Rum Sodomy and the Lash

sailing around the world on our yacht, Ruby Rose

Month: June 2015

Siestas and Fiestas

I don’t wish to appear too smug… but I really think that life could not be better. We are at anchor about 200 metres away from the charming Spanish town of Muros, and the anchorage is just beautiful.

Our anchorage. It's so lovely, we don't even mind sharing.

Our anchorage. It’s so lovely, we don’t even mind sharing.

We woke up in La Coruña on Tuesday to thick fog. There was much discussion about what to do, because we had planned to move on that day, but didn’t want to risk it. We decided to wait and see what the fog did, and during the course of the morning we had a visit by… our Southerly 38 friends from Falmouth! Perhaps you remember them from a few posts back? They were planning to set off into very high winds and unpleasant conditions, and we thought they were a little crazy? Well, we’d kept in contact with them by email, and so we knew that shortly after setting off from Falmouth, they sensibly abandoned their plan and turned around to pull into nearby Plymouth, at which point their crew disembarked and went back to work… leaving them without crew for their Biscay crossing. We said, “Just cross the two of you! It will be grand!” But their insurance wouldn’t allow it- they needed three people. We’re glad our insurance doesn’t have such stipulations.

So they found a random bloke who was happy to crew, and crossed Biscay 24 hours after us. They popped round- Fiona and Mike their names are- and told us that, fog or no fog, they were leaving that day because they had to be in Lisbon in a few weeks time for a flight back to the UK. Sense a pattern?! Nick told them in no uncertain terms (unfailingly polite though, as ever) that it was too dangerous at the moment and they should wait.

Foggy!

Misty!

Either way, by lunchtime the fog had lifted slightly and visibility was reasonable enough that we were happy to leave and hope it wouldn’t worsen again. So off we went, waving goodbye to La Coruña, which we have very fond memories of.

That night we anchored off a little town called Corme, which was an uninspiring modern place with little charm, from what we could tell. We didn’t go ashore, preferring to anchor off a nearby beach and enjoy a well earned beer with dinner. The next morning, we left.

On watch

On watch

The day sailing in fog had been arduous. We had the radar on all day and had to have two of us on watch whenever possible. It was also cold and there was nothing to look at but degrees of white and grey. However, the second day was much better. The fog had cleared, and although it was a little misty, visibility was good. We could admire the Galician coastline, half shrouded in mist, but impressive all the same. The sun shone, and we found ourselves part of a little convoy of boats (some of whom we had met in La Coruña) who were all taking advantage of the light winds and clear skies to round Cape Finisterre. To make the day even more perfect, Nick finally caught a mackerel. And then another one. And another. Five in total, but after three we said that was plenty, and threw them back. We ate them for dinner that night, and they were sublime.

Caught some fish at last!

Caught some fish at last!

Now, Cape Finisterre is the western most point of Spain. It is notorious for it’s high winds, which seem to funnel around it from the north, and it’s best passed in only calm conditions. So, that’s what we did, and once we were around the corner, we knew we could slow down and take our time meandering around the Spanish rias.

I’m not quite sure how to describe the rias. They’re not lakes. They’re not rivers. They’re not inland seas. They’re similar (I think) to the fjords of Norway, but the mountains are capped with vineyards instead of snow. Have a look at the handy tracker on the right of the screen (or go into Tracking on the main menu) to have a look at the shape of the coast. Then check out the photos. I’m sure you’ll be able to put two and two together.

Anchorage

Anchorage

Anyway! However you want to describe this part of the world, there’s no doubt it’s absolutely beautiful. The mountainous terrain is rugged and covered in rocky outcrops and dry wooded areas. Villages are dotted around the place, usually on the seafront, and little bathing beaches are prevalent. Nick went swimming to the one we’re anchored off this afternoon. He came back panting, and predictably said, “God, that’s further than it looks!”

We’ve been ashore to explore Muros every day, and it’s a charming place. Plenty of bars and restaurants, all featuring a menu dominated by seafood, and there’s been plenty going on. Yesterday was market day, last night there was some kind of band playing (until 4am! These Spanish sure know how to party…) and today they were setting up a fare of some kind. There were lots of posters displaying the word ‘Fiesta’ with various dates underneath, and it seems that this is a very popular spot not just for visiting yachts, but for Spanish holiday makers.

