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Cruising in Greece
Sailing TB from the Villaine River in 2009 and on to Greece in 2011.
Biscay crossing
04 June 2009 | Ribadeo, Galicia
Monday 01 June 2009. Delivery trip to Galicia, Spain.

Crew:- Peter, Sofie, Roger Eaton and John Wakley. Sofie was freshly returned from a RYA Day Skipper sailing course and volunteered to be Navigator for the trip.

We caught the 07:47hrs train from Bradford-on-Avon to Southampton airport and a flight at 10:35hrs to Rennes. Ricky (from the B&B in La Roche Bernard) had arranged for his mate to pick us up at Rennes and drive us to Port de Foleux where we boarded Tobin Bronze. By 15:30hrs we had moved down the river and were alongside in the marina at La Roche Bernard.

The original plan was to do a quick supermarket dash for provisions but that didn't take into consideration the fact that it was the Pentecost public holiday in France and everything was closed. So we had to wait till Tuesday morning before shopping.

After stocking up on provisions for 5 days, we motored down the Villaine to Port Arzal, topped up on diesel and locked out at 11:00hrs. Weather was bright and sunny with a good forecast for the next week. By 13:00hrs we were out in Quiberon Bay in a light easterly breeze and at 14:30hrs, up went the spinnaker for a nice run across the bay.

The wind died completely by 17:15hrs as we exited the Teignose channel at the end of Quiberon peninsula. We motored around the north end of Belle Isle and set course in a calm sea under motor for Ribadeo on 216deg magnetic, distance 279 nautical miles.

Just before sunset, which was at 22:02hrs, the wind started to kick in again from the north-east as forecast and we were able to make sail under genoa and full main. However to keep the genoa filled we had to sail under our lay line. The wind remained steady overnight at 10 to15 knots, which kept TB hurtling along at a good rate on a broad reach.

The seastate and good breeze provided an easy motion which was very gentle on the crew. Nobody was seasick except for the skipper who felt a bit queasy while making a cup of tea at 04:30hrs. But once back on deck with a cup of tea inside me I felt fine almost immediately.

After the moon set at around 03:30hrs on the first night, the great visibility and complete darkness allowed a brilliant display of the Milky Way, Venus and the stars.

We worked a two hour on, six hour off watch system with a longish hand-over between watches. Roger and Sofie shared the cooking duties. Judy had provided us with a casserole and fruit cake. So all in all we were well rested and well fed. However when Roger produced a pasta dish in the washing up bowl, nobody was particularly interested when I offered to give details of some of the different purposes we had used that bowl for in the past.

Gourmet meal?

At 12:30hrs Wed, we had a brief visit from a few dolphins but they didn't stay around long. The wind was decreasing during the afternoon and at 14:45 we flew the spinnaker in 7kts of apparent wind. But at 17:00hrs, when the apparent wind was down to 3kts, we dropped the spinnaker.

Position at 17:00hrs, Wed 03 June:- 45deg 23.0min N; 004deg 57.77min W;
Distance covered:- 179.75 nM at 6.01 kts.
Distance to go 137.1nMiles

At 20:00hrs, we could see high cirrus cloud to the south, first sign of an approaching front. Once again this was in line with the last forecast we had received. The barometer had only dropped a couple of millibars over the preceding 24hrs; so it was nothing to worry about.

Weather front

With the motor on we made up ground to the west in the hope that we might be able to make sail under a westerly wind after the front passed. On Thursday morning, in damp mainly overcast conditions we did shake out the sails for a few hours but there really wasn't enough wind to make decent progress. We ended up motoring for the rest of the voyage in much the same conditions.

At 09:30hrs, position approx 44deg 31min N, 006deg 17min west , 3 long finned pilot whales crossed our track quite close to the stern. Then at 10:30hrs was the high light of the trip when an enormous pod of dolphins closed in on us from all directions. There were hundreds of them and I suspect that they were hunting as a pack. Some of them then played around the boat for at least 15 minutes while the rest were feeding all around us. What a display! There were a couple that we kept identifying - one with a broken dorsal fin and another with an unusual set of "eyebrows".

Distinctive dolphins

There are some more images in the Photo Gallery.

A couple of hours later we saw 4 or 5 more pilot whales 500 metres away slowly passing us in the opposite directions.

After that, Biscay was once again a very empty place. In total we saw only 4 ships in the distance and overtook 1 fishing boat.

Ship at sunrise

The autopilot took us straight into the Ria at Ribadeo and by 20:15hrs, Thursday 04 June, we were alongside in the marina where there was plenty of room. Distance logged was 344 nMiles after 57.25 hours, average speed 6kts. It was an easy trip with the only downside that we had to motor for a total of 36 hours. When we did have wind it was from astern and when the wind died, the seas were glassy calm.