eddy at the bottom and that’s what happened. A mile or so later we were clear of the mountains and the effect had passed – back to no wind…


Lesson learnt.



Pueblo do Caraminal

Not much to report. Functional, marina, town, port. Seems to be favoured by Irish yachts for some reason.

And so to Vigo.

One stop further on is the Ria de Vigo, the last of the Spanish rias.

And we actually sailed the whole 30 miles! Wow, more than the rest of the trip so far.

And what a stop.

Vigo is a large port city and not somewhere we would normally go to, but it was the destination of this trip.

The Real Club Nautico de Vigo is close to the the old town: an easy walk away. In the old town centre there  is a plaza given over to eating – and it is very very popular.

If you order a drink you get a little tapas to go with it…

And the loudness of all the chattering is almost deafening. We ate at the restaurant roughly in the middle of the shot. Michele had Octopus, you can have Octopus, you can have it many different ways. It’s texture is a bit like chicken, but the flavour is generally created by the cooking method.

I had delicious mussels.

Along with the earlier tapas the whole evening’s food & drink came to about €25.

We came the following evening and eat on the quieter periphery for even less.

A few other shots from very interesting Vigo:

We loved Vigo. If you can get a cheap flight it would make a fascinating weekend break.

We loved it so much that we stayed an extra night. The next morning we went to the office to pay. It was closed. it remained closed until well after it was open. What can you do when they won’t take your money and have to go? Answer: Leg it.


Pron San-shen-sho. The pilot guide says it is a large marina with full facilities.

They omit to mention the beach next door:

Beaching it with the Spaniards

Or the lack of olde worlde Spanish style nooks and crannies….

Or the total sun block caused by the BFOB that parks next to us:

Tumberry C. At 49m (160ft) a Big F..k Off Boat

Or indeed the fact that in this part of the world the like to use explosives to ward off evil spirits. The explosives are religous, rocket propelled and in come in 2 types:

  • The Trinity rocket: 3 smaller bangs
  • The God Grenade: with 1 humongous bang, guaranteed to scare the wits out of any spirits, evil or otherwise

Sanxenxo clearly has more donations to spend and it’s artillery demo certainly scared more spirits than any other.

Listen here for a small portion that exquisitely includes the echoes rolling around the bay. Stay with it, it’s good at the end.

Or indeed about the fact that there are 2 marinas in the same space. Curious? It goes like this:

  • We turn up early afternoon on Saturday, assisted by a marina man. We’ll call him Pedro. Pedro helps us tie up onto the long pontoon with other visitors.
  • Pedro tells us the office is open at 4pm.
  • We head officeward after 4pm. The office, in the very first building reached after stepping off the pontoon, is closed. It remains closed until Monday.
  • We go back on Monday. They say they cannot accept our Passeport Escales (magic card offering free stopovers), but the “other office” at the other end of the marina does.
  • We toddle across to the “other office”. They don’t speak English or French, we don’t do Spanish. A passer by is accosted to assist.
  • Allegedly, because we didn’t register on the day of arrival at the “right” other office we can’t use the card for free stays.
  • Then we are asked where we moored – pointed out the other side of aforementioned BFOB.
  • Ah, that’s not our part of the marina – you need to go to the “other, other office”

So we schlep back across. The people in the “other office” have seen that we have gone back to the “other other office” to pay.The people in the “other other office” have seen that we went to the “other office” to pay.

Confused? we were.Quickly to get back on board and do the yachty equivalent of “legging it”. Again.

We don’t make a habit of, in fact have never done it before, but it does seem that in some of the bigger marinas here in Spain the park and place staff and the office staff are not in tune.

Filibuster on the left – just a li’l old 40fter. BFOB Tumberry C behind. See if you can spot the join in the marinas….


Enough for now…these posts are getting a bit lengthy and I haven’t quite caught up with the travels: National Park Islas de Cies and Porto Novo still await.

But still no wind to sail with since Vigo and the temperature as I write in Porto Novo is 34 deg C…

I name this tour…..

