A surprise phone call from Mike Sisely asking if I would like to crew for an offshore race to Cherbourg and after a quick check with the Boss that I am allowed out unsupervised it was game on.
The boat was an X-Yachts 38 and with a crew of six we were on the start line for the JOG overnight race from Cowes to Cherbourg.
The start was not the best and we trailed the fleet across the line but the race down the Western Solent saw us overhauling a number of boats, as we rounded Bridge Buoy at The Needles the spinnaker was raised and we continued to make progress through the fleet.
It was all going so well until we tried to gybe the spinnaker and a broken fitting on the pole literally took the wind out of our sails, from here to the finish we could only use the genoa but the plus side was more time to watch the meteor shower in the clear skies.
We got to the finish line just after 5am and our time of just over 11 hours saw us placed 12th out of 15 but it was a good sail.
After a couple of hours sleep a look at the met for Sundays approaching storm brought a consensus that an early return to Cowes would be prudent so after a walk around Cherbourg and a meal we made ready to leave at 5pm.
The run back had us close hauled in building seas and in the early hours of Sunday morning we were beating into a force 7 with water over the bows and after dodging the Channel shipping we got back to Hamble at 7am just as the first few drops of rain were beginning to fall.
All in all a great weekend, we may not have done very well in the race but a good experience for a first taste of Offshore racing.
Our first sail in the Solent for over a year and it was a real eye opener, the narrow passage of water was like a motorway with every available ferry and hovercraft engaged in a Dunkirk style evacuation of the masses from the Isle of Wight Festival.
The run to Cowes was under full sail and genoa but once adjacent to the harbour entrance the wind freshened and a reef was put in, we set about tacking all the way down the Western Solent to our destination of Yarmouth. After picking up a buoy on the outer moorings we then enjoyed a pleasant evening watching the water traffic traverse the Solent.
Tuesday dawned overcast but dry and we moved Ruby to a walkaboard berth in the marina from where we could launch the fold up bikes and Kaye on the roads of the Island. A very pleasant ride along the disused railway track to Freshwater bay and then back to brother Ivans house for tea, cake and a good natter.
After a ride back and a quick change Ivan and Anne were our hosts for dinner at The Bugle in Yarmouth, an old coaching Inn in the town centre.
Yarouth"s roads and pavements were plastered in mud from the feet of people returning from the now infamous Festival and several pairs of mud caked wells were abandoned outside the ferry terminal, one pair acting as a decoration, filled with flowers.
Wednesday started with fog but by the time the tide turned to give us a favourable current it had cleared to low cloud and a pleasant run back to Gosport terminated in rain as we secured Ruby in her home berth.
A nice three day break in mid-summer, all we need now is some sun.
After watching the weather since Monday it was getting rather frustrating, each day suggested the day after tomorrow would be the day to go but always the updated forecast was giving wind a bit stronger and Kaye doesn't do sailing with a 7 in the forecast. Friday was looking good and even the wind stayed constant but now they were giving possible fog on Friday morning. Thursday morning while contemplating the world economic crisis pushing the trolley around the supermarcado I came up with a plan to sail to Camarinas overnight. Considering the suggestion it was received rather well by the First Mate and the ship was readied.
Since we got to Bayona every forecast has given the possibility of thundery showers but to date no sign of even a rumble until we cast off lines and a loud clap was heard. We messed around outside the marina until it had passed and then set off with another boat "Aragorn" who was heading direct to Falmouth.
At long last on this trip the engine went off and with two reefs and half genoa we enjoyed fair sailing towards Finistere. As the sun was going down clouds gathered and we ran into another heavy shower and at this time we could see lightening flashes inland as the unstable air crossed the mountains.
Approaching Finistere the clouds darkened noticeably but with the sails well reefed and quite light wind we were still enjoying a pleasant beam reach, a bright flash and the heavens opened with stinging hail stones, the boat was spun around as the wind changed direction and all we could do was let Ruby sail herself.
Ten minutes later and it was all over and apart from the odd shower I still enjoyed the sailing. Well before dawn we were at Camarinas so not even considering a night entry we pushed on to La Coruna arriving at lunchtime.
We are now watching the rain and thunder in La Coruna and will wait here for a few days before starting to look at the weather to find a window to cross Biscay.
One night in Lexoies and the weather is favourable for the hop to Viana Da Costello and true to form motor sailing again but as progress is good a further push to Bayona will give us a day off on Sunday. I cannot help marvel at the amount of lobster pots deployed to make any passage along the coast an obstacle course but it did manage to keep Kaye alert. The only pod of dolphins spotted so far put in an appearance and with the genoa flapping as the wind did its best to make my life a misery we resorted to engine only to make our final approach and entry tp Bayona.
