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Europe 2005 EUROPE 2005
ATLANTIC OCEAN 2005
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Bay of Biscay Passage
ROUTE SUMMARY:
Depart Falmouth, England 31st July 2005
Arrive La Coruna, Spain 4th August 2005
Passage duration 4.25 days
Distance sailed 450 nautical miles

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DAY 1: 31st July 2005

DIRTY SEAS, BLEAK SKIES

After three months of tiring preparations and putting off our departure, and one very sleepless night, the day had come for us to set sail from Falmouth. On this pleasant Sunday morning we slipped our lines and quietly left the marina bound for foreign ports. Midday found us beating into a choppy sea in the dismal, overcast Western Approaches of the English Channel, with Nat throwing up over the side. Hardly the start we had dreamt of.  As darkness fell we were both tired and nervous, our spirits buoyed only by the lume of light trailing over the horizon, beamed to us from Ushant, France, far away to our port.

DAY 2: 1st August 2005
ENTERING FOREIGN WATERS

We made slow and steady progress through the night. By the time the bright dawn arrived we were sailing in a light breeze in foreign waters. Determined to get into the spirit of it all, we hoisted our French courtesy flag. Come noon, the motor was on and as the wind dropped, the seas flattened and Nat started to feel better. It finally felt wonderful to be out here. The sea has changed from an electric blue to a deep inky blue as we have passed over the edge of the continental shelf. We are now in 4km of water! We had 20-30 dolphins following the boat last night for 30 minutes at sunset, which was an amazing experience.

 

After dark we looked in wonder as the sky filled with uncountable numbers of stars. Looking upwards we spotted some constellations and Nat discovered one that looked like a dolphin and found that it was called the dolphin. How cool is that? The only problem is that there ain't no wind.

On our way
DAY 3: 2nd August 2005
HALFWAY!

At 4 o'clock this morning we passed halfway. The expected easterly arrived with dawn but is very light. We sailed along slowly with the cruising chute up, so slowly that by tea time we had the motor on once more. 

 

Everything is going really well and we look forward to a beer this evening around 1930 when we will pass our 2/3rds of passage complete point. Then we will watch another great sunset and do some stargazing before starting our 2 or 3 hour watches and gaining some valuable sleep.

Mark stealing some sleep
DAY 4: 3rd August 2005
HOISTING THE SPANISH COURTESY FLAG

This morning the northeast wind arrived and we are very happy to be running downwind at steady 3 knots. This speed is good to time our arrival for dawn tomorrow at the approaches to La Coruna.  All the motoring has not gone to waste though as this trip we have had limitless power for the fridge and to send frequent emails. Plus we can today treat ourselves to a warm shower aboard as opposed to the cockpit splash with the luke-warm solar shower.

 

We hope to see signs of the Spanish coast shortly after dark this evening. We are flying our Spanish courtesy flag in anticipation.

DAY 5: 4th August 2005
MAKING LANDFALL BUT NOT BEFORE A BEATING

During yesterday, our fourth day at sea, the wind increased steadily until by late afternoon we were crashing along at 6 knots under much reduced sail and at around midnight we found ourselves rapidly approaching the rocky and unfamiliar coast of Galicia, also known as 'Costa da Morte' (The Death Coast). The seas were rough and the wind a near Gale (NE Force 7). Not far away we could see fireworks exploding over a coastal town. How we wished we were sitting in a little bar with a beer enjoying the festivities! Could we risk the approach in the dark in these conditions? Another option was to run away from the wind. This would reduce the strain on the boat but would take us away from La Coruna and towards wild Cape Finisterre and its busy shipping lanes.

Our third option was to back the sails to stop the boat (called 'heaving to'), seal ourselves inside and sit it out until dawn, then try an approach in daylight. We decided to heave to and spent an unhappy and tense five hours lying on the floor of our wet and chaotic boat. We must say though that however hard it blew, and however high the waves, Free Spirit took it all in her stride and felt solid and sure-footed. At dawn the conditions were much the same with wind steady at 30-34 knots, but we were rested and felt stronger and more optimistic in daylight. So, at 0500 we ate a little fruit and got the boat moving again. Three hours later the conditions improved significantly as we passed behind the headland. A while later we were in the marina at the heart of the beautiful capital of Galicia, blinking in the sunshine and smiling broadly!

 

Our first major passage was successfully behind us.

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