The wind, if we have any, is in the wrong direction tour 2017.

Quite simply it means we haven’t done a lot of sailing and we have done a lot of motoring.

Filibuster’s engine is, unlike road vehicles, monitored by number of hours. Since leaving Arzal we have done 82 hours of motoring. At an average say of 5.7kn that means 467nm (nautical miles). Our log says we have covered 477nm. Leaving just 10 under sails… 🙁 It’s not quite as bad as that…we might have done 20.

Motor or sail, we have visited some fascinating places and I write this post in Muros.

The Approach to Muros marina. The mountain beyond is 474m (1,560ft)

A gem of a place enclosed in an huge mountainous amphitheater, up market and livelier than any previous with the exception of A Coruna. It is so enclosed that there is no chance of any waves, any swell, any disturbance getting in. The town itself can be overly warm due to it’s sheltered location.

Salty Sailor Dogs, arrrrh: Michele, Martin, Daf, Gav, Sharon and John.



Our guest star crew have now left.

The marina at this off peak period is full, of empty berths. All is peaceful following last night’s Muros Music & Punk night, which allegedly finished at 3am. zzz, we finished earlier



Top Tips for Spanish Marinas

Should you be coming down this way you will need 2 items not normally used in UK and French ports:

Spanish marinas often use very narrow thread taps, one size down from standard

Some pontoons only have large size power points – adapter required









A few words on the places visited since Viviero


Cedeira – sheltered anchorage in between Viviero and A Coruna. We didn’t go ashore.

A Coruna

Bustling city. Marina Coruna in the heart of it with nearby shops, bars and restaurants. Plenty to do and see and eat.

Porto Corme

Handy little anchorage. Watch out for the flat bits in the water: they are weeds growing on rocks that appear at low tide!

Porto Corme. Anchor well to the east of the green Starboard mark. Has butcher, baker, bar, bank etc.


We had high hopes for this small and sheltered marina with town. In the end it didn’t really live up to it. Although the pontoon for larger cruisers was well occupied I suspect the attraction was diesel available on the pontoon. Everyone had left before we got up the following morning.

Don’t mention Brexit

A few boats anchored just off the marina.


Just across the ria is Muxia. A completely different kettle of fish. Larger, but not large, with bars, restaurants and interest. Billed in the guide (Passeport Escales) with top attractions of:

  • “le monument du Prestige Oil Spill”
  • The English cemetery
  • The rock shaped like a boat (sinking, upside down)

How could we not go the 2.7nm across the bay?

And it was a delight – we didn’t find any of the attractions above. But did find plenty more. Muxia is on the Santiago-Finisterre Pilgrimage route and has plenty to offer the weary.

Finisterre – the end of the world

rounding Cape Finisterre

Allegedly, but incorrectly, the most westerly point of mainland Europe. The end of the known world in Roman times. The end of the Pilgrimage.

Anchorage only, protected from the unseasonable Southerlies and seasonal Northerlies. Back of beyond regional port mainly given to fishing and pilgrims.


The gem is the 3km walk to the Cabo de Finisterre with rewarding views of sea and pooped pilgrims.

The gentle uphill walk from the town of Finisterre to the Cape

Which means – “No scorchio your clothio”

In times gone by the  aforementioned pilgrims used to burn their clothes at the end, however the absence of naked bodies and subsequent clothes shops suggests the warning as per right is nowadays taken seriously.

We made it….

….And finally…the Gin test

On board we have English Bombay Sapphire (UK price  £27/l) and Spanish Larios Gin (about €10/l). Take away the £17 tax paid to the UK government and the price is similar. But the taste?

Both are made from grain alcohol (in the case of Bombay Sapphire it is French) flavoured with “botanicals”.

In the Filibuster blind taste test each member of crew sampled both. No ice, no tonic, just neat gin.

And the result? Consistent to say the least. Click here to see.

And on that bombshell I’ll leave you to it and write about Muros another day.