Muros town

Muros town

We had our own little fiesta- or what passes for a fiesta for us these days! Once again we crossed paths with Fiona and Mike, the other Southerly owners, and since we Southerlys have to stick together, we went round for drinks one evening. They’re a lovely couple, and we’re very much hoping to continue to bump into them as we sail down the Spanish and Portuguese coasts. They’re also making a crossing to the Caribbean this winter, so it looks like we’ll be following each other around for at least the next 12 months.

There is a marina here, but we’re quite happy at anchor. It’s an interesting exercise in self-sufficiency, plus it’s free. With the wind generator and solar panels as our only source of energy, we’re finding that we’re having to be very careful with our energy consumption. That means only one episode of Sons of Anarchy per evening! How we’re coping, I don’t know. Recent discussion has turned to ways of both making more energy, and being more clever about the energy we are using. I shall keep you updated. You’re obviously dying to know.

Main square in Muros

Main square in Muros

Now, onto a far more interesting topic: food. I shall now devote quite some time to detailing just how bloody civilised the Spanish are when it comes to food and dining out. Nick and I, after a morning grocery shop, had a coffee at a little cafe- the type with plastic seating and loads of Spanish families with young children milling round. We ummmed and ahhhed about what to eat, only to discover that, upon being served our coffees, we were also given a little plate with four slices of cake on it! And, dare I say it, but the coffee here is actually better than Italian coffee. There. It’s out there. Maybe it’s the free cake (moist, fluffy cake it was too) that’s making me overly generous, but I’m sticking by it.

So, after coffee and cake, we have another little wander, then stop for a beer before heading back to the boat. And what happens, when we’re given our beer? Oh yes, a little tapas each is also served. And, if you either wait long enough, or order another drink, they’ll come around again, and give you some more. Sometimes you’re given whatever they have, whether you like it or not. Other bars (we’ve tried several, purely for research purposes you understand) come around with a giant platter full of little tapas and you can pick your own.

Civilised, like I said.

However, as much as we love Muros, we’ve been here four days now and it’s July next week, so, one eye on the calendar, we are moving on. Not far, of course. Just to the next ria along. How it’s going to beat this, I don’t know, but we shall see!

Adios!

View from our boat. This life is tough!

View from our boat. This life is tough!

Una Cerveza, Por Favor!

It didn’t take us long to lean the very important phrase, una cerveza, por favor as it’s been so lovely and hot here, all we’ve been doing is one big bar crawl, or so it feels like. There’s nothing like enjoying a cold beer in the sunshine after a long walk exploring a new city.

La Coruña

Neil and Viv enjoying a walk in La Coruña

We arrived in La Coruña last Wednesday, and after a verrrrry early night (it doesn’t get dark here until 11pm, but I certainly haven’t let that stop me going to bed at an almost shameful 9:30pm some nights…) we took a leisurely walk into La Coruña town. Neil had been managing our expectations of this rather industrial port- he came here some twenty years ago and warned that, although it was pleasant, perhaps it didn’t necessarily have the Spanish character and charm that we might be after. Well, what a difference twenty years makes! Although there is plenty of evidence of its more industrial side- on the other side of the river there are cranes galore- the old town is as charming as you could wish, with a lovely big central plaza, off which run a maze of pedestrianised laneways full of shops, bars and restaurants. A wide, paved area, obviously new, and with pockets of attractive landscaping and seating areas, wraps around another marina in the centre of town. This area is so new that there’s large parts still under construction, which would be disappointing if you were staying in the central marina, since you’d hear nothing but the sound of drilling all day. However, it is good for the town, which obviously has money being invested in it- great to see, given Spain’s poor economic situation over the past 7 years.

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Main square in La Coruña

Main square in La Coruña

So, Neil has revised his previous assessment of La Coruña, and we couldn’t have been happier with our introduction to sailing in Spain. One of our first stops (after the bar, of course) was the supermarket. I’m pleased to report that Spanish supermarkets are definitely on par with French and Italian supermarkets, and once again I am flummoxed as to why we don’t have a better standard of produce in the UK. God knows what people coming over from the continent think on entering Asda’s.

As one would expect, Nick and Neil became quite obsessed with the idea of buying a cured leg of ham, which hang enticingly around the meat section of the supermarket. Viv and I were (purely for practical reasons, you understand) rather against the prospect of having a leg of ham hanging in the galley/ dragging it back to the UK to hang in their charming but small kitchen. Needless to say, the ladies won that argument. For now.

