04 August 2015 | Ribadesella, Spain 43’27.81N 5’03.71W – Anse l’Oubye, Ile de Re, France 46 09.2455 N 1’15.50W
The Bay of Biscay is known the world over for its knarly weather systems, it’s dreadfully square waves and it’s ability to simply eat ships. This is quite different for the Bay of Biscay that Ruffian has just crossed as it served up flat seas, dolphins by the truckload and water that is so full of fish it’s a magnet for fishing boats who cant steer a straight line.
Leaving Ribadesella we sailed into the first of the non straight line fishing fleets. Everywhere we looked we could see boats dragging their nets and plucking Neptune’s gifts out of the water. Being fishing boats we had to keep out of their way and being fishing boats they did everything in their power to get in our way. Emerging from them our path looked like that of a drunken sailor.
Approaching the continental shelf where the depth changes from 3000 meters to 300 and waves typically pile up ready to eat boats we quietly slipped along in a milky smooth sea. It looked like olive oil and Neptune seemed at peace with us; then, suddenly, without warming, it was alive with noise and white water. We were surrounded by dolphins.
Without a ripple to be seen on the water the dolphins flitted around the bow for hour after hour. Mothers with tiny babies so small they didn’t yet fill there skin, were joined by powerful, battle scarred, males and they squeaked with joy as they stared up at us through the clear swimming pool like water. From deep below us we could see them let out bubbles all for the joy of the juveniles as they swam through them. Fun seemed to be no 1 on their agenda for the day.
The lack of stress the dolphins had couldn’t rub off on us. We now knew that we were in for a night entry into a harbour we’d never seen, to an anchorage that was exposed and through another fishing fleet who couldn’t steer in a straight line.
The horizon was awash with light and this did a great job at hiding the lights of the fishing boats. They twisted and turned looking for fish and seemed to be magnetically attracted to poor Ruffian. Getting through them was like Stevie Wonder driving through slalom. We had no idea where the next turn would be, no idea what we’d head for, we only wanted the boats and the fish they hunted behind us.
We now just had to find the anchorage. As we were now in France we expected that all the boats would be exhibiting usual French behaviour. They’d have no lights on, they’d be anchored on rope and when we got our hook stuck in someone (irrespective of the time) would anchor in front of us.
We were right with 2 out of our 3 assumptions. All the boats in the anchorage had employed stealth mode, with no lights on, and were near invisible. They were also all swinging around wildly like teenagers on a kiddies swing as rope and not chain extended from their bows. With that we knew we’d entered France and could cross off another successful crossing of the fabled Bay of Biscay.
Downwind, downswell, no rain. Woohoo.
Just how are you supposed to get through a fishing fleet like that?
Another day at sea, another amazing sunset.
Followed by a moonrise.
Impromptu sunshades are the order of the day.
Biscay is alive with dolphins.
And they stay with us all day.
The dreaded ‘shelf ‘ in the middle of Biscay.
More lovely sailing.