From “The Other Side”

You will of course be pleased to hear we sort of made it across. “sort of”? Well we didn’t quite make it to A Coruna, more of which later.

The 5-6-7-8.30 plan

A plan that runs thus:

  • 0530 alarm
  • 0630 depart home
  • 0730 pick up Gav at Poole railway station
  • 0830 depart on Ferry

And it all went to plan: arriving on the boat at 1800, unpack, eating, sleeping, or not as the case may be.

Or not? = When I set the time on my trusty new SuperDry wristwatch it decided unilaterally to continue advancing Japanward a further 1 1/2 hours. Midnight became 0130. etc

How many F in Frenchmen?

To the residents of Arzal berth S111 the answer to that question is 4. There were 4 F in Frenchmen 2 berths down who decided that night was the perfect night to a) get drunk b) play music c) natter away to 4a.m. (Sorry I mean 2.30am due to incorrect setting of watch).

Your truly not happy at 4am/230am. 🙁

And so the night progressed, sleep came, sleep went, the watch said 730am… PANIC. We want to be in the 8 oclock lock….Wake the crew. Notice the time zone in the saloon is 1 1/2 hours behind Superdry.

Dawn at Arzal, 30 Jun 17, looking NE up river from the stern of Filibuster

At that moment it dawns. Superdry is wrong. Dawn is upon us. Literally. See photo

Panic over. We go to the shop, get some fresh food, out through the lock and off. Next stop A Coruna 360nm away.

In 330 mile turn left a bit

The Brutal Bay of Biscay…

….was on holiday when we crossed. There was no wind to sail by and we motored pretty much the whole way across. Boo.

Sunset Bay of Biscay 30th June. No wind, No waves.


And following the sunset the night watches were rewarded by a view of the Milky Way undiminished by other lights for as far as could be seen.



Sunrise the following morning



Fuel Burn rate

Indeed so flat, so calm for so long we became concerned about the fuel burn rate. I thought we had enough (we did) but Prudence popped up half way across and said thus:

  • If the burn rate was 3.0l/hr and that gave 5kn and the distance was 360nm then we have just enough fuel to get across
  • If the burn rate was 3.5l/hr and that gave 5kn and the distance was 360nm then we run out of fuel on arrival

Optimism says we do 3l/h, Prudence says 3.5l. Our fuel burn records have never covered running the tank dry and we are not about to risk it.

Change course to the next nearest port of Viveiro, which is 40nm nearer. Arriving around 4pm on 1st June.


And what a result. How to describe Viveiro:

  • unique
  • green
  • mountainous
  • warm
  • very helpful staff
  • fantastic tapas / restaurant.

We ate the seafood of the gods ashore, had a night cap on board, and after 3 broken nights slept the sleep of the gods. In heaven.

Viveiro and the environs, looking South ish. The majority of the town, fishing port and marina are to the left of this shot.

The next morning we fueled up, left the marina and spent the day at anchor in a nearby bay. Still no wind.

Panorama showing both ends of the boat and bay I write from


The final problem

Viveiro is in mountainous lands – getting crew to Santiago and back is not so easy with no simple public transport – it has to be a rather expensive taxi. Ah well.

And the fuel rate?

For anyone interested we took 135l of diesel so the figures work out thus:

  • 56 hours motored, 308nm covered
  • 2.4l/hr or 5.5nm/hr or about 2.3nm/l

We had over 100l left in the tank before filling and would have easily made it to A Coruna. The difference is probably mostly accounted by the fact we had the mainsail up all the time and that gave us a small, but useful lift.

Hola amigos como estas? Ha pasado un tiempo

Well it has been a while. Perhaps you thought I’d given up after so little output last year.


But we’re back for 2017. The title and chart below give a clue.

Tomorrow, May 29th Martin, James and Gavin set off to take Filibuster across the Bay of Biscay to A Coruña in the North West corner of Spain.We leave Arzal on Tuesday morning to head approx 360nm straight across.

In an ideal world that would take two and a half days, arriving late on Thursday.