Happy to be in Spain!

Happy to be in Spain!

Saturday was Viv’s birthday and we decided to go to Santiago de Compostela for the day. We went to the information desk the day before and got the train times, delighted to discover that it was less than 30 minutes away. Perfect! What we failed to factor in was the hour long walk to the train station. And then the 30 minute walk from Santiago station to the town centre. Not to worry, all the walking did us good, and we certainly made up for it with a fantastic lunch served by a rather surly waiter. Oddly enough, the food looked unpromising when it arrived. One dish was pork (we think.. jury’s still out), pale strips of it covered in a sauce that resembled watered down soy sauce. Another was… pork? Again? This time covered in a red sauce that looked like something you got out of a jar (in Asdas). Bloody delicious, all of it.

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Santiago de Compostela is of huge historic and spiritual importance to the Catholics and a UNESCO world heritage site. Apparently the remains of Saint James were found at Compostela in the 9th century, everyone got very excited because it was assumed the remains would still be in Jerusalem where he was martyred, and pilgrims started making their way to the site in droves. Saint James soon became a figurehead for the Christian struggle against Muslim domination in the area. A basilica was built in the 12th century- but that apparently wasn’t enough to demonstrate the Christians’ devotion to Saint James, because soon enough hospitals, churches, chapels, cathedrals and hospices also sprung up around it, and in 1139 a guidebook was published for the benefit of would-be pilgrims. It was obviously very persuasive, because the Christians continued to flock to the site over the centuries, and still do today. Thanks google, I couldn’t have done that without you.

We walked around in circles for what felt like HOURS before finally finding the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. There’s a lot of cathedrals and churches around, but only one that matters, which is the one where Saint James is apparently buried. And when we got there, it was covered in scaffolding! So you get pictures of other gorgeous buildings around the old town, but what their historical significance is, I don’t know.

Santiago de Compostela

View from balcony of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela

Streets of Santiago de Compostela

Although I’m sure there’s still the odd cripple hobbling their way to Santiago in the hope of a cure or something (when they really should be chilling out at home and just taking the bus), I think most people on the pilgrimage route these days are doing it more for the enjoyable challenge of walking between France and Spain. Certainly that was the impression I got. My father in law has actually done portions of this walking trail before, purely for the enjoyment of it rather than any hope of spiritual enlightenment. Certainly it would be a fantastic experience (apparently the Spanish route includes 1,800 buildings of historical significance), but that might have to wait for another day. Or decade.

So, we loved Santiago de Compostela, and I can heartily recommend it. You could spend days exploring all the historic buildings, but we only had an afternoon, so after the aforementioned birthday lunch, we headed back to La Coruña. I’ll take this opportunity to praise the Spanish train system. National Rail could learn a lot from a weekend in Spain, I’m telling you. Punctual (like, down to the second), comfortable seats that you can adjust, air-conditioned, allocated seating, foot rests, folding trays, luggage racks, clean toilets… and cheap.

Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela

Sunday was going to be our lazy day. However, upon waking, ‘doing nothing’ turned into ‘doing all those chores we’ve been putting off for days’ and while the men did manly things like… do you know, I have no idea what they actually did. I know they, at some point, collapsed in the cockpit with a shandy, complaining of a long morning of work, but apart from that, nothing. I’m sure it was important. I, on the other hand, was elbow deep in bleach for much of the morning, and I also did the ironing (yes, Mum, Nick even took a photo if you need evidence of this!), and the laundry. I’m not a particularly domestic person normally, and the feminist in me is not happy about doing all the tasks traditionally assigned to women, but the fact is that it’s one of the main ways I can contribute to the running of the boat. Perhaps next time Nick announces that he needs to service the engine or whatever, I’ll offer him a swap? Can’t be that hard, can it? I’m sure google will tell me what to do.

After a morning of hard yakka, we went into town for lunch. We found a street crammed with seafood restaurants and took a seat. None of us could decipher the menu (even the English one was confusing), so we just said, “Set Menu, por favor!” Well, we still had to choose our courses, and, like a lot of Spanish people, our waitress couldn’t (or didn’t want to) speak English. So we managed to steer away from the goose barnacles for the starter, instead opting for a spider crab, but the mains were beyond our comprehension. So we just got one of each, hoping for the best.