Sunday dawned dry and sunny and a walk around the castle and an insight into Spanish history. Spain like Portugal is rightly proud of its naval history and it seems every town lays claim to its connection with this heritage. Bayona is the town Christopher Columbus chose to return to after discovering the new world and to commemorate this a replica of ship the Pinta houses the museum of navigation in the marina, personally I would have chosen landfall further south where it rains less.
The other strange site we witnessed was a seagull diving head first into the water and coming up with a large starfish, we thought this was quite an unusual incident but were soon to discover, certainly in Bayona this is there staple diet and they used the marina pontoons to disect their dinner.
Sunday evening and a check of the met suggested Monday could be the day to head north to our next stop in Camarinas. We woke on Monday to a bit of rain but undeterred we donned fouls and just as we cast off the heavens opened and the wind piped up to 27kts, not a good omen. After 1.5 hours we had barely done 5 miles and into head wind and a very short sea we decided to cut our losses and return. A couple of unsettled days and we await a favourable forecast to carry on north.
Figuera Da Foz to Leixoes
Five days in Figuera Da Foz and a real eye opener. The forecast was for strong winds on Wednesday but we were woken before dawn to the wind whistling through the masts in the marina and torrential rain. It poured all day finally easing up about 4pm by which time cabin fever had set in and we needed a walk so an amble up to the lighthouse and a look at the waves crashing against the breakwater.
A lot of the harbours on the Portuguese west coast are closed in Westerly gales as the entrances become dangerous with the large swell and Figuera Da Foz is no different. Adjacent to the lighthouse is a mast that displays various lights and shapes to indicate the state of play and given the lighting configuration we could see the harbour was closed to vessels under 11m in length.
The forecast for Thursday was for light winds and a 3-4 m swell so we thought it may be worth pushing on. We got up to leave the marina at 7am and the entrance was still showing the lights restricting boat movements to craft over 11m long, we motored out towards the entrance and before we got half way turned the boat around. The entrance had breaking 4m waves or should I say surf rollers and I would think the QE2 would have struggled.
About an hour later the lighting configuration on the mast was changed to close the harbour to all vessels and I had to walk to the end of the breakwater for a closer look at the waves. All day we were watching the entrance and finally in late afternoon they reopened to the larger boats and we watched a freighter going out. All was fine until he got through the harbour exit and he pitched violently showing the dangers these harbour entrances can exert.
This morning and all had calmed down so we made our way north again to Leixoes, the swell was still at about 3m but with very light winds we had to motor sail. The afternoon saw the wind pep up a bit from the West and we were able to enjoy a close reach all the way to the harbour entrance, well enjoy apart from a moment of brief anxiety. The wonderful AIS we have on board picks up other craft before you can see them and gives you a readout of the vessel name and call sign, there course, speed and how close they will come to your vessel, ours picked up a ship steaming towards us on collision course, we watched this for ten minutes and although steam gives way to sail I decided to give the ship a call to ask if he had seen me?
Not sure if we startled him but he confirmed our presence and then altered course. Leixoes is very busy commercial port with many large container ships and oil tankers and the swell in the marina will make for an uncomfortable night, hopefully we will only be staying one night before moving on to Viana De Costello.
04/23/2012, Figuera Da Foz
The forecast was for a Westerly force 4, great, after the initial exit West to Cabo De Roca this should give us a nice beam reach to Peniche and a broad reach to Nazare, What could possibly go wrong!!
Well the wind was Westerly and there was a 4 in it, unfortunately it was more like 4kts so yet again and to a great deal of grumbling the engine went on.
We arrived at Nazare at 18.15 to be greeted by the harbourmaster directing us to a berth in a space that was too tight to turn so this involved reversing out turning the boat around and reversing in. The harbourmaster was an English guy who lived aboard his boat in the marina. I thought he looked like and had the same mannerisms as Anthony Worrel Thompson, he was very interesting and helpful and was explaining that his boat was a replica of Joshua Slocums "Spray" and it had carried him around the world several times and he enjoyed many free entries to classic boat events. Sadly at 77 he sees his sailing days are over and the condition of owner and boat had clearly seen better health.
We fully expected a couple of days at Nazare but after talking to brother Lee on Skype on Sunday morning a brief look at the weather charts and Kaye decided it may be worth making the short 35 mile hop to Figuera De Foz. Not needing to be asked twice to go sailing we were ready and slipped within 30 minutes and once again after starting with the predicted Westerly on the nose heading North it did eventually back to allow a nice sail.
Figuera de Foz is a strange marina, the reception pontoon is a concrete wall that focuses the mind when berthing so we thought we would turn into one of the visitors berths and walk back to reception but this was halted in its tracks by a whistle blowing arm waving GNR officer, who when he had got our attention just walked back to his office without offering to take our lines.
Formalities over we are now secure and tied up and looking forward to explore the town and surrounding area.