The Forecast

But it’s not an ideal world – this morning’s forecast has a mix of pleasant sailing weather and good chunks of “Force sod all, variable”. Weather routing on the nav system suggests a sailing transit time of over 4 days: that’s not going to happen as we will donk it during the calm bits.

My guess is that we will arrive sometime during Thursday night/Friday morning

The Bay of Biscay

Whenever I mention the Bay of Biscay people look sideways at me as if to suggest “must be bonkers”. Then recount stories of bad weather, uncomfortable passages and sea sickness. I’ll report back after the event but right now all I can say is that a long period of calm weather has resulted in good conditions with swell at around 1m across much of the bay for much of the journey. The picture looks a bit lumpier as we approach the end of the passage.

And once we get there

James returns home, Michele, Daphne (Gav’s wife), Sharon and John all fly out on Saturday to Santiago de Compostella and thence to Filibuster. Hopefully to enjoy some pleasant cruising in the Rias of NW Spain and sown as far as the Portuguese border.

Guests leave, Michele and I take Filibuster back to A Coruna , Alex & Zoe come out to join us at the end of June. Back home for July, back out in August to take Filibuster back to Arzal along the north coast of Spain and West coast of France.


Well that’s the plan. I’ll update when on the “other side”

, 28 May, 2017. Category: Passages.

So Houat


A play on words, as we will see later.

It’s 730am. 21st June. A Sunday. We’ve been chilling out at LRB for 3 nights and it’s time to go.

Ping! Martin awakes with a bright idea. Get away quick and we might make the 0800 lock and out to the sea…..

….some time later we approach the lock for 0900 opening. Happy in our little time lapse universe that no one gets up so early on a Sunday in France because it’s closed. And fully expecting the lock keeper to be happy to see us, having nothing else to do so early.

Now, you can get some things a bit wrong. And some things a lot wrong. And we got this call so unbelievably wrong you wouldn’t believe it.

Sometime in the 3 days since we left Arzal a bunch of boats about 140 strong crept into Arzal. Had a party and now wanted to go home. All of them. To catch the tide, which was falling.

Now Arzal lock is a big lock, it takes 20 or so boats, less if some of them are real big. Hmmm 140 boats divide by 20 = 7 locks. That’s all of Sunday just for the rally.

We tried to get in to the 0900 and failed. Waiting for the 10 o’clock lock it’s apparent that a few more boats have woken up. It’s mayhem. Boats go left, go right, go forward, go backward. Occasionally they crunch. See photo.

LRB-Houat 005

Left a bit, right a bit, crunch. Boat 2nd from right desperately trying to avoid being run over by large boat reversing into him. He failed: crunch. Boat to his left desperately trying to fend off. He failed as well: crunch. Small boat to the 2nd from left is the rossers. They don’t know about the feeding the ducks episode.

Filibuster stakes her claim – we’re not going to be missing another. Near the front of the queue and defending our position we get into a very, very crowded lock.

I’ve written about the fun of the Arzal lock before, so no need to repeat that.

And BTW the rally wasn’t a booze up – it’s held in aid of disabled people to give them some experience of boating. It calleds the Pen Bron Rally. More here (in French).


We chug off down river and out to sea. We’re heading for Houat (pron more like Hwat and not like goat). The wind pipes up and the sun comes out and we’re sailing proper. Heading to Hoedic because that’s where the wind takes us on our route.

And in fact so close in to Hoedic our point of tack was virtually in the harbour, our could have been had it not been for discretion beating valour.

LRB-Hoat chart

Hoedic (duckling) is a one horse island that we have a soft spot for. It’s bigger brother, Houat, was our destination.

LRB-Houat 007

Hoedic. One horse island: the horse left.


We sailed on. We entered the harbour, we mused about the tri-bollock floating mooring system. We moored. Went ashore, had a drink and left the next morning for Port Louis where I write from.

LRB - Houat 011

St Gildas Harbour, Houat. Off season. High season will be an absolute bun fight.