Spider crabs for starter

Spider crabs for starter

Well, we had a 50% success rate. The spider crab was delicious, and my main (a type of flat fish) and Neil’s main (veal chop) were fantastic. Nick (fish of some kind, possibly dried?) and Viv (steak, I think?) were less impressed with theirs. But it didn’t matter, the atmosphere in this narrow shady lane full of alfresco diners eating seafood was fantastic, we only wish we’d discovered it sooner.

This morning Neil and Viv said adios and went back to the UK. We’ve had such a great time with them. Not only did the extra crew make sailing very enjoyable and relaxing, but we’ve also loved their company. Neil is joining us again for the Atlantic crossing, and Viv will be waiting for us in Saint Lucia, so we look forward to our next holiday together!

Tomorrow Nick and I intend to make the 50 mile passage to Camariñas, but fog has been rolling in all afternoon, so we’re hoping for a clear day tomorrow. If not, we wait. We’re not in a rush!

Until next time!

Until next time!

 

 

Biscay Crossing

A few days ago the time finally came where we had to say goodbye England and ‘Hola’ to Spain! For the past 5 weeks we’ve been sailing steadily westward along the southern English coast. Although we’ve had to say goodbye to family and friends as well as our ‘primary’ home, London, and our ‘boat’ home, Conyer, we found it hard to actually believe we were embarking on this adventure. We were, after all, still in the UK, still drinking ale and gin and tonic, still enjoying the rain and cold that is British summer. After a 10 day wait in Falmouth for the weather to sort itself out, we finally left the UK, crossed Biscay, and have now arrived in La Coruna, Spain.

Mid Biscay. Not a lot going on out here!

Mid Biscay. Not a lot going on out here!

The Biscay crossing was something Nick and I were a little trepidatious about. Okay, a lot trepidatious about. The thing is, the Bay of Biscay has, to sound like something out of a children’s story, quite a fearsome reputation. The European continental shelf meets the Atlantic ocean in the Bay and the depth suddenly goes from 150 metres to almost 5000 metres, which can kick up quite impressive swells. It is notorious for unpleasant- even dangerous- sailing conditions, and you really have to pick your weather window. Additionally, this was to be our longest offshore passage yet, of 450 nautical miles, and we were using it as a bit of a test run for the Atlantic crossing. Which is almost 3000 miles. The two don’t really compare, but this crossing was our last chance for some decent offshore experience before the big one in November.

We set off from Falmouth on Sunday morning, which dawned cool but reasonably bright. Viv was up so early, eager with anticipation, that she literally had to wait for the cleaner to leave the showers before jumping in and giving herself a scrub. That’s what we like: keen and rearing to go! I, on the other hand, lay in bed as long as I could get away with, before getting myself up and organised.

 

We had a quick breakfast of porridge before dropping the lines and motoring out of the harbour. This was to be our last glimpse of the motherland, but we weren’t feeling overly sentimental. In fact, the whole thing felt a bit surreal, not unlike the rest of this bizarre experience thus far. I wonder when it will finally hit us that we’re doing this crazy thing?

Our Biscay crossing

Our Biscay crossing

So, the crossing. Our boaty friends get it, and are suitably impressed. Our non-boaty friends and family are either completely nonchalant, or sick with worry. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. In fact, that attitude extends to our entire trip. I’ve actually had a friend ask me to stop talking about it because she felt physically sick. Others barely registered that I’m about to sail around the world on a 40ft boat. Perhaps they think it’s a bit like a cruise, where we go jaunting across oceans in the space of only a few days, jump off for a couple of happy snaps, then we’ll be home for Christmas? I don’t know. Neil and Viv were recounting a story of a friend of theirs who had done what Nick and I are trying to do: sail around the world. It took them 5 years, and on their return they were talking to an acquaintance about it. Their reply? “Oh yeah, we’ve sailed before! We chartered a boat in Greece last year for a week. Sailing’s great, isn’t it?” It’s hard to understand the life we’re now living. But, hopefully enough of our friends are reading this blog to give them a pretty good idea.

Now. Where was I before I embarked on that little diatribe? Ah yes, Biscay. So, Sunday. We were all wrapped up against the chilly winds, but the seas were nicely calm (and remained so up until the final 6 hours of our passage). The sun was out, the motor was off at long last, and we had a fantastic sail. Nick cooked up a delicious pasta and then 3/4 of us went to bed to get an early night. I was the exception, as I had first watch, 9pm-12am. So I got the sunset watch. Lovely. The skies were perfectly clear and the stars slowly came to life as the last of the daylight faded from the horizon. It was extremely serene, apart from one thing: I was bloody freezing. Even in all my wet weather gear and under-layers, a blanket over my knees and a cup of tea (oh God, I’m turning into an old lady aren’t I?), I was shivering. When Nick got up at 12am to take over, I didn’t linger to chat. Off I went to bed.

Our chart table complete with ship's log, Biscay chart, laptop for weather forecasting, as well as various electronics.

Our chart table complete with ship’s log, Biscay chart, laptop for weather forecasting, as well as various electronics.

Some people sleep exceptionally well on a rolling boat. I am not one of those people. However, I did manage to snatch a few hours, and the next day I was on cooking duties. We were testing out a system where the watches are shared by 3 people during the day, and the fourth person takes over the domestic duties. Night is split into the usual 3 hour watches, covered by everyone. So, I lounged around, made a couple of sandwiches for lunch, had an afternoon nap, caught up on my book, and finally mustered the energy to make a sausage casserole for dinner. Then, bed.

I was on the 3am-6am watch that morning, and it was a busy one. No sooner than Neil went to bed, I had him up again helping me with tanker after tanker who seemed determined to come into our path. In all fairness, I think we were the one in their way, not the other way around, but hey- we’ve got places to be, too. We finally got clear of them, Neil went to bed, and I sat and watched the sun rise.

After another nap, I woke up to day three of our passage. The skies were cloudy, and a quick peek out of the cockpit revealed everyone was in jumpers still. Nooo- aren’t we meant to be near Spain by now? Spain’s hot, right? However, over the course of the day the sky slowly cleared and, suddenly, we had blue all around us and it was almost too hot in the direct sunshine. We stripped to shorts and t-shirts, claimed our various lounging spots around the boat (I had the foredeck, leaning against the Parasailor packed away- it provided a handy cushion), and in no time I was soaking up that vitamin D. To top it off, dolphins just did not want to leave us alone that day. They seemed to visit for half an hour, head off again, then a few hours later reappear. Viv got some fantastic shots, but I didn’t want to risk leaving to get my camera. For such show-offs, dolphins are annoyingly camera shy and seem to sense when you’ve run off to get your camera, at which point they decide its time for them to split.

Hard at work

Hard at work

Dinner was tortellini (look, I know you’re all desperate for this level of information, so just roll with it), then I had the 9pm-12am watch again. Sunset was a stunner, and to top it off, those friendly dolphins returned, just for me. However, as much as I was hoping for them to photo-bomb my shots of the sunset, they refused, only leaping out of the water when I had my camera down by my side, or when I was fiddling with the settings. Eventually, they cleared off, leaving me to it.

Me and the sunset

Me and the sunset

Night fell quickly as the sky was once again blanketed in cloud, and all I could see was the inky blackness of the water, and the smokey charcoal sky, the horizon barely perceptible. The AIS receiver showed only us and two other yachts that we’d already been in radio contact with for a quick chat for miles and miles- no tankers tonight. I sat and stared into space, occasionally hearing a squeaking sound coming from the water off our starboard side, but thinking I was probably imagining things. Then, you guessed it- dolphins. Now, you might think I wouldn’t be able to see anything in the darkness, and you’d be right, except for the phosphorescence in the water that night. You could see it in the little waves breaking around the boat: a sparkling white light. Then, suddenly, a dolphin crested the water beside me, and I could see its phosphorescent path as it dived under and around the boat. It looked absolutely magical, like a trail of white glitter from a fairy’s wand. The dolphin was joined by another, then another, then, in the distance I saw twin lines of that sparkling light, shooting towards me. I cannot tell you how utterly beautiful it was, this pod of dolphins weaving, ducking and leaping out of the water around the boat, all completely veiled in bright, sparkling phosphorescence.