It appears that everyone who raves about Houat are not talking about the harbour, but the huge sheltered beach to the SW of the island that we shall return to one day.

Jasper Carrott

What? How do we get from Houat to Carrott. Jaspers’ Joke delivered whilst in Salisbury on the 14th June runs thus:

Three girls in their twenties decided to go out and decided to go to the Hotel Ocean because the waiters were good looking and had nice bums.

Twenty years later they meet up and decide decided to go to the Hotel Ocean because the wine was good.

A further twenty years, now in their 60’s, later they meet up and decide decided to go to the Hotel Ocean because the food was good.

Twenty more years pass and now in their 80’s they meet again and pondered where to go. They decided to go to the Hotel Ocean because they hadn’t been there before.

And what has that got to do with sailing I hear you ask?

Well, in our delight to be out sailing proper with good speed and a nice angle of heel, we had forgotten about the laws of gravity and it’s effects on improperly stowed boats contents:

LRB-Houat 008

after effects of a well heeled party

Nothing broken. Lesson learnt. The sail up to Port Louis the following days  was even more exciting: 8.3kn at the entrance to Lorient Harbour. Fun.

And if you get the chance see Jasper on his current tour, jump at it. 3 hours of top notch entertainment from people who know how to entertain.


La Rochelle to Rochefort:- fascinating

Part1 – getting out in a hurry

Rochefort 037

Scruffy’s boat

Our next door neighbour, who we shall call Monsieur Scruffy on account of the state of himself and boat, was a genial guy with large frame and beard. Comfortable with being a Mr Scruffy he tells us he is off due to forthcoming lack of water.

Now I’m always wary of boat crews “with all the right gear”. Conversely Scruffy’s well used appearance tells me he knew a thing or two and if he thought he was running out of water then it’s worth checking out.

Filibuster tells me that there is a comfy 1.4m under the keel: my calculations tell me tide had 1.6m to fall. Scruffy was right, time to move on.

A crash brekky and off we go, headed, as is Scruffy, to Rochefort. Ancient one time strategic port of the French Navy..

The tides were on springs (when the levels reach their highest and fall to their lowest). And in particular these were big springs.In fact the second largest of the year: high tide of 6.6m and a low tide of 0.6m above datum.

Why does this matter? Well on the approaches to La Rochelle there are areas where the charted depth is just 0.5m below datum. Add the low tide level of 0.6m gives us only 1.1m of water at low tide.

We left at 1038 with, in theory, 1.9m of water above datum + minimum charted depth of 0.5m = 2.4m. Comfortably above the 2m Filibusters requires.

But it was windy, we dithered getting the boat ready, the tide went out further and by the time we reached the shallow bits it was 1105 and the tide had fallen a further 0.4m

Do the maths: 2.4m – 0.4m = 2.0m Bang on our draught.

Man fishing. High tide mark 6m above him

Richeleu port mark on the way out: Man fishing. High tide mark 6m above him


The gods looked favourably on us: we didn’t bottom out but it was close….buttock clenchingly close…..especially when the depthometer read 0.00m under keel….

Moral of the story: heed Scruffy.


And the rest of the journey was a delight.


Heed Scruffy, read your charts for marked banks, don't wander of the fairway

Heed Scruffy, study your charts carefully, don’t wander off the fairway. This shot taken from Fouras on 14th August of a not so lucky skipper

Part 2 – Fort Boyard

This part of the world included strategic ports (including La Rochelle)and Naval Installations (Rochefort) and as such required significant and hugely expensive defences to stop those pesky Brits invading.

Said pesky Brits were at the same time building significant and hugely expensive defences to stop those pesky Frenchies doing the same.

All in all a bit of an arms race and all around the coast of France are to be found massive forts (citadelles) designed to blast to pieces any invading ships.

South of La Rochelle, in a bay protected by Ile D’Oleron to the West is Fort Boyard. Started in  1804 and finished in 1859 (yess 55 years!) it was designed to protect the waters between Ile Doleron to the West and Il D’Aix to the east.