100 miles to go

100 miles to go

The final morning there were no dolphins around- the winds picked up unpleasantly and they clearly felt they had better places to be. And, funnily enough, so did we: land was sighted at last! A grey blur on the horizon slowly solidified into the mountainous Galician coastline, and we were ushered into La Coruna by 25 knot winds (from behind, thankfully) and a rising swell. Soon enough we were surfing down those waves, reefing the sails in, and checking our speed. Our record so far is 11.5 knots- we didn’t quite beat that, but got up to 11.3, which is respectable for our boat. Usually in these conditions Nick and I start to feel a little nervous about how our mooring is going to go- but, with Neil and Viv’s help we knew it would be a breeze, pardon the pun. And it was. Thus ended our 450 mile passage from Falmouth.

A bit of extra information, for those who are interested: we averaged 5.8 knots, which is roughly what we’d expected, and used a quarter of a tank of diesel. Water and power wasn’t a problem, mainly because we were running the engine after the first 24 hours. The Parasailor was our downwind sail of choice, but in very light winds it wasn’t much use. The hydrovane, which is our new self steering system we installed earlier in the year, worked extremely well- as long as the sails were perfectly trimmed. Several times it just didn’t want to keep to course and we were getting frustrated. We soon realised why, and the moment we trimmed the sails properly, it worked like a dream.

On arriving in La Coruna we hastily showered and then made our way to the nearest bar- which, happily, is in the marina itself. We practically screamed “FOOOOOD!” at the waitress, a plump and smiling lady who graciously put up with Nick’s attempts to speak to her in Italian, but with a Spanish lilt. She understood anyway, and we were soon munching on octopus, calamari and pan-fried steak with chips. Nick and I are now committing ourselves to learning enough Spanish to get by, although Nick’s miles ahead of me already because of all the similarities to Italian.

So, we’re here in Spain, and I feel like our adventure has actually begun. It’s warm (and windy!), food and drinks are cheap, everyone is so friendly, and the Galician Rias are our next stop.

Sea Shanty Time

It’s obviously that time of year: the Falmouth Sea Shanty is here! One of the songs that is sung regularly goes: ‘What shall we do with a drunken sailor, what shall we do with a drunken sailor, what shall we do with a drunken sailor, early in the morning?’

The lyrics are, perhaps unsurprisingly, apt. We joined the throngs of people by the harbour taking part or just enjoying the festival. We managed to secure a table in the outside courtyard of the pub, and since they weren’t serving food, we popped down to the chippy for some fish and chips. This we ate, whilst listening to the sea shanties being sung only metres away, drinking beer and generally enjoying the vibrant atmosphere. Lovely!

You know what hasn’t been lovely? You guessed it: the weather. Wednesday actually wasn’t too bad. We had sunshine at least.

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Thursday dawned grey and muggy. Of course it did. Why would it be lovely and sunny on my birthday, of all days? Not to worry, we managed. Lunch was had down at a sweet little cafe called Fuel here in Falmouth. I had a burger and it was lush. Drinks down the pub followed, and then it rained, so we simply had to have a second- and a third. Finally, there was a break in the weather, so we rushed back to the boat and enjoyed another crucial birthday treat: a nap. Neil made his promised Beef Wellington for dinner, and it was absolutely delicious. I had declined a birthday cake, but I wouldn’t have had room for it anyway! We were stuffed. Amaretto finished the evening off nicely.

Friday was the day that Neil and Nick decided it was time I came up with an answer to the rhetorical question of ‘What shall we do with a drunken sailor?’ Well, apparently you take him home, let him collapse into bed while you’re back is turned for half an instant, struggle unsuccessfully to remove his jeans, shoes and bulky jumper while he rolls around giggling, and then, when he’s finally in bed, suffer through a sleepless night of him snoring, and getting up to stagger to the loo, alternately. The only positive consequence was the craving for a greasy breakfast, so we wandered up to that same cafe again for breakfast, which was once again excellent. I had the Cornish pancakes, wondering: what makes them different to normal pancakes? Sadly, I continue to live in ignorance on this point. They looked and tasted pretty normal to me.

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So, some exciting news. Despite the seemingly never-ending grey cloud, tomorrow marks the end of the low pressure system which has, as the weathermen say, dominated our weather over the last few days. Which means: we’re finally leaving! We think! We hope! We’re all provisioned up and have a 0800 departure time tomorrow morning. Our crossing will be almost 500 nautical miles, will take roughly 3 full days, and will get us to Baiona, Spain. I shall report back post-sangria!

Fabulous Falmouth

Firstly, we’re still here.

But we’re kind of okay with that. I mean, it’s still cold. And windy. And… England. But Falmouth is undoubtedly a fabulous place to wait out dodgy weather. There’s plenty of walks or bike rides to be enjoyed, and the town itself is very charming- full of cute little shops selling nautical themed pillows and picture frames, and trendy cafes selling artisan burgers, overpriced smoothies full of things like kale and cacao, and tea shops displaying rustic Victoria Sponge or Coffee and Walnut cakes (note the capitals- I take my cake seriously).

Happy Birthday to me!

Getting excited for our own big crossing

On Saturday the AZAB boats departed (I think I said in my previous blog they were leaving on Monday- I was misinformed. Blame Nick). Our friends were amongst them, so we wandered over to Pendennis Marina to say goodbye. There was an awesome atmosphere of excitement and nervous anticipation; lots of people in their wet weather gear, camera crews, and officials in their polo t-shirts rushing around with clipboards. We didn’t linger, and instead walked up to Pendennis Point to find a spot to view the start of the race. We weren’t alone- the point was soon lined with people who had turned out for the occasion. Nick and I got pretty excited knowing that in 6 months time, we’ll be setting off on the ARC, in pretty similar conditions. Hopefully it will be a bit warmer though…

AZAB Departure

AZAB Departure

Our crew arrived Sunday night- Neil and Viv are friends of ours from Conyer who kindly offered to help us out on our Biscay crossing. Neil has crossed Biscay something like six times before, so his experience will be invaluable. Plus he cooks a mean beef wellington. We’ve already put in our order. We’re having it for a birthday dinner on Thursday. At 29, I can no longer claim I’m in my mid-twenties, can I?

So the last few days have really been about getting Neil and Viv settled in, reminding them how we like our tea and waiting for them to offer to cook or do the dishes, and then being like, “Oh, you don’t have to do that! But if you insist…” There’s also been quite a bit of time spent down the pub, but to offset this, Neil’s a keen walker, and so we’ve all been galvanised into getting off our arses and doing some light exercise.

Having a little lie down on our walk

Having a little lie down on our walk

We- okay, Nick- continues to make friends with all our neighbours, as well as anyone else he can get his hands on. I sit on deck, sipping green tea and reading my book, and await his return to hear all the latest gossip. Today he went to pay for another couple of nights, and he came back saying, “You know the girl in the office? It’s her birthday on Thursday too!” I mean, how does that come up in conversation? So I grumpily replied, “Oh yeah, the young one? How old is she turning, then?” Nick loftily declared that he had no idea. I muttered into my tea, “Bet I’m older than she is.” On cue, the reply came, without even the slightest hint of hesitation: “But faaaar more beautiful, my love!” Well trained, this one.

There’s another Southerly 38 here, to our delight. Nick was quick to introduce himself, and compare notes. I understand that the conversation went something like this:

Other Skipper: “Has your starter motor broken yet?”

Nick: “No….”

Other Skipper: “What about your sails- any problems with them?”

Nick: “Nope.”

“Keel pins leaking at all? “

“Negative.”

“Oh, we’ve had huge problems. Lots of things going wrong.” (They continue on this vein for some time. Then conversation turns to sailing plans.)

Nick: “What’s your plans then?”

“Crossing Biscay this week. We’re heading to Spain.”

“Oh great! Us too! Except… hang on. You realise it’s going to be, like, Force 7, Force 8 in the Bay all this week?”

[Force 7/8= Bloody Windy for those non-sailory types reading this.]

“Yeah, we’re not too worried. Besides, our crew has a flight to catch. We’re leaving regardless.”

Nick, to himself: “I’m starting to realise why you’ve had so many breakages on your boat, mate…”

Joking aside, braver- and more experienced- souls than us might be perfectly happy leaving on a Biscay crossing knowing that there’s 3 days of very windy conditions to follow. But Nick and I just want a quiet life, not to mention a bit of sleep on passage, if that’s not too much to ask for. Something that becomes increasingly difficult when the conditions deteriorate.

There’s a certain level of obsession with the forecast at the moment. As I’ve just mentioned, this week has a big fat red cross through it on account of the high winds in Biscay. That’s looking to pass through on Thursday, to be replaced with southerlys and rain. Not much better, but we’re hoping to leave on Saturday. All we can do is keep an eye on the ever-changing forecast and continue to explore Falmouth and its surrounds. Not too great a hardship.