Fort Boyard

Fort Boyard, Ile D’Oleron shores 1 mile away

These 2 islands, barely 3miles apart have significant defences of their own, but canon capability of the day meant that the centre of the straight was out of range and therefore a weakness.

Cue Fort Boyard. Built at enormous cost (including building the small town of Boyardville) it took 55 years to complete. Essentially it is an island fort with nearly all of its guns facing into the straights between the islands.

taking a good look at Boyard

taking a good look at Boyard

It was never fully commissioned. In the intervening years naval gunnery range and accuracy improved so much that its initial raison d’etre became obsolete.

Recently it has been used by TV crews from over 20 nations to films the TV game quiz Crystal Maze.


Part 3 up the Charente River to Rochefort

If you like your rivers to look like white coffee, then the Charente is for you – undoubtedly the muddiest river I’ve ever come across.

Sail 14 Rochelle - Rochefort 043

river – flowing IN !

But if you like pootling up river and admiring the bankside flaura, fauna and things of interest then you won’t like the Charente.

With absolutSail 14 Rochelle - Rochefort 061e minimal sail we were sluiced up on the incoming tide at up to 7.4kn. But sail we did for all but a couple of hundred metres when the wind wouldn’t allow it.




One of the many fishing huts on stilts

Along the banks are many sheds on stilts built for the purpose of catching whatever is swimming around at high tide.


Rochefort charenteSail 14 Rochelle - Rochefort 075





The river winds, this way, then that way, then the other in an enormous loop… past the still fully operational transporter bidge


….with many leading marks to help navigate the twists and turns :leading lines D-D

leading lines D-D.

And finally to Rochefort itself, where the first impressive sights, out of many impressive sights, is the Hermione – fully restored ship of the line that will go to sea later this year

More to come from Rochefort in due course – it’s an absolute delight full of history, good food, fine markets and great ambience.



Hermione. Restored and soon to let out from dock.Naughty Sailors in the rigging

Hermione. Naughty Sailors sent up in the rigging




The Naked Sailor

En route from Ile D’Yeu to La Rochelle.

It’s hot – mid twenties or a bit more but a fresh breeze helps to push us along.

Of course when it’s this hot and a fresh breeze pushes you along it’ nice to drop into long distance sailor mode:sailing1

And of course that reduces the need to visit the launderette.

For the view from the back of the boat click here 🙂




Through the Raz

This is probably the most boring post of the trip !!!

This is the one passage that HAS got to be planned as it passes through a smallish gap between mainland France and a small island (Isle de Seine). Get your arrival here wrong and the tide is so strong that it is extremely difficult to make headway. Get it correct and the tide squooshes (is that a nautical term ?) you along and hopefully in the direction that you want to go in.

Squooshing at 9.2kn

Squooshing at 9.2kn

By the way its is pronounced “RARH” and not RAZZ (as we used to say)


Looking north east after going through. La Plate on the left and La Vielle on the right. Do not go between due to to rocks, rock-ettes, strong tides, dragons and sea monsters.

We left just before 6am from Camaret (still dark) as the navigator had worked the timings backward for this. This is one of the most uneventful sails, as there was very little wind for the whole of the journey and the sky was grey, overcast and dull. We motored all the way but put up the main to stabilise us as there were a few Atlantic rollers.

The most exciting thing was a huge pod of dolphins going across the Bay of Audierne but they did not stop.

So after 49.1 nautical miles we arrived at low tide at Loctudy (taking care with the depth on arrival – shame to go aground at such a stage).

Addendum from the skip:

Full chart of this passage (made on 27 July) :ScreenShot

and the important bit: raz chart


Over the ground distance: 54nm, log distance 49.1m = favourable tide saving 5nm (means we arrived 50 minutes earlier than would have been the case with no tide)

As noted above the Raz to be treated with care. Even at 1 hour after slack water a 3-4kn tide was running. Good timing is of the essence

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