(Addendum: we have just heard that our friend in the azab is getting hammered out there. We are so glad to be tucked up here out of the weather, but wish him and his crew all the best)

n&t

 

 

Winter is Coming…

Seriously. It’s cold. I know I’ve been living in the UK for 5 years now and should probably just learn to man up and get on with it, but when I check the weather for Falmouth, and then the weather for Adelaide, and the two are EXACTLY THE SAME despite having opposite seasons, I can’t help but feel a little short-changed.

Baby Swans!

Proof that it really IS spring!

Anyway. I should actually be feeling thankful right now, because the supposed 50 knots of wind that was forecasted never materialised. Or, if it did, I slept through it. We’re tucked into the Falmouth Yacht Haven, a small visitors marina, and have pretty decent protection. So maybe we were just lucky. I was speaking to a gentleman in the laundrette the day after the night before- he had been at anchor and had spent a sleepless night checking that he wasn’t dragging.

Looking after the kids.

Looking after the kids.

Falmouth is one of the UK’s most popular yachting centres. There’s several marinas in and around Falmouth, as well as plenty of opportunities for anchoring upriver- something we would have loved to do, but, well, refer to the moaning above. At the moment, things are particularly busy, and I suspect this is just the beginning of a season full of sailing- related events. On Monday the AZAB (Azores and Back) departs, so there’s loads of yachts coming in for that event. Falmouth is also a convenient jump point for Biscay crossings, and a lot of the people we’re meeting are preparing for passages south. Several have already left, taking advantage of the high pressure system creeping in. Alas, we’re unable to follow as our crew don’t arrive until Sunday.

Getting back to nature

Getting back to nature

There’s certainly an international flavour to the yachts here at the Yacht Haven. Everyone is extremely friendly, and Nick- probably desperate to talk to anyone that isn’t me- has done the rounds and come back full of gossip and other people’s plans. It’s exciting hearing what other sailors have done, and what adventures they’re planning. A lovely couple from NZ and Holland popped over to have a nosy around our boat, and, when I said that I was from Australia, they casually mentioned that they’d also been to Australia.

“Lovely country, Australia,” said the Kiwi bloke.

“Yes, yes it is. Nice and hot!”

“Yeah, you must miss that.”

“I sure do. So. Where in Australia did you go?”

“Oh, everywhere. But our favourite thing was cycling between Darwin and Fremantle.”

“… Sorry?”

“Yeah. Fantastic country.”

“I’m sorry… Darwin to… Fremantle?”

“Yep.”

“On your… bike.”

“Took us three months. Went through the centre. Had to carry all our food and water- we wouldn’t see anyone for days. But we soon learnt! If we saw a pack of gallahs flying in the early evening, we followed them, because they’d lead us to water!”

“Wow…. Just. Wow. That’s hardcore.”

“Oh, that’s nothing. This one-” (points to his Dutch wife) “- she cycled Amsterdam to Amsterdam. Went right around the world on her bike.” Wife nods modestly.

“…”

“Anyway! Thanks for the tour! Good luck!”

Really puts what we’re doing into perspective,  right? People think we’re being daring and adventurous, but I’d never be crazy enough to cross the Aussie desert on a bike with nothing but a couple of panniers of water. Hell, I’d be reticent about doing it in a car!

The Coastal Path

The Coastal Path

So, once the clouds started to break up a bit, we went for a walk along the coastal path. More energetic souls than me can choose to walk the South West Coast Path all the way around Devon and Cornwall. Nick and I managed about an hour. But we have high hopes for round two on Saturday!

Cornwall Beaches

Cornwall Beaches

To be honest, as beautiful as this part of the world is, we’re ready to get going. It’s just too cold to do many outdoor activities. Just sitting in the cockpit is uncomfortably chilly. The paddle board is strapped to the foredeck and hasn’t seen any action since we were in Salcombe. Our staple diet is still hearty fare, such as porridge and chilli con carne, we’re in hoodies and woollen socks every evening, and I’m desperately missing my winter boots, which I optimistically left in our storage unit.

Rocky Beaches in Cornwall

Rocky Beaches in Cornwall

Still. I must remind myself. We’re heading south to the tropics, and have no intention of leaving them until we’re good and ready. Eternal summer awaits, and soon we’ll be looking back on these chilly British summers with fond nostalgia.